Summary of Crossing the chasm

August 25th, 2017

Crossing the chasm will give tech founders a blow by blow guide on how to position and develop their product to ensure they can deliver it to mainstream markets and avoiding treading water in the chasm between early adopters and the majority.

With that in mind, if you've launched a tech product or are planning to here is what you absolutely have to know in order for it to be a success.

What is the chasm?
The main premise of the book is based on what is known as the "technology adoption cycle". This essentially means that different groups of people adopt technology at different points in a classic bell curve distribution.


Generally speaking, innovators will jump at your product first. They love tech and are usually happy to sacrifice stability in return for being first on board. They are followed by the early adopters, the early and late majority and finally laggards.

In an ideal world you would achieve some kind of "Tarzan swinging between the trees" where each group provides a reference and recommendation for your product to the next. However, the reality is that it's very hard to achieve this.

The motivations for each of these groups to buy are very different. Innovators are constantly looking for big sweeping changes whilst the early majority are more pragmatic and are looking for incremental changes based on provide solutions.

This means that the arguments innovators make to buy a product don't necessarily catch the eye of the majority. And the majority (pragmatists) like to buy from established brands which is tricky because if the majority don't buy you can't become an established brand.

The longer you're stuck in this chasm, the more likely it is that your product will fail - it's expensive to continue to market and impress the early adopters. Therefore, if you want your tech company to succeed then you absolutely must cross this chasm.

A plan to cross the chasm
Pick a niche (Target your beachhead)

The first part of overcoming the chasm is starting small. You have to find a specific niche that you will focus your product on. Moore uses the analogy of of "securing the beachhead" where you'll use this niche as the target for your initial invasion. You can make a stand and grow your product from there.

The important point about securing the beachhead is that you avoid the temptation to expand out too early. You cannot effectively build a product for a broad range of use cases. You'll just end up constantly customizing and complicating your offering to try and fit into so many different usage types.

There are a number of clear benefits to focussing only on your specific niche:

It's much much easier to win over the majority when the market is small
Word of mouth references/recommendations will move very closely between a focussed group
It's much easier to create a standard product for your niche that solves all their problems
Offer a whole product (Assemble your invasion force)

The only way to achieve mainstream success is by providing a whole product. You have to consider all of your customers problems and solve them in their entirety. You can't do this across lots of different target groups, hence the importance of focussing only on your niche.

Pragmatists don't like using products that need add-ons. Microsoft do well with pragmatists because they provide whole products with all the infrastructure, technology, installation, support and training in one place.

Position your product - the "single largest influence" (Define the battle)

Positioning of your product is extremely important. Pragmatists want to know where you stand in comparison to your competitors. Remember, they only buy from established brands too. But as the new kid on the block you might not have any direct competition yet so what do you do?

You have to find a way to market yourself as the 'best buy' for the exact solution that your target customer needs. You have to create your own competition, your own enemy. In order to do this you need to:

Name it and frame it - Customers need to know what it is that they need and under what category
Who and what for - Customers aren't going to buy until they know what is and who it's for
Competitors and differentiation - Customers cannot know what to pay for a product until they can place it in some comparative context
Finances and future - Customers won't be totally committed in buying a product unless they know it comes from a vendor who will be in it for the long run
Positioning process

Firstly you need to make a claim that positions you in the market as the undisputed market leader. You'll need to develop sufficient evidence to ensure this claim cannot be disputed.

Ideally your claim will be as simple as a two sentence statement, "elevator pitch" that you can share with the rest of the company. Then, armed with this claim, you can focus all your messaging on this claim targeting the right audiences in the right order.

Be prepared to revise your initial positioning. Based on feedback, you might of missed the mark or competitors might be trying to disrupt your plans. They don't want you in their space!

Launch your 'invasion"

Finally, armed with all the above your sales team will be sufficiently armed to launch your attack. You'll need to start with direct sales to create initial demand. This takes time and is an expense process.

You may need to give the product away for free initially in exchange for reviews, references and press. Then once your target segment has become aware of your leadership, you'll need to transition to your most efficient sales channel to fulfil demand.


Firstly, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to just read this book. (Buy from amazon) There is so much more detail than I've included above which only adds even more firepower to successfully rolling out your tech product.

The most important part of this to me is focussing on your niche early on. It's something you hear so often but tech founders are so resistant to doing it. It's tough to turn down what appear to be great deals from customers out side your niche. It always looks like a deal you just can't turn down in the early stages. But this is a surefire way to constantly remain in the chasm,  customising your product for every single usage type that comes along.  So, I say again, focus on your niche and only your niche just remember the benefits of the niche, it'll actually make your life easier.

A brief note on the final part of my summary, launching your attack (the sales channel). There are quite a few counter arguments about assembling a sales team. You also might just simply not have one. Either way, the important takeaway is that you position yourself in a way that it makes it incredibly easy for anyone in the company to target your customer segment and clearly position yourself as the market leader.

Thanks for reading. Lots more book summaries to come. Those who are interested, I'll also attach my Crossing the Chasm mind map which is how I like to use as a quick reference of all the important points of a book.

By Jonathan Clift, a UX Desginer based in the UK.