66 paying users on beta product (MVP)
Issue 13 🪜: How I got paying users for my scrappy MVP + all the experiments I did.
Hey everyone👋, welcome to the 28th newsletter.
No matter what, getting the first few paid users is always tough. But I got a decent percentage of them by openly talking about the product at places like - Twitter, Indie Hacker, Medium posts, Makerlog, this Newsletter & through lots of SEO.
Let’s not forget I don’t have a huge following anywhere and my online friends are really supportive but they didn’t end up becoming paid users. Frankly, that’s okay, because not everyone needs the product or has the same problem and I’ve built it for a specific target audience.
This was my first time running a product that was still in the beta phase & started getting paid users. With a previously failed product, I have fastened my skills and understanding regarding building, launching, and running a startup.
I wasn’t interested in charging my beta users at first, but two things changed my mind:
After a while, one of the free users surprising decided to offer me to pay to use the product. Thinking that maybe this person really likes the product, it’s useful for her, I talk to her about what she liked & what’s not useful and ultimately I’d take my product seriously.
Someone paying you to use your product is such a big motivation to keep going on & getting some understanding of which direction to go.
Now, all my focus went on giving my best to that one paying user.
What I’ve noticed is, free users tend to use the product because they are experimenting with other options, they signup because they know you, trying new things out, etc. You can hardly get the right feedback from them that can help you evolve your product.
Paid users intentionally invest their time and money in you. They want to be heard and want their problems to be solved through your product.
These two were the main reasons why I decided to end the free tier after a month. It really doesn’t matter to me if I get tones of free signups (mostly because it wasn’t leading anywhere), my focus was on keeping the paid users and converting free users into paying users as fast as possible.
Anyway, I tried to do several experiments & this is how I’ve got my first few paying users. 👇🏻
Testing & getting the early users
First of all, I’m very particular about whom to give access to the beta product. It’s the initial stage, I need to be very sure about how I drive it. With my last product, I had 300+ free users but hardly 10 paying customers (losing the morale & motivation in the end).
I openly talk about the product, give updates, and let everyone hear about it on the internet. With the landing page (which describes what the product is about), I also had a detailed forum that everyone has to fill, and for me to vet down to whom to give access.
This was the easiest and fastest way to get free users & to validate the problem I’m trying to solve. Although it took longer than I expected, it’s worth it in long run.
Even before building the product, I started talking about it, build in public 😉. Twitter was the easiest way to share the updates & get feedback on the idea.
This ultimately leads people to join the beta list. The word was growing and so was my reach. After a while, people started reaching out to me for podcasts, interviews & guest speaking opportunities. That helped boost trust, visibility, and brand awareness and ultimately filled my goal.
Sticking to one area for distribution wasn’t enough. The growth was slow. I started writing on Medium & activity publishing on this Newsletter. After a while, I can see some good results with some of my articles ranking on the 1st page for short keywords.
Converting to paid users
Above was an easy but time taking automated system to get free users.
Well, the decision to create paid plan happened instantly when one of my free users reached out to pay to use it. So, initially, I didn’t make any efforts to convert the 1st paying customer.
But that was just the beginning.
Next, I went on a 1-on-1 with that user to understand the purchase behavior more closely. We talked about the idea, vision, the problem I’m trying to solve, and what feedback she can give me to shape the product in the right direction.
It made me realize how important is to focus on paid users because, in the end, I’m building this to also make money. The faster I’m able to open the profit, the faster my growth will be.
Once I was sure it’s the right time to create the paid plan, I decided to go further by building a hype. Well, that doesn’t mean I have to go viral or something. It requires a little bit of planning so that when I launch the plan there is a crowd to pump up.
The plan was to get as many paid users as possible. One of the things I did was offer a discount for a limited time period and spread the word out it everywhere: Twitter, landing page, email, free users, and Indie hackers.
This got very few but 8 paid users. Better than nothing.
To make it work more, I experimented with having 30 days free trial, and after that users need to become paid users to use it. This was a risk & I could lose users, as the product was still in beta version which looked very scrappy, but I was ready to experiment.
Building affiliate circle
The first 9 paying users then became my affiliates helping me build a circle of recurring paying users.
But that wasn’t it, those first few paying users were still my priority. I use to be in touch with them, actively discussing the product, which features to add, and future growth. Because I had built a great connection with them, their shoutouts and referrals to their community helped build trust and awareness. Which ultimately got me paying users.
This was very quick to establish because the price was one $5 per month, the payment was connected with Gumroad (so that I don’t have to separately build the payment system, which would take endless time) along with the affiliate program. This made the complete process very smooth and fast (both of me and the users).
If that one person wouldn’t have offered me to become a paying user, I would have waited till the product was launched. It’s a very hard decision to have a paid plan. What you can do initially is ask your users if they will be willing to pay even at the MVP stage?
Even if you get that 1 paying user, you just need to have a plan to grow from it. Keep these things in mind:
Make sure you vet down whom to give access to at the early stage and try to build a close-knit connection with them. This will take time but trust me you’ll be seeing growth very fast in the long run.
Your paying users are the ones who will give you the best feedback to shape the product.
Launch your paid plan by building hype, spreading the word to as many places as possible.
To increase the conversion rate, build a quick and easy affiliate circle.
🔗 More resources:
Sustaining Online Communities — How to Build a Close-Knit One
Thanks for reading & sharing!
👋 PS: I’m Ritika founder, product marketer and advisor for early-stage startups, find more here or connect with her here. If you’re a first-time founder looking for curated resources, download here. If you enjoyed this post, read the past issues here. You can also promote your product in this newsletter.
A big thanks for reading & sharing!