The late 90s and the early 2000s saw an explosion of tech startups and disruptive services. The foundation of the modern internet was laid — and people like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs created products that changed the way we fundamentally live. But the big question here is — how? How did these startups that began in college dorms and garages transform the future of mankind? Well, my answer to that is — Innovation Marketing.
Innovation Marketing refers to the promotion of groundbreaking products or services that have never been part of the market before. But let me tell you something — it’s not as easy as it sounds. We humans are resistant to change, and anything never-seen-before is met with great skepticism. That’s why, in situations like these, there’s a need for marketers to think beyond the realm of just ‘selling’ the product. It’s about bringing a behavioral change in the target audience — and it can only be done with a well-researched strategy. Below, I’ve charted out the steps for you to do just that.
Understand where you stand in the ‘Technology Adoption Cycle’.
Technology Adoption Cycle is a sociological model that explains how a new product or innovation is accepted by society. This gist of the bell curve is, for any new product or a service, there are different groups of people who react differently. These are:
- Innovators: Visionaries who are the first ones to use the product or service
- Early adopters: Early buyers who are enthusiastic about the new product or service and are not afraid of taking risks
- Early majority: Pragmatists, who carefully weigh the pros and cons before adoption
- Late majority: Risk-averse and often adopt a new product/service after it has proven to be successful for many people before them
- Laggards: This set refuses to budge, and sticks to their age-old ways of doing things
Now, in this sequence that looks absolutely seamless, there’s a huge gap between the early adopters and the early majority called ‘chasm’. And most brands fail to cross this chasm and gain customers from the early majority group — because it requires a behavioral shift. Navigating the chasm is immense grunt work that I’ll be taking you through next.
Identify roadblocks in your customer journey.
Determine the obstacles that are contributing to the chasm. Talk to as many early adopters as possible, list their issues, draw a user journey map, and get a full understanding of the obstacles stopping you from moving forward. Once you get to the bottom of the problem, you can chart your way to the other side.
This has been a crucial step for many disruptive startups — one being a popular online holiday rental platform. The company was on the edge of the chasm in 2012 thanks to stunted growth. When they delved deeper into the roadblocks, the most prominent one they identified was — people were not comfortable living with strangers. The audiences were used to the private hotel situation, so communal living while traveling seemed alien to them. To break this notion, the company began to build a community on social media, and encouraged word-of-mouth marketing via seminars and events. And in 2014, they even went on to rebrand themselves and changed their logo to a ‘Bélo’ that stood for belonging anywhere in the world. These efforts combined changed the course of the brand’s journey!
Implement the infamous divide and conquer policy.
Your early adopters belong to a niche segment, while your early majority is the gateway to the mainstream market. At this juncture, it’s important for you to understand both the audiences deeply — so I suggest conducting an audit. This will give you insights about your target market, enabling you to segment communication campaigns better.
Research your market alternatives.
Your product or service may not have a direct competitor, but there are millions of indirect and substitute competitors who’ve got the potential to impact your business. So before you woo customers away from them, understand what they do, their strengths, shortcomings, and customer-base thoroughly. This will help you strategise better and change people’s attitudes with tact.
Give your customers a reason to choose you.
Once you have prepared the land for your brand to blossom, craft a message that truly strikes a chord with your audience. Tell them what makes you, you, and sing the song of solving a larger-than-life problem. Show them how your brand is better and how it can make their lives easier.
The road to becoming the ‘new normal’ is difficult — but success and the mainstream market is always on the other side of the curve. It definitely takes a great amount of courage to cross the chasm, but once you do — your brand will stand tall and make a difference to humanity. After all, that’s the end goal, right?
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