When you’re doing customer development, you are specifically NOT trying to understand and satisfy all of your possible users, or the total addressable market. You can deal with the whole market after you get off the ground, but you’ll never get there unless you understand and satisfy (or better yet, thrill) your early adopters. You need to find the people with your problem who feel it so acutely that they are willing to try your imperfect solution, and to help you see where it needs to be improved. These early customers are worth their weight in gold once you find them. They will be your greatest source of insight into why the product isn’t working, the most supportive when it seems like you’ll never get it right, and your loudest evangelists when you finally nail it.
Portrait of an Early Adopter
To find people with the problem you’re solving, look for five simple criteria:
- They have the problem,
- They know they have the problem,
- EITHER they are paying for a solution currently
- OR they have hacked their own together,
- AND they are still unsatisfied.
If you’re talking to people who don’t meet all of these criteria, they are probably not your early adopters. They might be future customers. They might think they’ll buy your product at some future point, but that point may never come. If they aren’t willing to buy until the product is perfect, you can’t afford to focus on building the product just for them. Keep looking until you find the people who need your solution so badly they will climb on board with you before you’ve finished building the boat.