Product Management, SaaS

Your Product Does a Lot – But Your Customers are Flummoxed by @NikkiElizDeMere

your-product-does-alot

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Excel, the spreadsheet program from Microsoft that has become ubiquitous in businesses everywhere, does just about everything. I bet, if you knew the right formula to insert into a cell, it would even make breakfast (I don’t guarantee it would be a good breakfast).

The problem with Excel is not how much it does, but how much training it takes to learn to use it. Companies offer sit-down classes in it for goodness sake! In some circles, it’s a resume boost just to say you know how to work the thing.

Microsoft may be able to get away with that kind of rubbish, but if you’re a SaaS company in 2015, your customers expect an intuitive interface they can use in seconds. And that means, even if your product does a lot and makes breakfast too, you have to be very careful with how you introduce your customers to your product’s capabilities.

Worst Practices for Deploying “Deep” Features

Before the customer hits the “Buy” button, you should, of course, tell them about all the wonderful things your product can do – for them. Most companies list every single feature, because gosh-darnit, they’ve worked hard to put them there and they’re proud of each and every one of them. But a more effective marketing tactic is to divide your customers into segments, find out what each segment’s needs are, and emphasize the features that would solve those specific sets of problems.

Once the prospect becomes a customer, the gradual unveiling of features (original, new, and upcoming) should really begin. Here’s hownot to do it:

  • Poorly-timed email blasts – Your customer doesn’t care about data export unless they first have data. So make sure you’ve set your emails to auto-deploy when their related features are used, so the new/additional feature you’re promoting makes sense in a real-world context.
  • FAQ – Leaving the explanation and promotion of features to your FAQ page, help sections, or even customer service means that users only become aware of them when they’re already frustrated. Frustrated people aren’t receptive to new ideas, as a rule. They just want their immediate problems solved.

Much Better Practices for Deploying “Deep” Features

The most effective way to introduce features is with a gradual deployment of messages to promote features when they become the most useful. As stated above, you could do this with automated emails pre-set to send when specific actions are performed.

Or, some platforms allow you to send a different pop-up message within the app itself after a certain number of sessions. When the user logs in for his or her third time, that might be when you introduce keyboard shortcuts. After they’ve been your customer for three months, you might introduce them to how your product integrates with another solution.

If you have the choice between automated emails and in-app notifications, go with in-app – that’s when your customers will be most receptive to suggestions on how to be even more successful with your product.

Intercom reports seeing a ten-fold increase in communications from in-app messages over email announcements.

All of this is predicated on how well you’ve come to know your customers, and how well you keep track of their progress, successes, goals and failures. Yes, once again, we’re talking about customer success. Aren’t we always?


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

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