No matter what we do, some things never change. It will be a cold day when we see them change, and if they do, it will only be at the edges. These things that we never see change are sometimes called drivers or insights to our lives; I call them the Immutables.
So why are they important? Immutables are those things, those objects in our future, which we must account for as we make our decisions and proscribe a future course of action. They are not physical or material; they are operational and functional. For example, we will not get the crop that we want if we do not seed with the crop that we need. How is it that we are motivated or persuaded to satisfy that need with that specific new thing? So, even more, how did we know what crop we wanted and what are the immutables of that journey?
Another important consideration as we examine our decisions and future courses of action is one of life’s most important lessons, “Know thyself”. In the absence of self knowledge we may make decisions that result in unfavorable or less than desirable outcomes; those things we really need but are, or are not exactly what we want. In the absence of this knowledge, it may delay our decision and also delay our participation, or the participation of those we seek to join with us, for an extended period of time. Relative to decisions then, it is imperative that we understand the markets, categories, and processes in which we are defined and identified. The following is a short presentation of this. Knowing thyself enables us to get the right information at the right time and focused on the decision that we must make. Again, “Know thyself”.
In today’s digital world, we are sliced and diced, divided and clustered, and described and defined to an individual set of descriptions. It is important that we understand this because it impacts how we are treated in a dynamic and fast paced world. It determines whether we are even a part of the actions to which we would like to be included. For us to understand this we need to step back into the basic literature of marketing and sales, and even further into the literature about diffusion of innovations.
MORE BY MICHAEL R. COLLINS
The first layer of analysis about who we are can be found in discussions of markets. In many ways, today, we find that every individual exists in a plethora of markets, simultaneously. These markets can be a youth age 21-30, a baseball fan, a college graduate, male or female, etc. Each of these represents a known cluster of like individuals. Even more interesting is that we can be in all of them, part of them, or none of them; each with their own description and definition and, oftentimes, with a label that identifies them.
The second layer of analysis is, in that market, “In which adopter category are we?” Markets, even sub markets, are sliced and diced into individual behaviors that identify the characteristics of one’s behaviors when confronted with new things and their adoption. These are called adopter categories and they are also part of the market immutables.
No matter how the market is divided and sub-divided it can be described based upon behaviors and how quickly or easily individuals accept a new thing. This description is often summarized as an S-Curve; a curve that defines individual acceptance in total numbers plotted against time. An S-Curve often integrates to a normal curve, and using the standard deviations of the normal curve, each section of the normal curve can be identified and used to define a group or cluster of individuals and their rate of adoption.
The segments of the normal curve, and the S-Curve, include the Innovators, the Early Adopters, the Early Majority, the Late Majority, and the Laggards. This is all classic market diffusion theory, and it quickly enables marketers, sales personnel, and business planners to examine a market and target individual behaviors and dispositions. For example, for a start-up or new product introduction, the planners will focus entirely upon the Innovators. This is because it is a waste of time and resource to expend energy upon an individual, or market, which is resistant to acceptance of a new thing until selected criteria are met.
Ah …. So, what are the selected criteria? For this we need to look inside the categories and identify the decision processes and inside of the individual stages of the decision process at the characteristics and differences that define each category. The stages of decision are: Knowledge Stage, Persuasion Stage, Decision Stage, Implementation Stage, and Confirmation Stage. Each of these differs depending upon which category that you are in; again, “Know thyself”.
What is important beyond “Know thyself” is that there are “tells”, or indicators, in the market place that let you know how the market is communicating to you what category it is. These “tells” show up in the Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place/Distribution Channel. Each “tell” has its own unique mix of these four items and each item in that mix has a budgeted commitment by the marketer or seller of that new thing. Knowing the state of the “tell” enables you to know where the new thing is in the mind of the marketer or seller and enables you to develop timing, negotiating strategy, and planning processes of your own. It “tells” you how you are being targeted.
For example, the ‘details’ in the decision stages are:
- In the Knowledge Stage, we are searching for information and recalling the information that we have found; we are integrating and comprehending that information and the messages that attend it; and finally, we are sifting and sorting that information which we need for adoption
- In the Perception Stage, we are establishing our likes and dislikes about the innovation; we are actively engaged in discussing this innovation with associates and friends; we are resolving our confidence and acceptance in the messaging we are receiving; and we are forming an image and label for the innovation that will support our acceptance or decline of the innovation.
- In the Decision Stage, we are intentionally taking action to gather more information and examine the buying/trial portion of this process
- In the Implementation Stage, we are using the innovation on a regular basis and applying it often; we are examining other uses and beginning the reinvention of the innovation for use in other applications; and we are continuing the selling decision process repetitively and recursively within our communities of interest.
- In the Confirmation Stage, we are recognizing and promoting the benefits of the innovation; we are participating in communities of interest and discussing and applying it in new and recently re-invented applications uncovered in our communities; and we are incorporating and integrating it into the processes and procedures of our business/ life.
Each of these stages changes depending upon the category of the adopter and each of these gets a little longer in time to execution because of the inherent resistance in the next category.
From the Marketer or Seller perspective, knowing the category and stage of the decision process enables them to build the appropriate staff, price the product and establish a pricing strategy, promote and sell via direct or indirect channels, and support and distribute in the most direct manner. These “tells” each have unique costs and structure in the marketing mix and are most closely associated with the individual adopter category and their associated behaviors. We can be sensitive to these and can discern them as they change. Discerning the state of the “tells” enable us to understand change management as it is being applied to the marketplace.
As we become more sensitive to these actions we are better able to understand the market and its behavior and seek out those “tells” that better suit us. These “tells” enable us to understand how we are, INDIVIDUALLY, being targeted and how we are expected to respond. None of this is new, it hasn’t changed; it is immutable. “Knowing thyself”, then, is good practice, and it is a good defense in this over-actioned world. It is imperative that we “know thyself” in order to lead, or follow. It is imperative that we are always on-guard and prepared. “Knowing thyself” sets us up to thrive and prosper.