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How Our Product Update Emails Get a 68% Response Rate

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Customer emails about product updates are often an afterthought. Here’s why they shouldn’t be.

A couple of weeks ago, we released a new feature.

For the sake of this post, the feature itself (support ticket history) doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that the launch of the feature won us a tremendous amount of praise and excitement from our customers, and it’s not really because of the feature.

It’s because of our feature launch strategy; a simple one that we began using years ago, and that literally anyone can copy with free tools and a bit of organization.

Feature launches are big opportunities for product companies to show your customers that you’re listening to them.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses totally miss here.

It’s truly an easy win (aside from the hard work of actually building great features), and I’d love to see more of it. So today, I wanted to share our approach with you.

How We Used to Do Feature Launches

Years ago, our "feature launch plan" wasn’t much of a plan at all.

We’d push something live and, if we deemed important enough, fired off an email blast to our customers.

At some point, we also began to experiment with Intercom in-app notifications, which got some positive feedback from customers, although it wasn’t all that different from the email sentiment.

These emails were largely ignored, with open rates in the 10-20% range.

That was pretty much it.

A couple of years ago, when we made some updates to our knowledge base features, we realized that we never really gave these announcements much thought, but that maybe we could turn them into something that actually made an impact, rather than something we phoned in.

And so we got to testing.

The Simple Tactic We Tested

Among everything we tried—from different email copy and subject lines to testing the timing of the messages to blog posts—one tactic has, far and away, delivered the most dramatic results.

And it all comes down to making the experience more personal.

We already know the value of personal interactions with our customers. It’s why I spend hundreds of hours talking to Groove users and doing customer development. It isn’t just about getting intel for our business; it’s about building relationships and showing our customers how much their thoughts and opinions matter to us.

Well, it turned out that that same approach worked really well for feature releases.

Here’s what I mean:

We get a lot of feature requests.

So, after we responded to them, we began to log each one in a Trello card:

Every time a request came in for a feature that others had already requested, we’d add a link to that customer’s support ticket directly into the feature’s Trello card:

This simple system let us track all of our feature requests in one place, and gave us a list of every customer who had ever requested a particular feature, at our fingertips.

And so, when we actually released a feature, on top of our in-app message and an update to our product blog, we emailed every single customer who requested that feature with a personal follow-up.

Customers were, to put it lightly, very happy.

The Results

The screenshots above are from when we first tested this tactic.

We’ve since done it for every feature release, and the results have been fantastic.

For the ticket history release a couple of weeks ago, we did this again, and it reminded me just how powerful those personal follow-ups are.

These are just two of many dozens of responses like this:

Some of these emails have brought back former customers who left Groove because we didn’t have the feature they were looking for.

Oh, and remember those 10% open rates our bulk announcement emails were getting before?

Of course personal emails will get a higher response rate, but the most surprising part was just how high they actually are.

For this last release, our personal follow-ups got a 68% response rate.

Not open rate.

Response rate.

68% of the people who received that email actually took the time to send a reply, even though there was no call to action to do so.

That’s the power of the personal follow-up.

How to Apply This to Your Business

This simple approach truly requires only a single tool: a place to attach support tickets or emails to various support requests. We use Trello for this, though any project management software, or even something like SimpleNote would work.

And then, whenever you ship a new feature or make a big product update, you’ll be able to refer back to the list of tickets or emails, and respond to each one.

To make the responses easier, we usually create a "Common Reply" in Groove that we insert into each email, and then we further personalize each message wherever we can.

This doesn’t take much time. Even for features with hundreds of requests, the entire process can be done in a few hours.

But for us, it’s been worth it. By making things more personal, we’ve gotten invaluable feedback on our product, built better relationships with our customers and even brought some churned users back to Groove.

I hope that this post convinces you to try this tactic. It’s helped us a lot, and I think it can help you, too.

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About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.

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