Have you ever read something that categorizes various types of individuals or groups and the character traits that set them apart from each other, and found yourself classifying yourself in one of the categories?

Recently, while doing some research on how technology is accepted into the marketplace, I came across something where I found myself doing just that. The theory is called “diffusion of innovations.”

With the rapid proliferation of technology in agriculture, I think sometimes we forget that how quickly new technology gets developed isn’t as important as how quickly our customers are willing and able to use it.

For the most part, many of us selling products that utilize advanced technology believe that in the twenty-first century change will be constant, increasingly frequent and required for survival. But trying to force new and unfamiliar technologies down the throats of a customer base that isn’t ready is a lot like trying to teach a pig to read. It’s not going to happen and it annoys the hell out of the pig. (Apologies to Will Rogers.)

But the diffusion of innovations model, which was developed by Everett Rogers, a farm boy from Iowa, can be useful to equipment dealers who are introducing new technologies to farmers. It applies equally to manufacturers who need to get dealers to carry new products to the marketplace.
By the way, Everett Rogers is also credited with coining the term “early adopters.”

The theory holds that you can speed the rate of diffusion by classifying your customers for any given product category into five categories of product adopters and initially focusing on the first three. These customer categories, their percentage of the total system and their personal characteristics include:

  • Innovators (2.5%) – venturesome, educated, utilize multiple info sources;
  • Early adopters (13.5%) – social leaders, popular, educated, respected;
  • Early majority (34%) — deliberate, many informal social contacts, adopts new ideas just before the average member of a system, deliberate willingness in adopting innovations, but seldom lead;
  • Late majority (34%) – skeptical, traditional, peer pressure is necessary to motivate adoption, uncertainty must be removed;
  • Laggards (16%) – traditional, neighbors and friends are main info sources, fear of debt, point of reference is the past, suspicious of innovations and change agents, last to adopt. 

The point is, by identifying where your customers are on the “adoption” scale, you can better focus your efforts in introducing new products and technology on those most open to change and actually speed up the entire adoption process.

It’s also been suggested that you first ask yourself, “Where are you on the scale?” This will also help identify how successful you’ll be in introducing innovations to your customers.