Yes,being first means being less certain about success. You can expect that being less certain will always mean making more mistakes, require more time and wind up being more costly.
It means trading speed for quality and high price for value. The “Pioneering Company” that’s first to market spends a fortune to educate consumers about their incredibly innovative product and how it’s going to improve their lives. The “Follower Company” spends much less money explaining to those now educated consumers why their brand is superior.
Entrepreneurs And Their Financial Backers May Need A New Playbook
Emotionally, we humans seem to be programmed to get greater satisfaction from being a leader than a follower. We’re constantly striving to be the best, the fastest and of course… the first. Perhaps a lot of that is rooted in our love for sports whether as a participant or as a fan and can be traced back eons even prior to the ancient Greek and Roman athletic events. Of course, nowadays losers are just embarrassed while in those times they were killed… hence they had a much greater incentive to be first.
No one can argue that the lead dog pulling the sled has a much more interesting view than those that follow. However, let’s put emotion aside and see if we can analyze why the opposite of the first to market myth seems to be more accurate than the myth itself.
Boring Facts Based On Tedious Research Is More Valuable Than Unfounded Innovation Fueled By Unbridled Optimism
First movers or Pioneers are often flying without radar. They don’t fully understand what their final product should look like, what need or want does it satisfy, how it should be packaged and priced, who their customer is, what motivates that customer to buy, what product benefits are most valued and what features are most important, what marketing channels are most effective, what services are needed to make the sale and service the customer most efficiently and about 100 more questions from Marketing 101 that beg to be answered.
And how can these questions be answered when Pioneers aren’t even sure what questions to ask, who to ask them to, how to evaluate the accuracy of the answers and then weigh the merits of conflicting wants or needs (such as a product’s size vs. weight; quality vs. cost; reliability vs. “replaceability”; or fashion vs. function… just to name a few.
Pioneers oftentimes rely on their “gut instinct.” They just know they have a winning product sometimes in much the same way the buyer of a lottery ticket is convinced she holds the winning combination of numbers… and yes, once in every 10 million times or so, she’s absolute right!
The Follower on the other hand, has a much easier job. All he or she has to do is analyze either why the Pioneer failed or what improvements s/he can make to offer a superior product or develop a competitive advantage. This is a lot easier, faster and substantially less expensive. Followers may not be called brilliant, innovative or inspirational. They may even be derided as copycats or imitators and their work dismissed as being derivative but in the end, they may just be the “last man standing” when all that name calling morphs into words and phrases like successful, wealthy and … “please return my phone call.”
How To Know If Someone’s A Follower Or A Pioneer
Followers are generally the guys (and gals) in the corner office, who drive a new Mercedes, live in a large, expensive home, send their kids to private school, travel first class and belong to the best country club.
Pioneers are, well they’re the guys and gals with the arrows in their backs.