May 16, 2023
Product Management
Product Marketing

Begin or Enrich Your Personas Practice Using Innovation-types

by Geoffrey Palmer


This article is for Product Managers, Product Marketers, and similar professionals who are looking to enrich existing personas with another dimension, or are just beginning a persona practice and want a practical example to use as a jumping-off point. The ideas here can be used as an outline to be filled in with more specific details, or layered over existing personas that don’t already have a technology-affinity factor.

Before we jump into the specifics of innovation-type personas, let's touch on why we have personas in the first place. If you feel like you have a good handle on personas, feel free to jump ahead to the meat of the content below!

Why do we need Personas?

Marketing has always been hard and it’s not getting any easier. The town squares where we can find and draw in potential buyers are getting more numerous and noisier, and the time we have to hook their attention is getting shorter.

50 years ago, the top of the marketing funnel was wide-reaching and little was known about who was behind the eyeballs seeing our work. Broad channels such as flyers in the mail, print advertising, and television commercials didn’t allow for any kind of personalization - promoting products required attempting to find a perfect holy-grail message and pitch that resonated with everybody. This was exceptionally hard and often failed. Today we have more spaces to communicate with our customers, through websites with sections on specific industries and use cases, through personalized emails and targeted ads across digital platforms, and more, each allowing us to be more specific with our messaging. At the same time, we know a great deal about the individuals whom we’re trying to reach. It’s not surprising then that we can be more successful crafting messaging and pitches that target the specific needs, pains, use cases, and jobs to be done (a fantastic framework developed by Tony Ulwik, Clay Christensen, and others), that fill the everyday lives of the various customers, users, and purse-string-holders making purchasing decisions about our products. The better we understand our audience, the more likely we are to capture their attention - documenting this understanding is done with customer profiles called “Personas”.

The content here is based on Everett Roger’s “Diffusion of Innovation” which was expanded on by Geoffrey A. Moore in his seminal work “Crossing the Chasm”. You don’t need to be familiar with those works to use the content here, though anyone who cares about business growth, especially start-ups and established companies struggling to grow would find a great deal of value if giving Moore’s book a read.

What is the "Diffusion of Innovation" and the “Chasm”?

The principal idea behind Rodgers’s “Diffusion of Innovation” is that markets can be categorized based on how open they are to adopting new technologies. At one end of the spectrum are buyers always looking for new technology and at the other end buyers who are always suspicious of new technology. It should come as no surprise that new companies developing new technologies will often find their first customers in the former group.

The classic ‘Innovation-types’ are:

  • Innovators who want cool technology that solves some pain
  • Early Adopters who want a competitive advantage
  • Early Majority who want disciplined, proven growth
  • Late Majority who want due diligence & robust solutions
  • Laggards who prefer the tried and trusted status quo over all other solutions

“Crossing the Chasm” expands on these ideas, noticing that the strategies and tactics that convince buyers to make purchases can be very different between those innovation types - what motivates buying decisions for Innovators is different from what motivates buying decisions in the Late Majority. For example, companies may be able to sell innovative new products with cluttered and clumsy UIs to “Innovators” who have a pure love for innovative technology and to “early adopters” who care more about gaining a competitive advantage than a clean UI. Conversely, Late Majority and Laggards will generally find that a clean and intuitive UI is vital to onboarding and enabling new users (often a large number of them) with the minimum disruption and without requiring intensive ongoing support. The ‘Chasm’ represents the danger to companies that get stuck having failed to understand and adapt to the changing buying criteria of customers in later markets.

How to use Personas review

Personas are a way to practice and document our empathy. To have a good persona we must understand what makes a particular type of buyer ‘tick’. The idea behind Personas is to provide a vivid target to which your messaging can be easily addressed. Personas can be very detailed, including a name or nickname, age, title, hobbies, interests, and even socio-economic factors (especially in B2C). Good personas will often note in which channels they consume content, from what factors they derive value, what motivates them, and what their jobs-to-be-done and use cases are for the product in question.

Once completed, content can be created that is specifically written to address those personas. The content creator, holding his persona in their head, creates materials that address their specific pains and problems, enabling them to quickly build rapport and generate interest from buyers who are close to such a persona.

In big-ticket enterprise sales, consultative sales, and solution sales, decisions are often made either by a committee and/or through a hierarchy of decision-makers. In those cases, your content may have to target multiple personas to be effective. For example, you can’t go wrong by thinking through which slides in a sales deck speak to which personas, or which paragraphs of a white paper address which personas, to make sure you’re covering all your bases.

How to use this guide

One way to think of these Innovation-types is as having varying degrees of technological sophistication and conservatism along a spectrum. Innovators on the one end (the left on the illustration below) and Laggards on the right. Because of this, we can make some generally safe assumptions (assumptions that should be tested of course) about where we are likely to find these types.

  • Start-ups, companies that are growing fast, companies in the tech sector, companies that are new, companies that have a lot of young people, and companies that compete on consumer experience (e.g. retail, home services, B2E software, social media) tend to be more accepting of technology and will have more Innovators and Early Adopters
  • 100-year-old companies, companies with tens of thousands of employees, companies that are in highly regulated industries, and companies that don’t directly compete on consumer experience (e.g. energy, manufacturing, transportation) tend to be more conservative and will have more Late Majority and Laggard types.

But let’s not forget that companies have a blend of people who might identify as different personas. In the chart below, I’ve illustrated the distribution of these innovation types within the overall spectrum. If you have a rough idea of where the company ‘lives’ on the spectrum, you can look at the vertical ‘slice’ at that point and see which innovation types, and in what proportions, you might want to think about addressing.

