Inbound Marketing Strategy

3 Marketing Lessons I’ve Learned from Steve Jobs

Brad Smith
October 7, 2011

I just recently finished Steve Job’s biography (I know — late to the game).

Steve Jobs was… many things. Selfish, immature, egotistical, hypocritical and tyrannical come to mind.

But he was an incredible entrepreneur. Probably the best in our lifetime.

There is a profound appreciation for what he’s done and how he’s affected people. Many have covered his eulogy. I won’t even try.

Here are 3 marketing lessons I’ve learned from Steve Jobs.

Lesson #1: Focus on Your Product First

Your product is the best form of marketing.

Your “product” can include services. It’s the entire package of what you sell… the solution to your customer’s problem.

Apple designs the best consumer digital products ever. Time after time they’ve reinvented entire industries with their breakthrough products.

Pixar creates the best animated videos. Beginning with Toy Story, the animation studio has been wildly successful and consistent. In a “hit driven business”, that’s incredibly rare.

If nothing else, Steve Jobs was known for his unwavering commitment to excellence.

This same constant pursuit of excellence gave him the reputation for being blunt, brash and quick-tempered.

But consider this quote from Fortune,

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

The first time I held an iPhone, everything seemed… perfect. From the way it worked to the packaging it came in. I couldn’t imagine any possible way it would have been better.

Are you providing the best product possible? How can you go further, do more, and consistently strive for excellence?

Read (or listen) to The Age of Excellence by Jason Calicanis. It was my favorite article last year by far.

You might think this applies only to software or technology. It doesn’t. These trends happen first in software and technology, but they permeate other industries through the diffusion of innovations.

You can sell a bad product. You can advertise a bad product. But you can’t truly create great marketing for a bad product.

Lesson #2: How to Craft a Unique Selling Proposition

Steve Jobs knew how to sell.

But he was more of a showman than a salesman.

People would gather excitedly for every Apple Keynote where Steve would unveil another new, breakthrough product.

But more than all that, he knew how to find the essence of why someone would buy his product.

For example, MP3 players had been around for years before Apple entered the market. They were clunky and not really hip. So adoption was low, and opinions unfavorable.

Until the iPod was introduced.

And Steve simply described it as,

“1000 songs in your pocket.”

Other companies would have bragged about their product’s features and extra capabilities. But that’s not what customers want.

And that’s not why they buy.

In just a few simple words, he immediately conveyed his product’s essence.

What is the one thing your customer’s love about your product? How are you really solving their problems?

Lesson #3: Pick an Enemy & Take a Stand

Above all else, Jobs had a voice.

He stood for something.

You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.

The best way to take a stand and describe what you are, is to declare what you’re against.

This doesn’t have to be a person or company. But it often leads to that.

Apple’s enemy was complexity, tastelessness, and conventional thinking.

Walt Mossberg wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the joint interview between Jobs and Bill Gates:

Earlier in the day, before Gates arrived, I did a solo onstage interview with Jobs, and asked him what it was like to be a major Windows developer, since Apple’s iTunes program was by then installed on hundreds of millions of Windows PCs.

He quipped: “It’s like giving a glass of ice water to someone in Hell.”

Everyone talks about positioning, but many don’t live up to it. They try to play nice. Make everyone happy.

There’s far too many nameless, faceless, homogonous companies today.

Jobs also once remarked:

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”

Jobs focused on delivering the most beautiful product possible. The best. And that’s it.

He didn’t care about market share, or about making everyone happy.

He cared about design, function, and profit. That was his yardstick.

Apple today makes more money than every other competitor combined — in spite of their tiny market share.

They are notorious for control, and their “closed ecosystem” that doesn’t interface well with other company’s products.

But they have a specific vision. A unique way of doing things.

Some might not like it. Hack journalists may not understand it. But that’s their problem.

And it’s exactly why they won’t make the next breakthrough product, or disrupt the next industry the same way Apple has (hint: TV & cable is next — thank god).

Besides profit — why do you do what you do?

What will your mantra or legacy be?

Do that, and ignore everyone else.

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