How I got my first 1,000 customers for my shopify app

How I got my first 1,000 customers for my shopify app
A post I made on quora 7 years ago, before we began specializing in ecommerce.

The cold start problem is real. If you think building software is hard, wait until your app is approved and you're ready to sell your software.

I am investing in a ton of early stage apps and founders building in commerce. I get it. We all start at 0.

So I thought it'd be helpful to document how I went about getting our first 1,000 customers.

Turns out it was the exact same process to go from 0 > 100 customers > 1,000.

It probably would be for you, too.

A little back ground context, Privy offered a solid free plan. Even so, I do think this is a model that would work for you.

Find, join + search communities where your customers live.

I was targeting small ecommerce stores. There are tons of thriving communities with these founders on facebook, on slack, etc. In my day, it was the Shopify entrepreneurs FB group, which had over 100K members, lots of daily engagement.

I'd block time each week to search new and old posts in the forum. Our wedge at the time was exit intent popups. So any post or discussion that mentioned popups, or email, or mailchimp, or klaviyo (etc) I'd be reading. I'd read every response. This was my area of expertise, and I could add value, genuinely. So I did.

If the question was related to something we could solve, or a feature we offered, I'd then mention that they could achieve it on our free plan. And that as the founder, I'd love their feedback.

Find the platform forums where people are self serving help docs.

When Privy started, we were integrated with Shopify, Squarespace, Mailchimp, and 30 other ESPs.

As part of my weekly block, I'd scroll through their actual forums. I'd run those same searches, and I'd craft detailed responses to anyone asking questions about those same things: exit intent popups for shopify/squarespace, targeting popups by country, etc, how to add a coupon code to your popup. Those detailed responses also linked out to the Privy website.

Playing the Quora game.

I also searched quora weekly for those same terms, and crafted detail responses, again linking to the privy domain.

Not many people take the time to do these things, I know. But they work on a long term horizon. I did this for at least 2 years, every friday morning.

If I were doing this today I'd also include twitter search, and reddit in this effort as well. Probably tons of gold in both of those.

It helped get the word out in different communities and forums.

It helped generate a solid number of links to (now gets over 100K visits a month).

And before our app store game started cranking, this community and forum effort filled our top of funnel.

Do a podcast tour.

I guarantee there are at least 10 podcasts that would have you as a guest. I ran and hosted a successful podcast for 3 years with over 800K downloads. As great as the podcast was I was always starving for great guests. Make a list, follow them on twitter and linkedin, engage with their conent, show them you're an expert. Then, and only then, ask if they need a guest on topic XYZ.

Remove your ego. I did podcasts interviews with anyone who would have me. There's no harm, and even if it only has 100 listeners, thats 100 people listening to your story. That's more than before you recorded that podcast.

And of course, in parallel to all of the above, we spent a ton of time optimizing our shopify app store listing.