All products need validation before they are built to ascertain the real problem they solve. They need early supporters/evangelists, after they are built, to prove their worth in the marketplace and to cross the proverbial chasm.
Getting people to try your product is tough but let us assume you were lucky and found some early adopters through some hustle and/or network. How should you engage with them? How do you deliver value to them in return for taking the risk on you ?
Early adopters are like gold dust. It is paramount that you treat these early customers as special in return for them risking their money, time and decision equity within their company. Your future strategy for customer acquisition, customer engagement, pricing and marketing will depend a lot on how successful your early adopters were.
However, before you engage with them, it might be prudent for you to put a process in place to manage that relationship, and maximize the value for both the customer and your organization.
Make their on-boarding a breeze
As they say “Well begun is half done”. What you need to know is Early Adopters are really passionate about your space. They are usually the ones who have had this pain for the longest time and are appreciative of you making an attempt to create a long overdue solution. While your product might not meet all their needs they are willing to work with you while you refine and polish your solution. That does not mean you can take them for granted. You still need to deliver value to them. It all starts with on-boarding and this is a big opportunity for you to define, fine-tune your on-boarding process and engagement model in the early stage of customer journey. Appoint dedicated customer success managers for each early adopter and have clear metrics to measure them. Having the customer successfully go-live, realize value, happy and referenceable should be the baseline metrics.
Define your Customer Journey
Besides making on-boarding a priority, make the best use of the engagement with early adopters to validate and map your Customer Success Journey.
Calibrate your positioning
Early days of marketing is a lot of A-B Testing. You might find some early traction with your initial positioning statement and value proposition. Learn from the early customers, about what convinced them to go with your product and what are their expectations. Having already bought your solution, they might be more open to sharing their criteria, expectations and what your solution means to their business. Use that learning opportunity to fine tune your positioning, value-proposition and in general, your go-to-market strategy and make it broadly appealing to larger set of prospects.
Involve them in your product roadmap decisions
Assuming that your product roadmap is nascent, involve the various stakeholders in your early customer-base to decide where the product footprint needs to evolve. Get a better sense for what your product delivers to their business – the total solution or just picks-and-shovels. Explore the broader adoption of your product by meeting Role-based needs (e.g. CEO needs, CFO needs, LOB needs), business events (e.g. year-end needs, business close needs). While you are at it Prioritize the requirements based on their impact to the business.
Craft your product training
Training is a constantly evolving thing. Your early adopters will serve as an excellent testbed for whatever little training you might have designed before your went live. The inherent detailed feedback you get while working closely with the early adopters can help shape your training curriculum, in terms of both the depth of training (workshops, cross-pollination, birds-of-a-feather) and the medium of training (video, literature, in-product).
Make them an evangelist
Treat the time you work with early adopters as a bootcamp for the stakeholders on the early adopter side. This is your opportunity to make them lifelong evangelists of your product. For having invested valuable time and money in taking chance on a budding company, make them heroes of your success. Make them feel like it is their victory. Provide them with the limelight they deserve, be it through your PR messages, or video testimonials or by providing speaking engagements in user conferences. Besides becoming evangelists of your product, they might serve as your valuable source of referrals for deals and reference checks in future deals.
Early Adopters are like guides that help you build your business, especially in the formative years of the company. So treat them well.