Why every startup should launch a beta for their platform

Before you launch your platform or product to the world, you should test it out with a pool of beta testers to make sure everything works great. This episode tells you why it’s super important to launch a beta.

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Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!

In today’s episode we’re going to talk about the beta launch, and why it’s important for any startup to have a beta launch for your app, or your platform. These are some of the main reasons, fixing bugs is very important. So assuming that you have a platform that’s for a mobile app, or for a website. It could be a product, it could be a physical product that you’ve built a new gadget of some sort. You need people to start using it more than just an MVP because an MVP, of course, is very minimal whereas a beta launch has all the features of the MVP plus all the feedback you got from people, which I will talk about in a moment. You can smooth out those features. Once you figure out what people actually want and you now have a good list of features people want well now is a good chance for you to test the waters on what you did in your MVP, which also lets you market the product. Because you are pushing it out there to the public, maybe not in the big way to small ways still, but you are still getting some marketing feelers out there to see what works and what doesn’t before you spend real ad dollars.

This allows you to further validate your product and see what people like outside of your MVP circle. Do people like the UI and the UX to people like the features that you have ? This is the moment where you can validate all of that, which is where you gain value because the more people that like your product and the more you fix your product and the more that you smooth things out. And the more you build and the more you’re out there, the easier it will be to raise funding and everybody wants to raise money for their startups so by doing that beta launch is basically helping you get to the point where you can raise funding. So we’ll go into why the MVP is very important in a beta launch. The MVP as you know is the minimum viable product. This is where you figure out your core value proposition.

The core value proposition is where you know the exact thing that people like in your platform that is useful. So, for example, Instagram, it’s good that you can direct message people, it’s good that you can do a boomerang, it’s good that you can post things in your story, but that is not the core value proposition of Instagram, its initial core value proposition was posting a picture that was it. So everything built around that is featured and on top of the core value. So your core value is very important to figure out early on, this is assuming that you did that now by building a landing page. To get test user email addresses. That’s how you can find out if people actually want your core value or your MVP, your platform or your gadget. If you have people that are signing up their emails on your landing page. Well, Great. That means that now you can get feedback from those people, by giving them a survey, right, and the survey should have basic questions on the ones that I usually like to do are you know their email address, of course, their age range, their gender, and then what features in your platform, would they want to use and give them multiple choice that they can choose multiple, as well as how much they’re willing to pay for those features, those are the two most important questions what features do people want and how much are they willing to pay for those features, if you could do those two, then you can analyze the results. And by analyzing the data that helps you understand what people actually want out of your beta. And this of course helps with the UI UX or user interface in your user experience, you know, how does your app work, what does it look like when you push this button, what does it do, do people like the colors, do people like the fonts.

It has to do with everything that people will see and touch and use in your app or your platform or your gadget. Right. That’s where you perfect it is the MVP stage, but going into the beta, you can now further do that. Once you have your beta launch, and now people are using it and you have your feedback and everything’s good to go. It’s time to write a press release, because now you’re getting ready for the public, press releases are tricky and not a lot of people don’t really know exactly how to write a press release, I’ve read a lot of these things from people where they just talk about their, you know, talk they talk about their app in a very kind of personal way. And that’s just not how you do it. It’s got to be very newsworthy in fact driven. I always say to include industry specific things on your value proposition is important so you know if you are a. If you’re a platform that helps people connect their dogs and dog parks well that’s the value it’s connecting dogs so you want to include that exact thing.

You don’t want to get too specific because then it’s no longer a factor but now you’re starting to like get into your vision and your your values and your opinions and things like that keep it fact driven, definitely include keywords and milestones, and then research journalists to like, because those people are the ones that are going to eventually hopefully write an article about your platform. So, research the journalists and then add quotes, and testimonials from people that like your platform or your products and include them in your press release because that adds kind of a personal touch I was talking about but in a different way. Now it’s not about you as much as it is, these people that really like your product and yes you can include a quote from yourself as the CEO or maybe one of your team members, and why you’re building this, what problem you’re solving that’s very important is what is the problem that you’re solving. Why do people want to see this product? Why do people want to use it? Why do journalists want to write articles about it?

