One of the advantages of focusing on focus is the ability to go "deep" instead of "wide" on what a company's actual business is.
A fantastic example is Dropbox. They do one thing, and they do it with such an intense focus that I continue to be amazed by the level of innovation they achieve.
It seems like every day, their entire team is asking itself "what can we do to go deeper on our main objective?" And their main objective is to acquire as many users as possible, and then get them to store as much of their content on Dropbox as possible. Simple.
They do this so incredibly well, and their valuation is north of $4 billion, just for doing that one thing better than anyone else on the planet, with an incredible depth of focus.
Companies always have a tendency to think they need to go wide. More features, more products, more breadth.
But purposefully narrowing focus allows a company to go deep and just absolutely dominate a space. And it shows up in beautiful ways, especially from a product perspective. More features is OK, but each feature needs to build towards the main vision for this to work. Making a great product is like rolling a snowball down a mountain. At the top, it seems insignificant. But by the time it's rolling towards the bottom, it's unstoppable.
Here are a few examples of how Dropbox goes deep:
I took a screenshot on my computer (as I do many times a day, using a service called CloudApp) and look at what happened:
Dropbox popped up and asked me if I wanted to upload that screenshot to its service. I hadn't done anything differently -- that was just an innovation they figured out because they knew that it was consistent with their goal of getting as much of my content on their servers as possible. It's very likely that there weren't any big, long meetings to decide to create that feature. It's just something that was an obvious part of the goal of the company. So someone (probably a product manager) just did it. S/he made the decision to prioritize that feature because it achieved their narrow (but deep) goal very effectively.
A few days later, I connected my iPhone to my laptop, and look what popped up:
Yep, an offer from dropbox to "keep my photos safe with Dropbox." Genius. Talk about a way to fill up a Dropbox account -- and who doesn't want to back up their photos for safe keeping?!
Dropbox also put the time into creating a flexible architecture that allows their user acquisition team to play around with different models of getting bonus space to users when they take various actions. For example, users can get 250MB more space by completing 7 steps -- one of which is installing the Dropbox mobile app. Genius.
These are obvious things, but Dropbox has been world-class about executing on them? Why? Because they gave themselves the space & focus to do one thing really well, and therefore go really deep. It's a great lesson for any entrepreneur.
Just read a great blog about this topic, which reads in part:
"All the great startups of the past few years have become successful because they first focused on being the great at one thing. Dropbox syncs all your files, Uber gets you from A to B, Github hosts your source code. These business are all much more complicated now, but they started off with solving one problem incredibly well.
You should aim to do the same with your startup. Do one thing really well that your customers absolutely love and make it the best product it can be. In other words, your company’s product should be the bottle opener and not the Wallet Ninja."
Another fantastic example of doing one thing really well -- worth $19 billion in this case. The CEO of WhatsApp says:
"It’s true, Koum says, ruddy faced as he puts on his socks and shoes. “I want to do one thing, and do it well.”
More quotes from that Forbes article in my analysis post of WhatsApp.
Interesting to see LinkedIn also jumping on the "Doing Fewer Things Better" bandwagon. Specifically, Deep writes:
"Our goal is to provide our members with seamless experiences – not just individual products – that will help them become more productive and successful professionals."
That's key -- that all initiatives are building on one common goal, like a snowball going down a mountain.
At ShareThis, we decided that was "To Make Social Data Actionable." Everything we're doing drives us towards that goal. It's even written into our mural:
Here's a great WIRED article about Dropbox. Specifically:
"The risk for Dropbox is that at its core, it essentially does only one thing: It syncs your files across all your devices. On the one hand, this single-mindedness has brought Dropbox its tremendous success. Founded in 2007, the company concentrates on doing thing and doing it well. But that strength is also its greatest vulnerability — Dropbox is not diversified. Many other companies large and small now offer much the same service. If Dropbox loses your trust by messing up the one thing you thought it did best, you could easily switch your allegiance to another company."
Great post Drodio - the most successful companies go deep with their focus. This parallels a quote I've heard before about one's personal approach to living: “I don’t just want to live the length of my life. I would like to live the width of it as well.” --> While our focus changes throughout our lives, our desire to go deep on the right things should not.
I ran across a fantastic PDF on HackerNews by Henrik Kniberg that pulls back the covers on How Spotify Builds Products. It's such a good article -- and so different how many companies actually execute on building products -- that I wanted to highlight a few of the best parts.
Firstly, Spotify starts with a a strong, concise vision (with a singular focus): "Spotify’s vision is to bring you the right music for every moment." This has proven to be a fantastic guide as they iterate on their platform. In a similar way to Dropbox, which I described recently, everything Spotify does furthers that singular vision -- every new feature, every performance enhancement. "Starting as a music player a few years ago, their products are now evolving into a ubiquitous platform for discovering new music and connecting artists with their fans directly." This allows Spotify to expend all its energy on optimizing for product/market fit around that vision, and that's what creates tremendous shareholder value in product companies.
The article sets up, in simple terms, the product prioritization dilemma that trips many companies:
"Here’s the paradox though: Successful companies like Spotify only want to deliver products that people love. But they don’t know if people love it until they’ve delivered it. So how do they do it?"
Whenever a new prospect is first exposed to your brand or website, the goal is to get them to experience the key moment. This moment is the special value that only you can offer. This moment is what all great design and an experiences are about. Its the little bit of magic which puts a smile on your customers face. Your aim is to get them to this moment as quickly as possible. Once you have achieved that your next goal is to hook them on that experience. Turning casual users into a raving fan an amplifier, who can't help but tell more people and expose them to the experience you offer.
An example which shows the simplest path from awareness to experience is YouTube. This streamlined process was a key part of why it grew so quickly - no need to create an account, just a link and a video. The first time you were given a link to a YouTube video to actually watching it would be mentally imperceptible. By the time you understand the layout of the page and where the video is likely to be it starts to play.
At that point you get that special moment, the smile forms on your face. You can watch videos streamed online, which are reasonably fast to download, that's awesome. Then underneath the video and clearly visible, a commenting section where you can see what other people think. Along with a clear comment box encouraging engagement and account creation.