Like in software development, alpha and beta testing marketing can save time and money. At the same time, it helps your company tweak the messaging to get it right before a full rollout. (For the uninitiated, alpha testing occurs early in software development, before beta testing.)
Adventures with LEGO
Simply put, the earlier you find the bugs, the easier and cheaper it is to fix them.
Ever do a LEGO project by following its visual instructions? I’ve have helped my sons with mega LEGO projects like one spaceship that came with more than 10,000 pieces! If we put one brick on wrong in the beginning and we didn’t realize it until a few steps later, it took a lot of time to remove all the bricks to reach the misplaced brick. But if we do a check and discover the mislaid brick within a step or two, it takes much less time to undo the previous steps to fix the brick.
As a marketing team starts honing a message for a new product or service, it may not have enough information to determine what will work. Rather than waiting to put together all 10,000 parts for the product or service, the marketing team contacts prospects and customers to find out what they need. The goal is to test the market and message early in the development process – while there are fewer pieces in place. What the marketing team learns may affect the features under development.
Catch problems early
When a product undergoing development doesn’t get a good response during initial testing, the company may need to revisit the product’s direction to make it more appealing. A company wastes the time invested in writing requirements and early product development if it later finds that it built a product with an unwanted feature set.
Alpha testing can occur before or right when your company begins documenting requirements. Your customers offer the best feedback. Sometimes they don’t know what they want, so instead of just asking, sit down with them and watch them use your product. Listen to what they have to say and see how they accomplish their tasks.
Talk to customers
John Timmerman, Ph.D., Gallup senior strategist for customer experience and innovation, asked Cisco CEO John Chambers how the company innovates. “He said he dedicates 50 percent of his time to talking to customers,” Timmerman writes. “He has a market research department and a quality department, but he’s very attuned to his customers — not just what they say, but what they don’t say, and their direction, their business needs, and the problems they’re trying to solve.”
Steve Jobs may have said that customers don’t know what they want until they see it. But they do know what problems they face and what they like, don’t like, need and don’t need. So alpha testing provides a middle ground. It could also be likened to doing market research with a “minimum viable product,” which isn’t complete or perfect. It does have the minimum set of features. Here, a company would ask a subset of possible customers or early adopters to use the minimum viable product to see what they like and don’t like about it. This prevents building a product no one wants and identifies potential missing features.
Release early, release often
Use the feedback to tweak the product. After a few changes, run another alpha test and repeat until the product is complete. Then you can move on to beta testing to test the messaging and target audience for the product.
Think of it as making your marketing more agile. Releasing early and releasing often lets companies obtain as much feedback as possible as early as possible. Yes, this iteration process requires discipline and commitment, but it avoids developing expensive features no one wants and gets you a step closer to the big picture goal.
The foundation of any business relationship is trust. It’s easier to build trust when you can look someone in the eye and shake hands. It’s harder to do online.
But there are techniques you can use online to make it easier to build trust and develop a deeper relationship. When you do those things systematically and strategically, you can arrive at a position of trust faster. Making the effort to do this will bring a big difference to your business success.
Three things make up the basis for trust. You want to show people that you are:
- Likeable and
Most people emphasize the last one, but the world is full of competent people. It’s being reliable and likeable that really makes the difference.
Of course, you need to be authentic. If you aren’t actually reliable or competent, you don’t want to pretend you are. (We know you’re likeable!) But assuming that you are competent, reliable and likeable, how do you show that? How can you make it easier for people to see that you are trustworthy online?
Here are five ways to build trust online:
- Make and keep a promise. This is a simple way to get a relationship off to a strong start. Don’t just promise you’ll call or email. Add specifics to the promise – and then follow through. This shows you’re reliable.
- Use social media. Social media provides a forum for showing others you’re the kind of person they want to do business with. Transparency is one of the building blocks of trust, and social media — with its history of your actions and interactions with others — makes it possible for people to see at a glance who you are and get comfortable with you.
- Stay in touch. Staying in touch in a predictable and personal way allows you to make strides to build trust online. It can be done simply and inexpensively, without investing in pricey marketing automation platforms.
- Show you care about them. No doubt, you want to make the sale. But pushing hard to close can backfire. When you show you care by taking a genuine interest in their work initiatives, favorite sports teams and hobbies, you let them see that they matter to you as an individual, not just one step towards a quota.
- Make them (your clients and prospects) look good. If someone compliments you in front of others, doesn’t it make you feel warmer towards them? You can do little things like forwarding recent news about a competitor that they can share with their coworkers and bosses. It’ll make them look good.
Some people use trust as a tactic, but it won’t come across as sincere. Buyers can sense a difference between someone whose main objective is winning and someone who puts the client’s interest first. “When your only focus is to win, customers become objects, tools for achieving that goal. And customers don’t care to be treated that way,” writes Charles H. Green, author of Trust-Based Selling.
If you follow the steps above, in an authentic way, you’ll find it easier to build strong business relationships online, and easier to make sales and get referrals.
I subscribe to emails from a client’s competitor to stay in the loop on what the competitor is doing. In an email, the competitor announced receiving rave reviews from a website that provides impartial coverage of its industry. Curious, I went to the website to search for my client’s product. Nothing. So I contacted the site’s editor to consider reviewing my client’s product.
I forwarded the competitor’s email to the client with a note that I contacted the editor. When the editor replied, I updated the client. Because I subscribed to a competitor’s email, I found two excuses to stay in touch with the client and made her look good as she took the valuable information to her boss.
Move from me-focused to client-focused
One of the principles of building trust online is client focus. To do this means listening without any distractions, allowing the client to lead conversations and asking questions for deeper insight. In doing this, you’ll better understand your clients’ concerns and learn more about the projects they’re working on.
I take notes during client calls, and then enter action items into our CRM, along with tags to identify topics and companies of interest to the client. (Some people prefer to make their notes after they finish the conversation with the client, so the client knows they are listening 100%.)
For example, the client mentions he’s working to find the right marketing automation platform. When you return to your desk, you search for articles and objective reports comparing marketing automation vendors, such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Forward those to the client. Now the client has valuable information to take back to the team and boss. Result? You helped make him look good.
Ways to make your clients look good
Here are seven ways you can make clients look good:
· Search for recent news and insights on your clients’ competitors.
· Dig up stats that support the work you do or what clients need.
· Find articles and reports that help clients in their jobs.
· Deliver complimentary tickets or VIP access to an event.
· Provide a report on results your company got for the client to show coworkers and bosses they made the right decision hiring you.
· Let clients know about something that hasn’t gone public.
· Share information clients will want to re-share with others in the company.
What can you do for your clients that allow them to show others they’re on top of things? What can you do to help them show others they’re respected?
Another time, I found a great report that was right up the client’s alley. The client liked it so much that she wanted to buy the report to send it to her mailing list. Little things like this show clients that you care about them and their success. It builds trust and gains favor. Zig Ziglar explained it best: “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
What other ways can you make clients look good?
But I bet you’re always looking for ways to improve. These 5 blog posts give you some solid advice – I’m sure you can find a few things here that you aren’t doing now.