After hundreds or thousands of hours of coding, long coffee nights and irregular sleeping patterns, your product is finally ready. You are eager to show it to the world, get people to start paying for it, and at least get a payoff for all your hard work. Heck, you may also be eyeing some VC funding or getting into an accelerator lab.
Congratulations. Now, welcome to the next hurdle: getting your first users.
Most startup founders only realize that all the work they’ve been doing does not end when the product is finished or at the beta stage a little too late. The next, seemingly insurmountable, task of finding trial or paid customers has to be done. The situation can be even bleaker if you have no funding at the launch stage. This means no PPC campaigns or other paid marketing for your startup.
With limited financing and resources, how do you go about finding your first 1000 trial signups while bootstrapping? Have an online strategy
Online Bootstrapping Strategy to Getting Users
Having an online strategy will go in a long way to helping you get your first trial signups. You should have a strategy long before you launch your product. Creating buzz and anticipation for your product in the market is likely to lead to a huge launch.
You don’t have to do any paid marketing to get customers. Use online marketing avenues such as social media sites and blogs to build a community of potential customers. Inform your online prospects of the milestones you are making. You can do this through Twitter or your blog.
Here are four online strategies that will boost your signups when you are bootstrapping:
i) Court the press
Get the word out about your product. Connect with online tech reporters and build a relationship with them. Don’t simply send them your PR material on the day you launch. Rather, form meaningful connections way before the launch date.
Follow the important reporters on social media, comment on their posts and send them congratulatory messages on their emails. Reporters are human beings and connecting with them on a personal level will help when it comes to launching.
Also, know how to pitch to the press. Jasonl Baptiste has a great article on how he pitched to TechCrunch and a host of other tips that can get your startup covered by the press.
ii) Adopt blogging
Do not wait until you launch to start blogging. Start blogging from the very beginning; when you are brainstorming your idea. You, of course, need to know what information to share and which to withhold.
A blog is a great platform to get prospective users excited about your product. Apart from this, you can get invaluable feedback on your MVP and eliminate any kinks before launch.
When you blog and your content gets shared across the web, you can get a bunch of new signups. Groove HQ got 1000+ signups in 24 hours from a single blog post. This is an example of the power of blogging.
Have a blogging strategy from the onset of your startup. If you are not good at writing, hire a part time blogger to create posts that are relevant to your market and target audience.
iii) Use a landing page with signup forms even before the product is ready
First things first. When you are building your product it is essential to have a launch page so that you can collect email address of potential prospects who will find you.
If you are beyond that point, set up and test a couple of landing pages on your website and see which one works best. The leads that signup on your form are likely to be interested in your product and can be your first beta testers.
Tools like Unbounce make it really easy for you to setup and launch landing pages in minutes.
Testing the landing pages is important to find a design that results in the highest conversions. Track the number of visitors that stop by and how many opt into your list based on different landing pages.
You can also hack the landing pages to spread more love about your product. For example, after signup, you can give the prospects an option to invite a number of their friends to join the waiting list. Prospective users can help you acquire other users if you find a way to get them involved.
iv) Leverage social media
Get on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and start building an audience. In Facebook and LinkedIn, join professional groups of prospects you are targeting with your product. These prospects can be happy to enroll for beta testing.
With Twitter, prospect on users with a problem you are looking to solve. You can reach out to these users with a blurb about your product, and then include a link to a blog post where they can find more information.
Megan Marrs suggests that you have social media landing pages rather than sending users to your home page. She also explains what works and what doesn’t in this wonderful post. If you’ve time I would suggest that you read this as it has variety of examples with comment on each one of them.
Another great resource to start is this interview with Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group. She shares her experience of what works and what doesn’t with respect to Social Media.
Read these 12 social media facts for marketers to understand why Social Media should be high on your agenda.
Integrate Your Online Marketing Efforts
All your online marketing efforts should work together to build your brand and create awareness about your product. For example, when you are blogging, you can direct readers to your signup page in the body of the content. Another example is that, if you talk about other companies in your blog post, engage them via twitter and let them know, that you’ve written about them.
— Kiwi Crate (@kiwicrate) December 12, 2012
Another idea is to run a survey and publish the results. This will help engage with potential users and also publish relevant data for other startups that find it useful.
What other ideas have worked for you?