For every new app or product you are launching, assume your competitor is working on a similar project. Will your product succeed—or will a competing one?
One of the many factors that affect success is customer experience.
Every contact point with your prospective customer is an opportunity to make an impression. Wasting that opportunity is inexcusable.
Focus on being the best
Many ideas don't even get to the launching phase. For example, once you realize your idea is already in the market, you may consider any effort to create your own version of that product or service as a waste of time.
But don't give up so quickly. By offering a better product, myriad companies beat their competitors that are already in the market.
Those successful companies choose to have "the best, not first" approach. Some may wait six months (or even a year) from their competitor's product launch and then learn from its shortcomings. The "best, not first" company then will come out with a much better product—without the bugs of the one already in the marketplace—and with a good user experience.
Moreover, a good user experience markets itself. People will readily shift their loyalties from the product they have used to another product that offers a better experience.
A good example of "best, not first" comes from Apple.
The company released the first iPod when MP3 players saturated the market. However, with an unparalleled user experience, the iPod managed to capture people's imagination (and business). People loved it.
The iPod had class in terms of design and finish. At that time, nothing else matched its look and feel.
Apple focused on being the best, not the first. A great user experience did the rest. People were already sold on iPods before competitors could react.
The iPod became synonymous with MP3 players. iPod owners then went on to buy iPod touches then iPhones and iPads.
Any success is founded on a good user experience
Google also offered a superior user experience above its competitors... and word-of-mouth spread.
Before the competition knew what happened, Google and its products had taken the world by storm, and people recommended them to friends and family. Gmail, Android, and Chrome are all frontrunners in their fields. (Today, Google can simply buy out the competition, but it survives by providing the very best to its users.)
The same pattern repeated itself in the story of Wesabe and Mint. A personal finance management website, Wesabe lost out to Mint despite being launched months before it. Wesabe's co-founder, Marc Hedlund, went on to concede that "Mint had indeed offered a better overall user experience."
Another example is MySpace, which launched in 2003. Facebook followed a year later as an Ivy League-only network. Facebook relied entirely on its users to spread the word and captured the market with a consistently great user experience.
"Getting there first is not what it's all about," says Chris Cox, chief product officer of Facebook. "What matters always is execution. Always."
Don't tell people you were the first to market
Not many people know that Yahoo was first to the business of instant search results. Yet Google Instant is what most people know.
Yahoo publicly claimed that it did beat Google in that service and mentioned Yahoo's patent applications and intellectual property rights. But the fact that Yahoo had to remind people that it did something first proved that it had failed at it.
Whether the product failed or the launch strategy failed, failure happened.
If you attempt do something that a larger competitor does, make sure you do it better. As a startup, you don't have the resources of a bigger company, but you do have advantages in being smaller and more focused. Capitalize on those advantages.
The trick is to make your product fantastic—so users like it, blog about it, talk about it, and share it.
Sow the seed
Today's empowered users shape business strategies. And users expect consistently high-quality experiences.
If your customers don't receive an immediate value from you, they will look at your competition for one.
Understanding what customers desire, then delivering it through a superb user experience, will make your business strong—and keep it strong in the long run.
Aspire to be the best, not necessarily the first. And give your customers something to talk about.
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