Testing, Testing, Testing, is this thing working? As part of keeping momentum in the market, SaaS models need to release quality products quickly. Here are the beta testing essentials to ensure your service products bring value to your audience and are free from glitches.
In this article:
- What is user acceptance testing?
- What is beta testing?
- Difference between alpha and beta tests
- How to organize a beta launch plan
- How to get beta users for SaaS
What Is User Acceptance Testing?
Before releasing your product into the wild, there are different tests to perform to ensure functionality, value, and compliance. These tests are called user acceptance testing, and they help your company determine whether your product is fit for the market. For this post, we are focusing on beta testing, but SaaS companies should be familiar with the different types of user acceptance testing:
Alpha & Beta Tests
Alpha and beta tests focus on the product itself—the make, the model, and the end-user experience.
Contract Acceptance Test
Each product usually starts as a concept, once your concept has gone through alpha and beta tests, you need to determine if it is a scalable product for the market. A contract acceptance test is internal management approval of whether your product meets your initial development goals and if it will be a viable revenue stream.
Regulation Acceptance Test
Depending on where your business is located you may need to pass regulations to sell a product. Some national and international governing agencies will require licenses and certifications to serve your product to the public.
Operational Acceptance Test
Is your company prepared to launch? Operational testing will ensure that your admin, customer service, and other quality assurance items are ready for your customers. This test can be automated and performed by bots that simulate high user activity.
What Is Beta Testing?
Beta testing is a critical step in launching new software. It is a user acceptance test to gain real and measurable feedback that helps your development team prepare a final product. Feedback in SaaS is foundational in building a service that is competitive and innovative in the tech economy. Beta testing is funded by research and development, so having a strategic beta launch plan will maximize your budget and potentially increase future revenue for your company.
SaaS companies will beta test for a multitude of reasons:
- Ridding product of technical glitches and bugs
- Testing new User Experience (UX) or User Interface (UI)
- Testing to see if the product has value
- Visualizing site hotspots to determine high and low-value features
- A/B testing to compare features in SaaS packages
- A/B testing for different audiences
Difference Between Alpha And Beta Testing
Like in the Greek alphabet, alpha testing happens before beta. When your SaaS product is in alpha testing you likely haven’t released it yet. Perhaps a few friends take it for a walk, but the majority are developers reviewing and sifting through in a controlled test setting. In alpha you are working out the kinks and molding your baby into something presentable.
The major difference between alpha and beta testing—real people are testing the beta model. It is beyond developer mode, you have a deliverable package and you want to visualize its use in a broader sense. Your beta test will help you create highly personalized solutions for your future customers. You can only predict to a certain degree what will happen when your product hits the market, so having an objective set of people go through it helps you create something better tuned for a larger audience.
Making A Beta Launch Plan
Performing a beta test is easier when you are an established company with an existing customer base. But what happens when you are a startup building from scratch? No matter what business stage you are at, here is how to organize a beta launch plan.
What Is My Unique Value Proposition?
Determine your unique value proposition (UVP) aka unique sellers proposition (USP). Showcasing why you are unique is arguably the most important step in your beta launch plan. Your job is to figure out what issues your customers have and how to solve them. Your competitors are going to have different solutions for this issue, your UVP states why your solution is the best.
However you are marketing your beta test, discuss the pain points that you are hitting with your new model. Conveying an explicit unique value proposition to testers will keep their feedback focused on whether your solution is viable. UVP is something you will revisit as you gain valuable feedback helping your business market the product to the public.
Public Beta Launch vs Private Beta Launch
Your beta launch plan begs the question: is it going to be a private or public beta launch plan? There are no right or wrong answers. Beta for saas companies is usually not limited to one test. You will probably run several versions during user acceptance testing. Here we will outline the pros and cons of a public beta launch vs a private beta launch.
Public Beta Launch
When you are planning a public beta launch, feedback is probably your goal. Public beta launches can also be a great marketing tool, acting as a soft launch to a large network of people.
High testing workload
Quicker testing turnaround
Feedback could be generic and inconsequential
More exposure to hacking
Private Beta Launch
Usually, this is reserved for beta launch plans that have a specific objective for beta testing. Or you could desire more control over a small pool of close people testing your product.
