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7 min read

From concept to completion: Navigating the beta launch journey

Product Marketing Strategy | product development

Do your product betas feel more like a beta test for your patience? I've been there too!  

As a product leader who has run dozens of betas, let me let you in on a secret – following a structured framework is the key to nailing beta tests every time.

In this guide, I'll share the exact framework my team uses to run successful betas. You'll discover how to:

  • Set clear goals and exit criteria
  • Recruit and engage the right testers
  • Create a rock-solid action plan
  • Oversee testing 
  • Measure success and iterate

So, ready to level up your beta game? Let's do this.

Why do you need to run beta tests anyway?

For tech companies building new products, releasing a beta version marks a critical phase. Betas give select users early access to test out the product and provide feedback before its official debut. 

Through beta testing, teams gain valuable insights that allow them to pinpoint and rectify issues and build enhancements based on actual user interactions. This proactive approach minimizes the chance of launching an underwhelming product, enriches user experience, and sets the stage for a triumphant release.

The beta product hasn’t yet reached its final form – it evolves based on the feedback you gather. Once the product achieves the desired functionality and delights users, it transitions to its final version and is ready for a public launch.

How product betas drive adoption

For many product-led organizations, the prime strategic goal is driving adoption through superior user experiences. As these organizations envision growth and global expansion, they recognize the imperative of refining their product's user experience before scaling. 

While eager to release their product, they often opt for a discreet beta test to validate the user experience. Without this crucial beta phase, they risk low adoption rates, decreased customer satisfaction, and potential attrition. 

In essence, the beta stage serves as a litmus test in the product journey, enabling companies to gauge user feedback and pave the way for a seamless and impactful launch.

Turning beta insights into marketing gold

Beta testing offers an exclusive window into real-world user interactions, preferences, and pain points. The feedback obtained during this phase provides product marketers with a clear understanding of the product's value proposition, its strengths, and areas of potential improvement. 

Such insights are invaluable in crafting targeted marketing messages, positioning strategies, and even promotional campaigns that resonate deeply with potential customers. 

Additionally, by identifying and rectifying product flaws or integrating enhancements based on beta feedback, product marketers can ensure a more compelling and seamless product narrative, which translates to more confident product launches and campaigns.

What’s more, a well-executed product beta fosters trust and credibility in the market – two attributes that product marketers can capitalize on. Engaging early adopters and obtaining their endorsements or testimonials after a successful beta phase is a great way to gather compelling social proof for marketing campaigns. 

As if that wasn’t enough, beta testing allows for a better understanding of the diverse needs of customers across different segments and industries. This enables marketers to segment and tailor their campaigns more effectively. 

In essence, product betas not only ensure the readiness of a product for a broader audience but also empower product marketing functions with data-driven insights and narratives, setting the stage for more impactful and resonant market engagements.

How to successfully execute a product beta

Conducting a product beta involves five crucial steps:

  1. Establishing clear goals and exit criteria
  2. Engaging the right customers at the right time
  3. Mapping out an action plan with essential milestones
  4. Overseeing the beta
  5. Measuring the beta's success

Let’s take a closer look at each step.

Step one: Establish clear goals and exit criteria

Setting clear goals and exit benchmarks is a foundational part of product development. 

In a fiercely competitive market, it's vital for businesses to craft products that resonate with users' needs and wants. As such, the primary goals of beta testing typically include identifying any flaws in the product, understanding user pain points, and ensuring alignment with user demands. This allows for improvements based on users’ feedback before launch.

Secondary objectives, such as measuring customer satisfaction, attracting early users, and analyzing competitors, can further amplify your product’s success. 

To meet these aims and mark a project's end, define clear exit benchmarks, like obtaining user feedback and plotting enhancement strategies. Prioritizing these goals enables businesses to foster growth, deepen customer ties, and outpace competitors. 

Here's a handy template for you to use as you plan your next product beta:

Goals: Define goals to understand your customers’ key requirements and trustbusters

Primary goals:

  • Detect product flaws and pain points throughout the customer journey, assessing the tangible effects of these issues.
  • Secure customer approval for a new MVP, ensuring it satisfies core user needs while noting potential upgrades.
  • Pinpoint key customer segments and discern factors motivating feature use.

Secondary goals:

  • Measure customer satisfaction (CSAT) related to the new feature.
  • Attract early users to expedite broader product acceptance.
  • Recognize obstacles to adoption.

Exit criteria: Establish the exit criteria to confirm:

Core exit criteria: 

  • Gather feedback from the top X potential customers, noting essential enhancements for general availability.
  • Develop a concise roadmap highlighting necessary improvements for product and engineering teams.
  • Rank elements deemed essential by both product teams and customers for a minimum viable product (MVP) and a minimum lovable product (MLP).

