Consumer Adoption Patterns
Residential metal roofing has the unique distinction of being a product that
can be attractive to homeowners who fit all of the conventional five “consumer adoption
patterns.” In this issue of the Residential Metal Roofing Executive Report,
we’re going to examine each of those five consumer types, and discuss how you
identify them and what messages you can put in front of them that will be
attractive to them. The five consumer types we’re going to look at are:
- Early Adopters
- Early Majority
- Late Majority
Folks who study these consumer behaviors say that, in terms of who buys a
particular product, the five consumer types create a bell curve. Typically,
a very small percentage of purchasers are Innovators and we see the
percentage increase a great deal with Early Adopters. However, about two
thirds of all consumers will be split between the Early Majority and the
Late Majority, and then a declining percentage will be the Laggards (you may
call them “slackers” if you wish.)
So, the lion’s share of the market will be in the two forms of Majority
purchasers, but, for metal roofing, there are opportunities with homeowners
who fall across the entire spectrum of behaviors.
Now, you may be wondering this: “But I was always told that all PRODUCTS go
through the cycle where, over time, different consumers are attracted to
them, meaning that products have a life cycle!” Following this thought
pattern puts the emphasis on the Product rather than the Consumer. However,
this is where the uniqueness of residential metal roofing comes into play in
that, once you identify what type of consumer you’re connecting with in
terms of their purchasing behavior, you can deliver messages which appeal to
their particular classification and maximize your chance of a sale to
You see, for Early Adopters and even Innovators, the technology advancements
of metal roofing offer a “newness” that can be attractive to them. However,
the market share of metal roofing, now nearing 15%, shows a consumer
adoption rate that will be considered by the bulk of consumers who are in
the Majority segments. And, the long-proven history of metal roofing, dating
back 100 years, can even appeal to those who tend to purchase late in the
cycle – the Laggards.
Let’s dig into each consumer type a bit in depth here and talk about where
you might find those consumers and what messages you might send to them that
will appeal to them.
These product pioneers will likely be about 5% or less of the consumer
population. One of the interesting things about Innovators is that they are
often accustomed to purchasing newly available products which tend to be a
bit more on the costly side. So, paying a higher price doesn’t scare them.
In fact, they often take pride in paying extra to have the “latest and
greatest”. For this reason alone, they can be great targets for residential
metal roofing, despite metal roofing’s long and proven history.
Innovators are risk-takers. They like the idea of being pioneers and they
are so desirous of being unique that even the ideas of failure and being
embarrassed don’t scare them. Innovators often have careers where they
experiment and take risks. Think about scientists, explorers, and tech
innovators. The “naturally curious” can also sometimes be Innovators –
surprisingly, people like professors and writers. You probably won’t see
your local CPA as an “Innovator” in terms of purchasing behavior.
These consumers will often own a lot of gadgets and they might buy a vehicle
in its first year of release. Because they tend to be on the “bold” side,
their home may have brighter colors in it. They may take great pride in
showing and talking to you about their most recent purchases. They might be
folks who spend a lot of time on “crowdfunding” websites like Kickstarter,
looking for new ideas. They may be those individuals in your area who hold
patents, something you can determine through www.uspto.gov.
To attract Innovators, you will use words like “brand new,” “game-changing,”
and “technological break-through.” You may share with them your own
enthusiasm for the product you’re selling – what attracted you to it. You
may attract them with a discount for buying the first roof in their
neighborhood. They will be interested in the energy efficiency of metal
roofing and they will enjoy being encouraged and congratulated on being one
of the first people in your area to consider and potentially buy your
product. They do not need to be “sold” much beyond words like “new” and
“advanced” … and then THEY will tell YOU why “new” is better!
These folks will be around 15% of the general population. Because
residential metal roofing is still fairly new in many communities, many
customers will fit this profile. Interestingly, metal roofing customers in
suburban communities are more likely to fit in the Early Adopter category
than are metal roofing customers in rural communities who often see metal as
a way of life on the roofs of barns and older farmhouses.
Early Adopters are a fun group to sell to. They often research heavily and
make decisions that they see as trend-setting but not risky. Because they do
tend to be ahead of the curve a bit, they are very influential customers.
Their friends, relatives, and neighbors respect their opinions and decisions
and look to them for advice on what products to buy. Early adopters,
therefore, can be great at bringing you referrals for prospective customers.
If you sell to an Early Adopter, make sure that you always stay in touch
with them, so that they can easily send referrals your way.
Because they are so influential in their social circles, you do not want to
ever upset an Early Adopter. You want to make sure that their project goes
smoothly and well, with no hiccups. This is because their power as someone
who advises others against you is just as strong as their potential power as
someone who steers others toward you.
