Beta testing? “I think we’re good. We’re bug-free and polished, so we can launch tomorrow.”
Yikes, and hold on just a minute.
If you’re not familiar with the following cause and effect yet, launching a digital product that hasn’t gained enough “real world” user acceptance testing before launch will doom your opportunity for product success. No matter how perfectly you’ve manipulated the animations, no matter how many arguments you’ve had on perfecting color scheme, how much energy you’ve put into responsiveness testing….
In a perfect world this wouldn’t be an issue, but too many managers, developers, and designers are caught up in product and process. You might be one of them. That’s fine. We’re here to help.
Here’s the thing, though – the user is never looking at your coding tact or appreciating how many different drafts of a graphic design you went through to create a cute turtle. The end user isn’t looking over the shoulders of your team while they work and, likely, isn’t interested in anything other than how this product is going to make my life better.
Today we’re going to distill it down to just three quick steps you should be taking if you want to beta test your product in the most efficient and rewarding methods possible, and find the best early adopters of your product.
In an essay dating back to 2008 (and updated a few years ago to match the current digital landscape) titled 1,000 True Fans, Kevin Kelly makes a compelling argument for creators to abandon the idea of mainstream appeal, and rather focus their efforts to build a customer base of fanatics and evangelists.
In case you don’t have time to read the entire essay (it’s not a 3-minute read,) here are the takeaways on this topic for you:
The key point here is that you shouldn’t be expecting to please everybody (some negative feedback can mean you’re doing a good job) and the more scrutiny that you employ in selecting whom to let beta test your product, the greater the odds are of delivering a sustainable product.
How does this philosophy apply to beta testing exactly if you’re running a young company, who doesn’t even know who your true core audience is? We’ll go more into depth on that in one of our next articles, but quickly the simplest (and most cost affordable) methods are:
In summary, if you are aiming to please everyone you’re wasting your time and your company’s resources. If from discovery throughout alpha you’re keeping a laser-like focus on catering to your True Fans, it’ll be much easier to identify your best beta testers to hone your product before full deployment.
Not every potential beta tester will be your ideal candidate. Also, you’re going to be using multiple channels to source your candidates, with varying visitor demographics. All of your potential early stage adopters will be using this resource to sign up and test your product.
So, don’t dismiss your landing page as simply an easy way for people to gain early access to your digital product. It can actually be much more than a simple form field and submit button CTA.
Think of your beta sign-up landing page as being both a quality control tool as much as it is a conversion tool. In the same breath as we made in the previous point, you want to cultivate from the narrow but loyal pool of future followers, and at the same time weed out testers that aren’t representative of your ideal customers.
That being said, it helps you recruit the best beta testers if your landing page has the following aspects:
Following the above tips will not ensure success, but it will mean that when it comes time to beta test, your pool of early adopters are likely going to contain a healthy number of soon-to-be fanatics of your product.
While you shouldn’t rush anything in your digital product development process, you shouldn’t be afraid of prepping to beta test before you even have an MVP. One startup founder saw his Israeli ride-sharing startup go up in flames, with one of the primary reasons being that they “coded alone, without real user feedback.”
First, don’t be afraid to create your landing page, and start getting hits from potential beta testers before you even have your MVP. Next, before your first official beta testing session, do a small private testing session once you have a functional enough product to get feedback from real-world users. In this case, they would be friends and family that would fit your ideal users.
From there, you should be gaining insights on where your team has made any mistakes, or if there are deficiencies in your development strategy.
By the point you have your MVP ready, and have a waiting list of beta testers to start your first public beta test session. Of course, you can arrange these live online or with a beta launch of your app if that’s the case. There’s also an unbelievable value in live user testing panels, and we’ll get more into that in a later article.
Essentially, don’t be afraid if you’re sending yourself back to the drawing board over and over again after MVP and subsequent redevelopment iterations. There is no perfect ratio of product complexity to how many sessions/how many months your beta stage will take. Yet, the longer you can afford the better.
Stay in touch after
During your first couple of beta sessions, make certain that you engage your testers through email and social media to continually receive feedback from them. These are the users that you will be turning into your true fans, but even they will need nurturing.
After several sessions, the testers that are engaged with you throughout each round are the users that will become your product evangelists throughout its entire lifetime. However, being that you’re receiving enormously valuable real-world feedback from them, you need to reciprocate in some way.
You don’t necessarily need to directly financially compensate them (though in certain cases this is indeed appropriate, i.e. live user panels,) but you can provide them with private promotions for once your product officially launches. These can be in the form of coupons, extended free trials, or discounts for recruiting new users. Whichever method is up to you, but remember that doing this is solidifying that your team will have a cache of the best beta testers for your product.
Finding the best beta testers for your digital product, whether it’s native software, hardware, or a mobile app, isn’t as complicated as you may have thought. In the same breath, it’s essential to recruit the best beta testers for your product during this stage, as those are the users that will become your true fans – the ones that will do the best marketing post-launch for your product.
We’ll dive deeper into this topic throughout the near future, yet we’re confident that this quick guide has provided you with takeaways that will aid you in your quest for the best beta testers. If you have any insights, thoughts or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below. It makes our day to engage with our fans and visitors.