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5 steps for a stellar product release

Ancient SaaS proverb: If a product feature never gets used was it even created at all?

You did it! Your product feature that every customer is asking about is finally ready to ship. You have gone through beta, QA’d for bugs, and made it look pretty.

The next step is one that many startups of product led companies may forget. You need people to actually know how to use and utilize the benefits of the feature before you can see if it was successful. Here are things that have led large awareness and increased activation rates of our core products.

Process

Just like roadmaps for a product, it’s important to have a roadmap for the marketing release plan. There are a few crucial pieces to include in your process to ensure everyone is ready for a good launch.

  • Tiered release plans – some SaaS products have releases as often as daily, but for the most part are just bug fixes, patches, or minor improvements for speed and stability. Having tiers for releases can help with planning on both the marketing and product side. Each team might be different
  • Documentation – storing your release plans and having checklists documented will help to make sure the process is smooth in future releases. You can store these plans in Google Docs or in an internal wiki like Confluence by Atlassian.
  • Work Back Schedules – along with release plans it can help to have a work back schedule. This will help to build in benchmarks to meet and make sure all content collateral is ready for release day as well as all features for the product.

Creation

The creation should be the fun part.of the release. If you do a tier 1 it will end up being quite a bit of content and imagery that you end up creating. You will want to make sure that you build in enough lead time as well for yourself and your design team. Here are some options you might want to consider.

  • Blog post – the blog post is at the heart of any product release. It is the canvas for showcasing the benefits of your features and including lots of mixed media into one piece of content. For product releases, skip the thought leadership style and go straight to listing the pieces of the release. Your customers will appreciate the easy to consume content to get them excited about how to use the latest benefits.
  • Social assets – The social media content can come directly from the blog content. Look to include benefits of why the feature matters and why your customers should care about it. You can also use CloudApp screen recorder to produce “How-To” videos, so your customers can start using it immediately with less questions.
  • Instructional videos – your largest chance for activation and long term retention of the new features with existing customers is the first few days and weeks after you launch. Being prepared with instructional videos on how to use each feature will help increase those percentages. We use CloudApp to create GIFs of short actions and the screen recorder for longer videos
  • Product Hunt collateral – if you haven’t heard of ProductHunt, it is a channel that is definitely worth taking a look at for when you do a tier 1 launch. It can lead to some great referral and awareness for your product. It is also a fun way to involve your community in spreading the word. A GIF thumbnail and using CloudApp to created screenshots of the product are a must to get the most of your launch.
  • Email template – For tier 1 releases we always send an email note written by our CEO that links to the blog post. It provides a nice connection point to your community and can add a bit of personalized touch. An email can also be a great place for screenshots , videos, or GIF overviews of the product
  • Feature landing page – a dedicated feature landing page for reference in the blog post and for use to promote later on can be a helpful resource. These are also good to have to link to for support docs.
  • Webinar – It can help to have a webinar or training shortly after launch. You can blast your entire community or include a link in the email to learn more about how to use the new features.
  • ClubHouse or LinkedIn Live – These are nice to have if you have the resources. Announcing a product release on a live platform like Clubhouse or LinkedIn can expand awareness and also bring others into the conversation.
  • Support docs – its crucial to not neglect your knowledge base. Creating support docs for each feature and then adding links to those will help people self serve fixing their own questions. This will save from questions to your support team and also can serve as a reference for questions that do come in.

Communication

The process and plan in place will help ensure communication checkpoints. Marketing , product, and eng should have multiple points of contact to make sure collateral is on time and the product features planned for release are ready. Meetings don’t always need to be in person, can be done over Slack or with a CloudApp video, but here is a good guidance for check ins.

  • Launch of the Launch Plan – get ready to launch your launch. It can be good to have a prep call to set the date for launch and schedule work backs and checkpoints from there. A formal meeting can be helpful, but can also very easily be replaced with a CloudApp video and some task management software.
  • Check Points – a bi-weekly chat with product, marketing, and design can help ensure that everything stays lined up to plan and is ready for launch.
  • Final review – a week before launch you should have everything baked and ready to ensure there is space for it all to coordinate with launch. Doing one final review together will help with that.
  • Final Final Review – regardless of your prep there will probably be some final voices and changes that come in the night before the release. Try and prep for this as much as possible with flexibility.

Launch

You made it to launch day! Congratulations, it’s no small feat to coordinate multiple teams to a successful launch. There will undoubtedly be something that goes wrong today. Your product may go down, your press release may have been scheduled for AM instead of PM. Your wifi may go down during the live stream. Just prepare for the worst and if nothing bad happens then good for you!

A couple of days prior to launch its good to meet with the core team just to review the checklist you created prior. Make sure all content is staged and ready, the product is ready, and everyone knows what is expected of them on launch day.

You should also minimize the amount of other product changes you are making the day of a release, to lower the risk of issues the day of!

Post Mortem

A piece that may be missed after the excitement of launch day is looking back and seeing how things went. Review the data on usage , web traffic, signups, and other key metrics to compare to other launches.Reviewing the successes and failures will help hone your plan for the next release. A continual focus will ensure that your launch goes well and that your customers know how and why to use the newest version.

A successful launch can bring about a strong connection to your customers. It can also lead to stronger activation and a nice bump in signups. You worked so hard to put together great features, make sure it isn’t wasted with a poorly designed launch.

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