August 2, 2017

Customer development issues or early adopters side effect

Olga Shavrina
If the startup is alive, it has at least a small group of early adopters or innovators. They are active, send a ton of feedback, gladly meet new features, come up with new ways of using the product, support team recognizes them and love.

These guys are kind of geeks, they are quite similar to the founder himself and key first employees. They speak the same language with the team and offer functions that you wish to implement yourself.

They are diamonds in the early stages of the startup development. With the project grows you have to love them, treat them, help them and listen to them. Answer their questions at night and write down everything they want .... but! Do not implement what they ask because they are not your customers.
My experience
Three years ago, when Convead was very young and we had no permanent technical support team, I communicated with users a lot – helped them to cope with the interface and received feedback. At the same time, I was building a portrait of the client.

The pattern was clearly traced – a 30-years old man, single, with technical education, profound knowledge in marketing, sense of humor, sports, travels, likes dogs and takes a great interest in photography. He just looked like a man of my dreams :)

Alex – small business owner
– 30 years old
– Bright and communicative
– Casual clothes style
– Not married
– IT education
– Gym 2 times a week
– Meet with friends on the weekends
– Owns an apartment
– Has iPhone and MacBook
– Uses facebook and twitter
– Travels 2-3 times a year
– Has a dog
– Amateur photographer
"Wow, what an awesome customers we have!" - I thought, "it's a great pleasure to do service for such guys."

Of course there were other customers, but they were promiscuous, wrote not that often and appeared to be inconspicuous.

I'd been living in pink glasses for several months until discussed my ideal client portrait with a manager. He told: "Well maybe something like that..., but we also have ladies, and their skills level is different, they are not technical at all, and they are 5 years older on the average ...".

I was defeated and went to redo Customer research more carefully. This time I found out our client was a completely different person:

Evelyn – hired marketing manager

– 36 years old
– Married, two kids
– Social education
– Hobby: scrapbooking
– Pays a mortgage
– Samsung mobile phone
– Has a windows desktop computer at work
– Uses Instagram
– Sea vacation once a year with kids
– Loves cats
* Key features of portraits have been changed in order not to Infringe a trade secret
Such an embarrassment. Zero similarity between portraits.

Perception is subjective. A person often sees what he wants to see and our own brain can fabricate facts in a way we won't be even aware of it. Therefore, it's better to create and refine a user portrait in a team. And if your customer seems too good – ask you teammates for a help. Most likely, you have deceived yourself.
So what are early adopters side effects?
First of all, early adopters are much more advanced than average users, they easily understand the product and you begin to think that it should be that easy for all your customers, but this is not true.

Secondly, they ask for advanced features useless for most other customers. And since they are your favorite customers and they are very loudly, it seems to you that "everyone asks for this." But after you release a feature nothing happens, customers number doesn't increase. Moreover, the abundance of such features makes it difficult to understand the product for new customers.
Your customer focus should always be on new or potential users, not early users. Early users will bias experiments, prompt you to build more and more niche features, and stunt growth.

Power users can't be much more engaged, so building more things for them doesn't usually help the business. It does, however, make the product harder to understand for new customers.
Casey Winters – Growth Advisor in Residence at Greylock Partners
Thirdly, you won't find millions of such guys. If you want to expand your business you should find a lot of users and the absolute majority of your potential customers are some other people. They think differently, they have other problems and they come through other channels.
The takaway
Early followers are a valuable resource, an asset. They help you to develop the project in the early stages, give tons of feedback, find mistakes and spread the word.

However, trusting them blindly, you're going to get hurt because you can not see the wood for the trees. Paying attention to these wonderful guys, you can miss the army of potential customers who will not be able to use your product and will go to the competitors.

Do not fall into this trap and may the Force be with you!
Olga Shavrina
UX/UI product designer
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