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How I got 300 sign-ups from a pre-launch experiment

I decided to try some marketing experiments this month and did my first this weekend. This is what happened.
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August 2020

I was going to post a whole different blog today but this weekend was too exciting not to talk about!

Here’s some back story. Last month I planned to build and launch my latest product Panda Snap. It’s a product which lets you save website pages or elements that inspire you.

Well my plan failed horribly. I made a bunch of mistakes, they slowed me down, and I couldn’t launch within the month as planned. You can read about the build and my mistakes in last week’s post.

Instead of throwing it away and starting on the next project, I decided to double down and continue with it for a second month.

This decision give me a couple extra weeks to play with so I thought “why not try out some marketing experiments?”. I could give Panda Snap the launch it deserves.

Well I had my first success this weekend and want to tell you all about it.

The Experiment

I read a couple of articles recently that cover successful product launches by fellow indie hackers. These inspired me for my launch and I thought why not try and replicate them.

This article in particular talks about how to create hype using a waiting list.

Given that my app is functional but not quite ready yet, this strategy was perfect. If I could get a small audience before launching that would be awesome. Why not give it a go eh?

The experiment was this:

The waiting list

To create the waiting list I extended the site with a few modifications.

Firstly I added a simple ‘has_access’ flag to my DB user model to identify waiting users. Then I made a new ‘waiting’ page where users go if they don’t have access.

It’s a simple page which talks about me, the product, and what they can expect. Here’s a preview of it:

(Not the prettiest but it works)

Click to tweet

Secondly I implemented another suggestion from the article. I tried out click to tweet which presents a pre-filled tweet users can modify and send.

To incentivise users to actually use it I offered a special discount. I didn’t specify what the discount was but I plan to make it worthwhile for them.

To actually track which users tweeted I:

I was surprised people actually used it! Super cool of them.

Landing

Lastly I needed a place to send people. I had an in-progress landing page but stripped it down to just the title, my promo video, and a big sign-up button.

One fault I made here was only using Google auth.

The good thing is it’s super easy for users to sign-up. They don’t have to fill out details and they’re already logged into my app.

The downside is that not everyone uses Google auth. I had 3 people complain and I probably missed out on many more sign-ups.

For the actual launch I plan to add normal login.

The pre-launch

With my waiting list in hand I had to market it somehow.

I often use the webdev subreddit where they have a ‘Showoff Saturday’ event. It’s kind of like Product Hunt but for web developer tools and on Saturdays. Posts can get quite popular so I thought it was perfect for my app.

So this Saturday I made a quick video of my app in action, posted it, and made a comment linking it to my site.

I wasn’t expected much since there were some killer products that day, but it did super well! I was stoked.

You can check out the post here.

The stats

This experiment took half a day to prepare and resulted in almost 300 signups!

The post generated:

All-in-all a very happy result!

Upcoming launch

So now there’s a bit of pressure to actually launch this thing. I’m nervous but excited. Hopefully I can make this a useful and successful product!

Perhaps my 12 start-ups in 12 months plan might be cut short. We’ll see 🤔

Sign up at Panda Snap to see how the launch goes. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks!