Whether it’s your first or 100th product, the excitement of launching never gets old.
The pre-launch phase is an exciting time for any SaaS company. After months or even years of percolating, your product is finally ready for users to test, and it’s your chance to gather valuable feedback and insights to shape the future of your product.
The success of a beta launch depends on more than having a quality product — it also hinges on the ability to attract and retain users. However, acquiring suitable users that are informative, provide great feedback, and are forgiving of any early bugs, can be complex and time-consuming.
With effective beta launch user acquisition strategies, you can simplify the process and enjoy a larger pool of testers. As a result, your beta launch will maximize your product’s potential and drive your SaaS business toward success.
How do you launch a SaaS product?
When launching a new SaaS product, most businesses start with a minimum viable product (MVP). Beta launches are an effective way to push this MVP into the world and see how it performs.
A beta launch is an early release of a product to a select group of users for testing and feedback purposes. It lets your company gather insights from real people so you can make necessary changes and improvements before the final launch.
This phase is crucial, as it ensures your final product meets the needs and expectations of its target audience so you avoid a poor launch that misses the mark. Beta testers help by identifying bugs, providing honest feedback, and highlighting ways to fine-tune the product’s features and functionalities.
You can think of a product release in three stages:
- Pre-launch – You prepare for launch and create a go-to-market strategy. This is also when the beta launch takes place, making it critical to attract early adopters and build strong foundations for a successful launch.
- Launch – You implement your go-to-market strategy as you release the product to the public and generate initial user adoption.
- Post-launch – This stage focuses on user adoption and onboarding, as well as ongoing product development and refinement.
This article focuses on user acquisition strategies for the pre-launch stage.
8 Essential user acquisition strategies for your beta launch
According to The Lean Startup methodology, iterating quickly with customer feedback is key to getting your beta launch off the ground. Eric Ries’ invaluable wisdom emphasizes the importance of attracting the right users early on in the beta launch process.
While turning to friends and family may be tempting, that’s not the most effective strategy. Friends and family are often biased and likely won’t be representative of your target audience. This is a deadly combination that makes it nearly impossible to gather meaningful feedback to inform future iterations of your product.
Rather than relying on loved ones, focus on acquiring customers who are part of your target segment. It may take more effort and resources to do so, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Now, let’s explore eight powerful user acquisition strategies you can employ during the beta phase of a product launch.
1) Share your waitlist with relevant communities
When it comes to product launches, waitlists are a major asset. A pre-launch waitlist is a great way to attract early adopters interested in your product who’ll eagerly share their feedback. Make sure you share the waitlist with relevant communities so you can attract the right testers to your beta launch.
To do this, create a pre-launch landing page or sign-up form that captures user information for people interested in being beta testers. This form should encourage relevant users to sign up to beta test your product. Once you’ve generated your waitlist, share it with relevant communities on platforms like Reddit, Facebook groups, and other forums where your target audience is likely to be active.
For example, Todoist is an online task manager for work and life with a dedicated Reddit community of over 50,000 members. Founder Amir Salihefendic actively engages with the Todoist Reddit community.
So, when announcing the private beta launch of Todoist’s latest iteration, Amir turned to the company’s Reddit community to invite users to participate. In his post, Amir linked to a landing page where interested individuals could fill out a short form and apply to join the beta testing group.
Even without a dedicated community like Todoists’, you can still realize great results from community platforms by sharing your beta launch waitlist in relevant niche communities. Doing so builds buzz around your brand as you tap into valuable user feedback.
2) Create a referral program
A referral program is another effective user acquisition strategy for beta launches. It encourages beta testers to invite other people to try your product by offering incentives each time they successfully refer a new user.
Incentives could include discounts, exclusive access to new features, free swag, or even money back.
To set up a referral program, define your incentives and create a landing page or sign-up form that explains the program and how it works. Give it a polished look by either using a referral marketing platform like Mention Me or constructing a custom one. Once built, spread the word by telling beta testers about the program.
Offering a referral program brings a myriad of benefits:
- It incentivizes beta testers to invite others to try your product, which attracts a larger user base.
- It encourages word-of-mouth marketing, which is a powerful method for generating excitement about your product and draws in even more users.
- It helps you identify and reward your most loyal users, which can improve retention rates, strengthen customer relationships, and support long-term success.
