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Ask HN: How to get the first 10 users?
73 points by msencenb on July 1, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments
After doing a small launch last night for adsreloaded.com I received a few hits but no sign-ups. You often hear on HN that you need to focus on the first 10 users... then maybe you can reach for the first 100 etc. So my question is whats the best way to get those first 10 users? (Or even better the first 10 power users).

In my particular case I would like to target iPhone developers first to get a few on board before I start hitting the gas on attracting regular users so its an odd situation, but any general advice on getting users is appreciated.

Do people find discounts, direct email, a paid search campaign, or something else entirely the most beneficial for early stage signups?

Drive some initial traffic with these sites, in descending order of effectiveness:








The top two are the most effective by a long shot, but the others will get you some visits. Best of all, these tend to drive useful traffic, not garbage. All are free, but you need to have a legit site (which you do).

Excellent! Thanks for the links I will definitely submit my site... hopefully other people will find them useful too :)

I'm an iPhone developer and I'm actively spending money advertising an underperforming app. So I'm dead set inside your target market.

I clicked around a bit on your site, but I don't really understand how it works for developers. Say I hand you $25. How many downloads will I get? How much of that $25 goes in your pocket? Will consumers really take $.20 to download a $.99 app? You compare your service to adwords and other advertising. Is there the potential here to make more than I spend, or is this more of a "brand awareness" thing with murky returns?

Looking at the 1.5 paragraphs for developers on your site I really don't get it. All I need is something that says "spend $25 and get X downloads on a $.99 app". I don't see why you couldn't find room for that sentence.

Thanks for the feedback let me right out a paragraph here and see if it explains better:

adsReloaded is all about getting downloads. Let's say you have a 0.99 cent app and decide you want to spend about $25 dollars on advertising. For paid apps the price you pay users is at least the price of the app (so for a 0.99 cent app the minimum payout to a user is 0.99).

Since your budget is about $25 dollars you take the CPD (cost per download = 0.99 in this case) and multiply it by the number of new users you want (let's say 20). This puts your total advertising purchase at $19.80. I take 25% (added to this number) + the price of one download (to moderate the campaign/test to make sure the question is correct). So the total campaign price for 20 users follows this equation: 19.80 + 4.95 (the 25% I take) + 0.99 (price of app) = $25.75

This $25.75 will get you 20 new users. Granted you will make back .70 cents per user so really it will cost you $25.75 - 14 (your profit) = $11.75 for 20 new users.

This may be murky brand awareness to you but I think there is also a "word of mouth" marketing piece here as well... and if you push it hard possibly even extra downloads from moving up the app ranking lists.

Does this help explain more?

Do I have this straight? Someone who can't get users is selling a service where he tries to get other people users. There may be a problem here.

Also the sample numbers you provide has the developer losing $11.75 out of pocket for the honor of acquiring 20 new users. Given that the developer is trying to make money, this doesn't seem like a great deal. (Even worse, with the quoted figures you could buy 20 copies of the app for yourself, and walk away $4.95 richer. All of the mindshare etc benefits the developer is hoping for wouldn't apply in that case.)

I didn't say that... I did relatively well (8k total for a small quotes app) I merely stated that I always had trouble getting blog writeups.

I understand that this doesn't seem like a great deal, my question to you is how much money are people using a service such as admob losing in order to acquire users (Are you able to acquire 20 new users for 11.75 for an app priced at 0.99?)? I have seem some pretty terrible conversion rates (although feel free to point me in another direction if you feel this assumption is misguided).

Yes there is a certain level of trust as well.. but hopefully the site will grow and this trust will be established. I'm not out here to make a quick buck by swindling developers.

Thanks for that writeup. That's the information I needed to make an informed decision. However, I'm really not convinced to lay out the money. Let me explain why.

You're in the same boat as a lot of other iPhone app marketing--spend more than you take in, hope you make it up somewhere. The problem is, there are a lot of much better ways to throw away app licenses:

* Giving promo codes to bloggers, who are definitely influencers and costs me nothing for the first 50.

* Just gift apps to people myself, which is 25% cheaper, and I have direct control over who the people are, so I have firsthand experience that they're movers & shakers

So really you're going to have to convince me: first, that giving away licenses is a good idea and second, that paying you to give away licenses is better than doing it myself. This means you're going to need really stellar users who are better evangelizers than my friends & family, who care about the product mostly because they care about me.

