We've been thinking about blogging, but that's a very long game to build an audience (SEO + email subscribers). I'm looking for examples of great pre-launch strategies that build a good-sized audience (500 - 5,000 potential customers) in the 3-6 months leading up to launch. Thanks!
1) I would try to build relationships with influencers and top bloggers in your niche. See if you can get them interested in promoting your SaaS via an affiliate program or some mutually beneficial relationship. If you reach the right people they will be able to help you get your first 500 customers fast upon launch.
2) Otherwise I would use either Leadpages or Unbounce to create a landing page that gives away a free helpful ebook in your niche to build your email list prior to launch. The key would be timing it so that you don't lose their interest too far before you actually launch. You would need to pay for ads via Google and Facebook to drive traffic to that page. This can also give good insights into which audience respond best to your message.
3) Another strategy can be holding free webinars that are really helpful for solving a problem that the prospective customer has and for that you could partner with your influencers to get more attention to the event and to encourage attendees to actually show up.
4) But you're right, long term, nothing beats free Google traffic via organic SEO. And the sooner you start on that the better because it typically takes a while before new website get ranked.
I'd be happy to strategize with you further if I knew more about your specific SaaS.
I'd say it depends on your goals. If you're looking for a lot of press coverage and all that then the other answers about bloggers, thought leaders, and webinars is great and you should follow that advice.
However that same time, energy, and money could be spent getting you sales. You're probably not at the stage where you need a sales force. But the same process can be used to start building up a list of beta test customers who can give you valuable feedback and money! So then when you launch you already have social proof and customers who can refer you more customers. Which at the end of the day will make you more money. I've done this sort of thing before and if you want to chat quickly about let me know.
Lots of moving parts here. You must be prepared to do some testing to find the best strategy. This is an art, not a science. Without knowing that much about your business here are some general guidelines.
Step one - create the persona's you are targeting.
Step two - create landing pages for each persona
Step three - create unique content geared towards those persona's
Step four - Do boosted post, Ad's and remarketing to drive the traffic to those landing pages.
Blogging is critical and will take longer but you must do it. You may gain traction quickly depending on the competitive nature of the vertical you are going after. No matter how sophisticated the market a constant drip of high-quality unique content will gain domain and keyword authority.
Happy to consult if you need further advice.
A friend just pivot his company and is targeting the same SMBs and asked me the question:
1-SMB is not a real definition of your customer. Define very carefully who are you serving, as to who is the buyer, who the decision maker, the blocker the influencer. What budget they have for something like your product. Define if you are a replacement product, Competitive or an educational market.
2-Once you have it really well defined, you need to do "floor work" of knowcking doors and going to talk to them face to face (old school hustling). Why? Because until now the only thing you have are still theories and assumptions and you need true and real problems.
3-After knowing and closing 50-100 (should take you 1-2 months) then you understand well enough to think about what to do: referral system, blogging, free trial, partner distribution, channels, direct sales, etc