How Do I Find My Early Adopters?

An introduction to push vs pull based customer acquisition.

Early Adopters are ideally already seeking a solution to the problem you are attempting to solve with your new product or service.

But what if they aren’t?

Do you give up, just because no one is seeking a solution? Do you continue to build, launch and then hope it all works out?

Many teams I advise, both in startups and corporations, are faced with this dilemma early on. New product development always has a high degree of uncertainty, but you shouldn’t let that uncertainty paralyze you.

Instead, visualize finding you customers as push versus pull.

Push Based Acquisition

If your target customers have the problem and are aware of it, then how do you get in front of them with your value proposition?

This is where push based acquisition comes in.

People have the problem and are aware of it. You can leverage advertising to create targeted ads for them. By using online advertising, such as Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads, you can segment people into interests and “push” your value proposition to them.

When building a target audience for push based online ads:

  • Who has this problem in the real world?
  • Where do they live?
  • What interests do they have?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • Why aren’t they seeking a solution and how could we address this?

Pull Based Acquisition

In contrast to push based acquisition, your Early Adopters are already seeking a solution to the problem. You will need to get in front of them when they are seeking it.

This is where pull based acquisition comes in.

Pull based acquisition is ensuring your value proposition is displayed when people go online to search for a solution to their problems. Using online search advertising, such as Google Adwords or Bing Ads, you can narrow in on the key search terms and “pull” them to your value proposition.

Be careful when you are configuring Google Adwords to only show your ads when people are searching for the problem. Google can also blast your ads in a push fashion to all of their partner sites with Google Display Ads.

When building a target audience for pull based online ads:

  • What keywords do people use when they are searching?
  • How often are people searching?
  • How many people are searching?
  • Where are they searching online?
  • Why aren’t existing solutions sufficient and how are we unique?

Landing Pages

Landing Pages are a natural fit with both pull and push based acquisition. Instead of building the entire product and launching it, you can quickly spin up a landing page in 1–2 days with your product idea and link it to your online ads.

A simple landing page template

Landing pages are so popular that you don’t even have to know how to code to make one anymore. In fact, the landing page I pictured above was created in a few hours using Unbounce.

It’s important for the online ad content to align with your landing page content. Failure to do so will likely result in odd behavior, such as many people clicking your ads but absolutely no one signing up on your landing page.

Your goal early on is to understand if your value proposition resonates at all in the market with potential customers. You’ll want to measure the click through rate (CTR) on your ads as well as the call to action (CTA) on your landing page. Once you have people signing up with their contact information, you can reach out to them for customer interviews.

If hardly anyone signs up, then it’s time to pause the ads and iterate on your value proposition.

Take what you’ve learned and go offline to interview potential customers in person. Show the landing page and have the interviewee explain in their own words what it means back to you.

If you are unable find any potential customers offline, then you can use services such as UserInterviews.com. You can source people based on criteria and then interview them over Skype or Google Hangout.

A few rounds of interviews will help reframe your value proposition in the voice of your customer, for your online ad and landing page. Then you can un-pause and measure CTR and CTA improvements.

Trial and Error

Combining pull and push based ads with landing pages doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it does require resilience. Chances are that you aren’t going to see the results you want on the very first try.

A recent team I advised started off with 2% CTA on push based acquisition, but found a dramatic increase to 40% CTA when they switched to pull based.

My job as an advisor, is often building team morale up just so that they’ll get back out there and try again.

It requires a great deal of trial and error, but don’t get discouraged.


If you would like to learn more, visit the Precoil library where you can access lean startup and design thinking tools, templates and videos.

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