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moving_van.jpgThere’s a lot to be said for being the “first mover” into the marketplace. As some of my favorite marketng authors, Reis & Trout, said years ago, “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.” One of the reasons they said it’s better to be first in the market is because whoever is first in the market is also first in the mind. This is essentially like owning the marketing high ground because whoever is “first” becomes the standard against which everyone else is measured. In fact, being first may even mean having the brand be equated with the product.

Consider how such products as Weed Eater, Palm Pilot, Jello, and TiVo are now generically branded with the category they represent. This suggests in the mind of the customer that anyone else is just an imitator. Experience, time in the market, and even slight innovations can be used as differentiators if the marketer simply reminds the customers, “We were the first to …”  

It’s a good idea to take an inventory of any “firsts” you’ve had, then see how they could represent value to the customer. You may find a first-mover advantage of your own!

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question_mark.jpgI once heard of a law firm that had one guiding principle that was ingrained in every single employee at every department from the time they were first hired. It goes like this: “You’re either serving the client, or you’re serving the person who’s serving the client. If you’re not, then what the heck are you doing?”

With this simple principle, they help get everyone on board and keep them on board day to day with the idea of serving the client, who is the whole purpose for the organization’s existence, anyway. The principle also helps ensure that so-called “support functions,” or those departments that may never have direct customer contact, understand that they play a very important role in the organization and that they, too, are stewards of the organization’s greatest asset, its customers! The “If you’re not, what the heck are you doing” part also serves as a compass to help keep each employee on task and to help avoid inefficiencies. If what we’re doing doesn’t ultimately benefit the customer, after all, why do it? In fact, this principle could help guide every decision the organization makes, like we discussed in the WTGBRFDT post a while back.

If guiding principles are taken seriously and are backed up by action, they can be some of the most powerful strategic tools an organization has. Drucker said the purpose of the organization is to create and serve the customer. We’re all serving the customer or serving someone who’s serving the customer, and if not, what the heck are we doing?

skydeck_1.jpgThe Sears Tower in Chicago has added a glass-bottomed observation deck 100-plus stories high on the tower that allows the observer to step out on the deck for a unique, breathtaking view. They call it, “The Ledge!” You can click here for the video and here for some cool pics!

This is noteworthy not just because it’s an innovative idea, but because it reminds us how easily innovation can be achieved if we’ll just take the time to interact with and listen to our customers! As you’ll hear from Sears Tower Skydeck General Manager Randy Stancik at about the video’s 90-second mark, “The idea came from our visitors. Our visitors have asked us to get outside. They want to get closer to the windows,” So they looked into it and, sure enough, an elite team of engineers and builders made it so. They were willing to literally go out on a ledge for their customers!

Innovation can be as simple as responding when our customers give us a suggestion! We have to be willing to “go out on a ledge” by having the courage to listen, then to take what they suggest seriously, and be willing to deliver on what they’re asking for. A risk, yes, but far less risky than just hoping our customers are happy only to find out we lost them to competitors who were listening and were willing to step out into the unknown for them!

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