In every young founder’s life, there comes a time when their product is ready to find a place for itself in the world.
This usually occurs around the MVP stage when the main features are there, and all that’s missing is the superstructure of amazing design and added functions that make the user experience as smooth as possible.
However, many founders find that making the jump from a new and unknown product to the primary software solution for a given problem is extremely difficult. So, how do you bridge this gap?
The answer is two words: early adopters.
Early adopters are the first customers to place their trust in you and use your software, even though it hasn’t been perfected (or fully launched in some cases).
These elusive individuals are usually tech enthusiasts who love trying out new software and can provide you with super useful feedback and data that will help you improve your product and develop it into a solution that even the biggest skeptics won’t be able to resist.
Early adopters are not easy to come by, but have no fear! This article will provide you with some tried and tested tactics for attracting early adopters and getting them to subscribe to your service.
Read on to put your product on the fast track to success!
Communities: Where the Wild Niche Experts Are
The Internet is home to an immense wealth of niche experts, tech enthusiasts, and people from all walks of life who are experiencing the exact pain point your SaaS product is aiming to solve.
They’re gathered around online communities in places like subreddits, Facebook groups, Slack channels, and Quora forums that are easy to find and access.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to start your search for early adopters in these kinds of communities.
For example, say you’re building project management or work organization software and you want to find experts who would be interested in using your product.
In that case, you could come up with a list of professionals who could benefit from your product in their work and reach out to them in the online communities they participate in.
In the screenshot above, developers from Quikcel, the Excel efficiency app, targeted accountants who often used Excel in their daily work. They introduced their app in a few short paragraphs and invited members to try it out by providing links.
If this doesn’t seem like a very effective strategy, remember that online communities, like the accounting subreddit from our example, have thousands of participants.
If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that this specific community has 251,000 members!
Therefore, online communities can bring massive amounts of traffic to your site. All you really need is for one or two hundred interested people to adopt your product and get the ball rolling.
Kevin Indig, SEO lead at Shopify, often posts in Facebook groups to promote his work and attract traffic, to great success. You can see how his posts cause traffic spikes on his page in the graph above.
The secret to his success, he says, is not being too pushy with sales-y posts and avoiding to advertise from the get-go.
The right approach is to become a “power user”: provide quality content and participate in the community with valuable insights and knowledge.
At the same time, you can document what other participants are talking about, what pains they are experiencing, and what solutions they’d like to see. That kind of information is invaluable.
Then, after you’ve earned some credit, you can go ahead and present your pitch. Appeal to the audience by offering them a solution to make their lives easier and invite them to try out your product.
Also, don’t forget to ask for feedback. One of the main reasons to go after early adopters is to gather valuable feedback that can drive the further development of your product.
Immersing yourself into online communities to find early adopters can be a lot of work, but it’s well worth the effort.
Few other resources will yield such high-quality users who will have a genuine interest in adopting your product and provide you with invaluable data you can use to keep improving your product ahead of a full launch.
Early Adopter Platforms: Let Them Find You
Specialized platforms that connect new solutions to early adopters are another resource we’d recommend to any tech or SaaS founder.
We are talking about websites like ProductHunt, Hackernews, Angellist, and Indie Hackers.
Promoting your new product on platforms like ProductHunt (pictured above), you can post a pitch to present your solution, add videos, pictures, and links, as well as offer unique benefits to your early adopters.
In the example above, Scribe 2.0 offers advanced features of the product for three months, for free. That’s an excellent strategy to obtain your first customers.
Early adopter platforms are an excellent resource for tech and SaaS startups that offer B2C solutions. They attract technology enthusiasts and avid software users who love trying out new products, even if the product is still in its MVP stage.
A quick audience analysis of ProductHunt shows that its visitors are primarily interested in tech and software topics. This is exactly the type of audience you will likely want to aim for as a SaaS founder looking for early adopters.
But how do you make your software stand out among thousands of other excellent SaaS products on these platforms?
Well, there’s definitely an art to it, and it takes some serious effort. Let’s turn to a ProductHunt success story for advice.
Spark is an intelligent email organization app. The team behind it launched on ProductHunt in 2015, which allowed them to put their product on the fast track to success.
Spark achieved major rankings on ProductHunt, becoming both Product of the Day and the #2 Product of the Month. It was even named the Sexiest Product soon after it appeared on the platform!
