Influencing the Influencers :: Snagging the Elusive Early Adopter

I just finished reading an interesting white paper put out by Yahoo! and Ad Age on reaching out to, and winning early adopters, and it had several pieces of information I thought our readers would find interesting.

Baseline Characteristics of Early Adopters

First of all, there are some baseline characteristics that early adopters share across the board, regardless of their age, gender, or race. They’re risk takers and status seekers. Early adopters are excited by the idea of new technology and don’t mind risking a few dollars on an untested gadget (they typically have some disposable income to drop on the shiny new item). They’re jazzed, not just about having the latest and greatest tablet or smartphone, but by having it before the rest of us can get our grubby little paws on it; they want to be the pioneers planting their flag on the furthest outpost of the internet/gadgetosphere/whatever.

The Changing Demographics of Early Adopters

Early adopters are getting younger, less nerdy, and more diverse. This shouldn’t come as a big shock to anyone who’s been paying attention, as general Internet demographics have been following the same trend for several years, as has that other tine of the early adoption fork: hipsters. As the demographics change, early adoption has become more and more mainstream. I’ve seen examples of this in my own life: my father in law (a former technical writer in his late 70s) was one of the first wave of buyers who snatched up the Kindle Fire.

The Evolving Nature of Early Adoption

As the demographics of early adoption change, the nature of early adoption itself is evolving. You don’t really have to be an “extreme techie,” to be an early adopter any more. I think this is because so much technology is consumer driven these days, that making it usable has become more and more important. The big example from the white paper is Twitter – how many early Twitter adopters knew how to use the Twitter API. Or even know what that means? Success on Twitter is tied more to understanding social media etiquette than technology, and the same goes for other brands as well. I would put the iPhone, e-readers, and GPS units all in this category. They’re consumer gadgets with very advanced underlying technology, but successfully marketed to mainstream audiences who generally don’t understand (or care much about) the tech that runs their gadgets.

Tips on Marketing to Early Adopters

It’s a fairly long white paper and it came out in 2010. But a lot of the conclusions we can draw from it are timeless marketing and branding tactics, like creating a halo of exclusivity and an aura of aspiration around a product.

What makes an early adopter a valuable customer is their desire to try, and buy stuff before anyone else does. And you can charge a premium for that if you launch your products or services with a focus on satisfying that need. Remember the first iPhone? It was launched at $600, but just 2 months later, Apple slashed the price to $400, demonstrating that the original price included a big mark up. And while there was a fair amount of grumbling about the almost immediate price cut (early adopters felt used), the incident demonstrated that mainstream early adopters were willing to pay extra to be first in line for something cool.

The incident demonstrated another rule of reaching and keeping early adopters as customers: listen to them. After buyers of the $600 iPhone raised a ruckus, Steve Jobs issued an apology letter and Apple gave them a $100 credit, earning back most of the goodwill they had trashed with the price drop.

Here are a few other evergreen tips for marketing to early adopters.

  • Appeal to their desire to be cool and to be first. Exclusivity is important.
  • Make your ads targeted to early adopters very specific – exactly what will this thing do and why will it make me cooler, or my life easier?
  • If you’re marketing to women, make the case that your product will improve their daily lives. Women were some of the strongest early advocates of home networking and wifi because it enabled them to be more productive at home.
  • Remember that younger early adopters are less likely to be extreme techies than past generations. When marketing to them, your ads need to be specific regarding benefits, but not necessarily a laundry list of features.

Give us a call or contact us here for more information about and help with marketing your business or its products and services to early adopters.


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