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two good points, but a longwinded book
on February 19, 2002
Moore's primary point in this book is that the early adopters of a technology are not necessarily the same as the mainstream market. Moore points out that early adapters often buy things because they're cool, not for practical reasons. Early adapters deal with pain in the form of bad interfaces, minimal network effects. etc. Following this informal observation, Moore divides the population into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. This is his "Technology Adoption Life Cycle", of which the "underlying thesis is that technology is absorbed into any given community in stages corresponding to the psychological and social profiles of various segments within that market" (p. 15). He illustrates this with a bell curve with a horizontal axis corresponding to time of adoption. There's no explanation for why a Bell curve; I'm guessing it just looks pretty in PowerPoint. Moore continues with "this process can be thought of as a continuum with definite stages, each associated with a definable group" (p. 15), although actual definitions are notable by their absence. So Moore advises us that marketing to the two groups might have to be different. Complex? No. Obvious? Perhaps. In any case, this observation is followed with 185 pages of examples and pep talks which I found perfectly readable, but without much additional content.
The second point, which is really just as important, is that the way to "cross the chasm" is by targeting a single industry or group of users, a so-called "vertical market". The only way customers who are beyond the early adopter phase are going to buy into a new product is if it is easy to adopt or if it truly fills a perceived desperate need. That is, it looks less "disruptive". Usually this means a lot of custom integration with industry-specific infrastructure. It's easier to build something well integrated with existing, for say, just the airline industry and their SABRE database backend, than it is to try to target the entire Fortune 500, each sector of which has adopted different sorts of databases. It worked just the way Moore described for my company, where Moore's book was required reading.
You can get much more insight about sales and marekting (as well as finance and logistics) about disruptive technologies from Clayton Christensen's excellent "The Innovator's Dilemma". You can learn more about marketing segmentation and network effects from Shapiro and Varian's "Information Rules". I might be biased as both a techie and a recovering academic, but I liked the more heavily researched, serious case-study orientation as well as the precise, restrained, academic tone of these two books from business professors. On the other hand, Moore's book gives you an excellent feel for the seat of the pants consulting and hype side of the business world, which itself is a useful education.
Moore's book is breezy and highly readable. This is great can't-sleep-on-the-airplane material. And two good ideas are more than you get out of most pop business books.