GREAT IDEAS: Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

One of Inc. Magazine’s “Top 10 Marketing Books of All Time”, Crossing the Chasm has been reprinted three times, and has become the must-have book for innovators and marketing in the technology sector.

Here, Geoffrey Moore talks about the key lessons from his business classic.

Early adopters want to go first, but the mainstream wants to go fifth or sixth. We call this problem the chasm. That led to [us thinking about] the issue, how would you cross the chasm?

Whenever disruptive technology shows up the early adopters want to get onto the bandwagon. The mainstream want to postpone it.

There are two profiles in the early adopters sector: the technology enthusiasts and the visionaries. The enthusiasts love the new platform for its own sake. The visionaries are looking for competitive advantage.

Early adopters are happy with a minimum viable product. They know they’re going first, they know there’s no ecosystem of support. They extract a price for that; you’ll do research and development for the early market that you’ll never use with anyone else.

Concentrate early on appealing to flagship companies (like American Express or Deloitte). If you do your visionary work in a mum and pop company, you do the same amount of work, but you don’t get any credit for it. You’ll fail before you get to the chasm.

The early market can be categorised by big deals but not by profit. You want radiating references to help you raise your profile. You want to do 2-3 big deals with flagship companies. Others will talk about you because you’re with American Express or whoever.

On the other side of the chasm, there are two types of majority. The pragmatists (the early majority) and the conservatives (the late majority).

Seek out the pragmatists in pain. They have a problem they can’t solve through any other option. You need to bring partners to the table so that you, as a group, can solve that problem.

If you genuinely solve the same problem in the same industry, once, twice, three times; word gets around. The visionaries might want to solve the problems for the world, but (to appeal to the majority) you solve a problem for a very small cohort.

The very first example was the Macintosh. It ended up crossing the chasm for art departments to do graphics for presentations. Steve Jobs hated that; he said this isn’t for art departments, this is for everybody. But, the art departments were the pragmatists in pain.

You need laser focus. You don’t get to do this twice. Instead of holding a match and running it up and down under a log, you light the paper that ignites the kindling, and then eventually you can make a big fire.

Once you get the first niche market in the mainstream, use the bowling alley analogy and look to adjacent pins (markets) on either side of your customers with the same problems. You either leverage your reputation or your solution. Niche by niche, that’s a great way to grow.

Eventually, you will need to become more horizontal, more mass market. We call that the tornado, that’s when everyone in the room has got to get the mobile phone, or website or whatever it is. Now is when you want more marketing budget, more salespeople [not earlier].

The conservative positon is that ‘I would rather stay with what I have’. Once they bring you on, they are incredible loyal, they’re very sticky, but they need impeccable service. You can’t do that at the beginning.

How disruptive is your idea? If very [disruptive], then you do have to start at the beginning of the lifecycle. Find those visionary customers, and get those big projects. Not so different? Then you start on the other side of the chasm. Look for those pragmatists in pain. If you want to get a company to $10-$20 million, that is the quickest and safest way to do it.

The world needs entrepreneurial energy. There is no lack of problems that are unsolved. You just have to commit to the problem, not your own particular ambition, and let your ambitions grow on the back of delivering value to the world.

Geoffrey’s GREAT EIGHT, answers to eight getting to know you questions we ask all our authors (shared in his interview on Zone to Win):

Recommended book: The Big Picture: What It’s All About by Sean Carroll, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

If you could co-author a book with anybody who would that be, what would the book title be? Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovators Dilemma.

Great piece of advice you could share: In a changing world, it’s important to design your business back from the customer. The customer is your first signal that your old values need to get redirected. Rather than trying to invent the future, staple yourself to a customer undergoing painful changes.

What’s been your lowest moment, and how did you recover? I was working at a start-up and the founder didn’t keep agreements with investors. On the Saturday we were told there would be no payroll on a Monday. To survive, I checked in with people I knew in the industry, and said “So, I have a little free time, is there anything I can take off your plate for a couple of thousand dollars?” I made more money in six weeks than I’d ever made, and that’s how I became a consultant.

How do you relax? Family and golf.

What’s a fun fact about you that’s not widely known? I have a Ph.D. in medieval literature. Both literature and business are interested in strategies for being successful, so I’ve built a bridge between both parts of my life.

What’s your secret of success? I try to staple myself to a customer’s problem and I don’t let go. Wherever it drags me, I don’t let go, and sooner or later, (with others’ buy-in), it’s wrestled to the ground.

What’s your prediction for 2025? We’re heading towards a darker world. I think it’s going to be a tough decade. I’m hoping we can weave something responsive out of that. Right now it’s not an optimistic time. We all need challenges, this will be a challenge.

Members of The Growth Faculty can watch or listen to two interviews with Geoffrey Moore, where he speaks about his books Crossing the Chasm (log in and click on Crossing the Chasm), and also Zone to Win by logging in and clicking here. To become a member of The Growth Faculty, and receive substantial discounts on tickets to our live international speaker events, click here.


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