Geoff Moore’s seminal book, “Crossing the Chasm,” described the psychological chasm between early buyers and the mainstream market.
Seth Godin cites Moore’s work, “Moore’s Crossing the Chasm helped marketers see that while innovation was the tool to reach the small group of early adopters and opinion leaders, it was insufficient to reach the masses. Because the masses don’t want something that’s new, they want something that works…
The lesson is simple:
– Early adopters are thrilled by the new. They seek innovation.
I’d reason that almost all significant OSS buyer decisions fall into the “mainstream market” section in the diagram above. Why? Well, an organisation might have the 15% of innovators / early-adopters conceptualising a new OSS project. However, sign-off of that project usually depends on a team of approvers / sponsors. Statistics suggest that 85% of the team is likely to exist in a mindset beyond the chasm and outweigh the 15%.
The mainstream mindset is seeking something that works and something they can trust.
But OSS / digital transformation projects are hard to trust. They’re all complex and unique. They often fail to deliver on their promises. They’re rarely reliable or repeatable. They almost all require a leap of faith (and/or a burning platform) for the buyer’s team to proceed.
OSS sellers seek to differentiate from the 400+ other vendors (of course). How do they do this? Interestingly, by pitching their innovations and uniqueness mostly.
Do you see the gap here? The seller is pitching the left side of the chasm and the buyer cohort is on the right.
I wonder whether our infuriatingly lengthy sales cycles (often 12-18 months) could be reduced if only we could engineer our products and projects to be more mainstream, repeatable, reliable and trustworthy, whilst being less risky.
This is such a dilemma though. We desperately need to innovate, to take the industry beyond the chasm. Should we innovate by doing new stuff? Or should we do the old, important stuff in new and vastly improved ways? A bit of both??
Do we improve our products and transformations so that they can be used / performed by novices rather than designed for use by all the massive intellects that our industry seems to currently consist of?
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