Customer Development

7 signs to identify early-adopters and innovators

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

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”


Calendar starts from Sunday and other usability feedback from our users

Friday, June 21st, 2013

We’ve had some awesome users who’ve been kind enough to devote time and give us some amazing feedback on our product. And these are not huge changes, just those little tweaks here and there which make all the difference.

For example, Mike pointed out that informational icons on our opportunity view should be visible at all times. We on the contrary had made them appear only on-hover. Just that one change made a huge difference. Another subtle change he suggested was to tell us that calendars in most applications actually start from Sunday. (The calendar we used had started from Monday and I am sure it must have ‘felt’ different).




RB pointed out the concept of driver information and while I can’t elaborate too much, it should add to making the CRM-ERP even more effective. Ashish pointed out to left-to-right readability in a (funnel) flow.

In a nutshell, we’ve been busy! There is still so much that can be done to simplify the CRM-ERP software space. There is still some time before we make it as simple as “facebook”!

Problem of scale (is not a problem at all)

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

The problem of scale; to get more customers to use your product and pay you for it, is not a problem at all. It’s just a symptom; of all the other problems your company is facing.
It means there is some deficiency with the product, or with its marketing, or with the messaging, or with the distribution, or the usability, or your service, or your pricing, or with your choice of market, or with your quality or any of the dozen other challenges.

To fix the problem of scale, you just need to fix all of these preceding problems. The keyword here is All! You will need to fix all of these problems. But here’s another catch, most successful businesses, fix only a few of these problems really really well and solve all the others only to an acceptable level.

So how do you prioritise which challenges to overcome

It varies depending upon the stage of your business, but the usual order looks something like this -

  1. Product: The pivotal challenge. Build a product that fulfills a need.
  2. Marketing: Making your customer aware of you. Let me know what specific needs you fulfill, what problems you solve.
  3. Sales: Helping your customers buy. From the moment they show interest, till the time they pay.
  4. Delivery: Delivering the product or the service to them.
  5. Support: Making sure your customers get the benefits they had been promised.
  6. Everything else


Customer Development Workshop – A step by step guide

Friday, January 11th, 2013

These are notes from a workshop on customer development I led at the Startup Leadership Program – Delhi 2013.



It is usually agreed for that you can build an immensely scalable web/tech business if 40% of your users can’t live without your product.

Other ways to put this message –

40% of your users would be extremely disappointed if you stopped providing your service;

40% of your users would be extremely difficult to switch to a competitor product etc.

Please note that when I say product, it means everything – the features, the service, the price at which you are offering – the whole package. The goal of customer development is to find out if your product really has such a set of users. It does away with the assumptions and gets you validation from actual customers.

As part of this workshop, you’d be able to discover what you need to do to be able to find this set of users.

The steps here are how I applied the principles defined in Business Model Canvas, An entrepreneur’s guide to Customer Development and much of Steve Blank’s blogs and videos. You should visit them for details.

Step 01 – What is your product’s problem – solution – benefit?

As a first step of this workshop, let’s begin by defining the product. We’ll use the PSB placards to do this. Pick up Post-It Notes and start jotting down the following-

Problem: What is the problem that your user faces?

Solution: What is the solution that you are providing?

Benefits: How is your user benefited?

Most practitioners tend to believe that we should only define the most significant problems that we are solving. I think it’s an assumption in itself. For one user security could be the most significant problem while for another, it could be performance. Therefore, pick up any and all the problems that your product solves.

FAQs to step 1

Q. Do I have to consider my competition in this PSB?

A. Getting competition into the problem statement is not a bad idea. However, it does tend to lengthen (time) the process. It might even end up getting you into another research phase right. The question really does boil down to how much detailing you’ll bring in here. What if your product has 3 customers, each solving the problem in a slightly different way? Do you make three placards?

You could instead just add one other point there saying – Existing Solutions. Your PSB now looks something like

Problem: What is the problem that your user faces?

Existing Solutions: How is your user solving these problems right now?

Solution: What is the solution that you are providing?

Benefits: How is your user benefited?

You don’t even have to do this for all your PSBs. Just the ones where you think it’s important.

Q. What if the problem is specific to a certain type of user? Do I state the user here also?

A. The data entry operator would probably have a different problem as compared to a companies’ CEO. So it does make sense to add who is facing this problem. But don’t rush into it. This is what you’ll be doing in a subsequent step of this workshop.

If however you do have the user in mind, mark it in pencil and put it on the back (not front) of your PSB card. That’ll help you in the subsequent stage.

Q. Is there a word-limit to how long my PESB should be?

Brevity & conciseness is always a great idea. 160 characters for each of the headings would be easy to work with. No hard and fast rules though.

Q. How many PESBs should I have?

No right answer. You could have 1, you could have 50. Just start jotting down all the problems-solution-benefits that you are directly solving. You could increase my productivity and in-turn save costs but then so is every other productivity solution. Get direct. Provide more tangible results that your customer agrees to.

I generally go unbridled and after I can’t think of them right off the top of my head, I stop. Then I get my key people to do the same and then we all do it collectively.