If you are reading this, it probably won’t surprise you that 47% of product managers have to run Beta Tests as part of their job. In last week’s webinar with Pragmatic Marketing, Centercode CEO Luke Freiler shared Beta Testing tips for product managers so they can, even with limited time and resources, leverage turnkey Customer Validation assets. One in two product managers manage customer tests, and another 21% are involved in their planning. Still, the vast majority report that they’re short on time and in need of processes to make the most out of their efforts.
Implementing an effective Customer Validation program can be particularly challenging for product managers. Managing abundant responsibilities can make putting methods for test management into practice difficult. There’s also the issue of time. According to Pragmatic Marketing’s research, Product teams spend 72% of their time on tactical activities. This leaves less than a third of their time to high-value strategic activities.
As product managers ourselves, we’ve come up with our six best Beta Testing tips for saving time while increasing the value of your test efforts. Keep reading to learn how to optimize your processes and return more meaningful Alpha, Beta, and Field Test results.
1) Loop In the Teams Who Will Use Your Data
As the product leader, you know your product better than anyone. At the same time, including your counterparts who have a stake in your product ensures everyone is unified in both focus and expectations. While this is a no-brainer when it comes to managing product development, make sure you take the same approach for customer testing. The earlier you include departments like Engineering, QA, Support, and Marketing, the better your chances for running a smooth test. Changing the scale of your test once it’s underway can fatigue your testers. It also negatively impacts your results. By managing expectations early-on, you help avoid mid-test delays, minimize frustrations, and nip unrealistic demands in the bud.
Too many cooks in the kitchen? Treat those cooks like customers.
Negotiating the difficult and at-times conflicting priorities of different departments is notoriously tricky. While you might be tempted to avoid bringing them to the table, you run the risk of producing data that won’t get used. While you’ll ultimately make the final decision about the direction your test takes, give stakeholders a voice and be sensitive to what they need. An hour-long meeting on the front end can save days of additional work on the back end.
2) Use Your PRDs and MRDs When Drafting Test Goals
Your Product Requirements and Marketing Requirements Documentation are both key time-saving assets. You’ve already created these documents, and they are the guiding light for development. They contain a range of useful details, from your product’s target market, positioning, and differentiators, to its main features, functions, and themes. Don’t overlook their importance when you get into the Beta Phase. Aligning your customer tests with your PRD or MRD does more than save time while creating a test plan. It gives you a chance to validate critical product features with real-world customer feedback before launch.
3) Get Creative with Your Recruitment Channels
If it takes a very long time to find and recruit testers in your target market, you may need to rethink how you’re promoting your opportunity. In addition to recruitment emails, you can post your opportunity on your company’s social media and product forums. If your company offers a trial period for your product, see if you can get that email list. You might even include a link to your beta opportunity on the trial’s landing page. Since many of these recruitment tactics involve outreach channels managed by other departments, it segues naturally into talking up your Customer Validation program. Working with other departments will help you extend the program’s value throughout your organization.
You can save time planning and executing your recruitment with templates, best practices, and Beta Testing tips in the Beta Tester Recruitment Kit.
4) Ditch Your Email Feedback
Receiving tester feedback through email can eat up time you could otherwise spend discovering data-driven product insights. Triaging comments and bug reports manually makes it easy for feedback to fall through the cracks. This is especially true when you’re going back and forth with testers in long chains of messages. It’s also more difficult to obtain accurate metrics for tester participation, or even the overall impact of common issues.
To make feedback collection easier and faster, ask users to submit feedback through survey tools like Google Forms or Survey Monkey. You’ll still need to do some copying and pasting, but it will be easier to keep track of your incoming feedback. It also gives you a simple way to quantify their perceived impact with scale questions. If you can find a system that integrates with your bug tracking systems like the Centercode Platform, so much the better. The less time you spend copying and pasting information from one system to another, the less room for error.
5) Find an Easier Way to Move Data
Along the same lines, implementing processes that make it easier to get data from point A to point B takes time-consuming manual tasks off your plate. More and more programs include APIs that enable your programs to talk to one another directly. If your current tools aren’t compatible, you might be able to leverage services, like Zapier, that facilitate communication between tools.
6) Get the Right Tools
Finally, make sure you have tools that help you effectively manage time sinks. If you know that you’re going to run multiple tests in a year, for example, you may need a program that helps you grow and maintain your tester community. Does triaging feedback eat up your time? You might consider a tool with a feature like predictive match, which helps testers help you organize their submissions. If you’re struggling with executive buy-in, a tool with robust reporting features can help you effectively demonstrate the ROI of your program. Whatever your needs, your tools should be working for you – not the other way around.
The Centercode Platform is an all-in-one test management and community building tool that’s designed to meet the specific needs of Alpha, Beta, and Field Tests. For a closer look into its time-saving features, schedule a demo today.
More Beta Testing Tips for Product Managers
Getting into a steady workflow that suits the needs of your testing program and your organization takes time and diligence, but these Beta Testing tips will get you started on a course for success. To hear more about the ways you can leverage Customer Validation on a product manager’s schedule, watch our on-demand webinar with Pragmatic Marketing.