New product releases are a fact of life in SaaS companies. As a SaaS company ourselves, we know the pain – we’re constantly developing new features and making improvements, whether big or small, to help improve our user experience and our product-market fit.
Getting SaaS product releases right is essential for driving adoption, something we know a lot about at Nickelled. With that said, we’ve compiled five key steps to follow to ensure a successful SaaS product release.
Types of SaaS Product Releases
First of all, it’s worth taking a look at the different types of SaaS product releases. There are major, minor, and micro, or “patch” releases, depending on how big a change you’ve implemented in your SaaS. Depending on the developer’s preference, you can often see what type of product release it is in the update version number: MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, or “5.3.2”, such as in the example below.
Major product releases. These can mean a whole new product being launched. Or they can mean a significant change to your existing product that requires users to learn how to use it all over again. The impact of these major changes can be huge, so following the keys to a successful product release is critical.
Minor product releases. These include small user interface improvements or new features that don’t radically change your overall product. Having said that, they still require a lot of work. Doing your research, getting and implementing feedback, and marketing your product release across platforms will ensure feature adoption and maintain user retention.
An example of a minor product release is Skype’s Name Your Call feature, which allows users to customize their video calls. They marketed the product release across platforms, as you can see in their Instagram post and blog article below. Both include GIFs demonstrating how to use the new feature, a fun way to onboard users to the product release.
Micro, or “patch” product releases. These refer mainly to bug fixes or gradual product improvements and therefore don’t require a full launch campaign. A release note and an update to your changelog will usually suffice for micro releases, like the below example from Skype:
Preparing for your SaaS Product Release
1. Do Your Research
Research should always be the first step in a product release. The stats are clear: 42% of startups fail because there’s no market need for their product; 19% get out-competed and 14% ignore customers. So, before even starting development on your SaaS product release, you should be doing the following preparation:
- Research your target user. Create a persona, or personas, of the people who will be using your product. Define their age, job, location, personality, goals, frustrations, and motivations.
- Research the market needs. Your product is there to solve a problem. Form a small focus group of potential users to define the struggles they’re currently experiencing. Get as much detail as possible from asking them: “How do you solve [the problem your product release aims to solve] at the moment?”. You can then use this data to create your core value and assess your product-market fit.
- Research your competition. See what other SaaS companies are doing to meet that same market need to create benchmarks. Then work out how you can differentiate your product release from competitors.
Because product releases are so regular in SaaS companies, continuous research should be an integrated step in your development process.
2. Clearly Define Your USP
Having done your research, you should have a clear idea of your product’s unique selling point. This core value is why users will choose you over the competition, so it’s essential to keep it at the forefront of everything you do:
- Position your product in line with your USP and your target user persona. Each aspect of your product release, from development to marketing, should reflect your unique value.
- Ensure your entire team is clued in on your USP. Every stakeholder in the product release process should understand why you’re making the product and how you stand out from the competition. This way, the product release will be developed, tested, and sold with a focus on its unique value.
- Use onboarding guides and walkthroughs to point users to your USP. As well as teaching users how to use your product — we’ll dive more into later — use your product release onboarding flow to lead users to the most valuable features. Segment your users through an onboarding questionnaire if your product is complex and has features that attract different types of people..
With Nickelled, you can trigger product tours to your user’s actions. Our software walks your users through the task they want to do, therefore demonstrating your unique value to them and driving product adoption.
3. Strategize Your Product Release
Creating a strategy for your SaaS product release is a massive part of preparing for and defining its success. As we explored earlier, the different steps of your launch strategy will depend on what type of product release you’re implementing.
Having said that, taking the following steps will help you plan a successful product release no matter how big it is:
Write your release note.
While this may not seem like a major part of your product release, writing your release note is actually a great way to rank your features and strategize your product release schedule and marketing campaign.
Implement our release note template and take a look at how we’ve made ours interesting for the user to ensure you’re communicating everything you need to:
Create a launch schedule.
This step is key to getting your timing right and ensuring you deliver your SaaS product release on time. Define the best time to release the product:
- When will the market be ready for your product?
- When will your product be ready for the market?
- When will your team be ready to deliver the product?
Answering these questions will allow you to create a product release timeline including development deadlines and marketing actions.
Plan your marketing campaign.
Use your user research and your release note to define how you’ll market your product release (we told you it would come in handy!). Marketing the features which are key for your target user demonstrates the value of your product and allows it to stand out from the competition.
