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Test Planning

Going Beyond Beta: 4 Ways to Leverage Your Community

February 18, 2014

Building a beta program can have an immense impact on the success of your product and the financial stability of your company. But the things that make beta testing valuable (gathering customer feedback, having a community of enthusiastic early adopters, being able to test in real-world environments) can be valuable for goals far beyond beta. If you’re looking for ways to leverage your beta community throughout your company, here are a couple of ideas to get you going.

1. Proof of Concept or Product Validation

Long before you have a product, you have an idea. An idea you might think is brilliant and unique. The problem is that it’s going to take a lot of time and resources to get that product idea to a place where you can determine whether it’s going to be a success or not. Your beta community can be a great proving ground for even the earliest of product concepts. Survey your community on their needs and interest in your product idea. Create forums where they can brainstorm features and functionality. Confirm or debunk your theories before you and your team invest countless hours into making them a reality.

2. Structured Alpha Testing

We’ve discussed the differences between alpha and beta testing before, but just because they’re different doesn’t mean your beta community and tools can’t help during the alpha phase. During the alpha phase your product is a lot buggier and probably incomplete, but getting it into the hands of real customers can still be incredibly valuable. Pick a couple of your top testers and let them take the alpha version for a spin. They can give you more objective feedback than your friends, family, and employees can. They can also give you a glimpse of what may be coming once your product hits beta, so you can plan your beta test accordingly.

3. Continuous Feedback

Your beta testers don’t have to disappear the moment your beta test is complete. You can use your beta community as a resource throughout your launch and beyond. Continue to ask their opinions on marketing messaging, support documentation, or launch plans. Conduct research to determine which markets you should concentrate on or move into. Use them to test patches and fixes before or after your launch. Get their opinions on future features as you prioritize for the next version. They can also be a great source for testimonials, case studies, and references for your sales team well after your beta test. This will have the added benefit of keeping your community members active, so when your next beta test arrives they’ll be ready to go.

4. Competitive Testing

Your beta community is full of members of your target market, so take advantage of that by getting their opinions on your competitors’ products. This can give you valuable data on why customers do (or don’t) pick your product and how to position your product in the marketplace. Check out this recent post for more detailed advice on competitive testing.

Having a panel of enthusiastic users at your fingertips opens up all sorts of avenues for additional testing and research. As a bonus, expanding beyond beta makes your community (and your beta management skills) all the more indispensable to your company. How do you leverage your community beyond beta? Share your experiences below!

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