Monthly Archives: March 2018

Someone jumping a chasm

Why Focus on Early Adopters?

Some time ago I wrote about Innovation Diffusion.  A new offer enters the market through early adopters and from there diffuses into the wider population.

The Rogers Curve

The shape of the Rogers Curve is the normal curve.  To understand diffusing new ideas or products into the population, you can divide it into three parts (or more).  The left hand side starts with a small percentage of people who are early adopters, they thrive on innovation.

The mirror image on the other side are the laggards who adopt late or possibly never.  The approximately 93% in the middle buy only what is tried and tested.

The temptation is to market to the middle but they are hard to reach because they are committed to their current suppliers.

Early adopters for your product, service or cause are a unique group of people.  If you sell a new software product, you attract a group of people whose tastes in food are mainstream despite their interest in your software.  You seek the enthusiasts for whatever you sell.

Why?  Because there is a chasm between early adopters and the rest.  To cross over to the mainstream is difficult, unless the mainstream get a message from early adopters that it’s worth a try.

How to Find Your Early Adopters

  1. What do your early adopters want and what do they expect from you?
  2. Where can you find them, in-person or online?
  3. How do they differ from the early mainstream?

Crossing the Chasm

If you do cross the chasm, bear in mind you must be prepared.  With early adopters you work with small numbers of customers.  Many businesses fail when they find they cannot cope with hundreds or thousands of customers.  Capacity is possibly your biggest issue at this stage of business development.

Also, expectations are very different.  Your mainstream customers are less interested in innovation and strongly drawn to reliability.

So, do you want to cross the chasm?  If the market overall is large, you may find your business thrives with the early adopters alone.  This is especially true if your early adopters are wealthy enough to buy high-end products.

Plan your business development with the chasm in mind.  You can be viable among early adopters or among the majority but your strategy depends on which you choose.

Following this twenty-ninth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Wax and seal

How Badge Value Conveys Status

Status is why prospects accept or refuse your offer.  The problem is, for most offers, it is not obvious to third parties the customer has experienced the offer.  Perhaps they need something with badge value.

What is It?

Some years ago a colleague, who was a development worker in a neighbouring town, organised a community garden.  People in the town volunteered to help build the garden.  They included children.  So, my colleague designed certificates for the children.  She was nonplussed when the adults complained they had not received a certificate.

The certificate showed they helped.  They had no other evidence of their involvement and they had bought into the value of the project.

Branding has badge value.  There is something about designer clothing those in the know recognise.  The problem is how do you show you have done something if it is not visible?

You go on a course and receive a certificate but perhaps a badge you can add to a website helps?  Or with a client from a well-known business or organisation, can you show their logo on your website?

Testimonials and blurbs have badge value.  The fact they are there is effective, even if people don’t read them.

Value for the Client

There are two things to consider here.  Do you need a badge to offer clients to show they have completed your coaching or consultancy?  This can double as a promotional tool.

Or you may help your client find the badge they need to promote their business.

How to Get There

There are many types of badge and your particular circumstances help you choose which is best.

  • The badge may be integral to your offer, eg a hairstyle.
  • Designer labels
  • Actual badges to pin on clothing
  • Certificates
  • Articles in printed media, which can be used to promote your business, eg in a restaurant window
  • Badges on websites and social media
  • Logos and designs
  • Carrier bags are perhaps no longer a good ideas but bags for life can show allegiance to a particular store or supplier.
  • Group photos can be circulated on social media.

Your Offer

Bear in mind a badge for your customers may serve as publicity for your business.  Also, some customers may not want a badge, eg customers being coached for some reason they find embarrassing.

So, ask permission where the badge is not integral to your offer.  Where customers experience embarrassment, try suggesting they help others by “paying it forward”.

Offer something customers are proud to be a part of so that wearing the badge is a genuine increase on status.

This is the twelfth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

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Hats on sale

Epidemiology and the Spread of Ideas

Last time, I wrote about the spread of ideas and especially how your customers talk about your offers.  This post explores the spread of ideas at a deeper level. How do insights from epidemiology help?

