How to Plan Feature Launch Messaging to Maximize Adoption

August 7, 2019

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Georgiana Laudi & Claire Suellentrop

Forget The Funnel

Last updated: January 11, 2022

It’s a situation that so many SaaS companies find themselves in. Your Product team just released a new feature but didn’t tell Marketing until the last minute. Now Marketing has to scramble to get some launch messaging together.

They hustle and manage to draft an announcement email, whip up a landing page, and push a few posts out on social media. A few customers express interest in the new feature, but mostly, the reaction is crickets. After the dust settles, Marketing gets back to all the other projects they’re responsible for, and Product goes heads down again, plugging away at the next release.

Sound familiar? New feature launches are a dynamite way to boost existing customers' engagement, increase new customer adoption rates, and attract new waves of signups. They’re also an excellent opportunity to build rapport across departments, especially with Product and Engineering. However, getting a feature launch right requires two crucial elements: proper planning and high-impact launch messaging. And you can’t have the latter without the former. 

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Georgiana Laudi & Claire Suellentrop

When it comes to growing multi-million dollar SaaS businesses, we’ve seen what works. Both separately and together, we've built best-in-class brands from the ground up and played key roles in revenue growth. While our background stories may differ — Gia’s a Canadian who’s been marketing since 2000; Claire’s an American whose marketing career began in 2012 — we’re united in wanting to support those growing SaaS companies, and to provide resources they need to step up as strategic leaders. You can learn more about us here.

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Last updated: January 11, 2022

It’s a situation that so many SaaS companies find themselves in. Your Product team just released a new feature but didn’t tell Marketing until the last minute. Now Marketing has to scramble to get some launch messaging together.

They hustle and manage to draft an announcement email, whip up a landing page, and push a few posts out on social media. A few customers express interest in the new feature, but mostly, the reaction is crickets. After the dust settles, Marketing gets back to all the other projects they’re responsible for, and Product goes heads down again, plugging away at the next release.

Sound familiar? New feature launches are a dynamite way to boost existing customers' engagement, increase new customer adoption rates, and attract new waves of signups. They’re also an excellent opportunity to build rapport across departments, especially with Product and Engineering. However, getting a feature launch right requires two crucial elements: proper planning and high-impact launch messaging. And you can’t have the latter without the former. 

The tools you need to craft effective launch messaging

We often get asked questions like, “How do you write a launch post?” or “How do you write a launch email?” And while great copy is certainly an essential part of any marketing campaign, in our experience, poor creative isn’t the reason why feature launches fail – it’s poor planning. 

That’s why, in this article, you’ll get an in-depth overview of how to plan feature launch messaging to maximize adoption. In addition, you'll learn why most feature launches flop and understand the two key prerequisites for launch messaging success. 

We’ve also created a ton of great tools and worksheets to help you plan your launch, map your messages, and optimize for conversions. You just need to become a Forget The Funnel member to access them. The best part? You can sign up for free. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page, enter your email, and refresh the page, and you’ll see the links.

Why feature launches in SaaS can often flop

Tired of putting together feature launches that barely get any attention? Here are two critical reasons why feature launches fail:

1. Unclear communication

Feature development often happens on one side of the house, and Marketing is left out of the loop until the Product team is ready to take it to market. Then, Marketing needs to attract new customers, drive adoption, and get users excited about the feature without really understanding how it works or its value. And if Marketing doesn’t fully understand the feature, it’ll be pretty tough for them to market it. The result? Your launch will likely miss the mark and won’t drive the impact that it could. 

2. Poor timing

Product and Engineering teams often don’t know how much time and planning is required to execute a successful feature launch. As a result, Marketing ends up in a crunch where they're expected to pull off a big, flashy launch and attract a ton of new users in a short amount of time. They aren’t prepared to do so because of – you guessed it – unclear communication, so they throw together some launch messaging, which leads to a subpar launch. 

Effective launch messaging prerequisites

So how do you communicate a product launch? Now that you know why things can go wrong, here’s how you can avoid those pitfalls and pull off a successful feature launch:

1. Get aligned on launch goals

First, you need to ask yourself: what is the business goal that this feature launch rolls up to? Net new revenue? Expansion revenue? Churn reduction? Adoption? Entering a new market?

