This is a guest post from Harvey Hodd , co-founder and CEO of Blueprint, the all-in-one eCommerce SMS and WhatsApp platform.
In May 2020, our SMS SaaS solution Blueprint was pre-product, but we knew we couldn't just sit around twiddling our thumbs. We had to find a way of reaching prospects, testing our messaging, and ensuring that when the product did launch, it wasn't to the sound of crickets.
So, we did what all startups do when they've got nothing to sell: we built a waitlist on a shoestring. By the time Blueprint launched seven months later, we had over 500 prospects waiting to try us out.
So how did we do it?
Well, Blueprint is an eCommerce software platform that emerged from the same consumer packaged goods (CPG) ecosystem as the customers it seeks to help. Myself and my co-founder Rory were running a direct-to-consumer (DTC) beverage brand when we encountered issues managing personalized relationships with our buyers and growing revenue.
We created Blueprint as a solution to solve these problems, and realized our former peers within eCommerce had now become our target audience.
This familiarity with eCommerce gave us a vital early leg-up when building a waitlist. Not only did we speak the language of our prospects, but we also had a ready-made black book of contacts to leverage.
Rapid progress was made by working with this existing network of investors and brands. Hustle, connections, and referrals opened doors for us, as we told our story to anyone in the CGP ecosystem who would listen.
A stroke of luck
We were also in the right place at the right time. Whilst developing an SMS solution mid-pandemic was never part of the business plan, it certainly didn’t harm interest in our waitlist.
During the spring of last year, brands great and small were scrambling for ways to reach customers remotely, and Blueprint was a perfect fit. Waitlist numbers increased, and interest in our product grew.
The only problem was: it wasn’t ready yet. Blueprint’s technical solution was still in its infancy, and we weren’t in a position to take full advantage of this wave of pandemic-driven demand.
This was frustrating but gave us a new challenge - how to continue to grow the waitlist whilst keeping existing subscribers warm whilst the product developed.
To address this question, we decided to entertain. In September 2020, we hosted our own virtual event called ‘Transform Commerce’. The idea was to generate noise around Blueprint, and reward early waitlisters with free, premium content.
Again, contacts came in handy as we brought together a line-up of eCommerce’s big-hitting thought leaders in a full day of speaking slots and Q&As. Simultaneously, we launched our solution on Product Hunt and sent out goodie bags to those brands who’d stuck with us while Blueprint was in development.
In addition to this one-off event, we made consistent use of content to grow and engage our waitlist. I became a podcast host as we launched Work in Progress, aimed at leveraging the third-party qualified audience of DTC influencers like Moiz Ali and Nik Sharma.
The podcast won us huge credibility, as well as a rich pool of insight that was subsequently turned into written articles for our blog. This repurposing played into our lean, low budget approach, and amplified the volume of content that could be created by the one full-time team member we had at the time.
It enabled us to establish a pipeline of articles that established Blueprint as an authority within our niche. Each value-packed, industry-specific piece drove 5 to 10 new sign-ups to the waitlist and kept our existing audience warm.
Thunderbirds are go...
After a number of false starts on the product side, we were finally able to launch Blueprint to our waitlist in December 2020. This came too late for some, as brands understandably looked for solutions they could implement quicker.
However, those that had stuck with us were by now highly familiar with Blueprint and could be onboarded rapidly. By building a strong waitlist, we’d given ourselves a pool of highly qualified, engaged prospects to convert.
As a result, just two months after launching, we now work with over 100 of the top DTC CPG brands in the US & UK - all of whom are former waitlisters.
Based on this long-established relationship, these early adopters are now giving us invaluable product feedback and driving huge ROI with their own customer bases.