I have developed a software product that I plan to sell, and I'm having a hard time finding beta testers (perhaps because the product is for use by members of one profession that is not IT-related). I have few distant friends in the profession, and they should be able to beta test the product. However, good idea or not?
Also, I'm planning to just give them the product- "Would you be interested in using one product that I created- it's yours, but I'd be curious as to your thoughts, particular criticism"? Hopefully that's enough.
The best thing you can do is give your website our to a few people, install a service like MouseFlow or ClickTale. You can just watch what people are doing and figuring our where they are getting hung up. It's invaluable feedback that is reliable.
And the best way to get user validation that your software is something people will buy is to just get your beta testers to pay for it.
(Not sure if this is a website or not?)
Thank you @Warren for the connect to my question. I continue to work on this issue for a client. I think we need to make a differentiation between three distinct types of beta users in the software space. The first are those that test the UI and functionality for bugs. The second are those that are part of the customer group on whether or not the product/service is fulfilling the unique value proposition.
The services like Prefinery.com and UserTesting.com seem to be excellent services for the first of these two groups. For someone to ensure that "fresh eyes" are looking at the result of the code and let us know what glaring mistakes we are missing.
But there are things that only a member of the "target market group" will understand. Based on my conversations with the CEO of Prefinery and the online sales rep of Usertesting neither service had the capacity to filter their data-groups by the criteria that would match my B2B audience. They had much greater capacity to narrow by simple demographics for a B2C product.
What I think would be very valuable for "user6492" and me is the ability to connect with actual users from the targeted customer group. The CEO of Prefinery discussed their desire to develop such a business and I look forward to being able to access it!
The bottom line for me has become -- if I can't find effective beta customers for this particular clients application how will I ever find effective non-beta customers. The process of pulling together a beta customer group is as much a test of the company as the actual adoption of the product. In this case it is the test of the company's marketing/advertising and "community-development" infrastructure.
Of course we need to ask associates and friends who are in the industry we are targeting to test our software. I addressed the infastructure and sensativities that are needed to do this right in this answer. Now I am learning more about the unique sales process of actually pro-actively recruiting beta users that are honest-to-goodness early adopters from within the targeted market group.
In the B2B market where the product/service touches a critical business area for which there is little margin of error -- and the cost of making a mistake is high -- the faith necessary to adopt and fully use a beta product is extraordinarily. They say the first customers are the hardest to get. I would like to amend that to be "the first beta users are the hardest to get!"
I don't think its a good idea to use friends to beta test. They may not want to hurt your feelings, or may not be exactly forthcoming in their remarks. They may want you to be succesful and might hold back feedback, or may want to be overly helpful and give you TOO much feedback. Especially since you seem to be having trouble getting beta tests, and you will be relying solely on their opinions. I think its OK to use them in a beta test as long as you have another type of group, defined more along objective lines.
Relying on friends for a beta test can be tricky. As mentioned, they might not be very forthcoming with information and bugs out of concern for hurt feelings. The other side of the coin is that sometimes friends don't participate as carefully as a quality set of unacquainted beta testers might. It can be difficult to detach from the mindset of just using the software as a favor for a friend, rather than approaching it with the mindset of a tester.
What avenues have you tried for finding beta testers? If there are blogs, forums, or other community-oriented web sites that serve the industry, those can generally be a good resource for getting people interested in testing your product. With a little more information, I might be able to offer some other ideas.
There's also the option of using a third-party for recruiting your beta testers. The company that I work for offers beta test management software as well as various beta test related services, including recruitment and fully managed beta testing.
Hope this helps!