I am a programmer and have been developing a web app to facilitate appointment scheduling in my spare time. My target customer is a professional or a small business owner working on a well defined schedule and wanting to automate appointment scheduling.
I have finished implementing the features I feel necessary for the first version of my product (site is currently online but not launched), but I have no idea how to promote it to get that fabled "first customer". As most of the information on the subject seems tailored to companies with at least a small group of employees (I seriously doubt I'd be able to blog, maintain personas on Twitter/Myspace/Linkedin with frequent meaningful updates, do SEO and Adwords campaigns and more), what should a single guy trying to go at it alone do?
In my experience you will want to start out with the target market. Get involved in that community in some fashion.
The easiest one from my experience is Twitter. Utilize the Twitter search function and get some conversations started with people who have a need for your service. By conversation I mean talk to them, don't just hard sell them your service. Build a reputation as the go-to guy for time management in the small-business world.
By doing this you will get an idea of what your customers are looking for in the product and how to perfect any future marketing campaigns. It takes a little leg work and getting in the trenches with the customer, but its worth it in the long run.
You already have the answer, the things that you say you are not able to do are the things that you need to do because no one else will!
"Blog, maintain personas on Twitter/Myspace/Linkedin with frequent meannngful updates, do SEO and Adword campaigns and more"
Try attracting regular users by offering the service for free... Seriously. Because it is a web-based app the marginal cost of supporting users is very low, so the model I would adopt is start off free.
Word of mouth...
If you cannot gain traction by offering the service for free, you'll not be able to do it by charging 60Euro a year. Often awareness of a good app is spread by word of mouth - so it follows that if you get hundreds of users on your platform using it for free, you will have a base of people that (if the product is good enough) will rave about it to other people. And personal recommendations are the strongest. Hand out free accounts to the first 100 people and see how you get on.
These early guys will also be invaluable in providing you with feedback on what part of the app they like, and what parts could be tweaked. You may find that they are requesting some really neat features, and that actually the way to do this is by...
Adopting a freemium model ... You've heard of it before - a product in a basic form is given away free and then to access some of the neater or enterprise features you have to subscribe. The reason this works well is that you gain a large base of basic users (getting it for free) and they do three things:
Then it all becomes about giving the free users just enough functionality that they are happy (and raving about it) but then not too much that you are scratching your head for what to put in the premium (paid for) version. There has to be something really compelling about the paid for version for this to work otherwise nobody would shift from the free version.
If you can afford to try freemium... it's a good way to go. It is much easier to market and gain PR; get people blogging about you etc if the service is compelling and free. Once you have a good critical mass of people using it and enjoying it, then start thinking about monetizing it. By then I'm sure you'll have a good idea as to how much of a money-spinner this is.