Seek them out

July 14, 2020

Most people aren't early adopters. Super-important lesson for early-stage product management.

Even if you deliver something really good, late adopters will do their usual thing: wait. Wait for their friends, their neighbors, kids, even people at their church. They just don't want to be first.

The bad news: it can be very discouraging pitching a new idea to late adopters. They just won't get it.

The good news: after the early adopters have moved on, the late adopters will still be around. They'll let you grow, and grow. For decades.

There are still people, today in 2020, who primarily use desktop software to do accounting—Sage 50 or Peachtree. They aren't moving to Xero or Quickbooks Online—they don't see the point. What they have works well enough.

My friend just sold his cloud devops consulting company for $10-20 million. They're helping companies—software companies—move their application delivery to public clouds.

There are still millions of computers running Windows XP. It will probably take another 10-20 years for the majority of cars sold to be electric.

The challenge, when doing customer development, is to figure out whether someone is an early adopter in this type of product, and keep that in mind while speaking to them. My dad, for instance, would happily buy a new hand tool from a hardware store, but won't buy an electric car anytime before 2025. Maybe 2030.

I think it's best to bias a little toward early adopters when doing customer development. After all, you want to be where things are going, not just where they are today.