Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers


According to Geoffrey Moore, the US has been great in marketing traditional products; however, it has been on unsure ground when it comes to marketing high-tech products. Thus, the two questions that Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers aims to answer are:

  1. Why hasn’t the US been able to apply its marketing skills to high tech?
  2. What is it going to take the US professionals to get it right?

Moore answer, right in the introductory chapter is: ‘To be specific, the point of greatest peril in the development of a high-tech market lies in making the transition from an early market dominated by a fewvisionary customers to a mainstream market dominated by a large block of customers who are predominantly pragmatists in orientation. The gap between these two markets, heretofore ignored, is in fact so significant as to warrant being called a chasm, and crossing this chasm must be the primary focus any long-term high-tech marketing plan. A successful crossing is how high-tech fortunes are made; failure in the attempt is how they are lost.’

Moore begins with Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory that many of us are familiar with (the smooth bell curve of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards). This model does explain how products, ideas and practices are adopted in the real world. However, according to Moore, where high-tech, especially disruptive, products are concerned, there are minor cracks between innovators and early adopters and between early majority and late majority (and even these could derail a company). However, the realproblem is the major crack between the early adopters (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). And this is where many high-tech products get caught – with catastrophic results. Visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations. While early adopters are happy if the core functionality of a product does what they expect of it, they are fine. The pragmatists, on the other hand, don’t have too much faith in the early adopters and look to one another for reference. Moreover, they require a complete solution to a problem that doesn’t require too much of their intervention. To become a standard in the industry and a large seller, a company has to successfully cross the “chasm” between the early adopters and the pragmatists.

To cross the chasm, going after the entire pragmatists’ segment would, in all likelihood, lead to failure. Moore recommends that a company should look for a specific niche in the mainstream market (and try and satisfy that niche in a way that no one has done before). This would involve the identification of a highly specific target group, a complete understanding of the segment’s motivation for buying, the building of a “whole product”, the definition of the competition (competition is a necessary condition) and positioning the offering in relation to that competition. Once that is done, the company must select the appropriate distribution channel and have a direct sales force to go after the target market. Using the D-day analogy, Moore argues that if Europe is the mainstream market, Normandy should be the beachhead (niche) that should to be secured. All resources need to be focussed at winning that battle. Once the niche market is captured, it becomes easier to go after the other pragmatists.

Moore’s book was written in the early-1990s and the second edition came out in 1998. Things have changed since then but his theory, even today, explains how to go about marketing a disruptive product to the early majority (pragmatists). This book has a number of examples to corroborate his theory.

This is an important book to read, especially by people in high-tech companies that may be looking to launch discontinuous products.

Rating: A+

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This article was written by Preeti

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