Why Early Adopters Are Essential to a Full-Stack Startup

by Jerrod Bailey

The full-stack approach to building a startup is the idea of being a game-changer rather than fitting into an existing market. To do that, you have to begin with the end in mind — thinking through every element during the build, including your plan for revenue and acquisition.

How will you acquire early adopters? How will you get users excited about your product or service? How will you sustain that excitement, keep them active and engaged over the long haul?

Your product needs to be built around the answers to these questions.

Acquiring Early Adopters

On the journey to building a full-stack startup, capturing users prior to launch can mean the difference between success and startup fail. Building a base of early adopters enables you to establish a test ground for proving or disproving assumptions you’ve made about your product, create a better solution, determine cost of acquisition, bake in features to activate and retain customers, and demonstrate you have a solution people will give a damn about. And all of this makes you more appealing to potential investors — if that is your goal.

Are you more investable if you launch with a 100 users versus none? Probably. What if you had 10,000 interested users excited about and ready to try your product? Moz (then SEOmoz) spent a year building content and acquiring beta users. They had tens of thousands of followers at launch — not to mention a built-in marketing engine.

How do you acquire early adopters? Build the brand, the product and the funnel.

Get your brand and prototype built early. You need to capture eyeballs and email addresses. Your branding and prototype will be used to market to potential beta users via a landing page and other lead-generation assets like videos and social media marketing. Promote that landing page everywhere:

  • Link to it from blog posts
  • Post it to early-adopter sites like http://betali.st/, http://startuplift.com, http://erlibird.com/, and http://ratemystartup.com/
  • Seek guest blogging and contributed content opportunities that allow you to link to your landing page
  • Share it in your social networks and encourage your network to share it
  • Run small ad experiments on Google Adsense, Adwords, and social networks (particularly Facebook and Twit, all driving back to that landing page

Focus on building a community around high-value content relevant to your product. Then convert that community when you launch. (Hat tip: Sites like Medium are easy places to start building a following.)

If you can determine your cost of acquisition for an email address before you’ve launched, you’re in the top 1 percent of startups.

Once you have your early adopters, it’s time to build your smart sales stack and keep them craving more. Read the full blog post here.

To learn more about building a marketing and sales strategy check out Springboard.

Jerrod Bailey is a Partner and Executive Vice President at Tallwave, an innovation services firm that provides design, user validation, product development, branding, marketing, and customer acquisition services that help build products users love — and get them to market, fast.

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