Every entrepreneur has a dream of launching their product to a hungry market of millions that are ready to take out their wallets to buy. It is only a dream, because the reality is generally much different. Innovation spreads into the market in a systematic way, and it’s important for marketers to understand this process in order to move their products forward.
The innovation adoption model is a sociological concept coined by Everett M. Rogers in Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers classified adopters into five categories: Innovators, Early adopters, Early majority, Late majority and Laggards.
Innovators are risk-takers who are excited by new products and new ways of doing things. They are likely to be familiar with the product category and enthusiastic about your product even if it doesn’t solve a burning need for them. They represent a very small percentage of a target market.
This group of people have an obvious unmet need and a strong desire to solve their problem. Early adopters are often influential thought leaders, and are happy to spread the word about a new product that worked for them. These “influencers” may have a large social media following, write editorials for trade publications, or have been hand-chosen to test a beta version of the product. Unlike innovators, early adopters are not easily swayed just because a product is new. They take a reasoned approach to judging a product based upon whether or not it solves their problem.
When enough people see that a product is well received by early adopters, sales will be met by a larger group of people called the “early majority”. This group needs more proof that the product will solve their problem, and often look to influencers to get that proof.
This group is risk-averse and tends not to spend money on anything that is in the least bit uncertain. They may not be exposed to influencers, so their buying decisions are based upon a tried and tested solution that is widely accepted as the best solution.
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Laggards tend to be less familiar with technology, may be older than the general population, and are usually “late to the party” when it comes to trying new things.
It’s obvious how important early adopters are to getting later adopters to buy a product. They are opinion leaders who pay attention to the innovation and see the practicality of the new idea or product. They should be your best partners since they play a very important role in influencing the attitude and changing the behavior of later buyers.
How to use early adopters in your marketing
You’ve seen testimonials from thought leaders placed on websites that tout the effectiveness of the product being sold. This is “social proof” of its value, and how happy the user is with it. When a business shows logos of other recognizable companies on its website who use the product, this too is a way to influence new buyers to trust the product. After all, if Coca Cola, General Motors and The New York Times all use the product, it has to be great, right? Even broadcasting the large number of sales achieved thus far implies that there’s scores of “happy customers”, which also gives the product more gravity.
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