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How to launch new features to your audience

Launching new and exciting updates is essential to keeping your customers engaged. Here's how

By Anisah Osman Britton

Creating a product that people don’t fall out of love with is tough — you don’t want to piss off your early adopters or loyal fans but you also need to be attracting new customers. To do that, you need to ensure you’re constantly innovating.

In our Startup Life newsletter, Yatin Vadhia — previously product director at Checkout.com and now group product manager at TrueLayer — shared his top tips with us on how to decide what new features to build.

Decide what company goal a new feature would achieve

It’s easy to have lots of feature ideas, but you want to build the ones that support wider company goals. Decide whether you are helping acquire new customers or retain current ones. This will help you decide not only what to build but also who to launch to — be it loyal customers, top of funnel marketing audience or those becoming more and more disengaged. It also informs the marketing plan and whose budget can be used. Maybe you’re launching a new feature to stay relevant: if you have a mature product, are in a saturated market or aren’t really progressing anymore, new features can unlock that next level of growth. Or maybe you want to leverage new features to meet a financial goal.

Use new features to make money

When you launch a new feature, you have the opportunity to charge for it or raise prices; current customers get a feeling of value add and it helps new customers find another reason to start using your product.

Think beyond your core offering

A good example of this is Instagram: it had the market covered when it came to photos, but added video to attract a new audience. You want to be thinking about adjacent problems to your core offering that you can solve. Think about how big a new audience it can bring in, whether it adds to the product’s financial sustainability, and the time it would take the team to build and maintain it. This is also a good way of testing a pivot — release it as a feature and if it’s a hit, turn it into the core offering.

Be data informed, not data driven

Before you put time and money into building something, figure out if it’s relevant and wanted.

Speak to your customers:

Surveys only work when written well. Often, early stage companies fall down because they just quickly put some questions together and blast them out. Get your statisticians and data scientists to write them.

Interview or shadow customers — watch how they use your product in the real world to understand pain points. It’s excellent qualitative insight but it takes time.

Dive into all the data you hold as a company but you want to be data informed, not data driven. For example, your data may suggest not telling customers of a change or to make purchases non refundable in order to increase cashflow — these options are unethical. So consider data, but ensure humans make decisions.

Don’t piss off your loyal customers

As you add new features, you’re inevitably going to lose individuals who bought into the original product. They may not be happy with the direction, cost or bloat. One solution can be to keep the core experience authentic — or as close to the original product as possible — and add new features to other parts of the app so they can be ignored if not wanted. You can also offer different interfaces to different customers — if they signed up for the original product, they could see one offering, and newer customers see something different. You could offer an option to opt in for their preferred choice.

If you’re a B2B business, prioritise timelines

How you determine your next new feature differs from a consumer business, primarily because you’re looking at different metrics. A good example is time. Getting new stuff into bigger companies is difficult! Speak to them first to set realistic and manageable timelines — and stick to them as much as possible. You also want to create rigorous testing and quality assurance, and to put together excellent comms to define the feature and how to use it.

On the subject of… launching new features

🗺️ How to create a product roadmap. You want the team to have clarity on what’s going to be built and tested over the next month.

📱Improvise, adapt, pivot. Here’s how to find product-market fit. 

⌚ New features need planning. Make sure you set milestones, KPIs and a testing period.

📈 Spend time planning a successful launch. You want to build awareness of the new feature’s capabilities. 

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up here.

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