Researching Your Beachhead: Crossing the Chasm with Informative Intuition

In the previous article on Geoffrey A. Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, we looked at why it’s necessary to secure what Moore calls a beachhead. This article will focus on just how one begins to achieve this goal.

Step 3: Choose Your Beachhead Wisely!

Now that you’ve finally accepted that you’re in the dangerous territory of the chasm, and you’ve also resisted the urge to madly fling your sales team in every direction, you can breathe. And think.

It’s time to get back to basics.

Right now you have a product that you could potentially market to a whole slew of customers, but by focusing on those that are 1) in the most pain and 2) within a tightly-bounded market, you can massively increase your company’s chances of crossing the dreaded chasm.

Sure, sure, you say, I’ve heard all of this before. But how do I actually go about identifying my market segment? 

This is where your skin might start to crawl. If your product is truly disruptive then you face a massive problem:

Hint: it’s the chasm again.

Your problem is that it’s extremely difficult to acquire customer data when no customers in the mainstream market have been exposed to your novel product. In other words, you’re flying blind.

Or, at least, that’s how it can feel. Moore refers to this moment of recognition as one of paralyzing anxiety. Why? Because you must make a fundamental decision about your company’s future and this decision is both high-risk and without the support of hard data.

It’s time to take another leap.

Step 4: Begin to Trust Informed Intuition

At this point, many executives may begin to make strange faces and then proceed to burst out in laughter.

Intuition? Really?

No. read carefully: informed intuition.

What’s the difference? Straight-up intuition is just a hunch. Informed intuition, on the other hand, requires you to mobilize the total creative and analytical power of your team to create user case scenarios. These scenarios will help you discover the underlying strata that link together various market segments. You can now rapidly begin crossing off potential landing sites until you arrive at a shortened list of ideal beachheads.

Reverting to pure analytical reason at this point is tempting. But avoid it at all costs

Instead, put analytical reason to work in the service of informed intuition. You need to get creative in this crucial period. Constantly referring to old data that your product is fundamentally meant to invalidate is going to leave you trapped at sea rather securing a specific beachhead. Don’t do this!

Rather, it’s time to get to work creating mockups of potential customer profiles.

Keep reading to learn how.

Step 5: Developing Your Cache of Intuitive Data

First, brainstorm a list of 50 different character types who your team could imagine using your product. And then follow these customers through use case scenarios, documenting their journey from their exposure to the initial problem that prompts them to seek out your product all the way to the resolution of that problem–be honest, many of these resolutions may not turn out in your favour.

But if you have a solid product, then a handful of more promising leads should begin to coalesce.

How do you determine which leads are worth pursuing? Moore recommends ranking each scenario on these 9 categories:

  1. Target Customer: does a single economic buyer actually exist for our product?
  2. Compelling reason to buy: are there enough reasons / enough pain present for the customer to buy?
  3. Whole Product: can a whole product solution be created in the next three months that can satisfy this target customer?
  4. Competition: have you been beat to the punch?

These four categories raise what Moore refers to as showstopper issues–problems that should make you think twice and then again about pursuing these targets.

In fact, if any of these showstopper issues are not resolved, you’re better off doing more research rather than committing to the wrong beachhead. Yes, you’re window of opportunity is shrinking, but spending half of it pursuing the wrong target is an even more significant waste of time and resources.

The next five categories are not showstopper issues, but are still important to factor in when selecting an ideal beachhead.

  1. Distribution: is there already a sales channel in place to deliver our product?
  2. Pricing: is the price you’re offering consistent with what the buyer can afford?
  3. Partners and Allies: do you have any partners or allies already operating there?
  4. Positioning: what is your current reputation within that market segment?
  5. Next target customer: if your successful, how does this win set you up for another?

Now, assemble your team and have everyone rate each scenario that you created based on these 9 criteria. Remember: the first four issues are key–if one of these seems weak, investigate further and determine if it’s truly a showstopper issue before proceeding.

Encountering disagreement?

Perfect. These are the types of conversations you want to be having now instead of three months, six months, or a year from now. Hash it out, discuss, and learn. It’s only through this process that you’ll come to understand all of your product’s nuances and which clients are your best bets.

The beachhead is now in sight. In the next article we’ll take up Moore’s chapter on preparing the invasion force.

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