Trailblazers or Laggards: Embrace Innovation's Beat or Fall Behind 

Divergent Thinking

You're brimming with excitement as you conceive an incredible business idea that you believe will fly off the shelves. But to your surprise, after a few months, sales are disappointingly low. You're left bewildered, wondering what went wrong. Your idea is as solid as sliced bread, so why the lackluster response? Let explain it what happen through the lens of Diffusion of Innovations theory. It shows how the product can be adopted by five different categories/customer types and how to engage as a business with these types of people:

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Phase 1: The Innovators - Tech Trailblazers: Picture this: You're at a fancy coffee shop, and you spot a person sporting the latest cutting-edge gadget. These trendsetters are the Innovators, the daredevils of technology who dive headfirst into uncharted waters. They fearlessly adopt new tech, even if it means wrestling with glitches and speaking an entirely different language (hello, tech jargon!). They're like eccentric inventors, embracing the unknown with both enthusiasm and eccentricity.

Phase 2: The Early Adopters - the "Cool Kids": As the technology roller coaster starts gaining momentum, we encounter the Early Adopters, the "cool kids" of the tech world. They watch the Innovators with curious eyes, waiting for the perfect moment to jump on the bandwagon. Early Adopters are those friends who own the latest smartphone while you're still trying to figure out the basics of your old brick-like device. They're a mix of trend-conscious enthusiasts and tech geeks who thrive on being the first to try everything shiny and new.

Phase 3: The Early Majority - "The FOMO Crowd": Here come the Early Majority, the everyday folks who yearn to keep up with the latest trends but are slightly more cautious than the early birds. You'll find them eagerly googling reviews, seeking validation from their Early Adopter friends, and asking countless questions to avoid making any embarrassing tech faux pas. They suffer from the famous "Fear Of Missing Out" syndrome, but deep down, they just want to join the cool tech club without risking too much.

Phase 4: The Late Majority - "The Skeptics": Ah, the Late Majority—the skeptics, the doubters, the "I'll get there when I get there" crew. These folks might be your dear parents or grandparents, who are content with their trusty flip phones and steadfastly resist change. They need a considerable nudge (or a few hilarious memes) to overcome their skepticism. They're hesitant to adopt new technology until it has become a mainstream necessity, leaving them wondering why their old fax machine is suddenly obsolete.

Phase 5: The Laggards - "The Tech Time Travelers": Finally, we meet the Laggards, the true time travelers who exist in their own technology era. They're the ones who still send letters by carrier pigeon and consider a rotary phone the epitome of convenience. When it comes to technology, they're perfectly happy dwelling in the past and couldn't care less about what the rest of the world is buzzing about. For them, the "latest and greatest" might as well be the magical contraptions of science fiction.

How to use the Diffusion of Innovation?

If you are launching a new product/service, such as software, you can use this model which will help with identifying the marketing materials needed for each group.

This is an example based on launching new software to the different groups.

  • Innovator: Show the software on key software sites such as Techcrunch, or Mashable. Providing marketing material on the website, with relevant information and lead to potential sales with downloads.
  • Early Adoptor: Create guides and add to the major software sites, providing marketing material such as case studies, Guides and FAQs.
  • Early Majority: Blogger outreach with guest blog posts and provide links to social media pages, key facts and figures, and 'how to' YouTube videos.
  • Late Majority: Encourage reviews, comparisons and share press commentary on your website. Provide a press section and social proof with information and links to reviews, testimonials, third party review sites etc
  • Laggards: It's probably not worth trying to appeal to this group!

The Diffusion of Innovations theory, was proposed by Everett Rogers, a renowned sociologist and communication scholar. Rogers introduced this concept in his seminal book, "Diffusion of Innovations," which was first published in 1962. Rogers developed the theory based on his extensive research on the adoption and spread of new ideas, technologies, and innovations within social groups and communities. His work aimed to understand why some innovations succeed and become widely adopted while others fail to gain traction.

The theory suggests that the adoption of innovations follows a predictable pattern, influenced by various factors and the characteristics of the individuals or groups involved. Over time, Rogers' Technology Adoption Cycle has become a fundamental framework for understanding the diffusion and acceptance of innovations in various contexts. It provides valuable insights into the dynamics of innovation adoption, helping individuals, businesses, and policymakers navigate the challenges and opportunities that arise throughout the process. The Adoption theory is most useful when looking at new launches, but it can be useful when taking existing products or services into a new market or relaunching.

What are you ? An Innovator or laggard ??