Only Fools Rush In – or why the cutting edge isn’t where clients should be.

13Jul11

“Fish where the fish are.” – it’s a basic maxim of advertising that makes more sense than just about other piece of industry advice I’ve heard. So it makes me shake my head with all these agencies that are trying to sell clients on “the next big thing” in technology.

I’m not sure what they’re hoping to gain by being the first in a social media or technology space.  It certainly can’t be customers – by definition, new tech has an adoption curve that guarantees no one will be there for quite a while.

And I certainly hope they don’t say “learnings.” Why would anyone want to waste their time and money being a Guinea Pig? Personally, I’d much rather come in later with the knowledge of what’s already worked and what hasn’t.

In fact, staying out a technology until it is well established in the mainstream has loads of benefits:

• As I mentioned before, waiting lets your target gain critical mass – so that you’re not wasting money marketing to no one.

• Waiting means others use their money creating best practices, allowing you to simply adopt them.

• Waiting lets the technology develop, improve and stabilize.

• Waiting makes sure the technology will even survive.

Clients have been made to feel like if they’re not on the cutting edge of technology, they’re missing out. But exactly the opposite is true. By being on the cutting edge, they’re missing out – on real opportunities that are elsewhere. If a technology is sound and will become the next big thing, it’ll still be there and you can take advantage of it when you’re ready.

It reminds me of NBA executives who draft a player who has done absolutely nothing in college based on their “potential” while ignoring players who have actually accomplished something. If you want to win now (and I don’t know a marketer who doesn’t), you can’t go with blind potential.

There’s nothing wrong with coming into a technology later – after your target is there, after you know what works, after the kinks have been worked out and after you’ve had time to evaluate whether that technology fits into your overall business plan.

I’m no Luddite. In fact a big portion of my career has been spent in the digital world and I’m all for clients adopting new technologies – when they’re proven to make sense. Not on a lark or to seem cool. I have yet to see a brand be first to a technology that owned that technology to such an extent no other brands could follow.

In short, when it comes to new technology for marketers, first doesn’t equal most effective or best for your business. Being fashionable late to the party has its advantages. In fact, it has all the advantages and none of the drawbacks.

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