Find a Way to be The First
by Chad Rueffert


Entrepreneurs are always coming up with new and exciting products and services that make the rest of us sit back and say, “Boy, I wish I’d thought of that.”  Deceptively simple ideas are turned into heavy-duty moneymakers and most people just shake their heads and say, “Boy, that guy got lucky.”
 
Luck, of course, probably had little to do with it.  Successful product introductions usually follow a set procedure that can be applied by almost anyone with a good idea.  When advising clients on product introductions, I like to follow some rules set down by authors Jack Trout and Al Ries in their book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.”
 
Be the First to do Something

Many business people think it is the product with the highest quality, or best taste, or cheapest price that owns the highest market share.  Actually, it is usually the product that was introduced first that grabs the biggest piece of the pie.  Chrylser mini-vans are the perfect example of this.  Although there are better, cheaper and nicer looking mini-vans available today, Chrysler still keeps almost 50% of the mini-van market because they came out with the first one.  In most cases, it is not the best product that succeeds, it’s the first.  Why is this?  Because that product holds a predominate position in the consumer’s mind.  Everybody knows who the first President of the United States was.  Who was the second?  Who was the second man to walk on the moon?  Who was the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic?  John Adams may have been a better president.  Buzz Aldrin may have been a better astronaut.  And Bert Hinkler was probably a better pilot than Lindbergh, but everybody remembers who did it first.
 
If You Can’t Be First, Create A New Area to Be First In

Take the Charles Lindbergh example another step further.  Almost nobody knows who Bert Hinkler is, but nearly everybody has heard of Amelia Earhart.  She was the third person to fly across the Atlantic solo.  So why is she more popular than good old Bert who was the second?  Because she was the first woman to do it.    You can’t be the first person to build an automobile.  You could be the first person to build one out of rubber.  You can’t invent wall-to-wall carpeting.  You could be the first to install it with air pocket cushioning instead of foam.  You don’t have to be the first to invent a product if you can be the first to invent a new product category.  The rise of the Internet as a commerce tool has proven this idea over and over again.  Amazon.com is not the first bookstore ever opened.  But they are the first one on the Internet.  Barnes & Noble, one of the worlds largest chain of bookstores has a far bigger selection, lower prices and retail outlets all over the world, but they were beat to the market by an upstart and lost their leadership position.  If you can’t be the first to create a product, be the first to adapt it to a new market condition and you’ll have created a brand new category to be the leader in.
 
Consumers respond to leaders.  One of the reasons the first company to create a new product or product category often stays successful is that they take ownership through name recognition.  People making photocopies on a Canon machine still call them Xerox’s.  People wipe their noses with a Kleenex, even if Scott made the tissue.  You don’t order a cola, you order a Coke.  These companies still own the category even now that there are dozens of competitors.
 
If you don’t find a way to be the first, your product, service or company is left with the problem of “me, too” marketing.  The company who was the first to market will always be in the pole position and your company will always be playing catch-up.  In today’s crowded marketplace you may be one of dozens of companies selling the same product or service.  If you thought it was hard to name the second president or the second man on the moon, try naming the third, fourth, fifth or sixth.  Can’t do it, can you?
 
If you want long-term success, find a way to be first.