Approve of yourself. Mark Twain
Andy Rachleff is Executive Chairman of Wealthfront, an automated investment service. Prior to Wealthfront, Rachleff co-founded and was general partner of Benchmark Capital. He also teaches courses on technology entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Follow him on Twitter @arachleff.
In their outstanding book, The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema argue the only way to achieve market leadership is through a singular focus on one of three strategies: Product leadership, cost leadership or customer intimacy leadership. The most common of the three strategies pursued by technology companies is product leadership. Here’s how you can achieve it, and why you need it to win big.
It’s Not First to Market, It’s First to Product/Market Fit
Contrary to popular opinion, product leadership is not synonymous with being first to market. In reality, few market leaders were the first to introduce products into the markets they now lead. Rather, the market leader is the first to hit product-market fit. In other words, they were the first company to deliver a product that addressed what customers actually wanted.
Intuit was the 37th company to introduce a personal finance tool with Quicken. Google was at least the 10th search engine. Oracle was by no means the first relational database. Apple was a late entrant into the MP3 player market with the iPod. Time after time, the winner is the first company to deliver the food the dogs want to eat.
Fifty years ago, General Electric published research that demonstrated in almost every market over the long term, the market leader ends up with a 40% market share, the number two player garners a 20% share, number three earns 10% and the rest of the market shares the remaining 30%. These numbers hold to this day, except for network effects businesses like online marketplaces where market leaders command more than a 90% share.
The Virtuous Cycles of Market Leadership
Leading market share translates into a number of incredible benefits. First and foremost, the market leader earns exponentially higher margins. That enables them to reinvest in their business at a more rapid rate, which further separates them from the pack.
Market leadership provides a larger megaphone, which allows the leader to better set the agenda for what customers should expect from their suppliers. Corporate partners much prefer to work with category leaders, which can provide enormous endorsement and distribution benefits.
Market leaders have an unfair advantage when it comes to recruiting the best people. And finally, market leaders are able to raise money more easily and cheaply than their competitors. By now, I hope you see a pattern.
A virtuous cycle exists for the leader that is not available to the wannabes, allowing the leader to increase its lead.
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Walter Unger CCIM, CCSS, CCLS
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Walter Unger CCIM
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