How to Establish a First-Mover Advantage for Your Business


When it comes to building a brand that dominates a market – or at least generates a lot of revenue – helps to have what entrepreneurs and business owners call a “first-mover” advantage. But what exactly is a first-mover advantage and how can you establish your own?

We’ll cover all of that (and more) in this article. Roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.

What is a First-Mover Advantage?


According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), “A first-mover advantage can be simply defined as a firm’s ability to be better off than its competitors as a result of being first to market in a new product category.”

While it might sound simple enough, actually establishing a first-mover advantage is more difficult than one would think. Not only do you have to stumble upon an idea for a revolutionary product, service, or business model first, but you have to successfully bring it to market and stake your claim. However, the ones that do it well almost always enjoy a massive boost.

“Although no advantage lasts forever, firms that succeed in building durable first-mover advantages tend to dominate their product categories for many years, from a market’s infancy until well into its maturity,” HBR continues. “Coca-Cola in soft drinks and Hoover in vacuum cleaners unmistakably demonstrate both the value and longevity of early success.”

It’s easy to look at examples like Coca-Cola and Hoover and say, “Well, yeah…it’s pretty easy for them to establish a first-mover advantage.” But you have to remember that, at one point, their brands were tiny and invisible. There’s nothing inherently special about their products other than the fact that they came to market first and were able to parlay that initial success and visibility into sustainable success.

No matter how small you are right now, being a first-mover could provide the launching pad you need to grow.

The Benefits of Having a First-Mover Advantage

They don’t call it a first-mover “advantage” for nothing. When you’re the first one to the party, you enjoy a number of benefits (some short-term and others longer lasting). Here are a few of them:

  • Brand recognition. The first advantage is the fact that people will always associate your brand with the market. Even if a dozen new competitors enter the market over the next few years, a certain percentage of people will always think of you. It’s why, despite there being several other options on the market, people say “Call an Uber” and not “Call a Lyft.”
  • Supplier options. When you’re first to market, you have your choice of suppliers. You can even negotiate exclusive contracts with manufacturers and other supply chain partners to provide some insulation when the competition does arrive.
  • Industry relationships. Much like supplier relationships, being a first-mover allows you to develop healthy relationships with retailers, advertisers, influencers, and other potential partners in your space.
  • Customer loyalty. Customers don’t like taking risks. If they buy your product and are happy with it, they’re most likely going to continue buying your product over future competitors. This is tied to trust and loyalty.

Tips for Establishing Your First-Mover Advantage


When you’re the first one in the market, you get first dibs on everything. The key is to take advantage of this status and to move quickly. Because as soon as you experience any success, you can bet there are dozens of other companies who will be ready to pounce and overtake you.

With that being said, here are several tips for making the most of your advantage:

  • Build Out Your Online Presence

It’s not enough to be the first product to market. You need to make sure people know about it. One way to do this is by establishing a strong online presence from the very start. Here are several recommendations:

  • Invest in website SEO to enhance your organic visibility and searchability. If you’re creating the rules and terminology, this is fairly easy to do. Chances are, you’re the only one talking about this product/service at the moment. Use this as an opportunity to gain a competitive SEO advantage. Long Island SEO company Active Web Group can show you how to do that.
  • Create as much quality content as you can and publish it in as many different places as possible, including your blog, YouTube, social networking sites, guest blogging sites, etc.
  • Trademark your product name and as many related terms as you can to ensure the competition faces a steeper climb when they come after you.
  • Strategize a PR Blitz

You want to get your name in as many different circles as possible. The best way to do this is by developing a strategic PR blitz. If you have the time and expertise to do this internally, then you should be able to put something together in-house. But if you have the budget, hiring a PR firm to lead this charge will be worth every dime.

As part of your PR blitz, focus on going where your target audience already is. This could mean scheduling guest interviews on blog posts, going on local news, securing feature pieces in industry publications, etc.

  • Focus on Customer Experience

People don’t always remember what a product did for them, but they do remember how it made them feel. If you want to cultivate loyalty and positive brand associations, emphasize customer experience above all else. This will give you a massive advantage that’s hard for other brands to breach.

  • Stay the Course

When it’s all said and done, you just need to stay the course. The worst thing you can do is take your foot off the gas. Push it down and leave it there. For the first few months, you might feel like you’ll always be the only brand in this niche. But give it time and other businesses will start fighting for market share. If you’ve let up at all, they’ll overtake you. Don’t let that happen!

Adding it All Up

Can you be successful without being a first-mover in your industry? Absolutely – there’s always room for competition. However, if you want the path of least resistance, having that first-mover advantage will serve you well. Rely on these tips to ensure you make the most of the opportunity.