First Movers, Fast Followers, and How Lawyers Can Be Both

Update: The folks over at Great Jakes have been posting some interesting thoughts on a content delivery model they’re calling attorney microsites, which allow individual lawyers to build their personal brand within their firm’s online footprint.

In technology and consumer goods, there is a long and storied debate over the relative advantages of being a company that creates new products and categories — a first mover — over a company that innovates once a new product type or category has been validated by consumer acceptance — a fast follower.

As the Innovation Zen blog frames it:

“There is a lot of theoretical evidence supporting the model, but does this evidence emerge empirically as well? Not quite. Consider the markets for safety razors, disposable diapers, photographic film, laser printers, game consoles, VCRs, energy drinks, personal computers, internet browsers, operating systems, search engines, online bookstores, online auctions, VoIP services, and the list goes on. In each and every one of these markets the leader position is held by a company that entered after someone was already commercializing their products.

“More important then entering the market first is to enter the market before a dominant design emerges and then understand better the customer needs, innovate and evolve your product or service to become the dominant design.”

And you can see the same struggle shaping up in the emerging battle between the first mover Apple iPad and competing devices from HP and Dell.

The great news for lawyers considering a social marketing strategy — you can be both.

A blog post this week on AttorneySync reminded me of this paradox.

“If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you already recognize a change in marketing platforms for law firms is occurring. The days of taking out a full page, yellowbook ad and watching the clients pour in are long gone. In fact, with the staggering amount of new lawyers entering into the work force each year, reliance on referrals and local recommendations is a tough way to drive significant revenue for a firm.

“The reality is that the internet is the new marketing platform. The law firms that understand this and invest accordingly will reap the benefits. They will be the new generation of law firms leading the way. The ones that fail to get on board will be playing catch up at best and won’t be around at worst.”

Technology and consumer companies were the first movers in the emergence of social commerce, and have driven its rapid maturity as THE marketing platform. So savvy law marketers have the advantage of learning from those industries AND still becoming first movers in their own category.

While other lawyers are working the country club lunch crowd or running TV ads during Judge Judy, the real action is happening on Google and YouTube, where firms and sole practitioners are learning from the first movers in other industries to become first movers in their own — the best of both worlds.

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