Entrepreneur exercise, User Adoption I

User adoption is probably the hottest currency for a startup. Of course the currency is unique to each startup. For a Web 2.0-style web site, users are generally random consumers that become aware of your existence. For a bank, people generally need to deposit money with you to become a user.

In either case, it’s important to recognize the barriers to adoption your company faces or will face. What’s nice about this is you can start this thinking well before you want or can attract users.

Here are some questions you can work on:

What is a user to you? Define what you mean on as many levels as possible. Eventually, you want to be very clear in how you define your units of measurement, and user is going to be a unit in most startups.

Do your users need to pay you first before they can be a user? Do they need to pay you ever?

Can your users act independently in regards to your product? Meaning, if they alone use your product, can they get any benefit? This has a lot of angles. eBay’s web site wouldn’t be valuable to one user if there were no other users. It takes two to tango. Salesforce.com could be valuable for one user as a sales database, but generally, a user has to use the CRM on which their company standardizes.

Is awareness of your existence, specifically the lack thereof on the part of your prospective users, going to be your enemy?

Is a lack of awareness of why your offering has value going to be your enemy?

Will your users always have everything they need to use your offering when they consider adopting it?

How hard is it going to be to buy your product? Think this through, especially if you’re building something for businesses.

What are the differences between who you define as your customer and who you define as your user?

Do you know a lot of people who are going to be your users?

Are you currently a user or do you plan to be?

How do you plan on attracting users? Don’t necessarily prognosticate on the “business/marketing plan” too much. This is an exercise about understanding user adoption broadly. As in, do you expect your users to help you get more users? Do you plan on getting users yourself? Are salespeople going to get you users?

Are you planning on tricking users into adoption?

Is there a way to allocate resources so that you can spend them on getting “special” users to adopt? For example, trendsetters. For another example, people with wealth or access to wealth. For another example, people that can provide credible and useful feedback about you and your offering–both to you and to other potential users.

Are there logical ways to align your user adoption vision with your technology decisions? Making sure everybody on your team is conscious of the subject of user adoption is critical.

MY FAVE (esp. because no list like this can be comprehensive): Can you come up with your own questions for yourself and your team regarding adoption of your offering? This will help you learn a lot about your business.

Closing thoughts:

Devoting precious mental energy to user adoption is a good idea. If you can become great at getting users to adopt your offering, you’re a step ahead on your journey to own your own Gulfstream, if you’re into that sort of thing.

By the way, awareness is not adoption. Ever. A visitor to your web site is not a user even if your site is free and your offering is your content. If your site is like that, a user is someone who really “uses” your site. Behaviors that MIGHT indicate actual usage are — coming back again and again, entering or saving some real data on your site, spending a lot of time on your site. This point is also a great illustration of the fact that people who provide economic value (i.e. an impression in this case) to your startup, are not necessarily real users. I have lots of stuff I have bought (usually through a bundled offer like software on a new computer) and never used.

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