The first half of this book is gold. It kicks off with the diffusion of innovations theory and a characterization of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. It goes through lots of concrete strategy on how to market to each of these groups, how different they are, and why there is a tricky chasm between the two early adopter groups and everyone else. The lessons here go beyond marketing a product and are just as useful in other contexts, such as how to convince people at your own company to do something. The writing is clear, keeps jargon to a minimum, and has lots of good analogies and even a few good jokes.
As you get into the second half of the book, it runs out of steam. Or, to be fair, perhaps it just wasn't what I was looking for. It starts to go into detailed tactics, and at this level of detail, the book really shows its age. Many of the companies and technologies it uses as examples are long gone. Worse yet, some of the advice doesn't make sense any more. For example, the book describes the Internet as an up and coming technology you might want to pay attention to. The book also shies away from any sort of data or talking to real customers in favor of intuition and experience. This may be the right decision in some scenarios, but with the data access and analysis we have today, it's not always a good trade-off.
In short, well worth reading the first few parts to wrap your head around the different customer segments and how your marketing tactics have to change as you capture more of the market, but consider skipping the rest.
Some good quotes from the book:
Innovators pursue new technology products aggressively. They sometimes seek them out even before a formal marketing program has been launched. This is because technology is a central interest in their life, regardless of what function it is performing.
Early adopters, like innovators, buy into new product concepts very early in their life cycle, but unlike innovators, they are not technologists. Rather they are people who find it easy to imagine, understand, and appreciate the benefits of a new technology, and to relate these potential benefits to their other concerns.
The early majority share some of the early adopter’s ability to relate to technology, but ultimately they are driven by a strong sense of practicality. They know that many of these newfangled inventions end up as passing fads, so they are content to wait and see how other people are making out before they buy in themselves.
The late majority shares all the concerns of the early majority, plus one major additional one: Whereas people in the early majority are comfortable with their ability to handle a technology product, should they finally decide to purchase it, members of the late majority are not. As a result, they wait until something has become an established standard, and even then they want to see lots of support and tend to buy, therefore, from large, well-established companies.
Finally there are the laggards. These people simply don’t want anything to do with new technology, for any of a variety of reasons, some personal and some economic. The only time they ever buy a technological product is when it is buried so deep inside another product—the way, say, that a microprocessor is designed into the braking system of a new car—that they don’t even know it is there.
What the early adopter is buying [...] is some kind of change agent. By being the first to implement this change in their industry, the early adopters expect to get a jump on the competition, whether from lower product costs, faster time to market, more complete customer service, or some other comparable business advantage. They expect a radical discontinuity between the old ways and the new, and they are prepared to champion this cause against entrenched resistance. Being the first, they also are prepared to bear with the inevitable bugs and glitches that accompany any innovation just coming to market.
By contrast, the early majority want to buy a productivity improvement for existing operations. They are looking to minimize the discontinuity with the old ways. They want evolution, not revolution. They want technology to enhance, not overthrow, the established ways of doing business. And above all, they do not want to debug somebody else’s product. By the time they adopt it, they want it to work properly and to integrate appropriately with their existing technology base.
Marketing professionals insist on market segmentation because they know no meaningful marketing program can be implemented across a set of customers who do not reference each other. The reason for this is simply leverage. No company can afford to pay for every marketing contact made. Every program must rely on some ongoing chain-reaction effects—what is usually called word of mouth. The more self-referencing the market and the more tightly bounded its communications channels, the greater the opportunity for such effects.
When pragmatists buy, they care about the company they are buying from, the quality of the product they are buying, the infrastructure of supporting products and system interfaces, and the reliability of the service they are going to get. In other words, they are planning on living with this decision personally for a long time to come. (By contrast, the visionaries are more likely to be planning on implementing the great new order and then using that as a springboard to their next great career step upward.) Because pragmatists are in it for the long haul, and because they control the bulk of the dollars in the marketplace, the rewards for building relationships of trust with them are very much worth the effort.
Most companies fail to cross the chasm because, confronted with the immensity of opportunity represented by a mainstream market, they lose their focus, chasing every opportunity that presents itself, but finding themselves unable to deliver a salable proposition to any true pragmatist buyer. The D-Day strategy keeps everyone on point—if we don’t take Normandy, we don’t have to worry about how we’re going to take Paris.
Positioning is the single largest influence on the buying decision. It serves as a kind of buyers’ shorthand, shaping not only their final choice but even the way they evaluate alternatives leading up to that choice. In other words, evaluations are often simply rationalizations of pre-established positioning.
Here there is one fundamental key to success: When most people think of positioning in this way, they are thinking about how to make their products easier to sell. But the correct goal is to make them easier to buy.