If you move in entrepreneurial circles, chances are you've heard the term 'earlyvangelist' before. It was originally coined by Steve Blank in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, and it's since gained a lot of traction in the startup community. Earlyvangelists are like the initial champions of your product, service, or business: they buy it before anyone else (and often before it's completely ready), commit their support to it, and sing its praises to their friends and family. So, what makes these early-adopters so important?
Sparks for the Flame
Simply put, earlyvangelists are indispensable to a young business, and particularly a tech business. That's because if you're following entrepreneurship best practices and not trying to design the perfect v1.0 (or the perfect first iteration of whatever product you're offering), chances are that v1.0 sucks! And it's supposed to. One of the central theses of both Agile development and modern entrepreneurial thought is that the right thing to do is to build lean, launch fast, and iterate frequently - and while that may be the best practice, it also means that your initial product is going to be very far away from perfect.
Earlyvangelists are the visionaries in your target market that are willing to put up with the bugs, the defects, and the holes in your product because they can see what you're getting at and they love the potential. They're willing to bear the burden of sub-prime service in order to help spread the news and get you on your way to delivering your final product - something they really want. Without them, you'd be dead in the water. Even those who may use your final product may be dissuaded by your initial - and earlyvangelists are a critical part of gathering the data, insights, and revenue for bridging the gap between v1.0 and something that’s ready to conquer the market.
So what does this mean for you? It means that as the owner of a new business, you have to be relentless in seeking our and identifying your earlyvangelists. Set up Google alerts, check social media hashtags, and build "nets" into your conversion funnel to catch the people who are not only buying your product early, but spreading the word. Once you find them, treat them like they deserve to be treated - offer them deals, shout outs and praise on your social channels, and - most importantly - get their feedback on the product. Identifying and utilizing your initial product champions - your earlyvangelists - is an absolutely vital step to growing your business past its infancy and maturing into stable growth.
Thank you to Brad K. for the photo.