Change Your Early Adopters

I’ve often said that technology makers should avoid early adopters, because the switch to mainstream consumers is nearly impossible. Geoffrey Moore called the distance between early adopter customers and the mainstream a chasm. But I think these two groups are on different planets, and the distance between them is more like a universe.

But let me say it differently:

Instead of eliminating and avoiding marketing to early adopters, why not change the kind of early adopters you target.

You should avoid the highly-technical, jargon-seeking, tech-blog-reading, message-board-participating, (and to drive the point home) geeky early adopter. This is why:

  1. They make up a tiny percentage of the total market. Less than five percent of all consumers probably.
  2. This market is often saturated and exhausted very quickly.
  3. They require a highly technical message and approach to marketing.
  4. You will learn to speak technically and distribute that information from highly technical platforms, which these people consume.
  5. You will develop and ingrain habits in your marketing and public relations teams that are targeted to a tiny percentage of your total market.
  6. Worse, you’ll develop these habits in your channels. Your distributors and retailers will learn that they must speak about you in a highly technical way.
  7. Here’s the killer: These habits are extremely difficult to break. Conquering highly technical early adopters almost guarantees that you will fail with mainstream consumers. It requires doing a 180-degree shift, and it’s almost impossible without a complete overhaul in the people who work for you, and the people you work with.

Conversely, if you make consumer electronics, you should target mainstream consumers as your first adopters. Just start with the right the group and avoid the extremely difficult shift entirely. This is why:

  1. They make up a huge majority of your market. They are your bread and butter.  They are your profits.
  2. You can test and practice techniques on this group which will apply to your mainstream market, because, in this case, your early adopters are your mainstream consumers.
  3. You develop language and platforms that will apply to the mainstream.
  4. You develop habits that are helpful and valuable to your products’ entire life cycle.
  5. You teach your channels how to properly talk about your products from day one. No dramatic changes required.

Make mainstream consumers your early adopters, and avoid one of the biggest hurdles for new products in the industry.

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