Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not crossing the chasm

What does life feel like in the chasm? How do you plan for it? A growing startup with a well-run product team will have a history of steady progress. Incremental feature releases leading to correlated growth. The strength of the team determined the pace, and the best companies iterate and learn fastest.

Now imagine it just stops working. You execute just like before. You delight customers just like before. You listen and learn. You innovate as well as ever. Nothing seems to matter. In a subscription business, maybe your attrition starts matching your acquisition, balancing like magic. In an eyeballs business, you just can't seem to acquire or activate that next step-up of customers. Or your cost of customer acquisition just magically floats up to match your customer lifetime value.

We talk a good game about technology adoption curves and crossing the chasm, but most of us don't seem to recognize when it's happening. we don't talk enough about how it feels. Things just stop working. It's everybody's fault and nobody's too. The result: frustration, impotence, humiliation.

My two cents: talk about this beforehand. It's going to be hard to talk about in the midst of the malaise. Be ready to drive home this simple point: in a phase change the things that made you successful before don't work anymore.

1 comment:

  1. "In a phase change the things that made you successful before don't work anymore".

    It's tough to cross the chasm without "being remarkable". The distribution and word-of-mouth or word-of-mail that results from being remarkable can sometimes be the difference between crossing the chasm, or falling in and never getting out.

    For readers concerned about the chasm, I recommend reading Seth Godin's thoughts on "Being remarkable" and finding a unique edge/twist for your products and marketing (edgecraft).