Determining Where a Market Segment is on the Technology Adoption Curve

The Technology Adoption Curve is a mainstay in high-tech and any marketing person should know this curve cold and what it represents.


This curve was recognized before Geoffrey Moore detailed the chasm and how to cross it; Moore’s books brought it to the forefront.

If you’re planning and strategizing on what product to bring to market, you need to identify your target market and where that target market is on the adoption curve.

If there are five main categories of market (as identified in the above graphic) and each market type requires a specific Go To Market Strategy, knowing where your target market falls is critical. How do you identify where a market is on the curve, particularly one that has been around for a while? Assuming the market is beyond the Early Adopter stage, how do you determine if it’s Early or Late Majority or even Laggards?

There are several key indicators. I found two to be pretty accurate. The first is the kind of advertising that is prevalent in that industry and what’s being advertised.

Take televisions. New technologies are constantly being developed and this market goes through the curve at a rapid pace. Starting with flat screen then HD and plasma and LCD then LED and now there’s 3D and Ultra HD.

Prices range from a couple of hundred bucks to many thousands.

The smaller sized TVs fall in the Late Majority and perhaps even Laggard categories. How so? The main advertising focus is price. Knock-off brands abound, offering sets at bargain prices. The feature set is pretty constant from brand to brand, from the number of connectors to screen size, etc. The cheaper sets are less crisp, the more expensive better resolution. There’s a ton of brand names no one’s ever heard of.

The advertising? Price dominates.

At the other end, the major brands have the latest gee-whiz technology with prices in the several thousands of dollars. Do they lead with price? No—they lead with the new technology. Humongous size that is bigger than all the rest. Curved 3D screens with ultra bright and crisp resolution.

Late Majority and Laggards lead with price. Early Adopters and even Early Majority lead with features. Early Majority typically includes price, but you’ll see prominence given to the brand, the distinguishing features.

The second key telltale is customer attitudes. How do they treat the products in that market segment? Are they shopping for the best price? Or are they shopping for certain features or attributes first?

A few years back I worked for an antivirus software company that was seeking to break into the ranks of the players. With the apparent maturity of the antivirus market, we were concerned that security software was becoming a commodity, which meant that we would be competing primarily on price.

We interviewed a number of business customers and potential business customers, all in the IT departments of their companies. Why did they choose their product? How did they view the competition? How did they view us? What was important to them in security software?

We found three main important criteria—and none of them was price. Price was a factor, as they had budgets and expenditures to get approved, but price was not their reason for considering a brand of security software and ranked low on the list. Price was sometimes a closing tool, but it wasn’t what they needed as their first priority.

Despite the time that antivirus software has been around, it became obvious that this market still manifested the characteristics of Early Adopters. Following the formulas for tackling market verticals was the answer.

By far, the most important criteria is customer attitude. Advertising is a barometer—but if the companies in the market are all advertising price (treating their market like Late Majority or Laggards) while customers are still focused on features, there’s a gaping hole to be filled.

The company that fills that marketing void with the correct marketing content will capture the attention of the customer. Why? Customer wants A, 18 companies advertise B, the 19th company advertises A. Customers will buy from the 19th company.

(As an additional note, if you haven’t already, study Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado by Geoffrey Moore so you understand the Technology Adoption Curve.)

You still need good product, the right marketing and PR and great support, as I’ve covered in my previous blogs. Identifying where the market is on the Adoption Curve allows you to develop a killer Go To Market strategy that is laser-precise.

Nail your market segment. Know what customers want cold, then develop, market and sell it to them. You’ll be reaping the benefits of the viral curve.


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