Make New Product Features Stick


Guest Post by: David Parmelee, Digital Strategy Consultant

As you study the people who use your product or might use it, patterns start to emerge.  A marketer or market researcher may view patterns in terms of demographics and buying activity.  A user researcher or other UX practitioner may group users by patterns in their behavior, both inside and outside your product.

Whether you consider your user base in light of market research or user research, both of these kinds of researchers use the patterns they discover to form personas.  

User personas stand in for users throughout the design of your product.  Each one has at least one goal and at least one pain point.  Using a distinction from About Face, these goals could relate to their lives, the ends they accomplish in working with your product, or their experiences and feelings using your product.  Realistically, they would have one or two life goals, around three end goals, and at least one experience goal.

Why bring this up?

Your users do not all have the same goals or the same pain points.  Therefore, they would not use your product’s new features – or decide to engage with them – based on the same motivations.

Using personas to drive engagement

personas-HEM-Blog-2[1]The main questions to ask when you evaluate a new feature’s relevance to each persona are these:

1. Will this feature help this persona accomplish her goals, not just mine?

2. Will this feature help this persona alleviate her pain points, not just mine?

If a persona says no to both questions, users like her won’t care about this feature, even if you consider it your magnum opus or your product’s big differentiator.

Sad but true.

So don’t bother people like that persona about that new feature.  Instead, tell them about the features that would cause them to say yes to those questions.

You’ll get more engagement that way.

Segmentation and automation

You might think that telling users about new features is all or nothing.

That might be how you’ve implemented it today.

If you have only one email list and your product doesn’t keep track of key differences between the users, you’ll have to implement it that way.

By having separate email lists or segments within your list, you can see where your real customers fit according to your personas.  It also validates how accurate your personas are and lets you know if any are extra or missing.

You can send everyone on your main list a 1-question survey for self-selection to build those lists if you don’t want to do it yourself.  Then email the smaller lists separately with content that is more relevant to them.

Continuous integration in deployment can involve feature flagging.  You might be testing a new feature with a subset of your users, as Facebook frequently does in their experiments.  In that sense, letting users know about a feature that they won’t see will just confuse them.

Users of your product have opted into receiving communications about it if your Terms of Use permit it.  But they shouldn’t receive the same message about your new feature.  

Trivialpursuit-pie_3138286c[1]First, it would be irrelevant to many of them.  Your users are not a monolithic group, where each one of them is just “the user”.  They have different needs and goals, and they use different parts of your product.  

Second, sending everyone the same message means you’ll leave some of the engagement with your announcement on the table – even for the groups of people who would use the new feature.  

Which message is more effective?

  • “Our app is now integrated with [Maps App X]”? 

  • Or “We saw that you look at a lot of [Metro stations] when you use [Our App Name Here].  Now, you can get directions to [these Metro stations] faster in [Our App Name Here] because we’ve added directions from [Maps App X].  Check out how this can [persona goal: save you time exploring our city]!”?

Your product’s mailing list should use marketing automation to onboard and retain users. MailChimp and Drip both provide this.  

Drip works differently because you only have one list, but you can set up workflows and rules to send subscribers specific campaigns within it.  You could easily send users a campaign for a feature if they have visited a related area of your website or app.

Getting a slice of your users to listen

Persona fit is just one way to determine who would benefit most from a new feature.  But it is theoretical, and no method is entirely foolproof.  What other options do you have?

Listen to users’ feature requests

Anyone who requested the new feature you are building has at least thought about the problem that it solves.  If you use a voting system (like Aha) to decide on new features to create, you can notify people that the status of a feature idea they voted for has changed.

Analyze patterns of use

Analytics tools may tell you which features of your product a user has used.  Identify features in your product that help people accomplish similar goals to your new feature.  People who have used these features may be good candidates to engage with the new feature.

You are not limited to only telling people about new features from inside your product.  You can use email to notify inactive users who have used a related feature, provided they have not opted out of emails from you.

Consider which plans are best

According to Intercom, SaaS businesses can use new features as a great chance to upsell more expensive plans.  If there’s a compelling reason why someone with a particular plan should upgrade to the next one up, tell them.  

