The Organizational Strategist

November 13, 2009

The keys necessary to secure a 1st Mover Advantage

Part 1 of 2 articles on 1st Mover Advantage


                The energy and promise of a new innovation in a company’s services or products can be almost tangible. Such discoveries make business and marketing colleagues dream of market space potential and positive forecasts of sales, revenues, and profits. The entrepreneurial spirit brings a sparkle to the eye of everyone involved.

                That spirit has been present in many of the roles I’ve been in. I always aspire to generate and highlight the potential opportunities that an organization has. I have found that inspiring others to see a new vision, create a new venture, and work to realize possibility is a very engaging activity. Utilizing Appreciative Inquiry (AI), one of the many subjects that I immensely enjoyed learning during my time at Weatherhead, is a wonderful method for inspiring, creating, and engaging. More on AI will come in a later post though. I know that I’m not alone in constantly being eager to overcome challenges, live in the adventure, and realize the openings that innovations bring.

-Securing the First Mover Advantage-

                Innovations can come in many forms. At times, an improvement is realized and a market space is sustained. Other times, entirely new product or service domains, which have their own market spaces, are created. A new market space may be due to a product or service becoming available in a previously inaccessible geography, demographic or other realm. By moving into the new market space, the first mover advantage can be secured. The term “first mover advantage” refers to the mover being able to capture the resources or whatever potential the market space initially offers. This will mean that the vast majority of most receptive customers, valuable resources, brand notoriety and reputation, and any other available benefits go to the first mover. The sparkle in the entrepreneur’s eye is envisioning these kinds of potential benefits. Any other mover that tries to enter into the same market space will not be able to as easily or capture the same advantages. Exactly how much of the advantage remains after other movers enter into the same market space depends upon how the first mover utilizes the advantages of being the first entrant.

To make the most of the first mover advantage, the following points will help:

  • Harnessing the enthusiastic customers that could use the product or service to the most benefit
  • Obtaining the most precious or critical resources available in the market space
  • Cultivating new customers through communication of benefits
  • Ensuring sufficient infrastructure is in place to realize all potential market space advantages
  • Becoming well known for the innovation and being the first mover to the market space

                It should be noted that trying to take a first mover advantage, but not fully capturing the advantage or maintaining it can pave the way for other entrants to then over run the initial mover(s). The iPod product is a good example of this. The iPod is an mp3 music player, but it was not the first mp3 player on the market. The market was actually inundated with all of the different types of mp3 players and devices. The iPod was extraordinary in that market space for many reasons. For example, a very important factor was that it included the iTunes software, which helped overcome some of the challenges consumers had with song transferring, uploading, and organizing. That was a part of the infrastructure that Apple put into the holistic product package to address more of the consumer needs. The slick aesthetic and revolutionary design of the interface certainly helped too.


                Keep up the spirit of ingenuity, adventure, and entrepreneurship. When you happen upon a new market space, be quick to take the initiative. However, do not be so quick that the due diligence is not done to ensure the first mover advantage is not just a passing phase for your new venture.

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