Preorders: how well do they work/would you recommend doing this?

For my next idea (SaaS related in the network security space), I'm thinking of simply putting up a landing page and asking people to preorder + collecting payments ahead of the launch. I have some questions:

1. How well does this work in your experience? Are there certain projects where you'd choose to use a different launch strategy and not ask people to preorder/how do you think about this?

2. What kind of call-to-action copy text and UX have you seen work well for preorders? Maybe just a standard "Preorder Now" button which collects payment and sends the typical thank you email

Thanks in advance!

Hey Ben! I've seen pre-orders work well for friends / clients / associates. In particularly these cases I've been involved with a lot more:

  1. Audience > when you already have a pretty engaged (not necessarily big) audience preorders can be incredibly effective and work really well (if they don't there's usually a PMF or messaging issue)

  2. Testing > running split tests on a landing page for preorders to test messaging and conversion rates

  3. New items > mostly for eCom clients who have daily traffic coming to certain products that they won't produce again / or they will produce for the first time until they hit a certain preorder number. Audience is usually warm through social channels so will preorder as it's becoming more common too.

Copy: Straight to the point if you have hot interest. If not, big fan of copy that actually sells which often involves humor for me. If I've no idea who the person is and haven't been able to warm up through other channels I'm unlikely to preorder.

I think for SAAS is it's harder (though totally happy to be proved wrong) as opposed to courses and ecommerce. I think selling advantages are the key here (i.e. a big price advantage for paying upfront). A really clear and simple refund policy would help too - makes it an easier sell.

I do photography as well and Peak Designs run most of their production lines on a preorder model - worth taking a look even if though it's a physical product as they do it well.

Collecting payments: if there's established trust or you're addressing a pretty stick problem and people can go check out other channels to get the trust hit we need it can be great. If not, can be quite hard! In certain industries it's WAY harder too. For example, I had a client trying to do preorders for SAAS for charities; pretty much impossible as there's limited funds and they need to know and see exactly what they're getting and how it will work for them.

Thanks for this detailed response @lis - I've been thinking about this recently as my last launch for #simpleotp had 25+ people join the waitlist and 14 of them signed up once I actually launched, but none of them actually converted to sales.

=> might have been better to ask people for money upfront instead of hoping they'd buy later. I did talk to all of the users that signed up and asked them if there's anything I could have done better, but didn't get a response. It's very possible that I just don't have PMF with #simpleotp

Totally sucks you haven't got a response but that was a great little waitlist - well done!

The upfront depends on whether they actively used it or not - if so, then there's probably a problem somewhere else for why they didn't convert. If they didn't use it all, then yeah it sometimes helps to be invested or on automated deduction post-trial to encourage use.

I assume you have some ideal customer types in mind - have you got some you could reach out to (that aren't friends) to ask them to go through the process and find out what's missing if they don't want to pay for it?

Thanks, and all good - building a startup every month until something works, so even if this one isn't successful I'm moving on quickly to the next thing and keeping the website online

Also, in terms of reaching out to ideal customer types - that's what I'm talking about above. I had a bunch of makers from indiehackers sign up on the waitlist (ideal users for this) but didn't get a response when I emailed them asking for feedback on the product:
Hey there,

I noticed that you signed up for Simple OTP a few days ago but you haven't started a trial yet. Just wondering, is there anything we could be doing better? Any missing features, feedback, or concerns?

Feel free to reply to this email or join our Discord and I'll personally respond to all of your comments.

Thank you,

Benjamin Katz
Founder, Simple OTP

-> no responses unfortunately. These are people who basically went through the process already and got to the payment page, then dropped out

Apologies - didn't connect the two things! I had a bunch of problems with research at this same stage with a client once. Ended up adding a phone number to the signup and then texting / whatsapping and for others reaching out to them on their social channels in DMs. Was way more effective, texted a quick back and forth or jumped on a call... had a very high response rate. Just in case you do decide to try source feedback more intensely (or maybe on IH you could message there - not sure how it works over there).

You're freaking amazing for doing one a month - can't wait to see them all!

No worries at all - I'll have to give that phone number thing a shot for my next idea. I can see how texts/calls would convert a lot better

Yea, for IH I basically tagged all the people that expressed interest in the post (they had commented prior) and asked for feedback, no responses there either haha

These people are brutal! 😅

It's not so bad, I grew up playing video games online so I'm used to getting way worse feedback than silence heh

I guess that's the equivalent to me getting roasted for my neighborhood Spice Girls performances 🤣