The problem is that these tools make it insanely easy to bug customers in the wrong ways (I discussed this in an episode of my podcast, The Startup Chat). Far too often, I'll log into a SaaS product and get hit by 5 pop-ups and two chat messages with the latest product updates. I don't care about these updates. I have work I'm trying to get done, and these messaging examples are getting in my way.
When you go too heavy on in-app messaging, you're showing your customers that you're thinking about getting more clicks, about driving superficial engagement—not about them. By focusing on short-term engagement, you're risking the long-term relationship you're trying to build with the customer, which starts with the implementation of user onboarding best practices and lasts throughout the customer journey.
How not to do product updates
People are using your SaaS product for a reason. They're trying to get work done. If you can't add extra value, you need to get out of their way. You know you're doing updates wrong if you:
- Send an update every time you make a tiny fix. SaaS products have to keep improving to better serve customer needs, but that doesn't mean customers need to know everything you do. You want your customers to take notice when you have something big to share. You do that by moderating the frequency of your outreach.
- Have multiple overlapping in-app messaging campaigns running at the same time. Companies often carry out multiple messaging strategies at once. This can be overwhelming, especially for new customers who are just trying to get acquainted with the most basic product features.
- Find the most attention-getting way to promote your update. Full-screen takeovers aren't necessary when a hotspot or tooltip would've done the trick. Blasting all of your customers when segmenting for relevance would've saved your customer an interruption. When you overwhelm customers in-app, in the exact place where they're trying to get something done, they may well leave your product and go find someone else's where they can concentrate.
If you send in-app notifications about minor product updates and bug fixes, you'll irritate users. If you write them out in a long list of release notes, nobody will read them. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't update users at all.
How to do product update announcements well (w/ best practices + examples)
Good product updates are simple: they respect what the user wants. Send them in the right medium, at the right time, and people will want to read them.
1. Launch product updates to relevant user segments
It's important to customize your product update announcements for different user groups to make sure the message gets to the right people. By tailoring updates to their specific needs and interests, users are more likely to engage with the information. To make your product updates more targeted and effective, consider the following steps:
- Who are your users, anyway? Identify relevant user segments by taking a close look at who's using your app and group them based on what they're into. Think about their favorite features, the subscription they're on, or even the industry they work in.
- Make it personal: Now that you know who you're talking to, craft an update announcement that speaks directly to them. Show them how the new goodies will make their life easier and give them a quick rundown on how to get started.
- Pick the perfect channel: Different folks like different strokes, and that goes for communication channels too. Find out if your users prefer emails, in-app notifications, or social media, and use their favorite method to share the news.
- Timing is everything: Nobody wants to be interrupted by an update when they're swamped with work. So, think about when your users will most likely have some downtime and send your announcements then.
When you launch product updates with your users' interests in mind, they'll be more likely to check out the new features and get excited about what's in store.
2. Use in-app messaging updates sparingly
After building a new feature, you're excited, and you want to share that excitement with your customers. But constantly bugging people with in-product updates is the wrong way to do that. Take a step back, and think about each update from the user's perspective. Slack is a company that does in-product messaging really well. In this example from 2017, in-app updates appear as a little red gift icon in the top-right corner of the desktop app. When users click on the red box, they only see the most relevant and helpful updates—stuff like a new video calling feature, or threaded messaging. It's a non-interruptive way of showing people new features.
To know the best time to use in-app updates, here’s a handy checklist to help make your decision a bit easier:
✅ Importance of the update:
- Go for in-app updates when it's a major feature or a game-changer.
- Hold off on in-app updates for those small tweaks or behind-the-scenes stuff.
✅ Brevity of the message:
- In-app updates are perfect if you can share the news in a snappy, engaging way.
- Maybe skip the in-app update if it takes a novel to explain what's happening.
✅ Availability of additional resources:
- If you've got a link to a blog post or tutorial for the curious, in-app updates are your friend.
- If there's no extra info to share, in-app updates might not be the best choice.
✅ User engagement and feedback:
- If your copywriter is doing an incredible job and your users are loving those in-app updates, keep 'em coming!
- If users are giving you the side-eye over too many updates, maybe it's time to rethink the strategy.
With this checklist in mind, you'll make the best call on when to use in-app messaging updates, keeping your users happy and in the know at the right time.
