The Right and Wrong Ways to Spot B2B Early Adopters for Your Startup


Steve Jobs famously said that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. But, if no one knew what they wanted until others started using it, how would new solutions get traction in the first place? What about early adopters?

In 1991, Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm introduced marketers to the five customer groups part of any market. Although Steve Jobs was right in saying that most customers won’t know what they want until it becomes popular, two of these groups will.

Crossing the Chasm - B2B Early Adopters for Customer Development
The five customer groups from Crossing the Chasm

Defining Early Adopters

B2B Early adopters and innovators know what they’re looking for. They can see the value in an incomplete solution and have the potential to help you find product opportunities in the enterprise. This is why this group needs to be your first target.

As leaders, early adopters have a great understanding of the technology landscape both inside and outside of their company. They also have a higher tolerance for risk and a greater ability to see the potential of new technology than most of their colleagues.

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They may not always have a budget or turn out to be your customers, but they can help open doors for your product and direct you to the right people in the enterprise.

How to Spot B2B Early Adopters

We typically recognize B2B early adopters by these signs:

  • They’re actively looking for a competitive edge;
  • They have the ability to find new uses for a technology;
  • Early adopters seek out and sign up for early trials and betas;
  • They like to be unique and share new products (it makes them feel good);
  • Sometimes they exert some kind of technological leadership in their companies (although they may not be in a leadership position);
  • They will use a product that isn’t complete.

The last point is particularly relevant for us.

Early adopters are, by definition, early customers of a company, product, or technology that can also be likened to a trendsetter. They are not a social club or a personality type.

It’s important to understand that (being an early adopter) it’s not a personality type, so we get lost, especially in the tech scene, people assume that ‘people who are early adopters and get the new iPhones are the same people that go and try the new coffee shop’ and that’s not true.Brant Cooper, Lean Entrepreneur Author and Entrepreneur

There is no bar where they hang out to talk about adopting new technology; it’s not that easy. Early adopters are market and solution specific; being an early adopter in Human Resources doesn’t make you line up to buy the latest iPhone on the day of its release.

How to Find Early Adopters

One of your biggest challenges early on will be to find early adopters to speak with; time to get out of the building!

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More on Early Adopters


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