Okay, so really kind of drive that home, in effect, driven way. Obviously, the launch date, and the important information that goes along with that launch date, you need to put in there. What’s the date, what’s the platform, you know where it is going to be sold. Where is it available, that kind of thing is there a special contest for people that sign up for the first 100 people or whatnot. And then of course, with the press release you want to prepare a q&a. The q&a is basically the answers to the questions that you’re going to be receiving from the press. They’re going to ask you lots of different questions. And once you go through your first interview, you’ll know what those are. If you have a team. You guys all want to have those answers written out in a Google Doc share it with each other, and practice those answers so that you’re all on the same page and your answers are consistent, that’s the important thing. A lot of times I found within the past with journalists, they will write whatever you say. And if it’s wrong or you didn’t mean to say it. Too bad they won’t change it.

I’ve never found a journalist to retract something that I said by accident. And that looks bad so I always say, write everything out into a Google Doc, make sure your team is all on the same page, practice those answers, and that way you’ll have everything ready to go and you won’t stumble. The next piece that you have to start preparing for our blog posts. Because, press releases will get you out to the press, but the blog posts will get you out to potential users or customers of your product. So the first thing I want to emphasize here is to never write about your company, oh my god I can’t tell you how many startups, I see in their first or second blog posts. It just says their company name, every other sentence like we do this and we do that and that’s why we do this and that’s why we do that, we, you know, it’s almost like they’re friends we stop doing it, do not do that never write about your company that is not what a blog post is about a blog post is to write about the industry that you’re in, and that you’re an expert in that industry and that you have knowledge to give to people about your industry. And that’s why they want to use your products, right that’s the trick.

So, research everything you’re writing about the needs if you’re writing about food, and you have a food startup, make sure you talk about nutrition and health and benefits and all the different things about your industry that you know because it works for you, and it works in your company. They’re going to use your product because your blog is list is hosted on your website so they’re going to see what your company is you don’t have to tell them to, well that’s why you should use nutrition quest or whatever, you know, the read your articles oh that was great that really helped me in my life and my health got better and my last week, and this is great. I’m going to download their app. That’s how you do it. Okay. mentioned other articles from journalists you like, because again you research those journalists that write articles in your industry. So now, if you link to those articles in your blog, you are using keywords, obviously, and you want to use a tasteful amount of keywords not too many but you want to write at least maybe one or two keywords

per paragraph or maybe three keywords and in those keywords in a couple of words you can link to an article of a journalist, that you really like that writes articles in your industry, and then you can mention them later on on Twitter, you know hey so and so journalists, I really enjoyed your article about this, and I included a link to it in my blog, and then you might get a conversation or two out of it. Remember when you contact journalists, you never want to pitch them your idea or ask them to write about you.

You just want to form a relationship. Okay, that’s it. You just start a conversation form a relationship, let them ask you if they want to interview, don’t tell them you want to interview, say, I linked you in my blog. I really liked what you wrote about this product. And I really like what you do to start a conversation and give them a compliment. That’s it, nothing else. Of course you want to make it fun by adding a couple of fun or relevant images or even a video that’s always the way to do it because you know blogs are very boring, in a sense, because they’re just writing so you want to try to make it fun as well your blog post trying to make it fun make people laugh at my adding imagery, they have a visual representation of what you’re trying to say to them. Okay. And to make it SEO friendly I always say keep it around 500 words, it can be less, it can be 300 words but 500 words is usually a good number. Google does not like to, they’re written they have robots that scrape, you know meta HTML and websites and things like that. They don’t really like static content.

So, a website that never changes and it’s just very static they don’t really put those in the top of the search results unless you pay a lot of money for SEO. If you don’t put up regular blog posts with really good SEO content, it’s gonna get you up because Google actually prefers dynamic websites, things that constantly change and things that are constantly updated with new content because people are always searching for content so they want new stuff. So now that you have your blog posts written up you have your beta launch ready to go. You have your survey results, you have your press release, what do you do with all this stuff? Obviously you post it on social media, you have lots of different places to post it.

Facebook has a lot of fan pages and groups. Obviously Twitter and Pinterest Reddit is a great place to start conversations and distress this reading is not a place to promote your stuff, stop promoting your stuff, no one’s gonna look at it. Right. It is a place to have conversations with people. It’s a place to have your opinion heard by people. It’s a place to help people with their issues or their problems where I help people all the time on Reddit, I don’t say, hey, check out my website no I don’t do that, they, you know, after a while, people get to know you on there. And eventually, if someone says I wish I had a product that does this. You know why hasn’t someone built this yet. And that’s when you can say, Actually I did and here it is, what they’ll do is they’ll check your name, they’ll check your past post history, they’ll see that you’ve never promoted your product, they’ll see that said you’ve been helping people for God knows how long. And then they’ll say, Oh, this guy’s not promoting himself and he actually has a good product, I’ll try it out. That’s how you use Reddit, you don’t use it to promote yourself. There’s a lot of places to promote yourself, YouTube, to make videos. Hacker News, which is made by Y Combinator, a very old school, kind of a message board where you see blogs, forums and message boards, use all the old school methods, blogs and forums and message boards are very important because again Google scrapes all that stuff. It’s all dynamic content constantly changing, so the more comments you post, the better.

