Diffusion of Innovation AKA Crossing the ChasmScott Williams
You probably already intuitively know that customers will adopt new technology and products with greater or lesser speed. This is both a valuable marketing aid and a warning to be careful. This adoption flow is often known as the “Diffusion of Innovation“. It can work for or against you so beware! Yellow Belt
Very Early Product Adopters (VEPA)
Once you begin marketing your product or service to the general public, you will get the so called ‘very early product adopters’ or VEPAs signing up for it first.
These are typically the first people to buy a new technology; smartphones, Apple watches, a new restaurant for example.
What you may not know is that these people can lead to the success or failure of your new business.
A new restaurant that fails to service VEPAs well is likely to have a short lifespan! They will spread the bad news on Trip Advisor, social media and other word of mouth. That is part of their personality.
But, if they are impressed, they will promote you positively. Their unsolicited testimonials are very valuable indeed for your marketing.
Their disappointments with your service gives you valuable feedback that allows you to fix the problems. You will often get a positive response from acknowledging a problem / failure / weakness and demonstrating you have repaired it. VEPAs like to be listened to.
It is easy to think that your product will be very successful based on the response from your VEPA’s.
However, the “Diffusion of Innovation Theory” teaches us that VEPA’s are very tolerant of products that are difficult to use, may have weaknesses in them and which have little documentation on how to use.
But VEPA’s only represent 10% of the total population that may consume your product so you have to make sure it will work with the remaining 90% of the market.
Diffusion of Innovation: Early Adopters
These are people who wait until the VEPA’s have made their decision and then move in to try for themselves.
These are very important customers. They will further build your network.
The shift from VEPA to later customers is so significant and possibly so difficult that it is the subject of its own research often referred to as “crossing the chasm“, after a well known book on that topic. (Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore).
These are people who will wait several cycles of consumers before they try for themselves.
By the time you get to Late Adopters the product needs to be very mature, very straight forward to use. Late Adopters are typically quite critical and not very willing to use something that does not work “out of the box”.
These are people who will never use your Category because “their Grandmother never did”.