Every new product goes through a predictable cycle that starts with a small group of people who try new ideas and products simply because they are new. This group accounts for around 2% to 3% of all people who will ultimately try the product; products that pass muster with this group (called innovators) tend to pick up speed as early adopters begin to add their influence to the mix.
As a group, early adopters typically account for 13% to 14% of all trials. In an age where technology gives everyone a window to the world, they are the ones that begin to give the new product a real voice. Their voice may be one of praise or dismay, but one thing is certain…new products that choose to ignore this group’s voice put the long term success of the product in serious jeopardy.
There is thought to be a chasm between the early adopter and early majority segments. The early majority represents around one-third of all trials, so products that make an effective leap from early adopters to early majority have a much easier time creating a sense of sales momentum. Failing to make the leap? Well, the road to success is much longer and slower. If success is found at all.
So, who are these early adopters?
First, they are not a group that is easily defined by traditional demographics. Sure they have higher education levels than the population as a whole, but the thing that sets them apart isn’t about age or gender or where they live. They are defined by their passions. Their voice is generally heard through the blogs and articles they write. They may have thousands and thousands of followers or they may have only a few. And the ones with fewer followers are more likely to be innovators with a concentration of early adopters following them.
How do you engage early adopters?
Easy…you start by listening. Listen to the conversations and ideas being exchanged in your category. Once you have identified an early adopter, begin to engage them. Follow them. Ask questions and give them an opportunity to offer opinions. Let them try your product, and when they offer feedback, go back to step one and listen. React. Respond. And finally, appreciate them. Early adopters want to know that they made a difference. They were listened to.
Effectively engaging early adopters can make the difference between products that succeed and those that fail. Listen carefully, however, and you may just find the golden nugget of a lifetime.