How to Find Early Adopters — The Complete Guide

If you can’t find early adopters, you can’t build a business. — Trevor Owens, Lean Startup Machine CEO

In previous posts, we talked about how to spot early adopters and covered a few tactics to find them:

Now, let’s talk about how we can use expressed needs — problems early adopters are aware of and are actively seeking a solution for — to find early adopters.

As Lean Entrepreneur Author Brant Cooper said, it’s important to understand that being an early adopter isn’t a personality type. Your product’s early adopters will be uniquely-related to the business problem you’re addressing.

Let’s dig in.

Finding the Watering Holes

A watering hole is where your prospects or early adopters gather for pleasure or for work. It can be a conference, tradeshow, seminar, restaurant, bar, hotel or professional association networking event.

It can be offline or online.

To find early adopters using expressed needs, you have to go where they look to find solutions to their problems. In other words, where do they go to learn, complain, exchange ideas, leave/read reviews, ask questions, etc?

Catching The Signals

The watering holes will be completely different from one problem set to another. You need to find the right channels and right platforms where prospects seek solutions to their problems.

You can start by going through:

  • Forums & Communities: One of my close friends works in the airline industry. Everyday, he logs into Airliners.net. Chances are, you’ve never heard of this forum, but if you work in aviation, that’s where you ask for help.
  • Quora: Quora is part forum, part social network. It’s true gold for user research. I’ve used it many times before when I was seeking solutions. It’s very easy to message users there.
  • Groups: LinkedIn and Facebook groups are great ways to find expressed needs. VarageSale founder Carl Mercier discovered local groups of people buying and selling items on Facebook. He created a better product for them and actually managed to convert them to his platform.
  • Blog posts: If you can find blog posts on the topic you’re investigating, you can find early adopters. Maybe the author experiences the pain? Maybe the people sharing the posts? Maybe the people writing comments? How-to posts are clear expressions of needs. Comment threads are usually a good starting point.
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