Startup Tip: How To Grow Your Early User Base

Most startups want as many users or customers as they can get. But how can you grow and nurture your early user base as a small, unknown startup? In this video, I offer 5 tips, based on my experience with crowdSPRING.

  • Great post. Keep them coming. Justin
    ps – always good to hear tweetdeck in the background – makes it even more real !

  • Ross,
    This is the tip I’ve been prodding for 🙂 I think the early days of growth are the most difficult, and all insight from experienced startup founders is so valuable. Thank you for always sharing.

  • Fantastic- The first three we seemed to have been doing (confidence boost) the last two I have just emailed to my co-founders – Great tips

  • Thanks for sharing Ross. We’re getting ready to go live with our own web service so all the advice on growing our early user base is welcome.

    Are you planning on doing a video on getting the very first users as well? For example, crowdSPRING held the “$5,000 homepage design project” which got a lot of media attention. You also managed to get a highly-targeted database of newsletter subscribers to inform about this design project. What impact do you think running this project had on your early growth?

    I guess for crowdSPRING it was a no-brainer because it immediately proved the concept worked, but do you it’s worth it for other kind of business to try something similar?

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  • Great tips Ross. I especially like point one, look for evangelists. Another way to grow your early user base is to make sure you are listed on sites that bring awareness to your startup, like my site Namechk searches the top social media websites and helps users find out if their username is available across all the sites. Startups can apply to be one of the sites Namechk queries. Being listed on Namechk helps users find out about your startup. Be sure your new startup offers a vanity URL as an option when setting up an account. Many users are looking for this feature as a prerequisite to signing up. Ross recently wrote a post about Namechk, thanks Ross!

  • Marshall – you’re right that early days are difficult – too many moving pieces and too little time to get everything done. But in an odd way, it’s fun! Thanks for suggesting this topic. 🙂

  • Great post. It’s pretty awesome to hear you begin with the importance of Ambassadors as the first item on the list. I couldn’t agree more.

    My question about the customer engagement is how would you channel it? Is the goal to just service that one customer and address their question in private or are we to publicly engage in the dialog so others can ‘see’ how progressive the company is..

    which is better for the brand, and which is better for the customer? or is it mutual. Thanks!

  • Justin – thanks. Always good to keep things real. 🙂

    Fergus – happy to hear the suggestions were useful.

    Marc – Great to hear. I look forward to seeing what you’ve built. Thanks for the suggestion about a video for the homepage project. I’ve added to the list.

    David – Good add to make sure that you’re listed in various places (including on namechk). Every startup benefits from added exposure.

  • Faramarz – I think it’s important first and foremost to solve the customer’s problem/issue. Whether you do it publicly or privately depends on the issues and whether the customer made it public. For example, I MUCH prefer to solve problems for customers in private – I never have to worry about any other factors. But when a customer posts publicly – it’s important to first solve the problem but also to sometimes provide a public response to make sure that others appreciate you’ve solved the problem (there are times when a public response simply isn’t appropriate – but often, the customer will publicly thank you). That’s one reason why Comcast has been receiving accolades for its customer service efforts on Twitter, even though its overall customer service is not very good.

  • great tips… often you lose focus but your 5 tips are timeless and very, very important. Wish I saw this video a year ago!

  • I find with most of these articles written around the web – many of the same concepts are reiterated continuously – often far too in depth for the most common reader or viewer. The combination of the five concepts discussed in this video are discussed in a short sweet and to the point manor. These concepts are a need-to-know for any startup. Thanks for the cast and I’ll be sure to share.

  • Thanks, Ross… I especially like the idea of not going to bloggers (or media) empty-handed, expecting them to write about your business…

  • Matt – thank you.

    Robert – much thanks for those kind words and for sharing with your network. Building an early user base is indeed an important topic for any startup – and one of the most challenging things to do well.

  • Ric – glad you enjoyed. It takes time to build relationships with bloggers, and the best relationships are often ones where they’re asking YOU about your products/services, rather than you telling THEM about the products/services.

  • Ross,

    Thanks for this. It’s sweetly inspiring. Ambassadors are key!


  • BrowseMyGear

    Great video, will definitely be watching more.

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