So we have completed the first version of our service and will begin meetings with potential alpha/beta customers. Since we have experience and have been working in the (specific) industry for awhile we believe the product should allow the customers to do everything they need (for the start) and begin showing them the value it has to offer.
I understand Beta customers typically do not pay for the product since the point is they provide valuable feedback in return for improving it. Therefore we're prepared to give them free access for at least a couple/few months.
It seems very weird (to me) to tell someone, "Well, just use it and give us feedback" and at a later point we will commercialize it and offer you discount for being an early adopter.
How do we ask them for feedback? And in what form and how often? - Bi-weekly surveys, Meetings to ask their experience, etc?
And is there anything else that must be part of the initial "deal" aside from a basic agreement (which we will get from a lawyer)?
Thanks in advance!
Without too much info I would say...
1) easy to understand how to use scalable business model? Just release it in the market and have analytics build in so you see what is happening and call/mail users now and then asking for feedback (if not provided by them self already)
2) product that needs training in order to use effectively? Give it to the first to be customer of your choice, sit next to them in order to help them out through the training phase and make sure they see it will give them value and if not understand why not.
ask them for a good review/testimonial if they really enjoyed your project as it will really help you out and post them for others to see. otherwise don't ask them anything, analyze the analytics.
I agree with Marc. You know your customer best and should decide which approach is most appropriate. There can also be differences in data collection depending on the product offering. A high-scale consumer product for example may be a better fit for a more scalable approach such as embedded analytics, surveys, or automated emails. For a lower-scale, high touch B2B product (SAAS for example) I would suggest a more personal approach (phone calls, meetings, etc.). I have years of experience in B2B SAAS and what I have learned personally (especially in beta versions of product/feature releases) is that the customer appreciates the relationships. It gives them a sense of not only confidence in your product/support but also gives them the buy in as an early adopter, making them more open about giving feedback. By the talks of "initial deal" and "basic agreement", it seems that your model is one of high-touch. I would suggest the more personal approach for your beta clients. Get them involved in the process through scheduled, recurring follow ups. This can be emails initially, followed by phone calls or in person meetings based on the relationship growth. The more invested your early adopters, the more feedback you will get. At the end of the day, these same relationship will turn into your first few clients, especially if your product is producing value for them. Good luck!
Difficult to answer fully without knowing your product or customer base, but it sounds like this is a higher value B2B product if you're having face-to-face meetings (if not, there are other ways of getting testers without wasting all that time).
The approach to asking for feedback depends largely on the type of customer. If they're a fairly tech-savvy audience then you can embed tools like Usersnap which will enable a set of tools for users to give you detailed feedback with annotations, screenshots etc. If they are less tech-savvy, then you could instead try something like Mouseflow which records screen sessions, and combine that with something like Intercom to capture behaviours and talk to customers live. These tools require some setup on your side and also need some commitment of time from you to review and monitor usage.
We also use email automation (via Vero, but there are other ways such as Mailchimp), which automatically sends a personal email from me asking people for feedback 24 hours after their first login. That gets quite a good response and we've had some valuable feedback from that.
Beyond that, if they're less tech-savvy then just send them an email, schedule a phone call or even catch up for a coffee with them. If you can meet them in person then watch them using the app, that's always revealing.
You know your customers more than anyone else so you decide which approach works best (if not - ask them which approach works best for them). They rule of thumb is don't be annoying, and make it as easy as possible for them.
Customer feedback is priceless .. always take it as an opportunity & it’s a direction you should be working on .. asking for surveys maybe not so effective .. you need to choose from a pool of potential customers and offer them a deal that they can’t refuse .. then call them for meetings & focus groups .. in this procedure you need to focus on quality of feedback & user diversity..