When you think of marketing, you might first think of the launch phase or the high-volume reach you plan to get after the launch of your offerings.  But, marketing is also priming your audience!  If you want to be strategic in your launch, you can go as far back as beta testing and prototyping to activate your marketing process. Let’s look at three marketing factors to consider while you are in this phase.

Yes, beta testing and prototyping are steps of your product development. On the surface, they appear to be internal activities to help you gather information to create a better product.  Depending on what the product is, you certainly want to control exposure to your intellectual property to some degree during this period.  However, if you are careful, this can be a great time to build buzz about your new offering as you gather feedback.

Beta testing is usually associated with software or computer products.  Prototyping is generally a process for physical products, allowing the maker to start creating models of the product to get design and use feedback.  Although these terms may exclude service-based businesses or other industries, every industry can benefit from this same idea in sampling their offerings to collect feedback in the pre-launch phase.  After all, you need to know that what you are working so hard to launch is viable in the real world.

While the primary purpose of beta testing or prototyping is identifying needed adjustments, there is significant marketing opportunity here, as well.

While the primary purpose of beta testing or prototyping is identifying needed adjustments, there is significant marketing opportunity here, as well. #business #smallbusiness #smb Click To Tweet

Although you may not feel that you have a fine-tuned product to showcase to the world yet, you are still reaching your audience with your message.  By definition, you are marketing whether you want to be or not.  With this in mind, how can you be smart about it and leverage this opportunity?

  • Invite the right people to test your product. This could be a chance to turn the heads of people who you would like to be influencers working on your behalf down the road.  Think about who has access to your target market.  Who has credibility to your target market?  Influencers frequently receive solicitations for promoting existing products, and those pitches start to look the same after a while.  But you are coming at this from a different direction.  You are allowing them to provide their feedback and get in on the ground floor to do it.  To share their hard-earned knowledge in a way that could solve the problems they know exist or gaps they know need to be filled.  They can help to shape the future, and you can even offer them perks and sneak peaks that may entice them further.  And what is in it for you?  Not only do you get the insight of someone who may have a strong awareness of the industry, but you may now have access to the testimonial of a trusted figure.  Plus, they now have a relationship with you and perhaps more of a vested interest in the success of your product for when it IS time to launch!
  • Get a volume of early touch points. It helps to have a large enough sample size of outside opinions so you can make more informed choices as you make modifications.  When it comes to accessing a lot of people, I’ve seen all kinds of good ideas around getting product in front of people in public areas, waiting in lines, etc.  It’s up to you to find creative ways to get in front of them.  The fact that you are not selling anything that requires a financial transaction, plus you are giving people a chance to share their opinions, makes this an easier ask than it would be if you were trying to sell product to this same assortment of individuals.  While you have their attention, though, they are imagining how they would use the product, telling you what would make it better for them, and having an experience with it.  These are some of the strongest approaches you can make in marketing!  This time when you are beta testing or prototyping is allowing you to cultivate a future audience.  It would be wise to give those who are interested a way to sign up for updates, allowing you to share your journey as you proceed to launch.  Of course, I need to reiterate that being mindful of your intellectual property is important during this phase – so be careful about the risks you take on and what people you are approaching.  Legal advice is a good idea to ensure you are not making your budding product vulnerable.
This time when you are beta testing or prototyping is allowing you to cultivate a future audience. #business #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb #entrepreneur Click To Tweet
  • Keep them informed. As I mentioned, in collecting feedback from individuals who are experiencing or testing your product, it makes sense to have set up an avenue to get their contact details if they want to hear how it goes for you.  If you are building that list, use it.  Get in touch with them periodically with non-sensitive updates about your timeline or your latest achievements on the way to launch.  Or, wait until the launch is on the horizon, and start teasing this audience closer to that time.  For those who are influencers or who had a meaningful personal experience with you or your testing process, write to them specifically to thank them again, note that you are launching soon, and mention that you appreciate their feedback on the way to making this product what it is.  You can map out your plan for outreach in advance so that there are no questions or hesitations when it is time to execute. (Read this marketing funnel blog series to understand why this is so valuable for you!)

Beta testing and prototyping are a phase of product development, and I know this is a busy time for any business working through important logistic considerations.

You may feel strapped for time as you press onward to finalizing the thing you are putting out into the world.  However, if you look at this process as only an internal one, you are missing out on a big opportunity to start cultivating a fan base.  This is a base that will serve you well when you launch, and you will be happy to have it when that time comes.

Are you in this phase and looking to create a full marketing plan to ensure your launch goes smoothly and you capitalize during the post-launch phase?  Check out this course here!