How do you ensure a product is ready for launch to customers? What kind of customer feedback, beta or pilots would you recommend?
Before launching a product, it's important to conduct thorough testing and validation. Gathering feedback from the target audience can reveal valuable insights that can be used to improve the product. When collecting feedback, focus on product functionality, overall experience, and perceived value.
Closed alpha or beta tests with a select group of trusted customers or partners can uncover bugs, usability issues, or potential enhancements. It's important to include participants with a diverse range of user personas to capture different use cases.
Conducting pilot programs or limited releases can provide insights into longer-term product use and value. This involves allowing potential customers to use the product in real-world scenarios, often at a reduced price or for free. It's important to gather feedback not only on technical aspects, but also on users' understanding and perception of the product's value proposition. This information can inform marketing and sales strategies.
Maintaining open communication channels with participants, acknowledging feedback, and demonstrating responsiveness can help build trust and transform early testers into product champions upon launch.
Best case scenario - Beta customer/s are willing to do a named case study with video talking about the launch
Worst case - Beta customer/s quotes from the PM calls can be anonymized and shared on the website/launch blog
If it is a really significant launch, something that is going to affect in-consequential amount of revenue, then I'd like to work with the customers and try to get them to talk our press/analysts before/after the launch. Compensate them plenty with swag :)
I don’t know that there’s a single answer to this question. The most successful launches I have been involved in had enough direct feedback to generate 6-10 customer references that included quantifiable metrics. However, market conditions and internal demands often set a much lower bar, especially in smaller companies.
At the ABSOLUTE minimum, your internal team should be comfortable with the product. I once stopped a launch in its final days (which required an escalation to the CEO) because I knew that the product’s usability issues would far outweigh the benefits of the new features. Thankfully, more software companies today build customer feedback into multiple stages of development and do formal beta programs.
Beyond product readiness, your launch goals should drive the timing of your launch. What are you trying to achieve? If your goal is to get press coverage, you’ll need compelling customer references. If your goal is to upsell existing customers, you may need some aggregate metrics you can put into your sales presentation along with a good user guide to support pilots.