By Bob Walsh
Siddharta Govindaraj over at the Business of Software Forum is the latest but not the last micro-ISV to ask: How do I get beta testers? I’m sure over the course of the next few days there will lots of good advice there worth reading, but in the meantime, here’s my (short version) take on what works in 2007:
Make getting the beta as painless as possible. That means no registration form, no required email, no hoops to jump through. Your beta is competing for attention against a thousand others. Beta testers are doing you a huge favor – you owe them, not the other way around.
Don’t go email – go RSS and Blog. As I said elsewhere, email has been so totally prostituted by spam it’s nearly worthless. Don’t go there. Instead, offer an RSS feed for beta news and either start a dedicated beta blog or use your blog for that purpose. If you don’t want to mess with creating a custom RSS, check out FeedForAll for dead simple RSS creation cheap. As for a blog, you can do a throwaway blog at Google Blogger for free that will take about 5 minutes to setup.
Make clear your proposition. Right where someone downloads your beta there’s 4 things you want to make clear:

  • This is beta: use at your own risk (and you should have a Beta EULA in your beta installer).
  • Limitations: how is this beta limited? What features are disabled (bad choice), how little data can it store (another bad choice) or when does it expire (the best choice).
  • Rewards: What’s the enticement? And how do you qualify? Will everyone who gets the beta get a registered copy free (bad choice)? Will no one get a free copy? (Bad choice) Will people who comment on your blog and add value be offered a private submit form where they can enter their info to get reg info (the best choice) [tech note: you can workflow this low end by having a form email you send to commenters who add value or high end it by starting with a WordPress blog or other content manager system that let’s you query the underlying commenter data.]
  • Tech Support. How to get tech support for the beta. Some (clueless traditional ISVs) may argue that beta’s don’t deserve tech support. I think that’s exactly the wrong thing for micro-ISVs to do. One of the reasons you do a beta is to uncover tech issues before you raise the stakes by starting to sell.

Sell your product. In other words, you need to make your case for your software just as you will when you start selling. Think of it as your beta marketing program and pay just as much attention to it as your beta technical program.
Remember, beta testers are doing you the favor: make it as easy and profitable to both them and you and your public beta will be successful.
[tags] beta, beta programs, micro-ISV, micro-ISVs[/tags]

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