Sunday, September 4, 2016

Know the Visionaries, Pragmatists & Conservatives

If creating innovative products is hard, selling them is even harder. A B2B innovative product caters to either an implicit/un-met need OR a not-thought-of gain. In either case, selling it is an uphill task. Its quite similar to high-tech market development model as explained by Geoffery A. Moore. The model divides the customers majorly into Early Adopters (Visionaries), Early Majority (Pragmatists) and Late Majority (Conservatives).

When the customers are companies in B2B, segregating them in these boxes is not that straightforward. Companies have both good and lacking areas. For example, an Airline may be ahead in customer service but might be a laggard on operations side. A more pronounced segregation is seen inside a company. People in the company are from across the spectrum of Visionaries, Pragmatists and Conservative. And each contributes in their own way to effective running of an organisation:

Visionaries: These are enthusiasts, seek the radical improvement, can see the big picture and strategic opportunity. People like them are usually found wearing the hat of Innovation, R&D and Business Development. Usually, they hold budget to invest in new ideas but do not control big ticket purchase decisions.

Pragmatist: They form a big chunk in the organization. They look for quantified benefits, low risk, proven solutions and are comfortable with incremental improvements. These are Departmental heads in Operations, Marketing, Finance etc. They decide on big ticket purchases and their expectations can be different from that of visionaries.

Conservatives: They too are sizable. They always have the word of caution, prefer in-house development, worry about compatibility with existing systems and prefer convenience over performance. These usually come from support departments like IT, Procurement, Administration and others, but are also found in line departments. They can influence and delay big ticket purchases.

Similar to market development model of Geoffery A. Moore, there is a chasm between Visionaries and Pragmatists. A buy-in from visionary can get you a pilot phase, a foot in the door. But for the big-ticket purchase and company-wide deployment, buy-in from Pragmatists becomes the key.

To cross the chasm, its important to reach out to the Pragmatists early on to understand their expectations. And pick up a specific area to solve on an industrial scale. This may narrow down the scope, but then Rome was not built in a day. A pragmatist buy-in becomes a strong reference in that market segment.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to bringing innovation to market. Knowing your Visionaries, Pragmatists and Conservatives does help and feeds into a sound product and market strategy.

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