Five ways to find early adopters

How can you identify and engage with the first group of customers for your start-up?

The success or failure of a start-up can be determined by its ability to engage with early adopters for its products and services. These first customers are a segment of your target market who are prepared to be ambassadors for your product or service – but how do you find them? Here are five tips to help you attract – and retain – your flag-bearers….

1. Define your early adopters

When it comes to launching a company, defining who your ideal early adopters are is crucial. These people form a specific segment of your target audience and stand apart due to their proactive nature and willingness to engage with new products or services.

“Early adopters are people who are innovators themselves: those who actively seek new technologies, solutions and ideas, sometimes simply for the sake of novelty and change,” says Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Marketing at Cambridge at Judge Business School and co-author of the book Frugal Innovation.

Spending time engaging, understanding and responding to these early adopters is essential. “They are often experts who can quickly assess the value of new ideas,” says Jaideep. “That means that, depending on their judgements, they can either become champions, helping these ideas spread through society, or detractors, who can quickly quash them.”

2. Create a social media buzz

Once you’ve identified the ideal characteristics of your early adopters, you’ll need to engage with them – and posting on social media and online community groups is a simple and effective way to reach people who are interested in your industry.

“Social media plays a crucial role, not only in finding early adopters, but also in engaging and leveraging them to help scale the new solution,” explains Jaideep. “It also enables the viral spread of information and excitement between early adopters themselves as well as from early adopters to the mass market.”

3. Engage with early adopters on a personal level

Mark Elliott, business coach, Lean Startup ambassador and host of the London Lean Startup Meetup, believes that the best way to attract early adopters is to build meaningful relationships. “The most important thing is to listen and keep early adopters involved, but it is also essential to show the human side of your business,” he says. “Tell them a bit about yourself, the challenges you’re facing and the successes you’ve had. People recognise authenticity – they value that engagement with you. Even when you have thousands of early adopters, if you take a personal approach, they are likely to think that they have a one-to-one relationship with you.”

4. Communicate the value of your start-up

Above all, you need to give early adopters a compelling reason to get onboard with your start-up. You should emphasise why your offering stands out from anything else on the market. Releasing a free trial version might be tempting, but it isn’t necessarily a good idea.

“Free versions of products can create real problems when you try to charge,” says Nelson Phillips, Professor of Strategy and Innovation at Imperial College Business School. Instead, Nelson suggests that early adopters are given other inducements, such as. “Free added functionality or early availability of new versions [can help],” he says. “Another useful benefit is direct communication with experts in the company who can provide assistance and at the same time track problems and opportunities for new product features.”

5. Ask for feedback

By taking steps to push your start-up in the right places, to push it out to the right people, and to engage with those people on a personal level, you will find early adopters who offer valuable feedback, help generate a buzz around your product or service, and tell others about your company, too.

“Early adopters are proactive – they want to give you feedback,” says Mark. “It is also a good idea to encourage them to share your success with others. It can happen organically, but you can facilitate it, for example, by using a consistent hashtag in your communications. And should you encounter issues along the way, deal with them quickly, simply and honestly – be seen to follow up.”

The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray Financial Management.

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