Releasing a product in beta is a pivotal stage in the development of a software product. Technically speaking it’s when users try out the software to report on any glitches and errors as well as give suggestions so major and/or minor bugs are eradicated and the product is fine tuned. It transitions from being ugly and flawed to refined and ready for release. A closed beta is a limited release for those who have been given permission while a public beta is a release which anyone can try. Large corporations like Microsoft and Apple invite volunteers to test drive their beta version software.
Why Beta Test?
Beta testing is typically where opinions are sought by those who have not been involved with development; a time to listen, to take on these opinions and decide whether or not to make change.
In a recent podcast David Darminin founder of software company Hotjar highlighted two simple reasons for beta version testing:
1. You cannot anticipate everything
2. People ask for things
Both factors help with your saas marketing and contribute to the overall success of a software product. You can’t anticipate every fault that lies within your software nor can you meet the needs of your consumer without asking them what it is they want.
He also explained that just because people give opinions doesn’t mean you need to listen to all of them You have the power to mold the product as you see fit. If you took on board every opinion you would create a ‘monster’
When describing the 4 steps to building a bulletproof beta test Chris Cope CEO of Slimware Utilities also highlighted this need to filter out the noise. "Testers are not employed by the company, nor do they have access to a company's master plan. As a result, they may offer suggestions that make sense, but conflict with your modus operandi."
How does Beta testing help with SaaS marketing?
Starts the journey of mass awareness
Asking your target market for their opinion not only involves them in the process but helps to create interest within the community prior to release. Raising awareness of SaaS takes time and money, starting early and creating buzz prior to release enables you to be ahead of the marketing game.
Let's you face up to imperfections
Criticism can be difficult to handle, even when it is constructive. When you've been working closely on a project that has drained you of your valuable time, energy, patience (and possibly sanity) you dont want to hear that its not perfect. Facing up to imperfections during beta testing and making necessary adjustments can help you avoid bad press. Negativity towards your product can be spread in an instant via social media, forums and blogs so its important to take the opportnity to really listen prior to launch.
A goldmine of insights
Feedback at the Beta stage gives you 'money can't buy' insights into your customers problems and goals. This makes EXCELLENT material to be used in your SaaS marketing. Not only does beginning content creation at this stage put you ahead of the game it will make your content a whole lot more powerful.
Tweak your messaging
After receiving input on your product your marketing messages may need to be adjusted to best convey the messaging of your product. You may have it in your mind that one particular feature is the real highlight of the product but your beta testers are singing praise over a completely different feature. This insight allows you to evaluate which are your strongest selling points.
When is the right time to release?
This is a question we get asked a lot at The Revery. There is no one size fits all for when to transition from beta to release, it’s about finding the balance between getting the getting the product to a level you are satisfied with and meeting deadlines.
You don’t want the product to be fully finished before thinking of your plan for promotion and how you will launch. You also need to take the time to formulate a plan for post launch and customer retention.
“Good release management takes hard work, resolve and great communication; however, the greatest skill is the ability to review, learn and adapt improvements” – CIO