You’re Either First, Best or Irrelevant

By Ryan Fleming, Director – Habitational Group 

Timing is everything. I catch myself constantly saying “Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable.” With most things, being early is ideal, yet with other things, making an entrance is a better option. For example, there’s a sweet spot for arriving at a social function called fashionably late. Getting to a party first doesn’t always have the effect we want, but getting there a tad late and making a grand entrance sometimes does. Timing can make or break an event, product launch, arrival, etc.

In most businesses, product releases or marketing campaigns are initiated constantly. An incredible amount of thought can go into product development, but how much focus is there on release timing? How many business owners take the time to really take a good look at their market and ask themselves how or when they want to arrive with their product or service? Even the best products or services released poorly will fall on deaf ears.

Let’s take GM’s EV1 as an example. The EV1 was the first ever mass-produced electric car released by a major car manufacturer. In 1996, the world just wasn’t ready. Fast forward just ten years or so and Tesla arrives fashionably late with their Roadster, turning the car industry on its head. Another example could be the Microsoft SPOT watch. This was the first smart watch offering, but leave it to Apple to forego the opportunity to be First and capitalize on being Best with their Apple Watch. Both of the aforementioned examples show how patience is sometimes not only a virtue, but a necessity for a successful launch.

Being fashionably late works in some instances, but sometimes it’s just a good old-fashioned land grab. Being first to market can work extremely well also. Let’s take Uber for example. Rideshare was going to happen no matter what. It was an inevitability. Uber was just the first start-up to make rideshare a reality, and everyone else (i.e., Lyft) has been trying to hitch a proverbial ride ever since. How about the ever-popular online auction site, eBay? In 1995, eBay not only stuck their flag in the ground first but they also moved so quickly that no one else was able to keep up even to this day. PayPal rewrote the idea of personal banking in 1998 and never looked back, clinching a massive portion of the banking industry’s market share. Sometimes the early bird does indeed catch the worm.

So the question becomes, “Which is better, First or Best?” Different markets or products demand a different answer. It’s up to you to figure this out in your own market. You’ve got the next big idea, so what are you doing to make sure that it doesn’t fall flat on its face? If your idea is ahead of its time or the world is not yet showing a demand for it, then patience seems to be the key. Focus on being the best product or service instead of throwing the first rendition of your idea at a market that just doesn’t understand that they need it yet. Conversely, if your idea is set to revolutionize an industry or process that there is already massive demand for, then your focus should be trying to be first to the table. Get there fast and be ready to evolve quickly. Either way, a major portion of your planning has to be timing. Choosing when to release your brainchild to the world is paramount. You’re either First, Best, or . . . Irrelevant. Be thoughtful about your timing in order to obtain the desired result.