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How to get first 100 users for your bootstrapped SaaS Startup - 10 Marketing strategies and tips by industry experts

Hey there!

One of the most critical milestones on this journey is snagging your first 100 users. This initial user base is crucial—they validate your product-market fit, offer invaluable feedback, and help generate organic growth through word-of-mouth.

In this post, we'll dive into compilation of expert advice and strategic tips on how to hit that 100-user mark, using insights from leading marketing pros and tried-and-true tactics.

Before we begin, here are some quick points on why the First 100 Users Matter

  1. Validation: Your first users confirm that your product is needed in the market. It’s a morale boost for us founders.
  2. Feedback: They give you essential insights to improve your product. You get to build your product with them.
  3. Word-of-Mouth: Early adopters can become your brand advocates. Most Unicorn startups have had massive WOM, that fueled thier growth.
  4. Case Studies: They offer real-world examples that can attract even more users. Opens up a new perspective on you that was possible and what users are doing.

Alright, let’s get on with the proven strategies and tips recommened by marketing experts

1) Leveraging Personal Networks

Neil Patel, Co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar, emphasizes:

“Your personal network is your first and most valuable resource. Reach out to friends, family, and professional contacts to get the ball rolling.”

Dive into your personal network! Tap into friends, family, former colleagues, and industry contacts. They're more likely to give constructive feedback and might even become advocates for your product.

2) Building a Strong Online Presence

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz and SparkToro, advises:

“A robust online presence is non-negotiable. Utilize social media, blogs, and forums to create awareness and engage with potential users.”

  1. Website Optimization: Make sure your website is user-friendly, visually appealing, and SEO-optimized. Quick load times and intuitive navigation are key.
  2. Content Marketing: Create valuable content that addresses your target audience's pain points. Blog posts, whitepapers, and videos can drive organic traffic and establish your brand as an authority.
  3. Social Media Marketing: Engage users through platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Share valuable insights, updates, and engaging content.
  4. Email Marketing: Build an email list and send out regular newsletters offering valuable content, updates, and exclusive offers.

3) Offering Free Trials and Freemium Models

David Skok, General Partner at Matrix Partners, says:

“Free trials and freemium models lower the barrier to entry and allow users to experience the value of your product without any financial commitment.”

Let users experience your product’s value through:

  1. Free Trials: Offer a limited-time trial of your product to show potential users its benefits.
  2. Freemium Model: Provide a basic version for free while charging for premium features. This reduces hesitation and increases the likelihood of conversion.

4) Utilizing Content Marketing

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, asserts:

“Content marketing is a powerful tool for SaaS startups. Create high-quality, informative content that addresses the pain points of your target audience.”

Key actions include:

  1. High-Quality Blog Posts: Regularly publish informative and engaging articles that resonate with your target audience.
  2. Case Studies and Whitepapers: Provide in-depth insights and showcase your product’s success.
  3. Tutorial Videos: Create instructional videos to help users understand how to use your product effectively.

5) Engaging in Community Building

Brian Balfour, CEO at Reforge, highlights:

“Building a community around your product can create a loyal user base. Engage with users through forums, social media groups, and webinars.”

Create a sense of belonging through:

  1. Forums and Social Media Groups: Participate in and create groups related to your niche.
  2. Webinars and Online Events: Host events to engage directly with potential users, answering questions and showcasing product benefits.

6) Implementing Referral Programs

Noah Kagan, Founder of AppSumo and SumoMe, recommends:

“Referral programs can be highly effective. Encourage your existing users to refer others by offering incentives.”

Leverage word-of-mouth marketing by offering incentives like discounts, exclusive features, or free months of service to motivate existing users to bring in new ones.

7) Partnering with Influencers

Neil Patel again stresses:

“Influencer partnerships can amplify your reach. Collaborate with influencers who have a strong following in your niche.”

Team up with influencers in your industry to reach a broader audience. They add credibility and expose your product to potential users who trust their recommendations.

8) Attending Industry Events

Jason Lemkin, Founder of SaaStr, advises:

“Industry events are great for networking and showcasing your product. Attend conferences, trade shows, and meetups to connect with potential users.”

These events offer opportunities to meet and engage with potential users, gather feedback, and create awareness about your product.

9) Utilizing Paid Advertising

Larry Kim, Founder of WordStream and MobileMonkey, emphasizes:

“Paid advertising can provide immediate visibility. Use targeted ads on platforms like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to reach your ideal users.”

Consider the following paid advertising strategies:

  1. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising: Use platforms like Google Ads to target specific keywords and demographics.
  2. Social Media Advertising: Use targeted ads on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  3. Retargeting Campaigns: Reach users who visited your website but didn’t convert.

10) Providing Exceptional Customer Support

Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert and Author, states:

“Exceptional customer support can turn users into advocates. Provide timely and helpful support to ensure a positive user experience.”

Ensure top-notch customer support through:

  1. Live Chat and Chatbots: Offer real-time support to address user queries and concerns.
  2. Comprehensive Knowledge Base: Provide a library of articles, tutorials, and FAQs to help users resolve issues independently.
  3. Personalized Support: Build a personal connection with dedicated support via email, phone, or video calls.

Lastly, Analyzing and Iterating

Continuous analysis and iteration are essential for optimizing your user acquisition strategies. Here’s how to approach this process:

  1. Track Key Metrics: Monitor website traffic, conversion rates, user engagement, and satisfaction using tools like Google Analytics and Mixpanel.
  2. A/B Testing: Compare different versions of your website, landing pages, and marketing campaigns to identify the most effective strategies.
  3. Iterate and Improve: Make necessary adjustments based on your analysis. Continuously improve your approach to maximize user acquisition efforts.