Remember, just like Reddit. On the blogs and forums and message boards don’t advertise yourself, just the trick is to put your, your product, your platform your website, whatever it is, as your signature at the bottom of your comments so leave your comment and then it automatically puts your signature at the end with your website that’s, people can see it they’ll click on it if they want to. And I mentioned the q&a. This is the who, what, where, when, why, how you want to prepare this in a Google document, you know who’s your company. You know what was the reason you started it. Where are you based out, you know, where will you see yourself in five years. Why did you build this product, you know what’s so important about it, why do people want to use your products? You know, how did you get to where you are, How difficult was it, what challenges did you face? You know, these are the kinds of questions, press are gonna ask you, they’re gonna ask you, what is your age range in your platform, who’s your demographic. What gender, what percentage of people are using the platform or the gadget. What are your daily active users, your monthly active users, what’s the revenue in your, in your platform or your gadgets. They want to know all these and more so the best thing to do is again to prepare it in a q&a document with all of these, and that way you’ll be right. There’s a couple of resources that I like to give out on beta list.com is one of them. It’s a place where you can submit your startup for feedback. gus.com is a great place to post all of your documentation, you name it, your pitch deck, your executive summary, your financials, your company information and investors might request you to pitch to them as a company.

Same goes with Angel co which is Angel list and f6 s.com. These are all great places to post your startup, connect with other entrepreneurs, connect with investors, most all of your information, post all of your documentation, the more you post on the better. There’s also crunchbase and there’s a lot of other ones so the more places you post your beta company, your startup, your platform, your gadget, the more likely you are to get the eyes of investors. Now I have to close this with one very important thing. Why you actually need to launch a beta. I’ve worked with many startups in my 20 years doing this, and the companies who refused to launch a beta ended up doing two things, actually three but really spending a lot of money and spending a lot of time before figuring out what works. And I guess the third kind of thing there is that they usually would fail because of that.

So, the beta launch is meant to figure out the things that a large audience would, would tell you on a smaller scale. If the MVP was for like 100 to 1000 people, the beta launch is meant for 5000 10,000 people, let’s say, what you’re going to find is the bugs that you were able to fix in your MVP. Don’t apply to your beta. Now you’re going to have a larger scale of people, maybe even 50,000 people, and you’re going to find a new set of books. A lot of entrepreneurs say well why didn’t you find these bugs beforehand. Well, you can’t predict what’s going to happen. You can’t predict what’s going to break. It’s just like a house where a car, you’re driving down the road and all of a sudden it breaks down. Well, Why didn’t I know the alternator was gonna break warm? I didn’t. I knew I was gonna get a flat tire. Because you can’t predict these things, I can’t predict what a water pipe is gonna burst in my house or I can’t predict when the toilets are going to stop working or, I can’t predict when the refrigerators are gonna stop running. So it’s the same exact thing with a platform or a product, you cannot predict what is going to break and when that is what an MVP, and the beta launch is for.

It’s for you to figure out all these broken pieces before a large audience starts using, and any entrepreneur who says that it’s a bad idea to launch an MVP, or, or launch a beta has no idea what they’re talking about they’re going to be in for a long road of mistakes lost money in time. That’s why I always emphasize the MVP and the beta launch . Get it out to the public faster, don’t be afraid of your idea of being out there. It does not have to be perfect every single icon and, and button and text and color doesn’t have to be perfect. I have these entrepreneurs I’ve worked with who they don’t want to release an app because the icons don’t look perfect and the color isn’t perfect and the text doesn’t look perfect. And there are a couple little bugs that they’re not happy with, and you know the chat bubbles the wrong color and I’m like, Guys, you know you were girls you got to get this app out there to see if people even like it in the first place, not just 2050 100 people but 5000 10,000 people, and you need to start figuring out if there’s bugs, because if you don’t start getting it out there and you just launch it to the public, all of a sudden, and you’re going to be crashing with a bunch of bugs, you could have figured that out beforehand with a beta launch. So there’s a lot of reasons why but these are the main ones. Hopefully this helps you, and always launch your beta reaching out to me if you have any questions, if I can help at all.



Jason Sherman