The importance of being first (in marketing)

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I wish I could share the numbers, but that would violate Non Disclosure Agreement rules. But I can certainly say this: I learned at the Google AdSense summit in the past two days that the first publishers to adapt and stick with the program have done very well, indeed, and those that are trying to join the game late will find dauntingly impossible odds of success.

These observations are, I believe, nearly universal with any marketing or business development initiatives. First-to-market conveys an exceptional advantage. You’ll still need quality, skill, service, and creativity to succeed, but your probability of success will skyrocket if you can claim uniqueness; and that uniqueness becomes permanent if you are first. (Even as competitors pile in behind you, provided you keep your eyes open and avoid falling behind, you can always be a step ahead and maintain your first-to-market advantage.)

I agree it isn’t easy to be first. You need to see something that others don’t quite grasp. But sometimes you can be quite easily first within a niche in a newly developing market. Your challenge then is to quickly occupy the market’s “mind space” and protect it from encroachments. In some cases a nimble second-to-market player can overtake you, but you’ll still be well ahead of the third, fourth, fifth . . . or 10th.

A related example occurs when you are seeking to build relationships and start doing business with a potential major new client, who already is being served by a competitor. If you think you can walk in the door of a public RFP opportunity and have a chance of winning, you are dreaming — unless you have some specific information and knowledge to know you are overwhelmingly “first” in unique advantages (and even then, you really are probably still dreaming, because your perceived advantages are in your mind, not the client’s.)

Take this test when evaluating a business or market-building opportunity.¬† Ask this question:¬† “Am I first within the market I wish to serve?” If so, proceed with your vision. If not, take a step back and figure out another way.

Be first.

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