How to Reach Your First 1,000 Paying Subscribers
Reaching your first 1,000 paying subscribers seems like a long way away, but it’s a mountain all SaaS owners need to climb.
While it looks like a good idea to copy the marketing and growth tactics of big SaaS companies, that is probably not your best move.
After all, you’re not Uber, so their marketing tactics won’t translate to your business.
Gaining those initial subscribers is not an exact science, but you can use some common strategies to get there pretty quickly, even on a bootstrap budget.
First Baby Steps: Stand out from the Crowd
The first step is to think about what differentiates your product from what’s already on the market.
In the process of developing your minimum viable product (MVP), you’ve probably identified a pain point for your target audience, which you hope your product will solve. Your first few customers will subscribe because they don’t have any other options that do the job as well as your product does.
Doing deep market research will help you center your product around this pain point.
Compare how existing products solve this pain point. Then head out and do some social listening to find out what your leads and potential subscribers are asking for or commenting on.
What are their gripes with the available options? What do they wish these available products could do but fall short on?
Once you’ve gathered this information, you’ll be able to develop your buyer persona.
After equipping yourself with this knowledge, it’s time to get the word out on the street about your MVP.
Drumming Up Interest
Getting your first 1,000 subscribers is a great way to get some qualitative feedback on your product, especially from your first few customers. After all, why did they choose your product over the established ones?
From here, you should focus on increasing your brand awareness and collecting as much information about your product as possible.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Create a Waiting List
Building anticipation before a launch plays a big part in the success of a product or service.
Think of movie trailers that give you a teaser of what’s to come: a landing page can create the same sense of intrigue. With some great copywriting, you can address the pain point and share how your product will solve it effectively.
A landing page can be a great place to create and build an email list, helping you start a waiting list for your product.
Your initial promise will be to notify users when the product is available, and you can sweeten the deal by offering the first few subscribers a discount for testing it out.
Engage with Communities
Remember when you were doing research on your target audience? Now it’s time to start engaging with them.
The communities you researched are a great place to promote your product as they were your initial core target audience.
However, it’s best to refrain from pushing your products too hard in these groups. Overselling can have the reverse of your intended effect and you might actually deter people from engaging with you. Instead, start building relationships with members of these communities.
Not everyone will respond, but try to generate conversations with those that do and be as helpful as possible. These initial conversations might nurture individuals to become your first subscribers.
Guest posting is a fantastic way to increase exposure and establish your authority. You can put yourself in front of audiences who have never heard of your product before.
Start reaching out to your network of fellow SaaS owners for your first guest post. You could do some outreach with cold emails if you don’t know anyone immediately with a suitable blog.
You can build your authority by creating content that provides a lot of value to readers. Once your guest posts gets accepted, check with the blog owner how your content is doing and what feedback readers had on the article.
Guest posting is a fine art: you’ll need to tailor your content to suit the needs of different audiences.
Create Your Own Blog
Speaking of establishing your authority as an expert, I strongly recommend starting your own blog on an area related to your product.
A blog optimized for SEO draws consistent traffic and allows you to play the long game. By targeting specific keywords, you can attract a high-quality audience with serious buyer intent. Focus on generating evergreen content that’s relevant to your target audience.
Product marketing through a YouTube channel can also be effective. Demonstrating the product’s functions in simple tutorial videos helps people learn quickly how to use it, improving the user experience.
Also, guest posting gives you a chance to create a backlink to your blog, which can increase your site’s domain ranking.
If you generate enough traffic, you can even make money from blogging to diversify your revenue streams!
Reach out to Journalists
If your SaaS helps people in a specific region or city, you could get featured on the local news.
This can provide a different perspective on the pain point you’re trying to solve and put your SaaS product in a larger context. What are the knock-on effects of your business’s solution to the pain point?
Head to Twitter to see which journalists routinely publish content about tech in your niche or cover similar SaaS products. Journalists’ time is limited, and they probably receive many similar requests. Keep your pitch short and sweet. Explain what is your differentiating factor to sell the story. This reduces the journalist’s workload by giving them a template to work with.
Appear as a Guest on Podcasts
Like guest posting, speaking on a podcast puts you on the radar of an audience you wouldn’t reach through conventional outreach approaches.
Find podcasts that your target audience normally frequents or with overlapping interests.
You’ll need to pitch to podcast owners to appear on an episode. As with journalists, explain what your product is, what problem it’s trying to solve, and why it’s important in the grand scheme of things.
One way to differentiate yourself from other SaaS owners in your niche is to explain your philosophy. This can intrigue podcast owners, especially if your philosophy is counter-cultural to the current norm.
That’s not to say you should be intentionally controversial to get attention but a well-formed, data-backed opinion critiquing the state of the industry could be the extra step that gets you on a podcast.
