09 Jun How to apply critical mass to sell your new technology.
If you want more people to use your new technology you have to convince people to believe in you, trust you and buy your new technology. Your new product means nothing until you convince others to buy it. It doesn’t matter if your brains is the best in the state. It doesn’t matter if you have the best education a or even a PROVEN results to deliver. You must have customers who are willing to buy what you are creating before your business can move forward, no matter how great you believe your idea is.
But you can’t just go and shove your message down people’s throats. Not these days. Today people adopt new technology when they feel understood. They buy when there’s value alignment and when they feel that that you “get them.” You know what that feels like, right? Have you ever met someone and after some time of speaking or after several encounters you just clicked with that person? Maybe you walked away from that person thinking “you know what?… this dude gets me.” You felt understood. And when you feel that way about someone all resistance is lowered. That’s the TIPPING POINT. When the prospect feels like “you get them”.
In sociology, a tipping point is the event of a previously rare phenomenon becoming rapidly and dramatically more common. The phrase was coined in its sociological use by Morton Grodzins, by analogy with the fact in physics that adding a small amount of weight to a balanced object can cause it to suddenly and completely topple. The phrase has extended beyond its original meaning and been applied to any process in which, beyond a certain point, or critical mass, the rate at which the process proceeds increases dramatically.
Critical mass is a socio dynamic term to describe the existence of a sufficient amount of adopters of an innovation in a social system such that the rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining and creates further growth. At the critical mass point, the value obtained from the good or service is greater than or equal to the price paid for the good or service. As the value of the good is determined by the user base, this implies that after a certain number of people have subscribed to the service or purchased the good, additional people will subscribe to the service or purchase the good due to the value exceeding the price.
A key business concern must then be how to attract users prior to reaching critical mass. One way is to rely on extrinsic motivation, such as a payment, a fee waiver, or a request for friends to sign up. A more natural strategy is to build a system that has enough value without network effects, at least to early adopters. Then, as the number of users increases, the system becomes even more valuable and is able to attract a wider user base.
You can’t just expect the masses for new products to embrace them immediately because they can’t envision a product they’ve never used. Paraphrasing Henry Ford, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse”. Ford’s customers-to-be didn’t know that an automobile was an option, so, naturally, an effort is to build the first base out of available network and keep asking and testing.
Some of these tests are easier to measure online. There are easy to use tools like Google Trends to look at overall traffic. Alexa will show you a lot of information about page views, bounce rates, downstream sites and the like. Google Analytics is a simple tool to add to your site that will give you a picture of what users do once they are at your site to keep building up momentum.
Word-of-mouth marketing, which encompasses a variety of subcategories, including buzz, blog, viral, grassroots, brand advocates, cause influencers and social media marketing, as well as ambassador programs, work with consumer-generated media and more, can be highly valued by product, social media and performance marketers. Because of the personal nature of the communications between individuals, it is believed that product information communicated in this way has an added layer of credibility. Research points to individuals being more inclined to believe WOMM than more formal forms of promotion methods; the receiver of word-of-mouth referrals tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive (i.e. they are not receiving an incentive for their referrals). Influencer marketing is also increasingly used to seed WOM by targeting key individuals that have authority and a high number of personal connections. Its not how many people you know – its who knows you.
Interactive media like LinkedIn
While critical mass can be applied to many different aspects of socio dynamics, it becomes increasingly applicable to innovations in interactive media such as the telephone, fax, email, internet, social media… With other non-interactive innovations, the dependence on other users was generally sequential, meaning that the early adopters influenced the later adopters to use the innovation. However, with interactive media, the interdependence was reciprocal, meaning both users influenced each other. This is due to the fact that interactive media have high network externality, where in the value and utility of a good or service increases the more users it has. Thus, the increase of adopters and quickness to reach critical mass can therefore be faster and more intense with interactive media, as can the rate at which previous users discontinue their use. The more people that use it, the more beneficial it will be, thus creating a type of snowball effect and conversely, if users begin to stop using the innovation, the innovation loses utility, thus pushing more users to discontinue their use.
Fax machine example
An example by Roger’s in Diffusion of Innovations was that of the fax machine, which had been around for almost 150 years before it became popular and widely used. It had existed in various forms and for various uses, but with more advancements in the technology of faxes, including the use of already in place phone lines to transmit information, coupled with falling prices in both machines and cost per fax, the fax machine reached a critical mass in 1987, when “Americans began to assume that ‘everybody else’ had a fax machine”.