Back in 1991, a gentleman by the name of Geoffrey Moore wrote a book entitled Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. In an excerpt from the book, Moore details a roller coaster like, product life cycle in which consumers will adopt a product at different stages.
Each crowdfunding consumer is placed into a category on the life cycle that correlates to the time they adopted the product. The time at which these consumers adopt the product is consisted into 4 different stages of a product life cycle. As you can see from the graph, there are the Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, and finally, the Laggards.
Innovators: These are the people who invent amazing creations.
Early Adopters: These are the people who share the vision of the product with it’s creator and can implement it into everyday life.
The Chasm: The unknown. The time in which a product has moved past it’s early adopters and is waiting to either apply to the masses, or forever be ‘underground.’
Early Majority: The beginning of the mainstream. The people are not quite the first people to receive the product, but far from the last.
Late Majority: The product has been mainstream for a while. These people might have received the second version of the product by now.
Laggards: The people who are just now getting high speed internet.
Can you see where the crowdfunders are?
Every person who embarks on a crowdfunding campaign is an Innovator. They are those who cultivate a dream on the basis of a grand vision. They have established a problem or need in their surroundings, and embarked on a voyage to the solution. Even if it’s the 326th wallet, they are still innovators.
This is where we (crowdfunders) come into play.
We are the early adopters. We are the people who can asses great projects from those who need to go back to the drawing board. Crowdfunders are the people who have seen enough projects to recognize trends in the marketplace. We’re the people who dictate whether a project reaches success, or is encouraged to reevaluate their ideas. We are the people who find joy in supporting people who want to continue innovating our ever changing world. We are the backers/supporters/contributors/residents.
The reason why the early adopter stage is so important is because we are the final push before the Chasm. The Chasm is a very unknown period of a product that encompasses almost all successfully funded projects. It’s the purgatory like time period in which the project creator is racing to deliver a quality product on time and still stay fresh in his backers minds.
Spending too much time in the Chasm can be the biggest killer to a crowdfunding project hitting the mainstream.
Crowdfunding supporters are the early adopters of the product and most likely to be your salesmen or most effective brand ambassadors. The perfect way to lose them is to get lost in the Chasm by being offensively late on the delivery of a project and lack open, honest communication. In a case in which a project creator is late with poor communication, they no longer have a community behind their product to help launch them into the mainstream.
Crowdfunding Project Creators Should Focus Less On Short Term Profits
The most important part to crossing the chasm and getting your product closer to the mainstream market, where you make serious money, is focus less on short term profits and more on delivering a quality product on time. You will gain more early adopters, who will in turn become your loyal brand ambassadors, and finally help you cross the chasm.
One way to focus less on short term profits and more on your customers (backers) is to put a cap on the amount of funds raised.
Let’s say you have a project you plan to launch on Kickstarter and after you have done all research to figure out what the minimum amount of money you need to raise is $10,000. If you raised $10,000, you already have your project timeline mapped out and you’ll see a small profit of $2,000. Why not set a ceiling at $40,000 with a different timeline?
With a ceiling on your project, you can prepare another timeline with your manufacturer and distributor to help you with the all the new backers. Providing everything goes to plan, you’ll estimate an $8,000 dollar profit and depending on what your timeline looks like, you were able to deliver your product to your backers on time keeping them all happy.
The other scenario is your project gets superfunded which everyones dream of, right? Not necessarily.
Now that you’ve raised just under $100,000 in the same situation above, you have a completely different project. You never discussed these numbers with your manufacturer or distributor, so renegotiating the numbers is a whole new ballgame. In addition to all these new backers, you have a totally different timeline, and before the project has even ended, you already know you’re going to be late on delivery.
Fast forward, and you’re 7+ months late [or even worse] on your project. You have had sleepless nights frantically trying to move the production of your product along and balance all your angry backers.
Once you finally do deliver, are all those backers still your loyalists? Maybe, maybe not.
Now you’ve just finished the crowdfunding part of your business life cycle. If you expect to make your product a viable business, you have a whole new mountain to climb. Having that base of loyalists is very important.
A Different Scenario
The example I mentioned above can be a very extreme, but also a real scenario. If you get super funded and deliver late on your product, the likelihood of your entire backer base turning on you is unrealistic. Yet you will rub many of them the wrong way if you’re not prepared and handle communication ineffectively.
A strategy that many Kickstarter projects do not use is to set a ceiling on their project with the goal delivering to their backers quicker, and using them to help you.
Once a project creator has delivered to their backers in timely fashion, [with open communication] a project creator can use the backer base to get feedback and critiques on the product. Now you can use the profits you have left to improve your product and grow your user base beyond the initial loyalists, hence the mainstream. Continuing to cultivate your user base by hitting delivering your product on time while maintaining open communication will help launch your product cross the chasm.
What else do you think can help your product cross the chasm? Let me know in the comments.