A strong Beta waiting list can make or break a startup. That sounds a bit dramatic, but too many startups have closed because they blew their entire angel budget of £15k on Google Adwords to try and bring in Beta testers.
While it’s true that PPC can get you Beta testers, there’s a big difference in the dynamic of a startup paying £3 to acquire a waiting list user, and paying nothing. And why pay, when there’s a ton of early adopters out there who are literally begging to use new products!
Here are 10 resources that we used to get Beta users for free. Some will work better than others depending on the type of startup, but we’ve used these for Trakio’s early waiting list with amazing results!
Probably the most active and prominent place to find new Beta’s. Betali.st will list almost any startup that meets basic quality guides (no LaunchRock landing page, must not be public launched). This means there are usuall 2-10 new startups go live every day, so you need to use the short opportunity to stand out to it’s full potential. A great screenshot and a clear, simple description are clear wins. The worst listings on Betali.st have obscure, vague descriptions. Don’t be that startup.
Betali.st has an audience made up of startup founders, tech consumers and investors.
Betali.st also have optional paid advertising packages to use after your free listing has ended. A great technique is to use something like trak.io to see which source brought the most active Beta testers, and then consider advertising afterwards.
2. Erli Bird
Erli Bird is focussed around getting qualitative feedback from your Beta, with an emphasis placed on leaving comments on the app on the Erli Bird page itself. You have the option of listing your startup as pre-launch, private access (with promo code) or a paid focus group. The optional paid focus group is a good option if you’re a consumer app, but less relevant if you’re a B2B product.
A great listing is essential to get the most from Erli Bird – good screenshots, a video, and engaging in the discussion are vital to get featured. Once you’re featured, you’ll see a good boost in traffic and signups to your app.
Be sure to track how effective Erli Bird is, as they offer various paid promotion options blasting some or all of their mailing list. They also donate a % of all revenue to startup or programming charities.
StartupList is very similar to Betali.st however there are some notable differences. First, listings are controlled and edited by yourself – you create an account and can edit your startup listings. Each new startup needs to be approved before it appears on the homepage feed.
The number of signups you’ll receive compared to Betali.st will be slightly less, and there are no premium options available. However it takes 2 minutes to re-use the same screenshot and description as from other listings, and the site has a strong Twitter following too.
Quora started off as an exclusive hang-out where the inner circle of silicon valley could hang out and talk about tech startups and investment. It’s grown to be a Q&A site across all topics, however it’s core tech startup community is still extremely strong.
By participating in questions about your industry, and your competitors, you can start to build a content-driven stream of inbound interest. It won’t be an instant rush like you’ll see with directory listings, but by following laser targeted topics where your potential Beta users will be hanging out, you can build a much longer term influx of interest. Try answering questions (with links to your startup of course, but only where appropriate) for 1 hour, 3 days a week. After 1 month, look at your analytics to see how successful Quora has been as an acquisition channel.
Quora has a points system so you can attract attention to particular questions, but there are no ‘quick win’ advertising options available. Trak.io currently receives a steady stream of Beta signups from my activity on Quora, which is mostly discussing alternative analytics tools.
5. Hacker News
Of course no list would be complete with Hacker News. However, take this with a big caution: Beta testers from Hacker News don’t stick around. There’s a huge amount of “watchrepreneurs” who aren’t actually doing business but just admiring those who are, so they have very little need of a product that might help their business better, and certainly won’t be paying for it. If you’re launching a consumer product, targeted at tech adopters, you’ll have much better results.
Also notice that it’s very unlikely a brand new HN member posts something that makes it to the front page. You need to have a good reputation already, have friends who will support your post by voting it up and commenting, and/or be posting something truly amazing. We all hear about the fantastic success stories where HN drove 10,000 visitors in 1 day, but you don’t hear about the other 100 startups who submitted their link to HN on that same day and got a handful.
Even with those warnings, HN is a great opportunity to get big exposure. Just be sure to turn it into something valuable.
6. TNW Market
While primarily a place for specific special offers or promos, you can also create a listing of your startup for free. If you do also have a special offer you can create (e.g. first 3 months free) then it costs nothing to post and you can monitor the affect it had using stats.
It’s still really early days yet for TNW Market, but with such a big news site behind it, I’m sure it will soon be a great resource of driving signups.
Sharing valuable content is going to be the biggest part of your marketing strategy. And while there’s a lot of online options, such as Blogging and Podcasts, you’re probably doing a lot of in-person presentations too at local meetups and events. (If not – you should be!).
Once you’ve done your presentation, you should get the most out of the slide decks and upload them to Slideshare, making sure to add plenty of tags and description to increase it’s visibility. Good practice is sometimes to make adjustments to ensure the slides contain enough information so that they’re still relevant without hearing the presentation itself.
While Slideshare might be full of stuffy, unattractive and un-engaging content, there is a lot of well made decks up there, with an engaged and educated audience interested in finding out more about the people who made those decks.
Perhaps you have a Udemy course, or other webinars, and you can re-purpose those slides too? We haven’t yet used Slideshare for trak.io to great effect, but many other B2B startups see a solid influx of engaged Beta testers. Make sure to monitor Slideshare as an acquisition channel using something like trak.io
The Web (or Mobile) channel of AppStorm can be a great place to get a review of your product. While most reviews tend to be public Beta, the network has very high traffic particularly for consumer tech products.
There’s no guarantee you’ll get accepted, but a solid pitch could mean an extra couple hundred Beta signups plus a good reference when pitching for future PR.
AppStorm do offer premium sponsorship, where you get a sponsored review post and they’ll do some tweets. For the Web channel, it’s $299 a week. Be sure to monitor the performance of traffic acquired through AppStorm before you spend big bucks though!
Website: http://appstorm.net/ & http://web.appstorm.net/about/submit-an-app-for-review/
9. Killer Startups – http://www.killerstartups.com/
Boasting over 700,000 monthly visitors, Killer Startups is a startup news site that accepts submissions for review. While they do offer a free application, they warn that they’re very lazy about reviewing startups unless you pay them $167.
With any premium options, you should try and get a sense of the ROI first before spending anything big, so try and leave some comments on articles first to get a feel for how the Killer Startup audience will react to your startup first.
10. CSS Galleries (and Dribbble, Forrst)
This one is a bit of a wildcard. CSS galleries, and their more recent replacements like Dribbble and Forrst, have huge communities of designers, UX/UI and entrepreneurs. Everyone is looking for inspiration for their next project, that webform redesign that isn’t working or that landing page that doesn’t convert.
If you have a product aimed towards helping UX/UI guys, and you also have a great design, then showcasing your designs on galleries and in communities can have a secondary effect of bringing in valuable Beta testers. If you aren’t yet on any of the designer community sites, you might not see any great returns until you’ve participated for a while (posting comments and feedback on other peoples designs) but if you were launching a new Wireframing tool, I couldn’t think of a better place to find Beta testers.
When I owned an agency, we used to pay an external service to do the bulk of our CSS gallery submissions. Depending on how bootstrapped you are, you can also manually do these but be aware of the ROI on time spent.