Additional exit criteria

  • List priority (P1) and secondary (P2) suggested enhancements for the teams.
  • Rank elements emphasizing scalability, utilization, and performance of the product.

The criteria above aren't strictly about when to transition out of beta. Instead, they help define what successful beta completion looks like. It's vital to have a clear vision or goal so you recognize the right moment to transition out of the beta phase.

Step two: Engage the right customers at the right time

Recruiting the right beta testers is crucial for gathering meaningful feedback. Here are some tips on engaging customers effectively:

  • Reach out to existing users who have previously expressed interest in the feature during discussions. Tapping into this pool helps ensure the product aligns with customer desires.
  • Draw from customer feedback sources, including reviews, in-app usage, and input from teams like sales and customer support, to engage customers who've previously expressed a need for this feature.
  • Involve a diverse mix of customer segments, from small businesses to large enterprises, and across different sectors like education, government, and healthcare. This diversity ensures the beta truly represents all your users.
  • Having a streamlined pre-enrollment process for the beta is key. This involves getting signed NDAs and updated account details from qualified, eligible users. This kind of organization makes finding and onboarding the right beta testers much simpler.

Step three: Map out an action plan with essential milestones

Before kicking off the beta test, three key milestones should be scheduled to keep things on track:

  1. Launch meeting: This initial meeting with all stakeholders, including sales teams, officially starts the beta. In this meeting, you should verify the current status of the beta product, address any pending issues, and lay out immediate next steps.
  2. Mid-point check-in: For beta tests exceeding four weeks, it’s a good idea to check in with stakeholders around the halfway point. This is a prime opportunity to assess the progress made so far, tackle any unresolved issues, gauge completion status, review new data, plan any necessary interviews or feedback sessions, and discuss steps towards wrapping up the program.
  3. Conclusion meeting: Cross-functional participants including sales and product meet to wrap up the beta. Discussions center on results, product trajectory, and reviewing the defined exit criteria to determine if the beta met its goals or requires an extension. This is the moment to outline any modifications that may need to be made to the product and decide whether to transition into a new beta phase or prepare for a public launch. 

Defining these milestones upfront ensures all players stay aligned through each beta phase, paving the way for a successful launch.

In addition to these milestone meetings, product marketing, product,  engineering, and product operations teams should meet at least weekly, or perhaps even daily, to discuss the status of the beta. Meanwhile, overall status updates can be communicated to broader stakeholders via weekly emails.

For a detailed beta workback blueprint, check out the table below.

Beta workback plan

Step four: Oversee the beta

Establishing a dynamic tracking mechanism, like a dashboard or real-time report, is an efficient way to monitor beta customers, their status, product concerns, and feedback. By incorporating daily, weekly, and monthly views, you’ll gain a holistic perspective of the beta’s progress. 

It’s vital to ensure that engineering, product, and product ops teams also have access to this dashboard or report. This will help to handle requests and gather feedback effectively.

Step five: Measure your beta's success

The below set of success metrics can be tracked during and after the beta.

Product/customer metrics

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Time and cost savings for product managers from early issue resolution
  • Feature adoption rate
  • Total beta customer count

Operational metrics 

  • Average sales rep time on beta activities
  • Time and cost savings from early detection of product concerns

Tech metrics

  • Time taken by tech teams to set up a beta environment
  • Engineering time and cost reductions from preemptive issue fixes

Key takeaways

Delivering an effective product beta paves the way for a stellar launch and superior user experience. Follow these tips to ensure your beta hits the mark:

🎯 Set clear goals: These will likely include identifying product flaws, securing customer approval, and understanding how customers use the product. 

🚪 Define exit criteria: These will signal when it’s time to transition out of the beta phase, ensuring the product is primed for a broader release. 

🙋 Engage users strategically: Prioritize existing and interested customers for optimal input.

👥 Seek diverse feedback: Include varied segments and industries for comprehensive insights.

🗓️ Stay coordinated: Launch meetings, check-ins, and conclusion reviews keep stakeholders aligned.

📊 Track your progress: For smooth beta management, reports and dashboards are invaluable, providing a comprehensive view of customer feedback, beta status, and other vital data. 

🏅 Measure your success: Monitor satisfaction, adoption, and any other metrics relevant to your goals.

🛠️ Enable iterations: Use feedback to refine the offering and optimize the experience.

🎉 Plan the rollout: A polished beta sets the stage for a triumphant launch and happy users!

Written by:

Srinath Kotela

Srinath Kotela

Srinath Kotela is a Senior Product Manager at JPMorgan Chase, with a track record of over 13 years in successfully launching technology products across a wide range of industries.

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From concept to completion: Navigating the beta launch journey