How to find early adopters for Your Startup

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Written by Megan McLatchie, Marketing Executive at NOVA

You’ve got a great product but no one to sell it to. Building a market for your startup is a challenge for entrepreneurs because you’re asking customers to trust in a product or service from a company that customers haven’t used before. You want people who are open to innovation, willing to try new products and take risks. We call these people early adopters and they are gold dust to startups.

An early adopter isn't a personality type nor is it a specific group of individuals. It is a term for 1 of 5 customer segments during a products lifetime. The innovators and early adopters are the ones comfortable to make decisions driven by what they believe in. 

Innovators are an important 2.5% of the market as they get your startup up off the ground but Early adopters are a bigger slice of pie. They consist of 13.5% of the market as well as have the highest opinion leadership amidst the other adopter categories. These are the people who “Stood in line for six hours to buy an iPhone when they first came out, when you could have just walked into the store next week and bought one off the shelf”. An early adopter of your startup will determine whether your product is a success or failure. Try 4 ways that will attract early adopters recommended by Nova and Just Entrepreneurs. 

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Recognising who to target

You should already know or have an understanding of your target market for your startup, next you need to identify potential early adopters. There are a few types of opinion leaders that you might consider targeting such as industry insiders, lead users, enthusiasts, loyal customers or fans, status seekers (so people who want to be the cutting edge of your product), and customers who find it of value and are open to change. It all depends on what qualities of the early adopter categories will be best aligned with your brand - you want to make sure the people who really matter to you are the ones who fall in love with your startup. 

Find the watering holes

Right, so you’ve established who you want to target but now where do you find them? To find your early adopters, you have to physically put yourself where your target market is. Think, where they are gathering and where they are going to talk about your product?

Many startups instantly go to social media and there is a good reason to. Now more than ever, people are using social to connect with each other on a daily basis. In fact the number of social media users worldwide in 2019 is 3.484 billion, up 9% year-on-year globally. So not only it enables you to tap into a larger audience it's also not limited to one location. You can use social media to segment the market and find your early adopters. For example, if you startups target group is parents with young children you may consider targeting Facebook groups and online forums, or if your focus is on students Snapchat or Instagram might be good options. 

“Facebook Groups are a great resource to connect with people who are passionate about your industry” - Michael Kiel, Founder of Boat Planet.

What makes you special?

Why should a consumer take a risk and choose your startup over an already exisiting product? To get early adopters to start using your product you need to communicate the value of how adopting your startup will make a genuine impact. Whatever it is that your product does to alleviate a struggle for your customer, by explaining how it will make their life easier will persuade them to try your product. Unless you clearly communicate why it is desirable to start using your products now, most people will dismiss it for trial later. Your problem is the struggle that originally made you think of your startup in the first place!

Opinions matter

We’ve already addressed that early adopters are the opinion leaders, which means their opinion matters in order to attract more customers. It’s not just about the product, your process is equally important. Post-purchase, customers need reassurance that they’ve made the right decision, particularly when the product may be new to the market. Making your service easy to use and interactive keeps the customer satisfied which means they are likely to leave feedback. Reviews and ratings are crucial for shaping your startup by not only helping you to recognise strengths and weaknesses but also attracting more customers for trial. There are many platforms they can be heard talking about your products to other potential customers, you want them to share your startup successes, not its failures. 

These are 4 ways to find early adopters for your startup, starting with recognising who your ideal customer is. Once you’ve identified where your early adopters are, offer them reasons to start using your product such as saving time, money or removing effort so that they are persuaded to buy your products now, not later. Communicate a real value and engage with your customers to share your startup success to attract many more early adopters to your startup.