The first mover advantage myth tells us that getting your product to the market first ensures certain advantages for your firm and product. Unfortunately, scores of anecdotes and reams of data say otherwise. While being first enables you to initially grab the attention of customers, it is execution and market fit that truly determine a product’s success.
The iPod, YouTube, Groupon, even Pampers diapers. None of these brand name market holders were first. Respectively, the Rio, iCAST, Goldstar, and Chux all were first to the market – and it is arguable that even these were not truly first. There is always a garage tinkerer or skunkworks prototype lingering out there somewhere. So if it is nigh-on-impossible to ever truly be first anyway, what is is that counts in launching your product? Execution and product-market fit.
Sprynet was “first,” but was out-competed by Netscape, which in turn was out-competed by Internet Explorer (and on and on…), Kodak, Apple, and Xerox all dominated markets they did not invent themselves. Friendster, Atari, Alta Vista, need I go on? First mover who capture a market are the exception, not the rule. Whether your product is first or a so-called “fast follower,” what matters is that you can create something that actually works well (you can execute) and that what you create fills an actual need (product-market fit). Betamax was a technically superior product to VHS, but because of pricing and industry buy-in (and many other factors), VHS went on to dominate the sector. They fit the market’s need more perfectly than the more advanced Betamax. All successful followers figure out what the consumer actually wants and executes precisely on that vision.
It is never enough to be first. It is always enough to be good.
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