Recently I got asked by an entrepreneur whether the definition of an early adopter includes both users and customers or either.
Let’s start with some traits of an early adopter first. I highlighted three typical characteristics of an early adopter in my presentation about > Building a successful MVP:
- Confirms the problem – which means that the person is aware of the problem and related context
- Actively looks for workarounds or solutions – most likely, the person already has found a certain way of dealing with the related issues (workaround) or is browsing the web to find a solution for the identified problems.
- Forgives early stage issues – which basically means that the early adopter does not care so much about a perfect solution. The early adopter rather likes to be part of shaping the solution and seeing progress step by step on the way to the big vision. They even want to be part of the vision to a certain extent.
Now to the actual question again. In my latest view of world, there is no user anymore. Everyone is a customer. A big idea. I hear you asking: “But how about me being a user of the free Google search only?”. Well, that’s the point. You are not a user. You are a customer paying with your (personal search) data. As everyone knows, that data is used to allow advertisers to target their ads to people who are most likely interested in the advertiser’s product or service. You pay with your data to make the business model happen for Google.
However, I see a certain hierarchy of customer currency with which they pay for your product or service. The hierarchy is expressed by 4 levels (see page 27 in my presentation about > Building a successful MVP):
Level 1: @ – EMail address – the customers are willing to pay with at least a certain kind of personal data. This does not mean to much which is why I define it as the lowest level of customer payment. Nevertheless, you can use the payment to trigger follow-up mail campaigns with a certain chance to convert them to a higher level.
Level 2: t – Time – the customers pay with their (spare) time to check out what you offer and might visit certain informational pages on your site. Most likely they additionally subscribe to your system via a performed registration or request further info related to a certain topic of interest.
Level 3: w – Work – the customers use your product or service to produce something that seems to mean something to them. E.g. they start to use upload certain images to a photo album tool and finally store the resulting album.
Level 4: $ – Money – once somebody is willing to pay something for your product or service, you have reached the highest commitment from customer site. As long as something does not cost anything, people are pretty likely to enter level 1 or 2 if you provide a compelling value proposition. Level 3 and especially 4 are the more advanced commitment tests and should be tackled as soon as you have mastered level 1 and 2 in the described or a similar way.You find a graphical depiction
As everyone is a customer, the early adopter most likely starts with level 1 and gets to level 4 quite quickly – depending on what kind of levels you actually offer to the customer of course. Extra bonus: the early adopter is most likely also volunteering to skype with you about his or her experience so far.