Build on Strength

July 14, 2010

Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 4 has had an interestingly polarized reaction. While many have praised the all-new design and unprecedented screen quality, others, who are already happy with another platform, have found it almost completely un-compelling. Beyond the natural tendency for human bias and the obvious contrast in priorities of the two platforms, this difference of opinion still provides some food for thought.

If you had asked me what the iPhone’s strongest advantages over its competitors were before the iPhone 4 announcement, I probably would have cited, among other things, build quality and text rendering. And yet, apparently, those are two of the things Apple has most focused on improving. It could be argued that this is an illogical move on Apple’s part—that Apple should have instead focused on the software features touted by competitors. (I’m not an Android user, but I’m told its notification system, for example, is excellent.)

But I don’t think Apple’s decisions are at all illogical. I think they’ve employed a principle we could all do well to realize and remember: when your company has a best-in-class product or service, it shouldn’t get too distracted with beating its competitors to beat itself. Certainly there are things to be learned from competitors in any industry; but the most important customers are always the ones you already have.

So, why strengthen what’s already strong? Current customers probably chose your company because of its strengths and in spite of its weaknesses. In a way, then, they’ve already identified that what your company does well is extremely important to them. This is, of course, no excuse to ignore weaknesses—doing so could be catastrophic. But it is a charge to never get complacent about what your company does well. One day, someone else will do it better. But no company is in a better position to do so than yours.