Use their words, not your own

A trick of great copywriting is listening.  By saying your users’ words back to them, you show that you understand their problem, which led to the new feature you created.  So reiterate the problem that your new feature solves, and articulate a benefit that they will find relevant.

Beware of too much noise

Don’t tell your users about new features too often.  Give them a break between notifications so that they will seem more important.  

Annoying-noise-001[1]This is like visual design: one item that stands by itself and is large looks important.  A bunch of items that are the same size in a cluster or which are cluttered on the page won’t receive a lot of individual attention.

Make extra effort to connect on an individual level

Paul Graham tells startups, “Do things that don’t scale.”  One thing that does not scale is sending personalized messages to your users.  “Personalization” does not just mean an |*FNAME*| mail merge tag.  Make a meaningful connection that shows that you really understand your recipient.  

Tying new features into onboarding

When you tell your users about a new feature, your call to action should link people directly to a tutorial or onboarding tips for using that feature.

But to Stephen P. Anderson and Samuel Hulick, the feature should not be the hero of the story.  Your users should be.

If your feature was designed well, it focuses on a goal of one of your product’s primary or secondary personas.  To convince people that they should use it, tie the feature (and its onboarding) into a goal that they want to achieve.  It could be an end goal related to their task – or even an experience goal or a life goal.

Rather than treating your product’s onboarding like a feature that you only release once, revisit it periodically.  Do new features that you introduce necessitate a fundamental shift in how new users need to get to know your product?  Does your onboarding evolve as you understand your audience and their needs better?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAw9AAAAJDdmZmFjZjNmLTJkNDItNDliMi05ZDI2LWViYWEwNGQxMTk3NA[1]Reconsidering your onboarding may also give you ideas for refactoring the UI and the broader UX of your product, so that it becomes easier to learn and use.  Instead of building a new feature in isolation, consider what people need to (or might) do before and after using that feature as they use it to accomplish their goals.

Telling users about new features

Release notes and email announcements are two traditional ways to tell users about new features.  The following ways might be more effective.

Explainer videos

Some products use explainer videos to tell their users how to benefit from a new feature.  This is more likely to work for a mobile app for consumers than for a desktop application for enterprise.  Many organizations have IT policies which forbid their employees from watching videos over the internet while at work.

Landing pages

Features that address a significant pain point or a significant objection from new prospects should get their own landing page, following a Pain/Dream/Fix format.  Include screenshots, videos, and sufficient copy to explain the benefits of the feature.  Promote these new features in press releases and social media ads.  


Powerful features that go into a lot of depth are good subjects for a 20-30 minute webinar with a Q&A session.

A healthier organizational mindset for new and existing features

UserTesting recommends encouraging a research mindset in your organization or your client’s.  In other words, consider new features to be a bad idea until your organization has researched the need for them and validated that the users will need them.  

In this, let your personas be your guide.

But what if you could measure engagement with a new feature before you even design it?

Fake door idea validation involves creating a landing page to discuss an idea, buying ads on related keywords, and measuring how many users are interested in signing up.  This strategy also works at the feature level.  Create a stub in your product’s UI where a new feature would go, and measure how many people show interest in accessing that feature.

However, sometimes your best efforts at driving engagement in a new feature will not be good enough.  Remove features that your users are not using, while being careful to not damage the user experience with other features.  This saves you maintenance work, while also uncluttering your UI so that more of your users can discover better new features in the future.

Learn more about user research and designing from data
14961790935901_thumb2This article is adapted from content in UX for Development Shops: Declutter Your Interface, Design from Data, & Increase User Adoption & Retention.  You may buy this ebook at


About David Parmelee
David-058.jpgDavid Parmelee is the owner of Thrill & Create, a user experience consultancy in Maryland.  Also bringing deep experience in software development for companies ranging from the Fortune 500 to small businesses, he now helps development teams increase user retention in their products.  His client list for UX projects includes large global companies, county governments, and organizations in hospitality and tourism.  His ebook, UX for Development Shops: Declutter Your Interface, Design from Data, & Increase User Adoption & Retention, helps development agencies, teams, and individual developers to achieve better business results by focusing on and involving their target users.  David publishes a video series, More Than an Interface (>UI), and created Teardowns with a Twist, an innovative way to evaluate digital products from multiple personas’ perspectives at once.  Learn more about David at, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @DavidParmeleeUX.