Spark’s launch relied heavily on its marketing team. Max Varnalii, a marketer who worked on the launch, shared their strategy and said that the work on the launch began a whole year before Spark appeared on ProductHunt.
Spark’s team invested heavily in building a community around the app to generate a lot of buzz ahead of the release. They devoted a Twitter account to the app and talked to the community every day, answering questions, getting ideas, and sharing sneak previews.
When the app was launched, they already had a large following of potential users who already felt like a part of the family.
And that’s excellent advice. Combining the effect of online communities (the ones we talked about in the first section of this article) to create excitement and then launching on a startup platform to a bigger audience who can’t wait to try out the product is a great approach.
Accessing Audiences With the Help of Influencers
Building an audience for your product as you’re developing it is no easy feat. It takes time and resources, and out of hundreds of followers, you only stand to gain a dozen or so early adopters.
Fortunately, there’s a shortcut to putting together an army of followers and getting early adopters to sign up for your new software: getting influencers involved.
Influencers have three key characteristics:
- They are niche experts.
- They have large audiences of like-minded people.
- They can engage their followers and shape their opinions.
Influencers can present your product to vast audiences of people in the market for exactly what you’re selling.
Since they are recognized as experts in their fields, their followers tend to heed their advice. So if your product gets recommended by a high-profile influencer, you can definitely expect a spike in your follower numbers.
The term “influencer” usually invokes images of celebrities promoting beauty products or the hottest new spa, people who are generally inaccessible to mere mortals.
However, the world of tech influencers is much more nuanced, as you can see in the image below.
Therefore, even if you don’t yet have the resources or reputation for going after celebrities, a good word from a couple of lower-level influencers will go a long way to earn you some much-deserved attention.
Influencers are usually a paid resource, so if this is a marketing avenue you’d like to explore, take care to budget for it.
However, just offering a reasonable fee won’t be enough in most cases. As a rule, tech influencers will only promote products they consider to be top-notch and worthy of sharing with their followers.
Therefore, do your best to approach them with a pristine pitch to convince them that your product is worth their time.
So, how can you find a couple of good influencers for your product?
There are a couple of ways. First of all, since you’re an expert in your field, you should already have a good idea of who the thought leaders in your industry are.
They might already be in your LinkedIn network, or you may follow them on Twitter, so you can use those networks to get in touch.
If you need to expand this network, you can turn to content analysis tools like Ahrefs’s Content Explorer to do some research on the most active authors in the niche your product belongs to.
Let’s do a practice search right now!
Say you’re offering an email automation product and want to find influencers on the subject you can reach out to. You would run a simple search using the Content Explorer function, as follows:
Our search yielded some promising results, and the author that caught our eye is Rakesh Gupta, who’s written 49 pieces of content that contain the keyword “email automation” in the title.
We can’t see how many followers he has on Twitter, but some results will also contain that information.
Clicking on this author’s name, we’re transported to his Twitter profile.
Now we can see that this author has more than 10k followers and boasts ties to Salesforce, in addition to harboring a special interest in automation. He could potentially be a great advocate for our imaginary email automation product.
In conclusion, you can think of influencers as a shortcut to amassing a solid following in a short amount of time.
If your marketing budget permits it and if you have the utmost confidence in your product, influencers could be an excellent way to access your target audience, and therefore your early adopters.
Cold Emailing for B2B SaaS Founders
As you may imagine, influencers are at their most valuable when they’re promoting simpler, more dazzling software products that can appeal to a large audience.
However, if you’re building something very complex for a very niche audience, you’ll probably have a hard time getting influencers on board.
In that case, your best bet is to contact potential early adopters directly via email.
Cold emailing gets a bad rap, and its usefulness in SaaS marketing is said to be steadily declining, with an average click-to-open rate somewhere around 14% in 2021.
Nevertheless, B2B SaaS founders especially will find that cold emailing is still a viable option for acquiring early adopters.
Additionally, cold emailing won’t cost you any more than your time and maybe some nerves, as it is still one of the cheapest marketing methods out there.
The cold emailing method involves making a list of candidates, perhaps team leaders at various companies, who could use your product to improve their work processes and raise their and their team’s productivity.
Let’s get back to our imaginary email automation product and see how we might go about finding early adopters for it via cold emailing.
First, you’ll want to think about what type of professionals could benefit the most from using your software.
