Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Killer Ideas & Tools for Beta/Launch Customer Feedback

Before finishing off my 25 things I wish I would've known about starting up (part 1 and part 2 done so far), I thought I'd detail some more issues I'm dealing with as a startup co-Founder. We're on the way to creating a beta feedback group for a new feature we're adding at my current startup. I wondered, "What works best for different situations in specific feedback programs?" Below is what I found.

The background 

Sometimes, as entrepreneurs and more as business people, we can occasionally feel as if we're in a bubble. We're going against the grain. Not in touch with the average Joe; we're making products that look months, if not years, in the future. We see the future. What's the problem?

We don't know what customers want today. What are they willing to pay for? How many folks from your audience are willing to pay for said product or service? Find out and you'll rule your own entrepreneurial world. Not sure? Fail miserably. That's why you and I should value feedback.

Who are you?

With that said, let's move on. Launch early and change often is an awesome mantra. And, ironically, I'm not even talking just about Beta feedback or testing. The point of this article is more to identify feedback during phases of new product development or alterations. I'm not even talking about how to release as a beta--I'm more talking about how to get customer feedback during the release. Whether it's a Beta or not doesn't matter at this point.

#1 It's all about the (small) group (1-50 participants) 

I have separated the smaller from the larger customer feedback community because there could be significant differences. First off, are you considering quantitative or qualitative feedback is most important for you? This depends on the direction of your product and the value of individual feedback. You may consider small-scale feedback communities if you're doing a very niche product (your customer base will be small either way).

During this process, you'll want to consider Google+ hangouts on an X number of week basis. You'll want to start the process off with a clear definition of how long they'll use the product or what you want them to do before they provide you feedback. (Ie. They should test this, this & this feature out and then we'll come together and talk about it during the Google+ hangout). Ensure customers clearly understand how to use Google+ hangouts so there's no confusion. Also get their feedback from another tool like SurveyMonkey.

Optional (free) tool: According to them, "Gripe is a much better, Better Business Bureau for the Twitter-age. We use your online word-of-mouth power on social networks and review sites to help get your complaints in the real world heard and resolved!" While I've never used this program, I just signed up and I'm going to test it out.

Optional (paid) tool: IdeaScale. According to them, "IdeaScale is an easy-to-use, yet powerful solution for the collection of feedback and ideas." Prices are freemium with several options available. I just signed up for this product (the free version) and I look forward to using its' basic features (cash-strapped startup here).

#2 Let's beef up the jam with a bigger group of participants (50-100 participants+) 

More testers means more feedback. They'll provide a little more quantitative feedback--but not much depending. More and more businesses are leveraging their most active and excitable users with new products launched in beta. With larger groups, it's harder to schedule meetings and talk in-person, though you may want to select the most avid users and talk directly with them.

Case study alert! Larger businesses like Twitter and Snapchat, for example, have opened up beta feedback groups successfully. What they've done is had a Beta option available for download on their Google groups (like the Twitter Google group process also available here). Both of those cases are primarily getting feedback from their groups on Google.

Optional tool: UserEcho. Basically, the site creates an online space for your feedback community. In their words, "On the main page of the community users will see most popular ideas, popular questions, relevant questions and most recent thanks. Also main page contains fields for searching and adding requests. It's can be completely customized by community administrator."

#3 Integrate feedback into your site

Get feedback! I sometimes kick myself for not realizing during my first few startup projects how pivotal feedback is. With the introduction of "big data", adding more data points and feedback to your site and integrating feedback into all that you do should be a consideration. Feedback can come in many forms. Integrating feedback into your site for me comes in three forms.
  • First, consider your conversion rates for the most important areas of your site. Click through versus purchase clearly indicates customers judge of value for a certain product.
  • Second, what actions do customers perfer to do versus other actions? For my site, as of October 2013, we've been media-focused and therefore get hits on our articles. We've built into our backend a way to judge how many customers click through on our multiple kinds of content, though (ie. articles, merchants & events as we have).
  • Lastly, specific widgets for feedback and/or a feedback form. If your feedback form isn't visible enough, it won't get a reaction, though. 
#4 Survey early & often

One of the best ways to get feedback so far is the survey. Sending out a clear, concise, under 5 minute survey has been our method of choice to gauge specific interests. Are my customers interested in this? Will this upcoming product help them in this way specifically? Always offer an incentive for your customers to fill out the survey today.

Optional tools: We use the above mentioned SurveyMonkey, but Google forms also works for this too (if it's not too large -- they're visual tools also aren't great). Another one is SurveyGizmo which offers relatively the same product as SurveyMonkey (another freemium product). Lastly, another one that jumped out at me is Fluid Surveys. They're another survey tool which you might enjoy. Personally, I stick with SurveyMonkey.

#5 Solicit on social media

Social media is a customer service tool so use it as such. You won't get as much in-depth responses. Especially in my line of business (sex education) where folks are not excited about publicizing to their friends our product isn't helping them get the erection they thought they'd have. How difficult. Well, if you have a more general product/widget, you can get good feedback via social media tools (think: Facebook, Twitter).

Alternatively, I've amplified the success of surveys in the past through a combination of eNewsletters and social media publicity.

Optional tool: FiveSecondTest. According to them, "Learn how visitors will interact with your design before launching. Find out what they think, what they remember, and where they make mistakes."

Man gesturing come here motion came from here. Come here picture from here.

Any I'm missing? Comment below.


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