6 steps to finding the right beta users
Finding the right early users can make or break a startup. If you find the wrong people, they will either waste your time with irrelevant suggestions or could easily send you off in the wrong direction. Here are a few suggestions on strategies to find the best early users.
1. Articulate the real target customer in as much detail as you can (I use a Mindmap to do this and have written about the process here). Try to expand with as many relevant customer attributes as possible, then generalize into a “Persona” that you paste up on the wall as the “target customer”.
2. Take the key attributes and build out a Survey Monkey survey. This is designed to collect structured and relevant data about people you want to use the product. Here is the one we did for Gist. From the time we announced the closed beta to the time we actually opened the site, we had over 6500 responses to this survey and a sweet group of users to choose from!
3. Develop a few marketing messages that you think will get people excited and are provocative. For example (around Gist) we might use something like – “wanna make Outlook social, sign up now for a early l0ok” or “does your CRM system suck too much of your time, we are building a solution, sign up now”.
4. For a simple approach, skip to step 6. For a more complex, but powerful solution, sign up for Launchrock or Waitlisted (newer solution) and build out “landing pages” for the key marketing messages. Launchrock an awesome service and really useful for testing messages, collecting names and getting some early interest.
5. As part of the Launchrock process include the link to the Survey (response page and email confirmation).
6. Start promoting the messages and launch site via social media with a focus on places where your target users hang out (e.g. LinkedIn for bizpros) and with some focus on key bloggers/twitter stars. You can search on Klout for people of topics and @message these key players.
If your messages are good, people will promote and some portion will fill in the survey. These are the people who are likely to a) really want a new solution and b) likely to do real work and give you real feedback on the product. As the results come in, you can easily group people by relevant attributes and then focus on releasing the product to a finite number and with a focus on the right people. Tim Ferris, of “4-hour work week” and “4-hour body” fame has also written about related ideas here and it is well worth the read. Finally, the master of customer development, Steve Blank has a great post here on the relative value of users vs. valuable users.
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