7 signs to identify early-adopters and innovators

In crossing the chasm, Geoffrey Moore paints a very clear picture of innovators and early-adopters for the technology world.

The Innovators

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

As per him, Innovators pursue new technology products aggressively. They are usually the nerds, the techies, the ‘sufferable’ know-it-alls! They own the latest gadgets and they spend their time reading and writing about the latest & the greatest in the tech world! They are conversant about the underlying technologies and can speak to you about the pros and cons of each one of them (Jelly-bean Vs Ice-Cream Sandwich).

The Early Adopters

The early adopters, as per him, are just as much of an enthusiasts! They are, however less techy but more business / functional opportunity driven. They are not interested in whether its Jelly Bean or ICS; they are more interested in the significant value-add / competitive-edge derivable from this tool. How it would change the world or at-least part of the world!

Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) in Moneyball, would be a classic example of early adopter! Saito in Inception could be another!

 

So how do we identify them? How can we distinguish them from everyone else in the crowd. Here are 7 empirically defined signs that I collated from experiences (mine and other entrepreneurs).

1. They want to hold your product in their hands, experience it, play with it

Shortly after launching the Yavvy iPhone & Android Apps, I used to go about showing it to prospective clients. There have been instances where some of them simply took the phone from my hand and started playing with the app. On other occasions, they almost immediately downloaded the app from the App store. If I look back upon those who did, almost all of those who pulled it out of my hand and started playing with the device were early adopters. They also became our first few customers.

 

2. They call back

I used to meet a lot of people and tell them about Yavvy. I still do. At a random meeting, at a conference. Most people listen, most also provide advice. Most of those interactions end right there.

The innovators, early adopters usually come back to you. There have been those who have come back to me weeks later, some even months later. But they remembered and they called back to explore. They wanted to know if it could do something specific, if it could help their friends.

 

3. They own the latest gadgets (This is a myth)

Most blogs and even Moore’s example states this. Unfortunately, no. of gadgets owned is just a bad yardstick to judge early adopters. Some really amazing innovators I met did not own a smartphone! Infact some of our early customers came to us with a very well defined need (manage billing and invoicing from multiple locations). Most of them had no gadgets. Infact quite a few of them were from rural areas! They were just early adopters in their own market.

On the other hand, I’ve met such a huge number of “Bankers” who move around with the most cutting edge gadgets and yet, have no idea, nor orientation towards adopting technology.

 

4.  They are interested, they listen, they participate (in shaping the product)

Once an early adopter decides to invest (could be time or effort or money) in your solution or offering, they usually take significant interest in shaping it. This shows up in their feedback, which is usually more insightful. Even during conversations, they give you time and listen. They participate.

There is a sense of excitement in them, when they talk about your product. Here is a quick snippet about the feedback which our early adopters gave us.

 

5. They have purpose (to use your product)

7 signs to identify early-adopters

Honestly, if I were to picture it, my friends and family would qualify on the above-mentioned criteria. They do participate, they do come back, they do experience the product and give me feedback.

Yet, none of them is an early adopter. Unless they have a purpose or a very well defined use-case for my product, they will not qualify as early adopters. Unless they have felt the problem that I am trying to solve, they would not qualify as early adopters

 

6. They don’t get stuck up on references

“Do you have another similar company using this product? In our city?”. Early adopters are able to see beyond this question. They are okay, if the answer is no. Infact, if you have too many references, that might actually be a put-off for them!

 

7. They don’t need handholding (or very little handholding)

As per Moore, the big difference between early majority and late majority is that they early majority is technically capable of using your product. They can work out most parts without you hand-holding them. Early adopters similarly have the technical and functional bent-of-mind to use your product.

Don’t confuse this with feature discovery. That’s a usability aspect of your product. And if your product is bad at it, you’d just have your user come back to you with questions about how to do this and why doesn’t it do that!

 

Its a tough job finding great innovators and early adopters to help you shape your product. Tough, but unavoidable. Can you leap-frog to the early majority or late majority directly? That’s a question we’d discuss in another post . “How important are early adopters to the success of your venture”

 

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One Response to 7 signs to identify early-adopters and innovators

  1. Great post Vikram – especially the way you have pointed out some myths. In most cases, owning the latest gadget has more to do with creating a perception of exclusivity rather than a passion for innovation. Makes you think – how many startups out there try to spend time connecting with these early adopters during the development process? I will look forward to reading your next blog post about how they impact a venture.

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