3. Bundle product updates in an email
Hey, we get it. Sometimes there are just too many awesome things happening with your product to share them one by one. Monthly digest, anyone? Instead of bombarding users with individual emails, send them a roundup of all the cool updates and improvements you’ve been making.
Weekly or monthly emails help keep your existing customers in the loop about how you're constantly working to make their lives easier. Because it’s an email, they can save it, ignore it, or return to it.
Help Scout's monthly update email does this really well. It's organized into categories, so people can easily scan for the stuff they care about. More importantly, the email frames updates around real problems that customers have complained about. The copy from this email shows that Help Scout is listening to the pain users are experiencing and doing something about it.
Give your users an update roundup they'll look forward to by:
- Making it scannable: Organize your bundled updates in a way that's easy on the eyes. Use clear headings, bullet points, or even icons to help your users find what interests them most.
- Highlighting the MVPs: Give the most significant updates a little extra love. Feature them prominently, and maybe even include a screenshot or two to show off the shiny new stuff.
- Keeping the conversation going: Invite your users to share their thoughts on the updates. Add links to your social media or a feedback form, so they can tell you what they love (or don't) about the changes.
When you bundle your product updates in an email, you're giving your users a one-stop shop for all the exciting news about your app, making it easy for them to stay in the loop and engaged.
4. Launch on Product Hunt
Updates can help get your product in front of a new audience. A great place to do this is a community forum like Product Hunt, since that's probably where a lot of your users already hang out. Share what you've built and let your audience know you've been featured on the site.
When Drift launched Drift 2.0, the company's CEO David Cancel posted on the Product Hunt page. He wrote that he was happy to answer any questions from the community—and he answered these questions himself, showing how he and his company personally follow through for their customers.
Check out our four-step guide to help you become “Product of the Day” on Product Hunt
Here are some tips to help you get to the top of the rankings quickly:
- Timing is key: To make a splash on Product Hunt, choose the right day and time to launch. Aim for weekdays, when the community is most active, and avoid weekends or holidays when things tend to quiet down.
- Craft a catchy tagline: You have one shot to grab people's attention, so make it count. Write a short, snappy tagline explaining what's new and why it's worth checking out.
- Visuals that pop: Your product thumbnail and images should stand out and showcase the best parts of your update. Some of the top-rated launches on Product Hunt contain animated thumbnails, like the Bonjour App for Zoom.
- Engage with the community: Product Hunt isn't just about posting and forgetting. Stick around to answer questions, share more info, and thank people for their upvotes and comments. It's a great chance to show your passion and commitment to your users. The team at Buffer makes sure that a member of the team engages in the comments of their launches.
Launching on Product Hunt can give your product update the spotlight it deserves, introducing it to a wider audience and sparking some awesome conversations. Just remember to put your best foot forward and stay engaged with the community.
What are the benefits of announcing a product update?
Who doesn't love a good product update? Spreading the news about your latest features and improvements doesn't just keep your users informed—it can also work wonders for your product's success. Some of the awesome perks that come with announcing product updates include:
- Increased product adoption: Announcing product updates creates excitement and curiosity among your users. Showcasing the latest features can make them eager to explore, leading to higher adoption rates and more active users.
- Increased customer loyalty: Sharing product updates helps to build trust and a sense of community around your product. Regular communication about improvements and new features fosters customer loyalty and turns users into passionate advocates.
- Increased customer engagement/decreased churn: Consistent product update announcements remind users that you're committed to refining and expanding your offering. This increased engagement helps decrease churn rates, contributes to a healthier user base, and provides opportunities to gather valuable feedback for future updates.
So, announcing product updates isn't just about keeping users in the loop—it's a powerful way to boost adoption, build loyalty, and keep your community engaged and excited about your ever-evolving product.
Product update announcements FAQs
What is a product update?
A product update is when you introduce new features, improvements, or fixes that make your product even better than before – like a mini-makeover for your app or software.
Product updates can range from small tweaks that polish up the user experience to major overhauls that add exciting new functionality. They are a great opportunity to engage with users and showcase your commitment to product development and improvement.
When should you announce product updates?
