Should demand marketers aim to be the first or the best?

Should you aim to be the first one to solve a problem or the best at solving a problem?

Demand generation is defined as simply as it sounds.  It’s the creation of demand or attention on a product, company, or offer.  The end goal of demand generation is to increase leads, then make more sales from those leads.

Let’s combine that with the idea of the law of leadership. That law states that it’s better to be first than it is to be the best. In this post, I explore this idea in demand marketing today.

The Advantage of Being First

Who was the first president? Who was the first person to walk on the moon?

George Washington. Neil Armstrong.

These are easy questions to remember the answers to and are perfect examples of the law of leadership, which says that history only remembers those that did it first.

Who did those things second? I’ll Google it for you, since I certainly don’t know the answers off the top of my head.

The answers are John Adams was the second president and the second person to walk on the moon was Buzz Aldrin.

Most people don’t know those names off the top of their heads because we often only remember the first to do something, even if they aren’t that successful.

Being first comes with a lot of top-of-mind perks. For example, when someone asks for something to blow their nose on they often ask for a “Kleenex” not a tissue. Or when they’re looking for a copy of something, they might ask for a Xerox.

Those brands have become synonymous with the market they created.  Some swear by this law of leadership as a result.

The Advantage of Being the Best

The other tactic is to wait until a market develops and do it better.

Sometimes, being the first to make a market means a lot of bad ideas.   Some ideas are the first in a market that never develops because the idea isn’t good.

But there are examples of brands that aren’t the first that are the best known. The best example I can think of is Google. You Google something because that’s the top-of-mind search engine we all use in 2021.

Google was not the first search engine, but it is the one that has taken over as the default word for search.

What was the first search engine?

The first search engine was called Archie, which was created in 1990. It was an FTP site that hosted an index of downloadable directory listings. Google didn’t come out until 7 years later. What is the explanation for this?

Google was able to take an idea and solve the problem better than anyone else. In between Archie and Google, there were numerous others that created search engines. But Google is what stuck because it was best able to serve the demand for websites.

Can you be both?

The other idea that comes up for me when I consider being the first or the best is in the reporting of new ideas or information.

The media will often try to be the first to report a story, even if the data it reports is incomplete or incorrect.

That’s because the internet often rewards the first over the best. But is that really what we need right now?

Being the first one to come up with the best option is a good idea. That means creating a product that truly solves the problem, not just the first solution to the problem.

Demand generation implies creating demand. That entails creating an offering that demand marketers should think about how to best solve the problem to create the most demand. The first one to solve the problem the best might be the victor in today’s marketplace.


What do you think? Is it more important to be the first to market or the best in the market for generating the most demand? Let us know in the comments.



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