Three Insights about Innovators: The Bleeding Edge
As described in Crossing the Chasm, even before a product or technology is widely available, it often has a small but dedicated customer base that might consist of 2-3% of the total market, known as the Innovators. These alpha testers and related customers don’t insist on a solution being feature-complete or even stable; they are more concerned with having access to the absolute leading edge of what the industry has to offer. These are the people who bought 3D printers a couple of years ago, when most people hadn’t even heard of the technology, and they fill a unique niche in your target market:
- The Opportunity. This group will typically provide early and frequent feedback on your product, which can help refine and perfect it in real-world implementations to get ready for the mass market.
- The Challenge. Innovators generally have limited budgets and short attention spans (in addition to being a small slice of the market), making it dangerous to focus too much on them as a target customer base for the long term.
- The Influence. In addition to their value to product development, Innovators often influence Early Adopters, a larger customer group that comes into play as the product becomes more stable and “business-ready.”
For organizations engaged in product development, it makes sense to identify and form a panel of these Innovators that includes those who use your product, and those who don’t. They can be great canaries in the coal mine to let you know that potentially disruptive innovations are coming.
This blog post describes the first of five customer stages in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. The second one, “Early Adopters: The Search for Business Value,” describes customer perspectives as a product starts to gain market credibility. The others show how customer demand shifts as a product continues to mature: “The Early Majority: Is It Safe Yet?,” followed by “The Late Majority: Reluctant to be Led,” and finally, “Laggards: The Last to the Party.”
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart
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