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Berkonomics

Water flows downhill. Why fight it?

Substitute the word “money” for “water” and we have an explanation for most all of the reasons why successful products move from concept through early adopters through mass market.

Money flows to the cheapest effective solution to a problem.  Fighting this fact will just extend the misery of accepting a product or marketing failure in the marketplace.

Take for example, adoption of solar panels or hybrid vehicles in the mass market.   Most of us want to do well for the environment, but are willing to do so only if we do well for ourselves when measuring alternative costs.  Solar panel installations break even only after over years of use, even with subsidies offered by electric companies or governmental organizations. And adoption of solar technology for home and business has been relatively slow as a result.

[Email readers, continue here…]  As solar panel efficiency increases from 20% to 40% and more, and as electricity prices rise, the net breakeven for solar panels should decrease dramatically.  Even when subsidies stop, the economic breakeven will decrease to a few years as mass acceptance becomes real.  And the reason for the delays, as well as the later successes, will surely be in the money saved, not just in “doing well by doing good.”

Hybrid cars become attractive investments when the extra cost can be amortized over a year or two of savings in fuel.  Yes, in both cases cited, the cost of fuel is a factor as it rises over time, reducing the time to breakeven.

Whenever someone asks why a product or service has taken so long to succeed in the marketplace – when so obviously a success with early adopters – why not try using the water flowing downhill analogy.  It provides a proper insight almost every time.

  • Water may flow downhill, but without a pump, it will never get over the mountain.

    The inventor of the shopping cart failed to convince any grocery store owner of its value or merit until he paid strangers to use one to do their shopping. Only when enough customers inquired why he didn’t have any in bis store did the flood gates open. The concept was great, but selling the concept to grocery store owners was a failure until the right “pump” was introduced from customers.

  • Well said. It’s taken DriveCam over a decade to become an overnight success – because it requires the customer use a new management tool. Hundreds of prospects have said, “wow, that’s great, everyone should use it, and we’re going to soon!” but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. Pavlov was right – we all respond to immediate and certain consequences. We only do the right thing if it feels good at the time – just like water choosing the easiest path.

  • Brad Engstrom

    I have always said human nature is like water and electricity. Water seeks it’s own level and electricity takes the path of least resistance. I like your analogy with money, it’s the same thing, cause money flows with human nature.

  • There must also be a hill to flow down.

    I have experienced the problem twice now of having a product with early adopters, good pricing, good features, etc. but without a spread of adoption. The first time, I abandoned the project when the technological landscape changed and I had determined that the cost of conversion would not be compensated by additional sales. The second time,the situation is reversed because the world market for our niche is over one billion dollars, and we can expand from there into other areas with much greater revenue potential.

    When we started, however, we had plenty of oohs and ahs and a few early adopters to keep us going, but our market was not ready for us. There simply was no hill for the water to flow down. We persevered and now have that hill. It’s rapidly growing from a small hill into a large mountain. We tried to make the hill unsuccessfully. Fortunately, we now have new challenges.

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