Crossing the Chasm
Crossing the Chasm, a 1991 book by Geoffrey A. Moore, identifies five major audiences constituting a variety of target markets. According to Moore, understanding the nature of these groups is essential in figuring out how best to market a new product in each instance. Rather than going after the entire collective, Moore advocates for marketing to the audiences one at a time. As you succeed in one, you’ll carry momentum over into the next one. This aligns with the best practices of inbound marketing, as well: create various buyer personas so you can truly understand who you're selling to, and focus on that specific demographic.
Visionaries and Pragmatists
As it happens, Moore was referring to technology adoption. Nevertheless, the same logic is applicable to a number of different fields. In fact, thinking of an audience in this way is probably applicable to your product or service. The process of marketing from visionaries through the pragmatists is the so called “chasm” in the title of the book. This group of earliest adopters have different expectations of a product or service than the later ones do.
Technology/Product Adaptation Lifecycle
The variation in expectation, awareness, and understanding explains the components of the technology adaptation lifecycle, or, why everyone doesn’t get on board all at once. The five groups that comprise this cycle are Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. These groups aren’t merely distinguished by the amount of time that goes by before they buy in––they’re different because of why the time is necessary: the Diffusion of Innovations.
The first of the five audiences is Innovators. At 2.5%, innovators comprise a small amount of the overall market. Despite the low number, their role is essential. They are the ones who will pick up a new product or service before many others even know about it. Moreover, they are willing to pay a higher price to be among the original consumers. They are willing to invest in an experimental or futuristic, expensive new idea––like Google Glass.
The second of these audiences is the Early Adopter. The Early Adopter is 13.5% of the overall market. Although they won’t commit to a new concept as quickly as the Innovators, early adopters are important because they often bear a considerable amount of leadership in the communal outlook on new things. They are young, high social status, and careful about lending their voice to a cause so as to remain relevant. They’ll buy a Tesla in order to save gas money.
The next audience is the Early Majority. The early majority is 34% of the overall market, which is a considerable bump from the Early Adopter. This is in large part because they won’t adopt a new innovation until a variable, yet greater amount of time is gone. They have average social status and look for value in their purchases. They’ll confirm the purchase is worthwhile through ads and reviews. Amazon Prime is an example of a service that has caught on.
The fourth audience is the Late Majority, which is also 34% of the overall market. They are highly skeptical of innovation and will hold off on adoption until after the average person has adopted. They usually have below average social status and limited financial flexibility. They’ll often wait until the price of the innovation is lower than originally offered. A member of the Late Majority may hold off on Amazon Prime because they don’t think they’ll buy enough to justify it.
The final audience is Laggards, which occupy the remaining 16% of the overall market. They are last to buy––or buy into an innovation. They’re often oldest of the audiences and resist change. They’re concerned with tradition and only interact with relatives and friends. Usually they’ll only buy a new product if they are convinced they absolutely have to have it. If there is a law requiring ownership of a new form of light bulb, they’ll give in.
Application of Insight
The byproduct of all these differences in audience is understanding the varying lifecycles of different innovations. If you’re selling an advanced prototype, for example, you shouldn’t worry much about the Late Majority and Laggards. They’ll be on the tail end of adoption and you’ll probably be planning something new by the time they come around. Much like the consumer purchase funnel, you tailor your marketing efforts to the phase of adoption you understand your product or service to be in at any given moment. Read on to learn more about buyer personas and your 1000 true fans.