Is it hard to get early users for a tech startup or validate the idea?
You see, for many-many-many founders out there this simple question is a big struggle and digital marketing is seen as a quick fix.
But digital marketing, at it’s core, is not an easy task to master and even if you are an experienced marketer with resources to invest in ads campaigns — it will be a long journey before your efforts pay off.
BUT. We make it even harder. Playing a game on a hard mode. Which means…
No marketing budget. No ads. No paid promotions. No influencers.
So where do you even start?
Here’s exact flow we used to acquire first 500 early users for pipl.ai in less than 30 days and $0 spent on marketing.
Ready for it?
This is probably the worst mistake a SaaS Founder can ever do:
Invest time and money (and maybe a soul) in something people won’t buy.
You definitely don’t want to be in that position. So how you figure out if there’s an interest in your product?
There are 3 components.
- A Landing Page / product page
- A mechanism to capture leads (waitlist/lead form/payment)
- Traffic flowing to your page.
These 3 things when done properly will guarantee you signups (or not…if your offer sucks!).
But in any case you will end up with better understanding if your product is something people want and are ready to pay for. It’s absolutely worth the small effort.
So here’s your Step 0:
A Landing Page
Don’t overcomplicate it. This entire thing should not take more than a day.
It’s quite simple –
- Find some fancy template.
- Adapt it as you see fit.
- Throw in catch headlines to showcase value to your users.
- Add some more basic copy.
- Add a form to collect emails.
Then hit publish.
Here’s how our first landing page looked like (a day after we purchased a domain name):
Boom! 2hrs of work in total.
We also added couple more sections with features, extra text and many more blah-blah-blah after we got first 50 early-access requests.
If you have not launched your business yet — I strongly recommend you to start with the Waitlist of early users.
What’s that? Well, essentially a waitlist is a queue. A line of future happy clients waiting to be allowed in and try your creation themselves.
Sounds nice? Yeahh!
Waitlist also allows you to make something much more fun and effective. I’m talking about virality here. Let users who just signed up invite their friends to join the same waitlist and reward them for doing so.
In our case: participants will skip the queue & receive a nice lifetime deal with discount once our platform is launched.
Here’s a list of tools you can use:
- ViralLoops (our choice here)
And many more — just use Google and pick one that fits your needs.
Ok. Here’s a big one.
There’s no sense to publish aa landing page, come up with killer copy and offer… If you have no traffic at all.
And in most cases you won’t. But you gotta start somewhere.
And from my experience — lack of direction where you should make your next step here is the main reason 1st-time founders fail.
So let’s brake it down.
You may love it or hate it. It does not change a simple fact — it works.
If you use do it right, hehe…
So how you make it work? Here’s what you need to do:
- Register 3–5 additional domains
- 2) Create 3 email inboxes on each
- 3) Set up SPF, DKIM & DMARC records
- 4) Warm up your infrastructure with pipl.ai
- 5) Send cold emails to your potential users asking to check out your product.
Here’s a quick example:
We successfully launched our cold email campaigns and got around ~40 signups during first 2 weeks.
Essentially we were targeting anyone who sends cold emails: sales teams, Sales Development Reps, Account Executives, Sales Leaders, Startup Founders, Lead Generation Agencies. We also made sure they use one of our competitor products.
Here’s a sample of one of the emails we were sending:
Also — don’t forget that you also can message your prospects on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.
THOUSANDS OF DIRECTORIES!
You want to publish your startup on each. It does not only create an initial flow of traffic but also helps with SEO long-term.
Here’s a list of directories we focused on to get first 500 users:
In fact — there are much more great places to be featured on. So use Google, young padawan!
Social media are an absolute MUSH HAVE if you want to launch you product or collect some feedback.
I can’t think of a more founder-friendly environment than different social media platforms.
Here’s how you can utilize each platform to grow your user base:
- Post 1–3 Threads per week
- Post 1 Lead Magnet per week
- Post 3–5 tweets daily.
+ put CTAs and links to your landing page here and there.
The result? Not only I got a nice kick of 140ish new subscribers.
More importantly — we got about 40 new early users to pipl.ai!
Be active on Twitter. It pays out.
Here’s something you need to know about LinkedIn:
IT IS HUNGRY FOR GOOD CONTENT
That’s right — whenever you post something valuable — algorithms will take it to the moon!
Which means more engagement. More traffic. More leads.
Just make sure your content is valuable to people who read it.
To be 100% transparent — I’m not an active LinkedIn user.
Even though you might’ve already seen me on your feed — I started posting stuff 2 weeks ago. And already got 6k+ subscribers!
That’s the power of LinkedIn algorithm.
What content should you post?
Well.. we re-posted content I shared of Twitter. And it worked just fine.
Reddit is super-powerful for growing your company. It’s an ultimate social media for getting feedback about the product you build and has great potential to acquire new users.
There are couple of rules you need to comply with to make it truly efficient:
- Don’t be spammy — this is a general rule of thumb, applicable to any platform, not just Reddit. But with Reddit it’s even more true.
- Provide value — if you have something to share with the world — do it. The most powerful connections and leads naturally came through sub-reddits where we posted content around cold outreach, tech setup and actionable insights to early startup marketing workflows.
- Watch your Karma — the thing with Reddit is that you’ll gain karma points if other users like your posts. And lose if all you do within the platform is self-promotion. Make sure you have 50 Karma or a bit more. It’s enough to get you started.
- 4Ask moderators if it’s ok to post self-promotion. But make sure you sent enough time on the particular sub-reddit and posted valuable content for a while. If you don’t — your post will likely be deleted.
Overall, Reddit is a great place for a long-term marketing goals.
But what about short-term? Well.. here’s a list of sub-reddits we used to post and gain some early traction:
You might also like to take a look at the following (note all sub-reddits have strong anti-promotion policies though):
Yeah, yeah… I know.
Facebook Groups… Tell you what. It’s not sexy. But it works extremely well.
In most cases, if you want to promote to facebook groups, the same self-promotion rules from Reddit will apply.
But. Just like on Reddit you can find groups that allow self-promotion.
You want to search really deep to discover communities where your potential clients hang out. Once you tap into these communities — start posting your content.
After that — ask admins if you’re ok to post promotional material.
General rule: 90% of your posts & comments should be providing value. 10% should be promoting your product. Simple.
Finally — you need to be consistent with your channels.
We live in the internet era, and it’s easy to got pulled into a different direction or try new shiny idea. Don’t do that.
You will find yourself in an attention platitude with 0 results across dozens of channels you decided you want to market through.
Pick 3–5 channels. Stick to them.
The results will come naturally. You just need to show up daily.
For pipl.ai we decided to move with the following during first 30 days of marketing:
- We also created a Facebook community.
After 30 days in — we got a bit over 500 sign-ups for our platform.
And pretty happy with that 🙂