Classifying “Suits”: Early Adopters and Early Majority

Geoffrey Moore of “Crossing the Chasm” fame is often misunderstood on the topic of Early Adopters and Early Majority.

Moore actually has three kinds of early customers: Innovators, Early Adopters, and Early Majority.

Most of us confuse Early Adopters with Innovators.  When we meet a visionary customer, we wrongly assume they’re an Early Adopter.

What’s the difference?  Innovators love technology and innovation for its own sake.  They want one of everything to play around with.  Innovators are essentially indifferent to the business value of an innovation.

Early Adopters, on the other hand, care about the business value of innovation.  They are willing to take a risk on an innovative technology approach, but they are doing so as a calculated risk in order to gain a business advantage.  Early Adopters see the business advantage of an innovation and accept the risk of using it in order to reap the business reward.

And, finally, Early Majority customers want to “let Joe drain out the risk.”  They don’t want to take chances with new technology until they believe everyone else is doing it and they are in danger of being left behind if they don’t.  Early Majority customers wish that innovation risk would go away.

Within the organization, then, geeks are likely to comprise mostly Innovators and Early Adopters.  And suits are likely to comprise mostly Early Adopters and Early Majority (as well as Late Majority and Laggards, but those are topics for another day.)

The business value of an innovation and the unvarnished risk associated with it are the two things Early Adopters want to be crystal clear about.

The business value of an innovation and the strong hint that everyone else is already doing it are the two things Early Majority want to be crystal clear about.

It’s possible to speak to both of them in the same pitch, since Early Adopters don’t care what everyone else is doing (much) and Early Majority don’t listen to blah-blah about risk as long as they see others taking the risk.

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