Why the product adoption lifecycle applies to human interactions and how to authentically build advocates — for yourself.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Think of a product you love. What do you love about it? Do you love it enough to tell others about it? If so, you’re an advocate for that product. That business is lucky to have you. According to this Gartner statistic, “more than 75% of B2B buyers consult three or more sources of advocacy before they make a purchase decision,” and according to this survey, “93% of consumers read online reviews before buying a product.”

While models vary, the product adoption phases can generally be grouped into four categories:

  • Phase 1: Interest and Activation
  • Phase 2: Adoption
  • Phase 3: Expansion and Learning (Loyalty)
  • Phase 4: Advocacy

In Phase 1, people evaluate your product to see if it suits their needs. In Phase 2, they decide to try or buy. In Phase 3, they become loyal to the product or brand by making repeat purchases or exploring new product lines. In Phase 4, a small few will become advocates for you — openly recommending you to their peers, which can lead to a 10x reach for you.

Product Adoption and You: How the Product Adoption Phases Apply to Your Relationships

Now, bend reality with me for a second and imagine you are the product.

“Imagine you are the product.”

That’s right. From here on, this article will explore how those four stages of the product adoption lifecycle apply to you — and how you can instill confidence in others that may lead to them becoming your advocates. First things first — people do ‘research’ on you before deciding whether or not they like you. What do I mean by ‘research’?

First Impressions

First impressions matter. While split-second judgments will inevitably be made about you when you first meet someone new, it can take people up to 7 or even 30 seconds to decide whether or not they like you. According to a NYPost article, “seven in ten Americans (69 percent) form a first impression of somebody before they even speak.”

Think about the last time you met someone new. What’s the first thing you noticed about him/her/them? Interesting results on this Science of Human page claim most people notice eyes and smiles first, probably because they provide an indication of the person’s temperament. Are they competent and trustworthy, friendly and charismatic, or angry and disengaged?

This 2010 article backs that up, stating, “All over the world, it turns out, people judge others on two main qualities: warmth (whether they are friendly and well intentioned) and competence (whether they have the ability to deliver on those intentions).”

“People judge others on two main qualities: warmth… and competence.”

Pass the Sniff Test

Assuming you aren’t overly offensive or actively trying to harm someone, you’ll probably pass the first sniff test. Now, people will be evaluating what you say and do to determine more about who you are.

If they decide they like you enough to continue a conversation, you’ll have the chance to engage with one another and learn about your common goals and interests, which is key to establishing a lasting relationship.

Self-Deprecation Sours Good Flavor — or Looks

For some of us introverts, building rapport isn’t as simple as talking about the latest sports games or pop culture. It takes effort. Sometimes to build rapport while presenting or establishing yourself in a new group, you overshare, or make self-deprecating statements to try and break the ice. I’ve done it, many times, and there is a time and place for it in more established relationships.

But when you’re first meeting people, be careful with self-deprecating humor, even if you know exactly what you’re doing. One key attribute of more than half of personality traits is judgment (or the act of being judgmental).

According to this 2016 Allure article, “a whopping 80 percent of people said everyone judges other people’s looks. But the good news is that even more of us (84 percent) are trying to be less judgmental.”

While people are most likely to judge you on how you look, they will also judge you on what you say, how you say it, your mannerisms, and how you interact with others, primarily as they get to know you. And most of them want to love you, so don’t give them a reason to believe you’re incompetent until they know for a fact you’re not.

Judgers Gonna Judge

According to a study conducted in Sep 2017 by StatisticBrain and referenced on this blog, 54.1% of people are judgers and 45.9% are perceivers. More on that here. Does this mean judgers are always looking at things from a negative lens? No, of course not. In fact, judgers can add a lot of value: they’re decisive, task-oriented, diligent planners.

It’s not their fault they’re judging you — it’s in their nature. It’s in all our nature, as a species. It’s evolutionary. Throughout our history, we had to judge whether or not to eat that wild berry on the bush, or cross that swift-flowing river to migrate across the land. We had to judge whether or not that new face is a friend or foe.

Authenticity Wins

So, how do we earn the judgers’ (and perceivers’) approvals? We influence the outcomes based on what we can control, starting with being our most authentic selves. Here are some ideas:

1. Present a solid appearance.

2. Make strong opening remarks — on stage, on camera, at an event, or across the table — with a smile.

3. Be authentic in building rapport and finding common interests. What’s in it for the other person?

4. Don’t just talk about it — demonstrate your expertise.

5. Cast your ‘capabilities net’ far and wide, to show your dynamic skills.

6. Ask for feedback.

7. Apply your learnings to continually improve, and help others grow too.

What You Do Matters Most

Even if you say the wrong thing at first, people are often willing to forgive, especially if you demonstrate competence and values they admire in other ways. The old adage, ‘actions speak louder than words’ is frequently quoted for a reason. To build trust, do what you say you’re going to do. Understand the expectations — and meet (or exceed) them.

Casting Your ‘Capabilities Net’

If you’ve done any ounce of introspection or conceived of a personal brand, you know yourself best. Your strengths, skills, and capabilities can be applied in many areas, if you’re brave (and if you’re timid, don’t worry; you can become brave).

Once you’ve established a solid, authentic relationship, it’s time to reinforce it by showing you offer more than what people originally thought. Volunteer for stretch assignments, express your interests in different areas, share your knowledge about an unrelated topic, or take some other action to show — not just say — ‘I’m capable of more.’

By now, people are starting to take notice. Not only did they research and ‘adopt’ you; they learned you have a lot to offer. Passing these product adoption levels in your relationships can transform skeptics to advocates— people who will support and champion you on your journey.

Why? Because you’ve earned it by being thoughtful about how others perceive you, authentic in your interactions, and illustrative with your talents.

This will inspire others, and along the way, as you get to know people, you can make those jokes about your ‘soft spots’ or ‘weaknesses,’ because by then, people will know the real you, and they’ll know you’re actually quite talented.

Be confident. Be authentic. And show it, don’t tell.


The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.


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