Getting Your First 100 SaaS Users: Proven tactics from Stripe, Zapier, Convertkit. Part 1.

published on 21 November 2023

This article is also available in video format 🙂

So you made an app or a SaaS and struggling to find your first users.

Understandable. The first 100 is the hardest one.

I gathered the tactics of the most notable SaaS companies. Here is the list of concrete actions. Enjoy.

Acquiring early stage customers is doing things that don't scale.

The key error in the beginning is thinking too much about the future. I see it often. Founders want virality, scalability. They want it huge and they want it quick.

But living in a dream distracts from what really matters. In reality a beginning founder must focus on understanding who is their customer. To do the research you don't need many users, just a few people is enough and it's easier to get the first dozens users by doing manual actions. By doing things that don't scale.

And now let's have a look at some examples of such manual actions.

Massive following people on Twitter

This tactics helped Suhail to kickstart Mixpanel the analytics tool.

The quote. Earn on own I wrote a Twitter script to follow a person's followers. That person often blogged about the problem we were trying to solve. We found hundreds of customers this way. Remember that you can follow up to 400 persons per day.


Start with an email newsletter

The idea is to build a list of people, who like reading your content, and then launch a product using the audience as a ramp. my favorite story of applying this trick. 10 years ago, Rayan Hoover started to send daily email newsletter with interesting startups, he found.

Soon, he made a list of 170 highly engaging people. These people started responding to Rayan and telling how much they enjoyed his digests. This is how he came up with the idea to build a product.

He launched notorious Product Hunt. With the help of this small initial audience, the new website quickly took off. Soon it became the coolest social network for startup people.

"The Collinson installation"

Paul Graham writes:

"At YC, we use the term Collinson installation for the technique they invented. More diffident founders asked: 'will you try our beta?'. And if the answer is yes, they say 'great! We will send you the link'. But Collinson brothers weren't going to wait. When anyone agreed to try Stripe, we would say 'right then, give me your laptop!'. And set them on the spot."

Paul Graham


Product forums

Zapier is a tool that connects one another. For example, Salesforce with MailChimp. Dropbox with Google drive, et cetera.

So who is the user of Zapier? Right. It's a user of these apps. And where are you can find users of Salesforce, MailChimp and other apps. On their product forums. And you can imagine the plan now.

Zapier's CEO used to go to the product forums of companies like Dropbox, Salesforce, Evernote, and find posts like: " I love MailChimp! It would be awesome if you had. Wufoo Integration!" Then he just offered his solution, Zapier.

He got 10 visits from each of those links, not a lot of traffic, but he knew he was onboarding the right customers 50% of visitors would sign up for beta. It's a half.

Takeaway. Targeted outreach is the way to go. You don't need a thousand customers to get started. You just need the right 10.

Direct sales

"Content marketing doesn't work nearly as well for a new product. Direct sales killed it."

Nathan Barry

Says Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit. We all hate spam, but I must admit it just works. If done right.

If you do a diligent research before reaching a potential client, you will be able to make an offer that way. Compare these two offers. First one:

Hello, dear sir/madam! Your company has a decent website, but it could be better. Please buy my professional website speedometer tool.

And here's the second one. The second offer:

Hello, Alex. I learned about your company while watching your latest, podcast show with James. You were speaking about website's performance. a lot. Out of curiosity, I tested your website on my website speedometer tool and it, only scores, 18 out of 100. Wanna what exactly needs to be improved.

You see the difference, right?

And another one from the founder of ConvertKit it's called "concierge migrations". Nathan writes:

"the biggest objection in the sales process for us has always been. 'But it's so much work to switch!'
So we did the ultimate thing that doesn't scale and offered to switch them out of their to convert kit. Totally for free. Yes. It costs us a lot of time and money, but the referrals and ongoing revenue gives an incredible ROI."

Nathan Barry

Great tactic that works for the type of products, which are hard to move from, for example, a website builder.

Keyword in domain name

The next one is pure genius. I am surprised why people are not using it anymore. It's from 2013. The folks from Doordash launched a landing page. They wanted to validate the problem of quick food delivery. But they didn't have resources for marketing.

They decided to target people from Palo Alto, searching for food delivery in Google. Doordash chose the domain name, ""

they expected the domain to appear on the top search positions in Google for the keywords "Palo Alto delivery". So the keyword is the domain name. And it worked!

I used the strategy too. And it worked for me as well. My side project brought me over $20,000 of profit since 2022. The traffic mostly comes from Google, you can guess the keyboard.

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