Why and How We Launched A New Product For Free Amidst A Global Pandemic

A product launch amidst a global pandemic sounds flat-out insane. But that’s exactly what we did. Here's why and how we launched our scheduler, TimeSync.
Picture of Huang Jing Jie (JJ)
Huang Jing Jie (JJ)


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Launching a new product is never easy.

A software release in the middle of a global pandemic? Sounds flat-out insane. But that’s exactly what we did.

We launched our brand new appointment scheduler, TimeSync just yesterday.

First, a small segue; our team at Novocall is a lean one, and we’ve easily transitioned into full telecommuting for every employee, due to COVID-19 measures restricting non-essential movement.

Not every business had it as easy.

They had to not just adjust how their team worked, but also how they conducted business in a new reality of everyone being home, facing challenges in sales, marketing, and customer servicing.

Back to TimeSync. It is a scheduler purpose-built with features to help businesses ease remote communications and facilitate inside sales. All by removing a pain point exacerbated by remote work: scheduling.

I hear you thinking; really, a scheduler? Isn’t the space already filled with options? Why and how did we launch a new product amidst a global pandemic for free?

Hear me out.


Let's start with why we launched it

1. We never aspired for TimeSync to disrupt established schedulers

In our initial product roadmap, we intended for TimeSync to be a complementary and natural extension of our core call-back automation product. It has been something our customers have been asking for, and it was supposed to be just that.

Until we saw an opportunity in a few simple facts. That, we’re actually building a scheduler here. Then, don’t all schedulers function inherently the same?

We got excited, as start-ups do, in thinking of the what else’s.

The Hows. The Whys.

After analyzing the market feasibility of it all, we found the risk of resourcing to build a full-fledged scheduler, could prove worthwhile if we made it market competitive.

At the time of this realization, competing schedulers charged for basic integrations with critical teleconferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangouts. They locked extensive integrations behind costly plans.

Free options came with ads, that is, if you were lucky to find a free one that gave you fair access to essentials for scheduling.

Most critically, none of these schedulers features true set-and-forget automation, which we could make a reality with our automated, scheduled, direct-to-phone call-back.

We were onto something.

Then the coronavirus happened 😢

2. There was a demand for a smarter scheduler, tailored with exclusive features for remote meetings

We quietly released a beta for some customers. We gathered additional feedback and data. Then we began building, what we believed (and researched!) were standout, exclusive features to help remote teams conduct smarter, more efficient meetings.

We included real-time qualification into our booking flow. People could share, embed, or make public their unique meeting links, and have the system qualify users as if they were doing it themselves.

Qualification questions designed by the schedule owner could ask a series of questions, to determine whether someone should be getting on a call before they actually do. If they don’t, the system directs them out of the booking flow, to customer-determined information.

We also discovered that one pain point our customers have is exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation. It was hard enough to schedule calls when people worked out of offices.

It’s harder now that people are telecommuting. We decided to offer generous trials of our call-back automation, already baked into the software, instead of charging for it.

That way, people can try it for themselves, and determine whether it’s a function they need.

But even if they don’t… wait for it;

3. We made TimeSync free. With everything you need to schedule productively.

Probably not as impactful, since it’s my post headline, but I believe it’s worth repeating.

No other competing product at our price point does as much as TimeSync will. We also made all key integrations needed as basics to scheduling meetings and calls (like Zoom and Google Meetings), free. Forever.

At least for people who signed up for TimeSync in 2020.

We’ve always set out to build a product that helped people remove friction in doing business. With the launch of TimeSync, our vision remains steadfast. Only now, it’s a suite of products.

I will be back once the team and I are past the usual product launch craziness, to hopefully share some headways we’ve made.

Now, here's how we launched a new product amidst COVID-19

1. Understand your target user's needs

The team was forced to reassess what we were on the crux of launching. We went back to speak to customers, to hear about their plans. We heard from our customers who kept their core Novocall subscription going. We also spoke to those who chose not to.

Through these conversations, and through our own sleuthing, came to find the following:

1. Small businesses like ours, needed business continuity now. Not just measures for now.

2. The verticals we service in sales, marketing, and customer success, were like us, also adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of remote work.

3. We saw competing solutions we once hoped to challenge, react half-heartedly with temporary free extensions, extended trials.

These information points provided us with yet another aha moment. Why don’t we go back to the drawing board, to fine-tune our product for this new reality in which we have to operate within.

And why don’t we do it better than anyone else. And this brings me to my next point.

2. See what your competitors are doing

For any business, it is essential that you conduct in-depth market research on existing players. After all, if you don’t know what others are doing out there, how are you able to compete effectively?

Following our chat with our users, we not only realized that other schedulers are:

  • Lacking in a qualification feature
  • Not doing enough in helping customers cope with the pandemic

And so we worked on the things that our competitors lacked. We built a feature that allows you to create customized lead qualification questions. As of the writing of this piece, I have yet to see another scheduler with this feature 😉

3. Build a detailed product roadmap

A lot of details go into the planning of the development of a product and its launch.

If you want to launch a new product, having a well-built and detailed product roadmap is essential.

Novocall’s roadmap makes it very clear to the marketing team which product features need to be announced.
Novocall’s roadmap makes it very clear to the marketing team which product features need to be announced.

A good product roadmap helps your team keep track of all the tasks that need to be completed and facilitates collaboration between teams. If you look at Novocall’s roadmap, it makes it very clear what the different teams need to do. For instance, you can clearly see that to the marketing team which product features need to be announced.

4. Announce your product launch on multiple platforms

After having put so much effort into building product, why not make the product launch itself a big one?

For us, that meant announcing the launch on all our communication channels. These include our blog (where this article will end up 😉) and our social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). As a co-founder, I share product updates on my personal accounts too so that all my connections will be updated.

But we didn’t stop there.

We launched a new product on ProductHunt

We also launched our product on ProductHunt, a website that curates the best new products launched every day. This allowed us to promote TimeSync to a large audience of software enthusiasts and they can even vote for our product!

What's next?

COVID-19 has devastated businesses everywhere and I really hope that our new product can help them and alleviate some of their struggles.

That said, I hope that you, dear reader, have learnt a thing or two about how to launch a new product.

If there are two things I can take away from this experience, it’s that you need to listen to your target users and understand what other players in the market are doing.

Once you get those in check, you should go all out in your product launch. 

Picture of JJ

JJ is the Co-Founder of Novocall. When he’s not busy building the Novocall brand, he spends his time watching crime shows and documentaries.

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