Thank You, Steve Jobs

Steve JobsContributed by Hannah Beasley

A brilliant marketer, an innovative thinker, and a driven leader – there is much we can learn from the former CEO of Apple. Steve Jobs transformed our worldview, and truly impacted each of our lives individually. His work challenged our perspectives and made us “need” products we had never seen. I could probably write a novel listing all of the lessons and bits of brilliance we can glean from his life, but in an effort to keep thinks simple (in true Steve Jobs fashion), I want to highlight three main things we can learn from his genius in practice.

1)    We all have a weakness for things that look cool. Let’s face it – you think the features are great, but the real reason you cannot keep your hands off the new iPads at the Apple store is because they look so cool! We are inherently drawn toward these sleek and beautiful devices that could double as modern art. For more than a decade, Apple has refused to compromise in design, and they have been well rewarded for their stubbornness. For Apple, form is not second to function – they go hand in hand. They want customers to integrate Apple devices into their lifestyles, so they accept nothing less than top-notch design from the outer casing to the inner-workings of the systems.

“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.” – YouTube

What does this mean for our business? Our software has to perform well AND look good. Our headquarters must be functional AND an inviting place for clients to visit. Our printed products must be accurate AND the best looking labels on the shelf. There is no payback for ignoring good design.

2)    Ease of use is more important than having all the bells and whistles. My husband and I consistently have conversations about whether his Android is better than my iPhone. He always argues his case with 2-3 features that his phone has, like Adobe Flash, or the ability to use his phone as a mobile hotspot. Of course, he wins for the sake of argument, but Steve Jobs might say he is missing the point. Consumers as a whole do not want the phone that has the most features or can do the most obscure tasks; they want the iPhone. The simple operating system on the iPhone works for the tech-savvy and the technically-impaired. The minimal design removes complication from everyday tasks, and other intangibles such as good design, quick access to downloadable music, and integration with other devices have helped make Apple the #1 Smartphone manufacturer in the world.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — BusinessWeek interview, May 1998

What does this mean for our business? We must make our software simple and intuitive. Interactions with our client services team should be hassle free, and our ultimate job as a company is to remove complexity from our clients’ processes.

3)    You must always be thinking about and planning for the future. Steve Jobs was consistently projecting the future of his company. He anticipated consumers’ future needs and desires and made strategic assumptions that positioned his company at the forefront of the tech world. But perhaps the most important future planning that Steve did was his planning to leave the company. Steve’s terminal illness put him in the unique position to be consistently aware of the uncertainty of his future. For the last few years, Steve has no doubt been empowering key people at Apple to be prepared for the time when he would no longer be in executive leadership. True leadership is reaching a point where momentum can be maintained and progress can continue, even when you are no longer in the trenches. While Wall Street has some uncertainty about the future of Apple, no one expects that Apple’s dynasty will crash overnight, because this forward-thinking company couldn’t avoid planning for their future leadership. While unconfirmed, Gizmodo even reports that there may be a “special four year plan” left behind by Jobs that will help ensure the company doesn’t stray far from Jobs’ vision in the next few years.

“I mean, some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple. My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.” – CNNMoney

What does this mean for our business? While it might seem daunting and impossible, forward thinking is absolutely critical. We must anticipate our customers’ needs and take action to prepare our products, services, and people for the inevitable changes coming in our future.

As you evaluate your business and your personal progress this week, remember Steve Jobs and find ways to integrate his philosophies into your world. Make form a priority, remove complexities from your processes, and plan for the future.

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Talk to Me. I’ll Be Your Biggest Fan.

#1 Fan

Contributed by Hannah Beasley

When I get something in the mail, I expect it to be relevant to me. Even if the piece is not personalized with my name, I expect the ad to be offering me something I need or at least something I may want. It needs to be relevant, unique, and timely. I’m in my 20s. If you send me an advertisement for a nursing home, clearly it’s not relevant, much less unique or timely, and I’m going to throw it away.

The same rule generally applies to every advertisement or offer I am exposed to. The average American is exposed to over 2000 advertising messages each day. Some people would argue that advertising has become the most powerful educational force in today’s society. Our brains are constantly living in a place of information overload, as we are now faced with offers on the Internet, on TV, and in the mailbox every day at an alarming rate. My generation has grown up with an unprecedented amount of exposure to advertising, and as a result, we have an uncanny ability to completely ignore messages right in front of our faces.

Every time I go to the grocery store, I ignore over 40,000 SKUs. If I go to Walmart Supercenter, it’s likely that I’ll ignore nearly 100,000 SKUs (and become extremely irritated with the long checkout lines). I cannot possibly process all of the offerings I encounter, so if my brain is trained to ignore 99% of all messages that I am exposed to each year, how do some marketers manage to get through to me? And yes, there are a few that get through.

First and foremost, the offering must be RELEVANT to me. As I mentioned before, if it’s not relevant, I’m throwing it away. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because of my background, my work, and the fact that I’ve grown up in a media-crazed society, I know that advertisers CAN make their promotions relevant to me, and I expect them to. Facebook (although creepy) does a great job of using their knowledge of my profile as the basis for serving up RELEVANT offers. During the months when my relationship status was marked as “engaged” a few years ago, my Facebook page was constantly serving up ads to support the 40 billion dollar wedding industry. If I see wedding ads now, I completely ignore them. However, in that brief period of time while I was planning my wedding, I actually considered the advertisements (well, at least some of them). Facebook was tactfully using their knowledge of my demographics to serve up RELEVANT offerings (and charge more for these targeted ads). Serving up relevance means promoting your offer to the right person at the right time. If you’re not doing this, you’re wasting your time. The “spray & pray” method commonly used in direct mail campaigns of the past is over.

In addition to being relevant, the offering must be UNIQUE. The product itself doesn’t have to be entirely unique, but the advertisement must at least show me something truly compelling. It could just be the presentation and design that’s compelling, or it could be the inherent features of the product. Whatever the case, I know that my brain is designed to dismiss offerings that are identical to five other offers I have already seen.

Lastly, the offering must be TIMELY. I still cannot understand why so many web addresses are printed on billboards. When I see a billboard, I’m probably driving. Yes, I occasionally check a quick email or give a yes/no response to a text while driving, but I am never going to enter a web address on my mobile phone to access a website as prompted by a billboard… all while blasting down I-65. If you want someone to visit your website, make it simple for them by allowing them to scan a QR code, or by sending them an email with the web address link. If you expect your target market to spend a few minutes reviewing your offering, present it when you expect they have some leisure time. Make your prospecting calls on Friday afternoon when you know most people are starting to wrap up their work for the week. Avoid asking anyone for their time on a Monday. Try to meet with people in person and outside of the office to avoid distractions and to gain some ever-fleeting undivided attention. Once again, I’ll return to Facebook. The Social Media King is the perfect place to advertise, because site visitors are likely logged on to kill some spare time. Users are browsing and clicking through things they find interesting, and this is exactly what the advertisers want. It’s much easier to integrate your offering into what your prospect is already doing than it is to ask them to change their plans and pay attention to you.

So, what is the true measure of success? An exceptional advertisement will compel me to SHARE my experience with the offering with others. At Fetter, we talk a lot about not just having clients or “users” of our software – we’re on a mission to create Fans. Fans love you. They talk about you. They tell their friends about you. They influence others. They forgive you when you have hiccups. They know you’re the best partner. They know you add value and make their lives better.

If your offer is RELEVANT, UNIQUE, and TIMELY, your clients and prospects will remember it. And with any luck, you will have a stadium full of fans before you know it.