June 16, 2009

When 2nd's BEST!

When is being second better than coming in first? Try business - it's hard to be first and successful. Pioneers have no one to learn from and everything is based on trial and error. Nike, Apple and Starbucks were not the first in their industries, but they capitalized on their predecessors' mistakes to win big. Look at these three steps that prove sometimes second really is best!

1) Study your Competition. Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to. Look at an established industry leader and follow what they are doing. Most likely they are catering to the same target market as you are. Notice their trends in marketing, customer service and profits. In today's market, we put value on transparency. Take advantage of this by visiting your competitor's website, blog and location (if they have one). Know what you are up against and plan accordingly.

2) Learn from their Mistakes.
All the information you gathered from above is only valuable if you apply it. See what's working for them and try it. Simultaneously, assess what isn't working and create a solution for it. Most success stories are not original ideas, but improvements on existing products/services. Use the data that you've collected from your competitor to differentiate what you offer. Learning does not happen in a vacuum, so get out there and attempt various ways to solve a need!

3) Do it Better. Many people have great vision, but poor implementation. We can analyze a situation thoroughly, but action is what creates results! This is where feedback and test marketing works well. Share your ideas with others and see what they think. Don't hide your invention, offer it in return for personal opinions. Collaboration ignites innovation. Nothing great is accomplished alone. You are only as great as the team that surrounds you. There's nothing fool-proof, but the more open you are towards taking constructive feedback, the greater chance to avoid complacency and succeed. When you do something at a level of excellence you get recognized. Who cares what "place" you started in?

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, but be smart and learn from those who came before you. The best have a great appreciation and knowledge about their industry leaders. They study what their competitors do, then make improvements. The next time you make a significant leap, look back at those who came first and realize sometimes second really is best!


  1. As always, Scott, great blog. Years ago, Avis had a great advertising campaign that positioned them in second place to Hertz - their message was that since they were Number Two, they tried harder. It was a great campaign, and very memorable.

  2. Thanks Debbi! It's something I am putting into practice. Learning from those who came before me...


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