This article has previously been published on the Boomtown blog.
Many startup ideas are born out of founder intuition. Perhaps the founders are solving a problem that they’ve experienced themselves. Or they’ve been in a certain industry long enough to know where the opportunities are.
If your idea has the potential you think it has, there are people out there who will recognize it. People to whom the problem you’re solving is so manifest, they would embrace and promote your solution the moment they get their hands on it. Getting these early adopters on board may be one of the most important success factors for your startup. Not only will these people help make your product better, they will also give you the credibility and word-of-mouth that will convert the masses.
Be prepared to challenge your own perception of who these ideal customers are, and what motivates them – It’s very easy to get caught up in your own bubble when you spend most of your days convincing people, including yourself, that your idea is the next big thing. And when things don’t go as planned, the automatic response is to brainstorm alternatives among the internal team: people who are in the same bubble as you.
There is a really simple yet powerful solution. Get out of the building. Stop theorizing, stop debating and stop spending more time behind computer screens hoping even more granular user data will give you the answers. Meet your current and/or potential first users in person. Figure out who they are, what they do and most importantly: why.
If you don’t know who your early adopters are today, all you have to do is be perceptive. They will identify themselves. I recently worked with a client who had a promising new startup idea. Friends and family said they loved the idea. When we reached out to a wide variety of potential users, we discovered that people across the board actually felt differently, but that there was a small group of people interested in trying the service nonetheless. We ended up spending a lot of time with this group, immersing ourselves in their lives, trying to understand what they saw in the product that others could not. The insight was stunning. The client was able to pivot the idea before launch, achieve huge cost and time savings and significantly increase the chance of having a successful launch. Find, identify, and involve your early adopters.
Research nerd that I am, I feel obliged to say that ‘spending time with consumers’ is not as easy as it sounds and requires clear objectives, interview protocol and analysis. However, I also believe that half an insight can be enough to spark a breakthrough for founders with good intuition. Therefore, I urge you to get out of the building as much as you can, because your early adopters are waiting for you.