A Single Beachhead, Really?: Finding Your Niche Market and Preparing to Cross the Chasm

Read the first article that introduces Geoffrey A. Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm here.

Step 1: Accept the Chasm

In the previous article, I discussed how the worst thing you can do when you find yourself in the chasm is to pretend like it doesn’t exist.A Single Beachhead, Really_ (3)

You may be telling yourself that you’re wise enough to make the right call at the right time.

But there are forces working against you:

  • Dwindling resources
  • Residual demands from clients
  • Aggressive investors
  • New competitors
  • Dwindling leads

Claustrophobic yet?

All of these factors are pushing you to act now, innovate now, expand now and suddenly you feel like potential sales are slipping right through your fingers as time ticks away.

You begin to tell yourself that you need to sell to everyone at every moment possible.

And suddenly, as Moore points out, you wake up to discover that you’ve become a sales-driven company rather than a market-driven company. This is disastrous. 

Why?

To take Moore’s metaphor, it’s akin to trying to take back WW2 Europe by foolishly sending platoons to every beach on the continent. You lose every single time you meet resistance, and even if you do manage a victory no one is there to help you secure it.

You have zero momentum, a product trying to do too many things at once, and ultimately a company whose efforts are spread far too thin.

You’re in the chasm, and you’re falling.

But, if you accept your situation, there’s hope.

Step 2: Attend Invasion School 

So, you’ve decided to accept that you’re in the chasm and now you’re asking, what next?

Your goal now is to identify a tightly bounded market, that is, a market where most of the players are known, communicate with one another, share news sources (trade journals etc.), and face similar problems.

In other words, you’re looking for a beachhead, a niche market.

Why? Because:

  1. Your solutions are easily transferrable across customers, saving you valuable time and resources.
  2. Word of mouth between clients spreads quickly allowing you to generate momentum to cross the chasm.
  3. A niche market gives your company the focus and direction it needs to act as a cohesive whole instead of being a shambolic mess where good leads go to die.
  4. You’re facing off against a relatively set number of competitors, which allows research on your competition to go the extra mile.
  5. You’re gaining the crucial respect and foothold in the mainstream market that allows you to enact a bowling pin effect.
  6. And finally, you’re forced to create a whole product solution for your niche market, which is exactly what the early majority, the pragmatists, are looking for.

As mentioned in the first article, the pragmatists that you’re trying to appeal to when crossing the chasm only trust the opinions and decisions of other pragmatists.

Without securing a beachhead, all you can do is point to your success with early adopters, a group of people that pragmatists actively distance themselves from.

You may have the greatest product in the world, but if you can’t get pragmatists to recommend your product to other pragmatists, then you’re in for a rough ride.

Once again, you must secure a single beachhead.

One reason alone makes it worth it to restrict your vision to a small, tightly-bounded market:

What a mainstream market accepts, it keeps.

You can’t afford to rest on your laurels, but time and time again the mainstream market is willing to give breaks to the market leader that it’d never extend to a new entrant.

Why?

Because they’re now invested in your success. They want you to succeed. Every new sale that you receive increases and fortifies the marketing ecosystem coalescing around your product. More documentation, more seminars, more employees familiar with your products–the list goes on.

So the next time someone demands action nowask yourself this:

Will this action help me to secure a beachhead?

If the answer is no and you’re still tempted to go enact their idea…

Start from the top and read again.

Don’t let yourself be another company with a fantastic product that flounders just when the greatest source of revenue is within reach (the person in the back screaming about Microsoft, I’ll leave to Moore: “great causes make bad law”).

Of course, much more goes into securing a beachhead than this. But now, with the goal in mind, you can begin to develop a cohesive and focused invasion strategy.

This will be the topic of the next article in this series on Geoffrey A. Moore’s Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers.

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