First movers do have some advantages. Like an Oklahoma land rush they can stake their claim in a new market and hold a position that comes with being first. This kind of positioning in the mind of people new to a market means less work persuading buyers on what is the best in class.
However, pioneers do get the arrows, as the saying goes. The uncertainty of a new venture or idea comes with costs in product development, lost time and lost deals.
Being the last mover, as opposed to the first mover, works well for dominant players like Google and Apple. They can see the mistakes and compete with the force of their brand, product robustness and integrations. They can also avoid all the mistakes and walk the trail that has already been blazed by first movers.
If you looked at the innovators in your own market, consider taking a slower approach and deliberating before engaging your market. Being a last mover, you have the advantage of:
- Defining product or service requirements that matter to customers
- Observing use cases that make sense and honing your efforts on those areas without distraction
- Playing for what is “better” and helping existing users and customers within an existing framework they are accustomed to
- Avoiding cycles in research and development that competitors have already failed at
The strategy of last mover requires patience, observation and waiting. But you reduce the risks associated with innovating and can use the stories of those that go before you as lessons for where to apply your energies and resources.
Before you dive into a venture, could you play the last mover advantage instead? Let others provide the data about what works and doesn’t work. Then compete on the contrasting benefits of your offering from their lessons learned.