December 16, 2002

Up for Adoption


Leave it to Amazon.com to again offer an idea almost every other company or association should consider copying.

If you haven’t noticed, the upper left-hand corner of the company’s home page offers a link to learn more about Dean Kagen’s invention-extraordinaire, the Segway, one of the most innovative instruments for individual transportation ever designed.

What we can learn from Amazon.com comes when you click on that link. On the page introducing you to the Segway (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00007EPJ6/ref=segway_tn_left/102-4758482-4774555), you’ll find on the right-hand side a simple invitation to provide your email address and become a member of the company’s “Early Adopters” club. And that my friends, is where each of us can hit pay dirt.

How much time do you and your colleagues spend trying to push, nudge, cajole, or sell members or customers on cutting-edge products, services, and ideas? When it comes to persuasion or change management, how many books have you read or seminars have you attended hoping to refine your ability to sell the magical elixir of your efforts?

While such professional skill development is certainly necessary and appropriate, it can distract us from dealing with everyday reality: not everyone is (interested in) or meant to be on the cutting edge. Any street-savvy marketer tries to get products into the hands of well-connected individuals (thought and opinion leaders with their peers) who can be observed using and enjoying the products.

Early adopters generally represent the front edge of the customer/consumer bell curve (10-20% of individuals) and are willing to expend extra effort (and often extra dollars) to get something before everyone else. They know the “just released” computer gizmo will invariably drop slightly in price in the almost immediate future, but that does not deter them from their quest to buy right away.

Think of the possibilities for permission marketing that an audience of these individuals will afford you. Talking about this idea with one association executive today led us in just a few minutes to this robust list of possibilities: (1) offering previews, summaries, or excerpts of publications before they are released, (2) using the adopters as an informal team of environmental scanners; (3) gaining feedback on drafts of new programs or services; (4) sharing new research on your industry and profession; and (5) offering special incentive discounts for purchase of new resources or registration at new conferences.

Being the altruistic duo we are, we didn’t discuss charging a nominal fee for being in the Early Adopters Club until the very end of our conversation. But bundle the value propositions correctly and ensure that membership in the Club is meaningful and you most certainly could extract a nominal fee for inclusion. For folks who find great meaning in being “in the know” first, a little financial investment would not be an immediate deal-breaker.

We should all consider creating our own equivalent of the Early Adopters Club. Call it what you want: Leading Edge. Cutting Edge. Front of the Line. Whatever you name it, the end result will be the same: a database of self-identified early adopters you can now turn to first with new ideas and innovations.

This compelling idea is up for adoption. The only thing that remains to be seen is how many of you will see yourself as a fit enough parent to champion it in your own organizations.

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