Difficulty Crossing the Chasm? The Answer Isn’t as Complicated as You May Think

Written by David Mitroff

You might be familiar with the term Crossing the Chasm, but what does it really mean to your company and your product? Geoffrey A. Moore came up with the chasm concept, which to make it simple, is the giant gap a product needs to traverse during its growth cycle for it to become a mass market product.

This gap, or chasm, is also referred to as a “bowling alley”, which is the time between early adopters and early majority. In the chasm, your product will face its first critics and bugs. The chasm will tell you what your target market is expecting from your product and deciding if your product is worth being accepted and therefore allowed to cross the chasm.

When starting a new product or making updates to an already existing product, it is all about changing your customer habits and having them learn new ones. The chasm is where your customers will tell you if they are willing to do what you want or need them to do.

If you are facing difficulty crossing the chasm, there are typically three reasons why. Understanding those reasons will help you fix the issues and cross the chasm. 

Concept before Market

You have a disruptive product. You are an innovator. Your product is revolutionary! But does the market want it? Is there an ecosystem for it?

When coming up with an idea, we often forget about the basics such as “What problem does it solve?” or “What are the pain points that it is addressing?” and “What is our positioning?”. To make sure your product has a chance, it is important to understand your market, your audience, and what issues your customers are facing. Make sure you really research the market. Learn its size, its segments, its behaviors and habits…who are your personas and what are their pain points?

Related to understanding your market are the channels. Make sure to not forget about which channels your market is utilizing and therefore the channels your product would be using. We have seen great products disappear because they were ahead of their time or companies didn’t take into consideration the channels and ecosystems around the products. For example, let’s look at the Virtual Reality (VR) industry. VR is a great innovation; however, the VR industry has been struggling for a while because for a long time there were no ecosystem able to support the products and, most of all, there were no content for it.

Market Research Morea Pollet

Missing the Go-To Market Expertise

When launching a new product, you need to make sure you have a product manager (PM) that knows the bells and whistle of “go-to market.” Your PM’s knowledge of the industry is important, but at the end of the day his or her general product management expertise will make all the difference.

Before sending off your product to market, make sure your entire company is on the same page. Sometimes, you are held back from crossing the chasm because there is a discontinuity within the organization. For example, your engineers might have developed a specific product, but your sales team may be selling that same product as a totally different entity. This can happen when the product is not communicated properly. Make sure you have a centerpiece that communicates with each team and delivers a consistent message.

Don’t follow the “go big or go home” path. Start beta tasting to smaller markets. A good example of a failed go-to market is AT&T, when they launched Direct TV Now. AT&T went nationwide with its new product, Direct TV Now, without testing it on a smaller market. The product was a huge failure. Many customers signed up to the new service the same way you sign up with Netflix today, expecting a full, reliable system. It was not the case, as the platform was still in beta-testing and attempting to get feedback from consumers, all while correcting bugs and making improvements. However, by going nationwide, customers perceived it has a well-functioning service. AT&T had huge backlash and faced a PR nightmare. Even if they were to make all the updates to improve the product function, they were not coming back from the bad press. 

You Are Not Listening

Listen Morea Pollet

Sometimes you have a vision for your product. You can picture its growth and everyone’s satisfaction with it. If you do your job correctly and beta-test your product, you will likely have feedback from your audience and properly adjust your product. Listen to feedback and what your customers or clients have to say!

Remember, however, that listening to feedback doesn’t mean you have to make all the desired customization expressed by your customers. It is more of an understanding of your product priorities and the overall solution.

That’s where the “bowling alley” plays its card. Your audience is made of different segments and all of them will come back with feedback to improve your product. Your job is to listen and decide which feedback is the most important. You cannot apply changes based on all feedback you receive. Instead, pick which segments to address and build a whole solution. 

About The Author

David Mitroff

David Mitroff

Business Consultant & Marketing Expert at Piedmont Avenue Consulting

Business Consultant, Marketing Expert and Professional Speaker who helps clients create brand awareness, generate leads and strengthen customer loyalty. Piedmont Avenue Consulting, Inc. (www.PiedmontAve.com) is a San Francisco Bay Area business process consulting firm specializing in leveraging new technology for business development and marketing. We integrate Google, Salesforce, Constant Contact, Yelp, Facebook, and other new technology solutions with businesses to improve productivity, monitor performance, and expand marketplace presence. Our clients include restaurants, hotels, law firms, financial services firms, high-growth start-up companies, real estate agencies, individual entrepreneurs, retail stores and other diverse organizations. Dr. Mitroff works with his consulting clients along with delivering keynote talks and workshops all over the world.

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