How to Motivate Early Adopters to Work with you in the Early Days


With startups, they (the prospects) get to meet with the CEO or the head of products, not just the salespeople, like Oracle or Cisco. The buyers are just people — they want to have fun at work. They’re trying to get smarter, they’re trying to have fun. – Michael Wolfe, Startup Advisor & Investor

Initially, there are two ways to convince early adopters to meet with you:

  1. Create interest in your profile or the story of your founding team.
  2. Create interest in the benefits of the contribution.

As an example of the former, Pierre Lalancette was a Military Tactical Helicopter Pilot for 21 years before starting Britelynx, a collaborative resource management solution. Being a helicopter pilot is an interesting profession on all accounts.

Britelynx was targeting the security sector — a more low-end market than aviation. When they were validating their solution, the curiosity surrounding their previous professional background allowed them to get a lot of callbacks and appointments.

As ex-military, their background also said something about the rigor of their approach and their seriousness. It was essential for them to leverage their strengths.

An interesting founding story can help cut through the noise and generate curiosity with early adopters. As a founder seeking face time with prospects, you must be able to answer the age old WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

Here are the top ten things you can offer to motivate early adopters to meet with your team:

  1. Competitive edge: Early adopters actively seek ways to out-do the external (or internal) competition. They’re driven by the possibility of innovation, which is what they see in startups.
  2. Visibility: Early adopters like to be the first to discover new products. Discovering the next trend can give them great personal visibility and help their self-image.
  3. Discussions: They get to talk about their company and their everyday challenges. Early adopters enjoy the process of brainstorming solutions to their problems.
  4. Action: They have a chance to be part of the action and contribute to something real. They might not get a chance to do that in their everyday work.
  5. Intelligence: People don’t have a lot of ways to understand what’s standard in the industry. You can share insights from other parts of the industry and make them smarter.
  6. Fun: Meeting with you might be the most fun thing they do during their day.
  7. Networking: They get to meet you, your team and, ultimately, they might meet other early customers through your company.
  8. Ownership: They can actively contribute to the decision making and creation of a new product — that can be exciting.
  9. Promotion: Everyone wants to impress their boss. If your product becomes successful and provides a competitive edge, they might get promoted.
  10. Equity: As early customers, they can become advisors, earn equity or join the company board.

All early adopters are different. You will need to do your research to understand the best way to motivate these prospects, but you have to talk to the problems they care about if you want to recruit them for your customer development panel.

The moment that you’re talking about a person’s problems, they’re happy. If you’re there to solve that person’s problem then they’re willing to have that conversation. That’s how you get them to help. The moment you’re talking about yourself, your solution or the fourth or fifth problem on their list then you’re wasting their time. – Brant Cooper, Lean Entrepreneur Co-Author


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This sampler covers the differences between B2B and Business-to-Customer (B2C) product-market validation, shows you how to define your vision for success, find early adopters, select market opportunities and assess a venture's risk. Download The First 6 Chapters Today »