Early Adopter or Anti-Segment?

Early Adopters aren’t always who they seem.

Have you ever tried building an marketing a new product? If you have, chances are you’ve been given the following, well intended advice.

“Go find your Early Adopters!”

Early Adopters, in the modern Silicon Valley entrepreneurship sense, are those people who can’t wait to purchase your new product.

They are on the left of the proverbial bell curve.

Technology Adoption Curve

When identifying Early Adopters, I tend to frame it in a way that I first learned by reading Steve Blank’s 4 Steps to the Epiphany.

1. Early Adopters have the problem you are trying to solve.

2. Early Adopters are aware of the problem.

3. Early Adopters are actively seeking a solution to the problem.

4. Early Adopters have hacked together their own solution.

In essence, your ideal Early Adopters have the problem. They are aware of it. They tried to find a solution for it but could not.

They finally became so frustrated that they built their own solution to it.

Building a solution implies that it’s painful enough that they’ve spent time, money and energy cobbling together something that solves the problem.

… but there is a trap.

If you are a startup or corporation, trying to market your new product to a large institution (i.e. enterprise or government), then you may end up confusing your Early Adopters with an Anti-Segment.

An Anti-Segment is someone who looks and acts like your Early Adopter. Someone who should love you but will never, ever, ever, ever be your customer.

Think of an Anti-Segment like a Doppelgänger.

Anti-Segments are often not interested in your new product, even though it solves the problem they have, because they’ve invested too much in their existing solution to ever let it go.

They will often waste your time, money and energy while presenting a false negative on your product.

So instead of seeking out people in Step 4 who’ve hacked together their own solutions, I propose focusing on Step 3.

New products are hard enough without competing against customers who will never be your customer anyway.

Focus on people who care enough about the problem to seek a solution, but haven’t built their own as of yet.


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