Plan each aspect of your marketing campaign to ensure you have everything prepared for the product release. Use our guide to sample product updates for your app to help inspire your product release marketing actions. Depending on whether it’s a major or minor product release, the campaign could include:
A Product Hunt release. This can drive a lot of attention and typically requires startups and founders to organize a cross-marketing campaign around the release, such as posting on Twitter, alerting newsletter subscribers, and so on.
Community engagement. For instance, Indie Hackers and subreddits such as /r/IMadeThis allows makers to post about product launches or big product releases, especially when it’s relevant to their community.
- In-app messages
- Email announcements
- Social media posts and ads
- Blog posts
- Landing pages
- Explainer video
For major product releases, begin your marketing campaigning in advance of your launch in order to generate buzz. Consider doing a beta launch or inviting users to join a waitlist for your product to create a feeling of exclusivity, like the online banking app Monzo does.
- Define your key metrics. What does success look like for your product release? Set your goals for KPIs such as sales and product adoption so you can assess what goes right and what can be improved.
4. Deliver Value
One of the most important factors in a successful SaaS product release is that your product delivers value to the user. This drives product adoption and user retention, two key metrics for your company to grow. To ensure your user experiences the value of your product:
Keep your USP at the heart of what you do.
Your core value, i.e. the problem your SaaS aims to solve for your users, should remain central in every step of your product release.
Take the below example of a Spotify product update email. These days, as the leading music streaming platform, Spotify’s USP is the ease of accessing music and the personalization of the platform depending on the user’s tastes. The marketing email for this product release highlights these core values, encouraging them to adopt the new features.
Onboard your users.
Effective onboarding is essential in demonstrating your product’s value to users. This is something we know a lot about at Nickelled. Our software allows you to create targeted onboarding flows for your product releases.
Whether you implement an immersive product tour or add a quick tooltip, onboarding allows your user to experience the ultimate product journey. Look at our example below. It gives users who want to share a guide an interactive walkthrough of how to achieve their goal in three simple steps and therefore proves the software’s value to them.
Listen and act when your users have a problem.
Anticipating issues and communicating with your users about them is key to reducing their impact. Being transparent with your users about any potential problems, as MailChimp does on its release notes page (below) shows your SaaS prioritizes delivering them value.
While our onboarding software has been proven to reduce support tickets by 30%, it’s rare for SaaS product releases to go perfectly smoothly. If and when things go wrong, it’s essential to give your users access to a dedicated support team who will actively listen, solve their issues and record their feedback to make future improvements.
5. Continuously Develop The Product
That last point brings us to the final key in implementing a successful SaaS product release: continuous development. Product releases are a cycle in SaaS companies: there will always be improvements that can and should be made. That’s how you end up with major, minor and micro product release numbers, as we saw earlier in this article.
Successful SaaS product releases implement the following steps:
- Product testing. Firstly, get your team to test the product release. Gather feedback on the functionality, compatibility, and user experience and ensure they keep your SaaS’s USP in mind when testing. Once you’ve fixed any issues that have arisen;
Test the product release with a focus group of target users who will give you unbiased constructive criticism. Some SaaS companies choose to do a beta product launch to see how the release will perform in a real-life situation.
- Analysis. After releasing the product, analyzing its use is critical to managing its success. This is where Nickelled’s analytics reports come in really handy. Our software analyzes your users’ actions during onboarding so you can assess dropoff and target your improvements.
- Asking for (and implementing) user feedback. Getting honest product feedback from your users throughout their journey is the best way to ensure a successful product release. Use satisfaction surveys, like the below examples businesses can include at the end of each Nickelled product tour, to assess how your users feel about your product release.
Most importantly, implement the feedback you get to improve your product and develop future product releases. Check out the below release email from MacPaw about CleanMyMac X.
Not only does MacPaw demonstrate that their product release is based on user feedback, which is a great way to demonstrate how much you value them, it also asks for yet more feedback, fueling the product release cycle.
Set Up Your Product Release For Success With Nickelled
Setting up your SaaS product release for success is essential for driving adoption and encouraging user retention. No matter whether you’re implementing a major, minor, or even just a patch change to your software, the key takeaways to implement in your next product release are:
- Research your user, market, and competition
- Deliver value in line with your USP
- Onboard your users
- Ask for and implement feedback to allow for continuous development
Thankfully, those last two steps are made simple with Nickelled. Using our effective onboarding tools, you can ensure that your users experience the value of your product release. Analytics and user surveys mean our software facilitates your SaaS’s continuous development, allowing for more successful product releases. There’s a reason we’re the top user onboarding software in 2021!