The most recent CNBC All-America Economic Survey revealed that at least half of all U.S. households own at least one Apple product. In other words, there are more than 55 million American homes with at least one iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Mac computer.

The actual breakdown is interesting: Just as many Americans between ages 18 and 34 count themselves among Apple users as those ages 35 to 49 (63 percent). The number drops to 50 percent when you get into the 50 to 64 age group, and down to just 26 percent among those 65 and older.

How has Apple managed to make their product so appealing to a broad demographic… and how can you do the same? The answer is simple: Apple has a long-term strategy. 

Think back to the 1970s and 1980s. What market did Apple concentrate on? Schools. They made sure their product was a prominent part of education. They knew that the more you get kids used to using Apple products, the more likely they are as adults to keep buying them. That’s why today we have adults who grew up in the 70s and 80s who are huge Apple fans. Having a long-term strategy makes sense if you plan on being around for the long-term. 

Second, Apple does not compete on price, and it never has. Competing on price puts you in a low-margin game, and that’s a hard game to win. Apple knows there are better ways to compete, such as reputation, image, service, quality, design, time and speed of delivery, value, experience, innovation, knowledge, and loyalty. So rather than compete on price, as so many others have done with a commoditized item, they have focused on competing on quality, on their innovative designs, and on innovation itself. No wonder the PC world follows many of the things Apple introduces.

Finally, over 75% of Apple’s revenue last year came from things that were impossible just two short years ago. So how did Apple develop these products? Contrary to popular practice, they didn’t ask their customers what they want; they know people will always under-ask simply because they don’t know what’s technically possible. Rather, Apple follows one of the key philosophies of my book Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible, which is to give people the ability to do what they currently cannot do, but would really want to do if they only knew it could be done. 

Remember, no one asked for an iPod, an iPhone, or an iPad. Customers didn’t ask for iTunes or Apple TV. No one asked for apps. Yet now that people have all these things, they can’t live without them.

So rather than ask your customers, “What would you want?” ask yourself, “Are there tools, products, or services we could provide that would give our customers what they would love to do, even though they didn’t ask for it, because they didn’t know it was possible?” Then, you’ll have success.

So whether your company is large or small, take the time to think both short-term and long-range. Build your future by competing on things other than price, and by asking the right questions, especially when it comes to consumers. That’s the best way to be like Apple so you can thrive in the future.

Daniel Burrus

Article first published as How to Make Your Company More Like Apple on Technorati.