Don't Marry Your Early Adopters

In her popular podcast "Where Should We Begin," Esther Perel talks a lot about the unrealistic expectations we place on traditional marriage. We expect one person to be everything to us at once — our complete emotional support system and also our partner in crime. The person who brings both stability and excitement simultaneously.

Love can crumble under that weight.

Last week I wrote it's a mistake to assume all users excited about a company's vision make for early adopters. This week, I've been thinking how to do so is to inadvertently fall in love — to group users into a marriage some never asked to be in.

This metaphor starts to get a little weird when you apply it to startup life, but stay with me. When you try to marry your early adopters, you deprive yourself of the emotional fulfillment and oxygen you need to grow.

What a startup needs — what any of us need — are tiers of friends. Those we call to go shopping. Those we trust to keep a secret. Those we can count on for a pep talk and those willing to pick up bottles on New Year's Day e.g. debug a product release. We also kind of need a crush. That podcaster that makes us blush a bit, put our best foot forward, and keeps us working in smitten anticipation.

(Do you think Esther saw us?)

At Uncut, those tiers of friendship look something like this:

  1. Contributors. These podcasters want to go “under the hood.” They get excited about new technology and actually enjoy testing and bug-finding. They want to help co-build the product with us.

  2. Early Adopters. Those podcasters who are eager to try Uncut when it’s ready to use — once there are minimal bugs and it’s something they’re proud to show off to their community.

  3. Followers. These podcasters may follow what we’re doing but don’t have any particular interest in Uncut just yet.

At the moment, I'm re-drawing and tightening our inner circle. I'm also expanding our outer circle and tailoring our KPIs, communication tactics and calls-to-action to fit each tier in a project we've named "2220."

If you can guess the reasoning behind the name, let me know. I'll commit here to meeting you for a coffee or wine date over Zoom. Because maybe we should be friends.

Otherwise, I'll see you here with more details next week. ;)

In tiered friendship and anticipation,