Modern dating is...frustrating. Sure, apps and online communities mean it’s easier than ever to meet somebody. But those same technologies mean it’s never been faster or more efficient to realize you’re being ignored or rejected. It’s frustrating.
And it’s a familiar feeling for many product managers.
For product managers, beta testing can feel like dating: you try to connect with multiple eligible singles (recruiting for your beta test) and you go out with some of them (beta testing). And then it happens - you get sporadic texts (low engagement) or get ghosted (no responses). Frustrating.
You thought it was going so well. They seemed to be into it (they signed up for your beta). You were so compatible...and you wanted the same things (a great product to solve real problems). Where did things go wrong? How can you keep them interested?
We heard this challenge over and over again when interviewing product professionals. The engagement rate on a beta test is very low (in the low double-digit % at best). But engagement is critical during your beta cycle. The main reason you’re embarking on this big effort is to test your product in real life, with real customers, and get real feedback from a bigger audience ahead of your product launch.
When you get low engagement, you get bad data. You might get a bug reported but you can’t really determine if this is an isolated issue or systemic. Low engagement naturally makes you doubt your product: If people who signed up to test it are not spending time testing it, is it a viable product? Do people really care about this solution? Not to mention the cost associated with running your beta program: product cost, shipping, time spent writing instructions, time spent following up with disengaged customers… etc. It is very challenging!
So why are most of your customers not engaged during beta testing? When we talked to people who were involved in beta programs before as testers, they shared frustrations on their part as well! Their experience is not good ranging from no instructions, to feeling like their input doesn't really matter or contribute to the success of the product, and lack of clarity around the time commitment expected on their part during a beta.
So it was clear to us from listening to both sides. Engagement can be improved drastically by providing beta testers a much better experience than what they have now. Give them clear and engaging instructions instead of asking them to read long PDFs. Give them a simple and easy way to reach out and interact with you instead of spammy mailers. Interact with them and probe their feedback instead of cold, long surveys. In other words, your beta testers are an extension of your team. Treat them as such!
Pulling more on the (bad) dating analogy, if you show up to a first date in a presentable manner (provide a modern platform), show genuine interest in your date (easy thoughtful instructions), and have a good conversation, chances are you’re going to have a good first date experience. And hopefully achieve your goal of finding true love… product love that is.