This week at Mozcon brought some big launches of new products and projects – the Google Algorithm weather forecast project, Mozcast, the new job board on Inbound.org, this blog, Rich Baxter’s OSE for Excel, and more. Over the years, I’ve done several big product announcements tied to events and plenty independent of them.
Weirdly, in spite of pros and cons on both sides, I’m generally against targeting an event for a big launch. Here’s why:
Launching at an event, generally speaking, does not create more buzz than launching on the web. This feels counter-intuitive, but in my experience, it’s accurate. Your team will be at the event, participating in the celebration and the networking that comes with it rather than investing in the marketing efforts they would normally be taking at their computers in the office. The reaction time, ability to invest in outreach, response, follow-up, etc. is all minimized due to the requirements of being physically present.
Events feel like you’re reaching a lot of people, and at a large event, you might be. But in reality, you’re usually reaching a much larger audience on the web, and time away from email, social media, blogs, etc. that’s spent chatting with individuals is less productive in terms of broad reach.
Finally, events create an artificial launch date that can negatively impact quality, stress and optimal timing. Many events take place in the afternoon, in non-ideal timezones or on Fridays (all less than perfect for a web-based launch). The specific launch date means your team may have to cut features or take shortcuts with quality that you otherwise wouldn’t accept to meet the artificial deadline, and this can compound stress and tension between team members, too.
That said, it’s very true that events have their upside. For companies/projects without great ability to reach their key users or influencers in other ways, an event can get the right eyeballs in a way a web-based launch never could. And events have a natural predilection for greater engagement- the excitement you can generate through a passionate narrative on a stage is far greater than what you could do with even the best product launch video.
We had a big launch that we were aiming to release at Mozcon, but pulled back on it last week precisely to avoid the problems I described above. The product wouldn’t have been as polished or high quality as we’re hoping for and the stress of making it happen would have hurt the teams involved. Plus, while it would have felt great to show off to our Mozcon audience, it likely wouldn’t have performed as well on the broader web, where the new audience we need to reach exists.
If you’re considering an event-launch, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and you’ve considered the alternatives carefully. It’s advice I wish I’d had years ago.