Communication, Product Roadmap, Release Notes

Announcing New Features To Increase Customer Adoption

For software companies, essence of introducing new features is to get customer adoption. Just developing the app or website doesn’t mean users will come. People have to know what’s new in your product, and they need a reason to care. Thus how you present & market features is as important as the features themselves.

How you present & market features is as important as the features themselves.

Software project managers tend to obsess over minute details of a new feature. But same amount of passion does not go into marketing the feature to prospects & customers. And that is exactly the phase when you shouldn’t take the foot off the gas.
This article provides you with a few easy to follow steps to increase feature adoption. And we focus only on one aspect – various modes of communication.

Preparation for releasing features

The work starts before the public rollout. Features should be well tested on real users before the general release. Usability and beta testing need to be taken seriously. If testers complain about how the software works, find out why. What seemed like a good idea in conference may flop with the average user.

If it encounters resistance, some simple changes may resolve the problems. Sometimes it’s better to roll back the change and redesign it from scratch. The problem could be just in how it’s explained. Whatever the issue, a feature should be a success with testers before bringing it to a bigger audience.

People like some surprises, but not ones about changes in their applications. Preparing users with advance announcements makes it easier to adjust. They can think about whether to adopt them immediately or wait.

Increasing Customer Adoption

People are constantly overwhelmed by announcements. They ignore most of them. As Thor might have said after hurling the hammer Mjölnir, you have to get their attention. It’s a matter of getting users not just to notice but to act. You have to persuade them that the new capabilities are worth trying.
The first consideration is how to notify users.

  • Even before the feature goes live, your communication starts. Use software roadmaps to tease users about upcoming features. Not only that, its also going to provide you opportunity to get their feedback on your feature ideas.
  • Once the feature is live use more traditional communication channels. Release notes emails can present a brief summary of the enhancements and what they’re for. It shouldn’t be too long and detailed, and it should contain a clear call to action. Not everyone will read it.
  • A blog post can go into much more detail. It won’t get as many readers as email, but it’s a public notice that people can link to and reread.
  • An overview video lets people see what the new experience will look like. Seeing someone get through it smoothly will give them confidence.

Keeping the following points in mind will help to guide the message.

  • Connect features to practical use. It may be the most technically exciting feature ever, but what users care about is how it benefits them.
  • Make the step from information to use quick and easy. People are most likely to try out something new if they can do it as soon as they learn about it.
  • Explain the reasons for changing or dropping features. People don’t like having to change their work habits unless they’re convinced there’s a good reason. They want a real explanation, not feel-good phrases.
  • Make it clear how to use the feature. The directions should cover every step. A lot of people find videos and animations more helpful than verbal instructions.
  • Provide a public source of information, such as a knowledge base. If users don’t have time to do try the feature out right away, they should be able to look up the changes at their leisure.
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Providing in-application help

Not everyone reads announcements or remembers them. Users need to understand a feature when they’re ready to use it. Making help conspicuously available makes it more likely they’ll use it and succeed. Highlighting new controls and providing a pop-up offering a walkthrough makes them more obvious and less confusing.
The help shouldn’t be excessively intrusive. The user should be able to dismiss it and not have it come back repeatedly.

Getting user feedback

You need to give users the sense that you’re paying attention to them. They’ll be more receptive to change if it doesn’t feel foisted upon them. As already mentioned, the feedback process needs to start before the release. It has to continue with the whole user community. And the customer adoption chart will shoot northwards.

There’s always room for improvement, and new capabilities won’t be perfect the first time. User feedback provides a direction for making them even better in the next release. As long as they see that your aim is to keep improving the product, they’ll put up with some flaws.

Nothing will satisfy everybody, and some users would rather everything stayed the same. Even if just 2% of a large user base is unhappy, that’s a lot of people. Sometimes the best you can do is to assure everyone that you’re listening to their feedback.

To sum up: New features can startle users, or users can fail to notice them. Good communication will help to avoid both problems. That means paying attention to them and keeping them updated from the testing phase through the release. You’ll make mistakes, but users will tolerate them more if they believe you’re listening.

When your users understand and feel engaged, the changes you introduce will get easier acceptance. They’ll be more loyal and spread the word.

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