Beta testing done right can significantly improve the chances that your product launch will be a success. When done wrong, this can be a terrible waste of time. With this in mind the following checklist should keep your team on track for a successful launch.
- Select a technically savvy Product Manager or BD guy to lead the Beta Testing, not someone from the R&D team.
The purpose of the beta is to confirm that you have created the best product to meet the needs of the customers you plan to target. The intent here is not to modify the product, but to adjust the type of customer that you will target at the product launch. Technical feedback will be shared with the R&D team but this should be viewed as a commercialization effort.
- Identify a number of prospective Beta Evaluators that closely match the demographics of the customers you hope to win.
You want to select those evaluators you believe will typify the customers that will purchase your product. Keep the number as small as possible but large enough so that you get at least one or two evaluators who do not like your product (it is just a vital to know who your customer isn’t as who they are).
- Prepare Launch focused survey instrument.
It is important to find out what each tester likes about your product as well as what they don’t. This should not be a complicated or long survey but it should probe deep enough to give you insight on how to modify your positioning, marketing, technical support and their view of the competition. This can be completed informally in a discussion or by asking to have the evaluator fill this out directly.
- Contact prospective beta evaluators and get commitments from them on what you expect them to do for you including timelines.
Select the fewest number of beta testers that will give you the information that you need to insure a strong launch. Managing this effort can be very labor intensive and can include travel and other expenses. Keeping the number smaller will allow for a more manageable effort.
- Collect feedback testimonials to support your launch.
Online surveys are OK. However, the best way to do this is by meeting with the beta tester face to face. You will get much more information and it is easier to get a testimonial or two from happy testers when you are meeting with them.
- Convert as many beta testers to paying customers as possible.
One of the best measures of a successful beta evaluation is when the tester wants to continue using your product and is willing to pay for it. It is easy to tell someone that they have a great product but there is no better validation than someone that is willing to back that up by purchasing your product. Offer to sell them a unit at cost (if an instrument or piece of software) or at a deep discount on their first order if this is a consumable.