So you've built your product, you've prepared your strategy for expansion, and you've established the foundations of your future company. You truly believe you've built something great. Now you just need to find users to test out your product.
How does one go about acquiring these early adopters, and as cheaply as possible? The following eight steps will help you attract users, retain them, and build towards critical mass.
- Start with friends and family
By utilising a product aggregation site like Product Hunt, which curates new services and apps on a daily basis, you will gain exposure to a community that is engaged and keen to adopt new technology. Some of these websites are free, while others require a membership to post, so you will need a contact to be featured. This will entail pitching your product to a community member directly, who will then feature you. The result should be an uptick in adopters on your service.
- Build a great landing page
Having an attractive landing page is essential. It should be the epicentre of your web presence, and a key tool for directing people to your product. Invest time and money in having the best landing page possible.
Once you have your landing page set up, you can start using social media to generate inbound leads. Having a blog and social media presence is a great way to direct people towards your product, but you need to have content to sustain interest in those portals. Creating content requires time, which is something you may not have in abundance if you have just launched your product. Alternatively, you could pay someone to write blog posts and social media posts for you, but you'll need to decide if that is something you can afford. Being social has other benefits, too: it enables you to talk to users; build an audience; and in communicating your philosophy and insights, it positions you as a thought leader. The same is true for commenting on other relevant blogs. Leaving an interesting comment with a link to your blog helps contribute to the discussion, and isn't just shameless self-promotion.
Now, this isn't strictly in keeping with the “as cheaply as possible” directive, but if you have the budget, spending money to drive traffic towards your blog or landing page is invaluable for gaining new adopters.
At its inception, Facebook was only available to users at Harvard University. They slowly rolled the product out to universities across America, but not before they had generated incredible levels of excitement. This slow drip release only served to increase people's desire to start using a product that their friends were already talking about. Another way Facebook utilised exclusivity effectively was to prevent people from looking at their friends' accounts unless they had been invited to the site. This feature is still a part of the product today. Although you no longer need to be invited, in order to see your friends' profiles, you must have an account of your own. This encourages people to sign up, for fear of missing out.
The onboarding process is extremely important. Once you have a potential user looking to sign up, the last thing you want to do is put them off. Overly complicated registration processes can do just that, so ensure your onboarding process is quick and easy, with a simple interface that isn't overwhelming. Ensure that the registration process captures information that can be used to optimise the user's experience, and encourage engagement with the community.
It likely won't be an easy journey acquiring early adopters, but it will be worth it. Be creative, take opportunities to promote your service, and ultimately, focus on making a great product, and you will achieve critical mass. If you spend too much time trying to acquire users, the quality of your product will suffer, whereas if you work on it and improve it, people will naturally be drawn to what you're offering. If users enjoy the service, they will be more likely to promote it via word of mouth to their circles, doing some of the work for you.
This article was originally submitted for Accelerate SME on 31 October 2016
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