B2B Marketing Strategies: Understanding the 5 Types of Tech Buyers
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore is an iconic book for those involved in high-tech sales and marketing. I was first introduced to Moore's concept of the tech adoption life cycle early on in my career when I was doing research for Microsoft. The framework that Moore outlines has been used by countless tech companies in the 25 years since he released the book. Because it is such a core concept, I felt like I knew it well, but had never gone back and read his original book. So I thought it would be nice this summer to go back and read Crossing the Chasm and get a sense for how well it holds up 25 years later.
For those of you who are not familiar, Mr Moore proposes that the technology market is comprised of 5 types of buyers, which are shown in the graphic below. It is worth noting that Mr. Moore is very focused on business buyers, therefore B2B technology. Others will commonly use this framework to describe consumers and consumer technology, and there are very strong parallels at times, but the framework is designed to describe B2B.
1) Innovators are excited about technology, they love to try the latest tech, and they expect to dive into the design details and have to tinker with something to make it work. They get excited to learn how technology works and have ideas for how to improve it. The tinkering and experimentation associated with an early stage product excites them and they expect it. They are inventors, who are passionate about the potential of an idea to change the world. They don't fear problems or even failure and they have the ability to transition to the next idea if the current idea fails.
2) Early Adopters are visionaries who have a strong ability to match emerging technology with a strategic opportunity. They are highly motivated and energetic, and they are willing to try new things in search of a more efficient or effective process to achieve their business goals. They are less concerned about working through problems associated with new technology and not as worried about existing case studies and references.
The Early Majority
3) The Early Majority are pragmatists. They are not looking to be inventors or leaders they way Innovators and Early Adopters, are but they are interested in staying ahead of the curve and they are focused on finding and implementing quality products from quality companies. They understand technology, but are not necessarily looking to be tech leaders, they just want to keep up with the market and find opportunities to improve for a long period. They are not likely to move on quickly to the newest product once they make a decision, they are in this for the long haul. This group represents the bulk of technology spending.
The Late Majority
4) The Late Majority are more conservative when it comes to technology and they place a high value on tradition over progress. When they find something that works for them, they tend to stick with it. They tend to cling to technologies that others find dated or uncool. These buyers look for bundled packages at a discount price. They are a large part of the market, representing about one-third of the customers, but they tend to be underserved by technology companies who much prefer to serve more progressive customers.
5) The Laggards are a smaller group, about 15% of the market according to Moore, and they don't participate in the market much, except to act as skeptics and potentially block a deal. Their biggest complaint tends to be that new technology does not translate to increased productivity.
The crux of the thesis presented by Mr. Moore is that many tech companies fail to understand the dynamics of these different groups. Because of this, they anticipate that success of a new product in the early market (Innovators and Early Adopters) is the sign of a product that is taking off, and they ramp up sales and marketing efforts in anticipation of a huge ramp in sales. But they don't realize that the strategy needed to reach the mainstream markets is fundamentally different than the strategy that worked with the early markets. Thus, they get stuck in the Chasm and fail to achieve the lofty goals they set after finding early success. He argues that many tech firms get stuck in the chasm and never recover.
The book covers a very detailed strategy for crossing the chasm. The key elements to the strategy proposed by Moore relies on segmenting the mainstream market, picking an appropriate target segment that can act as a beachhead, and grabbing at least 50% of the share in that segment quickly. He uses a D-Day analogy to describe needing a beachhead to land on in order to launch a larger attack. The strategy outlined is quite detailed and a very useful guide for those focused on technology brand strategy.
We are huge fans of using segmentation to identify an opportunity segment, and carefully understanding the needs of the segment. The key to this strategy, when done correctly, is that the shared needs and reference points of the segment allow for viral/word of mouth growth for a product that provides a legitimate solution to their needs. The thesis outlined by Moore is easy to understand and a useful read.