That's going to be an uphill battle, to say the least.

One thing that might help you is a couple of testimonials or success stories from other developers. Find a "deadpool" app that really does show some promise. Reach out to the developer and offer to promote it for free in exchange for access to all the sales figures. If you can demonstrate "hey, we made this guy 10% more than we would have charged him" that at least sounds promising enough for me to give you fifty bucks and see how it goes.

Excellent explanation and I see the logic behind your decision; however, I don't think its all-encompassing for every iPhone developer:

1) I personally never had any success reaching out to bloggers. Maybe it was because my apps weren't innovative enough or I didn't have the right connections but I always felt that the time I wasted reaching out to bloggers could have been better spent elsewhere. If you are successful reaching out to bloggers then more power to you!

2) While I agree that this gives you more control and in fact might be very good for user testing... some people simply don't enjoy this type of tactic or have the time. Some people would rather spend time answering support e-mails and developing new apps and products, its just kind of their style. This is where my product comes in.

Also the testimonial idea I think is worth pursuing and I will be looking for a perfect subject tonight. :)

It may very well be that your strategy provides better returns for less effort than the alternatives.

I'm simply saying that, as a potential customer, it doesn't look like that on its face, and you need to convince me to buy in. A good way to convince me is with a success story.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your site, but when I looked at it yesterday, you're looking for people to download and execute iPhone apps, and get paid a small sum for doing so, correct?

If that's the case, who is your target audience? It sure wasn't me, because my time is more valuable than that-- you'd have to raise your rates by several orders of magnitude before I'd be interested. Which is also why I don't spend my time on the Mechanical Turk.

But, it seems to me that the people who do so are the kind of people you might be interested in. So, if that's the case, why not spend some money there on testing/market research?

In other words, pay people (via MTurk) to test out your service (which will involve them also getting paid). In exchange for the "extra" MTurk money, you can ask them a few questions about how well the service worked, and where they think it should be advertised.

And, if it works well, I wouldn't be surprised if some of them become repeat users, even outside of MTurk.

You're understanding of the site is correct, at least from the user perspective (non app developer).

How far would the rates need to be raised for you to be interested? The reasoning behind my current price structure is that I often find myself aimlessly wandering the app store and eventually download a few free apps and usually get suckered into a paid app. My site (assuming it grows) would provide a way to aimlessly get exposure to apps and either get paid a small sum for trying out a free app, or get a paid app for free.

All in all though I think your idea of MTurk has merits and will certainly be checking into this option.

So your audience is people who are willing to fill out forms and try random crappy apps for 20 cents / hour... and who have iPhones.

Good luck!

hahaha certainly seems a little ridiculous put this way :)

In all seriousness though .20 cents an hour is quite low. While free apps certainly don't pay out much getting a paid app for essentially nothing is a sweet deal (at least in my mind perhaps I'm wrong).

Developers putting their apps onto users devices and users (who might not normally download apps) trying out new and exciting technologies while making a little spare change doesn't seem to hurt anyone, in fact I'm banking on the fact that people will find value in the service.

My advice: Don't even mention the $.10 minimum. Your sell is only possibly "try paid apps for free." Paying nothing is better than paying out $.10 - it cheapens your service.

And this would be so much better if you could avoid cash transactions in the first place, and somehow just allow free app downloads.

Point taken. I am currently iterating on the landing page so I'll try out a few different variances that don't mention the .10 cents deal.

Maybe I'll even try and find some relatively cheap A/B testing software, that would be a fantastic resource. Anyone know of any?

I'm assuming you mean "free app downloads" as in paid apps just downloaded for free? This would be very nice... sadly I can't seem to think of a way without a deep partnership with apple and the app store.

Google WebSite Optimizer does A/B testing and is free. You have to have AdWords account though. I recommend you to create AdWords account anyway and try to advertise your service that way. You would have to spend some money, but not much, and the time you would save would probably worth it.

Alot of apps have free versions that people release. If the free version could be unlocked to be the real version, that could work. Apple probably doesn't allow that, though.

An alternative approach might be to give out a raffle ticket instead of .20c and put an iPad or something as a price. This might also make it a bit fun.

Actually, getting a paid app for free is only a sweet deal if the app really has value-- and if it really has value, why are they paying me to take it?

