Habits, we’re all creatures of habit. We like doing the same thing, time and again. We buy the same brand of biscuits in the supermarket, we trust the same car manufacturers, we stick with the same telco year after year. We build trust, rapport, with a product as we consume it repeatedly.
We also love change. We will try a new brand of biscuits if there’s nice packaging, test drive a new car, change our telco if there’s a better offer. If there’s something new we’ll be sold the experience, being told there’s more chocolate, better handling, we’ll save more per month.
But it to be change within a certain set of boundaries. We’re not going to buy giant biscuits with flakes of fish in if we like gingernuts. We will, however, experiment with something new now and again, perhaps one in 20 times we’ll try something outrageous, or if we’re the adventurous sort, it’ll be closer to 1 in 10.
This is where startups operate, the 5% margin of change that we will open up to new possibilities. It can’t be too far from what we’re used to – we need all the signals that it’s “the same as, but better than” its adversary in the market. We need to be convinced that what we’re buying fulfils our needs for what we were looking for, but does it better/more cheaply/more efficiently than what we were buying before.
Now there are certain consumers that take a risk 5% of the original 5% of the time (10% of 10% for the adventurous), where they’re willing to try something they don’t understand, and lead consumer behaviour. These are sometimes referred to as ‘early adopters’, but they have needs like the rest of us, and they’ll buy the same brands 90-95% of the time.
The startups that try to catch that need have to work under extreme uncertainty, these are ‘true’ startups that take incredible risk, and with them they need an investor or backer that understands that risk and the ‘blue ocean’ market they’re trying to reach.
We need to understand the people in these percentages of our customer segment if we’re going to understand who’s going to use our product, and why they won’t choose you 95% of the time. If we understand how fickle our customers are, and when to catch that 5%, we are true salesmen.