Early Adopters usually will have very nice belongings – things that are
high-end and updated but not so new that they are considered to be risky
investments. For example, they might have a late model vehicle but it is a
proven vehicle rather than the first year’s production. They may have a
hybrid car but not an all-electric car. You will also find that they are
often very gregarious, social, and open people who enjoy entertaining
To attract Early Adopters, use words like “taking the country by storm,”
“definitely not your grandpa’s roof,” and “be the envy of your
neighborhood”. You want to assure them of not being a guinea pig but still
being on the leading edge of product innovation. These folks are usually
well-educated and fairly well-off financially. They like being the center of
attention but only in a positive light, preventing them from being the
risk-takers that Innovators are. Career-wise, they may be business owners,
attorneys, physicians, and other well-educated folks with a decent amount of
disposable income that allows them to buy what they want.
These consumers are often more price-conscious than our first two
categories, and they will make up about 45% of your residential metal roof
customers. They like nice things but they do not want to feel like they are
running the risk of over-paying. So, they tend to wait until something has
been on the market a bit before they make a move. They will often research
heavily and will likely comprise a great portion of your website traffic. To
attract them, your website must state the facts about why a metal roof is a
wise investment for them and their home. They are very quick to talk about
the dollars involved in any purchase, because dollars weigh heavily in their
Typical careers for the Early Majority may be accountants, managers,
teachers, office workers, skilled tradespeople, and plant supervisors. They
will be attracted by words like “proven,” “wise investment,” and “energy
savings.” They will be attracted to job signs and even to direct mail pieces
talking about metal roofs going up in their neighborhood. You are very
likely to find this consumer at home shows where they are trying to learn
about trends in construction and home remodeling.
The Early Majority consumer will care about return on investment. A metal
roof will make sense to them because of its expected life and its energy
savings. They have less disposable income than Early Adopters but they are
not afraid to spend money when something is a wise investment. They may be
consumers who are attracted to finance options and they will definitely
appreciate your helping them look at their different roofing options on an
anticipated cost per year basis. However – a word of caution — let them do
the computation themselves; they do not want to feel led or forced!
An Early Majority buyer may have a very long buying cycle, weighing the pros
and cons to decide on a product long before they need it and then spending
time saving money to make the investment. This is the consumer who you may
meet at a home show and then cultivate through newsletters, calls, and email
campaigns for 2 – 3 years before they make a purchase. During that time,
they will do a great deal of talking to their Early Adopter friends and
weigh their opinions into their decision as well.
With residential metal roofing, the Late Majority consumer may be a little
bit older consumer. About 30% of your customers may fit this category. They
may very well be people who have seen metal roofs for years, and believed in
them, and now they finally need a roof and they set out to buy a metal roof.
This may be a more rural consumer who is accustomed to metal roofs on barns
and old farmhouses.
While conventional marketing gurus will tell you that the Late Majority
purchaser may be very cost conscious, we often see that, while they are
thrifty and careful in their spending, they are also often great savers and
will have the money “in hand” to spend on their new roof. That doesn’t mean
they want to feel like they over-paid though. They will be very suspicious
of salespeople and anyone they deem as being “slick” or not trustworthy. The
Late Majority consumer is very much a consumer who will buy the person, not
the product. Once they have make up their mind on product – they will seek
out a trustworthy contractor who pays attention to them.
Careers held by Late Majority consumers include farmers, truck drivers,
factory workers, and even retired folks. While they have perhaps never been
high annual income folks, again, they have been wise in their spending and
their saving. Their homes will be more modest and they will drive reliable
“workhorse” vehicles that have a few miles on them. They will likely not be
the online researchers that the Early Majority folks are but they will rely
heavily on the advice of those they trust.
Words and phrases that may attract Late Majority buyers include “this is
your grandpa’s roof,” “the roof you’ve long admired,” and “finally!” Fact
is, these folks have long known the value of a metal roof – it just took
them a little longer to make the decision than others. They do not make
purchasing decisions until they deem that it really is the right time for
them to do so.
While it’s not impossible to sell a metal roof to a Laggard, they will
likely be your most challenging prospect. They are the last consumers to
adopt products and technologies. They are very cost conscious and, in the
end, would prefer to maintain status quo than to change anything. They would
rather stick with old technology until new technology is not an increased
price. Don’t expect Laggards to make up more than about 5% of your customer
base. They are unafraid of not “fitting in” with society.
A phrase that might appeal to a Laggard is “why aren’t you doing what
everyone else has already done?” However, keep in mind, that they will have
a couple of hundred answers to that question. Actually, a message that might
appeal to them would pertain to the proven history of metal roofing. There
is a chance that, by explaining that metal roofing has been around since the
1800s or before, a Laggard might see themselves as finally needing to make a
Typically lower income and less educated, your best message to a Laggard is
that a metal roof has become the “norm” rather than something
So, how do you use this information on the five consumer adoption patterns.
There are two ways:
- If, for some reason, you see your target market (either overall or perhaps
through a certain method of promotion you’re pursuing) as being primarily
one of the five types, use messages to attract that consumer. If you have no
reason to target one of the other types, though, target the Early Adopter
and Early Majority as they are likely to be your most proliferous customers.
- Once you meet a prospective customer, look for clues as to which type of
consumer they are, and then, on the fly, tweak your messaging to be
attractive to them.
As always, thank you for following the Residential Metal Roofing Executive
Report. Past issues and even discussion are available online. Please email me at email@example.com if you have any
suggestions for future issues.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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