5 Things We Learned from "Crossing the Chasm" Author Geoffrey Moore

Geoffrey Moore is a legend in the world of business and the author of several books, including classics “Crossing the Chasm” and “Inside the Tornado.” An organizational theorist, management consultant, and inspiration to anyone who has ever wondered whether that liberal arts degree will pay off, Moore discusses buyer psychology, bowling alley metaphors, and what crossing the chasm feels like in today’s world. You can find the full conversation, part of Knotel CEO Amol Sarva’s In the Know podcast, on iTunes. Here are five things we learned to whet your appetite.

1. You Can Put Liberal (Arts) Thinking to Good Use

Moore holds a doctorate in literature — light years away from the world of marketing, tech, and phrases like “B2B,” yet he draws eloquent and effective conclusions about enterprise, startups, and the mindsets involved. Literature, he remarks, is about persona. Ultimately, marketing is a narrative, and employing the tactic of persona identification helps understand how the story of the idea will unfold successfully.

2. The Hero’s Journey Is to Literature What the Buyer’s Journey Is Marketing

Moore had 10 years of enterprise sales/marketing under his belt before he began to think more closely about the stages of a buyer's journey. Pre-chasm, he says, there are the visionaries and the evangelists — think Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, those who are vigorously vocal what they believe. That early market is made up of consumers who believe too, often technology enthusiasts or other visionaries. Understanding the process, and the players, is key to understanding how to market across the chasm. Evangelists and visionaries might be more visible, but Moore suggests they aren’t as crucial in closing a sale.

3. Empathizing with the Pragmatist Pays

The biggest leap in the journey of the buyer is the one the pragmatist takes. The persona of a pragmatist is one of a careful consumer, who listens to the pitch, but ultimately defers to their peers. Pragmatists, Moore argues, don’t make decisions until other people have done so successfully. Prove that you can solve a difficult problem, and the pragmatists will follow. He uses the term “pragmatist in pain” to describe this type of persona — the willingness to pay goes hand-in-hand with feeling that the problem is truly understood.

4. Fortunes Are Made in the Tornado

“Crossing the Chasm” deals with the unification of all the different personas to solve or address a problem. Once the organization is in place, things, i.e., demand, happen fast. “The world says, where’s mine?” Moore says. This is what he means by entering the tornado — the period with the potential for mass adoption. In the tornado, you have to understand the reality and respond rapidly. Business ecosystems organize around the market leader, and becoming the market leader means the broader market will organize around you for — perhaps — decades. He references Facebook as an example here, saying, be a fast follower, and you’ll shape the expectations of the category.

5. Being Number One Isn’t Everything, But Bowling Might Be?

The “all things to all people” mentality of the tornado theory means that if there is a number one, there must be a number two. Number one sets the standard, but realistically, Moore says, the world becomes unsatisfied because of that very standard. Microsoft is a great example of a company that’s never been number one, but remains a leader in the category. Moore makes the case that if you’re playing smart and playing fast, number two is still a good spot to be.

He references the bowling alley several times throughout the conversation, as a sort of ground zero for problem solving. The bowling alley is always open, he says — start with one pin, penetrate this segment and then move on. In time they will fall — one by one. There are always going to be problems that people will pay a premium to have solved. Perhaps what he means is, keep your eye on the pins, because sometimes working up to a spare is more valuable than a strike.

Listen to the entire episode here.