A graphic of the tech adoption bell curve with innovators to the left, then early adopters, then early majority, late majority, laggards

How to Market to Technology Early Adopters

Early technology adopters can be invaluable for startups and established brands alike. Here's who they are, where to find them and how to appeal to them.

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No matter the industry, every startup relies on early adopters to scale and grow. Finding early adopters who are willing to invest in a company or product is key to building a successful brand. A small company’s scale, growth and even survival often hinge on the positive endorsements of early adopters. And now, as the buzz surrounding the metaverse intensifies, their involvement with startups has never been more important. 

How do young companies attract and market to first adopters? Let’s learn more about early adopters and how small businesses can attract and nurture them.

What Are Early Adopters?

Early adopters are the first customers to adopt a new product, technology or company before the general population. They are also known as “lighthouse customers” because they serve as a beacon for everyone else to follow. Early adopters love being the first to use a new product, but only if the product is useful to them. They will also take investment risks on companies and products they believe in, providing valuable revenue that fuels growth and sustainability. 

Early adopters value being opinion leaders on emerging innovations and will test and evaluate products still in development. As first adopters start using a new product or technology, they provide valuable feedback and constructive criticism. Companies can use this information to refine and further develop a product before its release into the general market. In this way, early adopters act as an extension of a company’s development team.

Common Traits of Early Adopters

Early adopters share many of the same characteristics. They are typically younger, well educated, moderately prosperous and well-connected within an industry. In addition, they view themselves as influential community leaders, giving them a degree of thought leadership for other adopters. They are intuitive, curious, adventurous and not afraid to take calculated risks. Early adopters have no desire to follow the crowd, seeing themselves as trendsetters blazing a trail for others to follow. 

Early Adopters’ Role In Developing Businesses

Every startup needs early adopters for growth and industry cred. Acquiring early adopters is a crucial step in the development and success of an early-stage company, product or technology. Since they are regarded highly by their peers, their opinions can be crucial in taking a product or business mainstream. Conversely, negative opinions from early users can be the kiss of death for an emerging business.
Early adopters believe in a company’s mission and the people behind it. As such, they can become loyal advocates for products or companies where they see value. Since they are active social media users, they can help establish social proof for new companies, products or technology. Their social influence can also convince their online fans whether or not they should buy or invest in a product.

How Do Startups Find Early Adopters?

an iphone lays on a table with illustrated text and social media buttons superimposed above it

To have any chance of capturing the attention of early adopters, companies need to reach out to them directly. New companies cannot expect early adopters to come to them. Here are some reliable sources for finding and nurturing first adopter relationships:

Social media

Early adopters enjoy engaging their peers in dialogue about new technologies and companies on web forums and social media sites. Online hangouts like Reddit, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Twitter and public forums are all lucrative sources of connections. Brands should be active participants on these sites, generating discussions about themselves and their business objectives. The online hype that early adopters generate for startups that excite them can be a startup’s best marketing tool.

Industry conferences, seminars and trade shows

Industry events are ideal places to meet early adopters in person. Attendees generally have a true interest in new innovations and are eager to learn about new products and technologies. Through one-on-one engagement, companies can see how potential adopters react to their products and discover their needs.

Cold calls or LinkedIn emails

In these strategies, companies need to emphasize that they are not selling anything but simply looking for help. They should give concise descriptions of themselves and their areas of research. A little flattery never hurts, so telling first adopters why their experience and background are valuable is a wise strategy. Offering to co-host a webinar or quote them in a white paper or blog post could also score points.

Work personal networks

Companies should reach out to everyone in their network to ask for connections to potential adopters, especially existing investors. Scouring investors’ LinkedIn connections can also reveal a goldmine of possible connections. In many cases, startups might find that people in their network are interested in investing in a promising young company.

How to Market to Early Adopters

Marketing to early adopters is more about finding ways to spark their interest in a company and less about selling products. Early marketing lead generation strategies should revolve around attracting and engaging them. How do young businesses find these very important people? Once they identify their target audience of first users, how do they generate their interest? Here are three steps you can take:

Offer solutions to business challenges

A sure way companies can gain early adopter interest is to demonstrate how they can help overcome business challenges. Early users need to feel that a business is genuinely interested in addressing and solving their problems. So, startups must showcase a passion for solving problems rather than engaging early adopters by pitching a product. After that, companies can empower early users by providing products that deliver on the premise of solving business challenges.

Give them something to use (for free)

Early adopters want something they can put into immediate action and are willing to work with a minimum viable product. However, companies should not ask them to pay anything. That comes after they become convinced of a startup’s or product’s true value. To that end, offering free trials and other perks can entice early users into trying a new product. This freemium strategy will also build trust and help spread the word about a startup and its products.

Tap into their fear of missing out

Appealing to first adopters’ shared fear of missing out (FOMO) is sure to pique their interest. FOMO is a key motivator in their need to be seen as trendsetters. To do this effectively, companies need to trumpet the cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind nature of their business and products. They also need to hype the “coolness factor” of working with an exciting startup whose products can bring value. Deliver on those promises, and first adopters will not only jump on board but tell their peers.

First Adopters and the Metaverse

The metaverse offers a vast world of untapped potential and a glimpse into the future of business. First adopters are currently snapping up virtual “real estate” in anticipation that the metaverse will evolve into the next big marketplace. While virtual property is not cheap, first adopter investors are willing to pay high prices for future profit potential.

These consumers are also investing in the tech hardware needed to interact with the metaverse. These include metaverse essentials like virtual reality-augmented reality headsets and spectacles, haptic gloves and wristband AR sensors. While mega giants like Meta and Google are developing metaverse hardware, smaller startups are joining them as investors flood into the market.

The Bottom Line

Acquiring early adopters can be long and frustrating. Startups that are persistent and creative in their approach stand the best chances of success. Of course, effective lead generation strategies are also essential in marketing to these buyers. But once young brands prove that they offer something of value, earning early adopter support gets much easier.

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