Engaging customers throughout the product development cycle


It is becoming more and more important to get your market involved from day 1 of development (as opposed to day 1 of launch).

How do you engage customers throughout the product development cycle, and keep them engaged?

As we are entering beta, I feel like we've missed out a bit on the feedback we could have had already, had we engaged the market prior. So really I'm looking for methods of engagement. Is a blog or newsletter the best form of engagement? How about social media?

I don't want to have too many vehicles of engagement, just one - maybe two. So narrowing down to the best one or two is my goal. I'm looking to draw on the expertise of the community.

Customers Product Development Cycle

asked Jun 4 '11 at 00:45
509 points
  • +1 @Sam D: Nice question, though I know it might limit how this question relates to others facing the same issues: What type of product is it? Also, what is the duration of the development cycle? -- since this would have an impact on the advice given. Cheers! – Blunders . 12 years ago
  • This is an incredibly broad question and is addressed by many books. It is impossible to give answers here - you should go have a look at development life-cycle resources. "Agile" is the hot buzzword since a few years ago - you might want to start with that. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • @blunders, right now the next 4 months throughout beta testing. – Sam 12 years ago
  • @Tim, I realize its very general, that was intentional. I am looking for a general answer.. i.e. "treat beta testers like gold" is a good one, but is pretty standard. I've edited the question to be a bit more specific. – Sam 12 years ago
  • @Sam D: Right, but what is it? A utility, service, subscription, etc.; is the business to consumers, other businesses, etc.; list goes on and on... if you're not able to narrow down the focus of the question, I'd have to agree with Tim that the question is overly broad. – Blunders . 12 years ago
  • @blunders, please see edited question, thanks. – Sam 12 years ago
  • @Sam D: Thanks, took a look at the updates, still have no advice, since it's just to undefined in terms of the context in which the answer provided might be executed. Is there a reason you don't want to say what the product is and the market deals with? – Blunders . 12 years ago
  • @blunders, we are working on a restaurant review site and app for a niche market. The location of the people I want to engage right now are Canada and the United States.. – Sam 12 years ago
  • +1 @Sam D: Who're the customers, what're they buying, and why? If your able to post that info, I'll review your business model and attempt to abstract a solution that's able to be generalized, then post it as an answer. Also, I'd suggest placing these details in the body of your question, then comment to me updates have been posted; this way others quickly see important info. Cheers! – Blunders . 12 years ago

2 Answers


Since you clarified to state mainly BETA testing... my suggestions would be to try to give as much information as possible. Let them see what you are working on / fixing / changing per feedback. I think that this helps them know that their time is actually valuable.

If your site has badges, subscription or something else for users, offer them something unique for helping you out. It is amazing to see how much more users are willing to endure to be able to show that they were "There First".

I think for BETA you want to keep it off of "public" sites if you are seeking honest feedback and do not want any potential issues to harm your reputation (why you are probably in BETA). However the best thing I have found is to give your testers a feeling of community, it will create a fierce loyalty base and start to get word of mouth spreading. Forums seem to be the best way to do this at this time, let them post/comment/share, and have your team be active as well.

answered Jun 4 '11 at 01:31
Riddler Dev
131 points
  • +1 @IPX Ares: For attempting to answer a question that has very little real context to go on. One thing I don't get is the question is how to get people aware of a product, but the source of that question will not say what the product is; some sort of deep irony there... :-) – Blunders . 12 years ago
  • @blunders, I provided more context in a comment above. Also, my question is not how to make people aware of my product/service. I Rather I want to know how to engage customers throughout the product development cycle. With any web product or SaaS the general development process is fairly similar. Includes stages of building a MVP, engaging customers and obtaining feedback, demo, testing and cycle to iterate. My question hones in on the beta testing and how to keep these customers actively involved throughout our development and ideally converting them to evangelists afterwards. – Sam 12 years ago
  • this is more along the lines of what I am looking for. I have commented with updates / more info for context. I'd appreciate any other input you may have based on this info. Thanks – Sam 12 years ago


Books: Two books that I know of that give specific step-by-step, actionable road maps for how to do this best are The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development - www.custdev.com - by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits and Ash Maurya's Running Lean - www.runningleanhq.com. For example in the custdev book you first validate your core hypotheses regarding your product. This consists of testing for Customer - Problem - Solution. Then building a MVP. Then achieve Product Market fit and finally, produce a development and marketing roadmap for scaling. There are feedback loops at each step and the book walks you through that process. Running Lean is in a similar vein. Just a couple of quotes to give you a flavor of what it is about: "Running Lean is about testing a vision by measuring how customers behave." "Running Lean tackles both product and market validation in parallel using short iterations." Both of these books follow the lean startup philosophy. Also, read Steve Blank's blog. www.steveblank.com See his startup tools tab.

Tools: Here are a three tools I've learned about that you should consider for user feedback - survey.io by Kissmetrics (recommended by Sean Ellis) and Usermood - www.usermood.com - by Dave Churchville. Another type of tool you could use would be FeatureSet - www.featureset.com - which is Social Software for Product development. Kind of like a project management tool that includes your customers as part of the team. I'm sure there are lots of other tools so it's worth searching around a bit to find one that suits your situation.

answered Jun 6 '11 at 03:52
Steve D
318 points
  • Hey SteveD thanks for your input. I'm actually 50 pages into Running Lean, and so far its great. I'll checkout the custdev as well, I hadn't heard of that one till now. I've heard good things about Kissmetrics, and survey.io and usermood.com looks like tools I could really use. Thanks for the recommendations. – Sam 12 years ago
  • Hi Sam, glad to be of assistance. Don't forget to upvote my answer if you liked it. :-) Also, would love to hear how you make out using the tools. The sequence I see is survey.io for initial feedback, usermood for after initial engagement, kissmetrics for funnel optimization. Good Luck. – Steve D 12 years ago

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