I frequently see stories in the news (or our “tech version” of news) that talk about crazy amounts of pre-signups that apps get before they are even released.
This has become somewhat of a bragging right, and the tech community is absolutely infatuated with it. The story of Mailbox quickly comes to mind. They shot up to an insane amount of pre-signups and were quickly bought by Dropbox for $100M.
The tech community fell in love. Mailbox hadn’t even been released yet, and many people criticized saying the only reason Dropbox bought them was because of their high amount of pre-signups.
So how do you generate pre-signups for your app?
It’s All About the Launch
While you probably won’t be as successful as Mailbox, I can tell you that I got 2200 pre-signups for my app in just 2 weeks using these methods.
The thing you have to drive into your mind is that it is all about the launch.
Launching your app should be an event. Throwing up a landing page and beginning to work on your app will not result in a large amount of pre-signups.
Think of it like a party.
Everyone wants to be invited to the party right? So how do you make your launch seem like a party?
The first step, and in fact, the most important, is to have a party worth going to. Your app idea has to be a good one, one that people will, in fact, want to use. If you begin with a bad idea, none of these tips will actually help you. So before you put the effort into creating your spectacular launch, make sure you’ve made a Minimum Viable Product.
Once you have a Minimum Viable Product at a stage where people could begin using it (which hopefully doesn’t take you long), it is then time to plan your launch. I like setting my launch date two weeks out from when I start my launch marketing.
It is important to note, that even if your MVP is “finished” that you should not allow access to it until your set launch date. The only reason to grant someone early access should be if they are an influential figure or a friend that can help you promote your app during the pre-launch.
The three tips that can make a successful launch even more successful are scarcity, urgency and social referrals. These are all hype-generation tactics, tactics that will create buzz around your app and make people share it.
Using Scarcity to Gain Pre-Signups
The best parties are the ones where not everyone is invited. If everyone is invited to a party, then the party may come off as desperate. If only a select few people are invited, it becomes something that is desirable because you “have to be good enough to get in.”
There are several different scarcity tactics that you can employ on your landing page or other pre-launch marketing (such as on social media). Here are a few that have been proven successful:
The “Waiting in Line” Approach
This is the primary approach that Mailbox used that made their launch so successful. On a normal landing page, you ask someone for their email address, and then they go about on their way.
If they liked your product however, that doesn’t mean that they will give you their email address right away. In fact, they may think “Oh, this seems cool, I’ll bookmark it and come back to it later once it’s launched.”
Chances are, they are never going to remember to come back.
They may like your product, but they need a reason to pre-sign up right now. They need a reason to hand over their beloved email address.
Have you ever been walking down the street and seen a line of people waiting outside of a store, concert hall, etc? Your immediate response is to look and see why all of those people are waiting in line. What’s going on in the back of your head is “That’s a lot of people, whatever is going on must be cool, should I be waiting in line too?”
This is the “Waiting in Line” approach. You create this sense of popularity by showing people that your app has a waiting line or list. There is, in fact, only standing room left. So you have to get in now.
Mailbox did this perfectly by both telling you how many people are currently ahead of you in line and how many people are behind you in line.
By seeing the number grow of people that are in front of you, you feel like you must pre-register right now to get your spot in line, otherwise you will be pushed back further and further. This method of scarcity actually creates the sense of urgency which is the second tip.
After you have registered, by seeing the number of people in line behind you grow, you are encouraged to tell your friends to sign up before they are pushed back in line. After all, you owe it to your friends to tell them you found something cool and tell them how they too can get in quicker. This method creates social referrals which is the third tip.
Mailbox soon sold to Dropbox for $100 MILLION dollars and launched to hundreds of thousands of people. Why? Because they successfully employed all 3 launch tips.
The “Limited Supply” Approach
What if you told the attendees of the party that you were only going to have 10 bottles of Grey Goose, and everyone else was going to be stuck with bottom shelf liqueur? That would give the attendees that come first special treatment.
One great example of special treatment is to allow people to pre-register for things that are going to be in limited supply.
A prime example of this is the tactic Connect.me employed when planning its launch strategy. Instead of just giving Connect.me your email address, you also got to pre-register your username.
We all know how important it is for people to have their username, or to have those coveted one and two letter usernames.
By allowing people to pre-register AND pick their username, Connect.me succeeded in gaining 20,000 pre-signups. The great part about this launch campaign is that as the number of pre-signups got larger and larger, less and less usernames were available.
If I was number 1000 and I wanted the username “matt” chances are that username is already taken. Upon discovering that this name is taken, I would then continue to try until I could find the most desirable name I wanted, and register it.
If I had to try 2 or 3 names before getting one, that would create a sense of emotional attachment to it, thus increasing the chance that I would come back and check it out. After all, if all the “cool” names are taken, it must be a pretty cool product, right?
The “Make Money from Scarcity” Approach
Want to validate your idea and make a little money at the same time? If you have a product ready to go, some have found great success in selling their Beta versions at a discount. By limiting the rate at which you let people into your beta, but letting them in immediately if they pay for the product, you will also gain some monetary validation for your idea.
Dustin Curtis of Lifepath tried this method, and added some humor to it as well:
If you are going to do this though, be sure not to undervalue your product too much. Minecraft offered a 25% off discount, and Dustin actually said that when he changed his pre-signup immediately cost from $3 to $10, he saw the rate at which people bought an account increase.
