Have you ever looked at a really successful brand or person – a celebrity, say, or a big company – and wondered, “How on earth do they do it?”
Apple is one of those brands for me. Almost everything the company puts out succeeds. The company has enjoyed almost unparalleled revenue growth from 2004 to 2014 — $8 billion to $180 billion. That’s astounding.
But Apple’s success isn’t just a matter of making a lot of money, or selling a lot of products. How many brands that have completely changed the game in their niches the way Apple has?
Not only that, but Apple’s done it several times over, despite some strong criticism from the naysayers. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad … all of these products pretty much revolutionized their respective market “space.” Their success is a direct result of their marketing strategies.
Apple’s marketing mix creates raving fans who stand in line for hours and hours on end, just to get the first iteration of any new product the minute it’s released throughout social media.
Apple does what it does so well that there are whole websites out there devoted to nothing but Apple products and Apple marketing. Even high-end journalistic publications like The Atlantic write endlessly about the company, dissecting what it does and how it does it.
Apple goes way beyond the “computer brand” label — they create products for their target market, loyal customers that believe make these products life better, easier, more fun and more cool.
How on earth do they do it?
Well, design and utility are just two of the reasons behind Apple’s success and certainly give it a competitive advantage.
But, more importantly for you and me, Apple’s secrets for transforming casual purchasers into brand ambassadors can be applied to just about any business in any niche or industry.
In this article, I’m going to reveal seven pillars of Apple’s world-famous marketing mix that you can adapt for your own business.
1. Rethink the Need for Advertising
It’s tempting to drop lots of cash on PPC ads with Google or Facebook when you want to increase your sales revenue. But, Apple knows that’s not always necessary.
In fact, Apple relies most on two completely different strategies: product placement (especially with celebrities and in popular shows) and the buzz created by positive reviews in the media.
This secret was revealed in Apple’s patent litigation with Samsung, believe it or not:
Even if you don’t have Apple’s resources and budget, you can still take advantage of this approach to increase your market share. But, you may be asking yourself “How could I possible implement this Apple marketing secret in my own business?”
Well, it may not be possible to put your product in the hands of a Kardashian, or on the set of a popular TV show.
But, you can absolutely approach insiders and influencers. If you persuade an influencer that your product or service is worthwhile and relevant to their audience, they’ll share it with their followers.
Another way to use this Apple secret is to embrace a free trial program. Offer a free trial of your service or product, in exchange for a positive testimonial.
If a free trial of your product isn’t feasible, then get in touch with your existing satisfied customers and ask for a positive testimonial or review. Publish those testimonials on your site. This isn’t a difficult component of your marketing mix to develop.
I’ve been publishing testimonials from my satisfied clients on this site for some time now, and I can attest to the fact that they help persuade prospects to convert into clients and subscribers. You’ll see some of those testimonials on this very page.
Don’t forget to attribute each testimonial with an image or avatar, the person’s name and a link back to their own website, if possible. This adds more social proof to the customer’s positive review of your brand and gives greater legitimacy to your target market.
You can also implement this winning Apple strategy by creating more case studies. Nielsen research on consumer trust in marketing shows that 92% of consumers trust recommendations they get from friends and family, while 70% of shoppers trust opinions from other consumers that are published online, such as reviews.
What’s more, case studies are one of the 15 kinds of content proven to drive traffic and generate leads.
Adam Sutton of MarketingZeus.com suggests that you use an outline to create your case studies:
Last, but far from least, if you are going to launch a PPC ad campaign, make sure you go about it the smart way. Choose your PPC network carefully; create a clean, well-written landing page with a clear call-to-action and make sure your ad copy and landing page are completely aligned.
If you need more help with PPC ads, the following resources will help:
- Why Your PPC Ads Aren’t Making You Any Money (and What to Do About It)
- The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing: Find Customers Through Paid Channel Advertising
2. Avoid Price Wars by Emphasizing Your Unique Value Proposition
Many entrepreneurs believe – falsely – that they have to compete on price. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, competing on price can actually hurt your business – and Apple knows this and has never wavered on its pricing strategy.
Dropping prices and competing on price leads to a “race to the bottom.” For example, if you’ve ever looked at job boards for freelancers, you might see some strange things. For some sites, the going rate for a blog post is $10, or even less!