Stay Active on Social Media
When used correctly, social media can help grow your business in a big way.
What’s more, user-generated content on social media is a goldmine of raw data. If you step back, you’ll be able to identify patterns or trends that can influence your marketing strategy.
If there’s been a major change in your industry, it might create a great opportunity to put yourself in front of people responding to these changes on social media.
You might win yourself a few new subscribers if you can explain how your product will help people adapt to these changes.
Collaborate with Influencers
Research by Edelman Trust shows that 63% of consumers trust influencers’ opinions more than brands’ claims about themselves and that 58% of consumers even purchased a product in the past six months based on an influencer’s recommendation.
Pretty powerful, right?
Many brands partner with influencers to increase their reach, and this could be a great way to win new subscribers when you’re starting out. However, you’ll need to overcome two hurdles here.
Influencers normally request payment for their partnership, which can be a barrier if you have a small budget or intend to grow your product with minimal expenditure.
Even if you have the capital, you’ll need to consider if your SaaS product is compatible with an influencer’s brand. They may turn down your request if they feel it doesn’t fit with their brand’s values.
Rather than approaching the biggest influencers in your niche or a similar one, you could approach micro influencers.
Although micro-influencers have a much smaller following (usually between 1,000 and 10,000 followers), they tend to have better engagement and relationships with their followers. They also tend to be more flexible with compensation, so you might be able to offer them a discounted plan or a free trial with increased benefits instead of monetary payment.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
The tips we’ve given will help land your product in front of many eyes, but you’ll want to avoid deterring potential customers in the following ways.
Your first 1,000 subscribers will show you what works and what doesn’t, but you can stay ahead of the curve by avoiding these mistakes new SaaS owners commonly make rather than learning the hard way.
Pricing Yourself out of the Game
Be mindful that your pricing doesn’t swing too far above or below the market standard.
Overpricing can put off potential subscribers who are still figuring out your product is trustworthy.
Underpricing might earn you more subscribers, but it will result in a higher churn rate by attracting people who are comparing different products.
You could offer a variety of competitive price plans to meet the demands of users in different circumstances. This gives people the option to unlock the full benefits of your product or to choose a more limited plan at an affordable price.
Turning People Away at the Door
Take time to streamline the product’s onboarding process, so the user experience is excellent. A bloated onboarding process that shows off every last feature can be cumbersome and time consuming.
Instead, you can show off your product’s features through a series of emails staggered over time instead of cramming them into the initial tutorial.
Ignoring What the Customer Actually Wants
While refining your product and adding new features to your MVP, remember to note what a customer’s intent is when looking for a tool in the first place.
Your ambition for your SaaS product to function in a certain way might run away with you. If you ignore the customer’s intent, you might craft a product that misses the mark or is a carbon copy of existing products, in the customer’s eyes.
Neglecting Your Current Subscriber Base
As you work hard to gain new subscribers, remember to pay equal attention to your current subscribers.
Build a relationship with them and find out if your product is useful to them. Your first few subscribers will be the most important in helping you tweak the MVP to do the job your target audience requires of it.
Scaling to Sell
While growing to reach your first 1,000 subscribers, you’ll learn more about your product and build your authority. You’ll also learn which processes work best for your SaaS business.
Experiment with your outreach program, but try to avoid a burn-and-churn approach of targeting everyone and anyone. Your business’s churn rate will be proportionate to its size. As you scale, it will be important to keep the quality of your subscriber base as high as possible, leading to higher lifetime value and a lower churn rate.
Building your subscriber base will set you on track to create a sustainable and profitable asset.
As you scale your product, you might ask yourself one day, “What’s my end game with this business?”
Over time, you might not have the capacity to continue running it, either because you’re not motivated, it takes up too much time, or situations out of your control arise.
When you want to move on from your business, you don’t have to rely on venture capitalists to acquire it. There are many interested buyers on our marketplace, especially if your business has a loyal customer base with a low churn rate and high lifetime value.
Buyers are interested in “lifestyle businesses,” assets that generate enough income to fund a chosen lifestyle, such as frequent travelling.
A SaaS business we helped sell for $81,697 had 57 unlocks largely because its profits grew consistently and it required only three hours per week to maintain—perfect for someone who likes to travel and live the digital nomad lifestyle.
SaaS businesses can be extremely lucrative and sell extremely quickly when their operations are streamlined. One SaaS business sold for $106,000 on our marketplace in only two days. It had a super low churn rate of 1.7% and a big email list that had been built up over time, which meant there was room for continuous growth.
If you’re interested in selling your asset, our valuation tool can give you a rough estimate of what your digital asset is worth as a baseline measure. Schedule a call with our team of business analysts to learn more about selling.
Scaling your SaaS product gets easier once you’ve gained some momentum. It all starts with your first 1,000 subscribers.