Business Adopter Chasm

The 5 Categories of Adopters

According to professor Everett Rodgers in his book Diffusion of Innovation, there are five categories of adopters:

1. Innovators (Technology Enthusiasts) – These individuals represent about 2.5% of users and are willing to take risks on a new offering. Generally, they have a high social status and are often considered mavens. They have a high degree of financial liquidity to absorb failures and a high risk tolerance that allows them to adopt new technologies that may ultimately fail. They are connected socially to engineers and technology and they often interact with other innovators.

2. Early Adopters (Visionaries) – These individuals represent about 13.5% of users and are opinion leadership. Early adopters have a high degree of social status that allows them to influence others. They are more likely to spread the word than innovators with their followers. They are a bit more discerning in their adoption choices than innovators as a way to help them maintain the central communication position they enjoy.

Innovators and early adopters are primarily focused on technology and performance. A sort of chasm exists between innovators/early adopters and other adopters since the focus of other adopters is on solutions and convenience rather than technology and performance

3. Early Majority – These individuals represent about 34% of users and adopt an innovation long after innovators and early adopters since their focus is about solutions and convenience instead of technology and performance. A major pivot is necessary to refocus the marketing message to cross from early adopters to the early majority. While the early majority has above average social status and contact with early adopters, they seldom are opinion leaders.

4. Late Majority – These individuals represent about 34% of users and adopt an innovation much later in its maturity cycle. Late majority individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and adopt the innovation only after the majority of society has already accepted it. The late majority often has little financial liquidity and are not in a position to influence others.

5. Laggards – These individuals represent the final 16% of users, and they are dead last to adopt an innovation. Laggards typically have an aversion to change, tend to focus on “traditions,” and generally are only persuaded to adopt a technology by close friends and family.

To achieve success, a business must first run tests with innovators and early adopters to refine the product offering. Then they need to run additional tests with the early majority to find how best to enter the mainstream. Each of the five categories of users requires a different marketing approach to win them over.

Do you consider the unique attributes of the five categories of adopters as you market and grow your business?

Note: this post first appeared at

What Is Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive InnovationDisruptive innovation is not about the next new product as much as it is about transforming an existing market from being expensive and complex to affordable and accessible. A disruptive innovation is more about targeting a high profit/low margin business and creating a high volume/low margin alternative.

For example, it is very expensive to take raw materials and create steel. Moreover, to create a primary steel manufacturing production plant, like the ones developed by Andrew Carnegie, is very expensive. Mini-mills, by contrast, use steel scraps and recycled steel along with a much the simpler technology of an arc furnace to melt the old steel into new products. Originally, mini-mills produced only re-bar used to reinforce concrete, but once they were established, they moved up in the market to create pipes, wire, rolled steel, etc. They then began to challenge primary steel producers.

Amazon was a disruptive innovation. It started out as an online books store to compete with brick and mortar stores like Barnes & Noble. Once it dominated the book market, it added CD’s, movies, and finally everything else.

You’re best strategy is to build a company around a disruptive innovation in a small niche market with little competition and then dominate it. With your monopoly power, you can capture a premium value and use the margin to expand into other areas.

How can you use the concept of disruptive innovation to dominate your market?

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This article was originally published at Steve Imke’s Business Blog. To see more articles by Steve visit Steve’s Business Blog.