beta testing stamp

Beta testing is for Marketeers

Why Best Test?

I recently met a small company that’s getting ready to release a new app for sale. It’s a great idea and I wish them success, but I was really surprised to learn that they’d had almost no beta-testing. Beta testing isn’t only about bug testing. Asking prospective clients to use your service provides you lots of information that’d be really hard (or painful) to other wise get. Specifically:

  1. Actual use-cases; knowing what our clients actually do with your product is surprisingly helpful. It’s not always when, where or what you might think. How they’re using your product might have an impact on whom you market to, or how you market it to them.
  2. What they like or dislike; if your friends & family are testing your product, you might not get the same level of objectivity, or a large enough sample size. Importantly, the larger you sample size, the more valid your data. There’s no sense in building features that your audience isn’t interested in.
  3. Market testing; The best beta-testers are your prospective clients. Approaching them directly should be straight forward if you know your customer. If they’re not interested in beta testing your product, consider how you’re going to sell the product to them.

Don’t sign them up and ignore them. Remember to speak to your testers, they’re your gateway to real feedback and (actually) important feature requests. Engaging with them in a non-intrusive & un-annoying way can provide you a wealth of information. Your testers are also the most likely prospectives to convert to paying customers or, if you’re really lucky, early evangelists.

Beta Test Sites

If you’re not clear on who your target audience is, or you’re looking for more general feedback there are plenty of beta-testers available through beta test sites. Here’s a list of a few sites where you can register your product and get some impartial feedback:



You can also start working the Internet forums, it’s a great way to get your service in front of very targeted audiences. Some of the forums drive enough traffic to make your product successful just through their traffic alone. The caveat is that you’ll need to be a reasonably regular member at the forum before your post will be taken seriously (or even allowed to include external links). So you’ll need to start work early. There are far too many forums for me to list here, but a quick google search will show you exactly where to go.

tweet a coffee campaign

Social Media Campaign Realities

You may have heard about the new data released by IBM, suggesting that social media barely drives 1% of e-commerce sales. It’s disheartening, but not necessarily an indication of the medium’s merit. Perhaps it’s an indication of the measurement system & social media campaign strategies being used at large?
Let’s take for example the recent Starbucks tweet-a-coffee campaign. The campaign embraces several key factors:

  1. Sharing; You can’t directly benefit, but your friends can, (you may benefit reciprocally) providing a strong incentive to share.
  2. Customer behaviour; Whilst there’s always a portion of people that buy just the one coffee and leave, most people buy other products too. The campaign doesn’t force cross & up-sells, but takes advantage of the broad understanding of client behaviour.
  3. Altruism; giving things away is perceived as a good thing to do, especially when it’s tied in to a cause. As Richard Branson writes “quote here on brand value”, you are your brand, and you need constant positive brand reinforcement.

Tweet A Coffee   Starbucks Coffee Company


It’s a social media based strategy, that positively benefits your branding and provides trackable (account creation & spend) results. Whilst I’m not privy to the success of the strategy, I’m confident more than a few people have been sending their friends coupons.

The “inherently social” or “designed to share” component is what makes the campaign successful on Social Media. If you have an app or a product that provides any type of interesting data, allow your users to share it! It makes your product more valuable to them, and is a great way for you to promote yourself.

Nobody’s interested in sharing a Starbucks app, or a Starbucks website, but they’re more than happy to share a $5 coupon. Ensure that whatever’s valuable to your users, is easy for them to share (preferably via a social medium).

Signature with Classic Pen

Tips for Creating your Email Signature

How often do you find yourself, only able to vaguely remember the details of someone you need to contact? But you recall that they’d sent you an email, or vice versa… so you hurriedly search through your email, find the email and then! … Nothing. There’s no real contact information, except for the email address.

That’s an everyday occurrence for me. So in an attempt to make the world an easier to reach place, I’ve compiled a list of tips on how to create a friendly and useful email signature. Friendly because it’ll be easy for your recipients to read & use, and useful because it’ll enable more people to reach you. Don’t forget that your email signature is a really important part of your marketing collateral. It’s persistent, read by almost everyone you send it to, and can be easily forwarded.

Email Signature Tips

  1. Include your contact details, at a minimum this means:
    • Your Name; especially handy if your email address doesn’t contain it
    • Your title/position/company; if this is relevant, it’s a good place to include these details. If your company name isn’t obvious from your displayed email address, it’s good practice to include it here.
    • Your Email Address; lots of email clients strip this when forwarding or replying
    • Your Phone Number; mobile, landline, however you’d like to reached – but don’t go overboard, nobody wants your complete emergency contact list. Remember to include a country & city code.
    • Your Mailing Address; if you meet people frequently, or are in sales, then this is always useful. If not, you can probably slip this
    • Your URL; this is especially relevant if you sell products or have an online catalogue. If you don’t want people looking at your website, then skip it
  2. If in doubt use plain text; HTML is very well supported too and allows for much nicer formatting, preferably use both (HTML with Plain Text fall-back if your system supports it)
  3. Include any promotions BELOW your contact details; remember the key data here is your contact information. You can include promotional information, preferably as small images below the rest of your
  4. Inline images not attachments; when including an image in your signature, to prevent it from accidentally being seen as an attachment by Outlook, use the HTML attribute ‘nosend’. Ir’s an old an informal technique, so your mileage may vary, but it’s worth the extra few characters: <img src=”” nosend=”1″ border=”0″>
  5. Clickable images; if you’re including a promotional image, remember to make it clickable, so that your clients can actually take advantage of the promotion (and you can track the source).
  6. Don’t include your contact details in an image; it’s very hard for anyone to copy your contact details from an image, and images don’t always display correctly – especially on mobile devices (where most email gets read these days)
  7. Keep the width & length short; one detail per line is actually ok. Remember that most email gets read on a mobile these days, so an extra line of text is ok if it makes everything else more readable or is useful – and in the case of mobiles, more clickable. Otherwise it’s just more irritating scrolling.
  8. Replies need a different format; keep the same contact information, just without the images/promotions. You shouldn’t need to massively rework your signature to create your reply signature.
  9. Don’t include VCards, very few people understand them and those that do don’t need to receive them repeatedly. The same is true for QR Codes in your email.
  10. Avoid including quotes; you might offend someone. Unless it’s a personal email, I’d really avoid doing this.
  11. Test your email for readability; it’s surprising how different the same email looks in different email clients. Double check that your signature looks correct (or at least usable) in the most common systems used by your audience e.g. iPhone mail client, Gmail, Outlook, etc.
  12. One-liners; if you have to put your contact details on one line, then use pipes or a semi-colon as a separator. Don’t use whitespace or tabs! These look very different on different systems, what’s worse is that their appearance can be inconsistent!
  13. Avoid virus messages; remember to disable your “virus-scanned” option in your virus scanner, it just looks terrible when it’s tacked on the end of an email (and nobody really reads it).

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative or add personality to your signature. Just remember that the purpose is to communicate your contact information, and the creative elements shouldn’t inhibit this. So here’s the most functional email signature I can imagine, and a few more creative one’s for you to mull over:

An Example Signature:

John Smith (President | Acme Corp)
+1 (222) 555 5555 | |
123 John Mac Drive, Big City, My State, Country, A Postcode

 Acme Signature Image