How To Create Early Access Surveys For a New Product Or Feature

When you want to create a new product or feature that people love, your goal should be to learn as much as you can before you’ve launched it. Before you’ve even written a single line of code or designed a single pixel. This tactic is called early access, and it’ll help you learn the most painful problems people have before you invest your resources in creating the product or new feature.

At Product Habits, we call this process the early access liftoff 🚀.

The early access survey is a key step when doing customer research before you release a new product or feature. It gives you a chance to get lots of responses to questions about the problem you’re trying to solve. It’s a simple way to identify people who are willing to speak with you on the phone, via email, or IM.

Surveys are a core part of early access.

Here are the types of questions to include in your survey. Plus, examples of the best survey questions to include based on 100s of early access surveys that we’ve helped create.

A welcome message with context

The goal of your welcome message is to get people curious about what you are doing. Explain the problem you are trying to solve while not going deep into a specific solution. You don’t want to bias people who are taking the survey so avoid mentioning any of the features you’ve built or are building.

Examples:

  • We’re still building […], but we’d love to learn more about you and how you use […]. We’re going to pick our first round of early access users from these survey submissions.
  • This short survey will help us understand more about you and shape […].
  • Share your opinion with us and be one of the first to get early access to […].
  • Can we contact you over email to discuss […]?

A way to contact participants

This is straightforward. You want to get their email address so you can contact them. In some cases, you could get their phone number in order to text message or call them. If you choose to get their phone number, make sure you describe exactly why you want it.

More information about them and / or their business

Learning more about survey takers helps you segment potential customers and identify who the best people are to speak with. It also lets you organize your data by segment so you can learn more about each of them and how they differ. The type of information to ask depends on what you’re looking to learn. Are you trying to solve a problem for a particular industry? Do you need to talk to people who are in marketing departments? Are you looking to talk to HR departments?

Examples:

  • What’s your job title?
  • How many people work at your company?
  • What type of role do you have?
  • What’s your company website?
  • What model best describes your business?
  • Do you do [specified activity] today?
  • How many times a week do you do [specified activity]?

Find out what other tools they use and / or how they are currently solving the problem

What are you up against? What are people currently using? These questions can give you detailed context about the market you are getting into and what other tools are popularly used by people.

Examples:

  • Which tools have you used, or are you using, to […]?
  • Which of these tools are you currently using to […]?
  • How do you do […] now?
  • What […] do you use?

Discover what’s most challenging to them

This question can get you your biggest early insights into what problems people have. You want to find out what the biggest challenge is that people are facing. You don’t want to lead them into an answer. You want to be broad enough so they tell you the main challenge that they have. When writing this question, make sure it’s clear exactly what you are asking about. A helpful test is to ask the question out loud to somebody and make sure they understand it.

Examples:

  • What’s the most challenging part of […] today?
  • What’s the single most critical thing you are hoping that […] can do for you?
  • What’s your biggest problem when you […]?

Are they willing to talk to you?

This is such a critical question, yet most surveys miss this. Your goal is to find people who are willing to speak with you on the phone, email, or IM so you can learn and dig much deeper into the problem you’re trying to solve.

Examples:

  • How can you participate in helping us launch the best possible new […] product? I’m interested in:
    • Being interviewed by phone or skype
    • Being interviewed by IM chat
    • Giving feedback on screenshots or demo previews
    • Participating in online surveys or user testing
    • Meeting in-person at your office
  • Are you willing to talk with us via phone, skype or Google Hangouts to help us build this software?
    • Yes
    • No

We’ve seen surveys with a dozen or more questions. Ones that have more than a couple open-ended questions. Even questions that require a lot of thought to answer because they include a sliding scale or 0 – 10 ratings. These surveys get fewer responses and don’t typically provide a ton of value.

Instead, use this survey to learn the critical things that are most important to you and as an opportunity to get people to want to talk to you. Conversations are where you’ll learn the most and get the deepest insights about the problems people have.

Early access surveys should be designed to get you the critical conversations you need to understand what to build for the first release of your product.