Article: Firsttomarket obsession

by Clive Simpkins

Firsttomarket Obsession

Its proven that firsttomarket with a product or service, if professionally handled generally ensures dominance in a particular sector. But when that race is at the expense of quality, customer satisfaction with the offering or after sales service and backup, the marketer treads a razoredged path.

Years ago there was a race between two assessmentinstrument companies. Both were global players and they were in a flat spin to get the latest Leadership measurement instrument to market. The outcome was a profile assessment which was so generalist and inadequate that it had to be pulled. The recent (and rare for Unilever) absurdity of a noleak, upsidedown Sunlight liquid dispenser being withdrawn, is a case in point. Sometimes practical is whats needed and sexy is less relevant with commodities.

Microsoft Windows editions have probably garnered posterchild status for debugging themselves on the consumer. So successful has Bill Gates chutzpah been that weve all been lulled into a sense of inevitability that almost any new software offering will drive us demented to some or other degree. This year Norton Internet Security 2005 did it for me. Ive been a faithful Norton antivirus user since the man with the folded arms first appeared on boxes. Yup, there have been occasional glitches with the product, but this year caused such a slowdown and other oddities, that I voted with my fingertips and went for Computer Associates eTrust antivirus. My uninstalled Norton now sits sulking in an office cupboard. (Any eBay offers?)

Theres a price to pay when youre an earlyadopter of anything. Im afraid I often rush out and buy the latest whatever, particularly if its vaguely in the IT gadget or widget category. Hence, Vodacom 3G is offered on a Sunday, Simpkins hits the phone at 08:30 Monday morning to a Vodashop and asks if they have the 3G PCMCIA card in stock. The staffer concerned didnt know what I was talking about. In vintage Napoleonic fashion I demanded the store owner a charming man who got me and my highspeed 3G up and running within the hour. For someone like me whos seldom at a desk in any one location, 3G was like a gift from the gods. Telkom, although promising to install ADSL512 for me in a maximum of twenty two days, actually only phoned me some seven weeks after application to say they were in the driveway and wanted to install. I told them to go take a hike as theyd just been superseded by the mobility of 3G. And Vodacom promise that 3G will exceed the 512 ADSL speed pretty soon. From their lips to Gods ears.

Has my 3G lived up to expectations? No. Initially it was fast and always connected. And then everyone came trekking back from holiday. Despite the fact that Vodacom 3G techies tell me Im in an excellent to very good signal zone, I get two (Yiddish coming up) verkakte little bars of signal out of five. My prayers are therefore with those in poor reception zones. Ive made umpteen calls, been given hopeless responses by several people and have at times resorted to my fixed ISDN line. When everyone leaves the Rosebank office area and goes home again, or at weekends, my 3G stays permanently up as its intended to do. So Vodacom, first to market with Vodafones 3G only makes sense if it actually delivers on what you promise.

My final technical nagmerrie for the start of the year was my imate PDA. Having owned a Qtek 1010 which was a PDAcummobile pocket computer, I thought the new generation would be a stunner by comparison. The newbie had the dreadful habit of hanging, refusing to reboot and when I removed and replaced the main battery to force it to do so, all data was lost. OK, so it was backed up on my notebook computer, but when youve reconfigured for the (literal) twentieth time, sense of humour deficit sets in. Leaf Wireless, the importers in South Africa, responded appropriately and replaced the device. However, ditto personality defects in the replacement. In desperation they gave me the imate PDA2K as a second replacement and I have to say, it and I are inseparable and it hasnt yet had an Alzheimers moment.

So, is the rush to be firsttomarket always a great idea? I think not. I steadfastly refuse to lease or purchase a certain kind of fax and photocopier because it nearly drove me to a Valium dependency. Three brands of notebook computer are on my dont ever buy again list. In most instances its not that the actual product or service itself is so awful, but the fact that you cant get anyone to solve the hassles quickly enough to keep you in their repurchase zone.

The lesson to be learned by we earlyadopters is this: You become the unpaid and unappreciated guinea pig for manufacturers who are driven by market share and profit. I think its time they paid us compensation for cruel and unusual punishment.

About the Author

Clive is a marketing and communications strategist and published book author. His speciality is facilitating sustainable change in individuals and organizations. Website:

Related Resources