Want to free trapped value? Meet the strategy that Geoffrey Moore says will make ‘everyone flock to you’

Want to free trapped value? Meet the strategy that Geoffrey Moore says will make ‘everyone flock to you’

13th December 2023

The road to success is lined with the headstones of businesses that couldn’t adapt to the next stage of the technology adoption life cycle. 

When a new form of tech debuts, there are always early adopters keen to get on board ahead of the crowd, even if that means taking a risk. But it’s a mistake to assume that said crowd will then follow in the early adopters’ footsteps automatically. 

As anyone who’s tried to take a start-up from prototype to buy-out knows, there’s actually a vast chasm between early adopters and the early majority. And it doesn’t end there — once you’ve figured out how to crack the early majority, you’ve got to do the same again for the late majority and the laggards, with each stage requiring a different strategy. 

Thankfully, there’s a framework invented by Geoffrey Moore for getting around this conundrum, explored in his bestselling book, ‘Crossing the Chasm’. 

As an organisational theorist, management consultant, and author, his work brings together and builds upon the corporate strategy models taught at leading business schools. He moulds that information into playbooks that anyone can follow — and, crucially, convince their C-suite to get on board with. 

We spoke to him about marketing for technology, and how many businesses in this space miss the mark. One of the most common mistakes Geoffrey noted was focusing on the traditional product life cycle rather than the technology adoption life cycle. 

‘The twentieth century was dominated by enterprise computing. It was a completely B2B world. There was a little B2C, but it was kind of trickle-down stuff,’ he says. ‘What happened at the turn of the century was the power ratio flipped and consumer computing took over the world — Facebook, Google, Amazon, and all the transactional, amazing stuff. And when that happened, all of a sudden people said “What life cycle? There’s no life cycle.”’

‘And it’s true with consumer offers, particularly with the freemium model. The consumer doesn’t experience the inertial resistance that the established incumbents do. We used to say at the beginning of the century, “URL stands for ubiquity now, revenue later”. In that playbook, the life cycle is a function of inertial resistance for the consumer markets.’

He cites the take off of Netscape and the worldwide web at large as an example, during which telcos did everything within their power to get their elected representatives to halt their progress. In other words, there was institutional resistance, but not customer resistance. And the B2B world faces similar push-back on a smaller scale today. 

‘There’s an enormous amount of inertial resistance toward any B2B digital transformation. […] First of all, there’s simply the size of the purchase from aggregation. There’s the technology risk, the career risk, the tech debt and stack problems. We’ve been talking about digital transformation for the entire century. Frankly, prior to Covid, it was just slogging along. I mean, Covid gave it an enormous exogenous boost. But in the B2B world, a life cycle model will always be there.’ 

So, what can tech marketers do to figure out what their next move should be, based on where they are in the life cycle? Geoffrey recommends that you should go ‘back to the bowling alley’. 

Another gem from ‘Crossing the Chasm’, the bowling alley strategy involves focusing on one specific market segment (AKA a pin) at a time. When you’ve got the first one down, you can then leverage that success to knock the adjacent pins (in other words, similar segments) down, and so on. 

‘For most of us, most of the time, the bowling alley playbook is totally reliable,’ he says. ‘The key to the game is finding a target customer with a truly compelling reason to buy. […] The bowling alley makes it really crystal clear where the trapped value is. Or, in this industry, what business process is essentially holding the rest of the enterprise back?’

‘Trapped value doesn’t just want to be released. I mean, it’s stuck. The more you focus on a particular industry, on a single process, typically the more stuck it is. The bad thing is that it’s going to take a lot of work on your part to open it up and free it. But the good news is if you get that thing open, boy, you will not have any competitors. Everybody will flock to you. So that’s why in a downturn people are basically hesitant. But if you say “Look, there’s trapped value, this is what’s holding you back”, and you could release it this year, they will play.’ 

Easier said than done? Not with Geoffrey’s playbooks on your side. Discover the number one most important marketing channel for tech disruptors, alongside how to create distinctive positioning today and much more in part one of the full podcast.


Written By
Ornella Weston is the managing director of boutique agency Duckman Copy Ltd. Throughout her career, she’s written everything from white papers to websites, from billboards to board game instructions. Now it’s time to add op-eds to the list. The marketing world is full of flops and failures, often at great...
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