I've been quiet for a bit. Holidays and lots of thinking are the culprits. Mostly, I've been thinking about resolutions. Which seems funny because every month I sit down and think about what I want to accomplish that month. Kind of like mini-resolutions. Such is the life of a small business entreprenuer. I'm so busy all the time, with all the hats, that I have to sit down monthly and make a mini-resolution list after evaluating what I accomplished the month before. Any more than that is too much, and well, sadly, slips between the cracks.
I think resolutions are good things. I also think you can overwhelm yourself with them and then not know where to start. Resolutions should be treated like a good project implementation (my opinion) - one at a time. Do one, evaluate it and then move on to the next. Which may or may not change depending on the outcome of the one before it. At least that's how I find success. Building on what I just learned from the last one.
Marketing is like that too. I'm in the process of managing a Beta Campaign for a client. Beta campaigns are a big deal. They are also a huge marketing effort. Why? Inertia is probably the biggest contributing factor. Seth Godin talks about this in his Squid Soup postings. Here's the link for Part III. But make sure to read the other two. His revelations about brown rice and squid soup are great at defining inertia.
But I digress. Beta Campaigns are an exotic soup in their own right. I mean, think about it. Why should someone participate? It's not live. It's a test. They aren't getting anything but a pat on the back - okay a cyber hug, most likely - and a drain on their time. But, here's the thing. If you motivate them, they will come. They will test and give you priceless feedback helping you launch a new online intiative that will knock the socks off your future participants.
You know what else? It's fun. It's downright fun to interact with them, inspire them, heck - have them inspire you with their involvement and enthusiasm. The key I've found is monitoring and personal interaction. Yep - interact with every one of them who participates personally. You heard me. Thank them profusely, open communication, ask questions, drive feedback.
Build ownership. Give them an experience. Take their feedback graciously and then use it. Talk about it. Think about what made them say whatever they said. Compare it to what you thought. Go back to them and ask for clarification if you have to but make sure they know their contribution is worthwhile and appreciated. Every time. In case you missed it, it's about the experience.
It's a hell of a task. I haven't had so much fun in a long time. I can feel the project coming to life. I can feel them enrolling in it. I get a charge out of their responses - yes, even the snarky ones. In fact, those are often the most fun.
If you haven't considered Beta testing your online initiatives outside of your company, you should think about it. What I've learned is a lot. What the design team thought when they created the initiative isn't always what works...not totally. They had the right idea, and a good start, but "build it and they will come" is a misnomer. Think about the customer. Attend to the details. Build the experience. Take responsibility for getting it right.
Beta is good. One of my resolutions for the next year is to do more Beta testing. Which could be as simple as floating an idea past a group of people I'm designing something for. Impromptu even. But still, Beta testing. And I promise to listen to all the feedback; good, bad or indifferent. To learn from it all and to thank everyone willing to participate.
What are you doing this year?