Like most high-tech marketers, I found Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” essential reading. His concept of the gap that exists between Early Adopters and the Mass Market, and the fundamental shifts in emphasis required to bridge it, has proved to be a key frame of reference in crafting growth strategies for high-potential companies. I enjoyed the privilege of being coached by the Great Man himself, just a few months after the books first publication. I believe the core technology marketing principles he laid out remain fundamentally true.
But something has changed. The Chasm has got Closer.
At the time Crossing the Chasm was published – in the mid-90’s – it seemed reasonable to assume that Innovators and Early Adopters made up as much as 20% of the buying market. That may have been an exaggerated view even then, but the world has clearly changed, and they now typically represent a low single-digit percentage of the addressable market.
Here’s why this is important: Early Market Buyers identify applications for emerging technologies, but the post-Chasm Mainstream demand proven solutions for key business problems. With an even higher percentage of the market lying the other side of the Chasm, emerging high-tech companies are running out of Friends, Family and Early Adopter buyers far faster than their pre-2000 counterparts did.
Technology-driven companies are falling into the Chasm earlier than before, and getting stuck for longer. Many will never make it out. It’s placing an even higher value on understanding where your Mainstream market bridgeheads lie, what’s really important to the buyers you are trying to address, and understanding what it would take to motivate them to take a buying action.
It strikes me that the Chasm is a bit like adolescence. And it seems that adolescence, for many high-tech companies is going to have to be curtailed, and they are going to have to grow up faster …