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Models are clean, Markets are messy

By Hank Barnes | October 05, 2021 | 0 Comments

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Last week, I posted an update to Geoffrey Moore’s original Crossing the Chasm model (sharing the LinkedIn link here as there was some spirited comments).  The model as shown below adds a second chasm that we identified based on the continued analysis and interpretation of our tech buying research over the past several years.

Source: Gartner, Inc. 2021 (with acknowledgement to Geoffrey Moore, “Crossing the Chasm”

Like the original model, this is relatively clean.  It presents an orderly progression for market adoption (that often is accompanied by a “S” curve to reflect total revenue in that market.   But, even as I recommend and would love to discuss the implications of this new model, it is important to remember that markets aren’t this clean–they are quite messy.

For example, take Catalysts (or Geoff called tech enthusiasts and visionaries).   They are often the drivers for new market growth.  They prove the opportunity.

Until they don’t.

Catalysts aren’t the first to adopt every technology and every catalyst doesn’t adopt technology at the same time.   There are a wide number of factors that influence if a specific organization adopts–which is why situational awareness is so important.  In particular, Catalysts are agile leaders.  They seek technology for advantage–big advantage (Geoff described it as “order of magnitude”).  If an innovation isn’t going to give them big gains, guess what, they may wait until the back half of the curve to adopt.

In contrast, there are portions of the Cooperatives who might adopt early, given their situation.   It could be a workgroup, frustrated with the tech the org provides them, buying their own SaaS application.   Or there could be a change agent able to get things done faster than her peers. (But in both cases, growing the business in these accounts is likely to be challenging).

Given this, why use a model?

Models are all about odds.    In study after study, the patterns repeat themselves.

  • Catalysts adopt faster than other groups
  • Strict Planners are the most likely to be happy with what they buy
  • Cooperatives are the most likely to be frustrated and pessimistic

When you use these models you can:

  • Tailor Messaging to Be Most Appealing:  One client reoriented their messaging from an “innovation” focus to more about risk reduction and control when they realized their best opportuniy was with strict planners and cooperatives and went from “rarely generating interest” to (literally) “every customer we present this to wants follow-up discussions.”
  • Focus your programs and campaigns- Choose marketing programs that are most likely to appeal to the groups you target.
  • Refine your product strategy –   Discontinuous innovations don’t appeal to cooperatives. Innovations and improvements that reduce risk do.
  • Prioritize your resources – From product to marketing to sales, when you can predict the best opportunities, you can reduce you investment in deals that go nowhere or content and programs that are likely to miss the mark.
  • Learn – If you, for example, win business with some cooperatives early in the cycle and succeed in growing and retaining them; it is likely to be a challenge.  But in that challenge you can learn what you are going to need to do to win others and be ready for it.

A final point.   The progression through the phases of the lifecycle and different buying groups is never a hard stop.    You don’t have to throw everything away and start over.   Some of what you create will be useful for everyone to varying degrees.    You might, for example, create buyer enablement and change enablement content to prepare for the second chasm.   They content will be devoured by the strict planners, helping you learn how to refine and simplify it to make it more appealing to the cooperatives.

The cleanliness of models helps us focus, but make sure you don’t get too myopic.  Markets are messy.  Buying teams are messier.   The situational factors that influence a decision are messy too.   Embrace the mess, but organize and “clean it up” with the models as your guide.

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