Products, platforms and apps: Moving to the cloud and providing a centralized service for your company is increasingly the way to go for many entrepreneurs. Clients and customers don’t need to worry about maintaining infrastructure, handling updates or training staff on setup and maintenance. It should be an easy sell, but with so much existing SaaS competition, how can your business get those all-important first users? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Engage Communities Of Beta Users
It should come as no surprise that with a globally connected internet, there’s a community for everything. This includes communities of users dedicated to watching new startups and new product launches. Sites like Betalist, Launch Feed, UserTesting and even some Reddit subs are all good places to engage early in your product launch.
These communities help to attract your first handful of users, who can offer valuable feedback for improving your offering before an open launch. They’re generally composed of experienced beta users who know what to look for and what to critique. They often have an interest in getting in on the ground floor of new products and trends. Many of these users can go on to become brand advocates, and some may even be interested in working for your company.
Set An Accessible Price
Pricing is important for any business, but it’s crucial for a startup. Free trials, especially generous free trials, help reduce the friction of signing up to test out a service in a way the traditional demos of the past never could. If the user chooses to become a paid customer later, make it a seamless process with no reinstallation, no authentication and no data migration required.
A limited free plan is also often a good idea. Two kinds of people use free plans: the ones who were never going to buy it in the first place, and the ones who will be more than willing to pay when their needs meet your limits. You lose nothing by maintaining free offerings. Plus, the more value you pack into your free offerings, the more users will be willing to pay for the premium service.
Get A Blog Up And Running
SEO rules the web, and a blog is critical for just about any business today. A good blog is about more than just keyword optimization and search visibility, it’s about positioning your brand as an authority. You use your blog to prove to the world that you know what you’re doing. They can trust your product because you’ve built it up based on a keen understanding of what users want and the problems they face.
It’s also a good idea to participate in various forms of blog-based outreach. Many blog owners like to interview CEOs and business owners, and those round-up style posts are a great opportunity to get a link back to your new business. They serve to further expand your sphere of authority as well. After all, you have to have good insight if someone is interviewing you, right?
Start A Referral Program
Referral programs come in many forms, and you aren’t limited to a simple paid affiliate program. It can be extremely effective to offer something as simple as a few free months of service or temporary boosts and upgrades based on successful referrals. Your best brand advocates are rewarded for recommending your startup to their colleagues. The most successful examples reward the users who sign up. For example, Dropbox offers storage upgrades to both the referrer and referral.
If upgrades or free months don’t work, there are all sorts of other possible incentives. Businesses have used referrals to let customers earn money, merch bags or even simply earn achievements and placement on a leaderboard, all with varying degrees of success. The key is to find a referral that properly incentivizes your users and fits with the culture and atmosphere you’re building with your brand.
Follow Up With Your First Users
The best piece of advice I can give is to follow up with your first users and talk to them individually. Ask for feedback through surveys in your app, email or however you can reach them. Apply that feedback to prove you’re listening and improving.
There are two types of users to focus on here: free users and premium users. Premium users are paying the most and deserve your personal attention. They’re also likely getting the most use out of your product’s advanced features — though you can check this internally to verify — and can give you feedback about volume usage you can’t get elsewhere.
Free users are your opportunity to convert into paying customers. Reaching out on a personal level helps you determine what roadblocks might be keeping them from upgrading and what incentives might spur the decision.
The key to all of this is responsiveness and improvement. Be aware of what your users want and need and where you can improve to suit those needs. Be responsive and address everything from bugs and billing concerns to feature requests. Prove that your startup is worth sticking with, and users will be happy.