When should I launch?
What should I charge?
Should I charge?
Will anyone buy it?
There are so many things that seem to hold people back when they are looking to launch something new, like a new business, a new service, or a new course.
And while the questions are many, the solution is simple: Test it and find out.
Why do I need to beta test before launching?
Businesses that succeed quickly do so because they are constantly creating, testing and tweaking. It will do you no good to sit in an ivory tower planning everything to perfection.
Business is a creative endeavor and planning can only take you so far. It’s when you “do” that you will learn the most, and it’s only through doing that the elements of unknown become known and you get the answers you need to thrive.
When I started out as a business consultant, I had no clients and, frankly, very little idea what I was doing. I had started, run, and sold one successful brick-and-mortar business, but I was switching focus and this new arena was foreign to me.
I’ll be honest: I spent almost an entire year watching from the sidelines. Planning, observing, scribbling, writing copy, deleting copy, tinkering on my website (sound familiar?) until I finally did something I should have done 12 months earlier.
I tested out my idea!
There is something about “testing” that makes creation less scary. By beta testing something, it helps to take the pressure off and eases the need to have everything “perfect” from the get-go.
My beta test took one month and a little bit of planning, but that was nothing compared to the time I had wasted as I was waiting for “the perfect moment” to launch my new business.
Within three months of my beta test, I had clientele and quit my job to travel the world. I wasn’t a millionaire (I’m still not), but I had a business, services, and money coming in.
While this worked awesomely for me, I see many others who don’t have such luck. They try to create something, and either never take it to the test zone or the process doesn’t work for them and they end up giving up before they give their idea a chance. They back away, deflated, feeling as though their idea wasn’t good enough.
But it’s usually not the idea that sucks. It was their lackluster effort testing it!
In this post, I’m going to share the five key elements for testing your new ideas. I’ve personally walked many of my own ideas through this process as well as assisted my clients through it. Now, it’s your turn.
5 key elements for beta testing success
1. Define the benefits of your offer, and package it to sell
Whether you are toying with the idea of creating a new business, or you simply want to create a new offer in your current business, you must get clear on exactly what it is and what the benefits are for those who buy.
Through testing, you’ll gain more clarity on the realized benefits, but for now, you’ll be hypothesizing what the benefits will be. Take some time to brainstorm: What problem(s) does your offer solve? What are the pain points your customers are experiencing that make them realize they need this?
Be succinct in what you’re offering and what the benefits are, because even if you aren’t charging for your beta test, people will be investing time as a tester, so they need to make sure it’s worth their energy.
Once you’ve defined the offer and the benefits, don’t just throw something together and begin promoting it. Package your offer and create a formal sales page on your website, or a PDF flyer (if you don’t have a website). It should include all the things a typical sales page would include. (My BetaLab course includes an easy-to-follow template.)
The very process of creating this will help you get even more clear about what you’re offering and what the value is, and laying it out in a formal manner will make you look more professional, so prospective testers know that you take your work seriously.
2. Define your purpose for testing
If you don’t have a goal or two formulated, you’ll be blindly entering your testing phase and aren’t likely to get the results you want, because you won’t know what “success” looks like.
Here is a list of typical goals for those beta testing a new business or offering:
- getting reviews or testimonials
- getting feedback so you can tweak and better your creation
- getting more experience and confidence in a new skillset
There are no “right” or “wrong” goals, but if you can figure out what goals you have before you start your testing, you will be more likely to achieve them.
3. Set + communicate clear boundaries around the beta test
If you aren’t clear from the get-go about what you will and won’t put up with, you might find yourself in a sticky situation pretty quickly.
You’re a coach looking to get more exposure and experience, so you decide to offer some free coaching. In your head, you are thinking that this will be a great way to gain confidence and later convert these free clients into paid clients.
But after four months of free coaching, you start to get annoyed. You’ve managed to help your clients a lot and are feeling like a rockstar, but you begin to resent the fact that you still have a handful of clients who haven’t offered to pay you yet.
You know it’s time to be compensated for your skills, but you aren’t sure how to proceed. You were never clear in the beginning about how long you would offer your services for free. You hadn’t defined the set number of sessions, a set end date, or a transition plan for when things came to an end.
You bring it up with your client and they are instantly taken-aback. They assumed that they would get free coaching for as long as they needed since you never made any specifications about an end date.
You part ways on weird terms, and in addition to feeling terrible about the outcome, you never get a testimonial from this client despite how much you helped her. Not cool.
You might think that this is extreme, but I’ve seen this exact situation happen with multiple coaches. That’s why I preach setting boundaries from the start of your beta test, such as:
- What is your cancellation policy?
- If you are providing a service, what will the end date be? (Could be a timeframe, a number of sessions, a specific achieved result...)
- How can you be contacted, and what are your typical working hours?
To put it simply, be clear with your testers about what your expectations are. If you define boundaries in the beginning, you likely won’t encounter any issues. But if you choose to ignore these and hope for the best, I guarantee they will quickly bite you in the butt!
4. Don’t assume the logistics will work themselves out
One of the most off-putting things that I see when I’m perusing beta test offers is that many aren’t clear on what I’ll get, or how to move forward if I’m interested. Whether or not you’re giving away something for free, you still need to make it easy and very clear what the next steps are.
Tell prospects exactly what they need to do next. Do they need to apply? If so, give them the application. Do they need to set up a free call to see if you are the right fit? Give them the booking link. Treat them as you would a paying client and they will be more likely to become one in the future.
5. Put yourself out there: Promote your beta test!
Now that you have all the basics in place, it’s time to begin promoting your offer!
I know it can be scary to put yourself out there but I promise, it’s worth it. Even if you are “selling” something for free, it is crucial to create interest. It’s a hard truth, but just because it’s free doesn’t mean that someone will want it. Whatever you are giving away most likely requires an exchange of energy and time, so it’s important that when you promote it, you convey its value. (Coming full circle to #1, see that?)
A few tips for promotion:
- Create an enticing mini-promo description that makes sharing on social media or in quick convos easy (Tip: If you aren’t getting bites after a few days, switch up this language and keep trying!)
- Make sure there is a clear call to action when you promote
- Generate a list of ideas for promotion and check them off as you promote
- Create a swipe file and ask colleagues and biz buddies to help you promote it
- Have a set timeframe! Seriously. People need deadlines and you need to get on with your life. Create a set timeframe for sign up and close the doors after that.
- Use images in your promotion: Images capture attention! Use free software like Canva or Picmonkey to help you create a snazzy marketable image without expense or fuss.
It’s time to beta test
You now officially have a basic outline for your next steps in getting your new idea off the ground. It might seem like a lot, but with some focus and determination, you can easily put this together and begin promoting in no time!
Remember, the point of beta testing isn’t to launch something that is perfect; the point of testing is to launch something fast (but not sloppy) so that you can work on perfecting it over time. After the beta launches, move from analysis into action -- and you will be much closer to meeting your goals and making more money.
If you’re looking for more comprehensive step-by-step beta testing instructions with templates and a Facebook community to help you with your efforts, check out my BetaLab course. In addition to providing you with more details on the five elements above, it will also walk you through how to ask for feedback and testimonials so that you can make sure to get the most out of your testing! Best part? It’s fun, fast and extremely affordable!