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7+ strategies to make betas more useful


Overview

Public beta releases are often the first time that partners and friends have substantial hands-on experience with the upcoming version.

I think too many developers waste the opportunity to build goodwill and additional assistance that beta participants can provide.

Here is a summary of my advice explained further below:

  1. Define actors and use cases.
  2. Automate use case flows by each actor.
  3. Capture detailed factual proof points.
  4. Detail history of run speeds.
  5. Help those who participate.
  6. Delegate socialization of specifics.
  7. Make it easy to track progress and get reports.

More about each is described below.

Define actors and use cases

Too many organizations release only the software and expect everyone to somehow just figure it all out on their own.

This results in not enough coverage simply because people don’t know about all the features.

Clarification of who is being served by the product and what each type of user does would provide a richer basis for suggestions.

Automate use case flows by each actor

Automation of keystrokes are useful not just for testing.

Ideally, automation activities should start

Being able to run the demo sequence automatically would provide salespeople and others confidence that their live demo actually works rather than having to say sorry.

Having automated use-case runs also helps to speed the development of product vidoes needed for not just launch but throughout the product lifecycle.

The more people who views a video, the more varied the extent of feedback.

Capture detailed factual proof points

General platitudes like “oh it’s great” does a marketer no good.

Marketers need specific and relatable “sound bites” and quotes that can be published. An example:

“It now takes me 2 minutes to do what used to take 30 minutes. Love the automatic features of this new release.”

So we want to encourage beta reviewers to take measurements before, during, and after demo activities.

Valid measurements require planning and discipline, and that takes pre-planning and encouragement before and all the way through the process.

Detail history of run speeds

If timings of each action taken by the automated scripts are captured during each run, there would be data to diagnose complaints about a particular interaction being slow.

If those timings are captured at various points in various environments (including runs on developer laptops), troubleshooting can include comparison across different environments and under varying conditions over time.

This also enables anomalies to be identified earlier.

Help those who participated

Many consultants make hay from the fact that they had a hand in the creation of the product.

So have a webpage that acknowledges their participation so they can point to proof that they mattered.

Some beta participants had to fight hard to get approval for taking time to participate.

So a letter or email to their bosses from one senior manager to another would go a long way to ensure continued enthusiam in the future.

Such communication is an opportunity to “sell” the product, and contribute to continued willingness to pay maintenance fees.

As importantly, help beta participants avoid the need to run through a gauntlet of inexperience people when technical support is needed.

Delegate socialization of specifics

It takes a tremendous amount of time to stay in touch and clarify feedback.

So consider “deputizing” select individuals (“ambassadors”) from among the user community to take responsibility for communicating personally with his/her peers about the demo.

Ambassadors who live the product are in the best position to integrate comments from various others into single cohesive actionable statements.

Communications can be emails or, better yet, regular phone calls and video conference calls.

It helps if communication events are planned ahead, with several reminders ahead of each event, and follow-ups after.

Direct and personal communications can help to smooth over inevitable gliches so disappointments do not turn into long-term bitterness.

Make it easy to track progress and get reports

Provide a system for demo participants to track their activities and communications.

Make it easy by providing a special “bcc” address for ambassadors when they send out emails.

A system can then parse emails to collate the information, and present it in reports.

Design the tracking and reports based on specific actors and use case flows so decisions and actions can be specifically actionable.

Let us help you! We’ve done it.

More on Evanglism

This post is one of a (planned) series:

  1. Job Descriptions
  2. Resumes (mine)

  3. Evangelism dependencies
  4. Deliverables and Events Budgeting spreadsheet
  5. Evangelism Cost-Benefit analysis (Bang-for-the-buck comparion)

  6. Events and Conferences
  7. Calendar of Announcements
  8. Milestone events

  9. Social media
  10. Social media strategy
  11. Tweets
  12. Sentiment analysis (of favorable words or not)
  13. Responses to social media
  14. Tech Press mentions

  15. Competitive Comparisons (by analysts and others)
  16. Competitive Strategy
  17. Competitive Comparison Kit (for people to run for themselves)
  18. Objections, and how to handle them

  19. Target Customers
  20. Customer References
  21. Proof Points
  22. Email databases (User Acquisition)
  23. Remarketing of current or lapsed users

  24. Product websites
  25. Product wikis
  26. User Forums (Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc.)
  27. Surveys

  28. Product Roadmaps
  29. Release Schedule
  30. Tasks
  31. Issues

  32. Enviornments for development, testing, demos, training, etc.
  33. Demo presentation scripts
  34. Beta activities
  35. Release Notes

  36. Tutorials
  37. Live event sign-up administration
  38. Webinars
  39. Video production capability
  40. Live Video Streaming

  41. Spiffs
  42. Hackathons
  43. Participating in Conferences
  44. Running Conferences
  45. Dynamic projections of tweets, etc.

  46. Recruitment follow-up