I just finished reading On The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. As the title suggests this book is about what sets leading companies apart from the average ones. According to the authors, there are three dimensions along which companies can focus on: cost, innovation, or service. Leading companies are ones that focus all their efforts and resources to excel in one of these dimensions while being average on the others. Operational excellence (cost leadership) is achieved by making the operations of the company as efficient as can be. These are companies such as WalMart that constantly find ways to reduce their Opex and pass these savings to their customers. Their customers are always looking for the lowest price. Product leadership (innovation) is achieved by continually pushing to the market place new products. These are companies such as Intel which constantly release new products into the marketplace to displace their own products and remain ahead of everyone else. Finally, customer intimacy (service leadership) is achieved by companies that make customer service exceptional. These are companies such as Southwestern airlines which have an extreme focus on their customers and have understood to the nth degree their needs and desires.
The most important concept is that leading companies must never loose focus along the chosen dimension. If they do, companies can quickly loose their leadership position and eventually perish. The authors do provide numerous examples of companies that have gone on this journey.
A very insightful and highly recommended business/marketing book that brings execution back to its basics. If I had to add/change something in it, it would be to add more details to the journeys that some companies took from being market leaders to followers. The learnings on the business strategy side through such experience would be very valuable.