Getting your first 100 users for your bootstrapped AI SaaS startup is a multi-faceted challenge that requires a mix of strategic planning, targeted marketing, and exceptional customer support.

By understanding your audience, leveraging personal networks, building a strong online presence, offering free trials, engaging in community building, implementing referral programs, partnering with influencers, attending industry events, utilizing paid advertising, and providing stellar customer support, you’re setting the stage for sustained growth and success.

The journey may be tough, but the rewards are well worth it. Use these expert strategies to navigate the initial hurdles and pave the way for long-term success.

Remember, the first 100 users are just the beginning—focus on delivering value, continuously improving, and building a community around your product.

References

on June 5, 2024
  1. 2

    I also wrote an article about finding 1,000 passionate users.

    How to find 1000 enthusiastic users in the early stages

    Understanding Enthusiastic Users

    Who are Enthusiastic Users?

    Enthusiastic users have several characteristics:

    1. High Tolerance for Basic Products: They are willing to use and tolerate even rudimentary versions of your product.
    2. Genuine Appreciation: They find your product amazing and are grateful because it solves a significant problem for them.
    3. Willingness to Pay: They are ready to pay for your product.
    4. Eagerness to Recommend: They enthusiastically recommend your product to people around them who might find it useful.
      Why Not Discuss Seed Users?

    The common understanding of seed users is the first 100 or even 1,000 users of a new product.

    Why Focus on Enthusiastic Users Instead of Seed Users?

    The term seed users often includes non-target users or those who think your product is just okay but not essential. In other words, they might find the product mediocre and would use it only if they have to, making numerous demands before committing to it. This type of user is fundamentally different from an enthusiastic user.

    Finding 10 Enthusiastic Users is Far More Valuable than Getting 1,000 Seed Users in the Early Stages of a Product!

    First Step in Finding Enthusiastic Users: Define Them

    Firstly, you need to describe who your enthusiastic users are. This has been mentioned in previous checklists. You need to create a profile of these users.

    Example: Suppose we are developing an AI-generated professional headshot product.

    My envisioned enthusiastic users would be:

    1. Working Professionals: Especially those active on social media. They frequently use LinkedIn or Twitter and prefer formal headshots as their profile pictures. They often participate in media events and need headshots for posters.

    2. Time-Constrained: They have limited time for in-person photo shoots. Their area lacks professional photo studios, making it costly to travel for a photoshoot.

    3. Sales Professionals: They use professional headshots to appear more formal when interacting with clients, such as financial, real estate, or insurance salespeople.

    4. Predominantly Female: Women are more concerned with their public image and have a higher willingness to pay for professional photos. They also prefer their photos to look more flattering.

    5. Financially Capable: As white-collar professionals, they can afford to pay a reasonable fee for such services. Their appearance is crucial and can even bring additional benefits to their careers.
      Why I Can Define Enthusiastic Users

    6. User Observation: For example, when you open WeChat and look at your friend list, notice who is using professional headshots.

    7. Scenario Observation: Reflect on the scenarios where professional headshots are needed, such as public event posters.

    8. Search Term Observation: People searching for “professional headshots near me” indicate a concern for their time. Others searching for “female professional headshots” highlight that women are particularly interested in this service.
      By paying close attention to your surroundings and continually observing, you can gather valuable insights without extensive research.

    Where to Find Them?

    To find them, first, you need to describe them. Once you have their profile, finding them becomes easy.

    Methods to Find Enthusiastic Users

    1. Find Their Gathering Places: Such as LinkedIn, sales communities, or specific QQ groups.

    2. Reverse Simulation: If you were them looking for this service, what would you search for? Capture their search paths.
      • For instance, a post about “what to wear for professional headshots” could lead to a rich comment section full of potential users.
      • A video tutorial could have a comment section where you can engage potential users.

    3. Provide Content for Their Needs: Create content addressing their needs, such as “how to dress for professional headshots” or “nearest professional photo studio.”
      • When they search for “nearest professional photo studio,” create a page with studio contacts and a prominent ad offering instant professional headshots. They are likely to click on it.

    4. Media Platforms: Post about your product to gain exposure and attract users.

    5. Build in Public: During this process, filter out enthusiastic users.

    6. Referrals: Set up incentives, such as a free trial in exchange for sharing with three friends. Target users often know other potential users.

    7. Leverage Existing Resources: Identify who already has access to your target users.
      • For instance, to find insurance salespeople, approach an institution that trains them and offer your product for them to promote.

    8. User Group Setup: Establish an enthusiastic user group on platforms like Telegram, WhatsApp, or Discord to continuously gather feedback.
      Chapter Summary

    9. Understanding Enthusiastic Users: High tolerance, willingness to pay, genuine appreciation, and eagerness to recommend.

    10. Why Not Seed Users: They are not the target audience, have vague pain points, and make numerous demands.

    11. Defining Enthusiastic Users: The core task is everyday observation to reduce the cost of research.

    12. Where to Find Them: Seven methods to locate your enthusiastic users.

    13. Building User Groups: Always listen to your users’ voices. This is crucial.

    1. 1

      Love this, will find my enthusiastic users :)

    2. 1

      Practical and informative. Loved it!

  2. 1

    Personal network & posting on LinkedIn has worked the best for me

  3. 1

    Wish there was a list of enthusiastic users out there. Would love to just throw Orderly in front of an already warm group

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