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First Mover Advantage: Building a Sustainable Online Business

First Mover Advantage: Building a Sustainable Online Business

There are many famous examples of online business pioneers that are continuing to capitalise on their first mover advantage – Amazon, ASOS and eBay are all now household names and pretty much unsurpassable. However, for every success story there are thousands of promising companies that ultimately got left behind because they were usurped by more agile second and third movers.

The difference? An ability to create demand for your product or service, but also understand and adapt to the changing needs of the market you’ve established.

If you are a first mover into an online market you face a number of challenges as well as having serious advantages. For starters, you’ve got double the work on your hands: you need to grow your business and you need to grow a market for it too. Rather than selling to an established customer base, you need to build one by finding your audience, educating them and creating a need. And all of this on top of raising brand awareness and generating ROI.

At Loom, we have considerable experience working with first movers and know how important it is to have a clear online marketing strategy. Having a strategy that aligns with your business goals from the outset is a key part of ensuring the longevity of a business. Using a clever combination of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ marketing tactics will enable you to create an established market and build a sustainable online business.

Here is an outline of how to capitalise on first mover advantage…

Build a market:

  • Find your consumer
  • Understand your consumer

Create a need:

  • Educate your consumer
  • Establish trust
  • Address the risks


  • Find Niches
  • Refine Your Offering

Let’s talk you through the main tools at your disposal and how best to use them in order to capitalise on first mover advantage…

Before Getting Started…

Know your audience

Consider who exactly your target audience is and know exactly what your service or product offers them. It is important to record as many details as you can about your target audience including their needs, interests, where they spend time online and what motivates them. This information will feed into your website and your online marketing activity. The understanding of your audience may be fairly superficial at this stage but will develop in time.

Have a quality website

Your website is the backbone upon which all of your marketing activity is supported, so it is essential to have a quality one. We won’t go into too much detail about this here, other than to say you should make sure your website is optimised for search engines so they can crawl, understand and index your website correctly. The more a search engine approves of your site, the more likely it is that it will return it when someone performs a search related to your onsite content.

Optimising your website is an ongoing process and should always be user lead. Providing a great user experience is immensely important if you want to ensure your target audience responds positively to your product/service when they land on your site. It’s not just the way it looks and feels, but providing them with helpful information on each page and a clear journey to their desired outcome. Give your user a great experience on your website and they will reward you with their trust and business. Search engines understand this too and so are more likely to return a website in SERPs with good UX.

If you would like more information about how the quality of your website can affect your online marketing strategy and online visibility take a look at A Developers Secret Weapon or Which SEO Errors Are The Most Common.

glasses, notebook and magnifying glass

Building a Market

Finding Your Audience

You know who your target audience is and the topics they are interested in that overlap with your service. Your website reflects your understanding of them. The next thing that you want to happen is for them to see your site and find out about your services.

Short term planning:

You want an initial push to start driving traffic to your site and increasing the knowledge of your service. The best way to do this in the short term is with PPC that you can then refine overtime as you learn more. PPC comes in four main forms:

  • Search
  • Display
  • Remarketing
  • Shopping

Search Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Bing, Yahoo and Google Adwords marketing can produce quick results for your business. Use search ads to pull in potential customers searching for terms related to your service/product and drive relevant traffic to your website.

Display and Remarketing

In combination with Pay-Per-Click, you can also use Google’s Display Network and Remarketing. Google’s Display Network is a collection of websites and apps that show Adwords adverts, enabling you to advertise on a wide variety of popular and niche sites.

Remarketing uses cookies to target people who have already visited your website and serve them specific messages. For example, if you are an eCommerce site you can set up a remarketing list of people who have abandoned their shopping carts and then serve them ads that encourage them to continue making a purchase. Any business can use remarketing as it creates a window of opportunity to recapture an audience who didn’t convert on previous website visits.

Both remarketing and Google’s Display Network are useful for increasing brand awareness in relevant markets and promoting specific products or key USPs.

Google Shopping

If you are an eCommerce site and your products are competitively priced, you should also have presence in Google Shopping. This gives you prime real estate in the SERPs when users are searching for specific products.

Online PR

It’s important to identify the thought-leaders and influencers amongst your target audience, those who may be interested in your business and willing to share what you do with their audience early on. This will give you time to build a good working relationship with them.

You don’t need us to tell you how much more valuable a third party opinion is for establishing trust and generating interest. Bloggers and influencers have way more clout than messages coming directly from businesses, so make sure you are harnessing the power of online PR from the beginning. If this is something you would like to know more about, we highly recommend reading this article on how to get influential people talking about your brand from Virgin Start Up.

Long term planning:

Alongside these quick-win tactics for building a market, you need a long-term strategy that includes a mix of ongoing website optimisation, content marketing, social media, and research and analysis in order to create and maintain a steady flow of potential clients/buyers to your website.

Understanding Your Audience


Social media, forums, groups, Google trends, analytics – there’s never been more easily accessible information available about your target audience if you are willing to do the research. And doing the research is vital if you want to successfully engage, offer value, market and sell to them.

Some of our favourite online tools for audience research include surveys, Google Keyword PlannerYouGovAnswer The PublicReddit and Social Media, in particular, Facebook Groups.

