Today we’re sharing with you the different beta list submission channels, testing sites, and platforms we’ve used to get our first 2,000 beta signups, and how you can find your first beta signups for your SaaS startup, too.
A little background on Front
Before sharing our experience a bit of context for those who don’t know Front yet:
- We are building Front, a collaborative inbox for businesses.
- We are operating in the B2B SaaS industry.
- We are discussing signups for our private beta with limited information given to visitors.
Family, friends, and fools: 200 signups
Obviously the first thing we did, like a lot of startups, was to talk about our product to our immediate network. We are part of a SaaS startup studio so it helped us find our first qualified testers: Mailjet, mention, Textmaster, and Pressking. Extending to people we know, companies close to us and our indirect network, we could collect around 200 emails total.
- Easy to find / collect these users
- They can introduce you to extra users (indirect network)
- They may be biased because they like you / want to help you (more than real users willing to pay for your solution).
Betali.st ~ 400 signups
Betali.st was our first try in terms of “beta users” communities. It exists some others (Erlibird, Startupli.st…) but it was the best one and from far. Submission on betali.st is free but you are not guaranteed to be featured. We waited four weeks in the “free” line and we finally paid the 49$ to be featured within the next 2 days.
- 832 direct visits generated (for instance Erlibird generated 23 visits only)
- ~ 400 signups
- cost: 49$
- The ratio efficiency / time spent is really good (just pay and it’ll be fast).
- We thought we would get a lot of crappy emails but it was not the case.The majority of them were real people / companies.
- Generated some inbound links (people discovered us on BetaLi.st and wrote articles about us).
- Not all contacts were “qualified”. There are a lot of people just “checking” out your app (rather than really needing it).
Should you do it? Definitely. An important part of the success is to have a great screenshot to share and a straightforward pitch. We’ve seen other companies having less than 200 registrations so it depends how your product resonates with the community.
Layervault ~500 signups
news.layervault is like Hacker News but for designers. Quickly after we got featured on Betali.st Manik Rathee (we don’t know him but thank you) shared Front on Layervault and it generated quite a lot of new beta registrations with around 500 signups.
This one source was hard to track since with “https” we couldn’t really see direct incoming links in Google analytics. By crossing data between different sources (Analytics & Mailjet) during the time we had this “spike” we can estimate to 500 the number of signups we got from this source.
- A lots of signups
- Generated some inbound links (people discovered us on Layervault and wrote articles about us)
- The vast majority of subscribers were designers. This is great as they are part of our potential customers (agencies…) but the feedback you get is really really geared toward design / UX matters. So awesome source but lacks a bit of diversity in terms of profiles.
Should you do it? We didn’t do anything to be featured and I’ve heard that it’s hard to get an account there.
Product Hunt ~200 signups
Product Hunt is a young community of people sharing the best new apps around. It was started a couple of months ago by Ryan Hoover and in only a couple of months he managed to create a real audience. Every day new products are shared by the members (for free) and we were lucky enough to get featured.
- around 200 signups (from the website + newsletter)
- 1,400 visits generated so far (website + newsletter)
- Cool number of signups.
- A lot of different profiles (small startups, big startups, investors…). The majority of them from San Francisco / SV.
- Nothing considering the price (free) / time spent.
Should you do it? Definitely. The community of “hunters” is still “closed” as only selected members can post new products. The best way to be featured is to contact directly a member and to pitch your website / app. Be also prepared when your app is featured to ask friends / colleagues to upvote you (the website has a voting system to rank new products) since anybody with a Twitter account can vote.
Inbound Marketing: 400 signups
We decided to start a blog early on to share our experience. We thought inbound marketing could be good not only to get new users but also to communicate our vision and philosophy.
- around 400 signups collected total
- 22 000 pages views, 14 000 unique visitors in 3 months
- 17 posts including this one
- Blog / inbound is an incredible way to show your users what is your philosophy / your startup culture and to communicate your vision early on.
- Great content is an investment on the long term. An old post can drive you more and more traffic over time. It also opens some doors for guest posting (it’s how we got invited to write on Intercom’s blog).
- Really time consuming (writing is only the tip of the iceberg, the strategy behind, post ideas, distribution etc… also takes a lot of time).
- Inbound marketing is becoming incredibly competitive even in the B2B space. A lot of great content is produced by the likes of Buffer, Intercom, Kissmetrics, Groove etc…
- It’s hard to understand and ride well distribution channels from the start (Hacker News, Twitter, seo…). There’s a real learning curve.
- Hacker News got us a lot of visits (4000+ visitors on a single article which reached the #1 spot on the homepage) but few subscribers (70+ subscribers out of these 4000 visitors).
Should you do it? If you have the will and the motivation to maintain a blog yes. If you have nobody in the team who can write regularly articles don’t expect too much from inbound. And don’t spend too much time doing it yourself.
Inbound Links / articles ~ 300 signups
We didn’t get covered by big tech news websites (yet :-)) but nevertheless some people on the internet took the time to write posts about Front on their blog, to share it on Twitter / LinkedIn, in newsletters… These sources might not have the same impact as an article on Techcrunch but they are really good to send some qualified leads (this one, this one or this one).
We also had the chance to write a guest post on Intercom’s blog (The Unbundling of email at work, Des and his team are really awesome) and got covered by RudeBaguette both were quite successful bringing us quality people.
Some lessons learned
We don’t pretend to have done everything perfectly (far from it: we’ll write an article about our mistakes), but here are some lessons we’ve learned and want to share with you.
Invest time and effort creating an attractive landing page. It doesn’t mean a long and intensive informational page. Your landing page will be used on a lot of external websites (BetaList, Layervault, AngelList etc…) and you’ll probably have it longer than what you’ve planned, so consider it a good investment.
Don’t think there’s a silver bullet. Don’t think that you’ll find a single magical channel that’ll bring you thousands of users from one day to the other. It’s by exploring a lot of different channels and sources that you will create a bigger stream of signups. It’s because we were featured on Betalist that somebody discovered us and featured us on Layervault. It’s because we wrote an article in response to Intercom that we got a guest post there. You need to connect the dots.
Be persistent. For example, we tried over and over again to reach the top 20 of Hacker News with our articles. We managed to do it twice (one time reached #15 and the other #1). The article which got to the number #1 spot (for 2 minutes) was an article we had already shared on Hacker News and had failed. Somebody from the community shared it the day after and it reached #1 - with the same title (4018 unique visitors for around ~70 subscribers).