How Marketing Can Encourage Early Adopters

Published: April 16, 2021

JaysonIn sectors where the digital transformation is occurring at a glacial place, convincing customers to buy disruptive software or flock to an innovative challenger brand is akin to pulling teeth.

Makers and sellers of fintech, healthtech and insurtech are all too aware of the rule in tech buying which says, “Never buy version one of anything.” If the product has risk – usually financial – attached to its adoption, the risk is magnified.

It’s sensible advice when you consider that even mainstream tech successes, like Microsoft Windows, were so-so before version three. But it doesn’t help that the businesses selling their products are up against potentially crippling inertia, however indispensable or game-changing their new tech product might be.

Without early adopters to buy, new technologies could disappear at the first hurdle and hamper innovation for all.

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The good news is the pandemic appears to have sped up the pace of digital adoption across multiple industries. Dell Technologies (2020) reported a 16% rise in “digital adopters” — businesses that have mature digital plans, investments and innovations in place — since 2018.

Brands selling innovative products to companies normally go for one of two approaches: Rational, which focuses on a product’s benefits, or emotional, which excites customers about the future. While both have a role, neither should be the main focus — rather, companies should take a behavioral approach.

To succeed, organizations need to help clients realize there are better ways to accomplish their daily tasks. What prospects think and feel is still important, but their actions will determine success or failure.

To do this, companies need to step outside the traditional world of marketing and into the world of psychology. Fortunately, there are some existing models to work with — specifically, one called (somewhat grandly) the Transtheoretical Model.

This splits the process of behavioral change into six stages:

1. Pre-contemplation (The “I’m Not Ready” Stage)

In this stage, people are largely unaware of their issue because they don’t have adequate knowledge of their problem or a potential solution. The task for marketing content here is to raise awareness of the issue more than the solution to show its importance and urgency.

2. Contemplation (The “I’m Getting Ready” Stage)

At the contemplation stage, the customer is aware of their issues and seriously considering looking for a solution. The danger here is that they will endlessly consider but never act, so organizations must continue to raise awareness of the issue on a rational level, such as creating a diagnostic tool or calculator, and adding emotional catalysts to provoke action. Finally, the customer will need to consciously evaluate their behavior to realize the benefits of a change.

3. Preparation (The “OK, Let’s Do This” Stage)

The preparation stage is concerned with the immediate activity that precedes active behavioral change. The focus shifts to a specific evaluation of potential solutions and is future-focused in character. Customers in this stage need concrete guidance on next steps, and the goal is commitment to change within a set timeframe.

4. Action (The “Go, Go, Go” Stage)

This is where the final behavioral change occurs, and it includes the period immediately after purchase and implementation (typically around six months). After the customer commits to the new solution, they are looking to reassure themselves that adoption was a good decision and most likely will evangelize their new solution to others. The final decision should be effortless, obvious and nip any emerging worry over buyer’s remorse in the bud.

5. Maintenance (The “New Normal” Stage)

After the customer becomes accustomed to the change and embeds it into the way they work, there is still a task for marketing and content to reinforce the solution’s value. This also opens the door for cross-sell/up-sell opportunities and smooth contract renewals. Skilled customer success capability — and the content to go with it — will be key.

6. Relapse

This can happen at any point in this journey and generally requires going back to an earlier stage. One thing to bear in mind is not to rush the process, which is difficult when preparing to launch something new with limited time and money available. In fact, driving hard for a later stage before a customer is ready is likely to increase the inertia and harm potential results. 

Jason Ball is the founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content, whose clients include Google, Oracle, AT&T, EY and Microsoft. Ball is also behind Prolific, a first-of-its-kind managed content service created for the B2B sector. He helps ambitious marketers differentiate their brands, generate demand and reduce friction from the buyer journey.

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