Focus your research on finding out…

  • Demographics
  • Job Titles (B2B)
  • Desirable attributes
  • What motivates your audience?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • What is your audience learning?
  • What is your audience interested in?
  • What else is available to your audience?

Find the answers to these questions using the range of online tools, analytics and offline sources that are already at your disposal. For instance for a B2B campaign, check out FAQ pages to understand the biggest challenges your audience face, and conference topics in the industry for insights into what your audience are most keen to learn about.

Creating a Need

Content marketing

Most services or products solve a problem or offer a new benefit for an audience that needs it. However, as a first mover, your target audience probably does not know that a solution exists to the problem they face. So, in order to create a need, you need to educate your audience and gain their trust. To do this, you need a strong content marketing strategy.

Content can be whatever you want it to be: videos, articles, infographics, surveys, whitepapers – it all counts! And the best way to create it is by applying your understanding of your audience and their needs to your content strategy. Use content to address your audiences’ pain points, empathise with their situations, make them laugh. The possibilities are endless. Content is one of the most powerful and adaptable tools in your arsenal for educating your audience, gaining their trust and creating a need.

Great content, whichever form it takes, should grab the attention of your audience, provoke the desired emotional response(s) and convert this into action (subscribing to a newsletter, following you on Facebook etc). Content marketing can be both a push and pull tactic for attracting an audience, depending on how you use it.

A note on education

You need to educate your target audience about the benefits of your product or service before, during and after your product/service is brought to market. With the landscape of the web, customers expect to be informed when it comes to making a purchase/enquiring about a service. They will carry out research before moving towards a purchase. A good content strategy will give your customers context and insight to prove that your product/service is necessary and right for them.

Empowering your audience with the right information so they can make informed and confident decisions will also help to build customer trust and loyalty.

A note on building trust

In order to gain the trust of your audience you need to make them feel safe, supported and understood. You can work towards this by actioning the following points:

  • Make sure you are clearly reflecting and expressing your business values in all of your online marketing activities
  • Show that you share values and interests with your audience…knowing your own values inside out, how they fit with your audiences’, and expressing that clearly and consistently will enable your audience to better associate and bond with your brand. If you introduce a new product/service to market or change your offering make sure it is guided by the same values – this will help you preserve that sense of homophily (love of the same) with your audience and thus help to maintain your first mover advantage.

Social Media and Community Management

Social media is a key part of the way we market, advertise and manage customer relations. However, if you plan on having a social media presence, you have to commit to maintaining it and you need to be clear on the benefits of doing so before you start.

Establishing and becoming part of a community helps you stay ahead of second and third movers coming into the market. Being there first means you will always have more history with your target audience, and social media and community building helps ensure you have a better connection too.

One of the less regularly mentioned benefits of social media is the insights it provides to your audience and how these help you better understand them. Listening to your audience on social media can highlight new ways to push on and maintain your advantage – whether this is marketing a new product or spotting new opportunities for growth / fresh markets or market needs.

Social media can be used for:

  • Researching and listening to your audience
  • Customer relationship management
  • Advertising
  • Lead generation/social selling
  • PR
  • Creating or supporting a community
  • Content promotion/marketing
  • Social Selling 

While social media is a vital part of a successful online marketing strategy, it is not a cure-all marketing solution for your business. You only really get out of it what you put in so always have a clear focus and outline for measuring your progress.

We always suggest starting on just one or two key channels depending on your capacity and always researching to ensure you’re on the most appropriate channel for your target audience. Choosing the right social media channel for your business depends on your goals for using social media and your capacity. For instance, if you are a B2C business looking to create a buzz around your service/product, the fast-pace of Twitter would probably suit you well. If you are a B2B business with a small pool of potential clients you should probably start on LinkedIn. Or, if you are selling niche products that are photogenic you’d probably forgo these channels for something like Instagram or Pinterest.

different coloured chalks


In order to stay ahead of the game and maintain your first mover advantage you need to constantly look for new niches within your target audience to educate and tailor the messaging.

Constant Research

Always research and listen to your audience. By doing so, you can discover when and where change is happening and how you can adapt. You also need to keep an eye on the industry, its trends and any emerging competitors so you can stay agile and adapt. For example, if you’re getting a certain percentage of the search traffic in your niche, what happens if your niche becomes less popular? Or when more competing businesses enter your niche? You can use Google Trends to track the journey from fledging market to active market to saturated market.

Niche Keywords and Campaigns

When it comes to maintaining your first mover advantage through PPC you need to create niche campaigns as well as more general campaigns. Use tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to identify which keywords your audience uses when searching for topics related to niches within your market. Looking for long tail keywords that relate to your audiences desires and pain points will help you create more effective niche PPC campaigns.

An Integrated Approach

Research, PPC, online PR, content marketing, website optimisation and social media are the building blocks, and these need to be held together with a long-term strategy that will help you achieve your business goals. When combined, these online marketing tools can help you cement your business’ future success.

The faster you are able to grow your business, then the more budget you will have to put back into marketing, further enabling you to maintain your first mover advantage.

This is where Digirank can help you: we are experts in creating online marketing strategies focused on helping our clients achieve both their long-term and short-term business goals. In the last seven years, we have helped many client businesses create a market, foster a community and capitalise on their first mover advantage using a mix of constant research and adaptation, and our expertise as online marketers. Read our case studies to find out what we’ve done for other first mover clients.

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