Attracting Users

Posted by Curtis Miller Curtis Miller

Ah, the eternal question of a startup. How do you attract a user base? This is a question I have been pondering much in the last few days. As I neared my second release, I began to think that it was good enough to really start inviting people. Not just testers, but real people!

For some startups out there the targeted user is…well, anyone. They might be able to spray-and-pray, hoping they attract enough users from the massive ocean of potentials to make the site either profitable or attractive for acquisition. My case is slightly different, though.

For my startup, I am targeting a specific niche market. I know exactly who will use the site. Chances are that nobody else will use it because it would not be of interest to them. I'm choosing to focus on the US market first, see how it goes and then expand as necessary. In the US there are around 30 million potential users. Not a pond by any means, but not an ocean either.

So, does knowing who your users are make it easier or harder to attract them? I guess this is something I will find out soon enough. Here are some random thoughts about it though:

  • The viral effect could be more rapid as the market is smaller and therefore likely to be a tighter group in the real world. However, the smaller potential user base could also be detrimental as it may not have the critical mass necessary to actually go viral in the first place…
  • With a smaller group who may actually know each other in real life, a single misstep could spell disaster. However, there are currently few offerings in this market and those that exist are poor. That is, expectations might already be low…
  • I know who they are and I know where to find them. In fact, there are several “hubs” which could be central points for locating potential users and spreading the word. However, the domain is far from my expertise, so a straightforward approach may not work best. I have access to addresses, email, phone number, etc. of the “hubs” and could get in contact with them in any number of ways. I think I may need to approach groups of these “hubs” in different ways and see which approach gets the best results.
  • I strongly believe that if I build a better site with the user's interest in mind then I will not need to worry too much about getting the users. That is, I won't need to sell them on the idea. They will want to use it because it fulfills a need in a useful way. My naivety on this subject is going to be tested…

Let me know if you have any other thoughts or opinions on the matter.

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