An early adopter is typically defined as a company or person who embraces new technology before other companies do. Early adopters validate ideas and provide key insights on how a product can be improved. This fundamental part of finding market fit can be difficult.
Here are a few ways to simplify the process of locating early users who can offer valuable feedback on your early stage product.
One strategy is to scan the followers of topic specific blogs. You might be surprised at the number of prospects you find from these lists. Reach out with a sales pitch about your product and your interest in attracting them as early adopters.
You can also take it a step further and pitch for a feature on said blog. Reach out to bloggers and work on building a relationship. Prepare to pitch them - you want to give them compelling reasons why they should write about your product. This entails coming up with an interesting story angle about your startup or demonstrating your passion or expertise for the product.
Many people who work for large organizations are likely to be currently or formerly linked to the startup world, and/or are passionate about startups. Locate these individuals on LinkedIn or connect with them at events they’re likely to attend. These people can provide an in to the organization they work for, or can give you valuable and candid feedback about your product. If you build a good rapport with them and they find your product useful, they can serve as your evangelists and help you secure prospects.
It is also wise to search carefully for your ideal customer. Make sure you focus exactly on who they are. Think about who your product is intended for within the company and whose buy-in you’ll need, and work backwards from there.
I advise to segment your customer base and determine the value of each customer. In order to do this, consider these important questions:
- How important is their brand to you?
- What is the value of the company?
- What industry are they from - is that vertical industry/market key to your success?
- How big is their company in terms of people?
In many cases you can reach out to high value companies and offer consulting. You can educate your customers with your know-how of your product. This is an extremely high-touch approach and is therefore time-consuming, but the pay-off of netting a high value customer is worth it.
There are also tools out there that can give you important Business Intelligence about your customer. For example:
- Have they recently raised money and have money to spend?
- Have they opened a new office in a new territory?
- Have they recently made any big hires?
Large companies are not the only early adopters you should target, which brings me to my next point.
Startups are key early adopters. Typically, however, it is difficult for a startup to be an early adopter as they are laser focused. But, they have a passion for the startup ecosystem and you’ll be surprised how many you can get to try out your product. Invite them to test your closed beta and give them the opportunity to provide feedback.
Incubators and Accelerators
Staying connected with key organizations of a startup community is important. For example, participating in an incubator or accelerator gives you access to a network of serial entrepreneurs, investors and mentors who can easily facilitate connections with early adopters. As well, these programs offer services such as introductions, networking and access to events, so your startup will be exposed to larger companies early on.
There are many reasons why Medium and Larger size companies tend to want to be part of this type of ecosystem. Reasons range from having early exposure to technology, to PR opportunities and possible recruiting opportunities.
This type of reciprocal relationship is key and every startup should strive to be a part of it. If you're an enterprise SaaS startup in the customer development stage, apply now to L-SPARK's Winter 2016 Incubator session.