Suppose that your product is going into beta, with potential for 1,000s of beta testers.
But being a small company, you would like to try to get a little money now to ease development costs for the next few months. You don't expect your beta to last long (2-3 months), and you don't think you'll have trouble finding users for it.
What is the best way to monetize your beta?
One of the scenarios I thought of was selling discounted copies (presales) of the release version when it comes out (v1.0).
This way, you get some money, the customer gets a discount and possibly a "trial" period. Also, it lets you know that your beta testers have a vested interest in your beta.
A complication or interesting point is you could make the beta private/paid only. But what if you wanted the beta to be public and still have paid users for presales? Would the discount be enough to not anger customers over the fact that some have (essentially) paid to use it and others haven't?
What do you think about this scenario? What are some other possibilities?
-Thanks in advance,
Sell the beta for a small charge, but encourage your users to provide feedback, so you are able to make enhancements to your software. To do this you might give 2 options for the beta buyers:
If someone buys without have been a beta buyer, sorry no discount. That's absolutely fair. And you are the one who sets the Pricing Terms. You will know if these terms are ok, when people are buying.
If you are able to not giving the beta away for free, don't do it. You will have problems later, if you want to sell it. It's hard to pay for something, what was free. Only exception is, if you could disable functions in the free versions, which people like to have and are willing to pay for.
Hope this helps.
You might consider doing a small and limited "alpha" release to get feedback and uncover quality issues.
Follow this with a beta release and charge your planned price at that point. You could offer a 90 day full money back guarantee as a way to lower the risk for them. Make sure you structure your offering so that your clients sign up for support. You might consider offering a range of multiple year support options with discounts for cash up front as a means of helping your near term cash flow.
Keep it simple.
If you're at the level of confidence in the product at beta stage that you can charge and get the volume you need, then absolutely do that. Answering the question, "will users pay for this?" and the follow-up "how much will users pay for this," is a priority for us all.
But for many startups, volume of beta users is more valuable than immediate revenue. In that case it makes sense to offer a limited free beta program - time limited (28 days, or whatever's appropriate to your case) and, if the need arises, volume limited. Make clear that this is the free beta of a paid software - when customers sign up, and when they use your product.
At some point during the beta program you'll be ready to start charging for the current or the next release. Certainly you'll want to incentivize beta users to move up to paid product, so special discounts make a lot of sense - they reward loyalty and help with price testing. Free trials and temporary / occasional free beta programs are so common in the software world that you're unlikely to cause annoyance except in the specific case that you find you have to reduce your pricing (in which case I would almost always recommend you offer to rebate or extend the contracts of early customers).
How you go on from there is, in my view, largely a matter of taste and personal preference. But from my observation, many companies benefit from ensuring that they always have a significant population of free trial or/and beta users - that gives you two or more sources of data on conversion rates, and contained groups to run trials of features, pricing and so on.