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Beta testing is a free or low-cost way to generate feedback on your startup or new product idea. — Getty Images/pixdeluxe

Bringing a new product or service to market is risky and expensive. Will your mobile app, clothing design or subscription service wow potential customers? Or will hidden problems depress sales? Find out before you launch by enlisting a beta tester.

Beta testing is a free or low-cost way to generate feedback on your startup or new product idea. It also provides insights about your target audience that you can use to drive successful outcomes. Learn what a beta tester is and how to find one to take your product or service for a trial run.

What is a beta tester?

A beta tester is a person in your target market who tries your product or service before you offer it to the public. The beta tester provides feedback, and in some cases, testimonials, in exchange for a free or reduced-price product or service. Your test audience can be current customers. In that case, you can conduct a closed beta test for customers only. Or, your test audience can be current email subscribers, people in your Facebook group or members of your local community.

Entrepreneurs in many industries benefit from beta testing. Tech companies offer beta versions of their software or new features to a select group of users. For example, Pinterest completed private and public beta testing before its launch and continues to test new features this way. Tech Crunch reported in 2020 that the company invited a select group of "U.S. creators to test a new, second version of Story Pins."

An apparel entrepreneur may send clothing designs to current or potential customers, whereas an author looks for beta readers before sending their novel to print. Subscription services may do a beta launch by offering a discount to early adopters.

[Read more: DIY Apparel Entrepreneur Pivots Her Business Efforts During COVID-19]

CB Insights found that 35% of startups fail because of no market need, 20% failed because they were outcompeted, 15% had pricing issues and 8% offered a poor product.

How to find beta testers

Your beta testers should be in your target audience. It's best to enlist a mix of people. After all, if everyone who tests your product is a friend or family member, it can be harder to get honest feedback.

Here are a few ways to find beta testers:

  • Email list: Send an exclusive invitation to test your product or service to subscribers who've opted into your email list. For better results, segment your list according to engagement and reach out to active subscribers.
  • Community events: Participate in events through your local Chamber of Commerce or trade shows and conferences. Create a sign-up booth for beta testers and encourage them to add their name to your list.
  • Social media: Reach a broad mix of people by broadcasting your message on social media or in your private group. Invite them to learn more by visiting your landing page or signing up to your email list. Don't forget to add hashtags for your industry along with #Betatesting and #Betatesters.
  • Online forums and services: Check out Reddit (/r/startups, /r/TestMyApp and /r/alphaandbetausers). Alternatively, consider using a site that is dedicated to beta testing, like BetaList, Betabound or Beta Family.

Beta testing benefits

You want to bring a new product to market to fill a need or take advantage of a gap your competition has left open. At the same time, you’re not earning any money until you start selling, so it’s easy to feel pressure to roll it out as soon as possible; however, it’s risky to introduce something new without beta testing.

CB Insights found that 35% of startups fail because of no market need, 20% failed because they were outcompeted, 15% had pricing issues and 8% offered a poor product. It's hard to stay neutral when you've spent months planning your business or designing a new product. A beta tester can help uncover possible problems, giving you time to address them before your public launch.

The advantages of strategic beta testing include:

  • Generate a pre-launch buzz about your brand, service or product.
  • Gather details about your target demographics, such as how people with different backgrounds or ages view or use your product.
  • Validate product requirements and benefits while better understanding your customers' expectations.
  • Fine-tune your marketing, advertising and positioning based on a product's performance and beta tester feedback.
  • Refine your customer support by identifying problems early and developing solutions to combat them.

[Read more: Best Social Platforms for Driving Startup Sales]

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