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Navigating the Hype to Mainstream Success

by Hank Barnes  |  July 14, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

It is almost Hype Cycle season again.  As most of you probably know, Gartner publishes Hype Cycles for many categories every year.  This year’s reports are starting to trickle out, with the majority of them becoming available in August.    Hype Cycles are written for technology buyers to help them understand the hype, and maturity, of innovations.

At the same time, Technology Providers can use hype cycles to tune their marketing and sales strategies.   I will be presenting a Webinar tomorrow, July 15th, on that topic.  You can register here – I will also have a note coming out soon on the topic that complements a research note that was published last year by Tiffani Bova and Jackie Fenn.  Gartner research subscribers should read the note – Tech Go-to-Market: Managing Various Sales Strategies Through the Hype Cycle of Technology Adoption.

One of the most important things to remember about Hype Cycles are that they are about expectations over time.  As the picture below shows, in technology markets, early expectations are usually driven by assumptions and hope (aka hype).  As projects occur, with a mix of success and failures, expectations sink–usually driven by either innovation immaturity, overselling, or the lack of solid project knowledge on how to implement successfully. (Michael Krigsman, has a blog on ZDnet that covers IT project failures, and how to move past them, with over 1000 articles).   Finally, as the innovation matures, proven examples of success and value result in rising expectations that are based in experience.


As you review hype cycles for insight into the products or services you provide, there are a few things that are very important to remember.

  1. Look Beyond the Graphic – Hype Cycle graphics plot where  innovations fall on the curve.   But much of the key information can be found deeper in the documents in the profiles that are developed for each innovation.  There you will find the potential impact of the innovation (transformational, high, moderate, low) that validates (or should be used to adjust) your assessment of your innovation, and your corresponding investment levels to capitalize on the opportunity.  Additionally, you’ll find details on the estimated market penetration and the anticipated time frame to reach “the Plateau of Productivity” or mainstream buyers.  Be sure to read the profiles for these and other insights.
  2. Check Multiple Hype Cycles –  Many innovations have impact in different contexts.  As a result, they may appear in multiple hype cycles.  Make sure your Hype Cycle search does not stop at the first occurrence of your innovation area.  If it does appear in multiple reports, the analysis and profile details may be very different.  For example, e-discovery appeared in at least 3 Hype Cycles in 2013 (with mentions in several others) with a variety of placements on the curve and estimates of time to plateau.   Understanding these relationships can be useful to segmentation strategies and market prioritization.
  3. Don’t panic – Finally, don’t panic.  Hype Cycles only cover early stages of the market.  The most significant revenue opportunities come after innovations have moved past the hype cycle.  This is when buyers are expanding their deployments and success is driving more and more buyers into the market.   Additionally, the introduction of many innovations care with it a provider focus on “speed to market”.   While gaining early traction is important, the time frame to the plateau can help you understand how fast you really need to go.  Over-investing too early may even be worse than going a little too slow.  It causes you to burn cash quickly and often leads to the disillusionment in the market permeating your business.  Once that happens, it is hard to recover.   Focus on steady progress, with speed and investment linked to the opportunity, the timing, and potential impact.

Applied effectively, Hype Cycles can be just as effective a tool for providers as they are for buyers.  Get ready, they are coming soon for 2014. (And a second plug for my Webinar, tomorrow-July 15 at 11 Eastern –

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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: hype-cycle  innovation  marketing  sales  

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

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