I have a software program that I'd like to sell after it's perfected, but I'm in a catch-22 situation; I'm trying to get publicity for the program (in part to attract more free beta users, who I'd hope would provide feedback so that I could improve the program before selling it), but I don't want the product heavily publicized unless I can be sure that the reviews are neutral or positive.
The program is very specialized; I've posted it on Prefinery but am not having much success in attracting beta testers, perhaps because it's so specialized.
I'd like to send the beta version of the program to a few blogs that have covered similar products, but is this a good idea? I'd appreciate any tips from those who've faced the same concerns.
If you feel you're responsive to problems / support, and still have a little way to go, perhaps you'd be better asking a couple of bloggers to trial / alpha your service so you can get a little publicity. If they're helping shape the product it's much more likely bugs and missing features will be tolerated.
Once you've a product you're all happy with, then they can review it properly and you can launch.
That way you should be able to limit the exposure and hopefully keep a little more control than just sending out a review copy - which is essentially asking for opinion either way. It's all about confidence and limiting risk. So better a beta tester you've chosen who has a blog than someone random from a forum or some such.
Well, if your objective is to have a better final product, I would suggest this: get as many views as you can and be ready to reward properly the people who accepted to give some of their time, some of their knowledge and even some of their ignorance (the perception of the average user's ignorance towards any given software is of capital importance to improve the same software, e.g. in order to make it more understandable, more clearly designed, etc.) to test your software.
Look especially for testers as close as possible to the (estimated) average user of that software - experts, geeks and insiders will tend to form a biased opinion, not because they want to, but because they are simply too focused on their specific "techie" routines. The average user (even if this means an "average joe" with relatively high skills in a given sector) will tell you about his real needs and will even point out basic aspects of your software that could be laughable when seen by the eyes of a programmer but are to be considered of major importance - because they often refer to things soooo obvious the software producer/author didn't regard them as relevant (and should).
Believe me: trust those you are creating for, and in the end you'll have something much better to offer (and more valuable to sell).
If your objective is to spread the word about the software, the blogs and forums (if well chosen) are a good idea, but I would suggest you the creation of a free version of your software (with a very decent balance of features - not too stripped as to be rendered useless, nor too comprehensive as to be an exact match of the software you want to sell).
Why ? Because the real advertising starts right there. And because people really interested in freeware (focus on freeware blogs and forums) are more proactive when it comes the moment to spread the word and to give positive (spontaneous) recommendations about the software they use than all the other people together (namely, the buyers of paid software: sure, these can be very proactive, but mostly when it comes to express negative views on software they paid for and didn't satisfy them).
Give something really decent and respectable to the community, and, if your product is good enough, the community will build up your software's reputation.
I hope this can help you.
(Having said that, feel free to contact me if you need some feedback to improve your software. I'm always testing new software. Maybe I can help, depending on the specific
software and technical requirements...and, of course, depending on the amount of my own ignorance ;-) )
Working with blogs to attract beta testers can be a really positive way to launch your beta. It sounds like you want to ask the bloggers to be your testers and then review your product at the end to increase publicity. If that's the case, I can understand the Catch-22 feeling.
A slightly different idea is to work with the blogs you've targeted by giving them invite codes that they, in turn, give away to their readers. It gives the blogger an opportunity to increase engagement with their community, rather than simply cover your product. It also sets a different expectation, because the readers won't be approaching the test with an eye toward a public review in the end. They'll understand that the product isn't quite ready for launch and their responsibility is to help you improve it.
With an NDA and well-timed reminders about the importance of beta secrecy, you can reinforce the idea that problems faced early in the beta test aren't to be shared with others. And if you're vigilant about addressing user feedback, fixing bugs, and building a relationship with your testers, their positive feelings about the test experience will override early frustrations they might have experienced.