Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

Book review by Bill Cattey

Ignore your initial negative impression of this book!

It looks like Geoffrey Moore made a poor choice of editor for his book. The quantity of typographical errors harms his credibility. Long sentences with too many subordinate clauses makes his valuable messages harder to understand. But the book is worthwhile in spite of this.

Crossing The Chasm contains insights of value to anyone who has worked on a technological labor of love and wants to see it flourish and become a ubiquitous part of our world like certain Microsoft operating systems seem to have.

Before I read this book, I believed that a marketing department was a group of people who made up untrue stories about my work so they could get a sale. I like Moore's vision of marketing as the group of people who work directly with the customer and take responsibility for fitting my work into a whole solution. MIT students should read the book just to get this gem.

Moore has, I believe, figured out how to take technology to the mainstream majority of users. He has a marketplace model that identifies four major groups:

Early adopters populated by visionaries who will take a new technology, gather other parts from elsewhere and assemble a whole product that will give them a revolutionary new solution. This marketplace segment is the one most familiar to engineers. These are the folks we love to work with. We code and debug. They take and use. But this segment is very small compared to the mainstream.

Early majority is a big, and crucial marketplace segment. These folks are pragmatists, with the need to solve particular problems. They will only adopt products that they see have been successful for others they know. For these guys its more important that they know the product does one thing well for someone else just like them, than that the product be able to do a lot of things.

Late majority is a segment as big as the early majority. These folks have the same perspective and needs as the early majority. The difference is that these folks are less comfortable with new technology. They're only going to buy after the early majority has really shaken out all the surprises, and shown that this product is here to stay.

Laggards is a segment about the same size as the early adopter segment. These folks will only adopt a technology when failure to do so gets in the way of doing what they've always done. These days, very few technologies get so well established and become so important that the laggards ever take them. I'd say the telephone was a recent example of something that the laggards finally adopted.

Moore's book is about getting a product across the chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. Its called a chasm because the needs and perspectives of the two segments are so different.

To summarize Moore's methodology:

Pick a target market in the early majority that is small enough that you can quickly become the dominant player in that market segment. The target should be of strategic value. I.E. you should be able to invade other nearby segments having established yourself in the first target market. It is vital that you choose a single market to focus on, and that it be a market you can take like a strategic objective in a war. Moore's model is the D-day invasion of Normandy: One strategic beachhead taken, and established as a starting point for other focused initiatives.

Moore defines a whole product. We engineers often hope the customer take the part we built and fill in the rest, like learning how to use it, fitting it in with other tools, and getting others to provide the content that feeds the system. You get the sale in the early majority if you can present a whole solution to an important problem. All the pieces have to be in place, though. For example, If you're going to sell an electronic book, you also have to show the customer where to get the content. Otherwise you get no sale.

Moore provides a way to craft the message for the customers into two sentences:

For the <target customer>,
who is dissatisfied with <current alternative in the market>,
Our product is a <new product category>
that provides a <capability to solve target customer's important problem>.
Unlike <the product alternative>,
we have assembled <key features that demonstrate you have the whole product, not just a piece of a puzzle>.

An example he gives is Quicken:

For the bill paying member of the family who uses a home PC, who is tired of filling out the same old checks month after month, Quicken is a PC home finance program that automatically tracks all your check writing. Unlike Managing Your Money, a financial analysis package, our system is optimized specifically for home bill paying.

Moore points out that breaking into the mainstream requires relationship building as the key activity. For this reason he recommends direct sales into that first target market. He also provides principles to guide the transition from the penetration of that initial target to the ordinary sales channels that will be used when the rest of the early majority begins to notice the product and begin to consider buying it.

A particularly useful distinction he makes is easy to sell versus easy to buy: He advocates a focus on the latter. Instead of developing a really easy to present sales pitch, make shopping for your product fun for the potential customer. People like to shop, but hate to confront a sales pitch.

By the time I finished reading this book, I had understanding of why certain of my pet projects did not catch on, why really ugly designs made it while beautiful ones didn't. I feel much more able to get my ideas into the world. If you read this book, you will too.

(c)1999 William D. Cattey All rights reserved.

Last updated: $Date: 1999/12/09 20:45:28 $ by $Author: wdc $.
Bill Cattey <>