If you set up a referral program, make sure you craft a top-notch beta tester application to weed out any poor-fit applicants who don’t fit your target audience.
FitEvo is a fitness app that aims to let users earn money for logging their fitness activity. Phase two of FitEvo’s pre-launch strategy included a private beta launch of the app. During this phase, beta testers could refer their friends to test the app so that, when signing up with a referral code, both the referrer and the referred received reward points.
3) Recruit existing customers
User acquisition strategies don’t have to be restricted to finding new users — you can recruit existing customers too!
Reach out to loyal followers who’ve used other tools or products you’ve launched and offer them early access to your new release through targeted email marketing campaigns.
To implement this strategy, create a list of customers with experience in your other products or who fit the target audience for your new offering. Then, craft a personalized email campaign that builds hype for the release, highlights the benefits of the new product, and offers existing customers early access in return for their feedback. Giving incentives also encourages participation from existing customers (they’ll want to know what’s in it for them).
Recruiting existing customers is a great way to leverage your current consumer base and strengthen those relationships, as well as attract users to your new product. It also provides a trusted and reliable source of feedback.
Current customers bring a unique perspective to the beta launch phase in that they can test how the new product aligns with your existing suite. Because they’re already familiar with your products, they can help you identify weak spots in your latest release that new users may overlook.
Source: A Notion email sent to a personal inbox
One company that does a fantastic job of recruiting existing customers for beta launches is Notion. When Notion added AI functionality to their note taking tool, they emailed users letting them know they could access it and take it for a test run.
In the email, Notion briefly demonstrated the benefits with an example, then ended with a CTA to try their AI. This strategy allowed Notion to test a new product launch seamlessly with a familiar audience.
4) Run paid ads
Paid ads can be a bountiful approach to attract new customers to your beta launch, especially if your company lacks a large reach or brand recognition. They let you strategically position your beta launch in front of the right audience.
Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Google Ads are all great places to advertise your beta launch. With well-curated paid ads, you can effectively promote your limited release and encourage people to be the first to access it.
Implement your paid advertising strategy by first defining your target audience, then determining the best channels to reach them.
Once you’ve chosen your platforms, create compelling ad copy and visuals to entice your audience. Your ad elements should highlight the value of your product and encourage them to sign up for early access.
Track ad performance and tweak your creatives based on the results. I recommend launching ad campaigns with at least two creatives so you can test which is the most effective.
The best part of paid advertising is you choose who sees your adverts; drill down into your target audience based on relevant demographics, interests, or behavior to ensure the right people view your ads.
Invest in paid advertising to drive traffic to your landing page, generate sign-ups, and build a user base for your product launch.
Tilt Metrics helped one of their clients generate over 350 leads from a 10-day advertising campaign. It focused on testing audience interest in the SaaS startup: Ad viewers were sent to a landing page that encouraged visitors to opt in for early access. These ads enabled them to gauge audience interest and build a pool of beta testers.
5) Reach out to target users on LinkedIn
LinkedIn boasts a massive pool of potential users for your new product. Although it’s marketed as a professional social media platform, it’s a great place to find people who may be interested in trying your product — especially if it applies to the B2B sector.
Find your target audience on LinkedIn by searching for people based on relevant criteria, such as their job title, industry, the company they work for, or topics they discuss.
Armed with your list of potential users, you can reach out and invite them to test your product. Craft personalized messages for each person that highlight the value of your beta launch. Be genuine in your outreach and strike up rich conversations with your target audience; being too generic or spammy will deter people from replying.
You won’t always get a bite after the first message, so be prepared to follow up and engage with potential testers who express an interest in your offer.
The team behind Chanty used LinkedIn to connect with their target audience. Their outreach strategy focused on identifying the right people to follow and then sending them tailored messages.
Chanty’s founder personally emailed those connections, inviting them to beta test the product. It wasn’t a one-shot process though: Chanty focused on fostering trust by engaging with prospective users a few times before inviting them to join the beta test. The company has fine-tuned their LinkedIn outreach strategy over time and transformed it into a core component of the pre-launch phase.
6) Launch your product on Product Hunt
People use Product Hunt to discover, discuss, and unvote new products in the tech space. It’s a potent platform for finding relevant users, promoting your product, and getting it in front of relevant audiences ahead of launch. This makes it the perfect place to showcase your beta launch and get in front of tech enthusiasts.
