There is an art to nurturing early adopters. These people bring a unique mix of intrigue, patience and forgiveness to new products. And their motivation ranges from supporting a friend or underdog to basking in the glory of being the first to discover, use or share a new product.
Early adopters are essential to demonstrating early traction. They are also often to first to deliver detailed feedback that helps shape product roadmaps seen in seed phase pitch decks.
The reality is that startups fall into two camps when it comes to early adopters.
There are those who genuinely nurture early adopters and those who, well, pay them lip service. And it’s easy to tell which startup is which.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of an email from a startup which starts with something like ‘it’s been a while since our last update, we’ve been heads down working on product…’
This is a lip service email.
I have sent those emails and I don’t anymore because they are a cop out.
It might be true that a team has been busy working on product and everything else that needs to get done. But it also suggests they are disorganised and don’t value the investment early adopters make in signing up to support their journey.
In contrast, look at startups that nurture their early adopters. They create community, trust and a sense of ownership and evangelism, all of which are key ingredients to growth.
How they achieve this level of buy-in is based on a simple algorithm designed to nurture.
Its implementation takes a little effort but the payoff can be enormous. I say ‘can be’ because while the underlying product or business model may not resonate or hit the mark, the voice of early adopters may help the founders realise that there isn’t a there, there. As a result, they can kill the idea quickly and move onto the next idea. Without that input, startups are likely to miss these important cues and keep drinking their own Kool-Aid until they run out of cash.
Of course, if the Kool-Aid is flowing thick and fast there is a good chance that excuses for not engaging with early adopters will also be in large supply.