But I think this quote by Trevor Owen says it best:
Building crack for a small group of users is much better than candy for a large group
For business-to-business products, the early adopters are often the underdogs (small or losing companies looking for any advantage against the market leaders).
For consumers, look for the hardcore fans of your market. The people that get an intellectual or emotional high from products in your space. Look for the crazy obsessed people.
Journalists are not early adopters (even ones that cover your market).
Cloud Computing is definitely at the "Early Adopters" stage, and we are all rightfully starting at 0 when it comes to building new products in that space. It seems to me that the chasm in this case is the mindshift required to play in the new space. Thinking about all the different failures and redesigning entire architectures around failures is a lot of hard work.
Wouldn't a company get faster growth if someone came up with a transition technology: something that still fit the principles of the new mode, but still "felt" like the old way of doing things?
Should we stick it through to make it as main stream as fast as possible (we chose the client for their effectiveness as a reference) or backpedal and look for early adopters?
For instance: http://sharondrewmorgen.com/2011/07/why-arent-our-prospects-...
(My only connection is that I've read two of her books and talked to her on the phone once.)
TL;DR: "A purchase is a change management problem."
Do you guys know of other ways to find early adopters?
I think more work is required for B2B solutions. Linkedin and Facebook probably already have several groups dedicated to the general topic your solution falls under. It's not too difficult to identify people there who are pushing the boundaries of your problem area. These are the low-hanging fruit for finding early adopters. I think networking events, especially if there's a meetup.com group in your area, that are specific to your problem area can be a great place to get some face time with people who might be early adopters. From there, it's a matter of setting up some coffee meetings and talking to those potential early adopters in more depth.
Some people like to throw up a landing page with a form to collect email addresses, then throw money at some ads to drive traffic and see if anyone is willing to send their contact info. I think that strategy has it's merits, but I think you lose something by automating the process at that time. I think there's a lot of benefit from the early face time with potential early adopters. I think you can find out a lot more about who might fit the profile of an early adopter, by actually finding out what an early adopter looks like.
Finally, if the service is good enough, they are the ones who will pass it on to their non-techie friends and families.
For the most part, the average person learns about a product or a service from their tech friends.
There are Innovators and Early Adopters in every market and part of the job while wearing your Marketing hat is figuring out exactly who those Innovators and Early Adopters are and what they want. It's different for every market and every product.
I am an Early Adopter in some markets (Things I'm passionate about) and a Laggard in others (Televisions). It's an error to assume that all Early Adopters for all products share the same traits and background (Programming). Someone marketing a new TV to me is wasting their time, I'm not an Early Adopter of TVs. A better target for them might be the 20 something that plays a lot of video games - that person doesn't have to be a tech person just keenly understand the unique attributes of the TV that make it special to them and thereby an Early Adopter of that TV.
They could be but it's far from default.