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Planning a Successful Beta Program

August 17, 2023
Patrick Woods
Co-Founder & CEO
Planning a Successful Beta Program
Welcome to The Observatory, the community newsletter from Orbit.

Each week we go down rabbit holes so you don't have to. We share tactics, trends and valuable resources we've observed in the world of community building.

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🗓️ Planning A Successful Beta Program

This is a three-part series

  1. What is a beta program?
  2. Planning a successful beta program (you are here)
  3. Launching your beta program

Just as in the case of contributor programs or champions programs, successful beta programs require careful planning, with a firm foundation based on 3 pillars: outlining your goals, identifying your ideal members, and pinpointing your value proposition.

🔬Outline your program goals

Whether you’re looking for insights into how easily users are adopting your product, uncovering compatibility issues across different devices, operating systems, browsers, and third-party integrations, or evaluating how intuitive and user-friendly the interface is, outlining your beta program goals is an essential step towards its success.

By pinpointing your beta program goals, you'll be able to better vet your participants, track progress, and showcase the tangible impact your beta program has on your product’s roadmap.

Some goals to consider include:

  • Identifying bugs
  • Validating features and content
  • Gathering feedback
  • Performance optimization
  • Usability testing
  • Localization and internationalization testing
  • Security and accessibility testing
  • Compatibility and scalability testing
  • User adoption and onboarding
  • User behavior analysis

While the above might be goals for your teams, it’s also important to note that the goals for your program members should be outlined as well. Outside of a more usable and less buggy product, your participants care what they’ll get for participating in your beta. We’ll explore that in more detail below.

Once you have your program’s goals dialed in, it’s time to identify your ideal member profile.

🙋 Identify Your Ideal Member Profile

Selecting the right participants for your beta program can significantly influence the program's success and the quality of feedback you receive. To maximize the effectiveness of your beta testing, it's essential to identify the ideal member profile that aligns with your product's goals and target audience

One way to start to identify your product's target audience is based on factors like demographics, interests, industry, and use case scenarios. Consider who would benefit most from your product and who would be most likely to use it regularly. This will help you narrow down the characteristics of potential beta program participants. Also consider who your teams would benefit most from - active community members, users on specific platforms or devices, or people in specific industries or demographics that may not currently be your target audience but may be a potential future audience that you’d like to target. 

User Personas

One tactic to help identify ideal members for your beta is to create user personas that represent different segments of your target audience. User personas are fictional characters that embody the characteristics, needs, and behaviors of your ideal users. By thinking creatively about pieces of these characters like demographics, background, needs, pain points, technographics, their role in your program, and more, these personas can help you visualize the types of individuals you want to participate in the beta program.

For example:
Persona 1: Senior engineering manager 

Name: Alex

Demographics: 32 years old, works tech, lives in a major city

Background: Holds a senior position as a software engineering manager at a leading tech company

Goals and Needs: Seeking innovative tools to streamline workflow and enhance productivity, interested in staying up-to-date with the latest tech trends

Pain Points: Struggles with managing multiple projects and coordinating with remote team members

Psychographics: Enthusiastic about trying new software, values efficiency and time management, enjoys exploring cutting-edge technology

Technographics: Comfortable using a variety of software tools, likely an early adopter of new tech products

Role in Beta Program: Provides in-depth technical feedback, tests advanced features, and assesses integrations with existing tools

Persona 2: VP of Engineering

Name: Maria

Demographics: 42 years old, tech industry, lives in an urban area

Background: VP of Engineering at a SaaS firm, cloud infrastructure focus

Goals and Needs: Identify tech for a competitive advantage and to scale engineering efficiently

Pain Points: Balancing cross-functional collaboration with visibility into how various teams are progressing against their goals 

Psychographics: Results-driven, data oriented and guided, often mentors junior engineers

Technographics: Proficient in diverse technical tools, experienced in engineering and project management platforms

Role in Beta Program: Strategic partner, evaluates alignment with company goals and scalability impact, provides business-oriented feedback

Develop diversely

However you build out your ideal member profile, you should strive for diversity and representativeness in your beta program participants. Aim to include individuals from different backgrounds, industries, and levels of expertise. This diversity will provide a well-rounded perspective and help uncover a wider range of insights and potential issues

And of course, consider both non-customers and existing customers in your beta program. The former can offer a fresh, unbiased opinion on things like onboarding, while the latter are already familiar with your brand and product, and their insights can be particularly valuable for identifying areas of improvement.

💜 Use Orbit to identify ideal members

Orbit assigns Love and Reach scores based on a user community member’s history of activities and connections within the community, with top members making into Orbit Level 1. 

You can use Orbit Level, Love, and Reach to spot relevant candidates for your program. You can also use Orbit’s advanced filtering capabilities, or identify users based on their activities.

📍 Pinpoint Your Program’s Value Proposition

For your beta program to yield optimal results, a clearly defined value proposition is vital. The value proposition outlines the unique benefits and advantages your program offers to participants, compelling them to engage and provide valuable feedback. Prioritizing this proposition ensures that you attract the right participants, maintain their interest, and drive meaningful insights.

Keep in mind if you have different programs serving different personas, the value prop will likely be different for each. 

Clearly communicating what contributors stand to gain from participating in your program is crucial for attracting and retaining active members.

Some potential benefits could include:

  • Early access
  • Exclusive insights
  • Influence and feedback
  • Personalized preferences or experiences
  • Direct conversation with the team
  • Recognition and rewards
  • Learning and insights
  • Networking and community

The best programs are a give and take. Highlighting what your beta users will take away from their participation makes their involvement not only valuable to the company but also rewarding for themselves.

Once you're through with your planning, it's time to launch and announce your beta program! ✨

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