Most Agile development teams release new features every few weeks. But without an effective marketing campaign, users will never use them as extensively. Successful businesses realise that development is only one step in the process. The challenging part is getting users to buy into what they are building. And getting them to see the value that these new features provide. This is where announcing new features becomes critical.
Let’s take a look at why feature announcements matter. And how to effectively market new features to your audience to help them see the light.Feature development is only half the battle—effective marketing is critical to get users to actually use new features. Click To Tweet
Features in an Agile Context
Agile software development is focused on satisfying the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. In practice, new features typically begin as a user story that is added to a prioritised product backlog. The development team sequentially works through user stories in the backlog with the goal of launching them every one-to-four weeks.
With software updates rolling out on a continuous basis, feature announcements become a core component of each release cycle. Small changes may provide users with more options and larger changes may require users to change their workflow. You may also have to write or update documentation, marketing materials or entire onboarding processes.
Why Announce Features?
Announcing new features is critical to both attracting new customers and keeping existing users happy. Most businesses are content sending an email newsletter or writing a blog post with some updates. These efforts aren’t particularly effective unless they’re incorporated into a campaign to inform new and existing users of the feature.
There are several benefits to taking a broader approach:
- Reduce Churn: Reengaging trial users that are dissatisfied with the product or existing users that are looking elsewhere for a solution can reduce churn.
- Increase Retention: Delivering new features on a regular basis to existing users helps reassure them that you’re forward-looking and helps customer loyalty.
- Improve Engagement: Hooking existing users on a feature designed to help them be more successful increases the stickiness of your product or service.
The challenge is that most users are resistant to change—even if it’s good for them. Rather than waiting for them to discover a new feature, you should actively market the feature and show them how to incorporate it into their workflow. These extra efforts help ensure that you’re generating a return on investment when it comes to launching new features.
A Framework for Features
The best way to ensure consistent feature announcements is to create a well-defined process and add it to your release cycle. You may want to document the process with a checklist that must be completed before a production deployment occurs, including the creation and scheduling of the entire feature announcement campaign.
There are a few components to a good process:
- How does it benefit the user? Clearly defining the benefit of a feature is critical to developing the right marketing message. In particular, you may want to identify a specific KPI that you’re improving for the user.
- Who is the target audience? Different features appeal to different users. By targeting the right audience, you can keep the right users engaged and avoid sending every feature to every user with each release.
- How important is the feature? Most sprints contain a lot of features and users may not care about every one of them. By prioritising features, you can focus on those that truly matter to maximise the impact.
- Where will you market the feature? There are many different ways to reach out to users with feature announcements, including blog posts, email campaigns, in-product messages or on a dedicated change log page.
Similarly many different marketing channels for new feature announcements exist:
- Blog posts should discuss the benefits of new features and a demonstration of how to use them via a video or written tutorial.
- Email campaigns should be sent to target personas and include the benefits and a link to the blog post for more information.
- In-app notifications are helpful to point out new features when users are already logged in and actively using the product.
- Change logs should be updated to showcase new features and demonstrate to users that the software is always improving.
- Social media is a great way to engage with new and existing customers and get them to check out new features and the blog posts cover them.
In addition to feature announcements, you can incorporate new features into various parts of the existing application. The most common updates are required in documentation where many users are already looking for information or in an onboarding process that takes new users through the most important workflows in an application.
Publishing All of the Updates
New feature announcements are a critical part of marketing changes to new and existing users, but they require a high signal-to-noise ratio in order to remain effective. While you may only market a handful of your features, you still want to provide users with access to a list of everything that has changed with each new release.
Many app stores make release notes a central part of software updates, but few companies actually take the time to write and organise them for off-platform applications. Release notes should be easily accessible, well-organized and written for humans, showcasing the features and bug fixes associated with each release cycle.
Automated Release Notes is a Jira add-on that automates the generation of release notes & communication of those release notes to customers and stakeholders. By pulling from Jira issues and custom fields, ARN makes it easy to generate customisable release notes in a variety of formats. Some of the formats include email, PDF, Confluence, JSON, HTML and more.
ARN also has integrations for in-app notifications (pictured above) and can be triggered from your continuous integration system via a webhook. You can configure different versions of the same release notes to be sent to stakeholders prior to a release and customers after a release to make sure everyone is on the same page at all times.
The Bottom Line
Most Agile software development teams release new features every few weeks, but without an effective marketing campaign, users will never use them. By building feature announcements into your release cycle, you can educate users about new features to reduce churn, improve loyalty and retain customers better than ever before.
In addition to highlighting major features, you should have a process in place to keep release notes organised and up to date. Automated Release Notes for Jira is one of the best ways to do this in an automated way to save time and inform users. Learn more today!