Launching a New Technology and Product
Introducing an offering with new to the world technology? Explain how it works and demonstrate its viability to gain market traction.
Salesforce.com disrupts CRM.
Outside the San Francisco Moscone Center stood a band of protesters chanting “the internet is really neat. Software is obsolete”. What the attendees to the conference by software giant Siebel Systems didn’t realize until later is that these protestors were actors hired by upstart Salesforce.com. Such guerrilla marketing stunts would come to symbolize how Salesforce.com radically disrupted the mammoth and staid CRM software industry.
Salesforce.com offered a solution that had a different value and innovation curve. It delivered radically different technology: software-as-a-service delivered through the cloud compared to software hosted and delivered on premise from Seibel and other legacy players. Even though Salesforce.com’s initial product was inferior and lacked many features that full-fledged systems like Siebel CRM had, it was dramatically easier to use and much less expensive to deploy, maintain and upgrade. Small businesses and departments inside big businesses found these aspects of Salesforce’s offering to be incredibly attractive. Its rapid improvement model allowed it to offer more full-fledged features to attract big deals with big companies and dethrone legacy players.
Disruption is the new normal. You can choose to disrupt or be disrupted.
echnology to offer SaaS CRM solutions, it didn’t. Some might argue that it was difficult to switch from a lucrative business model and therefore didn’t drive the adoption of a new technical offering like SaaS. Salesforce.com did. In today’s world and regardless of your industry, companies inevitably face the challenge of being disrupted or discovering an opportunity to disrupt its market. It can be perilous to not embrace new technologies or actively seek ways to disrupt a core business. Understanding disruptions and opportunities presented by technology can help your company survive and thrive for the long term.
There are many strategies a company can use to drive the adoption of a new technology across the early, beginning and mid stages of the adoption life cycle. My work at Jump Associates drew from a large body of research conducted over the past 40 years in adoption theory to develop these strategies that its used with many different companies. To learn about this theory, read Everett Rogers’ seminal book, The Diffusion of Innovations.
For innovators, prove the technology works.
Rogers found in the first stage of adoption that new technologies appeals to Innovators who are venturesome and like experimenting with new stuff. To entice Innovators to engage with a new technology, companies must find ways to explain how it works, endorse its technical viability, and demonstrate benefits of the technology. This is what we at Jump have dubbed an Endorse strategy. There are a number of principles that a company can deploy within this strategy, but three are commonly used.
Make your product or service stand apart by dramatizing its differences and showcasing its unique aspects that are different from other products. Do not reference prior art. Design for extreme use cases to demonstrate technical viability. Enhance novelty by redesigning form factors, features, and value propositions that are really different from what’s come before.
To initially appeal to Innovators, Amazon needed to differentiate the Kindle from previous eReaders in look, feel and function. While its industrial design was widely criticized by design luminaries like Philippe Starck as being weird and alien, its funky Star Wars storm trooper look helped it stand out against previous eReaders. Providing easy access to Amazon’s storefront in the Kindle made the experience of acquiring and collecting content utterly effortless. To dramatize the unique combination of features in the Kindle, it launched with a series of online videos from technologists like Guy Kawasaki and authors like JK Rawlings who praised its ‘frictionless experience’ and how well the technology worked. What’s more, Amazon created the Kindle Share program, which allowed prospective buyers to meet local Kindle owners to experience the Kindle’s novelty in person.
Create forums for technically advanced users to experiment, improve and co-create solutions. Celebrate and incorporate these new solutions as features and extensions in the product or service.
Twitter first launched its service as an open experiment. Its original developers Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass made prerelease versions available to developers. Developers along with Jack and Noah began to see Twitter as a real-time communication platform as they watched developers created “hashtags” to parse and search for popular topics. Twitter quickly made hashtags a key feature, allowing it to provide the latest news on topics of interest. Twitter enabled that standard, and then opened the company’s API for further development and experimentation. Other third party developers created new applications that leveraged Twitter’s data stream to create applications like Tweetdeck, Bottlenose or News.me. As these become widely used, they further grew the size of Twitter’s communication platform, ultimately driving mainstream media to use it as a key distribution channel.
Publicize results with extreme users.
Demonstrate the viability by conducting pilot projects with well know people who have extreme needs. Then commission studies and publishing results to explain a technology’s functions and benefits and how it solves their needs.
To demonstrate the benefits of smart grid architecture, GE conducted a project with the City of Sao Paulo. it’s a city that’s growing rapidly struggling to find cost effective, scalable and efficient infrastructure solutions to meet its needs. Its utility provider AES Eletropaulo is a Latin American leader in researching and deploying alternative energy consumption programs that incorporate renewable energy. GE’s smart grid architecture and smart meters allow consumers to monitor and manage energy use and costs. AES Eletropaulo incentivizes consumers to be more efficient and perform power intensive activities during off-peak times. This obviates Brazil’s need for costly power generation plants and optimizes its smart grid investment to positively impact the environment. Furthermore, GE is a study about the benefits of time-of-use rates and plans to publish it when complete.
Embrace disruption to save yourself from it.
Many of the disruptions companies face today are asymmetric. Competition doesn’t neatly follow the old rules. Offerings with widely used technology can be irrelevant in the blink of an eye. It seems that every week yet another category is being redefined by an unexpected competitor. Who would have thought 15 years ago that camera phones would be a threat to the film business or that 5 years ago that social networking could threaten auto manufacturers’ market share? You have a choice: to use these disruptive technologies to your advantage or to find yourself under their assault. If you understand where they are in the adoption cycle and deploy the right strategy to further drive their adoption, you can be the disruptor, not the disrupted.
Change is the new normal. Firms need to produce a continuous stream of innovations to stay ahead of change. Those that do will flourish and those that don’t will struggle. New technology product introductions fail at a staggering rate; complicated feature sets, ill conceived use case, botched value proposition, poor business models — the list is long. Understanding adoption theory and using the appropriate strategies for where a technology is in its adoption can increase the likelihood of success. It provides clarity about your user and how you can uniquely offer them something great that fits neatly into their life and solve pressing needs. It’s just a matter of doing it in a smart way to succeed where others might fail.