Minimal testing workload
Have a target audience in mind
Adds a layer of disclosure
Deliver on a specific number of incentives for participation
Have existing customers willing to participate
Narrows your test to who you choose
Discovering Your Beta Tester Profile
If you are a start-up you will have a vague understanding of your audience. For your initial beta test, it is advisable to find testers that have experience using your competitor’s product. That way you can nail down your unique value proposition. A customer profile in a pitch deck is a good starting point but ultimately your beta testers are there to help you carve out your intended real user.
When you are established in your niche, discovering your tester audience is simple. With credibility in your market and a customer base, you have the luxury of leveraging the audience you already have. However, not everyone on your email list will want to participate or find value in your new product. Try segmenting your base into a localized group of individuals that you built the product for. Then gradually stretch that group to your broader customer base and compare feedback.
Beta Test Timeline
Beta for SaaS companies can last any length of time. A strategic beta launch plan will set out a window for testing based on a number of testers or a number of weeks, whichever comes first. As a startup, you don’t want to stop and restart your beta test to adjust for every piece of feedback. You’ll run down rabbit holes trying to fix tiny details which is a waste of resources, and you’ll suffer a loss of interest in your product because it is stuck in beta.
In your timeline, consider the different aspects of participation in your beta test. If you don’t have an established customer base, you’ll need to set aside time to search for and market to testers. Additionally, analyze the ideal amount of time you’d like each tester to spend with your beta and include that in your time estimate.
Things to consider when determining your beta testing window:
- How long should a tester spend using your product?
- Will a user need multiple visits to use the product?
- Are you looking for testers to spend a certain amount of time per visit?
Do I Need A Beta Launch Website?
Yes, you need a beta launch website. It’s a landing page, nothing fancy—a microsite. A place to present the pre-release beta attractively, collect new beta sign-ups and deliver the beta test downloadable to testers. A beta launch website is a precursor to your finalized product page. This is a marketing opportunity to explain your UVP, conveying the benefits of the SaaS service you are building. Plus when reaching out for beta testers across social channels, sharing a link is a quick way to invite a new user without coming across as too pushy.
Beta Testing Feedback
Last but not least, nail down how you are going to collect feedback from your testers. Depending on what you are testing for, gathering answers from people can range from a direct response to a site tracking system that shows you what is happening while code is running. Surveys are seen as the best way to guide feedback from your testers. If you have a general idea of what you are testing for, this can be a quick method for generating sentiment from the majority.
How To Get Beta Users For SaaS?
Beta testing for SaaS companies is an exciting thing. It generates buzz surrounding your brand and gives people an insider view of what you have crafted. But how do you get beta users for SaaS? The best place to start is in your inner circle. Reach out to your current customers to test your new product via social or email. Tap into employee networks, after all, they are micro-influencers for your brand and are sure to bring on some valuable testers.
Beta Sign-ups With Testing Tools
If you are lacking beta sign-ups explore a beta testing tool, it will automate marketing for you. Paying a fee to a beta testing service may be the quickest and easiest way to keep your beta launch plan on track.
Here are different tools to gain beta sign-ups:
- UserTesting: allows you to choose your audience, and watch or listen to user reactions as they navigate your website and application
- Get Worm: provides a network of people to introduce your startup to. This platform is incentive-based so you must be prepared to give something away to attract users.
- BetaList: start-ups get an opportunity for brand exposure on BetaList. They can find beta sign-ups and engage with new users interested in their product.
Beta Testing Incentives
You also need to assess whether to incentivize your beta testers. Since SaaS companies have to release a working package to customers, there is a risk of unknown tech side effects during use. Which could lead to negative chatter and overall enjoyment of your brand. Providing an incentive to test, especially if you have a longer testing window, will ease the tension.
Incentives also encourage more valuable feedback. Since you are requiring someone’s time, having a freebie honors that time, and builds trust in your brand. Likewise, offering different tiers of incentives can keep a person engaged for extended use (ex: multiple sign-ins or levels). Here are different incentives you can offer for beta testing that secure engagement:
- Discounts for other products
- Gift Cards
- Giveaways for sign-ins
Remember: unless you are an established brand, offering the product you are beta testing is not a great incentive. As a startup, your new product probably is not a high priority to them, and by testing it they will already have a good idea of whether they want the finalized version. So use that as an additional incentive, versus the main prize.
Beta Launch Plan For Profitability
A beta test should always be a part of your new product launch. You will gain real user feedback that can influence your SaaS company for the better. Whether your beta turns out to be a success or not, at least you can test the water before jumping in.