Which is Key for Your Customers: Innovation or Influence?

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Influencer's Universe

The Influencers’ Universe

Any business follows the well-know track of building awareness -> establishing reputation -> making money. Each of these has its own challenges and opportunities for advance and missteps. Ignoring any of them isn’t an option, and you can’t really hop over any of them either, despite the burning desire to get to the “making money” bit.

I recently read an article by Valeria Maltoni entitled How to Increase an Idea’s Adoption Rate. In it she writes of how a couple of individuals became key influencers in their fields, and how one in particular approached this goal with some preconceptions (that, frankly, mirror a lot of thoughts business owners have when going into business or launching new products and services…) that fell flat.

Consider this approach: your product / service (let’s call it the A Widget…) is as well-honed and fine-tuned as it can be. It is absolutely top-notch! Now, you need to convince people who use competing products, your older products, or are now considering your product. You publish ads, you have meetings, you post on social media, you attend conferences, and it’s all over your web site just how high quality and innovative Widget A is. You discuss it with people at trade shows, in line at the grocery store, at the Chamber of Commerce, and every semi-appropriate place you can.

They’re not interested….

These are the people for whom you created it, and they’re not interested.

And you are flabbergasted…

So you decide to focus on a person that you feel “gets it” (let’s call her Terri…). If this person uses your product / service and then writes a glowing review that you can leverage, you’re positive that will draw the others to attend to it and purchase.

Terri switches from the product she’s been using and buys yours. She really gives it a workout, and your product shines! She loves it!! She says she’ll NEVER go back to the other product…and lists out all the things that make this a better choice for her. She’s totally sold….

But the rest of your audience isn’t! What happened? Why don’t they consider your product (and all of the evidence and information you have spread across different marketing channels…) and Terri’s experience with it and make the switch to Widget A?

Turns out they aren’t fond of Terri….she doesn’t reflect who they are or how they relate to their current product. In much the same way that they see you, they see her. You represent an innovation to them, which they are unwilling to make the change for.

Oddly enough, how terrific your product or service is does not predict how willing others are to adopt it. Acceptance is better predicted by whether a particular group (not individual…) goes for it or not. Innovation as presented by you or others is not a driver here. Rather, how well connected socially and respected the people in this particular group are will help drive acceptance and adoption of your product / service. Call these people “opinion leaders“…

According to Maltoni, “Building trust with opinion leaders in any community is a critical stepping stone in getting people to adopt an idea.” The idea you want them to adopt is that your product / service is THE ONE for them.

This adoption is complete voluntary. Regardless of how many resources you throw at your marketing, you cannot MAKE anyone decide in your favor. Only the cultivation of trusting relationships works.

Invest in those.

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