I'm trying to understand your business model, I really am, but for the life of me I can't figure out why I (as a developer/owner) would want to pay people to download my apps-- except for testing purposes, of course.

It might be true that any app worth its salt simply doesn't need this service and if that's the case then the service won't succeed its as simple as that.

I think one of my underlying assumptions is that people are willing to pay to get out of the deluge of apps that are currently in the store. As an indie developer without a big company behind you its often very easy to get lost in everything. If the problem truly is that the app "got lost" then a service such as this could put it in the hands of people who will recommend it etc. That being said this is a fairly weak argument since an app that is good probably wouldn't have gotten lost in the first place.

Only time will tell I suppose

The reasoning behind my current price structure is that I often find myself aimlessly wandering the app store and eventually download a few free apps and usually get suckered into a paid app. My site (assuming it grows) would provide a way to aimlessly get exposure to apps [...]

See, now that sounds much better than "get paid to try apps." Discoverability in the AppStore sucks, and is definitely an open problem to be solved. If you can build a search engine/review site/categorization system/whatever that can make it easier for me to find interesting Apps-- well, that's a business idea I can believe in.

"Ask HN: Review my startup" :)

Just some aesthetic advice ... your site feels "heavy" and somewhat dated.

Try changing the content area to use a white background, and brighten up the header and footer. The colors you use on the forum section of the site are closer to what I'd aim for.

You might need to buy advertising to get your ad network going.

Two nits if I may:

1. Instead of saying "adsreloaded.com is changing the way online advertising works", you might try "adsreloaded.com is about to change". The former sounds like you are trying to sound much bigger than you are at the moment. At least it did to me.

2. The blurb in the bottom bar is unusually designed. At first glance I thought it was a testimonial, but I'm not sure now.

Edit: why not try advertising in the new Hacker Monthly magazine? Print subscriptions are at 4K or so now, PDF are probably way higher and it's reaching a lot of developers and bloggers.

An ironic twist of fate haha

1) Agreed... I probably should try and sound like I'm 8 feet tall while still an infant.

2) The design slants it as a testimonial... but seeing as the service just launched I don't particularly have those yet. This will probably be changed soon

Edit: fantastic idea... sending e-mail to inquiry about ads now :)

Ideally you should of had 10 customers lined up before you even started building anything. Draw upon friends and family -- you'll need close relationships with your few first customers to know where you went wrong and get continuous feedback.

Direct email/direct mail/paid search are all going to get you a high bounce rate and very few customers. Save yourself some money and network with people who might be interested in your service.

This seems to be part of my problem. In order to get the ball rolling I need some iPhone app developers to buy into the service. My family network doesn't have any developers, although I know 1 or 2 friends who might be interested. I definitely plan to leverage my friends/family network to get users; however, this seems to be after the stage of getting the first 10 dev customers.

You're getting a lot of feedback on the product... I'm going to give you some feedback on the site itself. I'm not a designer, but there's a few things that stood out to me when I clicked on your website.

First, there's too much text. The text is overpowering me. I forget where, but there was an article/blog post a week or so that I read, which effectively said:

1. Assume your readers can't read

2. Assume even if they can read, they won't.

This means that ideally your site should be almost self explanatory. Diagrams > Words if you need to choose. If you can illustrate to me how it works, you're doing way better than having me read it.

Next, your choice of color is bad. Nothing really stands out except "by trying apps on your iPhone". That is to say:

"Earn money" doesn't stand out. Login doesn't stand out, and neither does Register...

Next, in the "Get paid to try apps" paragraph, the color scheme isn't "crisp", it's a bit hard to read IMO.

"Are you a developer?" Why yes I am! But holy-moly, that font is fine and i'm not even at the fine print yet! Don't try to squeeze so much text onto your website :)

Next thing that stood out to me, is the >> Login/Register buttons. They have this odd white color to them on the left side and the top sides. It makes them feel like they were poorly photoshopped, and even though it's tiny (pixel wise), it's super noticable to me

Finally, you really have no "call to action". I arrive to your page, and I don't know where to click next. This is mostly because your Register button blends in with everything else. I'd probably make the registration red here to contrast with everything else (others may disagree, but I think the color needs to change). Forget about the login button. your battle is against people clicking the back button when they first arrive. If they register, you've essentially got them to buy in. They'll find where to login :) (you can put it in the corner, or anywhere else really).