If you want to get ahead …

Way back, the most successful UK advertising campaign took the country by storm.    Everyone quoted a slogan produced by the Hat Council: “if you want to get ahead, get a hat”.  The slogan appeared in printed media from the 1930s, into the 1940s.  Everyone was familiar with it and if you quoted the start everyone else would chorus the final phrase.  Over the lifetime of this slogan, hat sales declined.

This story illustrates the power of a well-turned phrase and that such a phrase does not necessarily increase sales!  Today with the Internet ideas, phrases, videos, etc go viral and as such their originators cannot control them.

If you succeed in getting something passed onto millions, you cannot predict how they will use it.  Certainly, such a phrase could raise several boats, possibly not including your own.

It is more helpful if you get your message circulating among your market.  Satisfied customers  may be willing to spread a good idea, which effectively communicated might go beyond your customers so that you build a tribe of supporters.

Spreading the Word

  1. What is it about your idea that gets people to tell others about it?
  2. Who is likely to spread it and in what context?
  3. What changes could you make to your idea or context that will make people more likely to pass it on?

Insights from Epidemiology

How do parasites, viruses and bacteria spread from host to host?  This study is known as epidemiology and it offers some insights into the spread of ideas.  The parallels are not absolute because the organisms spread tend to remain the same.  The organism that changes as it spreads runs the risk of changing to such an extent it becomes less effective at spreading.

Ideas are more malleable and subject to interpretation.   Arguably, it is playing with ideas that makes us human.  Online, a video may pass unscathed but even so the further it travels the more likely it is to be interpreted in new ways.

In epidemiology, R0 measures the spread of disease.  R0=1 means everyone who catches the disease passes it on to one other person.  R0>1 means the disease will on average spread to more than one person.  R0<1 means the disease passes to fewer than 1 person; it will soon die out.

Most ideas including your offers, have R0=0.  This is the fundamental problem we all face in marketing.  Remember this is not about whether the idea is a good one.  It is about how successful you are at spreading it.

Ideas must be remarkable to spread, how can you make it happen?

Following this twenty-eighth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Drawing of a kingfisher

Design or Aesthetics?

It is easy to think design and aesthetics are the same, indeed Bain implies as much.  I think it’s important to distinguish between them.  You need to understand which you are talking about: design or aesthetics?

What are They?

Design and aesthetics occupy opposite dimensions of effectiveness and creativity.

Design should answer the question: does this do what it is designed to do efficiently and effectively?  The question is primarily functional.    If it doesn’t then it is not well-designed.

Aesthetics appreciates the beauty of the solution.  Does it look good?  Trousers serve many purposes, eg they cover the body, protect it from injury or cold.  They can also look smart or beautiful.

Here’s the deal: design and aesthetics support each other.  This is not an absolute, they don’t always.

An effective website does not have to look good.  Usually it is better if it looks good but it is not essential.  Furthermore, it does not have to look good to everyone.  Different groups have different aesthetics.

Value for the Client

To design something effective requires creativity.  The best designs look good and there is something satisfying when a well-designed solution is beautiful.  Aesthetics sell but only up to a point.  If the underlying design is poor, the product is discredited, however good it looks.

Aesthetics are packaging but they can be more than that.  Think of slimline TV screens.  Televisions used to be huge and heavy.  At the time they seemed to be the height of technological sophistication.  Now no-one would contemplate having one in their living room.  Modern TV screens do look better and take up less space.

We did not mind the old style because most of us did not think about what a TV screen might be.  That is the job of the designer who seeks something effective and aesthetically pleasing.

How to Get There

Design principles apply as much to services as they do to products.  A well-designed service delivers its promise on time.  Aesthetics apply to the marketing of the service, sometimes the right image is not easy to find.

If you are a designer, then delivering an attractive product that works is your brief.  But coaches must help their clients understand design principles for their product or service.

Whether as a prelude to employing a designer or something the client does themselves; the client must understand the principles beneath their design and aesthetics.

None of this is easy but done well, it is effective.

Your Offer

So, designer or coach conveys why understanding what is good design and good aesthetics is important.  To engage a designer you must define what you want from them.  Work in partnership with the designer, if you want something that works.

Your offer may be to help with briefing a designer through deeper understanding of your client’s offer.

This is the eleventh of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next:  Badge Value

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Woman with finger to her lips

Don’t Talk About Your Business!