VitalsChoice, Activation and November Pearls!


Please submit your nominations for 2014’s great product management candidates @ ! (prizes and recognition for both winner and nominator)

Thank you to everyone who made it to our latest roundtable meet-up of The Product Group at MTV Networks / Viacom, as well as to our other sponsors, SUMMIT, Balsamiq Studios and Sunshine Suites.


IMG_4653 IMG_4660

Over the course of the night a few of the highlights were…

Featured Product: VitalsChoice
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from managing deal flow to moving forward (thanks to Jessica Fredican)

Activation / Customer Engagement
from purchase funnels to scoring

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategists, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering.

If you are a Product Person and are interested in having your product featured or participating as a featured guest expert at an upcoming meetup of The Product Group, contact me (or email at jhorn (a-t.) tpgblog DoT com).

I am looking forward to seeing everyone at our next meetup

Thursday, November 6th @ 7PM

Stay tuned for more announcements about November’s Featured Product, Hot Girls Pearls.

tpj-logo-w_lkwAnd, don’t forget to check out our new job board exclusively dedicated to Product jobs!Visit and happy hunting!
TPM-Short3-Logo4If you are interested in being a Product Mentor or seeking Product Management Mentorship…

Visit and
Sign-up today!


Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. Interested in becoming a sponsor or host of The Product Group? contact me.

From Startup Color to Hitting the Right Visitors with a 4×4

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights. What are you reading this weekend?


On Starting Up…
Color your understanding of launching a startup right.


On Design & Product Experience…
Target your visitors with a 4×4 to achieve greater engagement.


On Modular Innovation…
Hone your knowledge of a new device of Modular Innovation.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

From the True Value of an Internet to a Fluther of Q&A

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?


On Starting Up…
Leverage the power of the Intern to improve your social media engagement.


On Design & Product Experience…
Achieving perfection in the navigation bar.


On Modular Innovation…
A Fluther of Q&A within Modular Innovation.


Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

EXCLUSIVE: The Product Guy "Up in the Air"

hollywood-airplaneIt was a rainy day in November. A day not unfamiliar to many business travelers. But, this day was different, the destination was not the goal. It was the journey imagethat was to hold center stage, bathed in a moving bicoastal spotlight, through an immersive marketing engagement with both social, as well as other, media.


"to know me is to fly with me" (Ryan Bingham, Up in the Air)


Recently, I had the unique opportunity to look at various cross-promoted products by way of film and social media and speak with many of the people behind them when I, as a VIP Guest, was…

And, out of this very awesome bicoastal adventure, I found many lessons that can benefit all in the marketing and promotion of their own products, in both online and offline worlds.

It started like this…

Saturday, November 14
3:50 PM, The Terminal
This airline terminal, of American Airlines, has now filled with many different types of people, from such industries as movie, journalism, technology, business, etc., all contributing to the pervasive spirit of reserved elation and excitement – as networking and introductions ensued, in wait for a nice, bubbly party.

DSC05664 DSC05665 DSC05666 DSC05667 DSC05669 DSC05671

4:10 PM, Taxiing Begins
… for our scheduled 4 PM flight as I scour underneath rows of seats looking for the elusively scattered, power plug. Being sure to, like in the "Up in the Air" movie premiere we are about to be party to, not overlook these quirks that many the frequent traveler grows to not loath, but rather welcome as numbering among those endearing qualities that cement one’s affections for another, or makes that quirky place, even one as transient as air travel, the experience, altogether, your home.

It is this sentiment that the movie seeks to capture, and does so superbly. It is this experience, and many more, the traveler’s experience, that resulted in American Airlines’ substantial involvement in this project.


4:21 PM, Lift-off
It starts off a rainy day as the journey begins, flying into the thick of clouds. The darkness brought about soon, rapidly disappears as the plane emerges into the dusty blue sky, with hints of setting sun. The sounds, the dull roar of peace settling over the cabin as the festivities, the reason for this journey, are about to begin.

 DSC05672 DSC05674 DSC05675

Here, everyone is a stranger, much like typical business travel with which we are all most familiar. Although, in this case, invited by either American Airlines or Paramount.

DSC05680 DSC05682 DSC05684 DSC05685 DSC05686 DSC05687


And, it ended like this…

7:29 PM, Touch-down
… 11 minutes ahead of schedule!

