“Do things that don’t scale”

~ Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator. 

Paul Graham, in one of his essays says that the most common unscalable thing that founders have to do at the start is find potential customers manually. You can’t wait for them to come to you. You have to go out and get them.

Ideally, you may have the greatest idea but it can only be the greatest until you find someone who needs it to solve a problem (other than yourself).

Consider Airbnb for example. CEO Brian Chesky, 9 years ago, said in an interview they met many investors & they wouldn’t just invest. So, he walked door to door accompanied by his team, taking pictures of all apartments & uploading them online. And that’s how they found & formed the community of potential people who would want their service.

So, if you want to get an idea of your product resonating with your audience or not, you need to consider pre-sales. You need to hunt for potential users for your product.

Why sell a product that’s not even developed yet?

Three reasons why –

  1. You can provide value to your customers

The goal of pre-selling is to showcase an idea that has not yet been launched in the market. And if you are successful at this, you can be sure that you are solving a specific problem for your audience.

  1. You can save $$$ & judge market interest

Pre-sales help you identify the responses of your potential customers to your solution even before launching it. This means that you don’t have to pour in all your time & money into developing something that no one wants.

  1. You can prove to your investors that there is a demand for your product

Asking people if they want something is one thing, but getting them to buy the solution even before its existence is completely different. If you succeed at pre-selling your product even to a handful of people, it could be a worthwhile metric to discuss with your investors.

But…

…Where can you find these people?

We’ve compiled a list of places you can look for leads who may need your product. Let’s dive in.

LinkedIn

  1. Post a poll or ask a question with a problem statement that your product intends to solve. Check the responses, find connections to whom you can be valuable and send messages to them.
  2. Join groups – Search for your target audience with LinkedIn groups. Join those groups and engage with them. Post relevant & valuable content in these groups and look for people with pain that you are trying to solve.
  3. Filters + InMail – Utilize LinkedIn filters like company size, location, job title to search for the type of people you are targeting and message them via the InMail feature. If you use the free version of LinkedIn, you can send messages to your connections and send your messages as notes while connecting with someone.
  4. Communicate & find mutual connections – If your existing connections are not in need of your solution, then ask them to introduce you to people that might be interested. 

Twitter

  1. Target your followers – Tweet your followers asking what kind of problems they are facing. Get the conversation flowing.
  2. Request accounts to tweet on your behalf – If you lack a lot of followers, ask your friends or colleagues with more followers to retweet you.
  3. Hashtags – Search for hashtags relevant to your product. For example, start your search with #b2bsales – then find accounts using the hashtag, reach out to them and join the conversations happening. If you don’t find any relevant conversations, look for related hashtags in the same tweet. This will take you to new accounts.
  4. Search for people talking about the issue – Many people turn to social media to vent their frustrations. Search for different phrases and talk to them. For example, searching for “sales cold calling hate” surprisingly gave us a bunch of people hating to make cold calls.

Email

  1. Friends/contacts – You can email specific people that would be interested in your solution or request them to connect you with their friends for help. You may choose to spam all your contacts but it’s a waste of time for you & the people you target. So, it’s better to find a curated list of people for this. 
  2. Newsletters – Start sending a personal newsletter – once or twice a month. Talk about your startup journey, the problems you are looking to solve, the current status of your product or service, etc.
  3. Start an email course – A cost-effective way to educate your prospective customers and increase the chances of pre-sales simultaneously is to create a short email course. An email course is a series of lessons delivered via email over a predetermined period. In these lessons, talk & show them how your upcoming product can help them with X problem/topic. These types of outreach can lead to more meetings booked.

SEO

  1. Focus on providing valuable content – Start a blog. Publish content about the problem you are trying to solve. You don’t have to pitch your product – you can even talk about the industry, problems faced, and how to solve them in general.
  2. Distribute your articles to discussion sites – Take your articles to public forums and communities like GrowthHackers, SalesHacker, RevGenius, etc. 
  3. Try writing guest posts – Guest posts are an effective way to increase your online visibility. Nowadays there are many companies & service providers accepting guest posts. Try searching for a topic like this: [your topic] “write for us”. You can also use tools like Ahrefs to get the list of websites that allow you to guest blog.
  4. Write landing pages – Create landing pages on your website talking about how your product can solve a problem. For example, this landing page explains how Salesgear can help with outbound lead generation

You can leverage SEO in a variety of ways to bring organic traffic to your website. Check out this free SEO course by Buildd(co) to learn more! 🙂

Forums, Q&A sites, and communities

  1. Product Hunt – You can pre launch your product on Product Hunt. You can start a discussion by posting a question related to the pain point you are solving. You can also browse through the existing discussions to find people to whom you could be valuable.
  2. Quora – Reach out to people that ask questions relevant to your problem using any methods the site allows & see if you can book a meeting/call with them. You can also answer questions and provide links to useful resources.
  3. Discord – An instant messaging social platform to talk over voice, video, and text. You can join a public community server on Discord relevant to your space and start engaging with the people here.
  4. Reddit – A community for exploring anything. You’ll find different subreddits dedicated to a particular topic here. Try searching on Google for: “Reddit [your topic]”.
  5. Slack – Join Slack channels, understand the latest trends, identify your target audience, learn their pain points and see how you can be helpful. Google “Slack channels for [your topic]” – you’ll find some meaningful channels to join.
  6. Small community sites online – You can find common communities to post new discussions specifically on your target subject to see who is interested. Look for people unhappy with a service and join the conversation & check how you can help them. Software review sites like G2, Capterra, etc. will be of great use for this. 

Run Ads to pre-sell 

If you are a small business owner with a limited budget, running ads can be your last option to pre-sell your product. A small set of ads directed to a landing page can be a great way to get interest if you are familiar with your audience’s demographics. 

There are different platforms to choose from. Make sure you make the right choice. For example, Salesgear targets sales and marketing professionals, so starting our ads with LinkedIn & Google makes sense.

  1. Google Adwords
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Twitter
  4. YouTube
  5. Facebook
  6. Instagram
  7. Quora

Key Takeaways

You might find pre-selling exhausting, and let’s be honest – it is. But just imagine how powerful it is to find even the smallest amount of people who are willing to consider your solution before it’s launched into the market. You can be confident that the product you’re building is something that someone needs.

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