If You're Not First, You're Last

This is part of a series of reflections inspired by my Reforge Growth course. I'm part of a cohort of marketers learning how to develop a systematic approach to solving growth challenges. Find the whole series here.

The first mover advantage is a well-known strategy when it comes to bringing a product to market. It means exactly what it says: Those that move first to market will win.

Otherwise known as:

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While first mover advantage has been debunked over the years, the concept can be applied to other aspects of business—namely, growth.

Evaluating New Channels

The first step to creating a growth strategy is to know your audience. For content and product, you need to ask, what do they care about? When it comes to growth, where are they hanging out? is the more salient question.

Finding your key bread-and-butter channels for acquisition, whether that's Facebook or Adwords or something more obscure, is essential to building your audience. 

But that doesn't mean you're off the hook from new channels. As new channels arise, you can't wait to start testing. Test new channels as soon as they come out because they won't be saturated. The sooner you're advertising on that channel, the better—because you'll be one of the early adopters, you won't be competing against other companies.

Channels erode over time as you exhaust the audience and competitors come in. Take Facebook ads as an example. How many of us scroll right past paid content? Probably a lot. The same is true of your potential audience. Users are savvy enough to know what's an ad and what's not, so the return on the channel only diminishes over time.

Start Testing

It's important to test every assumption you have, but the sooner you can test, the better. Data-driven analysis keeps us informed and grounded in reality. Rather than being swept up in the hype of this channel or that channel, test it.

Related: When In Doubt, Test

Finding new channels can be tricky, since it requires you to stay up-to-date on everything going on in the digital marketing world (and let's face it, a LOT is going on all the time). A good strategy is to set up an RSS feed or Feed.ly about the topic.

At Litmus, we have feed.ly integration with our social media tool, SproutSocial, so we can stay on top of trends our followers will love.

At Litmus, we have feed.ly integration with our social media tool, SproutSocial, so we can stay on top of trends our followers will love.

Even though it can be a lot of work, doing daily reading about your industry, topic, or marketing segment will pay off in the long run. Before you say, "I don't have time for that," think about it—if you cut just one of your social media pit stops during the day and replaced it with an article, you'd learn that much more.

You Don't Have To Do It All

Yes, being first to test out a channel will give you a huge advantage in the gap between early adopters and the majority of adopters. But that doesn't mean you have to do it all. 

Have the diligence to be methodical about what you're testing. Create a testing backlog of everything you want to do with the effort, potential impact, and quick business case for why it's worthy of testing so that you're clear about what's important, what's not, and what's going to move the needle for your business.

An example of one of our experiments in our testing backlog, and what metrics it would improve.

An example of one of our experiments in our testing backlog, and what metrics it would improve.

Once you have a backlog, you can prioritize the projects with the most impact—the most revenue you can generate—and identify your low-hanging fruit. What might be a new channel for you could be one that's well-known or has plenty of best practices already floating around.

Or, you could take a channel that hasn't worked for you in the past and opt for a brand new approach, like changing your landing page to a blog post for an ad or reworking your keyword strategy in Adwords. 

All that matters is you test, and test again, to find what's right for you. Prioritize the new accordingly, and the sooner you can act, the better.

You can find the full series here.