New SaaS Features? Easter Egg or Spam Blast?

September 7th, 2007 8 Comments

spammug.jpgI’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.easter-eggs-in-grass.png

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?


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8 Responses to “New SaaS Features? Easter Egg or Spam Blast?”

  1. Meg Says:

    I’m guessing that the rapid adoption of Connect has done a disservice to your expectations. The initial connect viral adoption was high results for low investment. You got an email, you accepted the email, you sent a few invitations and the saga continued.

    The other features require a bit more thinking/work on the part of users and therefore are not as top of mind. Have you forgotten that people are lazy?

  2. Meg Says:

    I’m guessing that the rapid adoption of Connect has done a disservice to your expectations. The initial connect viral adoption was high results for low investment. You got an email, you accepted the email, you sent a few invitations and the saga continued.

    The other features require a bit more thinking/work on the part of users and therefore are not as top of mind. Have you forgotten that people are lazy?

  3. Tim Says:

    I guess to get the viral uptake going again you need to add some thing that folks simply can not do without. To echo Meg, you need to make it as easy as possible for the user to take advantage.
    I think you’re butting up against it being a corporate network – we need the ability to share information, files, etc – its coming I know – posting our pictures and sharing kudos is fun but ultimately just that, a bit of fun.
    Not meaning to be mean here but I think once Connect offers us something that helps in our daily working lives you will not have a problem getting uptake again.

  4. Tim Says:

    I guess to get the viral uptake going again you need to add some thing that folks simply can not do without. To echo Meg, you need to make it as easy as possible for the user to take advantage.
    I think you’re butting up against it being a corporate network – we need the ability to share information, files, etc – its coming I know – posting our pictures and sharing kudos is fun but ultimately just that, a bit of fun.
    Not meaning to be mean here but I think once Connect offers us something that helps in our daily working lives you will not have a problem getting uptake again.

  5. Jake Says:

    Sure.
    There are little things out there. Click to IM in place, click to call (new), find people based on profile information, etc.
    Nothing earth-shattering, but still new to Oracle in that we don’t have it in other systems.

    But this post wasn’t really meant to be about Connect. I am curious to know about how SaaS features are found by customers.

    Jake

  6. Jake Says:

    Sure.
    There are little things out there. Click to IM in place, click to call (new), find people based on profile information, etc.
    Nothing earth-shattering, but still new to Oracle in that we don’t have it in other systems.

    But this post wasn’t really meant to be about Connect. I am curious to know about how SaaS features are found by customers.

    Jake

  7. Beau Says:

    Want to build buzz for a new feature?

    A. Release it
    B. Document it
    C. Label it as “New!”
    D. Announce it: blogs, forums, press, etc
    E. Communicate directly with users who have requested it
    F. Add a note in a user’s log when they adopt it
    G. Publicize users who use it well
    H. Publicize users who find new uses

  8. Beau Says:

    Want to build buzz for a new feature?

    A. Release it
    B. Document it
    C. Label it as “New!”
    D. Announce it: blogs, forums, press, etc
    E. Communicate directly with users who have requested it
    F. Add a note in a user’s log when they adopt it
    G. Publicize users who use it well
    H. Publicize users who find new uses

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