Why innovators are the lifeline of both general contractors and emerging construction tech
May 11, 2022
9 min read
Content Marketing Manager
You’ve likely come across the familiar bell curve sales graphic detailing the technology adoption lifecycle. The book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, among many other books, goes into this graphic in great detail. The graphic is split into five sociological categories. Much like the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, or any other personality test (heck even the astrological sign traits), one can hear the identifying traits of every category and know instantly which label they personally fall under: “Yup. That one’s definitely me. I’m a treefrog.” (That’s one of the star signs, right?)
The five adopter categories that everyone falls into, in order of types of people who decide to use a new product, are:
13.5% Early Adopters
34% Early Majority
34% Late Majority
If you started a Twitter account in 2007 and got a valuable OG name like @bob, congrats, we’re jealous. You’re most likely an Innovator. If you nabbed a Twitter account right after the Elon Musk purchase because you wanted to finally see what the fuss was about (your handle likely includes a string of digits by now), congrats, you’re Late Majority. You may have assumed you’re a Laggard but you’re in the Late Majority; Twitter Laggards will arrive once Twitter is literally required for their jobs (or something like that; it's likelier they never even arrive). Laggards play it safe; they use a product when there's no other choice.
The dawn of the technology adoption lifecycle, which is also the slimmest category (2.5%)—those initial baby steps buyers required for any technology to get a foothold in the market—are the Innovators. Innovators are people that see the value in taking a risk on a brand new product. They understand that getting in on the ground floor means that their early feedback can help steer the ship. They also understand that the price tags will be higher at this stage because the Innovator-sellers are still in bootstrapped survival mode and their product hasn’t yet arrived at scalable, freemium (for example)-mode that established companies can afford to unveil once they have a long-enough runway for risk.
One little aside: speaking of Twitter earlier, you might be wondering: “isn’t inflated pricing the opposite for some forms of tech? Wasn’t Instagram (and before it, Facebook), a free utopia that was truly a ‘social’ media and now it’s a marketing tool crammed with ads and content catered to get me to pay?” You’re oddly word-for-word what we would've said, and completely right. Various social medias tend to initially launch “freemium,” sneakily qualifying their consumers as the true viable product, then eventually introduce parasitic strategies to bank off those consumers once they’ve hooked on the app.
The social media pricing model is completely different than tech utilized in industries, ie., construction, to quell certain inefficiencies. Useful industry-specific tech trades the initially free dopamine to later paid dopamine of social media tech for initially valuable paid quelled inefficiency for later streamlined less expensive quelled inefficiency.
Of course, the companies that build tech for Innovators are small and devotedly tied to the whims of their still-meager client base. If the tech fails to live up to the Innovators’ expectations, it’s bon voyage; the company that can’t please Innovators (or locate and sell to them quickly enough) will soon turn to dust.
On the tech-savvy side, Innovators love the idea of a lean and agile tech team that not only can lend ears to their creative needs but more importantly breathe life into those needs. The sales process, admittedly, is much quicker and simpler for Innovators because the “closing” is based more on hunches and emotion than proven logic.
Corporately speaking, process improvements hone in that aforementioned buying logic to find a happy medium between emotion and logic. The savvier general contractors understand the windfall of employing Innovator mindsets because of the potential to immediately set themselves apart from their competition who fall into a later technology adoption stage. All corporations can admit that they can’t be purely logical; they’ll fall behind the pack of their riskier peers.
Today, we’ve seen it become more than a passing fad for GCs to employ people with “Innovation” literally in their job title. These folks are tasked with being tech scouts for the company, heading innovation efforts that package heavy strategy with free rein on fostering an environment ripe for new ideas that have the potential to create exciting results for the company. Innovation heads study emerging trends (in other words, keep an eye out on the Innovators of the Innovators) and focus on process improvements and technological announcements.
Innovation heads at general contractors, when they’re “onto something promising,” are then tasked with creating groundswell at the company. Because tech is only helpful when you have buy-in internally with the team that would be using it. The double-headed skillset of tech-finding and adoption-teaching is what makes an Innovation head really worth their weight.
This construction industry trend of introducing an entirely new position to fill a gap in understanding at a GC is similar to business development and sales roles popping up more than ever. Business development professionals, in a way, are the "Innovation heads" for the growth of their business. They get to be the sole out-of-the-box thinkers about sales to get ahead of their company’s competitors that may be less innovative ie., they don’t employ a business development-specific role or the business development head doesn’t have the Innovator skillset and is process-improvement-averse.
The trait of "process-improvement-averse" seems of course contradictory for someone in a role as innovative as what you'd expect a business development head at a GC would be. But it happens. More times than not,
As alluded to earlier in there being “Innovators of the Innovators,” there will always be a tech-savvier subset of business development professionals that set the bar for the rest to follow. We’re at a crossroads of the industry where construction is eagerly fighting toward a technological revolution to pull itself out of the nearly-last-in-tech-adoption basement. Process improvement is an innovative, forward-thinking decision that acknowledges that the risk of failures in tech adoption experiments is worth the reward of improving a process.
Take solace in the thought that the 2.5% Innovator rate means there’s a heck of a lot more individuals that you’re ahead of.
Seriously, you should sign up to be a construction insider. Everyone will be so jealous of you.