I can see it now. You’re sitting with your fists slightly clenched, ready to hit the button. When it happens, hundreds of people will be using your app for the first time. You’ve spent all the resources and time you have building a solid beta list and now, it all comes down to this moment. Up to this point, it hasn’t been open to the public and just the idea of newcomers viewing and judging your app scares you senseless.
What do you do next? You realize you don’t have a solid plan so naturally, confusion starts to set in.
You briefly scramble while your heart is steadily increasing in pace. You face is red and now you’re getting upset. The funny thing is, all of this happened within 3 seconds.
Welcome to startup life.
One minute you’re up and the very next second, you’ve crashed. As a startup founder and someone who’s app has been in private beta for a number of weeks now, I’d like to pass on one simple piece of advice and follow it up with reasons why my advice is true. My advice is..
It’s not the end of the world.
“If you’re going to put your product in beta, put your business model in beta with it.”
Joe Kraus, Partner at Google Ventures
1. Don’t Freak Out
In any high pressure situation, particularly a private beta, it’s really easy to get bent out of shape when the slightest thing goes wrong. Trust me, I know this mode of thinking all too well. When you’re working on an app and trying your hardest to stay focused, the last thing you need is worry lingering at the back of your mind. Freaking out about minor things can destroy morale and hurt the productivity of your team.
2. Set Your Pace and Stick With It
Decide on an early release schedule for beta members who haven’t been approved. Setting a solid pace will ensure you don’t get overwhelmed while you’re getting the situation under control. Stick to this pace and don’t deviate. This can be particularly helpful if you’ve received good press and have a large influx of new accounts.
3. Measure Everything
At Sqwiggle, we use Mixpanel religiously. We set an “event” for nearly every interaction possible and watch closely how our users respond to the app. This gives us solid insight into how they are psychologically perceiving the app and adapting to the use case. At an early stage startup, this kind of valuable insight is golden.
4. React Quickly
Following step 3, it’s important to take what you’ve learned and quickly act on it. In a past life, I’ve spent time at slow companies and fast companies. Fast always wins.
The amount of time it takes for you to iterate your product could mean life or death to the success of your app. Go as fast as you can, fix bugs and add the features that will help people most. If you can do that, everything else will snap together.
5. Don’t Let Support Tickets Overwhelm You
As I’ve mentioned in past posts around the web, it’s very easy to believe the sky is falling when bad news comes through your support channel. Take a deep breath and realize that this is one person who’s been influenced by several outside forces (bad weather, ran out of lucky charms, etc.) that you can’t control. Always take the blame but don’t take the ticket too seriously and most certainly, don’t get offended or snippy.
Treating your customer with respect and empathy while giving them a solid solution is the only way to see success as a company. Convert those who don’t believe and win well.
6. Don’t Monetize Too Early
It happens a lot. Companies have a short stint of success and believe they’re invincible. It’s important to realize that quality is king and people ultimately don’t want to pay for something that isn’t ready. If your beta app is riddled with bugs, then it’s likely too early to start charging the end user. Timing is everything so make sure the app is a high enough quality where bugs don’t diminish the value proposition.
7. Capitalize on Your Wins
When you win, win big. It’s important to capitalize on any success you’ve had and use it as a platform to find more success. For example, when my startup was written about in TechCrunch, we used the Twitter buzz to grow our following by 200%. We did this by replying and favoriting every tweet that came through, which let the person know that we exist and saw their post. A lot of them didn’t realize we had a Twitter account and followed us back. However you win, find a clever way to build upon that success.
A private beta can be an amazing tool to elevate your success and bring your company to the next level. Be resourceful and spend your time wisely. Each decision you make in this critical time can mean the success or failure of your project. Don’t over stress and keep a level head.Think through your actions carefully and win as big as you can.
Contributed by Matt Boyd | Co-Founder of Sqwiggle.com