You’ve got a business idea that’s been burning at the back of your mind for months, and it’s finally time to do something about it. The concept gets you excited—the butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms kind of excited, and you know that people are going to love it.
But how do you really know that it’s going to be a hit? How do you know that people will get as excited as you do about it?
The truth is, you don’t.
In fact, many startup and small business founders base their ideas on assumptions rather than fact, and that’s the reason a lot fall at the first hurdle. Without people who are interested in your idea and who will find it useful, you’re going to really struggle to get your business off the ground and make a success of it.
So how do you find out whether people are actually going to invest their hard-earned cash in what you’re putting out there?
The answer is beta testers.
These are people who fit your target market audience that try out your product or service for a reduced fee or for free in exchange for feedback and testimonials. As well as getting real-life opinions from potential real-life customers, you’ll also be able to see what works and what doesn’t work within your business. It’s one of the keys to market research.
Then, once it’s all smooth sailing with your beta testers, you can put your product out there for the world to see safe in the knowledge that it does what it says and that there’s a need for it.
Why you need beta testers
When you start a business, it’s really easy to get tunnel vision.
We know what we’re trying to create from the inside out, but no one else does, which means we often overlook important things because we think that others are on the same page as us.
Beta testers help you uncover any issues in your business plan and put your product or service to work before you put it out there. The last thing you want is to launch your lovingly-created business only to be greeted by crickets or, worse, negative comments.
Beta testers help you avoid both these situations.
As well as ensuring that there’s a need for your product in your industry, beta testers will uncover anything that doesn’t work and provide feedback on what you can improve to make your business even better.
Attracting the right beta testers
Before you even think about going out there to find beta testers, you have to know what kind of beta testers you want—or, more importantly, need.
It’s no good asking friends and family who have no need for your product to be beta testers because they’re not going to know if it gets the results you want it to. In fact, this could be far more detrimental than anything.
Instead, you want to seek out the most relevant feedback possible by making sure your beta testers match your target audience. While you do want people to point out what could be improved, you also want users to provide feedback on what features really worked for them and what didn’t.
But most importantly, you have to remember that beta testers aren’t just sitting around waiting to provide feedback on your new business. While your business might have consumed a lot of your time and be super exciting for you, that’s not necessarily going to be the case for everyone else who’s path you cross.
Your beta testers are busy people, so you need to capture their attention and engage them as best as you can.
To do this, it helps to provide a solid incentive and a clear goal that they will reach when they finish using your product or service. Again, this means it’s important that your beta testers fit your target audience and are actively seeking the end result that your business provides.
To get you started, here are some top ways to find relevant beta testers for your new business idea.
1. Your email list
If you haven’t already started building an email list for your startup, then you should start immediately.
This is one of the most valuable things you’ll have in your business as, unlike social media channels, you own the spreadsheet of contact details rather than a third party that could shut its doors at any moment.
Ideally, you will have started bulking out your email list before you start creating your products and services so you can get validation at every step of the way.
It’s important to keep your subscribers engaged by sending out valuable newsletters, videos, and educational pieces of content. This will build trust and reiterate the value of your products and services when they’re eventually launched.
By the time you’re ready to launch your business, you’ll have a nicely populated list of relevant subscribers that you can reach out to and invite them to become beta testers. This works particularly well if you segment your list into the most engaged subscribers, as these people are already openly interacting with your brand and clearly like what you’re putting out there.
You can send out a quick email asking for feedback not just when you’re in beta mode. In fact, it can be more beneficial to include your most engaged subscribers throughout the lifecycle of building your business so you can again get validation for each step.
2. Via personal outreach
It’s so easy to access thousands of relevant people through the interconnected nature of the internet, but sometimes it helps to dig a bit deeper than that. If your business is about high-value (read: high-price point) products and services, or you offer a personal, one-to-one type offering, it’s worth reaching out in person to potential beta testers.
For example, if your business is geared toward college students, make a visit to your local college and meet students in person to ask them to be beta testers. Alternatively, if you’re building a localized business, you can hit up networking events and community events to find potential beta testers.
This also provides a more personalized form of feedback and works well if you want just a few beta testers to try out a high-ticket product or service.
3. Through Facebook groups and forums
Otherwise, you can head back online and tap into the well of potential beta testers lurking in Facebook groups and forums like Reddit or Quora.
The great thing about this method is you know these people are open to helping others out because they tend to already spend at least some of their free time answering questions and offering advice on their chosen platform.
Facebook groups, in particular, are a great place to find people within your target audience that want to help out. In fact, there’s pretty much a Facebook group for every kind of interest and geographical area, it’s just a case of finding out where your target audience is hanging out.
The key is to not bowl into these groups and simply shout out for beta testers. Instead, you want to nurture connections with key people by actively participating in conversations and really listening to what dialogue is already happening in your industry.
Get the most out of your beta testers
Finding and working with beta testers is one of the most important parts of starting a new business. If you skip this step, you might find that your product or service is a big flop when you finally launch it, simply because you didn’t take the time to validate whether it was needed or not.
Remember: Find beta testers that fit your target audience, and make the experience an engaging one for them.