Learning from Your Own Success

This isn't as easy as it sounds. During the late 1980s Apple realized that their Mac was selling well into the creative, graphics studios. So they forged strong links with the first graphics program developers and established a stranglehold on that market that persists to this day. What they didn't do was analyze the steps by which they achieved their preeminence. Indeed, considerable time passed before they realized that graphic programs demand much more powerful processors. Even when they had built them into the Mac, they didn't appreciate that graphics capabilities are necessarily of a higher order than those required for word processing and number crunching.

With judicious exploitation of their strength, they might have been where Microsoft is today or larger. As things turned out, Apple lost their window of opportunity, maybe literally.

My advice? Listen carefully to what dealers, users, and journalists say. Be wary of flattery. Though you may laughingly dismiss it, it has a way of sneaking in.

Some deserve success. Some have success thrust upon them. However, success that is based on luck isn't repeatable. If you just happen to be lucky, don't put yourself down. You are among the many not the few. Be smart. Appreciate your luck. Work out why you were lucky. Take steps to repeat it. If your program is selling like hot cakes or you've pulled off a couple of mammoth sales or presold your software to a major player, you are clearly doing something right.

When Bird's Eye, a very sophisticated marketing company, analyzed the frozen food lines they launched during the 1970s (there were over a hundred), it turned out that the products that failed were the ones that required more cooking knowledge than most homemakers had at the time. By contrast, the lines that succeeded were mainly "just pop it in the oven" jobs.

Most of the good answers are simple ones. The key to any firm's success is usually very straightforward and may even sound mundane. Don't underestimate a business principle because it sounds humble. "Stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap," said Wal-Mart.

What counts is what it's worth at the bank. A definitive answer to the question "Why is my program successful?" is vital.

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