This might sound like a great idea, but it’s really short-sighted when developing market share. “You get what you pay for” has never been more true than when businesses and freelancers try to underbid each other. Content marketing requires quality and it will be hard to get that for dirt cheap rates.
Your $10 post is almost certainly going to be poorly written, with no exclusive research or data to back up opinions. And, that post could simply be regurgitated from someone else’s site – or even outright copied, word for word.
Even Copyscape can’t protect you from junk content. The foundation of content marketing is quality content as the cornerstone of a marketing mix.
That’s because no freelancer could survive on $10 per piece, unless they can create each piece in bulk. But your marketing strategy won’t survive if you don’t work on smart quality.
Instead, do what Apple does. Apple focuses on their UVP (unique value proposition), which is beautiful design that works right out of the box with ever-smaller packaging. It’s a marketing strategy that gets juice throughout social media and is very much a competitive advantage for Apple and its market share.
And the cost? Well, let’s just say Apple is absolutely not competing on price! In fact, you’ll almost certainly pay more – sometimes a lot more – for an Apple product than you would for a competitor’s version of the same product.
Take some computers at Best Buy, for example – let’s say, two similar laptops, both with i5 core processors and a 13.3” display. The PC version, a Dell Inspiron, costs about $750. Apple’s Macbook Pro, on the other hand, costs over $1,000.
Or, take two similar desktop machines. The HP Pavilion all-in-one with touchscreen capabilities and a 27” display costs just under $1,000. The Apple equivalent — the 27” iMac — will set you back almost $1,800.
How can Apple keep its fans with a pricing strategy so much higher than the competition?
It’s because Apple doesn’t view PCs as competition. Where others focus on a single killer feature through a variety of content marketing, Apple focuses on the entire product, and it shows.
In fact, Apple routinely earns its higher prices with top-of-the-line features and specifications.
You can implement this same strategy, no matter what niche or industry you’re in and regardless what your business model may be. Whether you’re selling products or services, the key to making this strategy work for you is to make sure that you justify that higher price to then capture your market share.
For SaaS companies, that could mean creating a higher degree of personal service or a full money-back guarantee.
For coaches or consultants, the competitive advantage could mean beautifully branded deliverables, in addition to work sessions or Skype calls.
You can also follow Apple’s example by offering a variety of options for your products and services at different price points. For instance, Apple’s Macbook laptop line offers larger screens and other enhanced features, for a higher price.
Yes, Apple is like the Rolls Royce of technology products with a retail store design that look more like a show room. Their customers are more than happy to pay that premium, because they know they’ll get their money’s worth.
3. Keep Your Marketing and Your Products Simple
More isn’t always better.
Apple understands that technology consumers often get overwhelmed. That’s true of other niches and industries, as well. Overwhelm can create a confusion in a marketing mix.
Apple helps reduce that consumer confusion by simplifying their web and sales copy. They completely eschew jargon or industry terms. Instead, they use simple, direct words and they continually stress the benefits that consumers absolutely need and will be thrilled by. This is part of their brilliance in content marketing; high tech without high tech terms.
This approach doesn’t confuse their customers with too much information. As Leonardo da Vinci said,
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Apple keeps it simple and their customers love it giving them a loyalty with market share that is unprecedented.
Apple also follows through with this principle in the ads it does run. Remember those classic “Mac vs. PC” spots?
What Apple’s ads and marketing strategies convey isn’t specifications and features, but rather how the product can change your life and make it better.
But Apple doesn’t stop there. This is just step one in their marketing strategies.
They carry this philosophy of “simpler is better” through to their product lines, too. They don’t overwhelm prospective customers with too many choices, parameters or options. An apple retail store is design for test driving products not grabbing boxes.
Even the products themselves are kept sleek and minimal, with simple color schemes and clean, uncluttered design. The names are short and easy to remember, including the “app store” that has made third party partners huge successes.
How can you follow Apple’s marketing strategies in your own business to capture the biggest market share?
Start by making sure your website and blog have scannable content. Research shows that only 16% of website visitors read every word on a page. The vast majority of users – 79% of web users, in fact – simply scan the page. This is imperative in understanding your content marketing and potentially using social media with smaller bits of digestible date.
