I remember in October of 2010, walking into the open planned office of the Singapore Management University’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and sitting down in an uncomfortable metal chair, across the table from then director Prof Desai Narasimhalu. We started talking about how I would serve the needs of the startups within the university incubator, and then Desai, in an almost animated manner, said “We have to help them cross the chasm”.
Cross the chasm? 19 years after Geoffrey Moore wrote the book, I was diving right in. Today, the idea is more firmly associated with marketing and selling technology products or solutions. But from the time I was introduced to the term, I looked at it from a completely different perspective.
Having worked with thousands of startups since my first “chasm-crossing” conversation, crossing the chasm was about breaking away from safety – it was getting over the psychological hurdles that keep over 41 million Americans from scaling beyond being a solopreneur, consultant, or freelancer.
Through the work of Supercharge Lab, I have had the privilege of working with many entrepreneurs and one of the greatest myths that prevent them from growth is the question of whether their solution is “complete” enough. I lurk on Reddit threads where I see entrepreneurs suffering from analysis paralysis and ideals of perfection. To cross the chasm, you must first enter the technology adoption life cycle and engage with your early adopters to see what really matters to them.
Many entrepreneurs today fail to launch. Crossing the chasm is about first crossing the psychological barrier that paralyses entrepreneurs before they set foot in the arena. It is about getting out of the comfort zone of safety, and into the marketplace, being sufficiently courageous (or even thick-skinned) to deal with objections and rejections. Entrepreneurs often do not spend enough time asking their clients – why are you working with us? Understanding the value you bring to your early adopters is essential in building a repeatable and scalable practice and solution. I have long subscribed to the agile startup methodology for the most part – that we get our solutions out there, test for product market fit, gather feedback, and iterate often.
Once you have gathered your early adopters, understand that getting to the larger market requires a shift in mindset. I was talking to a peer in the sales and marketing industry while writing this post and he said people who are your early adopters think differently from people who are your early majority. He was right. What’s worked for your early adopters in terms of positioning, messaging, and motivations – they’re not the same as what would work for your early majority.
Moving past our initial ideas of how to gather pace with our early majority requires a change in the way we see our clients, as well as a change in the way they see us. The old adage of what got you here, won’t get you there comes to mind in this case, and this is where I see so many fellow entrepreneurs trip up – they fail to adjust their positioning for the needs of a new class of customers.
Your early majority think differently from your early adopters and it is imperative that you embrace a new way of engaging with them. By the time you get to your early majority, you’re playing in the major league, and require a major league mindset – understanding what the alternatives to your solution are, and how you will meet the increasing needs of your newfound client base, including ensuring their success through your solution.
What are your war stories in crossing the chasm?
I would love to hear about your experiences!