Crossing the Chasm

{original squeezed contributor: milton. Additional contributions by davidw}

Key Points

  • There is a “chasm” between early adopters and the early majority users in a product’s life cycle into which many promising products fall, unable to make the leap.

  • One successful way of making this connection is to target a specific niche where you can be not just a competitor, but the winner. Having established this ‘beachhead’, it’s easier to expand into other niches and the market at large.


Early adopters are happy if the core functionality of a product does what they require of it, and are capable of making up for any deficiencies. The early mainstream, on the other hand, requires a complete solution to a problem that does not require large amounts of intervention on their part.

Furthermore, in something of a “catch-22”, mainstream adopters of a technology are wary of any system that is not used by other mainstream adopters in their industry, because they generally look to one another as references, rather than “visionary” early adopters. This makes it difficult to break into the mainstream, but once you do, it’s worth it because first of all, that’s where the money is, but also satisfied mainstream clients are likely to be very loyal.

The method outlined to cross the chasm follows these steps:

  • Target the attack - you must choose a niche to use as a beachhead. As a startup or new market entrant, you aren’t likely to have the resources necessary to focus on a large market, so it’s better to be more effective in a smaller one.

  • “Assemble an invasion force” - create a “whole product” that provides a solution to the customer’s problems in its entirety. Early adopters might be happy stitching together different pieces, but early majority users are less likely to want to do so. Think about not just the product, but support, training… the entire “ecosystem”, as it has come to be known.

  • “Define the battle” by creating positioning to show that you are the leader in the segment you are attacking.

  • “Launch the invasion” with a direct sales force, which is the best channel for high tech, and the best for crossing the chasm.


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