Focus is critical. Whether you are at a startup or a large multinational corporation, the ability to focus helps both the good and bad become easier to spot. Particularly with any company and especially any startup that ships hardware, having a common platform and few product lines radically simplifies engineering but also gives a huge boost to sales and marketing efforts. In my time in marketing at Drobo we took advantage of this. Sure we have a few different product lines but they are all really the same thing differ according to interface and number of drives supported—but the core technology is the same across all platforms. That enabled us to market and champion essentially all our products at once. How can Samsung for instance hope to achieve any scale, efficiency or efficacy in their marketing budgets which are spread out across so many products?
As an aside, one of my favorite courses in business school was the “Marketing Strategy” course which uses a multiplayer computer game to simulate running many product lines. It really helped reinforce the lessons of focus and “knowing your target customer” (ie making a product for a very specific customer and not trying to straddle multiple targets) I had experienced firsthand. Spread too thin and somebody more focused and specialized will beat you.
Thanks to the talented John LeBaron at Cisco for originally sharing this link with me.