When you release a new product, it's easy to fall in love with the early adopters. They're the first people other than your mom to tell you your product is as good as you dreamed it would be. They give you your first taste of revenue. And they give you hope that they'll be the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen who push your product over its Tipping Point.

But you don't want to get too attached to them. I've made this mistake, and I hope you'll be able to learn from my experience.

I'm not saying you should close your ears, take the phone off the hook, and ignore them. You just need to be aware that there's likely to be a big difference between early adopters and the larger market that you hope to sell to someday.

The other day, Stu McLaren wrote:

Marketing decisions should never be based on what "you" would do if you were your own customer.

You are not your market.

You have a biased viewpoint (at least you should if it's your own product!).

And because of that, what "you" would do as a customer would likely be completely different from what your market would do.

That reminded me of some of my marketing mistakes. For both of my biggest products (my RSS parser, CaRP Evolution, and feed reader/blogging/sharing platform, SEO Content Factory), I was the earliest of the early adopters. I created them originally for myself, to fill my own needs.

Up to a point, that was good. There were other people out there with the same needs as me. And for some of them, the way I built the product was just what they needed.

Reader Comment:
Nikole Fairview said:
This is interesting. It's almost like your early adopters are like your friends and family can be in a way, or like a group of friends though you might not know them personally. They are individuals that are in the same boat as you on just about ev...
(join the conversation below)

But despite any similarities, you are not your market. And neither are your early adopters.

My early adopters didn't mind writing a little PHP code. They knew how to set access permissions on their cache folders, or didn't mind learning. They didn't mind hand-coding the HTML in their blog posts. So the tools I built for myself worked great for them.

And when they talked about my products to their friends who were like them, I made more sales -- enough for the products to be considered successful.

The problem is, there's a much larger group who need solutions to the same problems as all us early adopters, but who don't want to write PHP code, set access permissions, and hand-code HTML. Whether they felt it wasn't worth their time, or they were downright terrified to try, it didn't matter -- my products weren't ready for them.

So I made less sales than I could have.

My early adopters made some great suggestions that helped me improve my products. But they didn't suggest other things that were necessary for me to expand my market. I had to think beyond that first wonderful group and figure out what everybody else needed.

Gradually, I've made my products more user-friendly. Just today, I've finally released an upgrade to SEO Content Factory that adds a visual editor. I should have done it long ago.

Early adopters are great. I love them. But just like yourself, they're not your market. Listen to them. But don't stop there. If you do, your market is going to be a lot smaller than it could be.