We are going to release a new cool, free product. We are expecting about 20K+ downloads in 6 months. 3K~ in the first week.
The question is, shall we release it as invitation only for 1-2 months? We've got more than 500 people to give out invitations and planning to give 5-10 invites to each.
I think this would help to:
I think invitations work for a company like Google because it makes you feel like you have an insider advantage to see a product early. Can't imagine they do anything for a new company other than annoy potential customers because its an extra step to get to what they need.
It depends. Have you achieved product / market fit yet?
Sean Ellis says that you have achieved product market fit if at least 40% of your user say they would be "very disappointed" without your product.
If you already have product / market fit, and you can technically scale to handle demand, then scale your user base.
If you haven't yet achieved product / market fit, or are not sure if you have achieved product / market fit (i.e. you've never done any surveys), then you should unroll your product to a small group of users, and survey them. Take a look at this blog post by Bradford Cross, where he explains that you want to convert users "somewhat disappointed" without your product into "very disappointed" without your product. (Forget about the users who would "not at all disappointed", since they don't see the potential and are the hardest to convert at this stage.)
Only when you have 40% of users say they would be "very disappointed" without your product, only then should you focus on scaling your user-base.
I would say no per Doug's comment.
Approach it a little differently. Provide limited access to those influencers you want to blog or write about the product. Don't know the complexity of the product but let them use it for a relatively short time. Perhaps a week or two. Then I'd open the floodgates. It's a fast moving marketplace these days. The sooner you can get out and get as many customers as possible, the better you will do. Let the product create the buzz and the viral effect because users want to share something good with others. Don't try and do it artificially with the invitation.
Best of luck,
There are good points on both sides here - yes, there may be a bit of "buzz factor" from invitations and yes, it can be annoying for new prospects to have to take an extra step.
I would suggest that you do proceed with an invitation approach - but only for a couple of weeks. Here's why: you'll get an excellent ability to fully test your download and support systems and to get some sense of the volumes once you take away the requirement for invitations.
Think of this as giving you a bit of insurance that you'll definitely be able to provide an excellent user experience once you go fully live.
One additional point - when you send out your invitations - as well as when you blog and tweet about your new product after the invitation period ends - make sure you include an incredibly clear and specific call to action along the lines of: "please tell five of your peers to go to our site and register so they can receive the great benefits" or "please retweet this tweet".
The other advantage of a brief invitation period is that you'll get good statistics and client stories which you can then use in your news releases as part of your formal big launch after you take away the invitation requirement.
Good Luck! Let us know how you do!