Thursday, August 27, 2009

thoughts: duplicating the "Apple Effect"

You've read about the "Apple Effect" before. It's the ability to turn your customers into a frothy horde of fans who obsess over "what's next", who consider your competition to be morally and intellectually laughable, and who will whip their wallets out to prove it.

You've wondered "How can I do that?"

You've read blogs and magazines that purport to answer that very question. Most of them are variations of the old joke "How do you become a millionaire? First, get a million dollars."

You've read Insanely Great. Twice.

You've thought about wearing a black mock turtleneck and becoming an obsessive ego pirate.

Then you've sighed and gone back to scrubbing that product backlog. Because you've come to realize, as all product managers ultimately do, that you do not have the organizational power to transform your company to that extent. The best you're likely to achieve is to transform your product, which is actually a bad thing - your company's image will become fractured as some customers get a dramatically different product experience than others.

At worst, you'll be laughed at as a half-baked doppelgänger of Someone We All Recognize.

Want to duplicate the Apple Effect?

Here's your cookbook:

1. Make sure you have power. Lots of it. Power to make people do exactly what you want, if necessary, but most importantly enough power to make people do things the way you want.

And here's that way. Simplified for Short Attention Spans, of course.

2. Find a "Path to Value" (P2V) in your target marketplace. With all the power you've got, you could get your Evil Minions(TM) to build practically anything. But you'd be best to focus on something the buyer will both love and value over time. So find that, whatever it is. Don't settle for "wow that'd be nice to have". You're not interested in building shiny pennies that people will love one day and drop the next. And you're not entirely interested in solving problems. You're interested in capturing their love, their passion, their imagination, their ambitions.

3. Find a "Path to Revenue" (P2R) for each potential P2V. It doesn't matter if the customer loves it if you can't make money giving it to them. Think about how the P2R will change over time. You're not interested in short-term cash that ends. You want a long-term relationship that works for the customer - and you.

4. Start down the "Path to Execution" (P2E) and be prepared to walk away - but refuse to give up. You may not be able to deliver on a given P2V today with the tools or technologies or people you have. But if that P2V is associated with a highly desirable P2R, damn it, you can't not deliver on it if that buyer is in your target market. So re-tool, re-think, re-engage.

5. Never Be Satisfied With The Status Quo. As the leader your primary job is to make sure each part this three-part engine stays in constant motion. Never assume you know what your customers will love - or that you are satisfied with just the the customers you always have. Never assume that you fully understand how you'll make money by making them love you. And never assume that what you create will satisfy them.

6. It's been said the first rule of Italian driving is what is behind you doesn't matter. In the pursuit of becoming a company worthy of desire, you must believe that everyone is behind you because you must know that you are more attentive to the market than anyone else. This knowing must be grounded in evidence of the process of knowing. Anything else is just empty ego making you feel good.

So go find out. Go figure out. Go build it. Be hungry. And always, always be at the front.

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