Promote your beta launch on Product Hunt by planning what you can offer the Product Hunt community. The more you can offer, the more likely you are to acquire early users. When releasing your beta version, focus on product positioning and sharing your story — the Product Hunt community loves to know the story behind a new product.
Include any screenshots, videos, or compelling copy to capture people’s attention. Remember to communicate and engage with the Product Hunt community to build relationships and generate interest in your beta launch.
Product Hunt can be an effective option for a limited release of your SaaS product and to acquire early adopters. Better yet, Product Hunt lets you relaunch after six months, meaning you can release the beta product to acquire early adopters and then relaunch the refined version at a later date.
Gamma used Product Hunt to launch its content platform that lets people create engaging presentations and documents. That release helped them reach early adopters and gather valuable feedback to improve their tool. Their launch earned over 2,300 upvotes and received Product of the Day, Week, and Month awards on Product Hunt — proving how they connected with early users effectively. Gamma’s Product Hunt launch strategy included warming their community and setting goals throughout the launch day, among other tactics.
7) Build in public on social media
Social media’s highly interactive nature makes it a brilliant place to find potential beta testers for your product. Many SaaS founders build in public on social media platforms by sharing behind-the-scenes (BTS) processes, updates, and progress reports throughout their product development journey.
Choose your preferred platform — many founders use Twitter to build in public — and set to work sharing your journey. Take people behind the scenes with videos, images, and posts that dive into your product development journey. Be transparent and open by sharing both the highs and lows.
Engaging with people is crucial for acquiring beta testers through this approach. Respond to comments and messages, follow relevant individuals, and engage with other people’s content. If someone expresses interest in what you share, invite them to beta test your product. This personal invitation creates a sense of exclusivity, which greatly helps you build a community of early users.
Tony Dinh is a software developer and indie hacker who builds products in public. His Twitter following stands at over 85,000 strong, and he frequently reaches out to this community to acquire beta testers for his new product launches. Further, Tony explained in his newsletter how 99% of his sales for his latest releases came from Twitter. For the launch pictured above, Tony combined building in public on Twitter with Product Hunt to acquire a trove of early adopters.
8) Work with industry influencers
Influencers and content creators are everywhere, which is great news for your beta launch! Working with industry-relevant influencers or content creators raises awareness for your release — emphasis on “relevant.” The people you partner with should possess a significant following and influence in your target niche to help you tap into a wider audience and attract potential beta testers.
Identify influencers who have a strong presence in your chosen niche and who align with your brand values, product offering, and target audience. Then, reach out to them with a personalized and authentic pitch to work together. Highlight the benefits of your product and explain how you’d like to work with them to advertise your beta launch to their audience.
Influencer partnerships must be mutually beneficial, so offer them something in return for their endorsement, be it monetary payment, exclusive access to your product, or something else. Be transparent about your expectations and collaborate to develop an influencer marketing strategy, ensuring everything is clearly outlined and agreed upon in a contract.
Working with influencers can be lucrative when done right. Focus on building genuine relationships with your chosen candidates, and you’ll successfully amplify your product launch and attract a larger number of beta testers.
Tibo, the founder of social media tools Tweet Hunter and Taplio, works with influencers when building new products. For his Pony Express tool, he noticed a high volume of sales coming from his Twitter followers. Leaning into the power of social media, Tibo reached out to a Twitter influencer and engaged them in promoting his new tool, Tweet Hunter. This influencer partnership produced a spike in subscriptions and increased interest in the tool. Partnering with the Twitter influencer helped Tibo take Tweet Hunter from $5,000 to $15,000 MRR.
Wrapping up — Invest in beta launch user acquisition for a smoother GTM
Launching a beta version is a critical step in any SaaS product development journey. The real success, however, entails acquiring the right users for your beta release.
Leverage various strategies to find the perfect users for your beta launch. By taking advantage of various channels such as online communities, paid advertising, social media, and referral programs, you can effectively promote your release, iterate quickly based on feedback, and build on those insights to refine your product.
Approach your beta launch with a well-thought-out plan and goals to get the most from it. If you’re gearing up for a SaaS product launch, implement these user acquisition strategies to attract early adopters, gather feedback, and set a strong foundation for your product’s success.