Strategic Comms #44: How To Reach Your Tipping Point

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(This is the 44th in a continuing series on strategic communications. Click here for earlier segments)

By Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group

In our last blog post (see Strategic Communications Part 43: Use the Golden Circle to Inspire Action), we stressed the importance of starting with why – that is, your purpose, cause or belief – to inspire action.  In addition, starting with why can also help you reach your tipping point to win wider support for your idea, product or service.

As Malcolm Gladwell stated in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, a tipping point is the point at which things reach epidemic proportions.  This point is best illustrated by Everett M. Rogers’ theory of Diffusion of Innovations, which seeks to explain how new ideas spread through society.  Specifically, the law states that ideas spread through five segments of the population represented by a bell curve (see Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1

The first segment consists of innovators at 2.5 percent, followed by the early adopters at 13.5 percent, the early majority at 34 percent, the late majority at 34 percent and the laggards at 16 percent.  In order to achieve mass-market penetration of your idea, product or service, you need to reach the first 15 percent to 18 percent of the market.  This is because the early majority won’t adopt an idea, product or service until it is first adopted by others.  It is this point that is defined as the tipping point.  Further, the process of getting to this point is referred to as crossing the chasm, a phrase coined by Geoffrey Moore in his book by the same name.

According to Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, the best way to appeal to this group of influencers, the so-called innovators and early adopters, is to talk about what you believe.  In so doing, you’ll attract others who believe what you believe or, in other words, that critical mass that will help you reach your tipping point.

Owen Eagan is a Senior Consultant for Saint Consulting, an international management consulting firm specializing in land use politics.  He is also an adjunct faculty member at Emerson College, the nation’s only four-year institution dedicated exclusively to communication and the performing arts. Email

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