Thursday, April 2, 2015

SaaS startup hack: Creating an email list of 1000 signup invitations

Getting the first signups is a challenging task for any new SaaS startup. Using inbound marketing is a natural way to increase traffic, but sometimes it's also useful to utilize the old fashion outbound email marketing.

The big question is how to create effectively a list of valid contacts? Buying an email list is out of the question, they are only for spammers. Creating your own lead list is the safest bet.

This is a process that I've learned while working in many early-stage SaaS companies. It takes a bit technical work but for those who know something about programming it should be fairly easy to implement:

1) Find potential customers
Check out LinkedIn, Twitter, Connect.data.com (earlier known as Jigsaw). Find the interesting people and collect their names and company names manually into a simple text file.

2) Create a flat file (CSV)
Make the text file look like this, each contact on their own row:

"First name","Last name","Company name"
"John","Smith","Acme Ltd"

3) Code a script that posts the "company name" to Bing Search API and fetches the first website found (in 90% of cases it's the company's website).

With the found domain name (parsed from website address) generate an email address: firstname.lastname@domain.com. After generating the addresses your flat file should look like this:

"First name","Last name","Company name","website","email address"
"John","Smith","Acme Ltd","www.example.com","john.smith@example.com"

4) Walk through the email list and check manually for invalid addresses. It should be reasonably fast because it's all in one simple list. Click each company website to find out that they really exist. This takes some time, but you don't want to receive tons of bounce messages back to your inbox.

Now you have a valid list and you can start sending the invitations! For example Insightly has a mass emailing feature and it connects nicely with SignupLab - you can track the process from emails all the way to sign-ups and user onboarding!

Send emails in well targeted segments. If you for example collect a list of 1000 email addresses, make sure that you know what are the roles of those people and what kind of message they really would be interested in.

The best part is that once you have the script and process running, you can easily repeat it as many times as you are able to find new contacts.