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How do you manage small product releases that don't warrant a big splash, but are important for users to know about? What kinds of activities and deliverables do you use?

6 Answers
Christy Roach
Christy Roach
AssemblyAI VP of MarketingDecember 9

I count these as “Tier 3” launches which I define as: Relatively small product updates that a subset of your current customer base will care about deeply.

You are spot-on that they’re important for users to know about. Usually, it’s a specific group that needs to know about it. For example, we usually treat launches for our admins as tier 3. They’re vitally important for admins in the enterprise, and they do reinforce our overall enterprise message, but admins are a relatively small percentage of our customer base when compared to our overall user population. Our whole customer base doesn’t need a ton of communication about this, but admins do. For something like this, we’ll usually write a blog post about the updates that's emailed specifically to our admins. We’ll also arm the sales and CSM team with outreach email templates so they can keep their most important customers in the loop.

We also recognize that while most end users don’t need to know in-depth details about our admin updates, some of our most engaged users are still curious about anything our product team releases, so we’ll include the update in our monthly customer newsletter, release notes, and share on our social channels.

Morgan (Molnar) Lehmann
Morgan (Molnar) Lehmann
SurveyMonkey Senior Director, Head of Product & Solutions MarketingJuly 12

For almost every feature launch, you have to evaluate the amount of market- and customer-facing activities it makes sense to do. For features that don't warrant a market launch (i.e. they aren't a differentiator, don't support a strategic partnership, or open up opportunities for new business) but DO warrant customer communication and customer-facing team readiness, it's still important to have launch tiers. Is this something that adds value & could enable up-sell or upgrades? Is it a major UI change that would impact their day-to-day usage of the product? Have customers been asking for this? Or is this just an intuitive update to an existing feature?

You can think about activities in several buckets, listed below. Note that these are pretty comprehensive, and you'd want to trim this down based on what you're launching. You may, for example, opt for fewer proactive comms touchpoints & more reactive comms preparedness.

Launch planning & readiness:

Customer segmentation

     Pull any necessary data/lists

     Define customer launch segments

Document customer comms strategy

     Channels (email, in-product, 1:1, etc)

     Comms schedule/phases timing

     Messaging framework

     Legal approval of messaging

Internal readiness

     Product/Initiative FAQ

     Sales & Success training

     CustOps training

     Marketing/Comms training

Customer communication:

In-Product Comms

     In-product targeting

     In-product UX copy/design

     In-product entry points

     Update transactional emails

     Error message (for outage)

     Help Center customer facing FAQ

Marketing Comms

     Upload/create customer send lists

     Email copy/creative

     Email localization

     Contnet updates (website, sales collateral)

Sales/Success Comms

     1:1 Customer email templates

     Customer-facing FAQ

CustOps Comms

     Publish page in CustOps wiki

     CustOps email signature

     CustOps customer case category

     CustOps case quick-text responses

     Social Care team preparedness

Day-Of Activation

     Cut-over plan (e.g. re-directs)

     Slack channel announcements

     Customer-facing team reminders

     Monitor customer case volume

Customer onboarding and expansion:

Customer onboarding

     New customer onboarding strategy

     Update onboarding email sequence

     Update getting started guide

     Customer-facing how-to videos

     Customer training / best practices

Customer Engagement

     QBR template updates

     Customer touchpoints (email, etc)

Customer Expansion

     Expansion playbook updates

     Renewal process & playbook

     Gainsight CTAs

It's also important to note that a small feature on its own may not warrant a market splash, but if you bundle multiple similarly-themed feature into one announcement (e.g. multiple analytics features or multiple integrations), then you may be able to swing a market/press moment. At Momentive, we ladder up feature releases into thematic launches to get more market "bang for our buck" and to reduce the number of individual launch workstreams.

Sherry Wu
Sherry Wu
Gong Senior Director, Product MarketingJuly 19

In my experience, this is one of the toughest things as a PMM. You always see the potential upside for making an announcement, and you can spin a story out of anything / convince anybody why something matters. But really, you need to exercise a lot of restraint to avoid overloading your sales teams (in B2B companies) and customers with the sheer volume of releases. I like to group features into regular channels (e..g monthly newsletters and webinars) so customers can appreciate the feature velocity but only have to think about digesting information once a month. 

