Discovering early adopters hidden inside customers’ operations

40821854 - the young man working at the old factory on installation of equipment in a protective helmet

New product decision makers have a major concern. What is the return on investment in developing this product concept compared to investment in others?

On hearing the concept’s description, early adopters at potential customers will give reliable evidence of the value the concept creates for them. Developers, knowing this upper limit on created value, can then make the business case for commercialization.

Early adopters are often embedded in manufacturing and service operations, a part of a product concept’s ecosystem where developers have difficulty:

  • Discovering these knowledgeable people
  • Eliciting their views on the concept’s value.

Reconnoitering early adopters in customers’ operations

Our experience is that by reconnoitering the concept’s ecosystem through conversations, early adopters can be found and their views on created value can be elicited quickly and accurately.

Individuals in manufacturing and service operations have practical knowledge about the impacts that adopting the new product would have on costs, production rates and quality. When these impacts are overwhelmingly positive, these early adopters know enough about the internal politics of their firm to be effective champions for their firm being a customer for the new product.

Finding early adopters in manufacturing and service operations

Prospective customers’ websites offer a list of locations of manufacturing and service operations. Using a web search engine to search a combination of each location and company name will turn up useful results. These searches result in a rich trove of information about operations’ personnel. For example, local media reports on business issues involving operations’ personnel associated with the site. Searches with similar intent on the LinkedIn and GlassDoor sites provide a harvest of name and title of prospective early adopters in operations.

Eliciting early adopters’ knowledge

We find cold calling by phone to be a productive means of qualifying and interviewing prospective early adopters. As the conversation with these people progresses, a skilled elicitor can move the prospect into the role of the Professor. The Professor is that part of us that is proud of what we do and are willing to talk about it. As long as the elicitor remains in the role of the Intelligent Pupil, a conversation with the Professor elicits hard-to-find information about the value created by the product concept.

After completing forty elicitation interviews, analysis provides an exclusive view of the ecosystem into which the new product will be launched. Distilling this analysis into crucial decision actions provides a guide for quick and robust development of the product concept to maximize the difference between created value that can be captured and the cost of delivering this value


Early Adopter … An early adopter or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given product. The term originates from Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations (1962) Definition from Wikipedia, accessed 6/29/2016