A few years ago, I ended up taking over the product aspect of my company and formed a team to support me in this task.
During that time, one of the biggest challenges that I faced, was communicating the product improvements and new features to the people inside and outside the company.
Each department was rapidly growing and it was hard to keep everyone on top of product development. It was visible that our miscommunication was a bottleneck to the growth of the company and we had to fix it.
It turned out to be a lengthy and hard process, but we found a way to communicate effectively our product roadmap. In this blog post, I’ll share what we learned the hard way.
So, you just created a new product feature? Follow these steps before you launch it and you won’t piss off your team.
1. Start with your Support team
First and foremost, give your support team heads up so that they know what to expect on the release date.
If there is a chance that something goes wrong after the launch, prepare them for it. List the bugs that are most likely to happen and provide your support with the proper troubleshooting steps. Also, make sure that they know what types of issues should be escalated directly to the product development team.
This, along with an update of the knowledge base of your new product or feature, will equip your staff to provide a better customer service to your clients.
Don’t forget that your support is your most important asset when it comes to gathering customer feedback. They are the first people in your company to see how your users interact with your product, react to its changes and adopt your new features.
That’s why the communication between the support and the product team is very important. The support team can be your best source of ideas for unsatisfied user needs and potential product improvements.
2. Educate your Marketing and Sales staff
New features are a great reason for your sales team to:
- Touch base with existing accounts
- Approach new customers most companies use feature releases as marketing tools to drive sales
By all means, it is not a good idea that your marketing and sales teams are the last to learn about certain product changes.
These teams should be fully versed in what they are selling. Make sure that they understand the added value for the customer from every product iteration.
Not all features are easily marketable. Thus, it is a great idea that the product team writes down:
- How your new features serve your customers better
- How they differentiate you from the competition
This will help your marketers craft a better value proposition and unique selling point.
It is a good idea to impart a sales enablement training on the new functionalities. Else, providing cheatsheets can help your salespeople refine their pitch.
3. Keep everyone in the company updated
As a business, you have several parts of the “machine” that cranks out results and helps your company grow. In order to ensure efficient and smooth working of all the parts, everyone should know what changes are taking place in the company.
Internal newsletters stating all the changes, action plans and a simple product roadmap of your company is a great way to go about this. It ensures that everyone is on the same page and knows who to approach if they have any questions or concerns.
What if the newsletter you send out is not read by all? To curb this issue, the communication process should be multifaceted.
One method that I like (and we implement at MaxCDN) is the relay of information to all of the department “Heads”. These are the people coaching their individual teams, i.e. support, development, operations, sales, marketing, etc.
Once they learn about the product changes and updates, it is their responsibility to communicate and reemphasize the important information that their team may have missed or misunderstood.
This way, there are several sources providing the same information and you are reducing the risk of someone being out of the loop.
4. Inform your customers
There are several ways to keep your customers updated about what’s new and changing within your company.
Keep updating your website and FAQ section regularly to reflect the changes you have made. Follow and update any third party sites as well. It is important to be consistent in the information you share.
When it comes to a release of something major or a big change in your company, there should be a checklist of things that need to be done. Gather your marketing team and craft a proper communication strategy, which may include:
- Feature press releases to the media
- Blog posts about the changes
- Product documentation update
- Social media posts
- Posting on popular blogs or websites
- Newsletters to your customers
Launching product updates is a complex process which involves everyone in the company. Many things happen at ones and it is easy to get distracted.
I am a firm believer in checklists so I highly recommend that you do one for every aspect of your release – support, marketing, sales, etc. This way you will make sure you don’t miss anything important and it will help you distribute the work more efficiently.
Do you have any useful tips and tricks on launching new product features? I’m curious to hear them, so go ahead and share your story in the comments section.