All Hail the Late Adapters

To Adapt means to make suitable or to adjust to requirements or new/different conditions

To Adopt means to to choose or take as one’s own

My objective is not to make CRM Outsiders a weekly lesson in Etymology nor definitions of commonly used words. That said, I sense that some of the infighting regarding definitions breaks down at a much more fundamental level than we realize. On the one end of the spectrum, we paint complex topics with a broad brush and wonder why people nit pick at our approach. The other side is for those of us who use a pencil to color in a mural on the side of a building – it will work, but boy is it going to be painful getting there! Ok, said my piece there, I feel better.

It is Not Only About Early Adopters

In the June issue of Wired , once you made it past the Buzz Lightyear story, there was a nice little piece by Clive Thompson (I read the print, sorry no URL) about the late adopters of technology (The title of this post is a bit of a play on the title of Clive’s article). Specifically, he makes the case that laggards, the ones typically ignored by marketers who only go after early adopters, are a missed opportunity. The idea is basically that people who have let their technology (in the article it is a tape  playing Walkman) lapse to such a degree that they are likely to skip the 3 devices released since they last purchased, and go right to a 3rd generation iPod or even an iPad. “If only 10 percent of laggards leapfrog, their purchases can drive profits from a new gadget 89 percent higher…”The article is backed up with real research, it is not just theory.

The interesting thing to think about, for those of us that enjoy thinking about such things, is how does this play into the realm of CRM? Can a user of ACT! or GoldMine, even just email jump into the realm of all of this new fancy Social stuff? The simple answer is yes, they can but they still need solid core CRM application (so the Walkman metaphor only goes so far). Michael Maoz wrote a post that is in a similar vein as the Wired article, or maybe I am seeing something that is not there.  His post asked the question ‘Are people using Social as an excuse to avoid the hard stuff’. I will agree and disagree with Michael in the same sentence. It is more fun and interesting to think about the new cool technology stuff and I do believe that “..few leaders understand where social and traditional Customer Service are coming together“. But, I am not sure that it is about the technology, or that technology is the real problem. I believe the issue is less about technology and more about the people and process and the culture of the people on the other end of the metaphorical phone. If it is about the technology, it is more foundational, things like data quality, data silos, etc.,…

Maybe We Need to Think Also About Adapting not Only Adopting

Among the many issues that are discussed within CRM literature (liberal use of that word) has to do with the adoption of new technology. From application user interfaces, to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the many other ‘Social’ systems which we all use, admit it. Even writing this blog, the way in which we write, the simple task has changed in many ways just in the past few years.  My question to the audience is this: Which is the greater challenge, and why, “adopting to the technology or adapting to the technology?” It is possible that this is an unfair question. The second use of the word ‘technology’ could be ‘customer’, ‘culture’, ‘communication’. Ok, I guess I am leading you down a path, not a very good survey type question. My sense is that people like to focus on one, or the other, while they should be looking at both.

What are your thoughts? Which parts can companies ‘leap-frog’ over and bring themselves up to speed versus the parts that could be dangerous to skip over? It must be a Wednesday thing… Happy hump day! Or, for those of you with kids, happy back to school!

3 thoughts on “All Hail the Late Adapters

  1. Mitch – Great points…

    I’ve always summed it up this way…do you wanna be cool or rich?

    Cool companies, people, artists etc. lead the path, have a lot of “cred” and generally relish in their obscurity. Those that cater to late adopters create common denominators, or at least identify them, and cash in by democratizing innovative ideas or fully baking bleeding edge concepts into widely consumable products.

    Facebook for example took what was going on for the cool kids (micro-social networks, messageboards, etc.) and brought it to Moms in Ohio. Mark took what cooler people were doing and cashed in with common denominators.

    The late adopter crowd will always be a larger addressable market…

    Just a few thoughts…


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