Good product managers are always on the lookout for how they can improve their products, how they can optimize the user experience, increase the value of the product to the user, and therefore drive engagement with the product.
This often results in the creation of new features.
But often the creativity and manpower that went into creating a new feature are wasted, because users, potential users, and other audiences are not properly informed and educated about the new feature. As a result, it does nothing to reduce user churn (in fact it may increase it), it does nothing to attract new users, and it does nothing to enhance the reputation of the product.
Just like effective product education is the key to securing and converting new customers, product education is the key to gaining the maximum return on investment from new features.
In this article, we are going to discuss why effective product education is essential to the successful release of new features, and how to go about developing new feature communications within a product education strategy.
A Key Method in New Feature Announcement: Product Education
Product education encompasses everything that you do to inform and teach users about the benefits of a product, and how to use a product to achieve those benefits.
It encompasses many activities from awareness-raising and marketing, sales and conversion, registration and user onboarding, retention and upselling, and expansion and cross-selling.
And where does communicating about new features fit into this process?
Our guidelines in this article will fundamentally include product education, so without further ado, let’s examine the best ways to let people know about your fancy new features.
A successful example of a New Feature Announcement
Before moving on to the guidelines of announcing new features, I’d like to give you an example of a great new feature announcement.
The hero of this story is Plandisc, a circular planning tool that gives you an overview of your entire year at a glance.
Plandisc is a company that values user feedback and feature request, and rolls out new and innovative features regularly.
The problem they’ve encountered was getting these new features announced effectively.
Then they’ve started creating and integrating smooth and interesting in-app messages with UserGuiding(a no-code tool perfect for creating interactive guides and in-app messages) to announce these features, the results were outstanding.
Here’s an example:
They’ve experienced a 15% increase in this feature’s adoption after 1 week of using this in-app message to announce it.
How to Announce New Features to Different Audiences
We often think of new feature announcements should primarily made to existing users.
We need to inform them about the new feature and how to use it. And yes, that is an essential purpose of new product announcements. But it is only one piece of the puzzle.
- Announcing a new feature can be an opportunity to re-engage leads with the product. It is an excuse to remind them not only why they should be using the product, but why the product is better than ever and even more capable of solving their problems.
- Announcing a new feature can be an opportunity to re-engage with lapsed users and remind them not only what value the product can provide, but why now is the perfect time to start using it again.
- Announcing a new feature can also increase the reputation of your product within the industry, even with competitors and audiences that may never use your product. Reputation can have a significant value in the future when it comes to releasing new products and increasing your market segment.
So, new feature announcements are not only something that you have to do, but an opportunity to reinvigorate your product, gaining new users, boosting user engagement, and improving the reputation of your product.
Therefore, when introducing a new feature; you have to make 2 different plans:
1- Announcing New Features to Existing Users
Having said all that, the trickiest part of a new feature launch is certainly engaging existing users.
This is because, not only do you need to tell them about the new feature and what value it adds, as you will with all audiences, but you need to educate them about how to use the new feature within the current workflow with which they are accustomed.
It should not be underestimated how important it is to communicate not only the what and the how, but the why.
When it comes to new features, the cards are stacked against us, because, in general, people hate change. For this reason, even the users that have been complaining and moaning about something for months, might not be keen on a new feature. They often fear that it will make their problem worse rather than better. This is why only 21 percent of iOS users update new apps within one week of a release.
Raising awareness of new features and explaining how they add value is something that can start outside the product with existing users, perhaps as an email. But emails should be used sparingly, and only for significant releases. We all have a tendency to delete emails without opening them from that company that contacts us all the time.
It is also essential to have all the essential information in the email itself within the first few lines. Don’t rely on linking off to a press release or blog post to provide essential details. The average click-through rate on emails is seven percent. So more than ten times as many people are likely to receive your message if you include it in the first few lines of your email.
But the real work when communicating with existing, active users should happen within the product itself. This is where you have the undivided attention of the user on your product, and the opportunity to show them how and why to use the new feature within their existing workflow with the product.
How exactly you go about educating existing users about new features within the product itself depends very much on the product, the feature, and your users.
Yet you should take the same approach to new feature communications as you do to customer onboarding communications, in 3 steps:
- Start by identifying what the user will need to do with the new feature in order to gain value from it. Your goal will be to guide the user to this point so that they can have an “aha moment” and internalize what this feature offers. You will probably have a lot of valuable information to hand to help you identify this moment, as it will be the information that you used to justify the new feature in the first place.
- Map every touchpoint that the user will need to complete in order to get value from the new feature. This allows you to identify the steps that you will need to take them through. This should be highly detailed down to the individual click. It should also track the anticipated difficulty of the individual steps based on the user’s knowledge assumed knowledge of the product and how to use it.
- With this information, you can then design the new feature in-product education experience. Which technology you use to achieve this depends on your products and your users. Your choices should always be user-centric and based on the best way to get the user where they need to be.
The most stylish way to introduce a brand new future in our opinion is a simple tooltip. This tooltip might lead to an optional interactive guide if you think some users might need it. Here’s our guide on creating the BEST tooltips that don’t annoy users.
During this process, it can also be useful to segment your existing users if you have users that use the product in different ways to achieve different things. If they will gain different values from the new features, or use the new features at different points during their workflows, they may require different product education experiences.
It is also worth noting that, for new users, educating them about a new feature should be a seamless part of the overall onboarding experience, and not a separate experience like it is for existing users. You may still want to alert the user to the fact that it is a new feature, but this should be done within the context of the overall user onboarding experience.
With a no-code user onboarding software such as UserGuiding, you can use different onboarding elements such as checklists, interactive tours, hotspots, tooltips to announce new features and educate users on them, without any coding.
2- Engaging with Potential Customers and Lapsed Users via New Feature Announcements
When it comes to engaging potential users, lapsed users, and other stakeholders and audiences that are not within the product, your approach to communications will sit more with your marketing and sales activity than your user onboarding activity.
This process should start by answering the questions:
- Who needs to hear about this new feature
- What do they need to hear about this feature
- What channel is best to engage this audience segment.
With these questions answered, you can then fit these new feature announcements into your broader communications strategy for this audience.
As a general rule, emails and other forms of direct communication, such as phone calls, are best for engaging leads (potential users) and lapsed users. This is more likely to encourage following through on a call to action, such as contacting an account manager or logging onto an old account.
Social media and blog posts are significantly less effective for engaging these audiences but are a highly effective way of engaging more general interest audiences within your sphere of activity.
Also, bear in mind that these types of audiences are most likely to come across content such as blog posts via social media, professional email channels, and forums, or searching. So, when producing blog posts, it is imperative to optimize for the relevant keywords and take the time to engage in professional discussion groups.
You’ve made a successful announcement for your new feature, now what?
Even though you’ve created a beautiful feature and announced it perfectly, the chances are, it will not be a regular tool for your customers.
The only way to lift this curse and save your new feature from being forgotten is to make sure your users adopt it. Here’s our detailed guide to increasing feature adoption.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the announcement of a new feature important?
If you don’t announce your feature correctly, all your efforts will go to waste; because it will not be used by your audience and therefore add no value to your business.
When should I announce a new feature?
It is best to announce the new feature before release to build some hype around it, although most of your effort should be the days following the release to make sure users learn about and adopt the new feature.
How should I announce a new feature?
The announcement should primarily be made over your blog, social media, and by sending emails to the existing customers and leads. After the release of the feature, you should set up tooltips and guides to let users know about the release inside your product.