One of the most critical challenges for start-up companies is getting their product to be successfully adopted in their target market. This is a significant challenge for any company. Especially, a new company with very limited resources and no brand recognition.
In my experience, the first critical step to market adoption is identifying and winning the right lead customers.
The mistake many start-ups make is shooting aimlessly in all possible directions. Hoping to get some initial traction in the market, aka the shotgun approach.
Unfortunately, this approach ends up wasting valuable time and resources on the wrong customers. The outcome is at best very limited market adoption. Furthermore, it can often cause the company to run out of cash and go out of business.
A successful approach requires a good go-to-market plan. A plan that does not just specify the target market segments and customers, but also identifies the necessary lead customers.
The Right Lead Customers
Lead customers are your critical beachhead in your target market. They have the unique attributes of being early adopters, and an influencer to your target customers. And yet, being willing to be among the first to use your product is in itself not a sufficient requirement. The right lead customers also need to be a credible reference for the next wave of customers you are targeting.
Reaching and winning your target customers is similar to climbing a tall and steep rock. Much like rock climbing, you need to carefully plan your route to the top, step by step. Every step you take needs to provide you with the leverage you need to take the next step until you reach the summit. A wrong step can lead you to a dead end or worst.
In addition, there are other important benefits to this step by step approach. Each step you take allows you to learn valuable lessons, review and regroup before taking the next step. Lead customers can provide you important feedback on your product, as well as your business model. Start-up companies should use these lessons to improve their product, customer service, marketing messages, and sales tools.
In conclusion, the right lead customers can validate your value proposition. And they can help you create a repeatable and scalable business model. These are essential in order for you to win your target customers and achieve a wide market adoption.