As a technology product marketer, you want to highlight that your product is disruptive and offers a unique value proposition. But you face a dilemma. Do you divulge the product features ahead of the traditional announcement strategy, which may lead to unmet customer expectations? Or should you release the product in its final form, committing to meet raised expectations?
Product preannouncement, or announcing a product before all features are fully developed, can be risky, but the payoff can be worth it. For example, Amazon publicly announced Amazon Echo, a new product and service category in the connected home, in early November 2014. The product reached the market in June 2015, and the first customer shipments came a month later.
“By starting the public debate, the first mover owns the conversation and sets the benchmarks against which buyers will evaluate the competition,” says Werner Goertz, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner.
Other vendors, feeling the burden to deliver a product line that could change or disrupt the market and customer expectations, did not benefit from the same outcome. They found themselves in a position of announcing features and product roadmaps prior to defining a minimum viable product (MVP). In these situations, the vendors failed to deliver on the expectations set by the stakeholders, which can have a detrimental impact on the brand, the company’s reputation and the customer loyalty.
How do you weigh the opportunities and risks?
An aggressive, forward-looking product preannouncement presents considerable risks of overpromising buyer expectations and setting inaccurate market expectations. It is critical for product marketers to mitigate messaging risks.
To weigh the opportunities and risks of a product prior to its MVP readiness, create a decision matrix by asking: Is the market nascent? Is our product disruptive? Are we a market challenger? Are we ahead of the competition? Do we have resources? Is the brand at stake? Is our company a market influencer? Is there an ecosystem in place?
Put pressure on the competition by openly and aggressively disclosing product positioning and roadmaps
“Responses to those questions will guide product marketers in their product strategy and make decisions defensible to internal stakeholders and management,” says Goertz.
“Overall, we recommend that product marketers who enter new or existing markets with a new product line apply Gartner’s decision matrix to determine whether a preannouncement is right for the product,” Goertz says. “They should also proactively shape markets, buyer expectations, and put pressure on the competition by openly and aggressively disclosing product positioning and roadmaps prior to a MVP.”