How Small Businesses Can Create Competition to Attract Cautious Buyers Online: Applying Principles from the Tech Marketing Classic ‘Crossing the Chasm’

“Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers” by Geoffrey A. Moore is often hailed as the ultimate guide to high-tech marketing, and it’s got the staying power to back up its reputation. Originally published in 1991, its core ideas are timeless and reserve cult-like status in tech marketing literature. This book centers on the “Technology Adoption Life Cycle,” a powerful framework for guiding companies across the challenging “chasm”, which is the gap between the early market and the mainstream market.

In essence, it proposes that tech companies can make a triumphant leap over the gap and transition from the early market to the mainstream market by captivating the practical and cautious buyers in the mainstream market through word-of-mouth references — a bit like a superhero in action! Once this leap is achieved, these businesses are in the major leagues, basking in the glory of becoming market leaders.

The icing on the cake?

This framework isn’t confined to tech firms; it’s a versatile toolkit suitable for businesses of all sizes, irrespective of their tech background. It’s akin to a universal recipe for success.

Businesses must attract the cautious buyers [early majority] to cross the chasm

Why a small business needs competition to enter the mainstream market  

Now, in the context of a small business trying to win over the practical and cautious buyer group [AKA, the pragmatists] and cross the chasm, competition becomes very important. Now, you might think having no competition is the ultimate goal, like a “finders keepers” situation where you scoop up all the profits because you got there first. Well, in some markets, that might be true, but not in the world of pragmatists.

You see, pragmatist buyers are a cautious bunch. They want reassurance before they take the plunge with your product, whether it’s a snazzy app or a delicious baked treat. They want to see other pragmatists using and endorsing your offerings. And guess what? They also like having choices. Having a few other businesses offering similar options helps them compare and find the best fit. For example, most people hopped on the TikTok train only after their friends couldn’t stop talking about it, even though Instagram Shorts offered pretty much the same thing and they probably already had the Instagram app. So, in reality, competition becomes a necessity for crossing the chasm.  

How to boost competition in your chosen segment  

There are various ways to boost your market share, but let’s zoom in on one effective strategy: shifting from being all about your “cool product” to delivering a full-blown “whole product” experience.  For example, take an online clothing resale business with a standout feature: customers can virtually “try on” clothes by uploading a picture of themselves.

However, if a customer is above a certain dress size, the clothes appear distorted. To attract mainstream customers, fixing this bug and enhancing the user experience is key. It transforms your product from being “cool” for early adopters to a more inclusive and complete offering for a wider audience. In short, your business should transition from being a product centric business to a market centric business.

“online clothing resale business with a standout feature”

Another savvy strategy is to “create” competition, not by launching a new business, but by using existing ones as spotlights for your own. In order to do this, you have to choose an entrance niche segment that already has other reasonable buying options that the pragmatists are aware of. Then, you must choose a market alternative business and a product alternative business. The former is a business that is already solving the same problem that your product is going to solve. You must use this business to show that your method of solving this problem is better. The latter is a business that’s producing the same innovation as you. You must use this business to highlight that you’re in a growing industry so that pragmatists won’t have to worry about the industry lagging after they’ve already invested.

Let’s take Box, a cloud computing service provider as an example. When Box entered the market, they used SharePoint by Microsoft as its viable market alternative while using Dropbox as its product alternative to highlight the fact that they have a better product in a growing market. So in essence, “creating competition” is all about savvy marketing. It’s like shining a spotlight on your business by positioning it in comparison to others, making your offerings look even more appealing to pragmatic buyers.  

In a nutshell, “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore is like a trusty GPS for tech marketing adventures. It’s all about wooing those pragmatic buyers, making competition your ally, and embracing a market-centric mindset. So, whether you’re a small business or a big fish, this book is your go-to map in the ever-changing tech marketing terrain.