In our case, that could be marketers and sales teams at B2B companies. Next, you could try to come up with a list of companies you’d like to work with.
After that, it’s a matter of diligent googling. We’re looking for marketing heads at companies that offer B2B SaaS solutions.
Let’s say that, after our initial search, we’ve set our sights on a B2B SaaS company called Regpack.
With a simple Google query, we found a LinkedIn page for the marketing director at Regpack. From here, we can dive deeper and try to dig up the person’s email address or contact her directly on LinkedIn.
Easy, right? Well, the hard part isn’t finding potential early adopters. The real challenge is getting them to notice you and your product.
That’s why it’s a good idea to create personalized, carefully written pitches that communicate value to each individual prospect, according to their industry and their field of work.
Related reading: 7 Types of SaaS Customer Success Emails for Better User Engagement
However, even that may not be enough. As you can imagine, department heads at large companies receive a lot of pitches in their inbox, so even getting someone to open your email is a challenge.
To get around this obstacle, try digging even deeper to find connections on social media or the company staff page. There’s hardly anything more effective at grabbing someone’s attention than a personal introduction or recommendation from a shared connection.
We know all of this sounds like a lot of work to get just one early adopter, but this method really can be quite effective.
Cold emailing gives you an opportunity to get to know your future customers better and form stronger ties at the very beginning of their customer journey.
Putting the Word Out by Blogging about Your Product
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: blogging is the most fun you can have while doing marketing. Fortunately, blogging is also an excellent way of attracting the best possible early adopters for your product, at a very low cost.
As a SaaS founder, you’re probably thinking about your product 24/7. You’re bursting with knowledge about the specific pain or problem your product solves, and you know how to make people’s lives a little easier.
That’s what working in the SaaS industry is all about!
Your extensive knowledge and experience in the field make you the perfect person to write your company blog and contribute guest posts on other blogs that deal with similar topics.
Those are the two main types of blogging, by the way. Both have a very beneficial effect on your inbound traffic, brand awareness, and search engine ranking.
To be more specific, blogging often (16 or more times a month) can bring as much as 3.5 times more traffic to your website than blogging less than four times per month.
How does blogging yield early adopters? It’s simple. If you’re blogging about topics peripheral to your product, your posts will attract visitors interested in those topics.
For example, imagine you’re building client booking software for hair salons. In that case, you would write about topics like hair salon management, efficient booking procedures, team leadership in the service industry, and so on.
Your posts would then attract hair care professionals, barbers, beauticians, and spa owners. Reading your blog posts, these professionals may stay on your site and explore other pages, like your features and pricing pages.
A small percentage of those visitors could decide to give your software a go. And voilà! You got yourself a couple of early adopters.
This is exactly what Hubstaff did back in 2013 when they were introducing their all-in-one employee tracking product.
They invested a lot of effort into their blog to talk about employee management and post guides for their product. Their efforts earned them their first 25 customers.
Guest blogging has the same basic rules, but instead of blogging on your own site, you’re writing articles for other blogs (always taking care to make your posts relevant to both your product and the blog you’re writing for).
You want to write valuable content, provide useful, non-advertising information, and include a line or two about your product and how it tackles the problem you’re writing about.
Don’t forget to include a subtle link back to your website because the biggest benefit of guest blogging is that you can build a network of links back to your site.
That’s a crucial point because, in 2021, backlinks are still the most important SEO factor that can help you improve your search engine ranking.
To start guest blogging, all you have to do is research some blogs that operate in the same industry you do. Then, look up their guest blogging guidelines and submit your article, making sure it’s interesting.
If blogging seems like the right channel to get early adopters for your product, you can start brainstorming some topics right away. Just remember to write often and write pieces with real value for your visitors to attract the highest-quality early adopters.
There are many ways to attract early adopters to your new product. Some are fun, like engaging like-minded people in online communities and blogging about your field of work; some, like cold emailing and researching influencers, are a little tedious.
However, the truth is that each one of the methods we’ve covered in this article has the potential to connect you to the people that don’t even know they are in dire need of your product.
Remember that early adopters are your bridge from obscurity to becoming a household name. Even if your product is imperfect, you can still provide an excellent service and nurture them into becoming full customers.
In return, you can expect lots of invaluable feedback and a good word that is bound to attract your next batch of customers.