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Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers


“Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distance in order to fight.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Customer organizations can be large or small, local or global, central or decentral, young or old, but what beyond these criteria is much more important for a Disruptor to know is: What is the level of risk their decision makers accept with regards to Disruptive Innovations?


A study of the North Central Rural Sociology Committee (Subcommittee for the Study of the Diffusion of Farm Practices) in 1957 defined 5 categories of adopters of new technologies:


1/ Innovators had larger farms, were more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented;

2/ Early Adopters were younger, more educated, tended to be community leaders, and less prosperous;

3/ Early Majority was more conservative but open to new ideas, active in community, and influenced their neighbors;

4/ Late Majority was older, less educated, fairly conservative, and less socially active; and

5/ Laggards were very conservative, had small farms and capital, the oldest and least educated.


In “Crossing the Chasm” Geoffrey Moore describes a discontinuity in the development of the market between Early Adopter and Early Majority customers which requires the Disruptor to carefully pick time and location of his attack on the Incumbents.


For a Disruptor it is vital to understand that the conversation with customers completely changes when crossing the chasm, shifting away from a tech-heavy pitch to a much more commercially focused one. This requires both marketing and sales to completely revise and rebuilt their messaging to be successful.


Early Majority customers expect what Moore calls a "Whole Product" so the disruptive innovation alone is not sufficient and needs to be complemented by products and services to implement and operate it. Building out this ecosystem takes time and needs to be started already far in advance of entering the mainstream market.


Next to Powerbase Selling and Managing Corporate Lifecycles Crossing the Chasm represents one of three cornerstones of the Disruption Selling approach and is, while it was published already 30 years ago, still worth to read in its entirety.


For a more detailed synopsis and critique refer to my 3rd Party Review of this book shared under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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