Keeping your community engaged between tests is similar to dating. You want to ensure you had a great last date (your last test) so that you can look forward to future dates. But you don’t want to seem too needy or desperate between dates, so you have to maintain a balance. For the purposes of maintaining community engagement, that balance involves leveraging a few different communication tactics, and it’s key to maintaining the health of your customer validation program.
Checking in with Your Community
Like a date, you shouldn’t schedule a follow-up until you’ve reflected on your last date and determined what went well and what needs to be better next time. Community check-ins are important in helping you uncover the hits and misses from your last test. Were testers overwhelmed with tasks? Was there enough communication between your team and testers? Were testers frustrated by a show-stopping bug they encountered? It’s important to take the time and reflect on what did and didn’t go well in your last test to know how to maintain your testers’ energy pools between active testing projects.
Structural issues, like a poor email nurturing system that negatively impacted testers’ experiences, can be re-evaluated between tests. Also, psychological issues, like testers not feeling appreciated throughout the test, can be emphasized during this time with your between-test messaging specifically targeting those tester pain points.
Maintaining Consistent Communication
Once you’re confident you have a solid temperature read on your testers and your community’s infrastructure is sound, you can begin communicating with your testers. The key here is to maintain consistent (but not too frequent) communication.
Email is the best way to maintain regular contact with your community. You can send your testers launch updates about the product they tested, surveys about what they want to see next, or a newsletter that’s tailored just for them. In particular, email newsletters are great for providing a lot of information (like product updates, when your next test will be, articles featuring your product, etc.) in a compact format and timely fashion (once a month or week) that won’t overwhelm or annoy testers.
Your testers can be your product’s biggest advocates, so it’s important to maintain contact with them. Your goal is to make your community feel appreciated (not forgotten) after having contributed such a wealth of valuable feedback to your product team. If you didn’t show enough love to your testers during your last project, then send them a short survey asking what you can do better — it’ll show testers that they matter to you and your team cares about self-improvement.
If your last beta test consisted of a group of very high-energy testers, then encourage them to follow your brand (or beta page) on social media! There, you can connect with testers on a more personal level, and even give them personalized shout-outs on your social media page. Doing so can make testers feel appreciated in a more public forum than an email or post within a project can provide.
Going the Extra Mile
Sometimes the most memorable dates are when your date goes the extra mile. It’s important to invest in your tester community, since their feedback about your product can make or break its success on store shelves. Your testers are your first “real” customers, so it never hurts to go above and beyond in practicing customer appreciation.
This past holiday season at Centercode, we mailed handwritten thank-you notes to our most valuable testers. We’ve also seen clients send their final product to their testers, branded gifts celebrating important product milestones, invitations to their products’ company-sponsored launch parties, and more! All these gestures of appreciation are terrific, but a simple phone call might be the most sincere. A quick five-minute call from a member of your customer validation team thanking testers can go a long way toward ensuring you have a successful product launch (and glowing product reviews) down the road.
Your tester community is incredibly valuable, and keeping your community engaged between tests is a great way to ensure your testers become your brand’s earliest evangelists. By reflecting on past projects at the community level to ensure future communication channels are effective, you can make your testers feel noticed. Testers who feel appreciated — whether by feeling “in the loop” through email or having received a heartfelt thank you gift — will always go the extra mile in helping your product succeed.
As a community manager, it’s your responsibility to remind testers they had a voice in your product’s development. Doing so will encourage testers to use that same voice to tell their friends, family, and social networks how great your development team is and why they should purchase your product once it’s launched.