Crossing the Chasm – do you know your audience as much as your product?

One of the best ways to see if an idea has actually worked is to revisit past theories, thoughts, and concepts. Considered to be the bible of high-tech marketing in the 1990’s, Geoffrey A. Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” is full of insight that have played out through the 90’s, the 00’s and now even into the (20)10’s. Even though the book is specifically written at a time when high-technology was just being introduced into our everyday lives, many of Moore’s marketing lessons can be seen in terms of how technology and online platforms are now so integral to many people’s lives.

The book was first introduced to me during a course at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University on using marketing for social development and health behavioral change. I finally had a chance to read it 3 years later and really enjoyed the 30-year old ideas in the book when thinking about how social media, technology and communications in general has evolved. If you’ve heard of the terms “innovators, early adopters, and laggards” when it comes to marketing and behavioral change, it probably came from the book Crossing the Chasm.

The 210-page book is full of insightful tips on marketing that can be applied to not only the technology industry but also most other businesses that have products, services, and brands to sell or bring to a market. I believe many of the ideas in the book also applies to development and social fields because we want to “advocate” and raise awareness to alleviate poverty, provide humanitarian relief, and ensure sustainable development of communities and countries. When it comes down to it we’re trying to convince others to change their behaviors in order to do something socially responsible.

Marketing must refocus away from selling product and toward creating… and maintaining an ongoing customer relationship, so that as things change and stir in our immediate field of activity, we can look up over the smoke and dust and see an abiding partner, willing to cooperate and adjust with us. Marketing’s first deliverable is that partnership.

The key to Moore’s strategy in crossing the chasm between the innovators and early adopters of a product (or in an idea) is replicate D-Day: to target a very specific niche market where it can be dominated from the outset, force your competitors out of that market niche and then use it as a base for broader operations. In order to establish this position, Moore believes that the “pragmatist customers”, those reluctant to adopt, will only buy from market leaders. At the same time, people generally understand who’s the market leader by comparing with other competitors. So, in this context, competition is a fundamental condition to chasm crossing and that companies (or organizations) do this well by focusing on the values and concerns of the pragmatists and addressing the reasons why someone should “buy your product” – shifting the idea from product-based to market-based values.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you probably aren’t going to get there.


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