Thursday, 15 March 2007

Crossing the Chasm- Book Review

Originally published 16 years ago with the second edition almost 8 years later, Moore’s “bible” for high tech organisations outlines the best approach to market and sell a high tech product to the mass market.

Filled with examples of success and failure, and using the Technology Adoption Life Cycle originally developed in 1957, Moore details who the target audience is and, using military references, the approach that should be taken to sell the product.

Moore states that it is the existence of the high tech products that allow the US to sustain its economic success. However, the concern that technology companies do not often get their marketing correct has led Moore to write Crossing the Chasm, by advising the approach they should be adopting. Moore’s confidence in writing Crossing the Chasm comes from numerous reviews of companies who either boast success or despair over failure.

High Tech Marketing Illusion and Enlightenment

In the initial chapters, Moore introduces the reader to the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC) in detail and outlines how organisations who introduce discontinuous innovations (those products that require a change in behaviour), work their way through the cycle avoiding the cracks and the all important chasm.

Starting with the Innovators, a company has to work their way through the Life Cycle until finally reaching the Laggards. Each area of the TALC has to have its own strategy and it is imperative to enter and survive in each area before moving on to the next level.

Moore identifies these areas as follows:

Innovators (Techies) – this is the segment that will willingly seek out the product and accept its faults just to try it. Innovators are an essential test market and once on board will provide an essential reference for marketing to the Early Adopters.

Early Adopters (Visionaries) – they see the strategic opportunity in the product and are willing to outlay huge investments to buy into the offering but this brings with it the challenge of managing their “vision”. Ensuring that the offering is enough to satisfy demand without making a level of commitment that cannot be upheld is crucial to success.

Early Majority (Pragmatists) – pragmatists play the “wait and see” game. The keywords for this group are established, trustworthy and market leader. As the aim of the Pragmatists is to make incremental improvements, the product has to be perfect before they will buy in. However if this stage is reached, the chasm will have been crossed and the organisation will be well on the way to combating the next level.

Late Majority (Conservatives) – the key point to target in this area is the element of service. Conservatives want to feel safe and offering them a whole product including the service will achieve this aim.

Laggards (Skeptics) – Moore suggests that they should not be dismissed despite their negativity towards the high tech world as they can be used for continuous improvement. Skeptics don’t argue for the sake of it so companies need to listen to their feedback.

The D-Day Analogy

Moore goes on to explain that companies need to understand the importance of the mainstream market in order to secure a future for the product and this is by jumping the chasm and getting to the Early Majority. Using the Early Adopters as references (if their expectations have been met) will be valuable but the key to success is to fight for it – hence the D-Day Analogy.

Target the Point of Attack

Moore refers to the niche market as the beachhead in continuation of his military theme. As data is at a minimum at this stage, the niche can be identified through scenario planning, checklists and assessments. This is about pooling the intuition of the company's resources, or in simple terms, brainstorming.

However, Moore emphasises that the chasm can only be crossed in one place so the company needs to be dedicated to winning this niche and this needs to be done through marketing and not selling.

Assemble the Invasion Force

The analogy of crossing the chasm to war is at its strongest in this section. Clearly, from Moore's experience, the life of the company is on the line, choose your Allies carefully, a clear strategy and the right arsenal of weapons is required.

The Whole Product Model

An idea described in detail by Theodore Levitt's The Marketing Imagination, the concept describes a gap that exists between the marketing promise made to the customer and the ability of the product to fulfil that promise. In order to overcome this gap, the product needs augmenting into a variety of services and ancillary products to become the whole product. As the product moves from left to right on the technology adoption curve, the more complete the product needs to be.
Pragmatists in mainstream markets want whole products, Moore uses the prime example of why pragmatists love Microsoft office; books in every book store, training classes, hotline support- the whole product.

Define the Battle - Remember your compass.

In particular, the Competitive-Positioning compass, Moore explains that the key values of the product changes as it moves from left to right on the technology adoption cycle. In the early days, the market was dominated by visionaries and technology enthusiasts, the key values were technology and product. In mainstream markets, pragmatists and conservatives value the domains of market and company. The positioning process should allow the company to claim undisputed (or soon to be) leadership in the chosen market segment (the battle ground).

This means that, in the view of the pragmatist buyer, the product should represent a reasonable alternative way of achieving the value proposition amongst a reasonably comprehensive set of alternatives ways (competitive set) of achieving the value proposition. Communication and demonstration of the competitive claim through the quality of the whole product as well as the quality of your partners, needs to convince the pragmatist buyer of indisputable leadership of the competitive set.