I hope this is useful, good luck! :)

edit: cleaned up my thoughts a little bit...

Thanks everyone for all of the pushback on my idea so far it has been a very constructive day for me as I continue to iterate on my product. (Thanks HN :) )

I am a little confused on one point though and am hoping that some iPhone developers can give first hand accounts. What kind of returns are you guys receiving on adMob/Quattro/whatever ads? The iPhone developers I have spoken too have had dismal returns (<10 downloads for a 50 dollar campaign) and this was one of the problems I was hoping to help solve with adsReloaded.

Do any of you mind sharing your campaign numbers?

1. Ask friends and family

2. Using Google Alerts, find people speaking about stuff related to your website and leave comments

3. Find the most popular forums for your target users

4. Find the most popular blogs for you target users

5. Join directories as mentioned by @damoncali

6. Follow what is being said in Twitter

7. Look for LinkedIn and Facebook groups

I wrote about it yesterday on my blog: http://aymeric.gaurat.net/index.php/2010/tips-to-kick-start-...

apperang.com pays users the price of the app plus a small incentive ~25cents to download iPhone apps. I have used this to discover many new applications.

I think you should reach out to iPhone and apps bloggers.

Improving your landingpage will also lead to more signups I think. Use some images to communicate in a visual way what adsreloaded does. The text is also not very clear. To me it is all much more a testing environment for app developers than a new way to advertise apps.

Forums and meetups. Find places where your target market congregates and show up there. Participate in the conversation without being spammy (ideally, you started doing this already). Ask for feedback on your product and maybe toss in a special coupon code for members of that forum/group.

I'm an iPhone developer, and I'm smack-dab in the center of your target market - just like drewcrawford.I actually had the same business idea that you're working on about 5 months ago, and decided not to pursue it. I love HN, so I'll share the design of my system/the thinking behind it.

The problem to me is that you're asking developers to partake in (at least on the face value) ROI negative advertising. There's actually nothing wrong with ROI negative ads, iff they deliver network effects that make the ads ROI positive over time or the lifetime value of a user is more than the price of the app. We (developers) d*mn well know that natural network effects are not strong enough to make ROI positive when Apple is taking 30% of the pie each time. And for most iPhone Apps, the lifetime value of a user is that $.99 cents that the user pays when they buy the app. So there are very few iPhone apps who your current system can benefit. Because there's very few apps you can help, you're unlikely to get any traffic at all unless you're already famous/ willing to spend a ton on ads.

The solution is to embrace social networks and understand that sometimes, people need to pay for the stuff they're getting.Less cryptically: 1)Integrate with facebook connect and twitter.

2)Require users to send a status message to both, effectively endorsing the app you're giving away to their friends. This solves your network issue as best you can (and it's how they'll be paying you).

3)Instead of holding regular sales of apps, go the groupon route, where the sale is almost a game, and the paid app that people can get for free changes regularly. This way you can get people to tweet/update about your app, and if you don't get the developer say 1000 downloads, you can say that the sale failed, and give out no refunds for the app purchases. This would entice users to seriously get their friends to download the app through your link (or however you track CPM). Be sure to keep track of your users (and their referrals) email addresses, so you can update them every 4 or so days with your new app that you're giving away.

4)Stop trying to sell your site as "earning money", and instead sell it as "get paid apps free". The difference in the psychology of the users that you'll attract will be HUGE.Plus nobody wants to earn 20cents per hour, but people would spend the same time to save $1.

5)I would start this business with the top 10 apps in the appstore, and without their permission. For this to work, you'll need about $3000, but it'll almost guarantee your success. People already know these apps, so you're lending their legitimacy to yourself by giving them away. I would also send a post to techcrunch (& etc) in advance about how you're "giving the appstore away for free" - they love apple and would love to write about you, especially if you send them something with a sensationalist headline like I just wrote. You could give away doodleJump, then angry birds, then .... And go down the list. If you want more of my research/ more tips for success in this business, email me: stephen at brownianm.com

Oh, and by the time you're talking to devs who want to sign up, you will have a significant list of people who download anything you put in front of them- and that contact/email list is going to be your power-play.

Have you tried identifying the users elsewhere and reaching about by tweet / e-mail?

I haven't although I plan to do some direct e-mail later tonight. Has this been effective for you?

Friends and family?

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