When you are just starting your SaaS startup, it’s tough to get the first customers on board. They are usually the ones who believe in you and your product from the very beginning. And if you manage to satisfy them, they will be your main ambassadors in the long run.
But how can you find those early customers for your SaaS? What are the ways to acquire them without spending thousands of dollars and spending months on closing deals?
I have been in SaaS business for quite a long time and also advised and helped a number of SaaS businesses when they were just getting started, so I decided to share 5 actionable tips on getting early customers for your SaaS product.
1. Start your marketing even before writing a single line of code
Most founders think they need to create the whole product or at least an MVP and then start marketing the product and getting customers. But they are wrong! The first thing you need to do just after conducting a market research and validating your SaaS product idea, is not about writing the code and building it.
It’s about creating a simple landing page where you clearly explain your product and how it will help your potential customers. Then you’ll need to drive traffic from different sources to your landing page and try to get those visitors to sign up to your beta version (or get early access). This is where you get real people interested in your product and willing to be the first to try it and give feedback. In this very early stage, their feedback is their way of payment for your product.
Once you have a solid product available for the public, most of those satisfied beta users will become your paying customers. They are the ones who will help you better shape your product for the market and make it more helpful.
2. Use Product Hunt to get early customers and feedback
If you are building a tech product and are going to launch it, Product Hunt is the way to go! It’s a great community of tech people who love trying new products and giving feedback.
In addition, even before launching your product, you can create an “Upcoming” page on Product Hunt and get subscribers who will then be notified when you launch your product. You can also import your own subscribers' list (from the tactics I mentioned above) which will help you showcase that so many people have already signed up to try your product.
Once your product is ready for the launch, do it on Product Hunt and you’ll see a great amount of traffic to your website, many signups, potential media coverage and much more. There are many articles sharing the tips on how to launch successfully on Product Hunt. One of my favorite ones is written by the people working at Product Hunt itself; check it out.
3. Utilize the communities relevant to your product
Communities, where your target customers are hanging out, are one of the best places to get their attention and ask them to try your product.
Here are several places you can find those communities:
There are hundreds of communities on Slack that you can explore and see if they fit with your product and niche. If your audience hangs out in those communities, then join them and start communicating. Join the discussions, ask questions, and do your best to provide value by helping people.
Usually, there are separate channels in those Slack communities where you can introduce yourself, ask for feedback for your product, share your articles, etc. Make sure not to violate any rules of the communities and always be a positive person people would like to have business with, not a spammer who doesn’t respect others.
Facebook and LinkedIn groups
The same applies to groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Find the groups that are connected with your industry and your potential customers. Join those groups and be part of the discussions. Whenever possible, share info about your product and ask people for feedback or encourage them to try it. If you behave as needed and don’t violate rules, people would generally be more open and ready to help. They might eventually become your long-term customers, partners, and maybe even investors.
Quora is a great platform. It’s actually my favorite one, as it’s usually very helpful. Millions of people ask and answer questions there, and you can be a part of it too.
Find questions that are relevant to your niche or are connected with the problem you are solving with your product and answer those questions. Your answers need to be helpful and provide value to the readers. There shouldn’t be any direct promotion of your product. Always give value first and then only mention your product or service as a way to help the readers. It usually works, and if done right, Quora can become one of the best customer acquisition channels for your business.
Reddit is another platform that can help you get in front of many potential customers. Each subreddit (community) has its own rules, and usually, they are very strict. So you better follow them and not get blocked :)
Reddit has its own points system called “karma” that shows your rank on the platform. The more popular are your posts and comments, the higher karma you will have. So, especially on the early days on Reddit, try to grow your karma and popularity by joining discussions in your targeted subreddits.
Once you have some popularity, start sharing anything related to your product that can be helpful for the community: articles, case studies, an early access offer, etc. Never ever do a direct promotion; otherwise, you will get banned or will receive an honest “F*ck you” message from many community members.
4. Start content marketing
Content marketing is probably the best long-term strategy for most of the SaaS businesses to get leads, sign-ups, and customers. It requires a tremendous amount of work and willpower to do it in a consistent way. But it pays off.
It seems like so many companies are doing content marketing that there is no place for a new player like you. But it’s wrong. Most of those companies that start doing content marketing will never publish more than 10 articles and hence, will never see proper results from this channel. So over time, the competition will fade, and the companies which are persistent and consistently publish quality pieces will benefit in the long run and get hundreds and thousands of new customers thanks to this strategy.
I have written a separate article on how to start and do content marketing for startups. Check it out.
5. Turn to your professional network
Once Paul Graham (the founder of Y Combinator) said: “Do things that don’t scale.” It’s a great strategy and can apply to anything related to your startup when you are just starting the business.
For example, if you have already developed a network in the niche you are targeting, you can turn to those people and show your product. Build relationships with them, ask them out for a coffee or lunch and talk with them. Ask what problems they have to be solved, and see if your product can help them. If yes, ask their permission to show your product. Give them a free trial or a demo account so they can try it. Ask them more questions and listen to their feedback. Your product might be helpful for them, so they would be willing to try it and become one of your first customers.
Remember that you are not alone and every successful and big company once started small. So do your best to create a great product that will help your customers solve their problems. Get those potential customers to try your product and eventually buy from you. And once they are happy with your product, they will also tell their friends and colleagues about it. This is when the most powerful marketing channel kicks in — the word of mouth.
I hope the above-mentioned tips will be helpful for you and will help you get your first customers for your SaaS product.
Recently, I have launched a Space on Quora dedicated to startup marketing and growth, where we share useful articles, case studies, and strategies to grow your startup. Join our community and let’s learn together.
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Digital marketer, startup founder, entrepreneur. Director of Marketing at TruePublic.
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