To make your content scannable, use bullet points to convey benefits. Make sure that your headings and subheadings are clear, vivid and surrounded by plenty of white space. Easy to read means the target market will stay on the page and come back, increasing your market share.
Look at my homepage here, to see how I’ve done it:
You’ll notice in the above screenshot that I haven’t cluttered up the page with tons of text. There’s lots of white space surrounding the bullet points and only one image – mine – to call attention to the bullet points.
Don’t try to put every single feature of your product or service on the page. Instead, focus on the most valuable UVP for each product. Then, stress that.
See the way Marie Forleo stresses her UVP on her homepage, making it obvious who the page is for and what Marie’s brand is all about? This is why so many entrepreneurs and business owners sign up for her list every day. They know she’s talking to them, and what her message is:
If you have levels of services or products or packages, when in a retail store or not, make it easy for consumer to compare and contrast each level so they can see, at a glance, which set of features/benefits appeal to them most.
One great example of this in action is Virgin Mobile’s phones page:
Select a clean, minimalist design for your landing pages. Reduce clutter around the important sections of your page’s content, such as sidebars and widgets. Then, the user’s eye is drawn to the product or copy itself.
Finally, if you have the budget, I’d recommend hiring a professional copywriter, especially on crucial product and services sales pages. It’s not easy to give enough information to trigger a conversion or a sale while still keeping that streamlined, simplified approach.
4. Know Your Audience and Talk to Them in Their Language
It’s not that Apple doesn’t mention product specifications and technical details at all. In fact, every product page on the Apple website does mention those things.
But, they put it below-the-fold. Visitors to Apple’s website first have to scroll past beautiful product images and large-font simple copy telling them about the product’s benefits.
Initially, Apple customers won’t find words like megabytes or gigahertz. They find words they know and understand:
- “edge to edge glass”
- “retina display”
- “LED backlighting”
Apple knows its customers very well and has developed loyalty in their market share. And, they know how to speak to them in the language that makes them feel comfortable, not overwhelmed and confused.
The products themselves are a marketing mix that show off their relevance to the way Apple’s customers actually live their lives. For instance…
- The iPod isn’t just “a music player and storage device” – it lets you store hours of music in your pocket.
- The iMac isn’t just “a computer” – it helps make your computing experience exciting and pleasurable.
- The iPhone isn’t just “a smartphone” – it lets you put the power of an Apple computer in your phone.
Is your website copy speaking your prospects’ language? Creating a customer profile for each of your main audience segments is the best way to find out. This helps develop the content marketing strategies specific to your audience.
Even better, the process of creating these profiles will help you to understand your audience much better. Then, you can give them what they’re looking for – and make your content even more appealing and valuable to them.
Here’s how to make sure that you’re talking to your users and customers in a way they understand and feel comfortable with:
First step: Create customer profiles – or customer avatars – for each major audience segment of your business. The more detailed these profiles are, the more useful they’ll be and beneficial to your marketing strategy.
Include factors such as age, gender, profession and other demographic information, plus psychographics – their pain points, fears, desires, etc. What motivates them to buy? What do they need before they’ll trust you? How can you fill that need?
You may have more than one profile expanding your marketing mix – e.g., older couples whose kids have already left home, singles who’ve graduated from college and haven’t married or had kids yet, etc.
Second step: Give each profile a name. Find a picture of a person – either from Google Images or a stock image site – that matches the profile. The idea here is to make each profile seem like an actual, living human being.
Here’s an example of a built-out customer profile, complete with name and picture, from Convince and Convert:
Third step: Speak to these people in your marketing copy, with the language they understand. Look at each page on your website and revise anything that doesn’t sound like the way you’d actually speak to these folks.
Pretend you’re actually speaking to that person and your copy will appeal strongly to similar customers.
You can also carry that same customer-centered approach throughout every aspect of the customer’s journey, including customer service. Yes customer service is a key component in marketing strategies to develop loyalty and retain your market share.
Let’s say that you’re serving an older generation. Don’t force them to use a chat-based system for customer service. Give them a phone number and a person to speak to. And, make sure that your website copy is large enough for older people to read. Giving people what they want is how you capture greater market share.
Millennials, on the other hand, prefer chat-based systems, since they’re faster and easier to use for that generation. Don’t make these customers pick up the phone, when they really prefer to type out their problem and get an instant response. Understanding this diversity of your customers helps you develop the right marketing mix.
