How to Successfully “Cross the Chasm” By Avoiding These 7 Mistakes
This article is written by Michael Eckhardt, Managing Director at The Chasm Institute and featured speaker at our PARC Forum: “How to Launch and Scale High-Growth Tech Innovations” July 26 in Palo Alto.
Tech-based companies — whether in Silicon Valley, Boston, Berlin, or Bangalore — often seek “best practices” to
accelerate growth for their key products or services. And that’s clearly a good thing.
But today we’d like to draw your attention to a different perspective — seven worst practices or pitfalls that cause seemingly great B2B + B2C products or services to fail in the marketplace. Resulting in share price plunges, worthless stock options, customer dissatisfaction, and damaged brands. And, of course, frustrated shareholders and executives. At Chasm Institute, we call these pitfalls for tech companies the “7 Deadly Sins.”
For 15+ years, in over 500 client engagements, Chasm Institute has assisted tech-based companies through workshops, tools, training, to win in tough, highly-competitive markets. One of our specialties has been helping these B2B + B2C companies move from Early Market visionary customers to the larger and more profitable Mainstream Market. Often in areas such as software, cloud, IoT, systems, mobile, AI, and web. Geoffrey Moore, chairman of the firm, describes in our classic best-seller — now newly-updated as Crossing the Chasm 3.0 — how:
• Tech companies must focus + win with a specific segment of customers in “pain,” before a disruptive new solution can successfully cross the chasm — i.e. successfully commercialize — with mainstream buyers
• Companies like SAP, Amazon, Cisco, Workday, Box, Apple, Lithium, and Salesforce have all applied this “focused strategy method” to drive impressive growth
But focus is not the only success factor for crossing the chasm. In addition, winning tech companies must also avoid these “7 Deadly Sins” — seven key pitfalls and errors that often cause frustration and market failure.
The “7 Deadly Sins” to Avoid
1. Target Customer Mix-up: if you’re in the Early Market and ready to move beyond it – don’t just ask your current customers what they want or need. Instead, gain insight from Mainstream customers who have not yet adopted – since they are your target in the coming 12 to 24 months and beyond. We’ve seen companies suffer $1 billion losses due to this avoidable mistake.
2. Compelling Reason Confusion: the catalyst for driving adoption by mainstream customers is to understand the target customer’s “Compelling Reason to Buy” – the real mission-critical pain point you are solving. Do not confuse that with “Compelling Reason to Sell.” The latter is your problem, and the customer doesn’t care about that.
3. Whole Product Perfectionism: if you’re waiting until you have the perfect product before you launch into the main marketplace – surrender now. To successfully cross the chasm, we advise clients to focus on initially delivering MVWP (Minimum Viable Whole Product). That’s the least complex solution that fulfills the target customers’ compelling reason to buy. Stop thinking about “what else to add in,” and consider subtracting features to simplify the buy / install / use process.
4. Over-hiring for Sales / Over-doing Sales Training: just because you are excited about your new product or service doesn’t mean a large sales force must be trained on it. If you truly have a new breakthrough product (i.e. a disruptive innovation), then experience tells us that less than 15% of your sales team will account for 85% or more of first-year sales – so don’t hire a vast sales team right away. Instead, double-down on training + incentives for a small “Tiger Team” of sales pros who have the right mix of consultative skills, motivation, and energy – and limit others to “awareness training” in that first year after launch. Avoids wasted training time and money.
5. Pricing Misstep: the road is littered with businesses that thought cutting price by 15% to 20% would help them cross the chasm. Sadly, price elasticity is muted at this stage of the market. Yes, you need a reasonable price, but reducing it further will likely not cause unit sales growth – it will just damage margins. Instead consider reducing adoption risk for these pragmatist buyers by committing to a promised customer success metric or performance guarantee.
6. Weak Messaging: for a B2B message to be effective, it needs to be well articulated in 75 words or less. Preferably way under that. And for B2C – 10 words or less. And be cautious of thinking in terms of “unique selling propositions.” Unique could imply weird or different. Instead, seek to communicate a superior selling proposition. Software companies in particular struggle with this, as many use a plethora of terms that end in “ility” and “ivity” (agility, manageability, productivity, connectivity) – yet seriously miss the mark in communicating how their solution is superior to that of competitors.
7. Lastly, the Vision Thing: it’s great, yes even essential, to have a longer-term vision for your business. But don’t confuse that vision with today’s imperative … to identify + deploy a compelling solution for specific customer pain points. And aim for revenue growth rates of 30-40% in those customer segments. That’s the fuel that will propel you forward onto a scalable and profitable path in the next 12 to 36 months.
Michael Eckhardt is Managing Director & Senior Workshop Leader at Chasm Institute, a leading consultancy to tech companies in Silicon Valley and worldwide. He is a veteran of PwC, Harbridge Consulting, HP and Pepsico. An MBA graduate of Harvard Business School and Wall Street Journal Award winner, Michael is a recognized expert in accelerating new product success & providing proven “tools / frameworks / best practices” to drive go-to-market results. Learn more at www.chasminstitute.com.
Learn more at our July 26 PARC Forum: “How to Launch and Scale High-Growth Tech Innovations” with Michael Eckhardt and Andrew Salzman.
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