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How to Be an Overnight Success

Bestselling author Geoffrey Moore explains what it takes to make a product or service wildly popular.

I recently had a conversation with one of the top thinkers in the business world, best-selling author Geoffrey Moore, whose classic Crossing the Chasm has just been issued in a revised third edition.

Moore explained that this is an amazing period of time for entrepreneurs and innovators, with opportunities everywhere. "Overnight successes have actually become quite common," he says.

For example, let's suppose you've got a great idea for a consumer product.  You've created a prototype and you'll know how you'll get it manufactured and distributed.

This sounds like a huge amount of effort--and 20 years ago, it was. Today, however, outsourcing and dropship services have vastly lowered the barrier to entry for consumer products. "They're even lower for consumer services, especially those based upon software apps," Moore points out.

Once you've got your product, achieving overnight success is simply a matter of getting following four "gears" spinning:

  1. Acquire traffic. Use the Internet to get people to use your product.
  2. Engage users. Get those users more involved with using your product.
  3. Monetize the engagement. Persuade users to pay you money.
  4. Enlist the faithful. Convince users to promote your product for you.

The most important thing about these gears is that they are not a step-by-step process. Instead, you must get all four gears spinning at the exact same time and at about the same speed.

As your product gets more popular or (better yet) goes viral, you increase the speed of all four gears simultaneously in order to scale up. If one gear lags, the entire machine falls apart.

For example, Flappy Bird never became the next Farmville because its inventor couldn't get the monetization gear moving fast enough in order to fund the improvements that would keep it alive.

What if you've got competition? Then you must get your four gears spinning faster than their four gears. "There's usually only room for one big 'hit' in every product category," Moore explains. "Everything else is an also-ran."

The four gears are also useful for diagnosing problems in a growing business. "If you seem stalled, it's because one of the gears isn't spinning as fast or has stopped moving altogether," Moore says.

Now you know how, so get those gears spinning!

Preorder my new book and get an exclusive bonus chapter plus a signed bookplate. (Note: Once the book's published, both will be unavailable forever.)

Last updated: Mar 18, 2014


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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