The beta launch is a software proving ground. Everyone has an idea for the next Facebook, Google, or Angry Birds, but what separates the cream from the crop is a successful beta test. If your software is glitchy with your five-man development team testing it, adding another 5,000 users to the mix will spell disaster within minutes (if you’re business-savvy enough to get that many people to even notice your app in the sea of free software available these days).
How do you make sure your software really shines? Here are some tips to make your beta launch unforgettable:
1. Find Passionate Beta Testers
You don’t just want users; you want vocal users who push your software, servers, and sanity to their limits. You want testers to report glitches, errors, and crashes. The more often people use your software, the more problems you can find early. This is the time to locate and patch any bugs.
In order to find such users, indie developer ThumbsUp Labs recently released its Android desktop replacement launcher, Aviate, through an invite-only system. By posting invites on a variety of nerd and geek forums, a buzz was created about the release. Define your target audience prior to beta testing and target these individuals for your launch.
2. Create a Community
Communicate with your testers often. Show that you value your users’ feedback and comments and that it is this feedback that’s driving the improvement of your product. Release updates on a regular basis in the initial stages so your community can see the bug fixes your team is completing. Make these early-stage users advocates for your brand.
Once you understand the pain points of your audience and how your product addresses these problems, use this information to build your messaging strategy. These initial users can help you create marketing to connect with future audiences in an authentic and knowing way.
3. Build Media Relationships
Media exposure is a key element in creating a buzzworthy launch, and you’ll need a buzz in order to gain a strong user base. The best way to do this is by contacting journalists who write about similar products or issues that your software resolves. These journalists are often exposed to a lot of tech, so don’t be surprised if they’re unimpressed. Creating hype is the name of the game, so think outside the box.
Discover what your story is. What led your founder to spending thousands of hours developing the idea for your product? What problem does it solve? How will it impact the lives of its users? Journalists want to know the drama. Create a narrative that is memorable, and start pitching it a few weeks prior to your beta launch.
4. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise…Repeatedly….
Marketing is the most important expenditure you’ll make. If people don’t know about your product, it doesn’t matter how good it is. You can get a decent amount of temporary exposure through media outlets, but spending all your time contacting journalists leads to short-term success. Advertising and marketing is vital to the success of your software.
5. Find Partners
Are there other products or services that would benefit or complement your beta offering? Do thorough industry research to discover how you can align your service with another company’s. Form a solid relationship, and then coordinate a marketing push for your launch. These new audiences will be much more engaged with your product if they think it will enhance something they currently use or rely on.
A successful beta test ultimately depends on solid software that makes users happy. This stage should push your team to improve your current offering and define how you will market and promote your product to a larger audience. If you can prepare for and successfully execute a beta launch, you’ll build a loyal user base that will only grow when you proudly launch version 1.0.