Special Report -- Silicon Valley -- The Next Generation
GEOFFREY A. MOORE--Marketing consultant and author
When Geoffrey A. Moore returned to Silicon Valley in 1978, he wasn't sure how he was going to make a living. Technology was the hot thing in the Valley, and as an English professor with a PhD in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, his job prospects seemed modest. "I answered an ad for an educational specialist," he recalls. Little did Moore realize that the path he had chosen would lead to fame and fortune. Some 19 years later, with two popular business books under his belt, Moore is regarded as a leading high-tech marketing strategist.
He is probably best known for his books "Crossing the Chasm," published in 1991, and "Inside the Tornado," published in 1995. In them, he advances a theory of the development of high-tech markets that he calls the four-stage Technology Adoption Lifecycle: early market, niche marketing, hypergrowth, and mature markets. Once a company identifies where it sits in the cycle, it can formulate an appropriate strategy. That's where Moore's consulting company, Chasm Group, gets into the act. "Our practice has been to help [clients] figure out where they really are, so they can then agree on which basic strategies they can use," he adds.
One thing Moore has proved is that his ideas sell books. "Crossing the Chasm" has sold 120,000, vs. the 5,000 that had been expected. "Inside the Tornado," which offers advice on achieving growth in mature markets, sold 14,000 copies in its first two weeks and is now available in seven languages. And both books are currently used in some top business schools. "I would be startled if there were a course in high-tech marketing that didn't require one or the other book," says Moore, with little hint of modesty.
The basis of Moore's theory "is that the business strategy that succeeds in any stage causes failure at the next stage." That, of course, makes it pretty important to recognize what stage your company is in. In Moore's view, Silicon Valley companies traditionally have been confused on this point. "You would see people in the early market taking out ads in The Wall Street Journal, or people who would try to seek out partners when they should be seeking out distributors. They were doing strategies at different points that were just wrong for that point in a [company's] lifecycle," he says. "There's a prescription" for what ails companies in such straits, Moore says: his, of course. "What people like about the process and methodology" associated with his theory is that "it is very explicit about what you should not be doing."
Companies that have tried his approach agree. Dominic Orr, CEO of San Jose-based Alteon Networks Inc., a networking company, says Moore and his system have been a great help. Orr read "Crossing the Chasm" on a flight to Japan, where he was working as Asia-Pacific marketing director for Hewlett-Packard Co. "One of the key things that Geoffrey brought to the table was to identify that this was not a one-size-fits-all [situation]. You have to use different marketing techniques when your product is on a different part of the cycle," he says. After HP, Orr moved on to Bay Networks Inc., taking Moore's approach with him. "I used it to scale the growth of the company, and during my time, we more than doubled our business using this kind of methodology and thinking," he adds.
Since 1992, in fact, Moore has signed up such big names as Microsoft, Digital Equipment, Oracle, and BBN, plus up-and-comers such as Clarify and Remedy. That's pretty impressive for someone who entered nerdhood as an adult. Born in Portland, Ore., Moore was only slightly exposed to business as a young man through his father's construction company. Although he studied some math as a Stanford University undergrad, he changed majors and ended up with a BA in literature in 1967. After college, he got a PhD in Medieval and Renaissance Literature from the University of Washington, and in 1974, went to work as an English professor at Olivet College in Michigan. In 1978, Moore decided to move back to California, where his wife, Marie, a teacher, was from.
In 1978, Moore went to work for San Francisco-based mainframe software maker Rand Systems Inc. as an educational specialist, eventually landing himself a position as assistant to the president, and later, as a salesman. A decade later, he found himself at high-tech marketing and communications specialist Regis McKenna Inc. in Palo Alto. That's where his interest in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle was born. "I kept seeing this pattern of really exciting products, early successes, and then they tanked," he explains. "That's what led me to step back and come up with this idea of the chasm --the gulf that separates early market success from mainstream market success."
In 1992, he founded Chasm Group and landed HP as a customer. Since then, business has snowballed. Moore estimates that his six-partner group sees up to 40 clients a year, most of them outside of Silicon Valley. "They're trying to get the recipe. Anybody who is not in Silicon Valley is trying to tap into the learning and trying to absorb it into their own locale," he says.
Moore has two more books in the pipeline, and he plans to continue his rapidly growing consulting business, which he says will hit about $3.5 million in revenue this year, vs. $2.2 million in 1996. Moore believes he has made a mark in Silicon Valley: "I think my contribution is to create a common vocabulary for investors as well as management teams and their partners. It is still a big challenge, but the vocabulary helps people work together as opposed to at cross-purposes."By Gabrielle Saveri in San Francisco