There’s a popular book by Geoffrey A. Moore called Crossing The Chasm that contains strategies for creating successful sales and marketing plans for high-tech industries. The theme of the book is that there’s a technology life cycle that begins with the innovators (smallest market) who adopt first, then moves on to early adopters (small market) and then the early majority (large market). The space — or time — between the early adopters and majority is the chasm you want to cross. As a tech company, your products and marketing should, ideally, try to accelerate the bridging of the gap between the two groups so you can gain access to the majority, winning the large market and increasing revenue.
Moore’s ideas are rooted in real-world examples. In fact, within the bar code labeling market we can see how things have changed and how some companies are taking steps to cross the chasm. One such company is NiceLabel.
Software: From A Designer Into A Business System
Established in 1993 and having executive leadership with decades of experience in the AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) industry, NiceLabel specializes in creating bar code labeling solutions. Historically, this meant that the company produced label designer software, which is just a piece of the overall solution an organization (say, for instance, a manufacturing plant) would need to run their business. Back in 2008, the company’s leadership saw an opportunity and began making changes. Today, the company’s products have evolved into what Ken Moir, VP of marketing for NiceLabel says is a full-blown label management system.
NiceLabel’s product has gone from just a desktop application to a full suite of business tools that digitally transform the entire labeling process and include:
- Document management system (DMS) — Moir describes this like a Sharepoint on steroids but built for bar coding labeling.
- Label designer — A next generation version of the original core product, but now optimized and tightly integrated with the DMS.
- Application builder — this lets organizations build their own printing applications like you would with Visual Studio, but there’s no programming skills required.
- Integration system — a key piece of the suite, this allows a customer to integrate with common business systems and their master data such as SAP, Oracle, and other ERP & MES systems.
- Web printing system — this provides a way to host and launch centralized printing applications via web technology and deploy across all users, factories, geographic locations and even business partners such as suppliers or contract manufacturers. The result are huge gains concerning centralization and deployment.
- Multiple environments — the system gives users different environments such as development and quality assurance in which to test before pushing to production.
You might be wondering why Moir believes this business suite is a game changer for NiceLabel. As he explains, it takes what were, and still are for many organizations, manual paper-based processes, and digitizes them through the implementation of the above features. While any business can use bar code labels, there is a huge market for the solutions in manufacturing and logistics, where processes and regulations must be followed. Indeed, many of NiceLabel’s customers are ISO 9001 certified, so digitally transforming the barcoding and labeling process is appealing as it meets quality requirements, reduces costs and helps with faster time to market.
Getting back to the chasm theme, Moir explains that the aforementioned functionality was previously available only to the largest organizations that were willing to pay the high cost and experience the pain of being the innovators. The solutions required a high level of integration and were pieced together by the NiceLabel Professional Services Group or the dozen or so systems integrators in the world capable of doing so.
With the creation of the LMS Enterprise suite last year, NiceLabel hoped to bring the solution to a wider audience (i.e. cross the chasm to the majority) by making the solution easier to install and configure. “Early on, we had all the components, but didn’t make it easy to install,” he says. “Now that it’s easy to buy, install, and understand, our goal is to scale and leverage the reseller channel.”
By making the product easier to implement (even more so with an update that occurred a couple months ago), the market for potential resellers and installers went from a dozen or so systems integrators to hundreds of AIDC VARs (value-added resellers).
Addressing The Majority
The next step for NiceLabel is to educate the market on the availability of such a solution. Moir says many organizations still approach NiceLabel looking only for label design software, not knowing that they could now easily access a full suite and save a lot of money, time, and heartache in digitizing their processes. “We plan on using eBooks, educational material, online tools, and webinars to tell this story in simple terms to both potential customers and potential reseller partners,” he says.
The Driving Force
None of this happened for NiceLabel by accident. Moir says NiceLabel’s CEO Chris Walsh has been the driver of this initiative and proponent of having his company cross the chasm to a wider market. “Our CEO kept telling us this concept from the book and identified the opportunity in the market,” says Moir. “As a strategic thinker, Walsh is constantly pushing our senior management to think in ways they normally wouldn’t in a company of this size.”
Walsh was able to get everyone on board and the company began its shift. Moir says that, in the time since, the company has spent millions of dollars on the initiative — hiring consultants, agencies, sitting through countless meetings, and paying many developers to develop the software.
Still, despite such an investment in time and money, Moir says there’s no doubt that developing the product will pay off. “We could have continued selling complicated systems to large enterprises,” he explains. “With such a small market, our growth would be limited. Or, we could adjust like we did to cross the chasm and access the larger market. We’re now looking at a huge opportunity.”