How do you go from launch to your first 100 customers without spending a dime on advertising?

The notion that you can get users without doing marketing seems far-fetched. However, successful bootstrapped startups prove that it is possible to go from zero to hundreds of users without spending much on advertising.

The Wrong Things to Focus On

If you are following conventional startup advice, you may be looking to generate hype or buzz around your product. Heck, you may even have started a blog and collected email addresses of your potential users. Groove HQ did this and was successful in getting its first bunch of beta users.

However, every startup is different and what works for one may not necessarily work for you.

Content marketing, giving out coupons, giving out free accounts and sending press releases can get you your first 100 users. However, you don’t just want vanity users. You want users that will ultimately pay for your product.

Use the Right Mediums

How do you get the right leads that will become your first 100 paying customers? Simply choose the right medium.

The medium you choose can determine whether you will get free users that will not even look at your app, or those that will get engaged in the app and even upgrade on the first day.

There are many mediums you can choose to reach potential users. Before you go all-out on the different mediums, it pays to know who your prospects are and where they hang out.

i) Hustle Offline
If your software is a B2B application that will make a company’s legacy systems more efficient, you will need to hustle. Get off the office and arrange to meet your prospects at their workplaces. This way, you can show them the app and how they can leverage it to lower costs.

While the Internet is a great place to get your prospective clients, do not forget to do the offline work. Attend your industry networking events and book a booth to showcase your software. If you impress your potential customers, you can make deals that will lead you to closing your first customers.

Sarita Harbour has a great guide on getting clients offline for your SaaS.

ii) Use Online Avenues

If your product is a SaaS, chances are that your users will be hanging out on particular forums online. For example, if you have made a solution for asset fund managers, you will want to be at asset management forums interacting with the managers and showing them how your product can help them.

For some products, blogging and social media marketing will be great for identifying and reaching out to new users. Basemetrics solely focused on Twitter to get its first 100 customers. Other startups have also found success in leveraging both blogging and social media marketing.

But even the right medium cannot compensate for a mediocre offering. Your product must provide the solution that your customers are looking for.

Let Your Product Be The Hero

Your blog can be the medium through which you reach potential customers. The mode can be word-of-mouth marketing from your satisfied users. However, what will drive users to tell others about your product? What will compel a small group of people share your app?

The answer: the pain you are solving.

Your product should solve a pain that your market has. Keep in mind that not all pains need to be solved, at least from the users’ point of view. Some pains can be endured and users will be just fine.

But when you solve a major pain for your users, this means direct access to their pockets. Users will be ready to go into their wallets and pay you for the solution.

Easy Gameplan to Your First 100 Users

Now that we know the mediums to use and where to find your potential users, what can you do today to get traction for your product?

The easiest way to get your first 100 users, without spending a ton on advertising, is to change your marketing. You need to change the way you position your product.

Make it easy for any user you are targeting to access your product. People have problems and are looking for a way to solve them. Satisfied users will tell others about your solution. The net effect will be increased signups from word-of-mouth marketing.

Carefully analyze your product and determine its biggest benefit. Does it help your users save time? Does it help them save money? Or does it create value for them?

When you identify how your product can help your users, take this message to the medium where your target customers are. When users see the value proposition or benefits of your product, they will sign up in droves.