The Innovator Is Your First Customer and They Are Looking For You

Find The Innovator

A raw tech startup should not be selling to any market. Any “market” is too big and the sales cycles are long, painful and often fruitless.

The raw startup sells only to the early adopter, the innovator. The raw startup has built some sort of differentiated offering that solves a problem or opens a door to new opportunity. In some cases, it may be so new that its product actually forms a new category.

So the raw startup needs to focus on the innovator/early adopter because they have needs that cannot be met anywhere else at any price. Their needs are crisply understood. Their pain is felt and they are not afraid to say they need a solution.

When you are selling to the early adopter, you will find some very common characteristics. One of them manifests itself in listening to them finish your sentences for you.

After months of talking with mid-level managers, at Fortune 1000 firms, the raw startup entrepreneur trips across an early adopter. He starts his pitch, again expecting the common refrain of “ …..yeah, we know all that. We have something just like it and it is all we need.”

Knowing this person has no idea what you are pitching, the entrepreneur totals up another long day with the brain dead, cubicle dwelling, middle manager.

But today is different. Halfway through the second slide, come questions in rapid-fire manner. The person knows exactly what you are doing. He or she understands the domain to a level far in excess of anyone to whom you have spoken.

As you start to get into the technology a bit and you share a couple of user stories, the person actually starts to finish your sentences for you because he or she is ahead of you—-they too have been thinking about the problem set and they too understand there is nothing out there that can solve the problem.

The very dynamics of this conversation crystallize into a personal bond. They want to see your stuff and want to test it to the max, and like you, they want it to work. They may want it to work as much as you do.

This early adopter may have different motivations.

Clearly they want to solve a problem. They may want to be a hero. They may want to help take a technology to market where none existed before. They may want to become the subject matter expert in the space. Why they choose to be an innovator does not matter. What matters is the speed at which they will make a decision.

You have found that key 2-3% of the market, the innovator or early adopter. You tripped across one of them and your world is now different because you have a common bond and you have a partner. You have a reference. You have a paying customer who will bring others.

As you get to know this person better, you will find that they were looking for you just as hard as you were looking for them. They attended conferences, went to events, parsed journals and spoke to many friends about how to solve this problem.

As you learn about their needs, you will always find they have a network already in place of others with the same pain. They can be your best sales person.

So, the singular marketing strategy for the raw startup is how to find the innovator and when you find them, how to have them introduce you to the rest of their innovator friends.

That is how you get to market without expensive marketing.