This is one of the first questions I ask of entrepreneurs I mentor. Early adopters have several desirable characteristics:
- Because they are very excited about using your product as soon as possible, they are far more tolerant of bugs, performance issues and other rough edges than typical users.
- They get deeply engaged with the product and will give you feedback early and often – make sure you acknowledge and thank them for that feedback. (That doesn’t mean you alway act on it!)
- They will tell their friends about your product – they love being the first to discover a cool product and gain status by evangelizing something their peers will find cool as well. Help them spread the word by having an informative web site and perhaps some sort of special rewards or recognition for early adopters.
- They usually will talk to the press – vital to your PR campaign – boast about your product on social media, and will talk to investors performing their due diligence.
- They are usually very savvy about the competitive marketplace, as they are alway on the hunt for the latest and greatest, so they can be a useful source of competitive intelligence.
You can learn a lot more about early adopters in Geoffrey Moore’s classic work on startups: Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers.
Clayton Christiansen also has valuable things to say about early adopters in his classic work The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business.
Defining and acquiring early adopters is the key first step in your customer development process. Early adopters are literally the bridge to the future. Nurture them and your efforts will be rewarded.