Now that we are ready to ship, how do we onboard, activate, and retain users?

Distribution Phase
Distribution Phase

Key Objectives / Key Questions

Assuming we did a great job so far and the new product or feature is ready for prime time, roll it out to customers and ensure onboarding of users.

Key Activities

  • Manage staged releases to deploy major changes across your customer base in a controlled manner
  • At any of these stages, watch out for issues and be ready for last-minute optimizations
  • Implement an early access program, for example for your Customer Advisory Board customers, to gather feedback as early as possible
  • Work on product marketing, create release notes and similar documentation to educate your customer base about changes and new functionality
  • Prepare and conduct launch presentations, webinars, and deep dive sessions as needed
  • Streamline onboarding, both for new users as well as for new features, to remove any barriers to adoption
  • Measure usage to identify barriers

Exit Criteria

  • The product or feature is generally available.
  • The product or feature has been adopted by customers as expected. Note that this does not necessarily mean close to 100% usage — in particular in B2B, customers are often relatively slow in adoption since they need to adjust internal processes.
  • No show-stopper or major issue has been observed, specifically not when re-assessing the Four Key Risks.
  • Metrics are in place and usage data is being collected to further optimize the product or feature.

Involved Team Members

  • Product Managers are in the lead and accountable.
  • Product Marketing helps to tell the world by way of shaping release notes, providing documentation, or running launch campaigns.
  • Customer Success teams observe requests by customers, support tickets, and bug reports coming in to spot potential issues as soon as possible.
  • Account Management and Consulting listen to complaints, concerns, and suggestions by early-access customers to identify areas for improvements.

Tools and Techniques

  • Continuous delivery during the Delivery phase to ensure quick responses to issues and avoid piling up tech debt
  • Feature stages to run early access programs and make new products or features accessible to groups of customers in a step-by-step manner
  • Marketing plan to roll out new products or features in specific customer segments, industry verticals, or regions step by step
  • Metrics for launch and activation to have measurable data for assessing the health of the new product or feature
  • In-product engagement tools to onboard new users as well as show new features to existing users
  • NPS, CSAT, CES, or similar to measure the satisfaction of customers with the new product or feature

Things to Watch out for

  • Do not overwhelm customers. “This is great – but not so fast!” is something that we heard very often, specifically among larger enterprise customers.
  • Do not underestimate training needs. Specifically for occasional users who do not use your product daily or weekly, any change is hard and might create confusion. To deal with that, companies often create training material or conduct training sessions.
  • Let customers be in control. Specifically when it comes to activating a new product or feature, then they usually demand options to switch it on when it feels appropriate for them. Likewise, certain configuration options will be needed which may depend on company size, industry, region, or other aspects.
  • Your product is only a piece of the puzzle. Just as consumers have dozens or even hundreds of apps on their private smartphones, companies need very many applications to run their business. Hence, your product will only be a link in a highly complex chain. Hence, ensuring a seamless integration will be more important than the latest feature.


Today, Product-led Growth (PLG) is a huge trend in Product Management. That term didn’t exist yet when Splunk was founded in 2003. In case you don’t Splunk, they provide software for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine-generated data via a web-style interface. In their early days, that meant primarily: log files of web servers, application servers, or email services.
Apart from technical capabilities, Splunk revolutionized the way its software was distributed: Everybody could download and install it, could load data, could build analytics and visualization dashboards, and all that. In fact, a full production version was accessible at no cost. Until a certain data volume limit was reached. Then users hit the paywall and had to ask their bosses for budgets. This approach of “Try before you buy” already ~20 years ago was a key pillar of Splunk’s successful growth.