Marketing Your App 101 – What is the Chasm and How Do You Cross It?

Eventually people involved in tech, especially startup marketers will run across the term “Crossing the Chasm.” But what does it actually mean and how does it apply to tech companies?

The source of the word comes from Geoffrey Moore’s series of books that deal with product adoption through the lifecycle and specifically making the jump from the “early adopters” stage of users to the “early majority” stage of users. The chasm refers the big gap between the two groups in terms of how they adopt and use products and how tech companies have to address the 2 groups differently.

First some background: Moore posits that there are 5 distinct groups of users:

  1. Innovators – Users who are very keen on trying new technological products, or in this case, apps. They appreciate new products.
  2. Early Adopters – Somewhat keen on trying new technological products and/or apps. They appreciate the potential that new products will have on their lives.
  3. Early Majority – Often referred to as pragmatists. They will try a new product only after it has been tested and verified by others. Pragmatists represent a significant share of the market and getting their attention will not be easy.
  4. Late Majority – Sometimes referred to as conservatives. They arrive late on the scene and will only adopt a product after they see proof of it’s positive effects. Conservatives are generally cautious about trying out new products.
  5. Laggards – The last to arrive. They will only adopt new products if they have to. Think of them as the flip phone group of customers.

So what does any of this have to do with your app? App adoption also follows the same curve. While BlueStacks can easily get you millions of installs, a product that hasn’t already gone through the Innovators and Early Adopters stage will probably fall flat despite our best efforts. This is because most of BlueStacks’ 100mm users fall in the Early Majority stage. So then what’s an app developer like you to do?

First, focus on Innovators. They are users who are very interested in just trying out new products and are more than willing to provide you feedback on it. You can easily find them by posting by posting for Beta testers on Craigslist. Or if you’re daring to reach out to them online in message boards. Be aware though, you’ll have to learn quickly how to filter out bad candidates or those looking for a simple monetary benefit. Let them use your app, provide you feedback and suggest new features in 2-3 cycles so that you have an opportunity to develop an even better product. You’ll know you’re ready for the early adopters stage after you’ve fleshed clear use cases that your product solves.

Next, start reaching out to Early Adopters. With your fleshed out use cases in hand, you’re ready to find users who have pain points that your product can solve. This step is critical. You’ll have to do your research on these customers because they will also be your product’s first ambassadors. Start with your use cases and work backwards… is your app a fantasy Australian Rules Football game for customers looking for accurate stats? Then you’ll probably be looking to find Aussies who complain on social media or message boards that there isn’t enough accurate stats for their league. A little search for the right hashtags or keywords can go a long way. Reach out to your targets, explain your product, and ask them to give it a try. This is also a good time to reach out to bloggers as most fit into this category; as you remember to ask them to honor an embargo date, you should be fine. The actions you take here will be critical as you prepare to Cross the Chasm.

Crossing the Chasm is simply a matter of changing the way the you sell your app to the consumer because you are dealing with a group that shops differently. Whereas Early Adopters were willing to take risks and try your product to be able to use new products and to be known as one of the firsts to use your product, the Early Majority seeks a safe bet. They will look for products that are well reviewed, polished and used by either those they respect as authority figures, stars, or other references for new products. If you take a look at most marketing efforts whether it be apps or headphones, you’ll see a celebrity or a respected figure using, endorsing, or simply be associated with a product (For reference: See the faces of Beats Headphones (Lebron James, Lady Gaga, Nicki Manaj just to name a few), or Kate Upton in Game of War ads). The Early Majority also want to see significant buzz around a specific product, they’ll look to see how the product is reviewed and and by how many. This is why it’s critical to set up a public forum for customers to speak about your product; therefore to Cross the Chasm, you’ll need to prepare ahead:

  1. Segment the Early Majority into organized cohorts based on interests or location.
  2. Ensure that you have social media pages set up. Post regularly; having a social media calendar is very helpful.
  3. Separately, set up a support channel so that you can deal with issues that need to be resolved there.
  4. Have a communication plan ready to direct support issues to your support forum while conversations to your social media pages
  5. Ask the bloggers and Early Adopters that you spoke with to publicly review your product.
  6. Ensure that your app is well polished; your color scheme makes sense and all the features work 100% of the time, every time.
  7. Prepare to buy ads. The Early Majority won’t go out of their way to find your product unless they truly need it. You’ll have to go out to find them and market to them.

Crossing the Chasm itself will be a long process. The Early Majority is a large group. As I mentioned above, it’s best to segment the population into manageable cohorts and to dedicate your resources to one specific interest group or one location at a time and to dedicate your resources to it.

Before you start to launching your ads and before the embargo date, please ensure that you’ve polished your app (fix as many bugs as possible, ensure the color scheme makes sense and that every feature works to spec).

You should time your ads to run at the same time as your embargo date ends or soon after it ends. As the Early Majority click on your ads or the bloggers’ reviews, they’ll be taken to your app store page. Here is where they’ll see all the positive reviews that the Innovators and Early Adopters. As they download and launch your app, the hard work that you put in and the feedback previously provided should have the desired positive effect on their engagement and retention. When they choose to follow and engage on your social media pages, the positive commentary previously established by Early Adopters will also positively influence their engagement with your brand.

Congratulations you’ve just Crossed the Chasm!


Marketing Your App 101 – What is...