For 20 years, technology marketers and startup founders have used the proven methods in Geoffrey Moore’s book, "Crossing the Chasm," to help advance their fledgling businesses into mainstream success stories. Most bestselling business books aren’t quoted as much, re-read as many times or stay as relevant as "Crossing the Chasm" has all these years. I have read this classic book over five times while leading the growth of three different companies that turned newfangled products into popular bestselling brands. His terms have entered our common language and his visual models are still scribbled on Silicon Valley whiteboards. Few business books achieve this level of usefulness and longevity.
"Crossing the Chasm" is a must read for every executive and entrepreneur, especially those in the technology space. The book helps you understand how your product or service fits into the marketplace and where they are on the timeline of successful customer adoption. Early this month, Moore introduced the updated third edition of "Crossing the Chasm" using recent examples and adding several new twists for the modern digital era. The new edition is a great read and allows me to recommend it to younger entrepreneurs without mentioning, “you may not know most of the example companies, but the ideas are still true.” Infusionsoft has a special connection to Geoffrey Moore. He is on Infusionsoft’s board of directors and has been an advisor to us for more than four years. He has helped us grow from a scrappy startup to a bigger, powerhouse company that has “crossed the chasm.” We love Geoff’s astute clarity, his storytelling mastery and sharp wit.
What is "Crossing the Chasm"?
"Crossing the Chasm" popularized the “technology adoption life cycle,” which models how different groups of customers embrace a product or service over time. All established markets and popular products began as obscure inventions at the point of introduction. Not every crazy idea becomes popular, so navigating the life cycle is one of the biggest challenges for innovators, investors, and marketers. Creating and navigating the technology adoption life cycle (creating new markets) is the dream of every entrepreneur with a disruptive new idea.
In early markets, before new products are popular, only innovators (geeks) play with the new toys. Remember when Facebook first came out or having email on your phone? The people who first buy newfangled products are the innovators and early adopters who jump ahead of the crowd in search of competitive advantages. Markets only get big when “everyone seems to be doing it” and the early majority crowd rushes in when the water’s fine. Then the late majority shows up when it’s so common it can’t be avoided. This is just before the laggards get begrudgingly brought into the modern era. The technology adoption life cycle is a social law of nature that can play out in years or months: mobile phones took 20 years worldwide, smartphones took four to five years, tablets two years, and some addictive games like Candy Crush can take less than a year to get big. The “chasm” is unique to technology product adoption and it was especially present years ago when technology meant big investment and big risk for big businesses. Since mainstream users won’t take their buying cues from the geeks, a gap exists between the early market and the mainstream market. "Crossing the Chasm" is the story of navigating the curve and leaping the “chasm”—the difference between success and failure in a tech venture.
What’s new in the third edition?
The basic framework of the technology adoption lifecycle hasn’t changed in 20 years, but there is a major important new twist that Geoff brings to the updated edition of "Crossing the Chasm": the consumerization of IT. Many technology products today are marketed as consumer products (mobile phones, social media, web software, mobile apps) that are far easier for customers to try, buy, use and discard. This reduces the fear factor of making big purchases and thereby requires fewer of the chasm-crossing marketing tactics of the past. Even business technology products are being purchased more like consumer products. For modern consumer tech products, Geoff describes the “four gears” of a business that need to work together and spin faster to create viral explosion. The four gears are Acquire, Engage, Convert and Enlist. Earlier this month, Geoff shared two blog posts describing what’s new and what’s not new in the useful Crossing the Chasm frameworks. You can see both his classic and new models in this presentation and you can keep up with the discussion by following Geoffrey on Twitter at @geoffreyamoore.