Focus on Early Adopters

Why You Should Focus on Early Adopters While You Can 

Many companies undervalue their early adopters and the role they play when considering your customer relations. They are simply treated as a number and shoved into an email list that will be inevitably pummeled with non-focused automated email chains. One of the most overlooked aspects of the early adopter phase is the absolutely invaluable information that they can provide your business. At this stage, you don’t need to do things that scale (automated emails, targeted campaigns, etc.) and you can take advantage of getting to know who these customers are and every detail surrounding their journey to your platform. This is how you can prepare for scaling by doing things that don’t necessarily scale. 

One of the most famous cases of a company that took advantage of their early adopters while they could is AirBnB. Their executive team understood that the early days alongside their first users wouldn’t last for long, and they needed to learn absolutely everything they could about these people while they were still on the ground floor.

Case Study: AirBnB

In their infancy, AirBnB was obsessed with their early adopters. They knew that these customers had the information they needed to make final changes before they could really begin to scale. So much so that they would personally pay a visit to their first hosts that signed up just to personally meet them and find out answers to the important questions they always wanted to ask them:

  • What did they like about the experience?
  • What could be improved?
  • Why was the company appealing to them initially? 


These points can easily be applied to any new business, and can really help to zone in on what your core customers feel and what they love and hate about the experience you provide. 

CEO Brian Chesky tells us, “This is when we decided to do things that wouldn’t scale. We would commute from Mountain View to New York City (where most of their hosts were) and we would meet with every single host. We would live with each of the hosts and write the very first reviews. We would also help them take photos because this was pre-iPhone and it was hard to get pictures onto your computer for our hosts. If you can get even 1 person to love you, then you can go person by person — the challenge is how to scale that. It’s much easier to scale something — 100 people love vs. getting 1M who like you to love you.”

Getting to Exit Velocity Faster 

As Brian said, sometimes early on you have to do things that don’t scale to reach a level where it is time to start scaling. This is especially important when trying to reach an exit velocity from the rest of the competition while scaling. 

If you are unfamiliar, exit velocity is a term used by some founders and CEO’s to refer to the scaling speed necessary to separate from the competition. Reaching “exit velocity” refers to being able to scale at a faster rate after you have solidified value, at which time your company has the chance to outgrow any competition.   This approach can help you to lay a much more solid ground floor and enable a much more accelerated growth process when you decide to pull the trigger – that is, if you start scaling when you are ready.

For one, prioritizing speed over efficiency at the right time is critical. Being the first to scale can help you separate from the competitors and could be worth the sacrifice in inefficiencies, but focusing on speed when your value is not solidified could result in a disastrous scaling process. One of the best ways to focus on solidifying value and preparing for scale is to do things that don’t scale while you can – like getting to know your early adopters as deeply as possible to help you establish your true value in the world.  

The first to scale gets to define the industry how they see it, so what is the minimum set of things you need to achieve scale without failing once you get there? For more information on establishing value and preparing to scale, contact the CXD group on their website at

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