What Chasm? An Introduction to Geoffrey A. Moore’s ‘Crossing the Chasm’

chasm

You’ve probably been in this situation before.

You’ve developed a great product, hired the perfect team, and you’re already generating significant revenue. Your press is good, and your future appears to be wide open.

But then you hit a wall.

At first you don’t even realize what’s happened–everything is going to plan. You’re generating new sales and you’re still the talk of the town.

But then, slowly but surely, new leads begin to dry up. You’re swamped with demands from previous customers, and you begin to fret as your investors increasingly cast anxious glances at your stagnating growth rate.

What happened, you begin to ask yourself? Where did I go wrong?

According to Geoffrey A. Moore, you’re doing just fine–as long as you realize one thing:

You’re no longer the business you once were. 

You’re now at the stage which Moore memorably refers to as ‘Crossing the Chasm’.

Chasm? you may ask yourself. What chasm? You repeat to yourself that business is steady, that you just need to make a few small tweaks to usher in a new phase of growth. You assure yourself that things are fine.

Now you’ve made a mistake.

You’ve succumbed to the #1 error that companies make when attempting to generalize their product into the mainstream market: they fail to realize where they’re at in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle.

The chasm is simply this–the gap that exists between the early market and the mainstream market. The early market is comprised of innovators and early adopters who are willing to take on significant risk in order to gain an advantage over their competition.

This is the market you’ve been successful at so far. And this success should be celebrated, while also understanding that the tactics that helped you reach this point will begin to be less and less effective.

Why?

Because unlike the jump from innovators to early adopters, or later on the jump from the pragmatists to the conservatives, the gap between the early adopters and the pragmatists is massive and fundamentally different in nature.

As Moore explains, pragmatists are far more risk-averse than early adopters and innovators. They want a stable product that has been thoroughly vetted and championed by other leaders in their industry. They want to know that they’re investing their company’s resources in the de facto industry standard–for them, as Moore quips, the cutting edge is the bleeding edge. Stability and assured value come first.

Are you starting to see the chasm?

The pragmatists who dominate the early mainstream market fundamentally don’t trust the early adopters who, at this point, are the only customers using your technology.

Crossing the chasm, then, means successfully navigating this crucial territory that your product must cross through. You need to find a way to convince the pragmatists of the mainstream market that you’re product is not just another fad, but rather that it provides real value to their company, and you must do all of this without relying on your previous early-market clientele for support.

If this sounds difficult, well, you’re right. It is. But realizing where you’re at is half the battle, and the rest of Moore’s book is dedicated to showing you just how you can navigate this crucial terrain.

In short, you must establish a beachhead.

The next post in this series will describe just what that means.

 

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