SaaS products rapidly evolve with release cycles that feel almost continuous. In fact, some are actually continuous. Regardless of your release cycle, communication is critical to success. And that communication involves the majority of the organization — engineering, product, support, customer success, marketing, and sales. Each team needs clear responsibilities tied to key results in a defined and accountable process. Let’s look at SaaS product feature release go-to-market implications.
Churn and Feature Release GTM Failures
Customers stop paying because of two big reasons: They aren’t seeing value or the product just doesn’t work. Feature release communication can negatively or positively impact both of these churn reasons.
Let’s start with the product just doesn’t work. If it’s broken, and you fix it, but no one knows you fixed it, you might as well have left it broken. This happens a lot. And SaaS companies love to think that sending one email message or in-product announcement means that customers know something has changed. Wrong.
By the same token, if you have high-value features and capabilities that get released, and nobody knows they exist and why they’re valuable, you just wasted all that effort. We’ll take the position that your product roadmap is fed by rapid feedback loops that keep engineering focused on the right things. Problem is, even if all that is true, when the feature release GTM fails, all that effort is fruitless.
Feature Release GTM Common Sense
All too often there’s more effort in feature development than feature communication. And this often starts with failures of translation. No single team within a growing tech company can translate product enhancements into messaging. That’s because the translations are different by team and by audience. What customers need and want to understand is different than what prospects need and want to understand. And sub-audiences also have different agendas. What technical users need may be very different than what business users need. It all comes down to translation of feature dev into the language of the audiences. And there are a lot of them.
But teams can’t translate what they don’t know. So before all this distillation can take place, the fundamentals must be strong. Product must have clear stories and scopes. And engineering must have documented specs and impacts. From those fundamentals, the other release teams can translate into the needs and languages of their audiences and contexts.
SaaS Feature Release Go-to-Market Template
I’ve found a lot of failures in SaaS companies start with missing documentation. That’s not because over-processing is a good thing — it’s not. It’s because the act of writing and having a GTM doc helps you think through touchpoints, impacts, relationships, dependencies, and opportunities.
Our generic SaaS Product Feature Release Go-to-Market Template is a Google Doc that you can download and make your own. If nothing else, it’s a good starting place for a hierarchical, chronological, and organized approach to high-impact, successful feature releases. Our previous company, ion interactive executed against two- or three-week release cycles. This GTM process was a constant across the organization. It was a habit that generally led to good communication and effective releases. We also had an organization that felt like it knew what was happening in our product and why it was happening. That alone was tremendously valuable.
As you think through your SaaS product feature release GTM, remember that your downstream teams need great inputs to translate into compelling messaging for their audiences. The process should be as simple as it can be to ensure that everyone can execute at a high level. Let me know how your GTM plays out.