“Are we working or testing with the right customers?” is one the recurring questions that Rezare Systems is asked by its customers.
The company says that the answer is not always a clear “yes” and the cost to a business of developing an innovation based on feedback from the wrong customer can be enormous.
In a blog on their website, Rezare, a bespoke agri software developer and consultancy with a strong applied agri science background, provide some advice on how to build customer empathy and validate product design.
Everett Rogers in his book The Diffusion of Innovations (1962) defined five categories of adopters for an innovation:
1. Innovators: willing to take a risk on innovation for its own sake.
2. Early adopters: adopt technology that solves problems and provides status.
3. Early majority: influenced by early adopters, they wait to adopt useful and valuable innovation.
4. Late adopters: with some scepticism adopt after the majority.
5. Laggards: see no value in change.
Early adopters must be the initial target. Innovators love innovation for its own sake, but if they don’t represent the problems and needs of your larger market you will end up solving the wrong problems.
So what techniques might your early adopters be using to solve the problem?
Those very techniques might be the indicators that help you identify the customers. As early adopters know they have the problem and are trying to solve it, they may respond to an appropriate call to action. You might test if you can position your solution in a way that early adopters will recognise and respond.
Finding early adopter farmers and rural professionals
One you’ve worked out how to recognise or filter an early adopter, where do you look?
Listen online: Tune into farming-oriented groups in Facebook or hashtags on Twitter. The best Facebook farming groups are often closed – you need to be a farmer or show you won’t spam the group to join. Use these groups to understand interests, events, and to ask good questions.
1. Build your network: Create a diverse network of rural professionals, influencers, and others. Make sure you help others and give as well as take. Members of your network will help you meet potential early adopters.
2. Hit the road: Attend the events that your early adopters are also likely to attend. There are many farming-focused events, conferences, and field days. Going along to listen and learn at farm open days is a great way to meet others.
3. Learn the language: Agriculturalists I know are willing to speak with anyone trying to improve farming’s lot. Listen to them to build the language and questions that will help you influence customers.