“Used apple policy” and Success

“Used apple policy” in layman terms mean you don’t have to get the first bite of the apple to make out. The second or third juicy bite is good enough. Just be careful not to get the tenth skimpy one. In the business World, this can also be defined as product development by imitation. There are many pros of this approach. Like if the apple is rotten, you won’t suffer, i.e. if the industry is not ready for the product or for any other reason if the product is unsuccessful, your company won’t be hit by the damage. Another pro – fetching the apple to take the first bite is lot more expensive as compared to waiting for the second bite, in business terminology – innovating a product is more expensive in terms of research and development as compared to doing innovative imitation using reverse R&D. Now let’s switch sides to look at the cons. The biggest con is that someone else got the apple and they have the advantage to take the best and the biggest bite out of it, i.e. your product doesn’t have the first comer’s advantage in the market. Most of the time, you won’t be the only one there to take the second or the third bite, there will be many others looking to take the bite off the same apple, in other words you will have considerable competition from other imitating products in the market to grab the same market share.

Let’s talk about the more interesting part – how companies with used apple policy succeed? I think lot of factors help them in getting successful. To kick-off, they tend to keep an eye on the industry developments and put the competition activities under the radar. It is very important for a company to wider their horizons and look for opportunities in the industry outside the segment their products address. As always, you got to make sure that the customer needs are getting addressed. Following closely how the competition is trying to address the customer requirements and what innovative steps they are taking to succeed also helps in successful product imitation. It is very important for companies to correctly and truthfully evaluate the potential of the new products launched by the competition. This goes long way in successful product imitation. I think it’s clear that to be successful in the used apple policy, you got to be the second or third one to take the bite, not the tenth one. For this, it is critical to evaluate the new territory which the competition’s product is addressing. By doing the correct evaluation, you can get a quick start in getting a competitive product to the market while the territory is still hot and happening.

A very vital step for the company to be successful in this process is to locate the right apple. You got to look for the products closer to your company’s expertise. Going for out of the bound extensions are very risky for the company as a whole. It is always helpful to package or set links with the existing products of your company to attract the customers to the new product. In order to succeed using the used apple policy, it is important that the imitator does some innovative imitation. I think we should get it correct when we talk about innovation. Innovation is not just doing great research and development to bring new products to the market. That’s one type of innovation, but an equally important type of innovation is to start with existing products in the market and do creative and breakthrough developments in them to come up with more compelling solutions. The imitation of the product should have the correct mix of innovation in it to challenge the market leader in the segment. Imitators should establish concentrated reverse R&D units to do such innovative imitations.

Other factors that help companies with used apple policy succeed are better execution, stronger monitory muscle and better marketing. It is critical that an immitator develops and delivers project in an agile fashion to tackle the already existing innovative leader. The execution to bring this product out should be top-notch and the entire product unit should be alligned to achieve a clear goal. To invest in reverse R&D efforts and catch a leader from behind, you got to have enough cash flow to support the efforts and take risks. So there is no denying that strong monetory muscle is one of the most important part of this entire process. But I think the most important factor is to do the right marketing for the product. It’s critical that the product is presented in the market not like an immitator, but like an innovation to address the customer needs in the future. Marketing should make sure that their product looks like a better alternative as compared to anything else out there.

No company can be first in all products they launch. Every company at some point or the other follow the used apple policy and success in it is as critical as any other product development effort. The good part here is, you got the problem and the solution, now all you got to do is solve it in a better way. If you can do that, no one will remember down the road if you were the first one or not.