That one thing is focus. Focus is the core success factor for any business, no matter how large or small.
Taking a look at established leaders today, we can see exactly what we mean about how firms focus on a specific market, a specific need, or a specific customer:
- Amazon is focused on selling books
- Zappos.com is focused on selling shoes
- Diapers.com is focused on selling diapers
- Southwest is focused on low-cost flying
- Wal-Mart is focused on low-cost retailing
- Dell was focused on direct sales of personal computers (notice past tense)
- Apple is focused on consumer technological innovation
- ESPN is focused on sports reporting
- The Wall Street Journal is focused on business news
- Oakley is focused exclusively on sun-glasses
Aside from being market leaders in their respected market segments, all of these companies became successful by focusing on one thing and executing so well that they rose to the top of their market. There is a reason why the Wall Street Journal is one of the few newspapers that is able to charge an online news subscription fee, while other newspapers like the New York Times are losing money and trying to combat consumers demand for free news. The Wall Street Journal's exclusive focus on providing the best and most relevant business news differentiates itself from all other newspapers. The New York Times, although it has very good reporters, reports on similar stories as other newspapers and has very little differentiation causing lower consumer demand for their articles.
When it comes down to it, most companies fail because they lack focus. Spreading yourself too thin not only confuses your company and employees, but it confuses your customers as well. In an age where consumers and customers are bombarded with information and options, delivering a core value proposition through your focused marketing and branding will help solidify your company and brand within the consumer's mind. Consumers remember a company for one thing and one thing only.
Firms like Virgin and people like Donald Trump suffer from brand dilution by trying to staple their names on as many product categories as possible. Did you know that Trump has a bottled water and cologne brand? Yet it's not his water or his cologne that consumers think about when they think Trump. Rather it is his success in the real estate markets that define Trump and nothing else. His brand extensions into clothing, bottled water, cologne and more will ultimately fail because consumers do not and will not associate Trump with any of these products.
Even Google is falling into the lack of focus trap by creating as many products as possible. Google has hundreds of web-based applications, some of which are successful, but most are not. Google is known by consumers as the search giant and nothing more. By trying to expand the Google brand into other non-search products, Google is damaging its core value proposition as the ultimate search engine and will ultimately fail in its attempts.
Creating new products is essential for all business, but if you are looking to create a new product that is outside of your firm's core value, you must do so under a completely new brand name and separate it from your core business so as not to damage your firm's focus in the category that it currently dominates.