How to identify a first-mover

first mover
Photo credit: NaPix — Hmong Soul

Within the first 3 minutes of my conversation with a business owner, I can if he is a first-mover (my target), a mainstream-adopter (save for later), or if he will never adopt new technology (a waste of time).

As the sales person for your startup, it’s your job to not only close deals, but to effectively spend your time on the potential clients that are most likely to close; therefore, it is of vital importance for you to distinguish between a first-mover and a mainstream-adopter.

Who should read this post: The sales lead of an internet startup looking for the very first customers for launch.

What you will  learn: How to quickly identify first-movers so that you can spend your time wisely on closing them

1. Ask the right questions

“People hate to be sold, but people love to talk about their problems”

I’m not at the initial meeting to sell; rather, I’m there to learn about what problems the business owner has and how I can solve them.  I am on his team, the trainer looking to give my player an edge over the competition.

After a careful analysis of my company and a lot of trial and error, I have identified the following 4 questions to be the best at probing into a potential client and figuring out the best approach:

1. What are your biggest challenges as a business owner?

I have found this to be the best opening question which sets the tone for the conversation.  I’m looking for business owners that say, “More business!”  When I find these business owners, it leads me to the question, “What are you doing to attract more business?”

2. How do you spend your marketing and advertising dollars?

This question is important for two reasons: 1) I find out if the business owner is pro-active and if he is open to new ways to increase business; 2) I find out if the business owner is willing to invest money to make money.

3. What is your current customer demographic?

Mobile applications target the younger generation, usually between 20 – 35 years of age.  If the business gets a lot of customers within this age range, then it’s perfect.  If the business gets customers older than 35, then I need to reposition my value proposition.  My value prop then becomes, “We can get more 20-35 year-olds to notice your business and become repeat customers.”

4. How do you encourage repeat and referral business?

This last question is designed to get them thinking about repeat customers, referrals, and customer loyalty.  The usual answer is, “We provide great food with excellent service at an unbeatable price!”  I am quick to make them realize that EVERY business believes they have the best food with the best service, so they need something more to stand above the competition.  This plants the seed that will lead me to loyalty programs and our product.

2. Pitch a customized pitch

My pitch is customized on the fly based on the answers to the questions above.  Here are some common business owners that I’ve identified and how I modify the RewardMe pitch:

1. A business owner who wants more business, advertises on local papers, and has tried or is looking to try Groupon

RewardMe can optimize your advertising campaigns and group-deals. Groupon users love deals and have a smart phone.  RewardMe can capture their repeat business by offering them ways to continue to earn great rewards at your business.  They already love deals and are savvy to new technology; give them a way to play a real-life game at your business by earning points and rewards.

2. A business owner who has a punch card (buy 10 and get 1 free)

RewardMe takes the traditional stamp card and makes it secure, interactive, and easier to track.  More and more people are buying smart phones, and it’s only a matter of time until everything goes digital – especially stamp cards.  People don’t want to carry them around, they get lost, and they’re too easy to cheat.  Furthermore, RewardMe allows you to get creative and create incentives beyond a “Buy 10 get 1 free” reward.

3. A business owner whose customers are over the age of 35

RewardMe targets a user base of 18-35 in age.  Though the majority of your customers do not use iPhones, we can get the iPhone users aware of your business and to start coming here on a repeat basis.  We have partnered with X, Y, and Z businesses here in this area that are heavily populated by 18-35 year-olds.  If you’re in our system, they’ll find you via our nearby search option and give your business a shot since they can earn points here.  Once here, you can capture them with your great food and excellent service.

3. How a first-mover thinks

Once you have delivered your pitch, it’s time for the business owner to respond with some questions of his own.

I have found that first-movers ask the following questions:

  1. How does it work?
  2. Do I need to train my employees to do something new?
  3. What kind of security does it have?
  4. How kind of analytics do I have?
  5. Can I send messages to my customers via the app?

First-movers are interested in how the product works and how it will benefit them. The gears in their heads are already turning, trying to see how it would fit in their business.

I have found that mainstream-adopters ask you the following questions:

  1. How many businesses have you signed?
  2. How many users do you have?
  3. How much will it cost me?

They’re more focused on social approval, minimizing risk, and ultimately making sure that this is a proven technology.  It’s a very distinct difference, and it’s important that you identify first-movers from mainstream-adopters so that you can focus your attention accordingly.

It’s hard to find the first-movers, but once you identify them, spend all of your time closing them as a client.  They will be the springboard you will use to get the majority of the mainstream client-base.

Published by

Jun Loayza

Jun Loayza is the Chief Growth Officer at Bunny Inc. In his startup experience, he has sold 2 technology companies and raised $1M in angel funding. Jun lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife Kim.

16 thoughts on “How to identify a first-mover”

  1. Dude you are right on point with this one. I was helping a buddy of mine build a $10M company and in the beginning I discovered that as soon as I could get them to ask questions about the product (your step 3), they were hooked. Also, the customized pitch keeps you from sounding like a freakin’ robot! Have you looked into Neuro Linguistic Programming? If not, you should check it out. I think it’d be beneficial!

  2. Jun!

    Great post Bud! Thanks for sharing your insights.

    I found it interesting that everything you mentioned about the early adopters and the laggards further proves the accuracy of the Law of Diffusion of Innovations.

    I recently wrote an article about this on my blog. Targeting the “first Movers” or the Early Adopters (13.5% of the market) is key for entrepreneurs who want their products to enter mass market and “cross the chasm”.

    It’s a very tricky process and there is a lot more to to it than just finding the 13.5% of the market that believes what you believe but if you can master this concept, product success is almost guaranteed.

  3. It’s important that you can identify and categorize different types of customers, especially the initial action-takers from the “I’m going to need to sit back and wait for some social proof” action-takers.

    Of course, don’t bother at all with the non-action-takers. They are a waste of time, effort, and resources. Some people can’t be helped, and they refuse to buy products even when they might greatly need them. Their loss, I suppose.

    Thanks for this.

  4. Birth, Death and Move are the most important events in a lifetime. Moving for the first time can turn into a great hassle. Thanks for catering such an important information to make first move hassle free.

  5. This is great advice. Knowing how to identify your real potential customers is so valuable. We have a close rate of 30 percent and if we could minimize the amount of time spent on these deals that are never going to happen I could be working 30 hours a week instead of 50.

Comments are closed.