Last Thursday, I was lucky to interview Warren Schirtzinger during a live webinar, one of the co-creators of the “Chasm” framework in the 80s, later polished and popularized by Geoffrey Moore in the book “Crossing the Chasm”.
During the interview, Warren explained clearly how people’s behavior affects our innovations and new product adoption. He provided valuable tips to help us grow with our innovations, crossing the famous “Chasm”. Keep reading for an introduction to the “Chasm” and the key takeaways of the interview.
What is the Chasm?
Every time we introduce a new innovative product in the marketplace, it faces adoption challenges related to human behavior and psychology. The “Chasm” framework represents the statistical distribution of different social profiles while facing the adoption of innovations. It is only valid for innovations solving problems in a completely different way that makes people face new learnings if they want to use the new product.
The chasm is the gap between the early adopters (visionaries) of a product and the early majority, which make up the start of the mainstream market and your product growth at scale.
Your users would need to cross the chasm only if you are disrupting the industry or existing products in the marketplace.
How different are the behaviors and motivations between innovators + early adopters and the majority?
Once we launch an innovation in need of a change in people’s behavior, the human groups can be separated by different reactions and motivations showed in the chart.
Innovators and early adopters would say, “look at all the wonderful things that are possible with this innovation”. The rest of the market would say, “what happens if something goes wrong?”
An essential aspect of the process of product adoption is the motivation: the innovators want to be change agents, an early adopter wants a competitive advantage, and stay ahead of the herd. The mainstream just wants to move forward when they have guarantees of doing it safely.
How to know if we are going to face “The Chasm” before launching an innovation?
If you are thinking about launching a new product, ask yourself: Is this something that is a continuous improvement over what is already in place, or is it completely different, and people need to do things differently to use the product?
If it’s completely different and we have to change people’s behavior, there are unknowns for them, or they need to learn something new, we’ll face with “The Chasm” to grow our product adoption.
Tips for crossing “The Chasm” and increase product adoption
✅ Positioning messages have to be precisely aligned with your product adoption phase in the “Chasm” chart:
- Innovators want to hear about your technology solving the problem.
- Early adopters want to know more about the product.
- For the mainstream, we need to focus the messaging on the company and the brand to reduce the perceived risks.
✅ Reduce the perceived risks of your product:
- Use industry standards
- Create a strong customer support
- Create training programs
- Build strong partnerships
- Build appropriate sales channels
- Focus on the right niche audience and solve a small problem for that niche with a supergood solution. Then move to lookalike audiences adapting your messaging.
✅ Prove to your customers that they can move with you safely. It is all about how strong your company is perceived.
✅ Transition your positioning from “selling an isolated product” to “selling a company’s brand and processes to reduce the adoption risks for the customers”.
✅ Transition your Unique Value Proposition from customers thinking, “Look at all the wonderful things we are doing” to customers that think “look how safe it is.”