The Chasm

I just finished reading Crossing the Chasm, a book about marketing for high-tech products. And wow, if you ever wanted to know exactly what your customers might be thinking, this book seems to have it figured out.

It’s magic. I’d love to tell you more about it.

First, the book introduces the concept of the High Tech Marketing Model, pictured below:

The High-Tech Marketing Model shows the distribution of a product’s lifecycle across different types of customers. As you’ll see, things look smooth now, yet there are quite big jumps from one customer type to the next.

This model shows how people adopt new technology products. Generally-speaking, this happens in five stages among five distinct groups:

  1. Innovators
  2. Early adopters
  3. Early majority
  4. Late majority
  5. Laggards

The vast majority of money to be made in technology products is when you reach the middle of the bell curve — by a bell curve’s standard distribution, 66 percent of people are in the middle — in this case the early and late majorities.

The only catch: In the High Tech Marketing Model, small gaps appear between each different section of the model, representing drastic jumps in the marketing and messaging needed to serve the different slices of consumers.

The greatest gap — the chasm — appears between early adopters and the early majority.

The chasm between early adopters and early majority is where a lot of products get stuck. The messaging is so drastically different and the perspective of the customer is brand new. See below for how to better understand this.

Most businesses fail to cross this chasm, at which point they fail, full stop.

So what about those who have crossed over? (In Buffer’s case, I believe we’ve already crossed the chasm. Phew!)

How do you speak to the early majority versus speaking to the early adopters?

Here’s what the book says:

Early Majority are buying a product to improve the productivity of existing processes and to enhance what they’re already doing. They want evolution, not revolution.

(This is in opposition to the previous segment, early adopters, who buy a product in order to gain a competitive advantage over their peers.)

Here’s the big list of ways to market to the early majority:

  • You need to be conversant with the issues that dominate their particular business.
  • You need to show up at the industry-specific events they attend.
  • You need to be mentioned in the content that they read.
  • You need to be used by other companies in their industry.
  • You need to have developed applications for your product that are specific to the industry.
  • You need to have partnerships and alliances with the other vendors who serve their industry.
  • You need to have earned a reputation for quality and service.

Early adopters tend to be ‘vertically’ oriented, meaning that they communicate more with others like themselves within their own industry. References and relationships are very important to these people.

In short, you need to make yourself over into the obvious supplier of choice.

We’re already moving in this direction at Buffer with a focus on content, our positive word of mouth, and our reputation for service. And there seems to be a ton of opportunity to double down: vertical content, events, topic expertise, and so much more.

What do you think? How does this apply to you and your business?

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I lead the marketing team at Buffer, a SaaS tool with a blog of over 1.2M monthly visits. Let me show you how we got there and how we plan to grow.

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