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It sounds obvious, but one of the biggest missed opportunities in early-stage customer success is insufficient investment in the documentation, announcement, and adoption of new features. In early-stage software, the reality is that you’re likely iterating your product pretty substantially as you go, adding new features and extending existing ones. The funny thing is that while new features get incorporated fairly regularly into prospect-facing materials—like demos, slide decks, and so on—folks forget about the customers who have already bought a version of the product that didn’t yet have these magical enhancements.
That’s a problem. If your customers are not being kept up-to-date on your advancements, but are being wooed with the latest and greatest versions of your competitors’ products, you’re missing out. And if your evolved features are addressing pain points that were surfaced via support channels, well, all your customers likely have those pain points. If you aren’t communicating that they’ve been solved, they’re likely still being frustrated by them. Further, while customers primarily buy your solution, as is, to solve an immediate problem, there’s a part of them that is buying into the belief that you will continue to get better at solving this problem for them, with better and better technology. If you are indeed iterating your product and shipping new features, you need to show it to your customers and get credit for that momentum. You want them to say to themselves, “You know, it was a really great idea that I bet on these folks. They’re always coming out with great new things for us.” Lastly, appropriate communication of new features and functionality is a fantastic way to re-engage disengaged customers who are at risk of churning.
What materials should you use for this? Well, as noted above, creating a support site note as part of your release process will help ensure that you at least have the key information readily available: what the goal of the feature is, why it’s helpful, and how to use it.
Figure: TalentBin New Feature Support Note
Recording a lightweight demo video to show this off in a visual fashion is also good. This animated gif demonstrates the automatic personalization referred to in that support note.
Figure: Animated GIF of Automatic Personalization Feature
Of course, having this information available is great, but merchandising it solely on the support site isn’t nearly as good as bringing it to your user—in the product, in their inbox, and on your various other properties. Use your support note and associated screenshots and videos in customer-facing emails, or even webinars, about the new features. (If you record those webinars, you now have yet another great support asset.) You can also merchandise announcements in your product using new-feature announcement banners that can be dismissed. Some support solutions like Intercom include banners or fly-ins as part of their customer communication features.
Figure: Example New Feature Banner
Finally, once you’ve taken the time to create new-feature notes and announcements, get as much mileage as you can out of them. Even after the initial announcement period, this sort of material can be used for email campaigns to introduce users to features over the first few months of their onboarding.
You might think that you need to be sharing this information only with your users. On the contrary, you want to share new features with anyone in your accounts who has a stake in the successful deployment of your solution. So while non-user decision-makers likely won’t need a demo, you definitely want to have them on the distribution list for these email announcements. You want them to be glad that they made the decision to buy your solution. And if you are doing a good job staying top of mind—with a drumbeat of ongoing releases and customer success support—that can be a great source of upsell opportunities.
Be mindful of adding those users and their email addresses to your CRM in such a way that you can easily execute these communications. Extra credit if you have various stakeholders modeled in a way that allows you to execute different reporting for different communications. Do you want to execute a webinar on ROI calculation for your solution, which would be appropriate for decision-makers but not for end users? Having a type field in your CRM that can be set to User or Manager can help you with that.
Implementation and Monitoring
Communication of a new feature isn’t where responsibility ends, though. As noted above, customers have to actually adopt those new features to get value from your ongoing product improvement. So what does this mean? Well, often you’ll have new features that require substantial implementation effort.
exampleTake TalentBin’s automated follow-up campaigns feature. At one point, TalentBin shipped the ability for recruiters to automatically send follow-up emails to candidates that they discovered in the TalentBin database—drip marketing functionality that substantially raises response rates from candidates. To make it easier for recruiters to adopt this feature, we actually provided a bunch of canned campaign email templates on various topics that would be relevant to candidates. Still, a number of these templates needed customization to be specific to the customer before they could be truly usable. Which is why, when we released the new feature, the TalentBin customer success team went through their assigned accounts and engaged the relevant stakeholders to get on a new implementation call. That way, we could walk them through the new feature and get those templates customized so they would be ready for use. It was worth the time investment, because customers using campaigns would get much more value out of the solution than those just sending one-and-done emails. Of course, as soon as the feature went live, it became part of our onboarding training—but we had to loop back to hundreds of existing customers to make sure that they could access the new functionality in an impactful fashion too.
It bears repeating: the goal of customer success is to ensure that customers get the value they were promised when purchasing, so they will continue to be customers. In a SaaS world, if they don’t get value, they won’t renew. Everything we’ve covered has been in support of that goal. So by the time a year has passed (the typical length of a SaaS contract), it should be just an absolute no-brainer for the customer to renew. After all, you’ve done such a good job helping them capture tons of business value from your solution, in a way that was fully documented. So first things first: to ensure renewals, make sure that folks get to value.
But even if you’ve done all those things right, you still need to capitalize on it by executing a good renewal process. These are some ways to do that.
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