Your 3-Tier SaaS Launch Strategy

This post is the second in a series on GTM strategies for SaaS providers. If you haven’t seen the first post, you should start here.

I once got an email from a developer that read something like, “Next week’s deployment has a new feature that will cost extra. We are integrating it into the licensing framework, but could you get codes generated in Salesforce so that the sales team can sell it?”

“Next week…”

Situations like this one are the reason that many SaaS companies need to do a better job with their go-to-market process. In my last post, I said that I prefer a three-tiered approach, so let’s take a look at those tiers and how I define them.

Tier 1: Just Ship It

Despite the title of my previous post, there are a lot of updates that are merely fixes or minor improvements that don’t need to be launched. You can address them in the release notes or in-system messaging. In-product callouts for minor updates are a great way to manage change among users and to get credit for fixing that one little thing that bothered enough people to get on the development schedule.

Some examples of Tier 1 deployment items are:

  • Bug fixes and minor security updates: “Fixed a bug so that phone number field only accepts numeric characters.”
  • Minor usability or accessibility improvements: “Corrected the tab-key order among input fields.”
  • Incremental new functionality to existing core features: “Users can now drag and drop list items into their preferred order.”

Nothing above made the system unusable before and the fixes or enhancements don’t provide significant new core functionality.

Tier 2: Launch It

This tier is the most neglected in SaaS platforms. These advancements aren’t new products or revenue streams, but they can be fairly large development lifts that deserve to be launched. Tier 2 enhancements likely affect existing users and may also provide significant market opportunities for competitive differentiation and overall value proposition.

Some examples of Tier 2 deployment items are:

  • Substantial security updates: “Support for multi-factor authentication (MFA) using mobile apps.”
  • Large improvements in usability or accessibility: “Now WCAG 2.1 AA compliant.”
  • Features or capabilities that expand what users can do with the product: “New force-rank question type added to the survey tool.”

For Tier 2 enhancements, you should have a launch plan that addresses existing users as well as the broader market. And since enhancements may be released over several sprints, you may need to coordinate tactics that build excitement and manage change, and then announce them to the broader market when you reach a milestone.

Tier 3: Launch Party

Okay, you don’t actually have a party, but it wouldn’t hurt. Major software launches are an opportunity to rally and excite your employees as well as your users. Most importantly, they enable you to reach new prospects or upsell new products to your existing clients.

Tier 3 is pretty straightforward. These are your growth products. They expand your solution in a meaningful way. They don’t necessarily need to be tied to a new revenue source, but if they aren’t, you should have a plan for how they will grow your current revenue to support the investment you made in new product.

Some Tier 3 examples are:

  • A product that takes your solution to a new market: “A unique academic planning tool for higher education is now available in a version that supports K-12 districts.”
  • A component that adds functionality for a new persona in the core product: “This new dashboard supports academic planning and decision-making for senior administrators.”
  • A new set of features that expands the functionality for existing users so they can do something additive: “An innovative collaboration tool that leverages the learning frameworks that exist in the core product.”

Tier 3 launches require a significant amount of operational readiness in your organization, but they may also require you to evaluate your pricing and packaging strategy. Many SaaS providers go to market on the core platform without a plan for growth products. Often these growth products aren’t even an idea in the founder’s head when the first product goes to market, so launching one may be the time to rethink your entire strategy to support expansion.

I’ll discuss launch strategies for tiers 2 and 3 in future posts with some dedicated discussion to pricing and packaging, so be sure to subscribe below if you don’t want to miss those posts.