Out of the 30,000 new consumer products that are launched each year, 95% of them fail! This is based on the product launch study from Harvard Business School. That means only 5% succeed! If you're a product manager or a CEO who's figuring out how to increase your team's chance of succeeding, one of the things that should be on your list is to learn how to run an effective product kickoff meeting. This article will guide you through understanding what is a product kickoff meeting, why you should have one, and the things you need to run it successfully.
What is a product kickoff and what does a kickoff meeting do in terms of setting up a successful product launch. A product kickoff meeting helps remote teams discuss the product plan, goals, and scope. They often take place at the beginning of an Agile product meeting where there's a critical feature development involved, but they can also be useful for other types of work that need planning and collaboration between many people. Product managers and stakeholders meet with designers and developers to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what they need to do for the team's goal to be successful.
Why should you have a product kickoff? Is it really worth adding another meeting in your calendar when most people nowadays are already experiencing meeting fatigue? You don't have to do it every time there is a new feature, especially for SaaS companies that are launching new features almost every week. But for big features or product launches that could potentially change the game for your company, such as a feature that will bring in new users or directly affect the revenue, having a product kickoff meeting is a must.
The most important benefit is to keep your team aligned. Product kickoff meetings are an excellent way to help team members understand what is really important about the new feature or product and why it matters. For example, if you're adding a marketplace for your platform, how does it affect your customer's lives and your company's revenue?
Team members will likely have different perspectives on a project depending on their roles. A marketing manager will be focused on content creation, while a sales manager will be thinking about the best way to bring in new customers using the new feature. But they all need to be working towards the same goal if they want things to go smoothly during the development process.
Every team is different, but most will agree that having a kickoff meeting boosts productivity. When you have your whole team on board, it helps avoid confusion later when work gets underway. This process also gives them ample time to iron out any kinks. Hence, there are no unnecessary hurdles or delays down the road due to miscommunication or idea overload. Missing deadlines means missing critical launches. In fact, according to a product management and marketing survey, by Uxcam, 39% of product managers worry about missing launch dates.
Lastly, a product kickoff meeting sets the tone for future collaboration with other internal stakeholders such as marketing or sales teams. Product teams can’t expect every feature launch to go smoothly, but having a formalized processes in place will help them work more cohesively on future projects.
The first step of a product kickoff meeting is to build a story around the feature. Product managers are responsible for this task. They use customer feedback, competitive research, and other data to build a story around the feature.
Once enough data is gathered, the Product Manager will create a customer journey map and a product roadmap. These documents will be used in the various stages of the product or feature development and need to be shared with every stakeholder. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what are the deliverables and the deadlines.
The last stage of preparing for an effective product kickoff meeting is to understand who to invite. Relevant product managers, project leads, engineering leaders, and executives need to attend the meeting. And don't forget about other stakeholders like sales reps and copywriters who need to know how to communicate the new features to your customers.
How do you prepare for a kick off meeting? Essentially, product managers need to answer these questions:
Don't send a calendar invite for the meeting, if the answers to these questions are unclear. The key to a successful meeting is writing a clear and specific meeting agenda.
If you spent the time answering the questions in the previous section, it will be easier to write the meeting agenda. But what should a kickoff meeting include exactly? Regardless the scope of the project, your agenda should generally include these items:
If you spent a lot of time discussing asynchronously, your meeting doesn't need to be as long. Ideally, you should not spend more than an hour on the product kick off meeting.
Pro tip: Share all the documents you've created, such as the customer journey map and product roadmap before the meeting, so there's no need to repeat basic information. Focus the discussion on things that may still be unclear. You can also get questions from all stakeholders before the meeting using an async discussion.
👇Here's an example meeting agenda using a free Project Kickoff Meeting Template:
Start your product kickoff meeting with this template or check out other meeting templates to help your remote team have fewer, better meetings. By starting your product development on the right foot, you'll increase your chances of succeeding and decrease the chances of feeling stressed due to miscommunication and lack of focus.