The “first mover” in any industry is the company that manages to adopt an innovation before any of its competitors, and reaps the benefits of market changes as they happen. Slower companies are sometimes called “reactors,” for the way they can only react to the industry leader’s head start. Positioning your company as the first mover is a canny business strategy that brings a host of benefits none of your competitors enjoy, and it’s one of the ways you can move from an average participant in a fast-moving economy to the leading brand. Getting there is tricky, though, and it may require some serious rethinking of how you approach change.
Some Advantages of Being the Prime Mover
Major changes usually bring new opportunities, and the business that first learns how to capitalize on them has a competitive advantage over reactors that either don’t see the opening, or can’t move for one reason or another. Being the first to market your product in new ways, such as through social media or other new platforms, earns your company a reputation for brand leadership, as well as possibly another stream of revenue. It also inspires a loyal base of customers to not only buy from your business, but to look to you for advice and education regarding the changes taking place in your field. A recent study found that up to 81 percent of customers now conduct research online before major purchases; positioning yourself as the first mover puts your blog or your social media first in line for a potential customer to find, greatly increasing the efficiency of your outreach and marketing programs.
How to Lead the Pack
Getting in front of change takes active measures. To start, it’s important to encourage research among your staff to stay on top of the latest industry trends. Attend trade shows, read literature, and forge links with grad students in relevant fields to get those crucial early glimpses at whatever promises to be the next big thing in your industry. Next, you have to be ready when opportunity presents itself. New ways of doing business often takes a substantial cash investment before they pay off. Try to keep a large company nest egg specifically for jumping on new computer systems, transport methods, or for hiring experts in the newly emerging technique. Finally, it takes courage. Once you realize you might be the first to take advantage of a new breakthrough, call meetings and get the team ready to take the plunge. New ways of doing business are like uncharted terrain; the more informed people you have in the party, the less likely you are to get lost on the way, so consider calling weekly or monthly meetings where each employee shares new developments and minor mistakes are course-corrected before too long.
A Brief Note of Caution
Being the first to adopt a new process or enter a new market has its advantages, but it carries risk as well. There’s no guarantee that the new technology you’ve adopted, for instance, is going to become the industry standard, as the makers of HD-DVD technology learned the hard way. Remember to hedge your investments in exciting new opportunities with old-fashioned research and common sense, and your company may wind up as the first mover all the reactors have to follow.