This is a continuation of the previous article in the series, which can be found here.
The good news is that persuading your target audiences to adopt your innovation is a repeatable process with predictable and measurable results. The bad news is that resources are typically your biggest limitation, which is why it’s so important to plan and execute well. To succeed, persuasion must come from your target audiences’ peers in a format that aids comprehension and a manner that engenders trust.
As mentioned in the last article, a peer is not only a match in role and organizational level, but also in attitudes and experience. Depending on the segmentation of your target audience, you may need to leverage voices from a number of different peers. The more effectively you can do this, the greater your ability to drive and accelerate adoption.
When I launched the first online supply chain hub, I knew that the target audience was mostly middle-aged males who had been in the metals business for a while. While we had plenty of smart young people who could deliver a well-polished demo and pitch, I hired “Stan” to do the job.
Stan was a middle-aged male who had been in the business for about 25 years and was not the most polished presenter. He was easily distracted talking about the industry or mutual acquaintances. While doing a demo, he would hit the wrong keys or swear like a sailor when a web page took too long to load. He was brutally honest and told the listener what features were a “pain in the butt” and needed to be improved.
However, Stan was a believer in what he was pitching. He explained how this solution could have helped in his job, which happened to be the listener’s job as well. He provided specific examples that clearly resonated with the listener. In short order, the listener began relating to Stan. More importantly, Stan was accepted as a peer and established a level of trust that our younger but more polished people never could have. That acceptance and trust translated into tangible adoption results.
Once you’ve identified the target audiences and understand their demographics, you’ll want to find a “Stan” for each. Finding the right peer isn’t always easy, but better alignment leads to greater adoption.
The next step is to determine the best means for your designated peers to communicate with your target audiences based on budget and objectives. While the strongest response likely comes from one-on-one meetings in the audience member’s workplace, it is costly and time-consuming. Fortunately, communication doesn’t always have to be in-person to be effective.
Begin by developing a matrix of your target audiences with a means to identify the most important to least important. At the top of the priority list may be “influencers,” those who will lend their voices and become advocates for your innovation. Think of industry leaders or well-respected industry journalists. Conduct one-on-one sessions for this group to bring them into the fold quickly. Your “Stan” can help identify these individuals.
Another group may be “existing relationships,” those with whom you or your “Stan” have already done business. If it’s been a positive experience, that relationship and trust can help you gain momentum. Gathering groups of these people in strategic regions can be a cost-effective means to reach many quickly.
Trade shows are also a good way to efficiently reach many people, although the timing may not match your desired pace. One of the risks of this venue is having a vocal naysayer in that group, which may negatively influence others if you’re not well prepared. For those who are well prepared, a lively discussion with sound arguments can actually increase interest in your innovation.
To reach target audience members who may be important but low on the priority list, written case studies or testimonies can be very effective. Delivering these via the web, publications and direct mail is not only relatively low cost, it can also be readily measured when tied to social media or your organization’s web site.
As you begin working through this matrix and achieve success in driving adoption, be sure to bring those new peers into the fold and make them part of the story as well. In one situation, I personally dealt with clients who were very frustrated with some aspect of the service. After working through the issues and ensuring they were satisfied, I often gave their names (with their permission) to the media for interviews about our work. Those clients talked about the good and the bad and, in the process, became very believable, trustworthy and effective advocates for our solutions.
Developing a solid plan that leverages the power of persuasion in the right formats and venues can help accelerate the pace and breadth of adoption. Executing that plan well will deliver the greatest results at the lowest cost, driving your audience to make a decision – the next stage in the adoption process.
Chris Peters is the CEO of The Lucrum Group, an Annapolis-based consultancy focused on enabling the advanced manufacturing enterprise. Chris has developed manufacturing supply chain hubs in more than 20 industries worldwide. Much of that success was based on the ability to drive and accelerate adoption. His work has been documented in several books and in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to BusinessWeek and IndustryWeek.