5 Things You Can Learn From Steve Jobs About Marketing

Having recently finished reading a biography about Apple’s Founder Steve Jobs, I thought it was worth while outlining some key lessons on how Jobs took Apple from being good to great.

These 5 simple ideas will help any CEO or business owner transform their business, no matter if their business is product or service orientated.

Get Focused

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he went through the company and dramatically cut the number of products they manufactured down to four. He eliminated  excess product lines.

At a product review meeting he draw one horizontal and one vertical line to make a four cornered chart. He labeled the top columns “Consumer” and “Pro” and labelled the rows as “Desktop” and “Portable.”

He asked his team to make 4 great products that fitted each section of the quadrant.  This meant that the company was focused in delivering four great products instead of hundreds of average products.

The interesting thing about this, is that many companies focus on innovation but find that the product churn rate is quite high. Alternatively, they focus on cutting down the number of products they manufacture but the intent to do this is based on simplifying manufacturing and supply chain complexities. Jobs focus was on the consumer. He wanted to be able to tell his friend “what to buy.”

The Lesson: Determine out if you are making too many products for innovations sake? Ask if you are developing products to help delight your customer?

Develop a Culture of Innovation

Many companies get on the “innovation” bandwagon but Steve Jobs really helped re-define innovation into “focused innovation”. He took his 100 best employees to a retreat and asked them “What were the ten things they should be doing next?”

Once he got a list of the top 10 things they should be doing, he then further culled it down to three.

Apple’s innovation was based on insight that the personal computer would become a digital hub  that coordinated devices from music to video. This meant that Apple could expand beyond personal computers into digital products. Products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad supported the philosophy of the digital hub.

The Lesson: Think beyond your current existing market. Understand your end customers?  What insights you can gather from them?  What motivates them to buy from you? How can you develop products or services based on the insights that better fit their needs?

Keep it Simple

The whole premise of Apple is simplicity – from the iMac to iTunes, Jobs spent a lot of time trying to make the whole process user friendly. Prior to the iPod being launched, he would go over the interface and apply a rigid test. If he wanted a song or function he needed to get there within 3 clicks. The click also had to be intuitive.

The Lesson: Is your product or service easily understood? Is there is something you can eliminate to remove complexity?

Don’t Underestimate Design

Jobs believed that personal computers were boring and set out to redefine computers. His great insight was that many people felt computers were too technical so he designed a computer that looked friendly and playful. He used design as a key differentiator against the IBM clones.

In fact, 32% of sales were attributed to people who were buying a computer for the first time. The simplicity and friendliness of the design was extended from the product to the packaging and also the store experience.

I remember getting my first iPhone and opening the box. Opening the box was a whole new sensory experience. The bag that the product came in was tactile and soft. When I opened the box, it was packaged so perfectly. Even the power adapter was perfect. It was flexible enough to charge my iPhone but it also could be used to sync data from my iPhone to my computer. Instead of having several electrical cords that that performed different functions, I had one. Now that was smart thinking. The thought and care that went into the product differentiated it from competitors and made having a iPhone worth every cent.

The Lesson: Look at your products or services. Tear them apart and look at how you can repackage them into something simpler or better. Can you differentiate them from your competitors?

Extend the Brand Experience

Jobs obsessed not only about product design but also about packaging design and store experience. His premise was based on his mentor’s theory that products must “impute.” This meant that the packaging and store appearance had to match the whole essence of Apple – the essence being simplicity, friendliness and playfulness.

Design was not just how the product looked, it was the essence of the product and this extended into all areas of the product and store experience- from product development, to packaging and to store design.

The Lesson: Understand how your brand is positioning and it’s core essence. Extend your brand’s essence into all touch-points.