Is that right?   If you don’t talk about your business, how is it possible to market it?

Getting People to Talk About Your Business

No-one likes a sales person; someone who goes on about their business and tries to sell to people who are not interested.

The challenge is to use marketing to get people talking about your business.  When others speak on your behalf, it lends credibility to your business.  Mostly, this happens in slow motion, through testimonials.  But imagine people so excited about your offer, they freely discuss it with their friends.  This is hard to achieve but good marketing aims to do this, eg through networking or email lists.

Talking about your business may be out-of-bounds but you can talk about other things.  And other things can be your strategy to get others talking about your business.  Aim to get others talking and you are unlikely to come across as salesy.

Aim to get people excited about something.  Make sure your talking is considered and clear about what you want from people.  Maybe something visual will stick in peoples’ minds.

Perhaps the most effective way is to deliver something of such high quality, people naturally tell their friends about it.  These customers are satisfied.  It is harder to impress people who have not experienced your services.  But not impossible.

Talking About Your Business

  1. What do you do that gets people to naturally talk about your business?
  2. How do your customers benefit from talking about your business?
  3. How do people who are not customers understand your business? Why should they talk about it?

Dig Deeper into Why People Talk

Some businesses and organisations naturally open up into conversations.  Someone who has a new hairstyle is much more likely to talk about it than someone who has had a massage.  Here the topic of conversation is integral to the product or service.  When people see something they are likely to ask about it.

Paying it Forward

The real challenge is getting conversations started when there is nothing to see.  Perhaps some businesses find it hard to get people talking.  For example, someone counselled for alcoholism is unlikely to talk about it.  But then again Alcoholics Anonymous is good at getting clients to talk about it – paying it forward is part of their internal discipline.

Social Pressure

This last example, illustrates another reason people talk, through social pressure.  The AA does this through generosity, its culture encourages members to be generous and spread the word.  Other examples include network marketing and some religions encourage evangelism.  Personally, I find this approach difficult but I know people in network marketing who thrive on it.


A third reason people talk about you is because it furthers their goals, at least in the short-term.  You might offer an incentive.  Other reasons might include it is something they believe in and want to promote, it helps them meet a goal or contribute to something they support or it might help them make money.  There are many more such incentives. Listen to customers and prospects carefully to work out what might get them talking about your business.

Following this twenty-seventh post to encourage coaches to think about relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Assortment of old designs in rural landscape

Nostalgia: Remembering the Past

Nostalgia does not have a good reputation.  Many people see it as sentimental, harking back to a golden era that never existed.  So, how can it be an element of  value?

What is It?

Usually people think of nostalgia as longing for things past.  It is a pursuit for older people who remember happier times.  Some industries trade on such longings.

There is a sense that nostalgia is somehow misleading, viewing the past through rose-tinted spectacles.  We like to think things were better once and the modern world is going to the dogs.  I don’t encourage this.  It may be legitimate to run 60s discos or tea dances but it seems to me a dead-end.

But perhaps there is a place for nostalgia in the world of design.  Many tools and other artefacts evolved because they were effective.  It’s a fine line between evolving effectiveness and locking in poor design principles because people like them.

Value for the Client

Perhaps the best present I ever bought was for a friend interested in the Bloomsbury Group, a group of artists post-WW1.  I found a single volume in a second-hand bookshop of photos of members of the group.  My friend was delighted, he had no idea such a book existed.

Perhaps there are principles that look to the past and learn from what worked.  There is a something pleasurable in handling something well-made to a traditional design.

Such designs are collectible and many have an interesting story.  Such objects sit somewhere between a work of art and practical application.

Look at it this way.  If you go back far enough, nostalgia no longer applies.  Appreciation of an object for what it is, even if it is a copy, can enrich life.  Comparisons with modern design can bring new insights.

How to Get There

This is a specialist area.  If you market the past, you must understand it.  Know the stories, be clear about what an artefact is and what a copy is.

Be clear about why you market something that looks backwards.  Why should anyone care?  What exactly do you sell?

Your Offer

If you take inspiration from the past, be up-front about its relevance to the present.  Show how the past enriches the present.

This is the tenth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next:  Design / Aesthetics + 6 more

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Open match box. One match upright and ignited.

