Frilp Product was ready…. What next ? We needed Frilp to be given to a set of beta users ( a carefully selected set of users ). We call them First-Frilpers or Opinion Leaders who shape the product, who are a true test of real users.
Type-1. People belonging to communities that have a high need for Frilp like solution say Relocating/Relocated employees of companies, students of colleges and residents of apartment associations.
Type-2. People who are knowledged and active in their communities who constantly share reviews and recommendations in internal forums like Knowme, Meme, MyWiproWorld, BulletinBoard etc.
Type-3. People who are influencers in their community and who critic/contribute to make their community better/stronger like club presidents, event organizers and volunteers in IT companies, Apartment Resident Associations and Colleges.
This is not a random first time strategy… the biggies like Google when they launched GMAIL or even Facebook when it first started followed the exact same strategy. They call these first set of empowered users “OPINION LEADERS”. It is these opinion leaders who are typically innovators, critics, content-contributors and early-adopters of a new product. They share a mindset of “Technologists, Visionaries and Creators” most importantly they must share and have a strong opinion about the problem and the solution you are trying to create. It’s called climbing the “Diffiusion of Innovation” curve by building the first-strong-army of early adopters.
Example of how Gmail started along similar lines:
“Gmail began what ended up being a five-year beta phase in March 2004, when Google invited about 1,000 opinion leaders and then allowed them to invite their friends, and family members to become beta testers, with trials beginning on 21 March 2004.“
How we have started:
We reached out to resident associations of few multi-hundred resident apartments, college students and IT company employees who recenlty relocated. We formed an army of Community Managers for the biggest IT companies in Chennai — INFOSYS, COGNIZANT, TCS, HCL, WIPRO. We decided to get out of our cozy couches and buildings and set sail on the road ! Thus started our first ROAD TRIP to the 5 IT companies with help from our friends and contacts/influencers who felt a synergy with the problem and decided to join us as the COMMUNITY MANAGER for their communities. They were given early access to the product and were asked to coordinate the ROAD TRIP meetups. They were given limited Frilp-Road-Trip-invite emails which they could forward to select folks — people who would fall in the TYPE 1-2-3 described above and who psychologically belong to the first-2.5% of Roggers “Theory of Diffusion of Innovation Curve” shown below. Our and the Community Manager’s goal was to identify the 100 first-frilpers (OPINION LEADERS) and meet them in person during our MAR-APR frilp road trip.
The Road trip was definitely fruitful in collecting valuable user feedback . Thanks to the many community managers, Frilp friends and fans who made the road trip happen. We met all of them 1-1 and talked to the opinion leaders who organised the road trip meetings in their respective campuses. We went to Mahindra City office of INFOSYS, TCS Butterfly building in Siruseri, HCL employees in their Hostels, WIPRO GM of Innovation at the ELCOT IT park. We heard from ground, how difficult it was for an Andhra guy or a north-indian to settle down in Chennai. Many companies give “relocation-allowance and package” but that only takes care of one’s relocation or arrival at the new place. Its the settling down that is a huge pain and unorganized. By settling down we mean – finding a good doctor, a good school, setting up the home and related vendors, figuring out suitable safe places for kids and family hangout and this was easily taking 1.5-2 months for the Non-Native-Tamilians who had moved for their jobs to Chennai. They lack the local network and completely go with random non-trustable vendors/businesses eventually facing more hassle and becoming totally worried and unproductive. They could totally relate what we are trying to solve and vowed to help FRILP work !
We will make similar road trips in Aug-Sep to take the 100 Opinion Leaders to 1000 once the 100 have used the Frilp system extensively and the system matures both in content and features. Next time we want to open to Colleges and Resident Associations too other than the medium sized and smaller IT companies (who don’t even have an established Bulletin-Board or Intranet).