DSC05751 DSC05793 DSC05798  

Sunday, November 15
4:45 AM (next day), Breakfast @ Hilton
… consisting of a turkey sandwich and a venti white mocha.

6:03 AM, Return
I began my journey back to NYC, the final leg of this adventure, by heading back to the airport in preparation for my un-delayed, non-VIP, Economy class flight.


First Class Experience

… from my vantage point in Economy class on this AA Charter flight. American Airlines’ social media program is still somewhat new, making for a great study subject. I started out by sitting down with American Airlines’ Billy Sanez, Director of Corporate Communications and Advertising & Promotions, and Chris Vary, Social Media Director, to begin my look into the inner workings and sharable lessons of this event.

On Social Media Strategy

American Airlines (AA) identifies two basic social media types that they seek to reach out to…

  • the very engaged / engaging individual, and
  • the reader / listener.

In the process of attracting these individuals, they ‘follow a lot of people,’ …

  • targeting following customers, as well as what they follow,
  • cultivating friendships with communities that are friends with their passengers.

Billy refers to all this as "family building." By doing so, they see themselves as creating a community of engaged people. Their social media goal is in building a community consisting of people "with real voices and opinions" who "talk about it (AA), enjoy it (AA), tell us (AA) how to fix it (AA)."

On the "Up in the Air" Movie and Premiere

Among American Airlines’ considerations for getting involved in this project were they…

  • felt the story was "real," and the people of AA, and in-turn, their customers, could easily relate to the story, travel quirks and all, and
  • saw the overall project as a great way to show off their product, what they do — that they can take "him" (Ryan Bingham, the main character in the movie and on the broader stage, the generic traveler) there.

On Pitfalls to Avoid & Advice

Some great advice Billy Sanez had for others seeking to launch a social media initiative boiled down to commitment.

Launching a social media initiative should be done because it is good for business, meets the needs of the business and product, not because it is cool, not because everyone else is doing it, not because you feel like you have to do it.

For American Airlines, the social media initiative is a great way for them to reach out to target audiences across a diverse array of channels that the various social media participants represented, everything from business and entrepreneurial, to fashion and consumer electronics.

When launching a social media initiative the company "must commit to it." You are setting yourself up for failure if you do not approach the social media initiative as a long-term strategy — much more than a brief initiative for a single event.

Being committed to a social media initiative is more than planning for the long-term, but also making sure to have the proper and sufficient resources behind it. For example, having enough resources to monitor all the content out there that pertains to your product, can be seen as a good start.

Lessons from 20,000 Ft

This successful move premiere was driven by a very effective social media campaign and all-encompassing event. Some takeaways that everyone with a product can learn from this strategy are:


  • Create an immersive product experience.

Most effective about this first ever movie premiere in the air was the totally immersive experience that they, American Airlines and Paramount Pictures, sought to envelope everyone in, simultaneously reaching out to and leveraging diverse social media communities. I became the main character in the movie, I was Ryan Bingham (George Clooney)!

Immersing the user, or event participants, in the product experience makes more relevant the product’s characteristics, its benefits, its purpose for existing, while founding a strong and lasting emotional connection.

  • Leverage diverse social media communities.

The organizations behind this event did not limit themselves to movie and celebrity outlets. They reached out to key community participants and buzz makers across a variety of industries, a variety of market influences. In addition to myself, some of the other opinion makers at the event were…


image Sherri Smith
Specializing in Consumer Electronics, Video Games
From Black Web 2.0

image Samantha Ewers
Specializing in Fashion, Beauty, Entertainment
From I’m Not Obsessed!

image Tom Limongello
Specializing in Mobile, Advertising, Business
From The Upper Westside Journal

image Alex Billington
Specializing in Movies, Hollywood
From First Showing

By not limiting themselves to only the generic movie channels, American Airlines and Paramount were able to reach out to a much broader audience, generate more buzz across more spheres of influence. Anywhere there were individuals primed for either or all products being promoted, American Airlines and Paramount Pictures, increased their chances of reaching them.

