I remember clearly the first time I heard the term “early adopter”. It was around 1990 and I was an account person working on AT&T at NWAyer, an advertising agency. The agency “research guy” named John Bowman explained that it referred to a group of consumers with the personality type willing to be first to try a new product. And, if these early adopters liked your product, you could count on them to help spread the word.
So once we were introduced to this concept, we agency folks wanted our clients to create cool advertising campaigns to attract these early adopters. But there was a hitch. Early adopters tended to be a very small group. While they probably will become your champions, their ability to evangelize on your behalf was sorely limited. These early adopters could not sustain a business because they could not carry the message broad enough or far enough. For a business to become profitable, the product had to “cross the chasm”, appeal to the masses. Maybe early adopters helped the process, but more often than not, sheer marketing muscle in the form of advertising, did the trick. And to “cross the chasm” could take many months, if not years, and money – lots of it.
That was then. This is now.
Today, I believe EVERYONE is an early adopter. If any of you go online or visit a social network or shop online – you are now squarely in the camp of the early adopter.
Because the pace of technology change is so rapid, that it has compressed into months what previously took years between the early adoption stage and the category maturation cycle. For instance, if you go online today, I bet you will try some new “online thing” within the next 30 days. This makes you an early adopter – whether you be 16 or 86. Early adopters share a frame of mind – not a demographic, so that makes them a huge market. See what I mean?
And social networks accelerate the rate of technology adoption even faster and further with newer tools like user ratings, online video chats, expert reviews etc. But social networks are also powerful accelerants of what new technology we adopt. We all get tons of emails or tweets from friends entitled, “check this out” – the promise of early adopter evangelicalism delivered.
I hope now you accept that everyone (ok – almost everyone) is an early adopter, and so you can start playing with how your marketing programs need to live within that new paradigm. You can identify various early adopter segments and develop a social marketing program appropriate to them. Create proper ways for your adopter segments to interact with each and with you. Solicit their input on product development and ask their help when you need it.
Creating businesses around early adopters is fun because once hooked they tend to be passionate about you. And they tend to trust you. Early adopters – gotta love ‘em.
Postscript — It is worth noting that the “research guy”, John Bowman, is currently an Exec VP at Saatchi and remains a trusted colleague.
Filed under: emarketing, Internet, judy shapiro, profitable business model, social media Tagged: | advertising, advertising agencies, brand awareness, digital marketing, emarketing, internet chat, internet marketing, internetnews, online commerce, Saatchi, social media, social networks, viral marketing