SaaS Release Notes Cadence: How Often Should You Announce New Features?
A key to SaaS success is delivering value to users, to solve their pain points, keep them engaged and attract new customers. In a fast paced SaaS environment, competition is hard and one way to increase your value offering is by announcing new features. But how often should you be doing it? That’s what release notes cadence is all about!
In this article we’ll explore the factors that affect release notes cadence, different strategies you can apply and what are the best ways to announce new features once released.
Learn how to determine your ideal SaaS release notes cadence and the best way to communicate new features:
What is ‘release notes cadence’?
SaaS release notes cadence is the frequency at which your SaaS company announces new features and updates to users.
It is where your engineering and product marketing team intersect. Your product and engineering team should focus on reaching the deadlines of your release cadence. At the same time, your product marketing team should be in alignment on how and when they are announcing changes to optimize communication with users, increase user engagement, and get better feedback to drive product decisions.
There are many different types of release notes cadences that SaaS companies may choose to use. It depends on a number of factors:
Factors that affect release notes cadence
Not all release notes cadences work the same for different types of SaaS. Releasing and announcing new features and updates as quickly as possible may be effective for one type of product but a pain for users of another type of product. It’s important to look at the different factors affecting users, your team, and your product’s nature to determine what is a good release notes cadence for your roadmap.
Understanding your user profile:
The most foundational factor is your users and their needs and expectations from your product. If your users are SaaS-type, frequent releases are likely expected. Users are going to want to see updates that meet their feedback and bug fixes happen very quickly in order for you to stay competitive against other products. However, if your product is more corporate software with a higher barrier to entry, users likely do not expect too many frequent updates and new features and are happy with a slower release notes cadence.
Another factor to consider is tolerance of change. Users for corporate software are likely more adverse to change especially with software they’ve been trained to use. They are likely to be less receptive to constant updates. However, SaaS users are often quite tech savvy and expect products to progress quickly. They will be much more comfortable and happy with frequent updates and new features that they can learn to use themselves.
Your team’s capability/infrastructure:
How you release also depends on what your team is capable of managing from design, development, roll out, feedback and bug fixes. Releasing a feature includes a lot of different moving parts and tasks that your team will need to handle well including customer service. Releasing without having the capability to manage these tasks can result in missed feedback, miscommunication with users, and bigger problems than improvements. When looking at your roadmap, it’s important to be honest with what is doable for your team on what timeframe.
Complexity of your product:
Additionally, how complex your product already is for users can determine how often you should release additional changes. If your product is very complex and requires a high learning curve for users or training even, releasing new features and updates every week can be exhausting and may render some users incapable of using your product.
However, if your product is simple, frequent changes may not be as disruptive and more welcome. With a complex product, a crowded roadmap may land your product in an unwanted direction, a slower release notes cadence with more time for feedback and listening to customers may help ensure the roadmap is moving in the right direction.
Different release notes cadence strategies:
Based on the factors above, here are three different types of release notes cadences that your team can lean towards.
1. Early and Often: announce when your new feature or update is done.
As mentioned before with more simple products, an “early and often” schedule is often best. If your product is in a competitive space, it’s important to stay on top of users’ expectations, announcing desired new features and fixing bugs as often as possible.
This strategy is also useful to keep engaging customers and improve product usage. You don’t need to wait for 2 weeks or a month if you have an exciting new feature to announce! In addition, your feature adoption will be faster if the announcement is in-app and in more in-context.
This approach is ideal for growing products, which still face a growing competition and want to position themselves as leaders in the market.
2. Be predictable: announce on a set schedule.
For products that are a little more complex, a predictable release notes schedule is likely what is expected and accepted by users and easier for your team to manage. With a schedule like this, you can pick every 2 weeks or every month or so to announce a “sprint” of product updates. With this, typically you include complete documentation of what is included in the “update” to your product.
