Product teams must not only create an amazing product, they also need to set the stage for the product getting the awareness it requires for trial and user adoption.
If a new feature or product never gets used, it doesn’t matter how awesome it is… it’s gathering the same dust as every less great product on the market. To avoid an unsuccessful launch and weak usage, product teams and their product marketing counterparts must be in lockstep. For a winning launch, they must build awareness with the target market while simultaneously setting proper expectations for new users.
“Outside of the product manager, the marketer launching the product should be the most knowledgeable person at your company about that product,” says Marcus Andrews of HubSpot.
The marketing staff responsible for the product launch should be included in user testing, beta testing, persona definition and messaging creation to ensure they understand both the product and how it can benefit the target audience.
And for existing products rolling out new features, a successful launch and user adoption effort is equally important for maintaining and improving customer satisfaction.
“Every piece of a product that isn’t used represents something a customer is paying for, but not realizing value,” says Michael Peach of Pendo. “This lowers a customer’s perceived value and ultimately their willingness to renew at current service/ price level, or even renew at all.”
Attention: How to successfully launch a new product feature
Building awareness for a new feature is tricky given the cacophony of marketing messages littering the media landscape potential customers face. Getting your value proposition to stand out requires a combination of relevance, context and education.
You can’t be all things to all people. While a broad swath of potential users could find value in your latest offering, chances are it will only really hit home with a subset of the target market. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, double-down on connecting with the folks most likely to try, buy and adopt to establish an early beachhead.
“Not all users are created equal, and certain features will resonate with some personas and not others,” says Pulkit Agrawal of Chameleon. “Even if a new feature announcement would broadly benefit your entire user base, there will likely be a segment that cares more than the average user. Maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio by focusing your announcement on these best-fit users.”
Leveraging industry personalities and social media influencers is another way to build up buzz before the new product or feature is even available, plus it can add some name-brand street cred during launch and ongoing promotion.
“Expert users give credibility to the claims of your product as being new/revolutionary/improved, etc. By providing potential customers with a quote from experts who have used the product, you are solidifying the validity of your product claims,” says Martin Luenendonk of Cleverism. “Even if you can’t arrange for ‘big name’ celebrities to try out your product, look for local personas that have a standing in the community where your product will be launched.”
Timing is everything. When promoting new features in existing products, the context of the messaging is equally important to the content itself. Users getting reminders and notifications at the right moment can increase the chances of trial than a randomly scheduled email. There are a number of delivery mechanisms for these messages, as well as triggering opportunities.
Within the application itself, new functionality can be promoted via pop-ups, highlighting new navigational elements, interstitials, and product tours and videos being offered up during routine usage. Additionally, meaty content can be delivered to users based on how they’re using the application. For example, after a user tags someone in a post they could be sent an email linking to a blog post that explains the benefits of a new private messaging feature.
Something different for everyone. Finally, offering users a number of channels and mediums for educating themselves on new products and features matches individuals with the learning styles they prefer. Not everyone wants to watch a video, click through a tutorial or read a whitepaper. Offering various forms of content increases the chances that something will pique each potential user’s interest, plus it potentially creates additional search results and SEO opportunities.
User adoption: How to drive high-quality usage of that feature
While it’s great for people to know about your new feature, the real goal is getting users to actually adopt it. Sometimes even the users clamoring for you to build a new enhancement don’t end up using it as much or as quickly as you’d expect.
Make sure your product is ready for prime time. It may be tempting to rush a release to hit some arbitrary internal deadline or coincide with an industry event, but if the product isn’t bulletproof then launching too early might backfire in a big way. Users will typically only give a product one shot to impress them, and if it is a buggy and disappointing experience then you’ve blown your chance with that cohort of potential adopters.
Fully bake your onboarding strategy. Getting a customer to sign up or log in for the first time is but one step along the path to full-fledged adoption. Solidifying their understanding of the value proposition, streamlining their ramp-up and reminding them to come back are just as important as the initial trial. Map out the full customer journey and plan how to continually nudge and educate them along the way to improve their chances of sticking around for the long term.
Prepare to scale. When waves of usage come in, is your company ready for the surge? The challenges from a spike in usage can span from inadequate customer support to servers being unable to handle the increased traffic. Pushing every aspect of the business to find its limits pre-launch can help you shore up the weak spots before you suffer an embarrassing outage or frustrate new customers with lackluster service.
Attribution/Accolades: How to measure usage of that feature to gauge the success
Beyond user adoption, each new product and feature should have an expected outcome for the KPIs your company prizes. If not, why did you build it in the first place?
Measure from Day One. Be sure the required tools and reporting are in place from the start track the impact of each release and diagnose what sparks usage and what leads to exits.
“To successfully manage your customers in a recurring revenue business, you HAVE to know what they are doing with your product,” says Dan Steinman of Gainsight. “The challenge here is often that the initial instrumentation has not been improved upon. Your newer products may have no instrumentation at all unless your Product team has been really diligent in these efforts.”
Rinse and repeat. Continually revisiting the data and assessing which behaviors lead to greater usage and adoption is essential to following up the launch with sustained activities that drive further engagement and long-term success. Matching user events and patterns with the appropriate follow-on content and proactive sales support can spot struggling users and give them the boost they need to become full-fledged users of new products and features.
Spread the word. Once you’ve figured out what flips the magic switch and turns trial into user adoption, socialize this information throughout the organization. From customer support to sales and marketing, if they know what can trigger adoption they can push and encourage these activities with customers and prospects they’re interacting with. And if UX and product development are aware, they can work on additional ways to simplify the workflow required to get users to that point and make things more prominent in the user interface.
User adoption is not the end
It’s tempting to think the product launch and its immediate aftermath are the end of the road for building usage and adoption. But there’s plenty of evidence that getting users hooked can take a whole lot longer.
“It often takes several touch points before someone is convinced to start a trial or get a demo. Make sure to continue to move folks who’ve raised their hands as ‘interested but not ready to buy’ down your funnel,” HubSpot’s Andrews adds. “This means nurturing emails, free trials, demos, and more in-depth, product-focused webinars and activities. Build extra creative, like a longer video or social media posts that you can save for after the launch. This will give you fresh assets to share.”
To ensure your launch process isn’t accidentally cutting any corners or missing potentially beneficial steps along the way, create a Product Launch Checklist that the entire organization can rely on and refer to. With best practices, optimal timing and essential elements of a successful release, this resource means you don’t have to start from scratch every time. While building on previous successes and failures, you can continually improve the effectiveness of your launch efforts.