Friday, March 11, 2011

First to market, lasting success? Not a guarantee.

Being first to market is no guarantee you'll succeed. The business annals are littered with tales of cutting-edge companies that eventually lost out to newcomers who built a better mousetrap that redefined the game.

Google is a great case in point. By 1998, when Google burst on the scene, search engines and directories such as Yahoo!, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, and AskJeeves were already firmly entrenched. Many people wondered why a new search engine was even necessary.

Then they tried Google. Using a proprietary algorithm to generate its search results, Google quickly gained a foothold and the loyalty of users frustrated by the other brands. Word spread, Google's popularity grew, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Google powers more than two-thirds of all U.S. searches, according to the latest data from Experian Hitwise (February 2011). Yahoo! Search accounts for just a 15% market share, and many of the other search providers in existence when Google began have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Sure, many factors went into the success of Google as a brand, and Internet search is now just a part of what the company does.

But, generally speaking, what are some basic lessons we can all learn from Google and other Johnny-come-latelies who now dominate their fields (Facebook vs. MySpace, anyone)? Lots of things, really, but three really stick out in my mind....

1. Don't underestimate the competition.
2. Don't rest on your laurels.
3. Don't ignore the ever-evolving needs of your customers.

That's pretty sage advice for any company, no matter how big or small you might be.

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