In their new book, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed carefully identified from all publicly listed American firms those firms that performed very highly over long periods of time. When they tried to find out what they had in common, they could not identify concrete behavior. What made the companies different, according to the authors, where their mindsets. This leads Raynor and Ahmed to articulate three rules for success.
Better before cheaper: Compete on differentiators other than price.
Revenue before cost: Drive superior profitability with higher prices or higher volumes, not lower cost.
There are no other rules: Change anything/everything in order to abide by the first two rules.
The Economist wrote a very thoughtful review about the entire genre of business books that tries to glean lessons from studying successful players. I agree with their assessment that in the end,
The difficult question is how to find that profitable niche and protect it. There, The Three Rules is less useful.