When a newish product is first launched it can acquire an initial round of customers or adopters. These customers tend to be enthusiasts or visionaries. They are the product's early market.
To sustain that initial growth the product must reach more customers. They may not have heard of the product or they may just be holding back from buying anytime soon. These prospective customers are pragmatists or conservatives.
In numbers there's more of them than enthusiasts or visionaries... much more. Getting them to reach out for the product involves what author Geoffrey A. Moore has phrased as "crossing the chasm". If the crossing is successful then generally more growth follows.
Moore's focus is on high-tech products. My experience is the analysis applies to other product types as well.
The accompanying graphic, titled "The chasm", is reproduced from Moore's US commercialisation textbook referenced below. Moore, also wrote a 1991 book on the subject.
As illustrated, "pragmatists" and "conservatives" lie on the right side of a big gap. It is what he calls "The chasm". On the right side of The Chasm there is the possibility for escalated and higher levels of growth. Remember, for newish products there's fewer enthusiasts and visionaries than straights.
Quoting Moore, pragmatists "... make the bulk of all technology infrastructure purchases. ... they believe in evolution not revolution...".
About conservatives he writes: "They are very price-sensitive, highly skeptical, and very demanding. ... The key to winning their business and profiting is to simplify and commoditize systems to the point where they just work."
Crossing the chasm takes the increasingly successful business and its product ultimately to the last group of customers identified by Moore, the skeptics.
Businesses experience the need to cross the chasm in many contexts.
I believe it is present in commercialisation, product development, and technology adoption and diffusion. In my view working out how to cross the chasm is not just an issue for high tech sectors.
Business growth brings its own set of ongoing challenges and dangers.
When a product is selling abundantly to the mainstream market of pragmatists, conservatives and skeptics, business strategy remains vital. The need remains to see possible new obstacles, competitors or issues and plan ahead to minimise them or overcome them.
When business is growing really well, or apparently so, it is an excellent time to check risk management exposures. Andy Grove (co-founder of Intel) wrote a book the title of which captures an attitude that is useful for ongoing business survival: "Only the paranoid survive". Cross chasms but remain paranoid.
"Crossing the Chasm - and Beyond" chapter by Geoffrey A. Moore. This chapter and the above graphic appear in Robert A. Burgelman, Modesto A. Maidique and Steven C. Wheelwright, Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation (McGraw-Hill Irwin, Boston, 3rd Edition, 2000), pp 265-272.