In enterprise software, customer acquisition is the main factor that differentiates winners from losers. Understanding the process of winning customers, the required time, typical sales cycle, parties involved, etc are essential to successfully implement the correct growth strategies in an enterprise software startup. In the early days, enterprise software startups need to do everything at their disposal to win customers and increase adoption of their products.
While the first customers of any enterprise software startup are always the most exciting ones, their behavior can be really misguiding in terms of predicting long term customer acquisition strategies. I like to refer to this problem as the “early adopter’s siren songs”.
In Greek mythology, were dangerous and devious creatures, who lured nearby sailors using enchanting and irresistible songs that deviates them from their normal course. Using this analogy, in an enterprise software startup, you can think of early adopter customers as a bit of a siren song that can deviate the product from its normal trajectory.
Early customers are a great thing to have as an enterprise software startup. These companies are willing to take a chance on your new product and invest in your success. However, early adopters are not a direct representation of your target customer population and, consequently, of your ultimate business models. From a customer profile standpoint, early adopters tend to be more forward thinking, risk taking and innovation hunger than most companies. In that sense, your early adopter customers can send the wrong signals in terms of the customer acquisition models and metrics of your enterprise software product.
As an enterprise software startup CEO, you have to fight very hard to get early adopter customer but you have to drive even harder to get passed the early adoption technology inflection point. Until you get passed that “inflection point” you won’t be able to get a clear picture of the customer acquisition models that work for your enterprise software product. Early adopters are a great sign of the initial traction of a specific enterprise software product as well as the viability of a specific idea but can rarely be considered an indicator of long terms business and execution models. Establishing customer acquisition strategies and projection based on early adopter customer are not only unreal but highly misguided representation of the real adoption and long term business models in an enterprise software startup.
From an enterprise software startup perspective, the transition from early adopters to mainstream customers is one of the hardest thing to accomplish. However, until you get to that point, any metrics , long term projections or business models won’t be based on real facts but on dangerous songs of sirens.