Acquiring your first users

The process below outlines how to get those first users, after your advisory board, into your system.

Step 1: Friends, Coercion, & Testimonials

At this point, you:

  • Have been using your advisory board to review and give feedback on your system.

  • Have sold the first units to the people on your advisory board.

  • Know that people value the system enough to pay for it.

Now it’s time for some good old-fashioned cajoling and coercion!

What you’re looking for here is testimonials from people in the industry. You don’t need people to actually use the system, just to go on record saying it’s exciting and that they are excited about it. The higher up and better known they are, the better.

Reach out to people in your network, people you know online, or just people that are associated with the industry. The further they are away from a personal relationship with you they are, the harder the testimonial will be to come by, so figure out who you know and take them out to lunch. Tell them that you are looking for their feedback and take the good feedback and ask them if they can quote them on what they said. Most of the time, face to face, they will say yes.

Take their testimonials and put them up on your website along with their name, title, company, and photo. You’re looking for things like:

  • “This is the most exciting system I’ve seen in a long time for FILL IN THE BLANK in INDUSTRY NAME!” - John Doe, CEO Supertechnology Company

  • “This system is going to change the way we do business.” - Ronny Headhoncho, CTO, NAME OF COMPANY.

While you’re at that meeting, move on to step 2:

Step 2: Ask for referrals

You’re at lunch with your buddy, or maybe just some guy you just met, the CEO of a company that could use your system that was referred to you probably by someone on your advisory board. You’ve got their testimonial and their permission to use their words, now it’s time to ask them who else they know who would be interested. When you do this, don’t make it salesy, just ask who might be interested in giving you advice on the system or using the system.

The key is to ask for names of people who can give advice, not sales (unless the meeting is going really well and your lead is already talking about who else you need to talk to -- otherwise, just ask for people to help you out).

Step 3: Close some deals

If you’ve repeated the step above a few times, you’ll have some people interested in your system. If your system is easy to use, easy to sign up for, useful, and all the other things you need to make a sale and you’re sitting in front of someone who’s interested, all you need to do is ask for the deal.

Here is how you do it:

You: “Yeah, your friend John Doe at Supertechnology Company gave us this great testimonial. So what do you think? Want to get started with the system now?”

Them: “Yeah, I think this is something my team would really use.”

You: “Great, let’s get you signed up! You can cancel at any time.” Pull up the signup page and enter their info and ask for their credit card to add them to the system.

Them: “Sounds good, here you go.”

Sale closed.

If the answer is ‘no’, reassess your product and appraisement.

Step 4: Rinse, Repeat, & Reassess.

Before you start selling this thing all over the web, you’re probably going to need to work with these initial users at least for a little bit. So plan on getting a few paying users, checking in with them regularly, asking them a lot of questions, and making changes in your system.

For systems I’ve worked on so far, this process can last anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year. The larger and more complex your SaaS system is, the more iterations you’ll want and need in your system. Remember, you don’t need to be perfect, just good enough to get money coming in while keeping people mostly happy.