I'm reading a galley of Seth Godin's latest mind-grenade, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), and came across this fascinating quote from a conversation he had with Sergey Brin:
"We knew that Google was going to get better every single day as we worked on it, and we knew that sooner or later, everyone was going to try it. So our feeling was that the later you tried it, the better it was for us because we'd made a better impression with better technology. So we were never in a big hurry to get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better."
All that is totally rational and smart, but one can't help but notice what appears to be an extraordinary leap of faith: "we knew that sooner or later, everyone was going to try it." It raises all sorts of questions: How long into the project did they "know" that? What would they have done if take-up had slowed? Did their investors share their confidence and disdain for marketing in the early days?
The problem with extrapolating marketing lessons from once-in-a-lifetime success stories like Google and Apple is that most of us aren't Jobs, Brin or Page, nor can we count on the luck that played a role on all of their successes. Products that market themselves are ideal, of course, but there aren't many of them. And even those that are don't always reveal themselves as such at the start.
For every Brin, who became a billionaire by waiting for the world to beat a path to his door, there must be countless other entrepreneurs who assumed the same thing would happen and were wrong.
BTW, Seth's book is absolutely delightful, combining his wise aphorisms and anecdotes with Hugh MacLeod's darkly brilliant business-card cartoons. It's also the sort of thing you can read in an evening, which is something more business books should aspire to. (I will surely fail at this with my next one.)