Design partners, beta customers - why they are important for your early marketing
atrea is a B2B company with a product designed for the B2B user preferences, best practices, and ecosystem. It is also a complex product with modules, autonomous processes, and numerous screens and user use case flows. From day one, I knew getting potential users'/buyers' feedback would be crucial to developing a successful product that people want to use.
Success as an early-stage founder requires going through a long and exciting process of identifying and recruiting early customers or users and evaluating who will be the few that you'll deeply rely on and engage with initially.
What are design partners, and how are they different from Beta customers?
As you plan your product development timeline, you must start recruiting design partners and Beta customers from day one.
Design partners are like trusted consultants and product testers who give you feedback on early product screens and use case flows before writing your first lines of code.
As the founder, you already have a pretty good idea of what your product will look like. Design partners are there to give you a reality check and help fill in the missing gaps in your product.
Design partners are highly motivated individuals passionate about helping startups create a new product and enjoy giving feedback and testing new ideas. Since the process requires them to invest time and brainpower, you will want to carefully vet potential design partners for their ability to commit and stick with the process.
Founders often make the mistake of thinking design partners will tell them precisely what to build to succeed. In reality, customers know what they want right up until they see something better, and so your goal at this stage is mainly to validate what you already know and build and find gaps or suggestions you didn't think about initially.
Choose your design partners carefully. I try to follow the early market rule and look for design partners who will support my lightning-fast design and development cycle and are also excited about adopting and introducing new technologies and software in their current place of work.
Beta customers are the external users who use and test the initial iteration of your live product and provide feedback. Ideally, Beta customers will have your ideal customer profile to help you validate your product and your marketing and sales efforts. Beta customers will help you prove product-market fit, which is a crucial phase in the company's lifecycle.
I like to divide the Beta customer group into two sub-groups:
Design partner who became Beta customers - They "graduated" from providing feedback on product screens to actually using the product. If you're lucky to engage your design partners as beta customers, they will also pay for it, helping you to validate your product-market fit.
Beta customers recruited through experimental marketing and direct sales efforts - In this scenario, you either reach out or are being introduced to potential Beta customers and you must go through a "sales pitch" to convince them to use the product. You will need to have your marketing story and sales pitch ready for this phase, as you are basically going through a swift sales cycle.
As I mentioned before, Beta customers should fit your ideal customer profile, and so you will also have an opportunity to refine it further.
For atrea, I am looking for CMOs or VPs of marketing with the pains and problems my software is solving for, who are looking to automate the marketing function and create a new marketing culture in their company. If you're interested, drop me a word, and let's see if we're a fit.
Marketing in the design and Beta phases
I look at the marketing process in the design and Beta phases as "Input" and "Output". What are the marketing actions we proactively take to ensure the phase is successful, and what insights or follow-up actions can we derive from the stage?
Our number one goal is to make sure the phase is successful, i.e., we have recruited companies to comment on or use the product, and users are actively playing with the software.
Marketing actions for this category:
Craft a compelling cold-recruiting email to your ideal customer profile with a well-defined and convincing value proposition
Crafts an attractive social post to recruit design partners and Beta customers
Design an effective pricing web page
Help create a user-friendly and enjoyable onboarding experience for first-time users
Help craft a captivating demo session script and flow
Create quick animated images of key usage scenarios for social posts and outreach
What can we learn from these phases to help us craft and further refine our marketing messages?
Marketing actions for this category:
Listen-in on pitch calls and record audience comments
Analyze comments and create an insights document that can be shared with a cross-functional team
Identify key USP words that can be added to your messaging
Analyze the effectiveness of cold emails, reiterate
Create a list of future features and capabilities, prioritize market research
Listen-in for competitive mentions. Record everything for future use
Refine and update ideal customer profiles
Analyze the effectiveness of your current visual identity