Different goals require different launches. For example, if your feature launch goal is driving net new revenue, this means that the new feature could potentially unlock a huge new segment of the market that you previously haven't been able to serve – and you should plan a launch to match. 

However, perhaps the new feature is a ‘me-too’ or catch-up feature that’s being launched to make up for a weakness in your product so you can stay competitive in your market. If that’s the case, you may not want to shout about it from the rooftops. Instead, you might just want to quietly let your customers know that you now have the feature they’ve been waiting for. 

2. Get aligned on the launch priority level

Every new feature doesn’t need a big splashy launch. That’s why it’s important for your Product, Engineering, and Marketing teams to align on how high of a priority the feature is compared to the other features in the pipeline.

This alignment will also help you determine your launch’s target audience. For example, it could be churned customers who needed a key feature that you didn't have when they first showed up. Or existing customers whose engagement is subpar but have requested this feature in the past, so you'll be able to drive a ton of adoption with them.

Priority Level Alignment (Source: Intercom)

Our favorite tool for priority level alignment is a Priority Matrix. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:

P1: New invention, attract customers

P1 features solve a problem your customer feels in an entirely new way that other competitors in the market haven't developed yet. Since this is a huge opportunity to attract brand new customers, you're going to be doing the most amount of work to bring a P1 launch to market. You’ll want everyone to know about this type of launch. 

P2: New invention, retain customers

Features in the P2 category are slightly less complex than P1. They are new solutions to your current customers’ most pressing problems. They might be great features, but by themselves, you're probably not going to convince a new customer to use your product over what they're already using if they're with a competitor.

P3: “Me too” feature, attract customers

These are features you ship mainly to fill gaps in your product. They’re improvements that will bring your product up to par with others in the market but likely won’t drive a ton of new usage. A P3 feature would probably only need to be communicated to your customer base.

P4: “Me too” feature, retain customers 

Lastly, P4 features are essentially bug fixes that address performance or speed issues. These are features that your Engineering or Product teams might be super excited to launch, but current users or potential customers wouldn’t be very interested. For a P4 feature, you might celebrate the achievement with your Engineering or Product team or do some internal comms, but you don’t need to do an external comms campaign.

How to plan feature launch messaging

Once you’ve aligned on the launch goals and priority level, you can start planning out your launch messaging. The following three steps will help you understand the concepts you need to convey to engage your target audience, so you can create compelling messaging that drives results

1. Prepare a positioning brief

Product positioning brief for launch messaging by Forget The Funnel
Product Positioning Brief (Source: Forget The Funnel)


A positioning brief is essentially your guide for how everybody across the company should talk about this new feature. An effective brief should highlight problems first and features second. In other words, it should help you communicate how the new feature solves your customer's problem, so you don’t fall into the trap of talking about the technicalities of the feature, which isn’t very compelling to your audience. 

Your positioning brief should include:

  • Product/Feature Name
  • Target Market Segment
  • Target Buyer Persona or Job To Be Done
  • Problem Worth Solving
  • Solution (i.e., how the product/feature solves the customers’ problem) 

Filling out this brief might seem a little bit like homework, but it will help you get alignment around how the feature solves your customers’ problems and how you will communicate that value to your audience. 

Want a sample Product Positioning brief? Just scroll down to the bottom of the page, enter your email, and refresh the page, and you’ll see the links to all the resources shared in this post!

2. Map out your audience’s “happy path”

Image of sample happy path map for launch messaging
Autobooks Happy Path

How will your audience first learn about the new feature? What steps do they need to take to engage with it, and how can you make this process as efficient and straightforward as possible? This is your customers’happy path.” Once you outline this path, you can determine the exact places that you need to craft messages to drive your users from one step to the next. You can also create fallbacks if your customer falls off the “happy path.” 

3. Dig deeper into your target audience  

Deciding who you want to target isn’t enough. If you want your launch messaging to land, you also need to understand their level of intent, stage of awareness, and what information they need to take action.

