Using a referral waitlist before lunch to get traction at low CAC

The following is a summary of my talk with Roy Povarchik, Director of Growth at Sequence.

Sequence is a money-routing platform that has effectively used a viral waiting list to grow its user base. They decided to start getting users with a pre-launch campaign before the public release to gain traction and control flow to their early-stage product.

They had two campaigns, with the longer one performing better, and leveraged their active Discord community for organic referrals. The pre-launch strategy has succeeded, growing to nearly 400 paying customers within a few months. 

What is Sequence?

Sequence is a money routing platform that allows users to connect their income channels, such as salary or cashbacks, and create a money flow to direct their money where they want it to go.

As a financial technology platform, it offers dynamic visualisation tools, smart routing rules, and automation capabilities to enhance financial management. The platform supports integration with various financial institutions, enabling instant transfers and execution of financial strategies.

About four months ago, the company started bringing users into their Alpha version. Initially, they began with Facebook campaigns to create a waiting list. However, this wasn’t a viral waiting list but a simple sign-in and wait system.

Why did they build a referral-based waitlist?

While they were still developing key features and preparing for an official launch, the waitlist allowed them to control the number of people who could access the platform. This approach ensured they could manage the influx of users and provide a quality experience.

From a marketing perspective, they created exclusive offers, such as early access for influencers’ audiences, which could generate buzz and anticipation for the platform.

Lastly, the team at Sequence believed that a waitlist could work due to the positive feedback and engagement from their user base. Users actively interacted with the team and the broader community on Discord and organically referred others to the platform. 

Although their initial invite system could have performed better, it still showed results without any promotion, which suggested that a more structured and promoted waitlist with referral features could be successful—and it was!

What did the waiting list look like?

  1. Step one was landing on their homepage—a clear and compelling page that conveys what the product does and a single call-to-action to join the waitlist.
  2. Once clicking the “Join waitlist” button, Sequence asked people to join by providing their email and, optionally, their names.
  3. Then, once they had joined the waiting list, the participants were prompted to invite their friends to climb the queue and get access faster.
  4. While waiting, the Sequence team engaged their participants with regular communication that reminded them of what was coming and why they should refer their friends.

What made this waitlist effective?

  • Product-Market Fit:
    The product received positive feedback from its user base, indicating a solid product-market fit. Users actively engaged with the platform and the team and organically referred others to it. This suggests there was a demand for the product, and users found it valuable.
    We repeatedly see at Viral Loops that people are significantly more likely to refer their friends to a brand if they are familiar with the product. It’s hard to ask people to invite their friends to something they have not seen.
  • Exclusivity and Anticipation:
    The waitlist created a sense of exclusivity and anticipation. By offering early access to influencers and their audiences, Sequence generated buzz around the product. This exclusivity likely made joining the platform more appealing, driving more people to sign up—and feeding the viral loop.
  • Community Engagement:
    Sequence had an active Discord community where users could interact with each other and the team. This community engagement likely helped to foster a sense of belonging and excitement among users. This encouraged more people to join the waitlist and be more willing to invite their friends.
  • Controlled user onboarding:
    The waitlist allowed Sequence to control the number of users on the platform, ensuring a quality user experience. By managing the influx of users, they could avoid overwhelming their system and ruin the user experience. Thiled to higher user satisfaction and retention rates, increasing the likelihood of more referrals. Simply put, the better people like the product, the more likely they are to refer.

How did they benefit from their Viral Loops waiting list?

The primary benefit Sequence gained from using Viral Loops was the ability to significantly extend their reach and user acquisition with meagre acquisition costs. 

Viral Loops facilitated viral marketing, which allowed Sequence to tap into the networks of its users and reach a larger audience. This amplified the number of potential users and generated a buzz around the product, creating anticipation and excitement.

Viral marketing proved to be a cost-effective strategy for user acquisition. Instead of investing heavily in traditional advertising methods, Sequence leveraged its existing user base to attract new users.

In Roy’s words:

“If I can go from spending ads and acquiring one user to acquiring 1.2 users with the same amount of money, I’m already in a better position than I was before and it’s a good start to lowering the CAC. Many marketers think waiting list techniques is either “get 1 million users before launch or nothing”, but in reality – lowering CAC, expanding your reach due to wait-listers sharing your link with friends and social media are all great benefits you can get from leveraging this method.”

Paid media, like Facebook Ads, brands have to pay for every user they get with the price determined by the algorithm and a bidding war.

Here, however, every new customer could bring more customers. Sequence could track that and not pay an extra $$ for every new person to sign up.

Notably, referral waiting lists tend to attract high-quality leads. Recommendations from friends or family are often trusted more. So, users referred to Sequence’s waitlist were likely more interested and engaged than users acquired through other channels.

How can you build such a waitlist?

To build such a waitlist, you must identify your target audience and create a compelling offer that fits their needs. If you have that, like Sequence did, you’re set for a successful pre-launch.

Once you have that, you can create a referral-based waiting list for your company using the Viral Loop Startup Pre-launch template.

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