Launch the Invasion

As the last piece of the strategy for crossing the chasm, Moore identifies two components, pricing and the sales channel. With the mainstream buyer in mind, the distribution channel and the price needs to reflect the message of market leadership. These factors are instrumental in making the product easier to sell.


In the concluding section, Moore expands on the effects that other critical parts of the business, finance and R&D for example, may have experienced. In particular, the management and leadership style of the company needs to change in order to satisfy the expectations of a mainstream market.
The pioneers of the organisation, which dazzled the early market with the groundbreaking technology are not usually a good choice for pragmatist markets. Moore does not know of any high tech firms that have avoided dealing with this issue sooner or later. The key is in the planning i.e. allow for personnel changes from the very beginning, once the mainstream market has been established, redefine organisational responsibilities and allow the pioneers to go back to seek out the next disruptive technology.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Crossing the Chasm- A critique

From the very beginning of Crossing the Chasm, Moore’s key strength is engagement with the reader. The amiable writing style, the use of numerous examples and, in particular for me, the breakdown of the TALC into descriptions such as Visionaries and Conservatives allows you to put a personal perception of the type of person you are targeting your product at.

A number of core marketing principles are evident throughout Moore’s text: target, segment, niche and mass marketing. I believe this is one of the main reasons why I, and probably many others, found the book easy to read, understand and relate to. For this reason I believe that the book has a dual purpose – to educate technology-focused individuals about marketing and to educate marketing professionals about the complexity of high tech marketing. After all, Moore’s initial chapter highlights how it so often goes wrong. Perhaps because the pace of the high tech industry has picked up over the last decade, more and more experienced Marketing Managers will enter the high tech industry. This is of course if these industries have bought into Moore’s teachings!

However despite all the above, it is easy to see where the book can fail to engage the attention of some readers. Ultimately it is aimed at marketing and selling technology products as the front cover details, so it should therefore contain examples from Moore’s area of expertise, the high tech industry. Yet for me as a non-techie with examples from over 8 years ago, this is where I struggled in sections. There could now be a place in the market for a third edition.

In summary, Moore's teachings are not new and it would be surprising if an organisation entered the market without having considered analysis, scenario planning, segmentation and a market strategy to some degree, particularly for discontinuous innovations. For this reason Crossing the Chasm can tend to be too simplistic in its approach so I would not recommend it as a core marketing text, however I would advise those moving into the world of technology marketing to pick up a copy in preparation.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Crossing the Chasm -A further Critique

On the whole, the reader found the book extremely enjoyable. Moore's conversational style combined with some very funny analogies keeps the entertainment factor high. Being an engineer, this reader found the content educational to say the least, all the concepts were new however, after consulting with a few marketing people, a discovery was made that, not much of what Moore is saying is, in fact, new. More critically, some colleagues in the know claim crossing the chasm to be far from a particularly good text as far as Marketing is concerned. Market segmentation as well as adjusting for psychographics is nothing new, possibly two of the fundamental principles of marketing. In a deductive sense, the obvious question may apply, 'why is the high tech community seemingly poor at addressing these issues?'

Possibly, Moore answers this question himself by stating that some of the principles are, in themselves, counter intuitive. Disruptive technology presents an immense challenge to the high tech community, this book can perhaps serve as a basic guide to how things need to progress in order to capture the elusive but lucrative mainstream market.

Aside from the debate over crossing the chasm's scholarly value, Moore does manage to keep the emphasis on the difficulties of penetrating the mainstream market without becoming stale. This is achieved with militant analogies and relevant organisational cases. On completion of the book, the reader is left in no doubt about the perils of marketing disruptive innovation.

What the book does not explain is how disruptive innovation is nurtured and/or assessed for viability in the current market, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak. Having said this, the intention of the book is to establish a mainstream market from a given innovation and not the process of innovating.

From this text it seems that there is only one viable approach to winning over the market place as far as the high tech community is concerned, instinctively this casts doubt and to quote a wise old saying "there are many ways to skin a cat". Here are two more recent texts which identify strategies for the same purpose: Click to go to abstracts:

None the less, this reader has gained many valuable insights to the world of high tech marketing. More importantly, Moore presents the concepts in a memorable format, allowing for clear understanding and the best chance of retaining the main ideas of crossing the chasm.
Favourite Quote "It's like eating sausage, it tastes good until you know how it's made".