Should Do

The products of American Airlines and Paramount Pictures where excellently showcased and thoroughly enjoyed by all at this premiere in the air. Some steps that can be taken to further build upon these successes are…

…as to the event…

  • Have a pre-flight get together to introduce key players, American Airlines and Paramount responsible for assembling this trip, and those who will be available throughout the course of the event, as well as their VIP guests, and consider even allowing for a brief group Q&A to get the reporting and social media juices flowing.
  • DSC05730One of the parts of this trip that everyone was talking about, and I was particularly looking forward to, was the live in-flight concert by Sad Brad. Disappointingly, while I could clearly see Brad, hearing the concert on the plane proved impossible for all but those sitting right next to him. But, this quirk of air travel, and of trying something new, and something that should definitely be attempted again, provided a good learning experience — such as testing out the more technically challenging components of the trip beforehand. It would have been great to have been able to listen to the concert by plugging our goodie bagged Bose QC 15 headphones into the The Product Guy with Goodie Bagentertainment system.
  • An often overlooked aspect of scheduling social media events is the "down time" for the participants to engage their social media audiences, work on their article writing, etc. For this event it would have been very helpful to have had built-in down time at the hotel, the night of the event, as well as the day after for writing and posting, before sending everyone on their way home — exhausted from the travel, thereby delaying the desired product buzz building.

…as to the target audiences…

  • While I had access to Wi-Fi on my flight back from LAX to JFK, I did not have access to power. And, without access to power I would not be able to avail myself of the Wi-Fi or get much work done on my bicoastal flight, like working on this article. For both the event and the audiences being targeted by the event’s products, the biggest ‘Should Do’ relates to access to power. Prior to takeoff on the first leg of the trip, I was able to secure power, but only after crawling around on my hands and knees looking for the seemingly, randomly placed power outlet (my assigned seat, as well as its row, did not have an outlet). If you are targeting business travelers, social media types (the creators as well as the readers) your perks need to consist of more than Wi-Fi, but must include power at EVERY seat, not scattered throughout.
  • Providing free Wi-Fi is essential, and was successfully accomplished. Beyond the necessity of easy access to power for such devices as laptops and cell phones, essential on a non-stop bicoastal adventure, it is worth considering, to encourage people to engage their audiences better by…
    • advising people to spread out their coverage over days / weeks, leveraging various familiar mediums (e.g. text and pictures) and their respective services (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.) to further support the buzz building, and
    • depending on budget and other capabilities, provide devices that encourage posting, twitter devices, Internet enabled digital cameras already connected to the plane’s Wi-Fi, etc.; because the more effort your remove from the process, the broader and more sustained will be the coverage received.


DSC05742Of all the perks and quirks surrounding this adventure, of all the planning and preparation done on all sides, at the end of the day, it came down to the core, the support, the backbone that made everything run smoothly, with which I was most impressed. I do a great deal of traveling for my consulting and have had many an unpleasant and apathetic encounter with customer support. On both this trip, as well as my standard Economy class flight back to NYC, as well as when I had to call the 800# to make last minute travel changes, the customer support, the flight attendants, were entirely and consistently helpful and attentive from one coast to the other, and back again.

No matter what your product is, no matter how cool the immediate event is, always remember that it is the support infrastructure that your clients, your product’s users, often most frequently interact with, that sets the tone for the overall product experience, leaves a lasting, influential impression, that will have a direct impact on current and future opinions is the customer support.

Your social media endeavors and product events pale in relation to having a sound support infrastructure, cheerful, accessible, helpful individuals, like American Airlines’ Jenny Harrington, there to help your product’s consumers throughout their product experience. Every product needs at least one Jenny Harrington.


"warm reminders that I am home" (Ryan Bingham, Up in the Air)


Fly, Fly Again

I turn down requested product reviews on this blog all of the time, but this one, universally unique, had me at ‘movie premiere on an airplane’. My advice to other companies looking to replicate much of what was done here …

be immersive,
encourage social media engagement, and
foster emotional ties between the product and those participating

… in your product campaigns and announcements and you will be able to have similar, repeatable successes as was done at the "Up in the Air" movie premiere with American Airlines and Paramount Pictures as we flew from JFK to LAX.

Also, I’d love to know how the lessons from this experience have benefited you and your product, or changed the way you are thinking about your next marketing / promotional endeavors. Leave a comment, email me, tweet me.

Enjoy & Share!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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