One of my favourite all time books in the field of Marketing and Sales is “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore first published in 1991. Even though it is over 20 years old, it is still very fitting in today’s market.
I love the idea that not all buyers for the same product or service are the same and that their needs over time in the product adoption cycle change. I see it time in and time out in the world of turn around’s. An organization is outrageously successful with a product or service – sales are easy. Apparently, all the sales guys have to do is so up and a sale happens. Growth in the company is incredible! Everyone thinks that it will “last forever!”
Then, all of a sudden, cracks start forming. Sales slow down. Competitors start making more appearances. Prospects seem to have gone cold to the product that just months ago seemed like there would never be enough of. Manufacturing is going crazy because forecasts are slipping and products are backing up in the warehouse. The sales team starts to talk about the need for marketing to lower prices. Everyone starts to doubt the channel strategies. Usually what happens is that leaders in the company start to get nervous about cash and begin to make decisions that are off strategy.
Panic starts to creep in. This is exactly the time that leaders need to stay focused and lead the team.
What’s really going on though?
The product is not the problem. Nor is competition – intact the competition is usually executing on a “Me Too” strategy. The issue though lies in the Marketing and Sales Teams not making the shift to different customer needs in the buyer adoption cycle.
In the beginning, there are a small group of buyers that Geoffrey Moore calls “Innovators.” They are usually trend setters, early to the party, they get it! They do not care about public opinion or consumer reports. They want it and and they want to be first. This group is easy to sell to if the marketing and sales messages position the product or service to be new, cool, innovative. These customers are smart so you need to make sure there is value as well.
Life is good. products are “flying off the shelves!”
Then, it changes. Things slow down. What happened?
The buyer group has changed. The “innovators” group have passed. In reality, the Innovators only make up 15% of the buyer adoption cycle. The next group which makes up 70% of the cycle have different needs. They need to be made to feel secure and safe in their decision to buy from you. They don’t care about cool and innovative. They care about public opinion. They want to know who has used the product before and what they thought of it. They want to be made sure that they are making the right decision.
Marketing and sales messages need to change to build trust bonds through relationships. They want to hear all about references, referrals and testimonials. They want to see ROI results from previous buyers. They want to see consumer reports.
The cool part of all this is… A much bigger market awaits to the smart marketer and sales person. The organization that can make the shift in messaging and relationship building will reap a much bigger audience. However, as Geoffrey Moore says in his book, the Sales and Marketing organization has to Cross the Chasm from the Innovator group to the next, bigger group, the Majority.