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How to Conduct Customer Trials

Customer trials are an excellent way to test your product or service and gain a better understanding of how your target audience will react to, and use your product/service before you go to market.

If done right, your trial creates a win-win situation. Your customers get to try your product/service without financial risk, and you get concrete feedback on performance. Your trial customer should also see the financial / efficiency benefits you’re promising and this will encourage them to become an early paying client.

However, before you start your product trials, there are a few things you need to have done first.

Define your Target Audience

The key here is to make sure you have a defined target audience before handing out your product samples or trials for feedback, otherwise you are just wasting time and money.

Stuck on how to define a target audience for your product or service? Check out this post for help.

Define the feedback objectives in advance

To start, you’ll need to make sure that you know what type of feedback you are looking for from your trial. Define the key components that will make your product or service a success and hone in on those.

For example, if you are trialling your new app, you might want to get feedback on its appearance, speed and usability.

Write product documentation

Before your trial customers test out your product, you should have “How-to-Use” documentation as well as an FAQ page with questions you expect might arise. Based on feedback, you can improve the FAQ section to reflect new questions that came up during the trial. Make sure your documentation is clear and jargon-free.

Raise Awareness

Then you’ll have to raise awareness about your trial, so that people actually know about it. This can be done in a number of ways, but will usually involve a targeted marketing campaign.

Be sure to leverage your network – if you’ve created a product or service then you usually have a good idea of the sector or companies it’s targeting.

If you personally don’t know people to contact in this sector or in this small group of companies, reach out to your network and see who does. Your Advisors or NED’s will often have the contacts you need and can help with introductions.

If you can’t leverage personal connections, then depending on your product/service, spend some time working out how to contact likely trial candidates. If you’ve already got a database, then email those people about your new product. Or if you have a social media account, make a post about the trial. A popular way to build an email database is to create a landing page that briefly explains your product/service and gives people the opportunity to sign up using their email address for news and updates.

If you don’t have either of those, then you can also simply pay to have your trial advertised in whichever media you think would be most effective to reach your audience.

The main objective is to tell them how, where and why they should participate in the trial – sell the benefits and trial candidates will materialise.

Offer incentives

People might be willing to trial your product, but offering them incentives to leave feedback will increase the amount of data you will receive to help improve your product or service. Incentives can be a discount on signing up as a real customer after the trial or a financial reward if it doesn’t do what you’re promising it will. Or you can think about not charging for the trial “up-front” but saying something like “if this generates the savings we’re predicting e.g. 15%, then after the trial, you pay us 50% of those savings (or any variation of this benefit sharing concept)

Be prepared

Depending on the complexity of your product/service, you might need to have a customer support team put in place to answer any questions or resolve issues that trial customers encounter. This will incur costs that you will want to factor into your business plan (if you haven’t already done so).

Remember that this is the first time your product is out in the real world, even if it is just a trial, so first impressions matter. Given the context, people may be more lenient if your product has a few issues, but how you respond to these issues is what really matters.

Listen to the feedback

This may seem obvious, but oftentimes your product will be used in a different way than you may have imagined. In these scenarios, it is important to adapt and listen to what customers have to say, and modify or even get rid of some features that you might be particularly attached to that end up not being as useful as you’d thought they would be.

These steps are essential to conducting a successful customer trial. However, each trial will vary depending on which industry you are operating in and who you are targeting. For tailored advice to suit your needs, get in touch with one of our gurus today, we’d be happy to help!

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