Finding (and keeping) early adopters? 🚀

James Quinn
27 replies
Wanted to start a thread to hear about how some other startup founders have approached finding the right early adopters and have kept them interested/engaged as the product grows, fails, and goes through changes. How did you find the early adopters? What was your strategy for keeping them engaged? How often did you reach out to them for feedback?


Jim Morrison
Great question James - just asked a similar question (more specifically on what people share with early-adopters). We have a tricky balance. ~4,250 early adopters but only ~10% "active" ... many signed up off a bit of free press we have - or understand the mission but perhaps not the product. The challenge for us is how often do we re-engage them.. and how much further forward does the product need to have moved to give them value from that engagement. We're about to re-engage the bottom 4k this week after a big update - I'll report back!
Jim Morrison
@james_afino .. just to follow up on that - I've written a little piece today on our transition from validating our "Mission" (where we gathered those early-adopters) to validating our "Product" .... Scary times. It's here if you're interested:
James Quinn
@jimbomorrison Let me know what happens! Exciting times. Appreciate you sharing that article, I'll give it a read.
Ilia Pikulev
10% means that only 10% got the idea what is your project about. If you are telling people that your tool 'increases productivity', that would not help - it's too broad term! I would suggest to pick the strongest feature of your startup and stick to it when you tell others about your project. That would help people to get an idea if they sign up for solving their problem or they are just passing by instantly!
Jayson Cantones
@ilia_pikulev this is what I really need to know right now. Thanks for sharing this. This is such a gem
Sergio Mattei
The best way to find early adopters is to be in the communities they spend time in. If you're a maker, spend time in maker communities and allow them to test your product.
Jack Davis
@matteing Could you list some communities early adopters hang out in. I know of Product Hunt and Hacker News but do you know of any others?
Sergio Mattei
@jack_davis7 Shameless plug, but Makerlog. There's also Indie Hackers.
Devanand Premkumar
@jack_davis7 @matteing I guess shameless plug is a much needed one 😜 Oh before I forget, I sure liked your title "Chief Magician", which makes it a bit unique and magical and interesting. Wonder how you picked this beautiful title.
Nazim @Koinju
I'm not sure if that's a question of finding the perfect early adopters. I think it's more about communicating about yourself, your project and your values. It's about having an open communication channel, managing it seriously by being available to interact.
Simon Gu
It also depends on your product + PMF. Starting out 10% isn't that bad. Also, imho it's better to focus on the folks who LOVE or HATE the product first before turning to the convert the net neutral folks. If you can convert a hater to a lover, the rest will come.
Pax Prakarsa
Another shameless plug. Here is a list of 11 resources for product launch, (including finding early adopters, communities of creators/makers, etc.) Appreciate if you could please let me know how useful it is. Also, anyone can add more resources to the list.
Ali Sabti
Early adopters are most interested in the process imo. They might love the problem you're trying to solve, but they'd like to see and participate in the building process. Keep them engaged by truly integrating these early users into your development cycles.
Matthias Strodtkoetter
In my experience I haven't really found silver bullets. There are many things you can do, most won't give you much. You might find a lot of people in your personal network who are excited for you to start a company and therefore are excited to try out and promote what you are doing. But you will have to work on getting new users all the time. I made a post that I'm starting a company and shared a link to sign up to be a beta tester. Quite some people did that.
Dave Poku
I am about to launch my product at the end of the month. I am very interested in this topic because I think process of finding early adopters is the most critical in the life of a product. It's like birthing a child, what and how you feed it earlier on will determine whether it thrives, has stunted growth or dies completely. It would be interesting to hear how people did it vs. how they are stuck where they are.
Alexander Thomsen
A tough question :D! Generally at Sparrow Ventures (venture builder) if it's for B2C, we first need to understand who are our target customers and where do they hang out (communities, social media platform etc.) With that knowledge we put together a landing page that includes value prop + Call to action to get their emails and make them into leads. We often offer a special reward by becoming an early adopter. Once this has been achieved we usually try to quickly follow up with them personally, asking for 1:1 call to get feedback and understand their pain points. This is usually very appreciated and also is a great way to build valuable referrals. As your product grows some ways to keep them engaged could be make them ambassadors, beta testers, invite them to give testimonials, reward scheme etc.
Chris Jungmann
@alexbthomsen Upvoted for starting with "we first need to understand ..." The best processes start by seeking to understanding.
Devanand Premkumar
@alexbthomsen @chrisjungmann Well said. Defining the problem is almost half way through the solution.
Shane Devane
I've emailed potential customers directly and asked if they have problems X because I'm going to be working on it and I'd love to understand it more. Engaged them to understand their issues. Recommended solutions (alternative options etc). Mentioned what I was working on in passing and if they were interested in experimenting to see what they could learn then it would be great to sign them up. It took 60-90 days minimum for me (longer sometimes). My product is a solution for a problem but not the only solution. I have indirect competitors that I discuss.
Devanand Premkumar
@shanedevane One good thing about having a competitor is that the market is viable. It is sure a positive sign in my opinion.
Zach Wright
I can share what we are doing at a very early stage: we're using surveys (like mTurk) to do our customer discovery, and have found that by including a question like "would you be interested in trying our app?" we can get decent conversion into beta testers. Whether this will turn into actual "early adopters" is another story. I've been working on the problem of how to keep these folks engaged as well. My thought is that people like to have input into the product development process, so we're trying to include them there. We're giving them access to updates as we roll them out, but it's hit or miss when it comes to maintaining regular use. I'm curious what others are doing here. Do you start a community resource for your early adopters (Slack channel, Twitter following, etc.)?
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Vijay Anand
1. I believe most startup founders misclassify innovators as early adopters. People who are like us, are usually other innovators and not early adopters. The intent as to why these innovators often sign up is to check out the product and the status worthiness that comes with being in the forefront. (2.5%) There are very few companies that have managed to build a business with this tiny slice of audience - Apple is an example of this. It reflected in the market share they had for a very long time - roughly 2%. This is an extremely finicky market - and will either love you (fanboys) or detest you. 2. The early adopters are those who are adopting the solution and buy-in, into the way that you are going about solving them. Most folks honestly don't want to think about fundamentals and create new frameworks, so if you have a framework that solves a problem a specific way, they'll sign up. This is the 13.5% of the market, and the market that will pay. It is easier to scale a product if you build it for the early adopters - and have a filter / user journey so that the innovator either doesn't get in, or has a graceful exit once they are done checking it out, making way for the early adopters to feel at home and settle in. There is a lot that you can do on the product level to look at engagement, and see how to improve on that - are they logging in, are they initiating engagement, or are they participating in engagements. (1-19-90 rule). Asking for feedback is a far more nuanced matter - if you ask them what they want, they are going to ask for a whole new product altogether (which they might or might not pay for). So instead of open questions (which you can in the discovery phase), using their own data to validate hypothesis should be the intent. A lot of customers are sometimes too early for the product or too late. Help them gracefully find a better solution (even if it is of a competitor), they'll thank you for it and if they grow into a space where you are a better fit, will come back.
Sam Bauer
good question for our stage too. we just upgraded our product to the next level and now need early adopters on to evaluate the product, the first real async video meeting tool. if someone knows how and where to find our 500 product-market-fit test users, let me know...