Startups, don't trust your early adopters.

As a startup tech company, early adopters and innovators are your lifeblood.  These customer groups are the ones that are willing to try your product in it's early MVP stages, support you along the way to mass adoption and are most willing to talk to and engage with you....and therein lies the problem. 

 

Early adopters and innovators represent a very small percentage of who your actual customers are going to be.  

If you follow Lean methodology you know customer interviews are extremely important to the process of product and solution development. However, the majority of customer interviews and feedback come from a startups early adopters and that is the problem. 

You are developing solutions to solve the problems of your early adopters.  

The problems the late majority of your customers will have, are not the same as your early adopters.  But for reasons like customer traction, early revenue and because we're too chicken to reach out to strangers we develop for them.  

The words you must watch out for. 

Almost all of the customer interviews I've done for my clients included this key scenario spoken by an early adopter.  "I've done or tried to create something similar to your product by mashing/hacking together these other things or technologies." 

Your product + his dreaming + tinkering = his problem solved. 

Your early adopters do not define the use case for the problem your product will solve for the majority.  It is when you remove the need for DREAMING + TINKERING that you have a solution that will be ready for the masses. (mostly)

 

How this effects marketing and branding.

The discussion around brand and positioning is an important one, but given the information above if anyone in your startup uses the word Brand not in conjunction with Russell or New, stop them immediately.  

YOUR BRAND GETS DEFINED THROUGH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND AS A STARTUP YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH OF THE RIGHT ONES YET.

By now we know the information you are receiving about your product or solution is most certainly skewed towards the early adopters group.  Again, what this group wants to see and hear about you is totally different than what the larger masses will.  I suggest putting some marketing out there but don't fall too in love with it and PLEASE PLEASE do not waste your time with numerous revisions and cosmetic changes to your website or product unless usability is improved.  

What can marketing do then? If you have a strong marketing manager or team send them out into the world to find customers that won't use your product in it's current state.  Interview them about what they currently are using, stalk the competition and inventory their strategies and messaging.  Whatever you do though, don't trust the early adopters.