Tribes Are Not What You Think They Are

Tribes are about connection and meaning; nothing to do with demographics.

Connection and Meaning

One thing your tribe has in common is their attraction to your offer.  However, this does not mean your tribe belongs to you.  They are going somewhere and need a leader.  Perhaps you can fill that role for a period.

Worldview unites a tribe.  They don’t have to like each other but they must share a liking for something.  Sometimes they have no incentive to meet but find, if they meet they do like each other.

Your task is to discern what they like and provide it.  An opportunity to meet others who share an interest or a problem may be an incentive.

People Like Us …

  1. Why this group of people and why now? What is it brings them to a common interest?
  2. Who exactly are they and how will you bring them together? Online or in-person?  Do they want to be brought together?
  3. What do you need to bring them together? Think about things like activities, policies, procedures, written materials, values and vision.

… Like Things Like This

You offer leadership to build a group of people who know, like and trust you and so pay for your services.  Your products and services are crucial.  You must either create things and seek out those who buy them or get to know a tribe and give them what they want (or both).

So, it is important to think about front-end and back-end activities.  Front-end activities draw the right people into your tribe.  They are things like lead-magnets online or loss-leader activities in-person.

Back-end activities take place once people sign up.  Customers pay for some and you can include bonus activities.  These help build that sense of belonging to a group that confers status.

Other activities such as blogging connect those outside to those on the inside.  Indeed, several layers of membership allows people to relate to you in a way that best suits them.

Following this twenty-sixth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Whole cheeses in shop

Generosity and Rewards for Clients

Rewards Me is the second of Bain’s Emotional Elements of Value.  I’ve no idea why “Me” but his point is clearly rewards for clients.

What is it?

Most readers have visited a Farmers’ Market.  You are familiar with a little saucer of free samples.  Maybe cubes of bread to dip in oil or chutney, perhaps cubes of cheese or even a small sample of something stronger.

This is a free gift, made at the front end of a business to draw in new customers.  It is like the generosity you see online, where people receive a pdf in return for their email address; a lead magnet.

But return to the Farmers’ Market and imagine you buy regularly from a stall, could be anything, let’s say cheese.  One day the stall holder slips in an extra portion of cheese, maybe a new line.

You can look at this in two ways.  It is an opportunity to try a new cheese and if you like it, you’ll buy some next time.  But maybe you have a budget and so if you buy the new cheese, you won’t buy your usual favourites.

Alternatively, this is a reward for your custom. The stall holder knows you like cheese and helps you extend your experience. They are building a relationship with you.  It’s not that you buy more, so much that they are less likely to lose your custom.  And of course you might recommend them to friends.

They might go further and invite you to a wine and cheese evening, no charge, for their regular customers.  They are rewarding you as a customer.  Stay with them and you’ll extend your experience of cheese (and wine), deepen your knowledge of cheese and meet others with similar tastes.

Value for the Client

You see the difference between the two approaches?  The first is a front end strategy, the second is back-end.  The cheese seller is aware they need to build a tribe of people who love cheese.  They see there is value in investing in their tribe.  These people become their ambassadors and so they want to offer something of value to show appreciation.

How to Get There

The rewards must be of real value to the client.  Normally, they are best if relevant to the business.  So, a cheese seller would try something cheese related.  They could give valued customers a box of chocolates.  This might be appreciated but it’s a bit random and diabetics who eat cheese instead of chocolates lose out.  You know your customers love cheese, so give them cheese!

You can develop a programme of rewards so as customers come closer and spend more, they receive more in return.  Or you may find there are times when an opportunity presents itself, perhaps you have more cheese than you can sell!

Your Offer

If you are a coach, be generous through your back-end.  These are sometimes called bonuses, which can be front or back-end.

Offer front-end bonuses with the package.  These are not really rewards because they are part of the package customers know they are purchasing.  It is worth noting affiliate marketers offer bonuses too for customer who order through them.

Back-end rewards are not advertised up front.  They could be a small gift as a sign of appreciation for their purchase, eg a book relevant to the topic of the coaching.  You could round up current and past clients and organise an event for them.  Whatever it is, make sure it is something they appreciate.

This is the ninth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next:  Nostalgia

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