Driving the Adoption Decision – Part II


This is a continuation of the previous article in the series, which can be found here. 

Driving your target audiences to make the decision to adopt your innovation requires striking the right balance between motivation (perceived value) and barriers (effort, cost and risks). The motivation for each audience member must outweigh the barriers, otherwise adoption will fail.

One of the most common and powerful motivators is money. Driving adoption is typically easier if it’s clear that your innovation will help audience members make or save money. That’s not the only motivator though, and shouldn’t be relied on exclusively. Below are a few examples of many other motivators that I have seen work very effectively.

Prestige—Innovations that will result in praise or an elevation in status for the adopter can be very powerful.

Effort—Reducing work effort can lessen stress, increase job satisfaction or even result in a better work/life balance.

Safety—New products and practices are often readily adopted when the safety of individuals can be improved.

Compassion—The ability to show support for those who are ill or less fortunate is a very strong motivator.

Patriotism—This can be a strong motivator for both individuals (joining the military) and companies (performing defense work for little margin).

Offsetting motivators are the many potential barriers to adoption. Unfortunately, they aren’t always easy to identify, nor can they be readily quantified. The reason is that many of the barriers stem from organizational and behavioral issues. Compounding the challenge is that barriers can be very different for each audience segment, with each requiring a different mitigation strategy.

Aside from the common barrier of cost, a very typical barrier to the adoption of new things is inertia. Most people don’t like change, and it’s easier to keep on doing things the way they’ve always been done. Other barriers can be just as daunting and run the gamut. Here are a few examples.

Fear—Often leveraged by competitors, fear can take on a number of forms and can be difficult to overcome if not properly understood.

Job Security—Whether perceiving an innovation puts their job at risk or just makes it harder, audiences are sensitive about anything that impacts their work.

Perks—I’ve seen the threatened loss of perks, such as being wooed by vendors, cause people to sabotage new initiatives.

Organization—Organizational structures and policies are often a big impediment, increasing the reluctance of individuals to scale the corporate walls.

The good news is that many of these barriers can be mitigated. Designing your innovation to more seamlessly fit with the way individuals and businesses in your target audiences work is one of the best approaches.  Another approach that has great impact is clearly communicating what the barriers are and how the target audiences’ peers dealt with the barriers. Removing fear of the unknown can go a long way.

Achieving the right balance between motivators and barriers for each audience segment is instrumental to successfully driving adoption. Creating more motivation than needed may cost you money and/or time. Conversely, you typically don’t want to create too little motivation, as that will cause you to miss your adoption targets.

As I stated in an earlier post, the only way to understand the motivation and barriers that will determine adoption of your innovation is research. Qualitative research, including ethnography, should lead the effort. You must fully understand how your innovation will be perceived, the value your audience places on it and the obstacles to implementing it. If you are driving adoption over a wide audience, qualitative research should be augmented with a quantitative study to better segment and delineate the audiences.

The insights gleaned from this research must then drive the messaging throughout the adoption lifecycle, especially in the decision stage. Personnel helping at this stage, whether by providing a demo, assisting with an onsite trial or some other effort, must be able to convey technical insights while reinforcing key motivators and reductions in barriers. Those messages are considerably more effective when coming from a respected peer who has gone through the adoption process themselves. (Read about personal guides in my previous post.)

Members of your target audiences have a choice—they can either adopt or reject your innovation. Should they reject it, your cost and effort to get them to reconsider it a second time increase significantly. Even worse, they become naysayers who can negatively impact other members of your target audiences. If they decide to adopt the innovation, then you’re ready to move them on to the implementation stage.

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.