Crossing the Chasm

I abandoned the book somewhere two thirds in. Either it’s a bit too early for me, or it doesn’t have the value I’m trying to extract from it regarding the Tride.

Don’t be discouraged by my comment above. If you are planning or making an online software service or tech products, I’d say give it the first 100 pages and see if problems solved in the book match yours.

Highlights & Margin Notes

Develop a library of target customer scenarios. Draw from anyone in the company who would like to submit scenarios, but go out of your way to elicit input from people in customer-facing jobs. Keep adding to it until new additions are no more than minor variations on existing scenarios.

Number and publish the scenarios in typed form, one page per scenario. Accompanying the bundle, provide a spreadsheet with the rating factors assigned to columns and the scenarios assigned to rows. Break the rating factors into two subtotals, showstoppers first, then nice-to-haves.

Rank order the results and set aside scenarios that do not pass the first cut. This is typically about two-thirds of the submissions.

For those who wish to take a more prudent course, however, whole product planning is the centerpiece for developing a market domination strategy.

In the simplified model there are only two categories: 1) what we ship and 2) whatever else the customers need in order to achieve their compelling reason to buy.

Classically, high tech has delivered 80 to 90 percent of a whole product to any number of possible target customers, but 100 percent to few, if any.

Positioning, first and foremost, is a noun, not a verb. That is, it is best understood as an attribute associated with a company or a product, and not as the marketing contortions that people go through to set up that association.

Positioning is the single largest influence on the buying decision. It serves as a kind of buyers’ shorthand, shaping not only their final choice but even the way they evaluate alternatives leading up to that choice. In other words, evaluations are often simply rationalizations of preestablished positioning.

Positioning exists in people’s heads, not in your words. If you want to talk intelligently about positioning, you must frame a position in words that are likely to actually exist in other people’s heads, and not in words that come straight out of hot advertising copy.

People are highly conservative about entertaining changes in positioning. This is just another way of saying that people do not like you messing with the stuff that is inside their heads. In general, the most effective positioning strategies are the ones that demand the least amount of change.

When most people think of positioning in this way, they are thinking about how to make their products easier to sell. But the correct goal is to make them easier to buy.

Hence the elevator test: Can you explain your product in the time it takes to ride up in an elevator? Venture capitalists use this all the time as a test of investment potential. If you cannot pass the test, they don’t invest. Here’s why:

  1. Whatever your claim is, it cannot be transmitted by word of mouth. In this medium the unit of thought is at most a sentence or two. Beyond that, people cannot hold it in their heads. Since we have already established that word of mouth is fundamental to success in high-tech marketing, you must lose.
  2. Your marketing communications will be all over the map. Every time someone writes a brochure, a presentation, or an ad, they will pick up the claim from some different corner and come up with yet another version of the positioning. Regardless of how good this version is, it will not reinforce the previous versions, and the marketplace will not get comfortable that it knows your position. A product with an uncertain position is very difficult to buy.
  3. Your R&D will be all over the map. Again, since there are so many different dimensions to your positioning, engineering and product marketing can pick any number of different routes forward that may or may not add up to a real market advantage. You will have no clear winning proposition but many strong losing ones.
  4. You won’t be able to recruit partners and allies, because they won’t be sure enough about your goals to make any meaningful commitments. What they will say instead, both to each other and to the rest of the industry, is “Great technology—too bad they can’t market.” 5. You are not likely to get financing from anybody with experience. As just noted, most savvy investors know that if you can’t pass the elevator test, among other things, you do not have a clear—that is, investable—marketing strategy.

Here is a proven formula for getting all this down into two short sentences. Try it out on your own company and one of its key products. Just fill in the blanks:

  • For (target customers—beachhead segment only)
  • Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternative)
  • Our product is a (product category)
  • That provides (compelling reason to buy).
  • Unlike (the product alternative),
  • We have assembled (key whole product features for your specific application). Let’s try this out with a few examples, starting with some we have already looked at earlier in the chapter. Verinata
  • For older pregnant mothers and others
  • Who want an alternative to amniocentesis to screen for Down syndrome
  • Verinata provides a genetic analysis of fetal DNA
  • That does not involve inserting a needle into the womb.
  • Unlike other genetic tests for fetal abnormalities,
  • The Verinata test is the most accurate on the market.

Remember, the goal of positioning is to create and occupy a space inside the target customers’ head.