Written by Shane Neubauer
"Waitlists aren't product market fit. Retention will always be 👑" -- Jeff Morris Jr.
There's more to a waiting list than you think.
Waiting lists are a common way for early online products to start engaging with their audience, and measuring interest. Before you even have a product ready, you can share your value proposition and see if it resonates. You can build a list of interested people, so you can engage with them already. It's a smart way to start.
While there's no right or wrong to do it, there are a few things that we've learned that will make a big difference in your success.
Getting sign ups to your waiting list are a great early signal. It shows that people are vibing with your value proposition, and are curious to learn more.
But, make no mistake! A popular waiting list is not a sign of product performance. These people have not used your product or service yet, and you don't know that they'll be loyal users later.
These people are leads — not users. And definitely not committing to pay anything to you yet.
👉 Waiting list popularity is a signal people may like your value proposition, not your product.
Once a user has joined your waiting list, their enthusiasm to sign up will begin to decay. The longer the user is left waiting, the less likely they are to join when you finally invite them. You should begin engaging them already, giving them confidence that they'll be invited soon. Don't wait artificially to invite them — if there's no good reason they should be waiting anymore, invite them in! On this note, make sure you don't bank on having 100% of your waiting list sign up.
👉 Don't leave people hanging for too long. Engage often, and invite them ASAP.
In the beginning of your product development, you may want to be selective about who gets to be an early user. These users play an important role, as they are testing out your features first. They are the ones providing feedback that you'll be considering. If community or social engagement plays a part in your product, they'll form the foundations for the culture.
With this in mind, not everyone who signs up to your waiting list may be your ideal user. So, you may choose to be selective with who gets an invite first. One way to screen for who should be invited first vs. second is to implement a survey which is delivered immediately after sign up.
At Beyond we implemented such a survey, and users who complete it are more likely to be invited earlier based on their profile and content consumption habits.
👉 Use a survey to screen for your desired user profiles to invite first.
In the beginning, the only thing people have to judge your product on is your landing page. This single page is your main opportunity to communicate your value proposition, the problem you're addressing, and what you plan to create to solve it.
If your value proposition doesn't resonate with people, then they may not sign up. If you don't set expectations well enough for what you're building, they may be disappointed or confused when they finally sign up.
The landing page is something you should take seriously. Spend time writing copy, test it with users, and iterate on it whenever needed. The importance of this cannot be overstated. This is harder than you think.
👉 Spend a lot of time crafting and iterating on your landing page.
This is good advice in general for life. Be careful asking too much of your waiting list users before you give them any value in return. Asking too much of them at this stage may result in hard feelings and sad users.
It's usually OK to request something small, like an optional survey, but be mindful of how much time you're asking them to invest. Remember, at this point, they don't owe you anything.
👉 Give value before you ask for anything in return.
Engaging with your desired users early is almost always a really good idea, and using a waiting list is a great way to start. Hopefully these tips help you to be successful with your own!
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