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Products, Markets, and Crossing the Chasm

by Hank Barnes  |  February 25, 2014  |  1 Comment

I have long been a fan of Geoffrey Moore.  His ideas are thoughtful,  yet simple to understand and apply.   Like most people, I have long been a fan of Crossing the Chasm, which many people still tout as the high tech marketing bible.   I use his original ideas on positioning of technology products, with a little extra twist of my own in acknowledgement of the growing importance of Customer Experience,  to guide my interactions with Gartner clients looking to improve their positioning and messaging.

I recently purchased the latest edition of the book (link above) as Geoff talked about some updates to it in a couple of posts he did on LinkedIn (that can be found here and here).   Reading it was a great refresher of some key principles for high tech marketing professionals.


While I am a big fan of the book, I get frustrated when it gets applied incorrectly.   The book is focused primarily on marketing and selling disruptive products, starting by attracting innovators and early adopters and then, hopefully, Crossing the Chasm, to reach the early majority of mainstream customers.

One of the most common misuses is when companies apply the market adoption model to their product, feeling that when they are early in their lifecycle, they need to “Cross the Chasm.”   This may not be appropriate.  Chasm crossing refers to markets, not specific products.   If you have a disruptive product, then you are creating a new market.  Or you may be one of several similar products that have not achieved broad success.  In those two cases, you (and others like you) should be focused on helping the market get past the chasm.  Its about growing the market and your business.

But many times, we find that competitors in early markets gets fixated on each other.   Once they get some early adoption, the goal is to beat that competitor.   That may be okay, but it can also cause you, your competitor, and the market as a whole to get stuck in the cchasm.

I personally believe that this may have happened to the business process management (BPM) market.   The ROI on most successful BPM projects is eye-popping.  This is simply because many processes are sub-optimal, before applying BPM techniques and technologies to improve them.

One of the biggest threats to BPM is actually packaged applications, like ERP.  ERP systems talk alot about automating processes.      While workflow, EAI, and eventually BPM vendors fought with each other, the market for packaged applications exploded.    Meanwhile, BPM technologies never seem to have hit their full potential.  Yes, the market continues to grow.  Yes, new opportunities are emerging as a result of the Internet of Things, mobile device proliferation, and a desire to address less structured processes.  But, it still feels like it is stuck in the chasm.  (Note to Readers:  This commentary is based on my past experience in the BPM market.  I have not been directly involved in it in several years—so some things may have changed.)

I still feel like the market growth would have been greater if the vendors in the market would have spent less time competing with each other and more time growing the market versus alternative approaches (customization of packaged applications or outsourced processes).

Similarly, if your product is not disruptive, then you are likely to be pursuing a market that is in the mainstream.   In that case, the focus, according to Moore, is on the creation of a whole product—-basically assembling the combination of products, services and partnerships that together are needed to deliver the complete, expected value of the final solution to the buyer.  You win by having the most complete solution.  And, you win by reducing risk for the buyer.  Finally, you win by building the buyer’s trust in you.   So, in that case, even if you are fairly new to the market, you need to adjust your tactics for the mainstream buyer.  And, your competitive focus is likely to be on other providers (the market is already sizable) more than alternatives.

Regardless of where your product fits and the state of the market, Crossing the Chasm continues to be a must read for high tech marketers.  The new edition has plenty of refreshed content and some new thinking as well (driven by new opportunities enabled by the Nexus of Forces (my words, not Moore’s)).    Ideas in the book can help any technology company, as long as you apply them appropriately for your business.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: chasm  disruptive-technologies  high-tech-marketing  market-adoption  nexus-of-forces  positioning  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Products, Markets, and Crossing the Chasm

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