A quick note on Laggards: personally, I don’t like the term ‘laggard’ - it's pejorative. While they may be uncommon when we consider these roles as distributions within our markets, we might find them in as many as half of our deals, so we have to consider them. Many CFOs consider it their job to say no to new spending, and so may fall into this category - ignore them at your peril! Instead of looking at any of our personas as flawed people we have to accommodate, we must put ourselves in their shoes - if they don’t want good technology, what do they want? Not addressing laggards because they are a ‘lost cause’ will cost you business.

The Innovation-type Personas

The personas below have several factors. Their “nickname” is a way for us to simply conceive their core characters. “Value Drivers” are the baseline to which they compare your pitch and messaging. “Self-perception” is a way to stretch our empathy muscles, understanding how they view themselves aspirationally - the way they want the world to see them. Knowing this, we can make emotional connections, which form the basis for longer and more trusting relationships. “Characteristics” are what these people do or don’t look for in a sales engagement, business relationship, and product - the key areas to hammer on or to avoid to secure their support. “Channels” is a suggestion of where these people can be engaged and influenced.


Nickname: Technophiles

Value Drivers: Bleeding edge solutions addressing regular but narrow points of pain and frustration

Self-perception: Brilliant revolutionary


  • Make up only 1/40th of your market
  • Often self-proclaimed nerds and geeks
  • Love new technology for technology’s sake
  • Willing if not eager to do coding and integration work, even if it means jerry-rigging or shoehorning the solution to fix their pain
  • Not fussed about UI or documentation
  • Expects easy and instant communication with your devs
  • Wants input on your product and roadmap
  • Wants the unvarnished truth, warts and all


  • Social media
  • Reddit
  • Stackoverflow
  • ‘Hacker’ sites
  • Technology media sites such as Wired, TechCrunch, Ars Technica, Gizmodo, Engadget, etc.

Early Adopters

Nickname: Visionaries

Value Drivers: Competitive advantage

Self-perception: Passionate Growth Leader


  • Makes up 1/7th - 1/8th of your market
  • Ambitious, newly minted execs, looking to make their mark
  • Dreamers and idealists who trust their intuition
  • Prefers radical change to incremental improvement
  • Risk-tolerant and price agnostic
  • Wants recognition, accolades, and publicity
  • Values technology as a means to their ‘dream’
  • Hard to please and always in a hurry
  • Loves to see their name in print - willing to do case studies and similar
  • Prefer land-and-expand strategies for new tech
  • Dreams are always out of reach - managing their expectations is critical or they may feel slighted
  • Always looking beyond their vertical and industries


  • Almost exclusively looks at Innovators for ideas
  • Word-of-mouth and social proof
  • New technology and innovation conferences and meet-ups

Early Majority

Nickname: Pragmatists

Value Drivers: Learning from the best

Self-perception: Responsive Realist


  • Makes up about 1/3rd of your market
  • Represent the bulk of business for newer products
  • Expect things to work and aren’t interested in debugging your products
  • Perceive the bleeding edge as a hazard, not a benefit
  • Happy working in the background, rarely become CEOs
  • Wants steady, predictable, and continuous improvement
  • Hard to win over, but loyal once bought in
  • Values standardization and interoperability
  • Data-driven and focused on metrics
  • Care about brand reputation
  • Strong network within their vertical
  • Will often insist on RFPs and competitive head-to-head evals
  • Moderately price sensitive, and wants to “get a deal”


  • Watching the Early Adopters
  • Gartner, Forrester, and other industry analysts
  • Heavily invested in trusted partners and VARS
  • Market leader blogs
  • Executive networking groups
  • Major publications and news outlets
  • Verticalized industry events and conferences

Late Majority

Nickname: Conservatives

Value Drivers: Diligence and competence

Self-perception: Deliberate Expert


  • Makes up 1/3rd of your market
  • Not necessarily aligned with continuous improvement (which means constant change)
  • Value traditions and established processes
  • Often feel they have to clean up the messes left by others
  • Likes known names - loves to “Buy Blue
  • Favors long sales cycles, RFPs, extensive pilot programs
  • Once selected, pathologically determined to make it work (and validate their decision)
  • Favors late-stage innovation that is commoditized (and therefore cheap)
  • Cynical buyers who distrust sales, see implementation bumps as them ‘getting screwed’
  • Wants bundles of products and services with one throat to choke
  • Convenience over performance, simple UIs over feature barrage


  • Print media
  • Distrusts social media
  • Often suspicious of analysts who might be pay-for-play


Nickname: Skeptics

Value Drivers: Never making mistakes or causing disruption

Self-perception: Meticulous Defenders (of the status quo)


  • Makes up 1/6th of the market (but often fills key decision-maker roles)
  • Often considers saying “no” as their function
  • Automatically distrustful of pitches, and the more sales-ey the more suspicious they become
  • Has often been burned before, knows where bodies are buried
  • Looks for every potential flaw and exaggeration - has a highly sensitive BS meter
  • Expecting bad things, they value firms that are flexible, accommodating, and committed long-term
  • Loves to act as the boy in the “Emperor's new clothes” - offers truthful feedback when others have drunk the Kool-Aid.


  • Few - avoids being marketed to at all costs

Fleshing out your Personas

Once you have your basic personas, the next step is to start identifying which use cases, which jobs, are most important to those archetypes. And with this done, you can start to understand which features and functions are critical to their daily lives, which will inform how you pitch and demonstrate your products. Remembering that in sales with multiple buyer stakeholders you have to address the needs of different personas - even when those needs are contradictory!

The last step in making personas actionable is to determine which of your customer case studies and potential customer references will resonate best with your personas. You can also think of the customers, in both your case studies and your references, as persona types, and so work to match the personas of your customers to the personas of your prospect.

Good luck!