How to Design a Beta Test
- No Comments
You have an early-stage startup or idea and you want to acquire your first customers and gain early traction and insights. You are likely busy building the product but you want to get your product and exploring the opportunity, but you want to get your first users in the door.
How do you begin designing and launching a beta test?
Starting out, you don’t want to immediately throw money at search or social media advertising. While this might be appropriate after you have dialed-in your messaging, promotion, and pricing, we’re speaking to an earlier stage of product development.
You already have a network of people who know and trust you. Your network is a resource for early feedback, so you would want to make it as easy and simple as possible for them to interact with your idea without overwhelming them.
You also want to get the data you need within certain start and stop dates, then iterate on what you learn. In other words, you don’t want your beta test to go on forever. So how do you approach it?
Structure your beta test as an algorithm and an experiment
Algorithms have defined start and stop conditions with steps in between. It’s sort of like a recipe where you have a starting state (raw ingredients), steps to process them (combine ingredients), and an ending state (a baked cake). For your beta test, you can start by defining distinct start and stop calendar dates during which you take the steps necessary to get the required information.
Experiments are observable, repeatable, and objective. You want to gather observable evidence from your test subjects whether through surveys, signups, or app installs. Identify the behavior or trait most relevant to your idea (and keep it simple).
Repeatability is important so that you can dependably predict future results. You likely will adjust aspects of your business or idea over time, so being able to repeat experiments and measure the change helps to identify and correlate significant variables.
Objectivity helps to reduce bias in interpreting your results. Your test subjects should be representative of your target market and not necessarily close family who might like or dislike everything you do. Similarly, you want to view your results with clear eyes so that you can take informed action going forward.
Here are action steps to design your beta test
- Define your ideal customer (who are you trying to reach?)
- Define what you are trying to learn: what is the variable under test (usage, messaging, pricing)?
- Define your timeframe or duration (when you are going to start/stop, i.e. 1-4 weeks?)
- How many users or data points do you need (i.e. 32 customer surveys, 100 app installs, 50 RSVPs)
- What method will you use to conduct your experiment? (app usage data, surveys, informal conversations, customer interviews, submitted feedback)
- What is the success criteria that proves validity (pass/fail)?
- After you have gathered your data, what is your next set of actions based on what you have learned (rework or proceed)?
A beta test can help you learn from potential customers early so that you can validate assumptions or adjust critical variables and achieve growth sooner. Conducting a beta test can be uncharted territory for solo founders or even small teams. Structuring a simple, yet sound, beta test using the action items described above can help you get the market insights you need to supercharge your early growth.