This is the approach followed by Drift, for example: they announce their product updates once a month. A schedule like this also gives your team time to plan which features and bug fixes are priority and properly document and announce them.
On the other hand, your users know when upcoming changes are expected to be announced and will be looking forward to them. This strategy works better with mature products, which already have a loyal customer base.
3. A combo: small releases between regularly scheduled bigger releases.
You don’t have to be completely limited to one or the other if that is what’s best for your users.
You can arrange to have a sprint release notes schedule every month and include small bug fix releases in between to show users that your team is fast at fixing problems for them. Users will know when to expect new feature announcements and this gives your team time to plan what to prioritize from your roadmap.
You can still use your in-app changelog and have a monthly feature recap or a summary of all monthly updates.
How Often Should You Announce New Features?
All the factors we’ve covered give you an idea of how often you need to announce new features. On the other hand, you don’t want to release too often to avoid releases being ignored. At the same time, not only the cadence counts but how you announce releases.
The SaaS space is saturated with multiple solutions in each sector for users to choose from. It is best you communicate changes quickly and in context for users to not lose moments, increase engagement, and ensure new feature adoption right away. Your team should also prioritize staying on top of what feedback you are hearing from users and their expectations.
Having a roadmap is the first step to planning upcoming releases and announcements. For example, if you’re planning a big launch for a specific feature or update, you may not be able to stick to a two-weeks reselease notes schedule. However, if your product is more predictable with minor bug fixes and small updates, a fixed release notes cadence is more suitable.
Your roadmap is a plan on what you’re working on to improve your product and when you expect to deliver it. Your roadmap doesn’t need to be overly detailed and include every feature and bug fix, but it should show main stakeholders your product improvement strategy. Your roadmap will update with changes in priority as you get feedback from users on how they want to see your product change and what features they really want. Read more on the basics of creating a SaaS product roadmap.
How to communicate new features once released:
When you are releasing new features, how you are communicating them to your users is extremely important. If your users don’t know you are releasing updates and making improvements, they will think your product is stagnant or miss key features.
Use an in-app Changelog:
A changelog that is integrated into your app is a perfect solution to announce big launches, as well as small improvements and feature additions. It’s an engaging way for your customers to see what’s new and get a quick overview of all updates. Announcements are in context so users can click through to new features and updates to engage right away. Including screenshots, tutorial videos, and links to further documentation can help increase engagement and feature adoption.
To attract more attention to your in-app announcements, there’s a few things you can do:
- Add graphics, GIFs, and videos where you can, especially if they help illustrate the functionality of a new feature.
- It’s good to include a link to documentation where users can learn more about the update or new feature and keep updates short and sweet within your changelog.
- It’s also important to focus on the value of the update and use a clear language to keep it simple and straight to the point.
- Always try to include a call to action that links to either more information or the feature itself so that users can start engaging right away. Learn more about release notes best practices.
Keep updates focused on the right users with segmentation:
Not all users will be interested in all your updates. You will likely have technical updates that only apply to certain users. You may also have different tiers of users based on your pricing plans and want to deliver updates only to certain tiers. It’s important to segment these updates to avoid fatiguing users with updates that don’t apply to them. Segmented updates will get higher engagement because they are relevant to the right users.
Use different types of announcements:
Bigger announcements and updates sometimes need to be announced in a more visible way. For example, product maintenance announcements or a sweeping update will need to be prioritized differently in terms of visibility. You don’t want these updates to be ignored.
You can use pop-ups, top bars, snippets, etc. to make sure they are seen by all users. Additionally, if something is time-sensitive, you can use push notifications to ensure that users see the update within a certain amount of time and without being within your product.
At whatever rate you choose to announce your product changes, it’s important that your product team and product marketing team are aligned on how and when you are announcing. Announcing quickly and in context for users will help ensure feature adoption and keep engagement. Easily announce new features effortlessly like 10,000+ of the world’s best products and close the feedback loop with Beamer.