Crossing the Chasm – A must-read for every marketer

Crossing the Chasm – A must-read for every marketer

13th March 2023

In a recent podcast with VMware’s VP Marketing, John Watton, we were talking about channel strategy and the importance of partnering with other organisations if your product on its own can’t solve the customer problem.  I commented that our conversation reminded me of Whole Product Marketing, a concept described by Geoffrey Moore in his seminal book Crossing the Chasm. (The podcast is a great listen for anyone in tech marketing btw, John is a legend).

After the podcast, I was chatting to a few digital marketing buddies online and they’d never heard of or read any Geoffrey Moore. Mistake.

Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm” is a must-read for anyone involved in the technology industry. In his book, Moore introduces the concept of the “chasm” that separates early adopters of a product from the mainstream market. He also presents two key strategies for crossing this chasm: the beachhead strategy and the bowling alley strategy. These are super relevant for any marketer selling digital products these days too.

So, in this blog, I explain how they can be applied to achieve success.

Beachhead Strategy

The beachhead strategy involves focusing on a small and well-defined market segment to establish a foothold in the market. This market segment is typically composed of early adopters who are willing to take risks and try new things.

To execute the beachhead strategy, you need to identify a specific market segment with a unique set of needs and preferences. Once you have identified this market segment, you can focus on developing a product or service that addresses their specific needs. By doing this, you can establish a strong foothold in the market and build a reputation for your company as a leader in that particular segment.

Once you have established a beachhead, you can use it as a base from which to expand into other segments of the market. This strategy can be particularly effective in the technology industry, where new products and services are often met with skepticism and resistance.

Compelling Need

How do you identify which market becomes your beachhead? You look for the ‘most compelling need’. In other words, find a big hairy problem that needs solving in your target customer base that you can solve all or some of. If you can solve the problem on your own, great. If you can’t you need to partner with other companies to create a “whole product” for your customers, which is were we started this blog.

Bowling Alley Strategy

Once your whole product has succeeded in dominating your beachhead market, you need to scale. Thus you need a bowling alley strategy which students of marketing will see as Ansoff on steroids.

From your beachhead you can diversify in two ways. You can take your existing product to a new industry or sector, or you can bring a new product/service to your existing market. It looks like this:

The critical observation Moore made is that the new ‘pin’ you attempt to knock over MUST regard the pin you are coming from as a reference-able market. If your beachhead is in retail banking, there’s no point in trying to target automotive manufacturing as segment 2. Wealth management? Much better fit. Equally, if you’re Zoom selling digital conferencing services, you’ll struggle to extend into grocery, but you may be able to sell video-conferencing accessories.

Read it now!

In conclusion, the beachhead and bowling alley strategies are two effective approaches for crossing the chasm and achieving success in the technology industry. The key to success is to focus on a well-defined market segment and develop products and services that meet their specific needs. By doing this, you can establish a strong foothold in the market and build a loyal following among early adopters. With time, you can expand into adjacent markets and establish yourself as a leader in the industry.

Oh… listen to the podcast here and read the book. It’s compelling!


Written By
Dom leads group development at Selbey Anderson and has been in the marketing business for over 25 years. He started his professional career after serving six years in the British Army and spent his early career in agency before moving in-house and into general management.
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