Stage of Awareness

Your customers’ awareness stage is determined by their awareness of the problems they’re facing, potential solutions, and your product specifically. There are five stages of awareness, and each one will impact how you communicate with your customers: 

  1. Unaware: An unaware user doesn’t currently feel the problem your solution solves, so your messaging should help them realize they have a problem.
  2. Problem aware: A problem-aware user feels the problem your solution solves but assumes this is just the way things are. They don’t realize solutions exist. Your messaging should speak to the user’s situation and show them that a solution exists.
  3. Solution aware: Solution-aware users are aware of alternative solutions to the problem, but not your solution. Your messaging should highlight other solutions’ weaknesses and your solution’s strengths.
  4. Product aware: A product-aware user is aware of your solution but needs to understand how it differs from (i.e., is better than) others. Your messaging should highlight your solutions’ strengths and overcome your users' hesitations or objections.
  5. Most aware: Your most aware users are interested in your solution and ready to try it. Your messaging should give the user just enough guidance to take action.

Level of intent

The level of intent is essentially how motivated your customer is to take action, which is typically determined by whether or not they’ve expressed interest in the feature you’re developing. So, for example, if somebody has filled out a survey indicating that they want this specific feature, all you’d have to do is let them know it’s ready for them to try. 

However, if you’re communicating this feature to a cold audience, you would need to do a little more work to get them on board, such as outlining the pain points the users are experiencing and how the new feature addresses them.

The level of intent is usually categorized into three levels: low, medium, and high.

  • Low intent: The user is not currently motivated to take action, so your messaging should focus primarily on WHY (why will they get value from your solution?).
  • Medium intent: The user could take action but needs to be convinced, so your messaging should lead with WHY and transition to HOW.
  • High intent: The user wants to take action now so your messaging should focus primarily on HOW (how to get started? what action comes next?

Information needed to take action

Answering this series of questions will help you organize the messages that you need to convey to convince your visitor to take action: 

  1. What is this solution?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Do other people like me care?
  4. How does the solution actually work?
  5. How will my life improve as a result of using it?
  6. Why is this a safe choice for me to make?
  7. What action do I take next?

A good rule of thumb to remember is that the less aware a user is, the more of these questions you’ll need to answer, and the longer your content will need to be. The more familiar they are, the less content you’ll need.

Case Study: Autobooks

Problem

Our client Autobooks was launching a new Payment Form feature. We knew that their target user (“Accessible SMBs”) were product and solution unaware but problem aware. They were aware of the problem that the feature solved (i.e., the difficulty of accepting payments online) but might not realize there’s a solution or knew about Autobooks. Therefore, the level of intent was low.

Solution

We mapped out our users’ “happy path” and crafted feature launch messaging (i.e., landing pages, in-app messages, follow-up messages, etc.) for all of the touchpoints on the path. Lastly, we created all of this messaging with the target user’s level of intent, stage of awareness, and what information they need to take action in mind. 

Based on our framework, we knew that the audience’s level of intent and awareness meant that our launch messaging had to answer pretty much all of the “Information needed to take action” questions to drive usage. Therefore, some of our launch communications, such as the announcement email (screenshot above), were quite lengthy, which made our client nervous at first, but the results quickly validated our approach.

Result

Within 30 days, Payment Form usage had jumped 300%, and in less than 60 days after the launch, 30% of the entire customer base was using Payment Form.

You too can be more effective with launch messaging

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and that saying couldn’t be more accurate than with feature launch messaging. When you consider all of the variables you need to think about – launch goals, priority level, positioning, level of intent, awareness, and the information required to take action – you can see why your Marketing team needs a lot more time than you think.

And if this process seems unwieldy, ask yourself: how many big feature launches have you planned that you now realize could’ve been a simple email? Or how much time have you lost on flopped launches that could’ve driven more results with a bit more planning? When you take the time to properly plan out your feature launches, the potential ROI is quite high.

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We’ve made this process easier by creating a ton of planning resources for you, such as our Product Positioning Brief and handy Conversion Best Practices for Messaging Checklist that you can use to ensure you’re meeting your user where they’re at, describing your new feature in a compelling way, and giving them the exact information they need to take action. Enter your email below and refresh the page to get this resource and a bunch of other complementary tools 🙌

Georgiana Laudi & Claire Suellentrop

When it comes to growing multi-million dollar SaaS businesses, we’ve seen what works. Both separately and together, we've built best-in-class brands from the ground up and played key roles in revenue growth. While our background stories may differ — Gia’s a Canadian who’s been marketing since 2000; Claire’s an American whose marketing career began in 2012 — we’re united in wanting to support those growing SaaS companies, and to provide resources they need to step up as strategic leaders. You can learn more about us here.

View Full Profile