How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Early adopters are different to innovators in that they make serious use of the ideas and innovations that come their way. They often have innovators as friends or keep their eye on the innovator market as a source of potential advantage.
They are more evaluative than innovators and have a particular skill at sorting the useful ideas from the interesting, but ultimately useless concepts that innovators may be raving about.
Whereas the watchword of the innovators is 'new', the early adopters seek 'leading edge' in something that can give them real-world benefit. Like the innovators, they are not loyal to brands or products, but will not switch until they are certain that the new system will work (or not). They thus seek evidence and may want to try things out to check that what they get is good enough.
Technology early adopters are those who buy the new operating system and updates as soon as they arrive. They will seek customized systems and may tie up the supplier, distracting them from the larger markets beyond.
In business change, early adopters are the friends of the change agents and will make try out your ideas and systems in real situations. These may well make great case studies to help persuade others.
Physical self-development early adopters will try out approaches as they appear, from a new style of Tai Chi to Pilates and other ways of holistically building the body and the mind. They may persist in practice for a whilst but seldom achieve mastery as they switch to newer ways.
Early adopters are the first real market in that they are sizeable and have the funds to be able to buy the latest products. They are not fools and will not just buy anything and may drive a hard bargain. They can be found in big companies and may point to potential further sales although their purchases will never be large. Such fake promises can cause real problems as suppliers tool up for large sales that never materialize.
Opinion leaders in early adopters tend to be intelligent, practical, strong-minded and successful. They are great sources of information on 'what works' and other early adopters will look to them to help sort out the good innovations from the bad.
Serving early adopters can be a specialist activity as well as being quite profitable, and companies who sell to this market may not try to take their products into the more competitive later markets. They typically live through constant and rapid innovation, and the heroes of the organization are the research and development people who churn out a non-stop stream of new ideas.