For small features, it's not just about the splashiness of the feature, but the impact to customers. Here are a few examples:

  • Planned downtime -- this is not splashy, but users should know and be informed to plan around it. Think about the channels that you have to reach your target audience. Users may be active in the product, or it may be more effective to deliver notices via email. A multi-channel approach works well here. 
  • Small polish features / improvements to their experience -- let's say you have a small improvement that isn't going to break workflows, but is just going to improve quality of life. Oftentimes customers will discover this improvement on their own. But, it can be helpful to highlight these features in some sort of monthly newsletter, to demonstrate how your team is continually delivering features to delight users. 

Christopher Greco
Christopher Greco
Toloka Product Marketing LeadJune 6

Not everything needs a full-scale Tier 1 or Tier 2 launch, but that shouldn't stop you from communicating effectively important changes for Tier 3, just make sure you're not overshadowing or reducing the impact of what's more important.

The framework is the usual:

  • understand who'd be impacted the most

  • understand how big of an impact it would make

  • understand how this release fits within your other launches / comms. Could it be paired with another one for example to avoid overcommunication? Could it wait until a downtime in the feature roadmap?

  • Cherry pick what to say, when, and where. Having too much overload will make both your internal (especially sales) and external stakeholders.

TL;DR: it's important to communicate important things, but at times it's more important to get other things across first.

Iman Bayatra
Iman Bayatra
Coachendo Director of Product MarketingAugust 5

Managing small product releases requires a thoughtful and targeted approach to ensure that important updates or enhancements are effectively communicated to users. While these small product releases [ considered as Tier 3] may not have the same scale as major launches [Tier 1, 2], they are crucial for maintaining user satisfaction and driving adoption.

Here are some activities and deliverables that can be used to manage Tier 3 releases:

Release notes: Create concise and informative release notes that highlight the key features and improvements. Make sure to clearly communicate the value that the update brings to users.

Email updates: Send personalized emails to relevant user segments, informing them about the new release and how it addresses their specific needs.

Blog posts or newsletters: Publish blog posts or include the release information in newsletters to keep your product users informed and engaged.

In-app notifications: Use in-app notifications or banners to alert users about the update when they log in. Make sure the message is non-intrusive but easily noticeable.

Social media posts: Utilize your social media channels to showcase the new features and encourage users to explore the latest improvements.

User community forums: Engage with your user community forums to discuss the release and address any feedback or concerns.

Short video tutorials: Create short video tutorials or screencasts demonstrating how to use the new features.

Engage your sales & customer success team: Equip your sales & customer success teams with the knowledge of the release, so they can proactively reach out to users and guide them through the changes.

Bear in mind that it's essential to strike a balance between communicating the updates effectively without overwhelming your user base.

Yvonne Chow
Yvonne Chow
Zennify Director of Product MarketingOctober 11

This question is a good reminder that not all product releases are launches.

On a related note, I had a team member who constantly worked on product deprecations, which aren't viewed as traditional releases, but equally as important in terms of communicating to end users and sometimes, buyers.

Here's what I would prepare:

  1. A product release brief. This is an internal master document that contextualizes everything about the product/feature release. It includes:

    • A description of the release

    • Target audience

    • Live date

    • Why is this release not a Tier 1 release (assuming that Tier 1s are usually big splashes).

    I usually work with my product manager and occasionally a CSM if necessary on this brief.

  2. Prepare for internal comms & enablement:

    • I share updates with my cross-functional teams in existing meetings.

    • Depending on the scope of the release, I would consider either:

      • A separate enablement session

      • A combined enablement session (several product releases into one enablement session)

      • A brief update as a guest in the Sales/CSM meetings

    • I always follow up with an org-wide announcement. This is contextual/cultural - some of my workplaces used tools like FB Workplace, where it was easy to quickly share a small update, or I might ask for some air time during an all hands to speak to the update.

  3. Prepare for external comms

    • Smaller product releases tend to require these tactics. Things to consider - is this product very specific to a target audience, or can it be widely shared? It is up to you, and the product release type, on what you want to use:

      • In-app message/update (usually through tools like Mixpanel or Interana)

      • A website banner

      • A Help article update

      • 1st targeted email blast to the immediate impacted group of customers (typically the actual users and buyers of the product/feature). You may choose to follow up and put an update in a broader email campaign, if your marketing team has one scheduled.

      • Don't forget social! Do you need to update your social feeds?

      • Blog post(s).

      • Don't forget to update your sales decks if necessary!

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