David Meerman Scott had a very interesting post on his blog post the other day titled ‘Do you care more about customers or the competition‘. I took some time to let it marinate before commenting on his website or making this post.
In the post he mentions that he’s glad to see that Tim Cook asked Scott Forsatall to resign over his unwillingness to sign the company’s apology over the crappy Apple Maps that were made a part of the latest iPhone software, because “it signals that Cook cares about customers rather than “beating Google” which as far as I
could tell was the only reason to swap out the mapping platform in the iPhone.” I agree with this point. David goes on in the post to site how he believes too many companies these days are far to focused on the competiton and not enough on their customers. Concluding the post David ask “Who do you care more about – your customers or the competition?” This is the question that got me to thinking…hmm!
As I thought about what historically made Apple successful I came to the conclusion that, in my mind, it was neither a focus on the competition nor the customer. In fact what made Apple wildly successful was basically ignoring both. What Jobs and Woz did with the first Macintosh was to create a computer that they themselves wanted to use. If fact there was no customer demand at the time for what they originally created, and none of the competition had produced anything like the first Macintosh (it had a graphical user interface, and a mouse). Even their majority of their peers did’n want it.
Prior to the introduction of the first Macintosh all computers used command line interfaces, and the only working definition of a mouse was a that thing you wanted your cat to catch. No one had even heard of a GUI or a mouse and it was that introduction of a product that consumers had no idea could be done, and that was so insanely different from what the competition was producing is what drove the demand. Essentially by ignoring what was popular, and focusing instead on their Core beliefs, Apple created a market for what they were producing … the worlds best personal computer.
If you trying to become the best in the wold at something then your Core Beliefs are what you should largely over obsess on – not customers, not competition.
For someone who does not know Apples history (having lived through it, or read about it) it’s easy to think that they have always been the worlds most successful technology company. But they haven’t. Steve Jobs was a risk taker who was willing to stay focused on his core belief that it was better to own the entire process (software, hardware, manufacturing, and distribution). That takes some serious gonads my friends. In the short run Apple suffered with anemic market share while Microsoft, and Dell became industry leaders and consumers sucked up less expensive, less creative, and less reliable PC’s. However, time has now proven Apples strategy better for Apple as a company and for consumers.
Warren Buffett is another example of someone who dominates his market by largely ignoring both the competition and consumers.
Finally, I leave you with something to make you go … hmm! Consider what the world would be like today if Apple had focused on what customers wanted and what the competition was doing – no MacBooks, no iPods, no iPhones, no iMacs, nor iPads.
Oh…here’s one more. The next time you’re considering focusing on customers or the competition ask yourself this – WWSD (What would Steve Do?)