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Leveraging Agility to be "First to Market"

Being "first to market" can be the difference between business success and failure. This article looks at how leveraging agility can help you be "first to market."
Latest posts by Joseph Flahiff, PMP (see all)

In the book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Reis emphasizes how being “first to market” is critical to the success of your business. Following this line of thought, he proposes the Law of Leadership:

It’s better to be first than it is to be better.

For proof of this “law,” Reis presents the following questions:

What’s the name of the first person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo?

Charles Lindbergh, right?

What’s the name of the second person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo?

Not so easy to answer, is it?

The second person to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo was Bert Hinkler. Bert was a better pilot than Charlie – he flew faster and he consumed less fuel. Yet who has ever heard of Bert Hinkler?

Building Working Products

This article focuses on Building Working Products within the Agile Business Creation (ABC) framework, and the next article in this series is focused on Adapting to Change. These articles are tightly coupled to provide startups with the killer tool of Agile: The ability to get finished products to market quickly.

While your competitors are still working on their business plans, you will be out there delivering value to your customers and capturing the Law of Leadership advantage.

Principles of Agility

An agile business delivers its products and services to the market more quickly than most businesses developed with traditional business plans can even imagine! The fundamental principles of Agility are as follows:

  1. Collaborating with Customers
  2. Building Working Products
  3. Adapting to Change

These principles will catapult you to the front of your market by putting your product/service first in the mind of your customers.

Revisiting Mark (The Traditional Entrepreneur)

In the previous article in this series on Agile Business Creation (ABC), we took a look at how Mark, a traditional plan-the-work-work-the-plan-and-launch-it-like-the-big-bang entrepreneur, was “stuck” trying to find a distributor for his product. We saw how he needed to shift his focus to the end customers of his product and to collaborate with them to create his initial product offering.

However, there’s more to the Mark story that reveals effective product launch techniques. After spending time collaborating with his customers to define his product offering, he also focused on building a working product.

Let’s dive into this.

First, you need to understand that there is a big difference in the mind of your customers, between a prototype and a working product. With a prototype your customers expect errors, issues and minor defects. But in a finished product that customers have to purchase, your customers expect high quality and will settle for nothing less.

Stop Prototyping!

If you have a prototype in development, STOP! Stop developing prototypes that no one will use.

Set yourself a short deadline and develop the REAL thing and deliver it. Seriously. Deliver it to your customers with the fit and finish of a final product. You will find that your focus on the details is different; you are no longer allowed the buffer of saying that this is “just a prototype.”

Instead, you have to get it right. It will force you to prioritize the parts and pieces of your offering and work only on those parts that are absolutely necessary to your customers, because they are going to see it, use it and pay real money for it.

But, what about Mark?

He stopped spending his time on prototyping. He turned his attention to making improvements to his actual product and manufactured a dozen or two. He then took these and sold the fully working products to his customers. He agreed that by doing this he would 1) be able to get real feedback and testimonials from his customers, and 2) be in a much better position of leverage to sell his product to AARP and to his potential distributors.

Summary

Creating finished products and delivering them to your customers is critical to your ability to get feedback from your customers. But Agile is not about waiting to bring a finished product to your customers. Agile gives you tools to bring your product to your customers quickly. And as Al Reis highlighted in his book, getting to market quickly can be the difference between business success and business failure.

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