I just read an excellent article by Michael Eckhardt and the Chasm Institute about the biggest mistakes that companies make when trying to cross the Chasm. If you haven’t read Geoffrey Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm, it’s a must-read. I won’t go into the theory behind it here (we teach it as part of the strategy section in our Optimal Product Management and Product Marketing course), but suffice it to say that it presents a time-tested strategy for getting revenues and products to volume.
The sin that struck me most was this one:
Target Customer Mix-up:
if you’re in the Early Market and ready to move beyond it – don’t just ask your current customers what they want or need. Instead, gain insight from Mainstream customers who have not yet adopted – since they are your target in the coming 12 to 24 months and beyond. We’ve seen companies suffer $1 billion losses due to this avoidable mistake.
The reason this is SO important in Product Management is that when you are in the early market you will have a huge fan base of incredibly passionate customers.
They will tell you how incredible your product is and you and your company will believe them. It’s just human nature. The danger is that if you only listen to your current early adopter fans you’ll end up adding lots of new features that are only relevant to a small portion of what could be a much larger future customer base. You really must apply the 80/20 rule when listening to your early fans – otherwise you might end up with a product that has more features than Microsoft Word!
The challenge is to get beyond these early fans to the people in the massive mainstream who are going to really make your product a household name (or a must-have necessity in the B2B world). It’s much harder to get feedback from these folks, as they generally aren’t product enthusiasts and it will take more time and effort to get their insights. But if you can succeed in integrating their feedback into your product plans it will be worth it.