Release vs. Launch - How Conscious Decoupling is Beneficial for B2B Tech Vendors

Sonja Keerl
As B2B tech companies mature, navigating the differences between product releases and product launches becomes increasingly important. Product releases are (typically regular) events in which new features, bug fixes, and updates are made available to users. A product launch is a process that encompasses marketing, sales and customer success activities designed to make the release more impactful. In this blog post we discuss why decoupling these initiatives is beneficial for B2B tech vendors.

In the startup stages of B2B tech companies, it is common to announce every new feature and functionality publicly. And that makes sense, because the early stage audience is typically formed of innovators. Innovators tend to be tech savvy and love to hear about every new button and API change that a vendor releases. But with modern SaaS companies releasing weekly, if not daily, talking about every release to every audience quickly becomes as overwhelming for customers and buyers, as for internal teams.

When B2B tech companies mature from the startup phase into scale-up, it is time to approach the release experience in a more nuanced way. This starts with consciously decoupling the product releases from product launches.

Let’s summarize - and oversimplify - the differences between product releases and product launches in the table below: 

Product Release

Product Launch

Our definition An (often regularly scheduled) event where new features, bug fixes, and updates are made accessible to users. It may involve modifications to existing products or the introduction of new ones.  A process including marketing, sales and customer success activities designed to make releases more visible and impactful through a narrative that resonates with its target audience.
Purpose Make new features, bug fixes, and updates available to users Create go-to-market impact
Primary goal User adoption, satisfaction & retention Pipeline, awareness & retention
Primary audience Existing customers and partners Buyers, influencers, customers, partners>
Function Product Management Product Marketing

Requires Code / APIs / buttons, documentation, (training), in-product communication, customer marketing, pricing & packaging… Business value proposition, impactful narrative, customer references, integrated marketing campaign (demand generation, thought leadership, public & media relations, analyst relations), comms plan, sales training, Champagne...
Primary enablement Support, devs & consultants in customer success, presales and partners Sales & marketing, partnership team, customer success

Release and launch may coincide but they don't have to, depending on the nature of the release and the goals attached. For example,

Mature product organizations apply tiering to both releases and launches depending on their complexity, opportunity and investment. A joint stakeholder group consisting of cross-functional leaders then decides the appropriate tier for any given release and launch as well as the related timing. This also changes the way Product Management and Product Marketing collaborate and manage work streams both in the engineering and go-to-market organizations of the house. The right balance between regular updates, bug fixes, new features, and launch activities can help B2B tech companies reach their goals with more precision and impact. 

Unravelling the differences between a product release and a product launch will help B2B tech vendors better understand how to effectively scale their operations. The end result? A product launch experience that resonates with customers and buyers alike - now that’s a well-oiled machine! 

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