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25 Years of "Crossing the Chasm" & We Still Have a Lot to Learn

May 13, 2016
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Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers (Collins Business Essentials)
, by Geoffrey A. Moore was first published in 1991. While this book was targeted at marketing in the High-Tech space, the lessons uncovered are powerful and can easily be transferred to any industry. Over the 25 years since it was published, Moore has updated and revised the book 3 times in order to make sure that the message has continued to be relevant. Those who have embraced the message and put it into practice have seen amazing results. But what about those that didn’t make the leap?
 
Taking your business across the chasm is not for the faint of heart. But it can be done if you play your cards right. Every new product or business goes through a process that starts with engaging early adopters and, if you're lucky (or plan and execute appropriately), moving into the majority and beyond. The “chasm” refers to the vast gap between innovators/early adopters and the rest of the “customer adoption life cycle.”
 
Crossing the Chasm - Inbound Marketing
 
As Moore points out in his book, those that cross the chasm successfully are the ones that create whole products & services. They understand segmentation and properly framing their message so that it’s easy for the pragmatists to receive and connect with. Then they shift the company's mind and culture to serve the majority, rather than a small segment. 

There Are No Short Cuts

There have been many disruptive products that never made it because they believed they could find a short cut. Well, there is no short cut. Honestly, I’m not quite sure why everyone wants to go “viral” or get a quick break. Name one company in your industry that is making an impact and did so overnight…. go on, I’ll wait.
 
The truth is, those that stand the test of time, Microsoft, Google, Coke… did it with hard work, a targeted message and shifted their focus as needed. This took years, not days or weeks, to pull off. When it comes to breaking into an industry with a disruptive product, a strategic long-term plan is a must. 
 
I love the analogy Moore gives in the book about D-Day. The goal of D-Day was to establish a beach head, a launching point, where the Allies could achieve the ultimate goal of taking back Europe and ending the war. They had a long-term strategy with incremental goals in place. When it comes to launching your product or business, the same rules apply. Take it one step at a time, but never lose focus on your end goal. 
 

Your Product Isn’t For Everyone

While we would like to believe we have a solution to meet everyone's needs, we don’t. Our product is not for everyone, but it is for someone (Tweet This). This is where understanding your audience and segmentation come into play. Before you can market your product you need to know who you are talking to, and not just their buying habits.
 
As Moore say, “Understand their dream, and you will understand how to market to them” (Tweet This).  Just doing market research and simple buyer personas will only get you so far. You need to get into the heads of your potential customers and understand their dreams. In doing so, you will be able to share a more personal message that meets them where they are at and helps them get to where they want to go.
 

Trust Your Gut

When choosing a segment to go after don’t put all of your trust in data. “You need to understand that informed intuition, rather than analytical reason, is the most trustworthy decision-making tool”, says Moore. I couldn’t agree more. We live in the world of “Big Data” and while this is great, nothing beats your gut. I knew years ago I needed to make a shift but didn’t because the data didn’t add up. Thankfully I woke up, but what if I hadn't trusted my intuition? Don't let analytical reasons prevent you from making the leap. Trust your gut.
 

Framing is Essential

In Seth Godin’s book All Marketers Are Liars” he does a wonderful job explaining worldview and the importance of framing your message. When we want to cross the chasm and market to the pragmatist, also known as the early majority, we have to frame our message in a way that resonates with them and reinforces their world view. No matter how good your product is, if you can’t frame it correctly, you’ll never cross the chasm. This is where positioning comes in. 
 

Moore Gives 4 Key Principles of Positioning:

  1. Positioning, first and foremost, is a noun, not a verb. It is an attribute associated with a company or product, not a marketing contortion.
  2. Positioning is the single largest influence on the buying decision. How you position your product helps your audience evaluate the buyer's decision and differentiate your product from another.
  3. Positioning exists in people’s heads, not in your words. Framing your position correctly will help rationalize pre-established beliefs.
  4. People are highly conservative about entertaining changes in position. In other words, in order for them to change their worldview, they have to admit they are wrong. People don’t like to do that, or as Moore says “people do not like you messing with the stuff that is inside their heads."

Deliver Whole Products

Too often businesses come to market with only core products. While this works in the early stage with innovators and early adopters, in order to cross the chasm, you must have a whole product. Pragmatists expect more. They expect the product to work and have all the included features to meet their needs. Start lean. Add only what adds values. “The key to leaving the chasm behind is to stop custom developments and institutionalize the whole product, to build to a set of standards that the marketplace as a whole, or at least one segment of it, can support.”  People want what they expect. They aren’t looking for customized solutions to every problem. They want a product that does exactly what it says it does and consistently.
 
After 25 years, Crossing the Chasm is still relevant and needed (Get your copy of the book here). By putting into practice the proven strategy laid out in this book, you have a much higher chance of crossing over into the mainstream. Marketing trends come and go, but people rarely change. In order to make a change, you have to start small, make the leap and win the hearts of the pragmatists. This takes hard work, good intuition and a little bit of luck. Many have tried to find a shortcut, but the ones who made the crossing stuck to the plan. The question now is, will you?
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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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