If you are like most business people you believe that in order to succeed, you have to convince your prospects that you offer a better service, or product. In other words you are competing in a me-too world. You are offering the same thing only your’s is better.
But if you really want to be successful offering a better product than your competitors does, is simply going about it the wrong way. Your prospects need to think of you, not simply as one of many, but in a class all by yourself. You have to be in a category where you are first. Simply being first, will usually make you number 1. The truth is, it is better to be first than to be better. Innovation will make you number 1. If all you are doing is implementing someone else’s idea, you have an up hill climb. Because no one remembers number 2.
Here is a quick example. Who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean? Charles Lindbergh. Now, who was the second person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean? That one is a little harder. It was Bert Hinkler. Hinkler was the better pilot. He made the crossing in less time and expended less fuel. But no one remembers Bert Hinkler. Being better did not make him number 1. It only made him another one.
The law of leadership applies to any product, any service any brand. Do you know the name of the first College in America. You can substitute the most well know and make a good guess. Most people would say Harvard, which is also the name of the first College in America. Do you know the name of the second College in America? William and Mary, which is only slightly better known than Bert Hinkler.
Which came first Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola. Coca-Cola was the first and is still the leader in the cola wars.
Growing up almost every soft drink was a coke. The only question was did you want a grape coke or an orange coke. Everything was a Coke because Coca-Cola was the first. In fact it wasn’t until the last few years that I stopped calling all soda pop cokes. But I still call all cola’s Cokes. I don’t care if it is a Pepsi, a RC or the generic anything else it is a Coke. Coke has become the generic name for all colas.
My mother claims Pepsi-Cola is the superior product. Even if that is true (a point we disagree upon) Coke was first and remains the leader.
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary businesses continue to try to be a better followers than innovators. The leading brand in any category is almost always the first. People tend to stick with what they’ve got. You don’t change spouses simply because you come across someone a little better. (Thank goodness or my wife would have left me long ago.) It is just easier to stay with the familiar. The law of leadership applies to everything. Chrysler was the first to come out with the mini-van. Almost every manufacturer of automobiles make min vans. Yet over half of all minivans sold in the United States are built by Chrysler.
One reason the first brand tends to maintain it leadership is the name often becomes generic. I make a Xerox copy. I do not make a Sharp or a Kodak copy. People ask for Scotch Tape not cellophane tape, a Kleenex not a facial tissue, a Band-aid rather than a … Well I don’t know what the generic of a band aid would even be.
If you think simply being better will take you to the top, you are ignoring both history and human nature. Innovation is the fastest and quickest way to succeed. You can not lead by following.