That said, it's definitely possible to recover from being in this position. It can just take a long time.
* https://news.ycombinator.com/news (Show HN)
The issue is these startup listings are attracting founders and potential investors (and advertisers of course), just not sure if they are the place for your target audience.
Like if you are selling super-awesome soaps target house-wives, why are you seeking listing from crunchbase.com then.
Realistically you are going to be tracking down your first 100 users yourself manually. Figure out who among your friends is a good fit and bug them. Then ask all your other friends who they know who'd be a good fit. If they don't click, follow up and ask why. If they click but then don't come back, follow up and ask why. If they become an active user, you are about to become best friends, always talking about what they like and why.
You're going to feel like a mooch for a while -- like you're always asking your contacts for things and not giving back. This is normal.
Also, this thread is on the front page, so post a link. Quick -- an opportunity!
Knowing that the audience may not be directly within my target market I made sure to ask a simple open-ended question: "How do you feel when you spend too much money?" About half the folks who signed up answered the question, and even if none of the Betalist folks convert to paying customers in the long run, I've at least boosted my understanding of the pain I'm trying to solve.
It's supposed to be a billboard for startup and product launches.
I pushed it out about three weeks ago, it's picking up some pretty good traffic so far.
I plan on expanding it into something more, something that actually gets you your initial user-base.
1) Build your own audience through teaching. Stop looking for the one time hit. The odds your startup/project is going to last the long term are probably low, and if you move onto the next thing, you'll be in the same spot. Start trying to build an audience around you of people and students who share your world views, and build stuff for them. Blog, write articles, do webcasts, talk at one of the many co-working spaces that look for speakers now.
Many people reading this are saying "But I don't know anything to teach." That's ridiculous. You just learned something last week that someone still doesn't know. I was teaching an entire Freshman Chemistry class as a Senior. There were juniors doing it. Sure, I took the class myself, but I didn't think I knew it well enough to even teach them. But I did the work to prepare, and teaching made me learn it backwards and forwards. Teaching isn't just good for the student; it's good for you.
"What is obvious to you is obvious to you" -John Medina (author of BabyBrainRules).
There is so much you know that someone else would love to acquire.
2) User testing. Get some beta testers simply by paying some people to use your app. (Read: Don't Make Me Think) I got some early folks on Usertesting.com. They were invaluable in finding problems and providing feedback in way you just don't get from some comments on a forum or thread about your product.
3) Go do some volunteer/non-profit work for 2 hours a week. Join something that has a big group of people you can help out and commit to for awhile. You'll quickly find when you start working for groups have a cause much bigger than you, you make a lot of new friends. And when you help them out, they love helping you out. You'll have these new groups to reach out to kick around new ideas. And they are the first ones spreading your stuff. Even better if you can find some groups to help with stuff you are building, but definitely not required to get some great benefits.
Then create an email campaign using something like Toutapp.com to email these people telling them you'd like their opinion on a tool that does x for their needs.
If consumer, try the same thing with facebook or similar.
Technology showcases also work, like e.g. builtwithbackbonejs.com
I suggest you look for niches in your industry.
Frankly, the right answer depends a lot on the nature of the business, and the people involved.
Being in the tech business, I would never even consider hearing someone out on the phone, simply because >99% of the unsolicited phone calls we get are scams or completely inappropriate for what we do.
If you were to send me a personal email, OTOH, you'd be guaranteed a reply. And it'd be much more likely to be positive if I've had the chance to check out your offering at my own pace.
I was answering urbangangster's very explicit pro-phone opinion with a different, real-life side of the same story.