This is a guest post by Ashish Mishra, Group Program Manager at Adobe. These tips began as material for our free eBook, 100 Tips for Better Beta Testing, but they were so focused and well-developed that they seemed better suited as an entire blog post. We hope you find them useful.
At Adobe, we’re always trying to introduce new testers into our prerelease program (that’s what we call beta). There are many benefits to getting new testers into each prerelease cycle. Not only are more testers expected to generate more feedback, they also increase the likelihood that your product is tested by people from different industries, geographies, profiles and with varied system configurations and expertise levels. The challenge for many beta managers, though, is where do these new testers come from? To help, here are 7 tips you can use to grow your tester community — many of which have worked very well for us.
1. Beta Interest Page
While there are many ways to improve your beta test recruitment, the first step for most of them is having a Beta Interest Page. If you only recruit testers right before you enter beta, you’re hindering the growth of your community. Instead, create a Beta Interest Page that lives on your company’s web site year-round with a standard mechanism for people to apply for beta opportunities. Then, share it widely using the advice in the rest of this blog post. You can see how Adobe’s page is done at http://www.adobe.com/beta.
As you’ll notice, we’ve included a customized screener/survey on our Beta Interest Page based on the product team’s requirements. A call-out link can then be posted on the product team’s blogs, product communities, user groups, etc. From there, any external user can complete prerelease registration, NDA sign-up, and screener survey to apply for the program. With this approach, we’re leveraging the permanence of those messages to continually generate more tester candidates. However, that’s just the beginning of a solid beta recruitment strategy.
As a next step, we suggest hosting a “Recommend a Tester” form on the beta program’s site. This would allow any existing program participant to recommend other testers. There are a lot of variables to how you implement referrals. If you incentivize referrals (i.e., the more people you invite, the better your chances of being picked as a tester yourself), you can create a viral effect. However, you don’t want to sacrifice quality or mislead anyone. Make sure you’re still screening, so you’re selecting only the best candidates for your product, and clearly communicate that referring/being referred doesn’t mean automatic selection.
3. Conferences and Trade Shows
Trade shows and conferences are often overlooked, but you can use these sources to boost your beta test recruitment whether you’re a conference organizer, sponsor, vendor, speaker, or attendee. You can add beta program information to your booth collateral, send an email blast to trade show leads, add links to your Beta Interest Page to slide decks or conference programs, etc. Just make sure you’re doing these things in a context that makes sense. Promoting your beta program at the annual developer conference is a good thing. Promoting your beta program in a colleague’s talk aimed at HR professionals probably isn’t (unless that’s your target audience).
4. Roping in Partners
We like to get all our partners (training, book reviewers, anti-virus vendors, customer support vendors, evangelists, etc.) enrolled in our prerelease program. That way they’re as prepared as possible for the release and we can also benefit from their unique insights and in-depth experience.
However, to be clear, you want to recruit all your necessary beta testers then add partners later in the beta cycle. Partners are typically interested in exploring builds that are more stable (near final even) so that they can be ready for their own customers. Thus, feedback from partners might be more sporadic or even nonexistent.
5. Trial Downloaders
The people who download trial versions of your software make up another group you can target for beta recruitment. If they’re very new to the product, their feedback is especially attractive since some of the other techniques mentioned here will draw more experienced users to the community.
6. Public Bug Report or Feature Request Forms
If you don’t have some sort of form on your product web site where customers can send you a bug report or feature request, you might want to consider adding one. Anyone filling out this form on your site is a good beta candidate. In fact, quality beta testers are attracted to these forms like a moth to light. If they’re outgoing enough to find these feedback mechanisms when you haven’t tasked them with testing your product, just think of how helpful they’ll be once you have.
7. In-Product Invitations
Finally, another way to encourage your existing base to join your beta community is through in-product invitations sent to all users who buy your product. A lot of customers are interested in testing your product, they just need to be presented with the right trigger at the right time. You don’t want to implement pop-up dialogs to join your beta community that interfere with their use of the product, but a subtle in-product trigger (for example, in the Help menu) can hit people at just the right time and motivate them to sign up.
For templates and best practices to streamline the recruitment process and attract quality testers, download the free Beta Tester Recruitment Kit.