The Second Chasm

– By Steve Robins

Prospects Need to Cross a Chasm Too

If you’re in software marketing, you’re aware of Geoffrey Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm.  The premise of the book, born out at companies like Oracle and Documentum (since acquired by EMC) is that companies must evolve and cross the “chasm” as they move from serving the early adopters to serving the larger and more lucrative early majority.  That’s the “first chasm.”

The Second Chasm

But there’s actually a second, less-known chasm that relates to the first.  The second chasm is crossed not by your company, but by your prospects.  To be successful, your software company needs to help prospects to make that leap too.  Failure to do so may prevent your company from crossing the first chasm.  

An Example

Here’s an example based on a recent project: Let’s say you offer data management software (a fictional category).  It’s powerful and can be used to solve many different problems.  What’s more, your prospects understand what it does and they see the value.  They know they should manage their data and they want to manage their data.  There’s just one problem: they don’t have access to their data because it’s locked up in enterprise systems like ERP.  What’s more, they can’t figure out how to unlock that data in order to manage it.

So you have a great product that meets a need but your prospects don’t have the data that needs to be managed.  If they had the data, they’d need your product to manage it.  So what do you need to do?  You need to help your prospects to cross their own chasm so you can cross yours.  In order to be successful, your company and/or partners need to provide services and/or software that enable your clients to unlock that data from their ERP systems.

“Help prospects to cross their own chasm so you can cross yours”

The fix for the problem above seems so obvious because it could be handled through a simple extension of the software, or through professional services.  But what if it required something less obvious and less related to your core business, like employee training on how to ensure consistent data capture?  The further that the fix lies from your core business, the more unlikely it is that you’ll be able to see it – if your focus only on your product.

Think Outside-In

Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place.  It’s time to think outside-in rather than outside-in.  I.e., think about the problem from the customer/user’s perspective (outside) and let that influence what you do to your product/solution inside your organization (in).  Consider the problem that your product helps to solve for customers/users.  Notice that I said “helps” rather than “solves” outright.  That’s because your product is always part of a bigger solution to a problem, whether your company offers that solution or not.

Consider all of the other components required to solve the problem – be they user experience, processes, data, hardware and software, and all manner of services.  In many cases, you’ll find holes in the solution.  And each of those holes is a “second chasm” that will need to be crossed in order for your clients to buy your product.

The best way to cross the first chasm is to help your clients to cross the second chasm.

So what do you think?  How have you helped your prospects to cross their own chasm?


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Filed under Case Studies, Software marketing, Solutions, The Solution Marketing Blog

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