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Test Planning

Using Beta Tests to Gather Marketing Data

April 13, 2011

Most people think beta tests serve one very specific purpose — ensuring product quality before you ship. Fixing bugs is important, but if your beta is designed with only that goal in mind, you’re missing out on opportunities to significantly improve the marketing of your product. We’re here to help, though, with four tips to generate valuable marketing data during beta.

It begins with a simple idea: Your beta testers are your customers. Outside of the beta test, they’re the people you’re trying to convince to buy your products. So, why not use this process to better understand who they are and what they like? Not only can it help you better market the product you’re testing, but future products as well. Here’s how you get started:

  • Know thy tester. If you are using our beta test management software or Managed Beta services, you’ll already have some solid information about your testers. If you want to generate great marketing data, though, consider a supplemental survey that goes above and beyond the basics. Get input from your marketing team. They might be interested in things like household income, spending on the type of goods you’re testing, likelihood of purchasing in the next six months, etc. This sort of information gives you a valuable lens through which to view your testers’ responses to other marketing questions.
  • See how you measure up. Beta testers may be drawn to your test for a variety of reasons. They might be loyal and enthusiastic customers, or perhaps they’re your competitors’ customers interested in making a switch. Either way, you can use your beta test as an opportunity to see how you stack up against the competition. You can find out why customers favored your last product over someone else’s or vice versa. If you are trying to close a feature gap or make a major leap, you can focus on how your new product compares to what is currently available. Whatever the situation, you can use your beta testers to gather valuable competitive data.
  • Beta test your marketing. Having built up a profile of your testers and their responses to your new product, now you can preview the effectiveness of your product packaging and marketing campaigns. One of the best things that a beta test can offer to your marketing team is an audience for testing concepts. You get the benefits of a focus group without investing the time and money into recruiting one (or more likely, several). And with Centercode’s wiki feature, you can go one step further and invite your beta testers to collaborate with you directly to improve your marketing materials and support documentation.
  • Look ahead to future products. Finally, don’t overlook the chance to tap into your testers’ creativity. This isn’t the last product you’re going to ship, and you may get invaluable ideas for new features if you only think to ask. The beauty of a beta test is that you will find people who are eager to dream big. Not all of their suggestions will be feasible, but time and again, we find that testers have some very clever ideas about how your product might work in the future.

For a guide on how to collect and manage relevant and actionable insights from your testers, check out The Feedback Playbook.

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