First-mover disadvantage

First-mover disadvantage

Business theory often suggests that ‘first-movers’ – the first entrants into a market – get enduring benefits from their speedy response to a market opportunity. “The early bird gets the worm”.

However, real world results are increasingly supporting the adage that “the second mouse gets the cheese”.

Google was not the first search engine; and the iPhone was not the first smart phone.

Being first to market can present a number of additional costs not borne by later market entrants. The first-mover often wears the lion’s share of trial and error costs, research and development expenditure, and the marketing expense of creating consumer awareness.

Later entrants can observe and learn from the first-mover’s success and failures. The cheapest mistakes to learn from are other people’s.

You don’t have to be first to market – you just need to be better or different.

In some cases, the market may be so large that many operators can coexist; in which case just being ‘good’ or even simply ‘available’ will suffice!

So don’t be disheartened if your business idea has already been pursued.

Perhaps your target market could be better served. Or there might be new opportunities within the market, such as products or services not currently offered by the incumbents.

The phrase “better late than never” is a well known call to action. However, in the context of this article, an abridged version – “better late” – rings especially true.

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