The traditional way of bringing a new product to market tends to involve research and development behind closed doors and then a flashy launch and a marketing blitz to encourage sales.
That works for the customers who will wait until all their friends have bought the thing before they’ll get one. They value the reassurance that it’s tried and tested and don’t like the idea of wasting money or possible embarrassment on a product or service that isn’t guaranteed to work. Everett Rogers labeled these the early/late majority and laggards in his theory the Diffusion of Innovations.
But then there are the people who pride themselves on being the first in their tribe to know about and own the latest product. The man who has a list of pre-ordered books on Amazon or woman who stood in line to buy the Apple Watch on the day it was released. Rogers described this group as the innovators and early adopters.
The first group make up the significant majority of the market (84%), but it takes more work to sell them your product. They need multiple touch points – often advertising, reviews and an ongoing awareness of your product before they’ll make a purchase.
The innovators and early adopters are often awaiting the release of your latest product. They’ll know the date it’s set to go on sale and are eager to be among the first to purchase it. By doing so, they confirm the view they have of themselves as being leaders, influencers, taste-makers, fashion conscious and ahead of the curve. By being at the front of the queue they also publicly demonstrate their loyalty to your brand.
We have an opportunity to deepen our engagement with this eager group of fans and customers by inviting them to be ‘part of the club’. To give them a peek behind the curtain, to offer them backstage access to the people and processes involved in developing our new products. In addition to their willingness to open their wallets and invest in what we sell, these people are also our most vocal supporters. They don’t just want to buy the thing the day it goes on sale, they want other people to know that they were first in line. Early customers are one of your greatest resources in spreading the word about your product and validating its value to their friends who prefer the tried and tested.
By building the work of marketing your product into the development of the product you take your customer on the journey with you and share with them the story of how and why you’ve created what turns out to be the final product. They know the time, energy, creativity and attention to detail that you’ve invested which helps them to better understand the value of what you’re offering. As the creator, you have the chance to get important feedback from your customers during the development process.
For those who have a perishable inventory – product that needs to be used by a certain date otherwise it loses its value, ie. freshly prepared meals, concert tickets, hotel rooms and places at a convention – you have the opportunity to gain the value of word-of-mouth promotion for your product before it’s too late.
How might you identify who are the innovators and early adopters in among your customers or audience? In what ways can you engage with them earlier in your product development cycle?