Set the agenda by showing up first

If you want to win an Academy Award, it’s clear that you need to release your movie at the end of the year. Early movies don’t get remembered, don’t get nominated, don’t win.

But for most marketers (and job seekers) most of the time, being first is an advantage.

First competent mover advantage is real. The first person with a great product or story that matches the market establishes the narrative, sets the bar and forces followers to conform to her specs. If you’ve got the good stuff, going first means you’ve set a standard… the consumer now has to abandon you to choose someone else, which means pain and admitting an error. People hate to do that. (Evidence: Pownce).

Sure, there’s the advantage of sniping in an auction situation. Last bidder in an auction always wins, right? But there’s no reason that an impressive marketing effort can’t lead to an implied topping privilege. If they like you, they can always bring you their final best offer for you to consider.

Applying for a job, or to college, or visiting a client to pitch a project–in each case, going first is a significant advantage. Why, then, do so many people wait until the last minute? Why do we insist that this is a strategy, not a mistake?

Fear, of course. Procrastination. It’s easier to wait. The impending deadline gives us the energy to overcome our sales call resistance, forces the committee to get its act together, pushes the project up the priority list. Those are all fine reasons to wait. But don’t pretend it’s good marketing, because it’s not.