A Technology Startup Guide to Capturing Early Adopters in the Construction Industry
By Carole Soueidi and Jay Snyder
Construction tech early adopters play a vital part in the development and success of startups and prove to be a highly valuable asset to tech startups. Many startups seek out and engage with early adopters in an attempt to decisively shape their product or service before releasing it to a wider audience. While early adopters are not always tech-savvy, their feedback is impactful and could help tech startups alter the direction of their product or service and improve its features and functionality.
Although the value of early adopters cannot be overstated – extending far beyond just early revenue, finding early adopters who are a good fit for your startup can be challenging. So, what is an effective way to capture early adopters?
Know what your target market is and what your ideal customer persona is: To ensure that your tech startup is targeting the right part of the market, it is crucial to identify the right market sector and the right type of companies and then engage with the right people inside of these companies. It should be kept in mind that not all early adopters are created equal. Even if early adopters are compensated for their input and feedback, they may not provide you with the insight you want. As a result, it's critical to narrow down your target market and look for early adopters that meet your ideal customer profile, otherwise efforts won’t result in long-term users and the company will receive high-quality feedback. Tech startups should be cautious in selecting early adopters and avoid outliers who may distort input and result in the developing the solution that doesn’t fit the broader target market. It's critical for tech startups to understand their market thoroughly, determine what kind of feedback they're seeking from users, and avoid echo chambers to ensure they're not just hearing back what they already believe to be true.
Provide value: Providing value is essential when trying to attract early adopters. This does not have to be in the form of discounts. Tech startups may provide early adopters with exclusive access to their product or service, provide them with individual assistance and attention, and actively seek their input in enhancing offerings.
Create a customer advisory panel: Creating customer advisory panels is another effective strategy. Such panels or user groups provide a forum for beta testers and early adopters to talk, connect, and provide feedback over their experiences with the new technology. This may entail setting up an online chat room or forum, and/or conducting regular e-meeting sessions where people can participate and provide comments. This strategy offers a good chance to reward early adopters while also fostering a feeling of community among them.
Attend the right industry event: It is not just about attending industry events such as conferences, trade shows, and meetups, it is in fact attending the right events by knowing the attendee details compared to the startups ideal customer persona to maximize the opportunity to connect with prospective early adopters. Additionally, event organizers play a significant role in simplifying the process of identifying and engaging with the most relevant companies by strategically selecting vendors to participate in these conferences or events. Establishing relationships with associations and event organizers can ensure that startups are focusing their effort in the right direction that is aligned with their target market and intentions. This can make networking, promotion, and receiving crucial input from industry experts much easier.
Early adopters from your existing early adopters: With as few as half a dozen customers, tech startups may boost the number of early adopters by simply asking their current customers to promote them to their peers. Keep in mind that you can’t depending only on the current early adopter pool as a long-term strategy, tech startups can still leverage these peer relationships to new customers. Furthermore, as long as startups are offering effective solutions to their existing early adopters, they can leverage their customer’s enthusiasm and advocacy to attract additional early adopters, reaching a wider audience.
Investors: Whether venture capital firms, angel investors or corporate strategics, the investors’ networks and connections can be a great source of referrals and introductions to potential early adopters. This assists startups in increasing their visibility, establishing reputation, and connecting with the proper companies to gain a foothold in the market. Second, early adopters may be more inclined to test a new product or service if they find that investors have invested in it. Therefore, investors can help startups generate momentum and attract the early adopters they need to thrive in the marketplace through their funding, expertise, network, and credibility.
Partnerships: In some cases, early tech startups may be fortunate enough to already be working with another mature technology companies. Early on, just like in a nurturing relationship, the mature tech company might take on the role of a mentor and could be a great source of referrals to early adopters. Overall, partnerships with these mentor companies assists a tech startup in acquiring successful early adopters by providing valuable feedback on the product and customer experience, creating a more extensive network, adding credibility, providing co-branding and marketing opportunities, and enabling collaborative innovation.
Though it is true that early adopters are essential to the the successful commercialization of a product or service, expecting every contractor or customer to embrace it in its early phases is unreasonable. Indeed, many contractors are understandably hesitant to engage with young tech companies because of a lack of time and resources, or other concerns such as introducing potential vulnerabilities into their tech stack. People tend to resist change and embracing new technology is a significant hurdle for many. Additionally, being the first to deploy a new technology typically comes with inefficiencies, disruptions, and feedback expectations not all companies are willing or able to commit to. These concerns might cause reluctance to accept cutting-edge technology, even if it has the potential to bring considerable benefits later.
Therefore, it is essential to develop and implement an early adopter program as part of a tech startups overall Go-To-Market strategy. Generic marketing tactics such as spray-and-pray, and email blasts are a usually a waste of time, and may damage the reputation of the company, causing potential contractors and customers to avoid engaging. Likewise, it's important for tech startups to approach potential customers with modesty and an understanding that not everyone will be willing to say "yes" to their product or service, especially if the interaction focuses more on the solution without aligning on the problem. Finally, emerging tech companies must not be built exclusively on input from a limited number of early adopters. While it is natural to want to accommodate early adopters, relying too heavily one company’s feedback can limit the scalability of the solution offered by the startup in the broader market. However, an effective early adopter program is critical to developing and supporting solutions that the industry will see value in and want to adopt.
In another upcoming article, we'll look at the best practices for developing a successful early adopter program and how to use it to drive future development.
CAROLE SOUEIDI is a construction business and technology consultant at Big Blue Innovation. She is an experienced professional civil engineer and construction manager who has successfully overseen numerous multinational megaprojects leveraging dynamic stakeholder structures and complex international funding sources. Carole leads BBI's international operations, client relationships, regional partnerships and consulting engagements across the Middle East and North Africa.
JAY SNYDER is President, and Principal of Big Blue Innovations (bigblueinnovations.com), offering advisory services to technology startups, technology consulting to contractors, and mergers and acquisitions planning, headquartered in Cary, NC. Jay has been in the engineering and construction industry for 23 years with experience which includes executing nearly $1 billion of construction as a project manager and executive, participating in the acquisition of tech startups, assisting with venture capital fundraising, advising contractor tech spinouts, and is a published author.
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