Skip to content

Successful market communication across the Chasm and in the Bowling Alley

Startups need to develop a tactical market communications plan to successfully cross the Chasm and enter the Bowling Alley

Note that the complexity of the marketing communications topic makes it too broad to cover in one article. This article of one of a series of six that covers the field of marketing communication. The full list of the titles in this series includes:

  • Marketing communication overview —outlines the basic marketing communication concepts and provides the foundation for rest of the series
  • Positioning —discusses the ins and outs and importance of claiming the most attractive position in your customer’s mind
  • Marketing message —provides the framework for planning your marketing message throughout the technology adoption lifecycle (TALC)
  • Marketing to influencers and opinion leaders —describes the process and methods to develop word of mouth marketing in the marketplace
  • Market communication in the Early Market —focuses on how (and why) you should tailor your message for technology enthusiasts and visionaries
  • Market communication across the Chasm and in the Bowling Alley—explains the tactics that will help you cross the Chasm

In the mainstream market, the target audience consists of pragmatists. When you start to build your communication efforts, remember that pragmatists are skeptical and don’t care about products or technologies; rather, they concern themselves with markets and companies.

Your message should position your whole product in relation to the particular business problems that pragmatists consider a priority in their market segment.
The image below shows how your message should evolve as you move from the Early Market into the Bowling Alley.

Product-centric to market-centric communication. Newest technology evolves to second-generation application. Elegant architecture evolves to emerging standard. Best product evolves to growing installed base. Easier to use evolves to most third-party support. Attractive pricing evolves to cost of ownership. Unique functionality evolves to quality of support. The next big thing evolves to relevant alternative.

In addition to changing the message for your changing audience, bear in mind that pragmatists seek different types of evidence through media very different from that of the Early Market.

Pragmatists are market-oriented and are guided by market validation rather than technology validation. They obtain this information primarily from respected industry sources such as industry analysts and publications.

chasm-crossing and bowling alley. Market evidence includes: market share, third-party support, standards certification, applications proliferation, vertical press coverage, industry analyst endorsements. These lead to the message, which includes Focus on the (niche) market the product is for, frame issues that pertain to the niche/market segment, build credibility in the market segment, aim for sefment leadership. These lead to media tools, which includes vertical market press, market backgrounders, application-focused advertising, reference customers/case histories, analyst reports, web-based advertising.

Market communication beyond the Bowling Alley

With success, a company will grow beyond the Bowling Alley and reach the mass market. As this point, your marketing communication efforts must become more sophisticated. Therefore, they will require increased involvement from experts such as advertising agencies, PR firms and designers.


Wiefels, P. (2002). The Chasm Companion.New York: Harper Business.