Winning Users

Why your new business should get lots of users right now; some creative ways of getting them.

The Three Personas

There are three types of people you need to consider when trying to sell your product: the User, the Customer and the Buyer.

  • The User is the person who will gain the benefit of your product.
  • The Customer is the person who decides they want your product. They might not necessarily anticipate using it themselves, but they see it as valuable for someone else (e.g. as a present or as a tool for staff members).
  • The Buyer is the person who actually hands over the cash to you.

In the case of a person who goes into a shop, decides they want a Twirl then buys it and eats it, these are all the same person. In the case of a big corporation that buys something new for their employees to use, these are probably three totally different people.

As an early-stage business, you should be starting with the user. Think about this from the points of view of the other personas: the Customer only wants to buy the product because they think it’ll be valuable to the User. And the Buyer only wants to buy the product because they think that the value it gives to the User will give a positive return on their investment. Whether you’re aiming at three-personas-in-one individuals or split-persona companies, start with the user and the customer and buyer will follow later.

Winning users

To get as many users as possible, you need to put in some legwork and get creative. The following won’t apply to every business or product, so work out which ones apply to you and try them out.

Do the splits

Vary your approach and record the results. This is called split-testing; it gives you a way of optimising everything you do to give the results you want. The Obama campaign used split-testing to increase their sign-up rate by 41%. You don’t have to be running for president to split-test.

Let them make the first move

Get a big sign saying “Hi, I’m Hywel and if you ever <the problem your product solves> then you should definitely talk to me!”. Or even get it on a t-shirt. Wear this wherever you go and try to get every one who approaches you signed up. At the least, collect their contact details. This is even more effective if you…

Hunt users in their natural habitat

Where do groups of your users gather? In cafes? The gym? On the train? On the high street? Go there. You can either let them approach you (see above), or if you’ve got the confidence, go up to them and ask if they can spare the time to try your product. If it’s valuable, then people just trying it will graduate into users, who then graduate into paying customers.

Fake it ’til you make it

This might seem morally dubious but it works. If your site is looking a bit dead, you can fake the appearance of activity by creating virtual users that don’t exist and “seeding” the site with activity. Reddit and Paypal have both done this in the past. Users who pop by are more likely to become involved if the site has the appearance of an active community.

Forums, emails, tweets

You might not read forums, click on links in unsolicited emails or use Twitter but some of your users almost certainly will. Find relevant forum threads and link to your product, email people who saying they’re having the problem that you solve, and tweet to users who might be interested. Don’t be shy about doing this: people who experience the problem that your product solves will be glad to see that you’re working on it.

Friends and families

Your family, your partner’s family, every Facebook friend you ever had and every Twitter follower are all prospective users. Contact them individually, explain why your product is great for them and get them on board.

Get competitive

Everyone wants the chance to win even if they’re not going to win much. Run a competition where users who sign up then advertise your product or do another desirable action get extra chances to win. Some prizes can even be free to you, e.g. featuring a winning user on your website.

The hunted become the hunters

Give your users something back if they help you spread the word. let users jump the queue to activate their accounts if they tweeted a link to the site and accidentally gained 40,000 users in a week. Rewards can be less tangible than this though; products with game-like features can simply give a user extra ‘points’ for spreading the word.