A waitlist is a strategy growing in popularity for generating buzz around a new product or service and creating a sense of exclusivity.
It can also help assess market demand before a product is even built.
Late last year, we began working with Streetparkd, a Boston-based tech startup solving the headaches related to parking in the city.
Our preliminary survey results indicated that the target customers:
a) experienced the pain points that the company planned to address, and
b) were likely to download and use a mobile app designed to solve the problem.
The team wanted to present investors with a list of customers who would download the app when it became available, so we helped them pull off a waitlist campaign.
Here are the processes and tools we used:
We created a landing page with one simple objective in mind: get people to convert. But a blank page with a contact form isn’t very compelling, so we included the following:
- Brand imagery and tag line
- Brief explanation of the problem
- Explainer video (more on this in a moment)
- Contact form
We created the page using Squarespace and tapped Opus Design for the graphics. Clean and simple, the site was up and running in no time!
Tools: Squarespace, Photoshop
Designer: Opus Design
Some forms just ask for your email address and nothing more. Some demand that applicants fill out a full page of questions. The short forms are missing out on an opportunity to collect valuable data, while the long forms are going to lose prospects who don’t have 10 minutes to spend answering questions.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
We had to walk the fine line between losing the applicant’s interest and missing out on valuable information. We ultimately went with 3 required questions and 2 optional fields (for those who aren’t in such a hurry). We also set up an automated email to confirm for waitlisters that their information had been received.
Tools: Squarespace, MailChimp, Google Docs
The best way to tell people about Streetparkd was to demonstrate the problem and show them how the product was going to improve their lives—no demo was necessary (which was good, because we didn’t have one!).
Being on a budget, we did all of the acting, filming, directing, and editing in house. We followed a Problem-Solution formula and ended the message with a clear call to action (CTA): “Go to streetparkd.com to sign up for the waitlist.”
The video was uploaded to YouTube and appeared on the landing page, and was promoted heavily through Facebook and Twitter.
Tools: iPhone 5, Freesound.org, Adobe Premiere, a talented and attractive team of actors
(a.k.a. Flyers on Cars)
Because our target customers were car owners who park in urban areas, we had the opportunity to find them in real life. The 2-sided flyers contained the following:
- Brand imagery and tag line
- Body copy that outlines the problem and positions Streetparkd as the solution
- A clear CTA (“Join the waitlist today: www.streetparkd.com”)
- Promo code: this allowed us to determine which neighborhoods were most interested in the app, and where to focus in future marketing campaigns. This was an optional field on the webform, but 95% of flyer respondents provided us with their code.
We distributed 5,000 flyers throughout Boston on the windshields of cars parked on the street. Very old-fashioned, but effective: people were signing up for the waitlist within an hour of us distributing the flyers.
This tactic yielded a 4.85% response rate—slightly higher than the average response rate for traditional direct mail.
Designer: Opus Design
Printer: Red Spot
Social Media Ads
Since our target customers are people who park in Boston and use smartphones, we targeted Facebook users aged 18-45, living within 10 miles of Boston.
We needed images that would catch the eye of the viewer and was relevant to our product, so we took some pictures of parking tickets, parking signs, and tow trucks.
We tried 8 different phrases, some of which clearly outlined the problem (“Parking in Boston is tough, but there’s a new app that takes the pain out of city driving!”) and others more concise (“Never get ticketed or towed again!”).
The highest-performing ad. Familiar,
colorful imagery fared better in general.
Over the course of our 5-week trial we spent about $950 on Facebook ads and gained over 1,000 names to the waitlist as a result. Facebook advertising was a huge success for this campaign’s message and audience. Our click through rate (CTR) for in-newsfeed ads was 8% (that’s 8 times higher than the average Facebook ad!) and the landing page conversion rate was a healthy 5.6%.
Tool: Facebook Ads Manager
PPC Ad Campaign
We created Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad campaigns for search engine marketing. We came up with a list of about 50 phrases that our target audience might search for (“residential parking South Boston”, “parking ticket Boston”, “street cleaning Brighton”, etc.) and wrote a few lines of copy, similar to what was used in our Facebook ads.
One of the search engine ads we tested.
The cost per click varied based on how many advertisers were bidding on those keywords. All in all, we spent less than $200 on PPC advertising. Two months into the PPC campaign, fewer than 200 people actually clicked on the ads. We decided to pull the plug.
With a CTR of less than 1% and a cost per lead (CPL) of $21.33 (ouch!), PPC advertising on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing proved to be the least successful tactic, however, it’s not something to rule out across the board. Search engine ads can be more effective when your target customers realize they have a problem and are actively searching for a solution, but are less effective when users search for keywords with a result in mind that’s vastly different from your offer.
Platforms: Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Yahoo! Ads
The waitlist campaign was a huge success; we ended up with over 1,500 opt-in customers in just 4 weeks! Here are the results of the campaign, which we used to determine the success of each marketing tactic:
(Conversion rates for Facebook and PPC ads reflect on-site conversion, from page visit to completed form; conversion rate for fliers reflect total conversion, from car windshield to completed form.)
While the raw number of leads generated from PPC ads is small enough to be a rounding error, at least the conversion rate was on par with the other channels, proving our messaging was consistent. The cost per lead (CPL), however, tells a drastically different story:
It would have been cheaper to take each lead
from a PPC ad out to see an IMAX 3D movie.
When engineering a waitlist campaign, your toolkit is limited only by your creativity. You can (and should!) test your messaging and tactics, prime the market, and capture leads well before you have a finished product.
To resonate with customers—and convince them to opt-in to your list—the most important element is a crisp, clear value proposition that addresses a real pain point. The rest of the strategy builds from there.
Have you had any experience with waitlist campaigns? How did it go?
Tell us about it in the comments section below!