Early Adopters

It has always been a classic question - If I build something, will people come? Will they honor this new way of doing things? Will they adapt? Will they like this creation of mine?

Almost every new startup / ideas / business / product has this big question - will this work? Well, if you put something out there (especially on the internet) someone will take it, try it and if you are active on social media (let’s say you have a following) then the chances of acceptance are greater.

There is this segment of population that loves the smell of “new”. No matter if it’s unfinished or buggy - they want their hands in the clay - these are the early adopters. And they will shape everything around you and perhaps even about you and your creation.

Traits of Early Adopters:

  • They will adopt your technology and give you honest feedback - no they don’t mind the bugs and mistakes so no need to wait till “it’s perfect” before you ship - just ship.
  • You really can’t declare a USP about your product/service - it’s up to your early adopter to acknowledge your USP. And they can find anything to be a USP.
  • They are very different from your regular users. Users use your stuff. Early adopters shape it with you - they are your co-creators in.
  • If you can get a strong tribe of your early adopters going on - they will -do- be enough marketing for your startup to take off. Many of them will leave eventually - to newer stuff. But they will leave behind a polished shipping and a decent user-base.

Examples:

  • Facebook was shaped by tech-savy college students (seen The Social Network?).
  • No one started buying on Amazon from day one. How could they trust you with their Credit Card?! Well early adopters did.
  • Who knew I could write? There were early adopters (readers) of my writing who “saw the thing” in it and encouraged me to do it more.
  • Think about it, from “barter system” to “Plasma TV” everyone had early adopters.
  • Who knew you could walk and end up reading this on internet? Your parents were early adopters :P

Don’t get me wrong, there are no people running around with “early adopter” tag on their forehead. It’s doesn’t work that way. Anyone can be your early adopter - but you need to know the noise from bar-raisers.

There are people who say speak because they have something to say and then there are those who speak who have to speak something.

This is one of my favourite quotes, it warns you against the noise. You can’t “calculate” it; you have to feel the signal from noise. (Reminds me of “choose your ride” scenes from Avatar).

How to Get Some

Hmm.. So they seem cool people, but where do you get them?

As I said earlier, they can be anywhere so yo better get talking about your ideas and start sharing your thoughts. Speak your mind! Broadcast your-self! (That’s what blogging, social media & even marketing is all about). If “the dude” is passing by - he will notice.

But beware, trying to portraying something you are not won’t work. Don’t act smart - that’s not going to be a meaningful relationship, be who you are because they are going to discover you anyways. Let them see what they want to see - again don’t be afraid to show your mistakes, Ship!

Most of the time early adopters will come from your audience. That’s what I explained in article about getting shit-loads of users. You are my dear-heart audience, aren’t you?

Why do they do it?

You couldn’t resist, could you?

Now that you’ve asked the question (or I did for you :P) let me tell you about intentions of early adopters. They are entrepreneurial like you - excited about new stuff. And they are eager to get their hands on something incomplete and help to complete it.

There is this lame quote in my mathematics book:

Just as mountaineer climbs a mountain - because it is there, so a good mathematics student studies new material because it is there. - James B. Bristol

Lame innit? Expressionless! (Unlike Maths)

They do it for the fun of it - for the joy of it.

How do I … pay them back?

Ah Yes! Very important, because wrong pay-backs attract more of noise. You don’t want that. So don’t pay back directly. Just respect them, honor them & listen to them, that’d be enough. Or you know what? You can be an early adopter for someone else.

Someone from the readers suggested (I was discussing this article idea with him - what an early ‘early adopter’ :P) that we build an e-mail list of early adopters so it’s easier for people to get access to. Well this is one of the things I would like to discuss with you (in comments).

I think it’s a good idea - a nice community. But it can get annoying and spam infested. I really don’t want to try everything in the world. What do you think?

Conversation with Early Adopters

This is the main thing in whole article, I was just building the base till now.

So they’ve come and they are happily playing with your stuff. What now? How do you make the best out of it?

First thing first, make it super easy for them to talk to you. Be available! And listen wherever they are talking. They won’t be talking just around the site(s) you have’ built. They will be talking all over the web (set up Google Alerts?). You really don’t need to get in their “head” but you need to get in their head. You need to see how they are seeing it.

Get talking!

Any parallel that you see will help you rethink, redefine and recreate.

After collecting all the feedback and going through it - you will see patterns of opinion / suggestions. Those are your “first thing first” and rest can be a gold mine too, but should be taken with a pinch of salt. Now just don’t do what the crowd says - if they knew what they wanted they’d have built it.(Remind me to write about that - a mail will do, thanks!)

You need to compare ‘what they are experiencing’ with ‘what you wanted them to experience’.

Here is an example in case of web-app UI design:

You moved “Account Settings” under some drop-down menu to reduce clutter and categorize - but they are having hard time finding it because they used it often for… umm… let’s say their profile design.

Now the good option is: put it back where it was because they are used to it.

Better Option: Find out “why” it was a bad idea. Forget the words - get in their mind. So they want that profile design thing handy.

Hmm.. Let the settings be where they are - put a new link in place - for profile design. (or whatever your solution is).

I hope you get the idea. The point is to evolve your vision with them. Well that was my strategy, if do share yours.

Answering: Why will they use it?

Often people question their own idea - why will anyone use it? What’s new? Why reinvent the wheel when it’s already there? Well everyone’s vision for the wheel is unique - so maybe you are not reinventing it but, together with your early adopters, you are using it differently. A wheel on wall for decoration and a wheel under cart solve different problems.

The point is - these are the people who will help you figure out “Why in the world will anyone use just another search engine”. You don’t know your strengths. Who knows you might end up building better UI for search engine than Google, but you don’t know - but your early adopters can help you find out.

Don’t sweat too much on “being different this way or that”. You might want to rebuild “the new facebook with a twist” but that’s lame from your mouth. Build something that solves a problem (even if someone else is solving it too) and let your early adopters find the twist.

Yes I am all in for building “clones” (not rip-offs) if you can do something better, do it and solve a problem better. And you need early adopters to test & shape that better. In your own cozy corner - it’s not happening. Besperk, for now, is just ‘glorified form’ (thanks to Aditya Sahay for the term) because you are yet to play with it.

Build with them

This is essay version of what I wrote few months ago what I wrote few months ago (and what went un-noticed) about building with them, so they will come. You really don’t think you can build it all alone can you? That’s like publishing children’s book and saying “we don’t deal with children”.