Product Launch Vs. Feature Launch. What’s The Difference?

Post date :

Feb 8, 2024

In the blog, “What Does a Product Manager Do? The Ultimate Guide”, we touched on the responsibilities of a product manager. Among those responsibilities include deciding which and when product features should be added, and the execution of product launches. While there are similarities between how these launches are implemented, there are important differences. 

We’ll discuss those key differences below. Then we’ll suggest some steps and best practices you can take for executing both the successful launch of your next product or feature.

What is a Product Launch?

When you think of product launches, think of the launch of the first iPhone, the Ford F-Series pickup truck, or Spotify. These are examples of successful product launches. 

A product launch involves strategic steps a company takes to introduce a product or service to the market. It involves meticulous research and planning, aiming to create awareness, generate interest, and ultimately drive user adoption (i.e., sales)

What is a Feature Launch?

Now with features launches, think the release of Spotify Wrapped, when heated seats became a thing, or the first time when people could talk to their phone and it would talk back (Hey Siri!). These are examples of companies launching product features.

In essence, a product feature launch is the process of introducing a specific function, capability, or enhancement within an existing product or service. As with a product launch, it involves consumer research, inter-team collaboration, and promotion.

How do Product Launches And Feature Launches Differ?

So, if both product and feature launches require research, collaboration across departments, and promotion, what is the difference? The main distinction between them lies in their scope, objectives, and timing. 

Product Launch:

  • Scope: A product launch encompasses the introduction of an entirely new product or a significant version of an existing one. It often involves a broader and more comprehensive strategy.

  • Objective: The primary goal of a product launch is to bring a new offering to the market, targeting a specific audience and addressing their needs or pain points.

  • Timing: Product launches are typically major events that happen at more extended intervals, sometimes annually or as part of a company's strategic planning.

  • Marketing Emphasis: Product launches usually involve extensive marketing campaigns, including branding, messaging, and awareness-building efforts.

Feature Launch:

  • Scope: A feature launch is focused on introducing a specific feature or enhancement within an existing product. It's a smaller, more targeted effort.

  • Objective: The primary goal of a feature launch is to improve the existing product, enhance user experience, or address a specific user need or request.

  • Timing: Feature launches can happen more frequently and are often tied to agile development processes, occurring as soon as the feature is ready.

  • Marketing Emphasis: While feature launches may still involve marketing to some extent, the emphasis is typically on informing existing users about the new feature and its benefits.

3 Best Practices For Both a Product or Feature Launch

You now know there are differences between product and feature launches. However, you will still want to take many of the same steps throughout the development processes. These best practices include the following:

Research is The #1 Pre-Launch Priority

Pre-launch, strategic planning and research are vital. Taking the time to do this well will set a good foundation for your product or feature launch. As Circuit Stream Director of Product Tamara Osseiran explains, “In a nutshell, having an understanding of market conditions, competitors, and customers is important to identify opportunities.” 

Regarding product launches specifically, Tamara notes that, “Taking the time to do this research will tell you whether there is a gap in the market to exploit, or if there is a need for the product. It will end up saving you a lot of time and other resources in the end. Some good frameworks for doing this research are Gap Analysis and Strategy Canvas.”

Switching to feature launches she mentions that, “You can leverage existing user data to understand what next thing to add that could be valuable for the market. Usually the KPIs here involve adoption rate, feature usage, and customer satisfaction. Here identifying the gaps could be through value mapping, user research, or by analyzing user behaviour analytics.” 

Source: CrazyEgg; user behaviour heatmap illustration

As Tamara notes, understanding your users needs is critical to have a successful product or feature launch. There are a couple of ways to get the data you need, and Tamara recommends that product management professions use both.  First, you can collect and analyze customer feedback through studies and surveys. Second, you can use user behaviour analysis tools. These tools help you to observe how customers interact with your features – and product as a whole. Here are six user behavioural analysis tools you can use:

No Product Team Is an Island

When it comes to the success or failure of a product or feature launch, collaborating with other departments is key. Successful product teams keep an open channel of communication with both marketing and sales for three reasons.

Firstly, maintaining an open channel fosters a shared understanding of the product's value proposition, features, and customer needs. So, share your research findings with both marketing and sales teams. 

Marketing teams need detailed insights to effectively communicate the new product or product feature’s benefits and unique selling points to potential customers. Meanwhile, sales teams need a deep understanding of the product's functionalities to address customer queries and close deals successfully.

Secondly, constant communication ensures alignment between product development and marketing/sales strategies. When all teams are on the same page, they can synchronize their efforts, ensuring that marketing campaigns and sales pitches resonate with the product's actual capabilities and resonate with the target audience.

Lastly, feedback loops are crucial for continuous improvement. Sales teams interact directly with customers, gaining invaluable insights into their preferences, pain points, and challenges. This feedback loop helps the product team understand what works well, what needs improvement, and what new features or adjustments might be necessary for future iterations.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

“We will sell 100 widgets within two months of launch” versus just “we will sell more widgets”. If asked which goal is more useful, of course it is the first one. That is because it follows the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework. In product management, success often depends on innovation, customer satisfaction, and market relevance. S.M.A.R.T. goals serve as a guiding framework to navigate the complexities of developing and launching successful products or features. The acronym stands for:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-Bound

Setting these types of goals are crucial in product management for several reasons. They offer clear direction, ensuring everyone understands objectives and their significance. S.M.A.R.T. goals allow effective measurement of progress and success, align product development with broader business objectives, promote realistic targets, foster accountability among team members, and enable adaptability to changing market dynamics or feedback.

How do you know if you are setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you figure that out.

  • Specific

    • What do you want to accomplish?

    • What steps do you need to take to get there?

    • Who is responsible for completing each step of the goal?

    • By when do you want to achieve your goal?

  • Measurable

    • What key performance indicators (KPI) will we use?

    • How will we measure progress?

    • Could someone else pick up our goal and understand what they'd need to see to know it was successful?

  • Achievable

    • Do you have the resources and time needed to reasonably reach the goal?

    • Is it a "stretch goal" — one that's purposefully challenging but still achievable?

  • Relevant

    • Why are you setting this objective?

    • How does this goal fit in with your wider aspirations?

    • What would it mean to you to meet this goal?

  • Time-Bound

    • Are there any urgent factors that will determine when this goal needs to be met?

    • Is this a realistic deadline for this goal to be completed?

Product Management Bootcamp with University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

Become a product manager in only 21 weeks. This Bootcamp equips learners to become well-rounded product managers, aligning their skills directly with current market trends and demands. Over the course of 21 weeks, you will immerse yourself in the essential practices of product management, engaging with everything from strategic planning and feature development to agile execution. we ensure bootcamp graduates stand out in today’s competitive landscape. 

Ready to conquer the challenges of product management? Join our Bootcamp today.

© Circuit Stream.
This course is delivered by Circuit Stream in collaboration with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

© Circuit Stream.
This course is delivered by Circuit Stream in collaboration with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

© Circuit Stream.
This course is delivered by Circuit Stream in collaboration with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.