Enterprise technology and IT companies often conduct complex beta trials or pilots as part of the sales process. After closing a pilot deal, your team may celebrate momentarily, but then the development team gets to work. While there’s much to do on the technical front, companies often miss out on the marketing that should take place with engaged early adopters.
Since you are giving access to your product or services for free (or at a substantial discount) during the trial period, there’s often significant onboarding time involved. In the case of healthcare IT pilots, hundreds of person hours may be required to develop custom code and train users.
The following marketing deliverables should be negotiated as part of the pilot contract.
1) Post-Trial Survey/Interview
At a bare minimum, your marketing and customer success teams should have access to trial participants to conduct an online survey or phone interview. When only the tech team debriefs the users, value propositions experienced during the trial are often glossed over as bugs and features take center stage.
2) Joint Press Releases
It’s tough to get a prospect to issue a release before the pilot, and it might not be in your best interest, either. You won’t want a public pre-release available for consumption if the engagement does not go well. Pilots are learning experiences and they only succeed some of the time.
However, you will want the ability to issue a release if the pilot goes well and the prospect seals an ongoing deal. The time to negotiate the post-pilot release is during the contracting phase. If you try to engage a communications team after the fact, you’ve already done all the work and have no leverage.
3) Case Studies — Permission to Share Outcomes Publicly
Be sure to obtain permission to share trial outcomes publicly. Often, you can bargain to get access to metrics and trial data. Along with your internal technical onboarding team and the beta testers, set high-level goals, the purpose, and hypotheses for the trial. It is an experiment after all! Try to be as specific as possible with goals. For example, “During the three months of this trial, we will lower workplace injuries by 10%.”
If the beta testers agreed to undertake the trial to solve a specific problem, make sure all parties involved know what that problem is and what successes will be needed to convert to a paid sale.
Both case studies and press releases will be more impactful if you obtain shareable quotes from the chief economic buyer and main user buyer. Be sure to obtain permission to use the quotes from the prospect’s corporate communications department.
In addition to quotes, secure 1–2 beta users who will be willing to speak to your prospects and the media. Prospects expect to speak to peers and editors often demand a reference interview before publishing a story.
Beta trials and pilots are exciting for small through enterprise-sized companies. Make sure your marketing department shares in the work and the glory.