Finding the right moment to announce product updates can make a world of difference. Here are a few pointers to help you nail the timing:
- Consider the update's impact: If it's a major feature or a significant change that affects how users interact with your product, announce it as soon as it's ready to roll. For smaller tweaks or bug fixes, consider bundling them together in a monthly roundup.
- Mind your users' schedules: It's a good idea to avoid interrupting your users during their busiest times. Instead, try to send announcements when they're more likely to have a few spare minutes to check out what's new.
- Keep an eye on the calendar: Steer clear of weekends, holidays, or other times when people might be taking a break from their inboxes. Stick to weekdays when users are more likely to be actively checking their emails or engaging with your product.
Remember, the goal is to get your users excited about your product updates, so timing your announcements thoughtfully can help you achieve that.
How do you announce a product update?
Announcing a product update is all about spreading the news and getting users excited. So apart from the advice we shared in this article, to make sure your update announcement hits the mark, here’s a 5-step process to follow:
- Craft your message according to your audience: Get familiar with your users and what makes them tick. Shape your message so it clicks with their interests and needs – even better if it gets them to reshare to their audience.
- Write a catchy message: Keep it clear, snappy, and engaging. Highlight the best parts of the update (like the use cases for a new feature) and show users why it's worth checking out.
- Choose the perfect channel: Think about how your users like to communicate. In-app notifications, emails, or social media? Go with what they love.
- Show off with visuals: Grab attention with eye-catching images, GIFs, or even short videos that put your latest features in the spotlight.
- Welcome feedback: Give your users a chance to share their thoughts on the update. Make it a breeze for them to reach out via feedback forms or social media.
Following these steps will help you craft a product update announcement that not only keeps users in the loop but also gets them excited about all the fantastic improvements you've made to your product.
Where should you announce product updates?
You have many options for where to announce your product updates, but knowing which one to use for which type of update requires a deep knowledge of your audience. Here are some of the channels and the right time/situation to use them:
- In-app notifications: Share updates directly within your app or software. Perfect for major features or improvements that users shouldn't miss. The Producter team found an interesting way to make these less irritating.
- Email newsletters: Bundle your updates into a monthly roundup or a dedicated announcement email. It's a great way to keep users informed without overwhelming them.
- Blog posts: Write a detailed post on your company blog that dives deep into the update. Include images, videos, or GIFs to showcase the new features.
- Social media: Share the news with your followers on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. It's a fantastic way to engage with your audience and even attract new users.
- Online communities: Announce your updates on platforms like Product Hunt or relevant forums where users can discover and discuss your product.
Iterate your update process by mixing and matching these options to find the perfect combination that reaches your users and gets them excited about your latest product improvements.
How often should you publish product update announcements?
Striking the right balance with the frequency of product update announcements is key to keeping users engaged without overloading them. Here's how to find the sweet spot:
- Assess the update's significance: For major features or important changes, announce them as soon as they're ready. For smaller updates or bug fixes, consider bundling them together in a periodic summary.
- Keep an eye on user feedback: Monitor your users' responses to your announcements. If they're happy and engaged, you're on the right track. If they seem overwhelmed, consider adjusting the frequency.
- Adapt to your product's pace: If your product is evolving rapidly, more frequent announcements might make sense. But if updates are less frequent, don't feel pressured to announce every little change.
- Set a consistent schedule: Whether it's a monthly roundup, a quarterly newsletter, or any other schedule that works for your product, having a regular cadence for announcements helps manage user expectations.
Remember, the goal is to keep users informed and excited about your product without overwhelming them. Listen to their feedback and adjust your announcement frequency accordingly to maintain a healthy balance.
And if you’re still not sure, use this to decide:
“If it’s on the product roadmap, it gets a full update – if it’s not, we don’t push it.”
Separate yourself from the noise
When a customer is in your app, for a brief moment in time, you may have their undivided attention. Respect it. Make sure that any product updates you send are contextual and valuable to the customer. Show customers you care, and they'll be excited to hear from you again.
There are so many products competing for your customers' attention. With all of that noise out there, customers are gravitating towards the companies with the highest signal. These are companies that are the most consistently helpful and customer-focused. Remember: Each product update isn't a one off in-app messaging transaction; it's an interaction point with your brand. That's a relationship you need to cultivate for the long term.
Want help planning the perfect product launch? Try the Appcues Product Launch Planner tool for free!