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Crossing the Chasm: Summary and Takeaways

May 12, 2022 Edwin Kooistra

If your company’s revenue has flatlined and growth has stalled while you keep running experiments, and none are working out, Geoffrey Moore would tell you that you’re in the Chasm.
In his book “Crossing The Chasm”, Moore guides you on how to get over the Chasm — or avoid it in the first place.

It all started when the two colleagues Lee R. James and Warren Schirtzinger, who were consultants at Regis McKenna Inc., noticed that high-tech products often struggle to gain mainstream acceptance, despite initial interest attraction and early success— a pattern very different than that of non-technical products.

Crossing the Chasm presents the chasm framework that Mr. James and Mr. Schirtzinger were using in client engagements. It has been considered the bible for bringing cutting-edge products to larger markets—now updated with new insights into the realities of high-tech marketing.

If this book has been collecting dust on your bookshelf, keep reading to learn the key insights in this post.

The biggest learning to be taken away is that the technology adoption life cycle is the complete opposite of a uniform curve. Contrary to what is believed, product adoption does not smoothly progress through the different market segments. Instead, the big gaps between the segments can make startups fall flat.

The main cause of these “gaps” is that each market segment is simply looking for something different when buying technology. The more significant the difference is, the bigger the gap.

The Five Adoption Gaps

1- Tech Enthusiasts

Their biggest concern is to get the latest technology first, caring less about the functionality and benefit.

2- Visionaries

The new technology holds exponential benefits, so they want to influence shaping the technology to fulfill their vision.

3- Pragmatists

These people only buy technology when the benefit of using it is clear to them.

4- Conservatives

They don’t buy technology unless they start experiencing a loss from not doing so.

5- Skeptics

They only buy technology when it is forced upon them.

The difference in the above descriptions clarifies the most significant gap (or the Chasm) between the visionaries and the pragmatists.
This gap is a huge challenge to tech companies like yours: how do you go from selling to people happy with unfinished products full of potential to others fixated with proven benefits of implementation?

How can you cross the Chasm?

Crossing the Chasm
source: smithhousedesign

To effectively sell, you’ll need to understand these crucial buyers deeply and what motivates them to buy. Only then can you tailor your strategy accordingly.

Technology Enthusiasts represent the first people willing to adopt your product and provide your business with its first tentative revenue inflows. Input and feedback from them can help you refine and shape the future direction of your product. However, their revenue is incomparable and not as significant as that gained from later adoption stages.

To sell to Technology Enthusiasts, you need to recognize first that they are unlikely to contribute a vast amount of revenue. Still, they’re crucial from a product development standpoint. As an early-stage product, your focus must be on the technology behind it and its implications for future technology with attention to appeal to the egos of the tech enthusiasts. They’re almost like investors in your technology, so tailor your communication accordingly.

Visionaries, on the other side, are those willing to adopt your product with little in the way of social proof and, along with the Tech Enthusiasts, form the first segment of the adoption lifecycle, known as the early market.

In contrast to Tech Enthusiasts, Visionaries bar a higher price tag as they desire to realize incredible results. So increase your pricing, develop competitor comparisons, promote case studies and dive deep into their head to understand the dreams and ambitions that drive them to buy. Interview your current customers and create buyer personas from their insights.

Pragmatists are the first segment of the mainstream market, and they possess real spending power. Their attitude to your product is what can get your product up and running and determine its success. They look for a safe, predictable, and achievable ROI and low-risk tolerance.

To sell to Pragmatists, you need to prove to them that your product will get them a decent return on investment in a safe and predictable way.
They prefer to choose between multiple vendors in a competitive marketplace rather than a sole business in an emerging market. Demonstrate a proven track record and a cost/benefit analysis with complex ROI calculations to back up your claims. They also need to know how to use the product effectively to scale its use, so safety, security, and ease of use are crucial.
Promote social proof, develop case studies, leverage third-party reports, and use competitor comparisons to sell to them effectively.

Conservatives are even a bigger challenge. They are a reactive market, not a proactive one, with purchasing drives motivated out of perceived necessity, not a desire to improve performance.

Because they aren’t purchasing your product because they can see the value in it, and only because they have to, the price has a huge influence on their decision.
They will be unwilling to budget resources to pay for the product but still want the same technology as their competitors at the lowest possible cost ensuring their purchase is as risk-free as possible.

Sell to conservatives by focusing on the fear and risks associated with not adopting the technology while promoting social proof. Use discounting, highlight competitor comparisons, and most importantly, stabilize your product, as introducing unknown variables can have potential risks and halt a conservative sales process.

Finally, Skeptics are the only hurdle left in the way of total market saturation. They represent the final barrier and will approach your product with a unique set of motivations and needs boiled down to a single fact: skeptics hate your product.

Skeptics are the complete opposites of technology enthusiasts. They will do anything possible to resist new technology, no matter how popular it becomes.

They care about change, security, bad experiences, and a little less about social proof and peer pressure.

Instead of spending valuable resources trying to force a sale onto buyers that don’t want your product, you can focus on developing new innovations and partnerships with customers that are excited to use your product. After all, it is about getting the right customers.

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Edwin Kooistra - Product Marketer & Founder

Technology can be a huge differentiator but leveraging emerging technologies can be challenging. After my degree in Business Information Technology I decided to work on the provider side of Technology, because I believe Technology providers play an important role in guiding enterprises on their digital journey. Besides helping tech businesses to optimize their growth and go-to-market strategies, I also like to write about the topic. I hope you find it useful!

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