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Projects-to-Products: Crossing the Chasm Pt 2

By Brian Nathanson posted Nov 20, 2019 05:06 PM

In my last post, I introduced the concept of Geoffrey Moore's Technology Adoption Life Cycle as outlined in his book Crossing the Chasm. Here I will discuss the actual "chasm" -- and why it is an important concept for technology product managers to understand.

Moore's research found that once you get past your Innovators and Early Adopters -- which are about 1/4 to 1/3 of all potential customers combined -- there is a significant drop off in adoption rate. Paraphrasing liberally (and if you disagree with my interpretation, please let me know in the comments), the psychological drivers for the Early Majority are significantly different than for Early Adopters -- which means that you can't really even use Early Adopters as references to convince the Early Majority to adopt. Early Majority customers want other Early Majority customers to be their references, which naturally leads to a catch-22.

So why, you might ask, do Early Adopters not serve as viable references for Early Majority customers? Refer back to the psychological characteristics from my previous post:
  • An Early Adopter has big pains to resolve and, as such, is willing to take on an amount of risk in exchange for the promise of the better tomorrow using the new technology.
  • The Early Majority, on the other hand, wants assurances that there is no or very little risk of losing what they have in exchange for the promise of the new technology.
The trouble, as you can see, is that an Early Adopter will be focused on how much better life is with the new thing and how they should really try it out. This is exactly the wrong message for an Early Majority person: It comes across as overly hyped or sales-oriented, which is counter to the assurances against loss that Early Majority customers are actually looking for.

The conclusion from all this is that most technology rollouts/introductions struggle to get past that initial 25-33%. Everybody else is waiting for someone to teach them how life will more or less remain the same. Only then will they relax and open their minds up enough to begin exploring the new value you are offering.

Or -- alternatively -- you can offer something of such mind-blowing value that the Majority overcome their risk aversion anyway. Rare but possible. Moore essentially explains how to do this through what I call his "niche and invasion" approach. That discussion is beyond the scope of this blog at the moment, but feel free to read about it in his book.