How to get users for your app- tips for startups

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Don’t wait for launch to get users. Customer acquisition is part of your entire startup lifecycle.

Your app is ready. But how do you get users to sign up? photo of a man's hand holding a mobile phone with an app open
You have a great idea for an app. But how do you get users for it?

Before launch, before testing, before development, before design. That’s when you begin to get users for your app.

It starts with your business plan.

This will include an outline of:

  • The problem your product solves
  • Who it’s aimed at and
  • What they are currently doing to solve that problem.

This gives you a basic outline of who your audience is and where they might be online or in the real world (e.g. people who need to send money overseas might visit places with “great western union” stickers or ethnic food stores).
Look at support forms for the products and services they already use and see what they are saying for more snapshots of their problems and their current workarounds to the problem.

There’s a free business plan canvas downloadable at the bottom of this page if you don’t have one.

Setup a holding page right now

After your business plan, set up a simple coming soon page, describing
1. the problem you wrote in your business plan
2. that your solution will change that (don’t explain)
3. it’s coming soon and
4. sign up to be alerted.

Don’t get bogged down in branding or design at this stage. All you need today is a name and the text from your business plan.
What matters is the mailing list. That’s what needs to be in centre focus. Keep that super simple, to fill in, so only an email field.

That’s all you need for now. Less text, even.

You can get a page up today using wordpress and seedprod coming soon plugin. You’ll need an email list tool to connect the signup to, so if you have zero budget and no plans to upsell or use content marketing, go with MailChimp. If you do, use drip.

Why a mailing list?

This email list will help you out a lot as your design and development lifecycle continues.

  1. If you list blows up, you’ll know the product has validation.
  2. When you’re ready to launch, you’ll have a list of people waiting to sign up.
  3. the list allows you do to something really amazing: talk to those strangers who’ve signed up. You can ask them questions. Invite them to be your research subjects and/or beta testers and refine your plan and design even more.

There’s a research survey to copy and customise in google forms at the bottom of this page you can send them.

Narrowing your audience makes them easier to find

As I said in the Quirky Truth About Churn , you need to choose your audience early, narrowly and really get inside their heads in order to keep them using your product over the years. Otherwise, you’ll rely on continuous churn of new customers developing for the many needs and workflows of “everyone”. This results in complex, bloated software which nobody is passionate about using nor proud of creating. If you have enough money to spend on sales, marketing and support teams, that model can work, but most startups don’t have that kind of reach.

So, that leaves us with designing for customer retention, and that means getting to know your chosen audience. Interviews at the research stage mean you can solve your customers’ real problems and not just what our problems are when doing this task. These interviews can help give you an idea of where to target similar people for marketing and advertising.

For example, other than competitor support forums, are there:

  • Facebook groups
  • web forums
  • subreddits
  • LinkedIn groups

For audiences like your ideal customer?

What about ICQ groups? Skype groups? Twitter or Instagram hashtags?

Do they attend a real world event, like ComicCon, Yoga or CrossFit classes, industry conventions or local meetups? I’m not suggesting you spam online lists or hashtags or be that awkward person at Madrid Dog Lovers who has no pet but hands out business cards, but I am saying:

  1. A question on a forum or facebook group can inspire a blog post that works as inbound marketing
  2. That guest blogging on a platform your audience reads is possible if you have something relevant to say (and if your business is innovative, I imagine you do)
  3. Sponsorship of events and flyers at venues are not a bad place to start.

Is there an open slack group they hang out in? Some of those have announcements or collaborations channel.

Facebook, Instagram, and youtube ads are another great way of being able to target your audience based on what you know they like, and other demographic variables, which can be as granular as you like.

Tip: It’s better to be too specific than too vague in your demographics. Don’t be that person who thinks any unmarried woman over the age of 35 anywhere in the world wants to see wedding ring ads, and any married woman over that age wants to see diaper ads. Get specific, then a/b test and loosen up if you don’t see results.

If I only had the budget for two ads today, they’d be Instagram and youtube.

Put together a press kit

Everyone’s always looking for the new Instagram-killer to report on, so help them do that. How to create a press kit.

But how do I get people to overcome platform fatigue and try a new app?

I’ve said before that when a product doesn’t really solve your problem, people will be curious about what else is out there.

First, you need to find your audience. Then you need to get them to your site.

Your landing page – when it’s no longer a holding page- is what is going to sell them on the benefits of change. And it’s going to do that not with huge lists of features and technical details.

It’s going to do that by being mysterious.

And with giant high-res product images.

Take a look at this collection of landing pages. Notice anything?

Some product homepage examples

[envira-gallery id=”787″]

None of the screenshots are showing the groundbreaking things the text next to them promise. But they are gorgeous and big.

The text tells you what pains this new product solves, but leaves you wanting to know “how?”.

All you have to say is “most products that do __ are tied down by __. But not ours.”

And then “Try now free”. The “how” is for the FAQ under the pricing page.

Promote your product on startup discovery pages

There’s a lot of sites out there dedicated to showcasing new startups, digital products and apps. Sign up and submit to as many of them as you can.

Startuplister has a directory of industry specific blogs.

Now you tell me

Do you have an email list already? If not, why not? What’s stopping you from setting one up right now?

What are you currently doing to get customers? At what stage did you start?

Free downloads for you

download the Wyld business plan template

download product research template


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