Customer Acquisition · Beta users

What should we offer and what should we request from early customers?


January 7th, 2016

We are a b2b early stage company, we have made interviews with relevant people in the market, prepared a pitch and a basic prototype, and are getting ready to start discussions with early customers.
What should we offer these customers and what should we request?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts, what seemed to work well, and what did not.

Many thanks! 

Mamie Stewart Founder & CEO at Meeteor, Speaker, Change-maker

January 7th, 2016

We ran a private beta program for our MVP. For these customers, we offered 
  • exclusive, early free access to the product (B-2-B SAAS)
  • personal support - we were available by email and phone for additional support as needed, I emailed every other week to check-in
  • Onboarding coaching - I went to their office and trained their team on our software since we didnt build any onboarding and had minimal help text.
  • We offered free access to the software for the foreseeable future - at some point if their usage goes way up, we may ask them to pay some fees.
In return, we requested the following:
  • Everyone who was going to use the software take a 20 min "baseline survey" reporting on how they currently work
  • Use the software for 8-12 weeks
  • Complete a 2 minute survey each week asking about various features, the value they were getting and their experience with the software
  • Complete a 20 min "exit" survey to compare to their baseline survey 
  • Allow us to observe them using the software at least once
  • Spend 30-60 min debriefing on their experience (for us to ask any follow up questions to what we learned in their surveys.)
We had 8 organizations participate and all completed the beta round but participation varied by organization. Some were totally on top of it and others only responded to our inquiries on occasion. But the feedback we got was extremely helpful.

Aleksandra Czajka Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack

January 7th, 2016

Great question!

First, I would make sure that the customer I'm on call/in meeting with understands from the conversation that you are there to listen and get their feedback. I've done a few of these calls and sometimes, because there could be many that I do, I fail to mention this at the beginning. Many customers are not familiar with the Lean Start-Up methodology and so they assume that you are trying to push a product on them. Many times they are pleasantly shocked and offer much more input when they know that you are open to their problems not just aiming to sell your product.

Offer the customers the product for a discount. I would say "for free" if I knew more about what you offer since sometimes it is viable to offer it for free. But, sometimes the sheer price of the service/product is just not feasable to do so. However, the benefit of feedback from these early customers is so huge that in many cases it would be of much bigger value to give the product away for free for a year.

What I have requested in the past is a few things:
1. a meeting where i can watch a potential customer using my product without any feedback from me
2. ask what they think the benefits of the products are (this can serve as very important marketing copy for you because it comes straight from the customer themselves)
3. ask how often they would use the product
4. how much money and time it would save them
5. if the service/product requires a bigger team or more time for the user to try it out, ask them to try it out for a week or two and have weekly/daily/monthly (whichever best applies) meetings with them for feedback purposes
6. ask if they would pay for such a product and, if not, ask them why and what type of features it would need to have in order to get to a paying product.

I'm just going off of what I have done in the past and hopefully this helps you, but, in reality I would think about the questions you need answered before your business is successful and figure out how to leverage your relationship with the potential customer to answer those questions best.

Rob G

January 7th, 2016

what you should offer is solutions to their needs (pain points), but not until you truly understand their needs.  You understand needs by asking probing questions then closing your mouth and opening your ears.  you have 1 mouth and 2 ears and should always use them in that ratio when working with prospects  - by the way, you have no "customers" yet, you have "prospects" or "opportunities".  Presumably you have already done this prior to preparing your pitch deck and prototype.  If not then leave the pitch deck and prototype at home until you are sure you understand their needs and have built a presentation and product they need and will use.  Once you have that then the next logical step is for them to use your solution and provide more feedback so you can go from "basic prototype" to "basic prototype+".  It should also be appropriate to ask for agreement on the terms under which they would spend real money with you, i.e. purchase your solution.  This is often very difficult for your prospects if you are an unfunded startup - risk is high.   If you can perform on your end (provide a working product) then the conversation should go something like: "ok, you said you needed A and B and C and D.  we have already built A according to our understanding of your needs.  If we can build B such that A and B meet or exceed our agreed requirements we would like to enter into an agreement on these terms ___ "   where ___ = $$, time, support, testimonials, etc.  

Wayne Cerullo Advocate for prospect-centric B2B marketing

January 7th, 2016

Since the primary value of initial customers is to win future ones, the primary objectives are to secure 
(a) the right to their use of your solution and 
(b) their active participation in improving it.