Use a waitlist to talk to your early users
There are many articles on the frameworks and tactics for user research. But the real challenge is getting people on a call in the first place.
When we first launched Dashibase in April, three strangers paid us $29 to try the product. After several failed ideas, we finally have customers to talk to! We wanted to find out why they paid and what they wanted to do so that we can build a better product.
We sent emails. No responses.
We even searched for them on LinkedIn and sent them direct messages. No responses.
After multiple attempts, we managed to speak with one of the three. You would think since they paid for Dashibase, they would want to talk to us and find out more.
Wanting to get more feedback, we made Dashibase free so that more people can use it and tell us how to improve it. Within about a month, we had more than 100 developers signed up to try Dashibase. That was great, except that most tried and left. We couldn’t get any feedback from them.
We didn’t want to be building without talking to users, so we looked around for ideas. That was when we chanced upon Loops, an email marketing tool for SaaS startups. I signed up for their waitlist, and the founder Chris Frantz invited me to a personal onboarding session, where he walked me through the product, answered my questions, and told me the pricing.
I had a light-bulb moment. Loops’ approach could solve a few problems we had:
We were still not confident we were working on the right problem and idea. Making people jump on a call with us before they can try the product is akin to asking them to pay a small “price” for the product. If no one is even willing to make that effort, we might be working on something nobody wants.
We didn’t know why people were signing up for Dashibase and what problems they wanted to solve. Having an onboarding call would allow us to understand their problems better.
While people could try Dashibase themselves, we didn’t have a proper onboarding within the product. If we can give them a walkthrough before they try the product, they will at least know what they can do with Dashibase.
Finally, our product has fewer features and more bugs than we would like. Adding friction to the signup process would allow us to find early adopters who are really keen to try our product and would bear with the limited features and annoying bugs.
So we set up a waitlist when we re-launched Dashibase in June.
Every few days, I sent a personalized email to our waitlist signups. If they want early access, they just have to schedule an onboarding session via our Calendly. I was nervous about putting up a waitlist because I had assumed developers would prefer to try things themselves.
But of our 1,000+ waitlist signups, a good 10% scheduled a call with us. More surprisingly, many developers thanked us for taking the time to chat with them.
The calls taught us what developers wanted. Dashibase was initially a generic frontend app builder. But most developers kept telling us they want to use Dashibase for their internal tools because it seemed a lot easier than the current alternatives. While a few people wanted to use Dashibase to build customer-facing apps, the majority wanted to build internal tools. Given how consistent the feedback was, we pivoted to an internal tools builder. Without the user feedback, we could have blindly spent months building something nobody would use.
Now that we have opened our beta to the public, this tactic no longer works for us. But for anyone launching new products, I would highly recommend it. Let me know if you have any questions!