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Earlyvangelists

Find those key first customers, and some tips on how to accelerate early growth using them to your advantage.
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© University of York

‘Earlyvangelist’ was a term coined by Steven Blank, a thought-leader in the start-up space, in his seminal book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany (Source).

In the book, Blank said:

Earlyvangelists are a special breed of customers willing to take a risk on your startup’s product or service because they can actually envision its potential to solve a critical and immediate problem – and they have the budget to purchase it.

earlyvangelist pyramid

For example, these are the customers who queue up outside of Apple stores for many hours waiting patiently to be one of the first people to buy a new product – even though they are aware that it will have some glitches, because it is so new. They don’t care, they just want the new product first. At the other end of the scale, people who have cobbled together a solution to a problem they have faced might be looking for a purpose built alternative, and be likely to purchase and promote it if it really helps them.

Three approaches to finding your own earlyvangelists

There are various methods for finding your own earlyvangelists. The ‘right’ one for you will depend on factors such as: time, money, type of offering, business sector and customer base.

  • Go back to customers who gave you feedback: let’s start with the obvious. If you followed the suggested steps on Prototyping, you will already have spoken with potential customers about your product or service. Well, now is the time to go back to them with the results: an offering that (hopefully!) solves the problems they explained to you and at a price-point they can afford.
  • Create a basic landing page: a method that many startups employ is to create a basic webpage (literally a one-page website), with a simple video or explanation of how the product or service solves the customer’s problems. The usual approach is to drive potential customers there, usually through advertisements, delivering workshops or speaking at events, and asking those interested to sign-up on the webpage with their email address if they want to know more about the product.
  • Crowdfunding: building on the approach above, crowdfunding allows you to submit your project on a crowdfunding website (such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Crowdcube), where family, friends and even strangers can contribute money towards your project. There are differences in crowdfunding platforms – some mean that you sell equity in your company, others do not, and are rewards-based (e.g. if someone donates £5, you will mention them on social media. If someone donates £100, they get a 10% discount when the final product is launched). Not only does this give you validation that your product is something that people are willing to pay for, it gives you a ready-made group of ‘cheerleaders’ who also become emotionally invested in your success. You may even call this group your Earlyvangelists!

Overall, you want your first customers to feel empowered to share and talk about your product. You may have been an earlyvangelist yourself if you’ve ever been incentivised to share a post or review for ‘points’ or credit. Monzo Bank leveraged the idea of a ‘golden ticket’ system to create an exclusivity to being an early user of their service.

Over to you

What examples have you seen of earlyvangelist tactics?

Share examples and thoughts in the usual fashion please.

© University of York
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