Growing Beyond The Early Adopter


This blog post is a small sample extract from the book ( The Lean Product Lifecycle — A playbook for making products people want )

As you grow your business and product, you will need to navigate the operational and cultural challenges of discovering and executing your business model at the same time. You will need to continuously improve operations so that you can scale fast. It will require you to keep pace with the progression of technology against a continuously evolving and relentlessly changing business environment. And if you stand still for too long, someone will be ready and waiting to take your customers. Growth focus within the lean Product Lifecycle can be split into the following key phases.

  1. Tuning the engine : This phase focuses on finding the right growth engine and testing our growth hypotheses. We will have learned some key lessons around potential growth during Validate phase, but now we want to refine our learnings so we can fully execute on our growth strategy.
  2. Accelerating growth : As our knowledge and confidence around our strategy increases, we can then turn our attention to accelerating growth. We can deploy various growth tactics to rapidly increase customer numbers, revenues and profits. The goal here is to not only grow these key numbers, but to also improve our growth rates.
  3. Optimising the engine : When we get to improved velocity, our product will be growing fast. This does not mean that we rest on our laurels. We will continue to improve the product and optimise our growth engines. Such continuous improvement is a key part of lean thinking; and we will use it to maintain our growth rates.

After you have provien your busienss model and delivered a successful MVP which has seen traction in the market, you will have to appeal to a new customer segment which have similar, but different needs in your product. You have to start thinking about mainstream customers. Unlike early adopters, mainstream customers are more demanding in terms of product quality and reliable service. The channels and marketing messages to reach mainstream customers will also be a little different to those you used to reach early adopters; and as your customer numbers increase you cannot retain the intimacy you once had with customers.

As such you need to adopt a different mindset. All of your learnings from the previous stage Validate, where you have proven there is a viable business model and provided a minimal solution to satisfy early adopter needs, will need to be reconfirmed as you take the product to scale. This includes the technology stack, levels of service provision and business model which will need to be continuously refined as you learn. When maturing operations for scale, your team’s culture will be challenged and will be expected to evolve. In most cases each challenge may slightly change the culture and you will need to be mindful of the direction it takes. These changes are needed to grow, but also risk negatively impacting growth if not managed well.

To go beyond innovators and early adopters there are several things that you now need to consider. The table below lists things which your early majority customers and beyond will expect over your early adopters which you’ll need to prepare for.

Early Adopters (Higher Risk) Early Majority (Lower Risk)
1 Open and willing to try the product and excited to be involved with a new innovation. Willing to apply the product to many applications. Focused around what the product can do for their specific job to be done and less excited about a new technology novelty. Will need a more obvious application to the job to be done.
2 Willing to pay a higher price than adjacent competitors, to be the first to access a new technology. More price-aware and will be actively comparing a broader range of competitive solutions.
3 Open to trying the product with limited or no marketed company presence. More assurance of the company behind the product and brand. Likely to want to see marketing presence and market domain association.
4 Willing to tolerate some failures and willing to spend time to work around minor problems and configuration issues. Expects a higher level of product quality with provisioned support and services. Expects the product to not fail when used.
5 An adoption leader is willing to make choices which are unpopular and new as an individual. Is part of a crowd and will follow the trends. Considered a follower.

To maximise learning and product potential, we recommend you undertake the same hypotheses driven experimentation cycles, incorporating design thinking, lean and agile practices as explained in the first three stages of the Product Lifecycle Idea-Explore-Validate. These practices will help you understand and reach the Early Majority to successfully grow your product.

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