There are definitely more Scarcity tips than these two, if you feel you have one worthy of mentioning, let me know in the comments below!
Using Urgency to Gain Pre-Signups
The second tip for a successful launch is that of Urgency. All of the approaches from the Scarcity section above actually employ a sense of urgency, but urgency can itself be used alone.
Urgency is a powerful and driving human force that is not to be underestimated. Here are some examples of how to employ this tactic:
The “Countdown” Approach
The clock is ticking, and you’ve got to make a decision now.
Back to our party analogy, if you have an RSVP date, you create a sense of urgency just by having a deadline that you must choose whether or not you want to attend by.
I employed this approach when launching my side project, Kobra.io. When using this approach it is important that you have a specific launch time, down to the second. By putting a countdown on your landing page that is ticking down to the minute of launch, not only do you tell people exactly when your app will become available, you actually create a sense of urgency in their mind.
This sense of urgency is actually somewhat of a mental trick. Since the timer is counting down, people are more likely to pre-signup because it appears as if there is a time limit, and it also creates excitement.
While you may have been planning to launch at that specific minute the entire time, just throwing up a countdown will increase your pre-signup rate. Remember, this is all about creating hype.
The “$1*Buyers per Sale” Approach
This is a rather unique approach to creating a sense of urgency that I’ve seen a few times before. I wanted to include it to show you that you can be extremely creative when using these 3 tips to set yourself apart from the crowd.
There was a programmer (and for the life of me I can’t remember his name, if you know it, please comment below) that wanted to sell 1 hour chunks of his time for consulting. Instead of setting a fixed price hourly rate, he decided to come up with a dynamic pricing structure based around the number of buyers.
Buyer #1 would get an hour of his time for $1, buyer #2 would get an hour of his time for $2, and so on and so on adding $1 for every 1 buyer.
The first buyer thinks they got an amazing deal, and the last buyer thinks that they got a great amount of value because this programmer is obviously talented if XX people have purchased his services before them.
This creates a sense of urgency because as the price goes up, people feel like they need to buy now otherwise they will wind up paying more and more for the service the longer they wait to buy.
Use a great “Urgency” approach that I didn’t mention? Comment below and tell me about it!
Using Social Referrals to Gain Pre-Signups
The above methods, scarcity and urgency, are used to gain the pre-signup of one person. It is only when you pair these two techniques with the technique of “Social Referrals” that you will see a drastic increase in your number of pre-signups.
Who wants to go to a party when none of their friends are at the party?
What we want to do is encourage people to share your app with their friends during its pre-launch, often by giving people a reward for sharing. There are several methods to do this, here are some that have been proven to work:
The “Refer for Earlier Access” Approach
This approach is an offshoot of the “Waiting in Line” where you don’t necessarily have to tell people their position in line, or how many people are in the line. This is useful for giving off the vibe that your app has more traction than it actually does.
The concept is that once someone pre-registers they are given a link to share with their friends. The more friends they refer, the closer to the front of the line they will get.
Forkly.com is one of the startups that made this method quite popular. Once you signed up for their pre-launch, you were greeted with the following screen:
While implementing this concept may be a little bit more difficult than some of the other methods (you have to program a referral system), it is definitely worth the effort. I used this technique when pre-launching Kobra, and nearly doubled the amount of referrals I would have gotten just from people sharing their links.
In fact, there was one individual who actually referred us 100 pre-signups. Just like you have your online presence, so do other people, take advantage of this!
The “Social Contest” Approach
The primary driver of additional social signups for Kobra was the fact that we threw a social contest. This approach directly rewards people for referring people by using “entries in a contest”.
There are several different methods from this approach. You can combine it with the approach above and make each pre-signup worth X number of entries into your contest.
When we ran the Kobra contest, we decided that people could enter once a day by tweeting out their referral link, and we would randomly pick one person who tweeted that day and give them a free lifetime membership.
It’s worth noting that at this point in time, I didn’t even know what we were going to charge for a membership, but this resulted in us getting even more sign ups and over 500 twitter followers over the course of the 2 week pre-launch.
It is extremely important however that you give away something related to your product. If you give away an iPad, sure you’re going to get a lot of pre-signups, but I guarantee you that almost none of them will actually use or purchase your app. By giving away lifetime memberships, we virtually guaranteed that anyone who was participating in the contest was going to user our product.
The “Your Friends Like Us and So Should You” Approach
This approach is used to help convince a person to sign up by showing them that their friends already have. If you use Twitter or Facebook logins to accept pre-signups, this is rather easy.
You can use variations of the Facebook Like Box for Pages to show on your site the other people that have already liked your page.
Facebook is also smart enough to show people that are your friends towards the top of this list, so people will immediately know if their friends like your app too.
If you have any questions about any of these methods, or think I missed a good one, please comment below and let me know!
Wrapping It Up
Remember, creating your launch and landing page is a big deal, and you should put a lot of time and effort into it. Possibly even more time than you spent creating your app.
Also, be sure to EMPLOY ALL 3 TIPS: scarcity, urgency and social referrals into your launch plan to get as much pre-signups as you possibly can.
The right launch can make or break a product, so use this tips to ensure your success and drastically increase the amount of pre-signups you get for your app.