Beyond Shipping

Published on: July 4, 2020

Early in my career I used to think shipping a feature was the definition of done for a Product Manager. While shipping a feature I used to answer questions such as, 'What is the real customer problem?', 'how to solve that problem', 'is the solution something users will understand', 'when will we ship it', then even go a little further to talk to the GTM folks, train them on the use cases and target personas but that was it. I didn't think much about post-shipping.

In the past few years I've realized that shipping is only half the work. The job of the PM is not just solving a problem and delivering to the customers but ensuring the value of what you shipped is realized by the customers. The value realization starts with discovery. Before everything else, it is obvious that the customers should be aware of the new feature (even if it is only an enhancement).

The one thing that has helped me do this in the past is to first write down (back of the envelope calculation) what percentage (or absolute number) of customers will benefit from this and define a success metric and tie it to the feature release. In fact, the team (the squad and higher-ups) should be made aware of it. This ensures that team is aligned to the outcome of the feature (15% of paid customers will activate this feature) vs the output (we will ship this feature before September 15). This process will help in ensuring that I am paying enough attention to the adoption of the feature, which interprets into 'how do I get people to the top of the funnel', which is nothing but eyeballs on the feature.

So, what are some of the things that I do, to ensure that we get enough eyeballs on the feature:

Within the product:

  1. In-product announcements - The section within the product that lights up or shows an indication that a new feature has been shipped. 
  2. In-line Cues - There are a variety of on-boarding and change-boarding tools out there that help with putting a  spotlight on a feature release. 

Outside of the product:

    This is where you can leverage PMM and GTM functions to spread the word. Some of the channels I choose depends upon the impact of the enhancement/feature.
  1. Forums and blogs - Talk about the new release in the forums under your 'roadmap' topics.
  2. Newsletters - Monthly newsletters are a great way to reach the customers, depending upon how valuable it has been in the past, the open rates could be good.
  3. Support tickets - If I have solved a real problem, I'm sure there must have been feature request tickets or support tickets for that feature. I reply to all those tickets or take help from the support team.
  4. Landing page - If it was a substantial enhancement or a feature, I've asked the marketing team to create a landing page or add this content to an existing landing page.
  5. GTM teams - Talk to your own teams, Sales, pre-sales, support, implementation and customer success teams. They are your product advocates, it is best to inform them of any new features.
  6. Webinars
  7. Social media channels

P.S #1 Thanks to Mithun for contributing to this post.