Driven, goal-oriented entrepreneurs fight the odds to establish and grow their small-business. Budding, medium-sized firms emerge and confront growing pains that inevitably accompany success. Worldwide, well-established corporations strive to maintain position and stay vigilant to keep their edge. Each is committed to their best as they play a part in a real-life example of Herbert Spencer’s, “Survival of the Fittest”.
Those able to survive and prosper in this environment have several traits in common. This article will focus on one; the ability to make efficient use of all available tools to achieve success, at the right time.
Technology is a Multiplier
The single greatest benefit of technology is its ability to, not simply add, but multiply effort. It’s almost magical when technology turns the effort of one person into many.
Consider life prior to 3500 BC, before the invention of the “wheeled cart”. At this time, if you wanted to move a group of items from one location to another, you would potentially have to do so one agonizing piece at time. If you had 50 different items, that meant 50 trips. If there was a significant distance between locations, the job became even more challenging.
Obviously, technology could be of use in this situation and the scene was set for the invention of the wheeled cart. Suddenly, one person can haul several items at one time. This not only made each trip more productive, but easier, by allowing the load to be pulled, instead of lifted.
After finding success with the cart, it was later improved in 2000 BC by the addition of tamed horses. With the added pulling power, you could haul even more.
Like the invention of the wheeled cart, all businesses can leverage technology to:
- Work Faster
- Work Less
- Work Safer
- Work Predictably
- Work Better
Put simply, technology helps business safely, and predictably, do more with less.
The Latest Technology is Expensive
Business knows all too well the obvious drawback of technology. It’s expensive!
Do you remember the first time you saw a flat-screen LCD computer monitor? How much desk space it saved, how crisp it displayed text? Remember how much you wanted it? Remember how your mind changed once you saw the price tag?
Fast forward to today, and you see the price of flat-screen LCD monitors continue to drop. Some are even included FREE with new computer purchases.
Given the cost associated with technology, it can generate a great deal of anxiety for the person responsible for buying it. Questions like, “What do I need?” “What brand is most reliable?” “Will it become obsolete tomorrow?” “Can I upgrade later?” and others can quickly mount to make selecting the right technology seemingly impossible.
Luckily, all new technology goes through a predictable life cycle. This life cycle is referred to as, “diffusion,” which relates to how technology is accepted by the market. By understanding diffusion, you can better determine the right time to make your technology investment.
New Technology Diffusion and Adoption
When technology is first made available for purchase, it is introduced at its highest price point. This helps the company who developed the new technology recover its initial research investment. Higher prices are also used to fund future product development and improve manufacturing techniques.
With prices relatively high, there are only a select group of people with the interest and finances to own these products. This group of well-educated, and well-financed, individuals is made up of two sub-groups referred to as, “innovators” and “early adopters.” These two groups, who I will generally refer to as “early adopters,” is comfortable using technology and be the first to pay higher prices to “adopt” this leading-edge technology.
Early adopters are valuable for a number of reasons. They:
- Uncover Defects
- Fund Development
- Suggest Improvements
- Provide Reviews
Figure 1: The technology diffusion curve illustrates the typical market adoption pattern of new technology
The technology diffusion curve above, referenced from E. M. Roger’s book “Diffusion of Innovations,” clearly illustrates how early adopters drive the diffusion process to a critical point in a technology product’s life cycle, “The Chasm.”
The chasm is significant because, as the figure above shows, the desires of the market buying the product change. Early adopters “get it.” They already have a basic, or better, understanding of how the product works and how to use it to accomplish their goals. They desire technology for technology’s sake and the added performance that comes with it. Product marketing materials focus on new features and nurture an overall WOW factor.
Once a product crosses the chasm, marketers shift their focus from early adopters, to the mainstream market. These segments, consisting of pragmatists and conservatives, may not have the same basic understanding of how the product works like their predecessors. Instead of hearing about new features, they want solutions and convenience as well as a compelling reason to buy. Marketing materials now detail benefits of the product and provide case studies with real-life examples of how others benefit from owning the product.
In addition to a shift in marketing methodology, something wonderful happens when a new technology product crosses the chasm. The price drops!
For the conservative small business, this is the golden window of opportunity they’ve been waiting for!
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