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How to run user testing with beta users

Breaking Down Your Beta

Written By:
Matt Hubbard

At FullContact, we’re neck deep in early beta for our new Address Book. Here’s how we’re managing user engagement, with help from one of our customers: Intercom. Their intuitive tools help us manage much of the process. And, with Irish accents, they put on a killer webinar.

We broke our process down into a few key questions:

1.  Who the heck are these people?

Keeping your beta restricted is like making sure everyone at a wedding is an invited guest. Some people you want there, others are invited out of necessity, and a few folks sneak in with the catering truck.

Intercom gives us a daily snapshot of recent activity and signups, so we know immediately who’s at the party. Intercom uses our Person API to turn partial contact information into complete social profiles, so we can see public pictures, names, and social profiles of users instead of just email addresses.

This is what the home screen looks like:

Intercom also send us an auto-generated report with the number and identity of new users from the previous day, so we don’t have to log in to stay apprised. Every morning, we get a quick snapshot of our new users.

2. Where are your users?

Intercom allows you to see where your users are located, which is helpful in responding to them at the right time and in a culturally appropriate way. More generally, at a recent all-hands meeting, we showed our team this Intercom map of the world with all of our users.

It’s great to see someone in a poorly connected corner of the world using your product. Shout out to Mozambique!

3.  Which users do I care about?

All of them. Let’s be honest, though. Some users are more important than others. No matter how well you engage, certain people will sign up and never provide any feedback or positive tweets. You shouldn’t give up, but you also shouldn’t spend as much time on them as your influential power users.

So how do you find users with insightful feedback and the Klout to get others interested – the Brad Felds and David Cohens of the world?

Intercom, using our API, allows you to filter users based on a variety of different criteria. We quickly and easily segment customers into useful groups, such as “high influencers.” Here’s an example of how Intercom filters users based on your relationship with them:

When we first went beta, our CEO Bart Lorang filtered to find everyone in Boulder so he could reach out, meet them for a beer, and get feedback. Either that or he wanted to talk tax policy.

4.  How do I send messages in a scalable but personalized way?

Instead of individually researching and emailing users, we create automated messages (popup, email, or background note) to certain users based on a variety of criteria, like the date they signed up or last used the app. This way, we can communicate with users in a scalable way.

Here’s what one of the lightbox popups looks like:

Of course, we want communications to be as personalized as possible, and Intercom allows us to send emails from our Google Apps account with liquid variables in the text. Do we wish we could use only personalized emails? Sure, but that would leave us far less time to actually improve the product, which we feel is a good tradeoff for our users.

5.  What’s the Right Timing?

Timing is important. We want to reach out at the best times to get feedback and keep users logging in. Intercom allows us to filter users by how many sessions they’ve had. Using this data, we created a matrix to track our churn rate, so we know when we get the biggest drop offs. We can then tailor our auto messages to hit users at the right times for engagement.

6. What do I say to my users?

Entire forests have been killed writing about marketing content, so I won’t bother. Suffice it to say we’re thinking carefully about content. Intercom allows us to see how many of our messages are opened, read, and replied-to, so we can then adjust our copy to achieve maximum effect.

That’s our process for now, but we’ll continue to iterate. Check out Intercom and our Person API to see how you can put these tools to work for your business.

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