Post Chasm: Early Majority in Businesses

We see that not all companies will adopt a disruptive idea despite its obvious benefits. Companies can be usually divided into 5 categories based on how they adopt technology. These categories are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards in the increasing order of their acceptability to technology and innovation change.

Individuals in early majority category, adopt a disruption after a varying degree of time and product confidence in the market. Their time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the innovation adoption process, have an above average social status, have contact with early adopters, and rarely hold positions of opinion leadership in a system.

These companies are not so technically focused and are proponents of evolutionary change rather than visionaries. They are more risk averse and prefer to adopt a product or a service, which has been reasonably proven and have a good amount of market share in the target area they are focusing on. Early adopters are highly process oriented companies trying to create a firm foothold in their respective sectors and hence, tend to communicate vertically to companies in a sector.

The early majority, on the other hand, is likely to be targeted through more general marketing approaches and it is hoped that their connection with the early adopters will drive word-of-mouth sales. Designers may end up catering to the early majority through product iteration and offering improvements to the product.

As a larger group than the early adopters, the early majority are very attractive to marketers and sales people, and a lot of effort can be put into selling to them with little visible result. In fact ‘sky rocket’ products that take off and then flop are often the result of getting adoption by the early adopters but not catching on with the early majority.

Opinion leaders in the early majority tend to be cautious, talking about what may appear but casting doubt until they are confident it is safe to act. They judge innovations on reliability and longevity, not just effectiveness.

A real problem with new technology is that the early majority seek the market leader, but when there is no market to lead and hence nobody to follow, they can become paralyzed. The secret is to ‘divide and conquer’, starting with a small segment where you can more easily coax along the social leaders (and possibly giving away your products to them) and so become market leader.

Then, with case studies under your arm, move to an adjacent segment where the people have some connection with the first segment. After doing this for a while, you will have built up enough of a momentum to pull the rest of the herd along.

When things take off, then you have to change your approach from customized solutions to mass selling. This can take a huge shift in the business model that matches the huge growth in orders. You may well have to move from a specialist sales platform to widespread media advertising and mass marketing..

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