Is it time to review your early user program?

Rod Griffith

By Rod Griffith
June 21, 2024

Is it time to review your early user program?

The value of early users

Companies that offer technology products or packaged services, such as SaaS solutions, typically have early user programs (sometimes referred to as early adopters, beta testers, or early innovators).  

Every B2B marketer recognizes the value of reaching those who are willing to make investments in new, as yet untested products. First, they’re typically not very price sensitive. They are also willing to deal with early product bugs, unfinished documentation, or unplanned software updates in exchange for being the first to try a new innovation. And they’re willing to provide important user feedback prior to the product’s full release on the market.

These are often some of your most loyal, longtime customers. They trust you to help them through the testing and implementation. You may have had your initiative for years.

The potential bias in your early user program

But if your early users consist primarily of your most loyal, longtime customers, do they represent the full range of target personas and demographics? Or might they have common factors that differ from your wider target base—something unique that makes them more likely to be devoted?

The truth is you may be getting biased test results—precisely because your testers have specific needs that have made them stick with you through the years. They may not reflect the target customers you are trying to reach at all.

The benefits of a well-designed early user program

This is just one of several factors outlined and discussed in “Designing a Great Early-User Program,” an article Neil Baron and I wrote for the Harvard Business Review.

In it, Neil and I outline a number of important benefits of well-designed early user programs. These include clarifying the true customer problem that your product addresses and identifying blind spots in the product’s roadmap.

A productive and insightful early user program isn’t something that can be planned as a tactical checklist at the last minute before a product launch. It takes thoughtful planning, the right cross-organizational collaboration, and careful attention to the program’s overall design and approach.

Maximize the potential of your early user program

Unfortunately, there is an all-too-common tendency to view your early user program as simply a means to validate your product’s specifications and features. In doing so, you’ll miss out on a lot of other potential benefits.

Read the full article for valuable guidelines on how to build a more effective early user program—and significantly boost your product success.

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