Seeing customer development in action

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Recently I stumbled across a forum post where an entrepreneur found early beta users for his SaaS. Wow. I had never seen forum users see a pitch and then sign up for a beta product before. Then I saw it again… and again! These forum posts inspire me.

When you’ve spent a lot of time learning about entrepreneurship you inevitably hear stories about startup founders finding their early customers in niche online communities. I’ve spent a lot of time trawling forums over the years and until recently I’d never seen this actually happening.

I thought I’d share a couple of the posts (anonymized) that I found and talk about why I’m suddenly seeing this biz dev activity.

Example 1. Lead generation SaaS shared to a group of growth hackers.

This guy did a great job. He offered a freebie to the right audience. His offer netted him 137 beta users… all of whom are interested in the kind of product he’s offering.

Hi guys šŸ‘‹ Glad to share the group with you.
Need your feedback about my latest SaaS, a Lead Generation Automation Platform.
Since 2015 I’m in the SaaS industry crafting products for marketing folks.
As you may already know, It’s crucial for makers to gather feedback early on to know if you are creating something valuable for your target audience.
I’m looking for valuable feedback ideally from people that had used outbound sales strategies to sell product/services (e.g.: cold email).
If some of you are interested, I can grant you (free) an account that will drive between 2,400 to 4,000 leads per month.
Please, let me know if you are interested šŸ™Œ

Pitch to a forum of SaaS owners interested in growth hacking

Why did this work?

This is an audience of SaaS owners who run small SaaS businesses. They’re at the stage in their businesses where they’re focused on sales. They’re not quite big enough to be obsessed with marketing.

This guy offered them exactly what they need… a leads… for free.

It worked. Really really well.

Example 2. A tool for UI testing on iOS shared to the iOSProgramming sub-reddit

A developer asking for feedback from reddit users

The first comment reads–

I’m really hope you come out with this as soon as possible. This will solve a major crisis in my life. Not trying to be impolite but how soon could we start using this?

The rest of the comments are insightful and full of high-quality feedback. Check out the thread yourself. It’s really exciting to see how excited people get when the right product is pitched to the right audience.

Why did this work?

This is the right forum for this kind of tool. Developers here are interested in UI testing. They’re also fairly professional. They’re at the point in their careers where they have enough money that they are willing to trade some $$ to solve their problems.

Why am I seeing posts like this now when I wasn’t seeing them before?

Recently I got better at finding more professional forums.

In the past I was doing research on forums like /r/learnprogramming.

I love the people on the learnprogramming subreddit but they aren’t a very business oriented group. They don’t seem very interested in solving their problems by purchasing products.

I found posts like this when I got more specific… not programming… SWIFT… not SaaS but Growth Hacking.

My take-away is that within a category (eg: programming) not all audiences are the same. One way to segment is by experience. In general it seems easier to sell to ‘professional’ audiences.

I hope these examples inspire you the way they inspired me.

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