I’ve spent the majority of my Life 2.0 using SaaS (Software as a Service), not producing it, but now that Connect is live and has users, I’m getting a taste for the production side of the house.
Ask anyone savvy, like Anshu, about the benefits of SaaS, and dollars to donuts says “seamless new feature and bug fix deployment” in the top five. And for good reason. Regardless of the software package, everyone reading this can relate to the difficulties and uncertainties associated with an upgrade and/or patch.
The beauty part of SaaS (and on demand, which for this argument, is synonymous) is that the software’s producers can make updates with minor disruption to the users over the Interweb. No more patch application, backup, downtime, uptime, testing periods required. The SaaS producer supposedly does that in advance of releasing the update.
Sweet. So, now that the new features and bug fixes are happily installed, how should the producer let the consumer know about them?
I say producer rather than vendor because the majority of SaaS that people are familiar with is free (as in beer). The Google Reader updates from earlier in the week show us the classic Google philosophy on updates, the Easter Egg theory (or Field of Dreams theory). If you build it, they will come, get it? Stay with me here.
This works really well for Google because they have millions of everyday users, not to mention an army of fan boys and haters who blog about their every move. Release a new feature in stealth, and your users feel special when they find it. Easter Egg, woo-hoo! Very savvy marketing and typical, too cool for school, Google.
We tried a similar approach for the new features Rich added to Connect, e.g. we added photo upload and tracked its uptake to get a feel for the viral nature of the network. We got mixed results. Maybe the UI wasn’t obvious enough, or maybe people don’t trust their colleagues and don’t want to share details about what they do. Weird.
Anyway, we finally added a new features link that pointed to a bunch of screencasts I did, showing how to use all the new features and emphasizing the why you should care of each. This was a nice compromise approach, and a method proven by Google, e.g. GMail.
Uptake was still sluggish. So, Paul did a spam blast, and we’re waiting to see if that did the trick. Since I’m not ready to accept that Connect is a failure, my question is what is the best way to “market” your new SaaS features? Or am I just expecting too much from users, meaning they will use what they want at their own pace?
Easter egg only works well if you have a devoted user base that spends a lot of time using your application every day. I like the new features link, not too intrusive and totally optional. I’m not a fan spamming, but how else can you reach new users? Blogs sound like a good way, but only if your users read them.
What approaches am I missing?