5. Design a Better Customer Experience
Did you know Apple fans often create videos of themselves unwrapping their new Apple products and upload the video to YouTube?
It’s true. It’s called unboxing. Do a search on YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of Apple unboxings, each from different users across the globe.
Why does that happen? Because Apple has created a customer experience that goes far beyond the actual purchase in a retail store. They no longer even need to be in charge of a huge part of their content marketing since their target market is doing it for them.
The “Apple experience” includes elements from every aspect of the purchasing process – comparing different product versions, trying out products in the retail store, actually buying the item, receiving it, unwrapping (sorry, unboxing) it and setting it up…
Each of these elements doesn’t just happen by chance. They were all carefully crafted, revised and refined to appeal to the consumer’s every sense.
Take installation, for example. One of the things Apple fans truly appreciate about Apple’s computers is the ease with which you can set them up. It’s literally as simple as opening, plugging in, turning on and, voila – it all just works.
Yes, Apple spends thousands of hours on testing and designing and refining those designs. They do that so that what’s inside the box matches the box, and the box matches what’s inside.
The Apple retail store experience isn’t just a quick trip for most people. Most people who enter an Apple store end up staying in the retail store, trying the products, asking questions of the “geniuses” who work there – and many of them walk out with a new purchase. The Apple retail store inspires purchases.
The retail store is carefully designed and replicated to evoke the right “feeling” when you step inside. Warm lighting, monochromatic color schemes, and the layout of store features all appeal to the shopper’s senses, without feeling cold and impersonal. Even the large front windows that let people outside see everyone inside having a great time are intentional.
To implement Apple’s “eye for design” secret, start by charting out your customer’s experience with your brand. Note each major step and where it takes place (i.e., on your Facebook page, a specific page on your website, etc.).
Next, analyze each piece of that “experience puzzle” and score how well it fits with your overall brand. What can you improve?
Think about ways that you can make each point of contact with your prospect or customer cleaner, clearer and simpler. Make each part of the journey more consistent with the look, feel, visual branding elements and personality of your brand.
Then, think about going even further. What could you do to delight your customer?
That’s the Apple way!
6. Aim at Your Prospects’ Emotions
Think back to the first ads for the iPad, after its buzzy launch in 2010 and how simple their content marketing was.
Remember those images of people relaxing in the living room with the strange new gadget? They looked happy and comfortable.
They weren’t talking about display dimensions or processing power. They were just enjoying their iPads.
Those ads, as with all of Apple’s marketing, hit their consumers where they really live – not in the pocketbook (we’ve already seen that’s not true at all!) but in their hearts.
Emotional connections are the key to successful marketing strategies. It’s what makes certain stories, videos, and memes go viral.
Dr. Jonah Berger’s famous study showed that content that evokes high arousal emotions is more likely to go viral than content that provokes no emotional response. Examples of high arousal emotions are happiness, awe, amusement and anxiety.
Moreover, positive content is more likely to go viral than negative content. Positive emotions simply trigger a stronger reaction in users’ brains than negative ones. These are simple marketing strategies.
In his book, Descartes’ Error, author Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, states that our emotions play a crucial part in our decision-making processes, especially when we’re buying something. Marketing strategies must start with emotion.
And, neurological science tells us the same thing. Functional MRI tests prove that when consumers evaluate businesses, they primarily use the parts of their brain associated with emotions, personal feelings, and memories/experiences, not the portions associated with facts.
Studies also show that positive feelings about a business actually have a bigger impact on customer loyalty than the level of trust and other judgment-based thoughts that might be more objectively supported.
Above all, you’ve got to understand and publish the kind of content that your target audience wants most of all. Smart content marketing gets you the most on the web’s leading social media networks? Turns out, it’s content that evokes either awe or laughter – or both.
The testing team at BuzzSumo wanted to understand just what makes content go viral and get shared thousands of times by users. So, they teamed up with OKDork and conducted an extensive study about the marketing mix in social media.
First, the team identified the most shared content all over the web, within a specific time period. Next, they mapped each of the articles to a specific emotion, such as joy, anger, sadness, happiness, laughter, amusement, empathy, etc.
Here’s what the breakdown they created looked like:
You can see from this chart that the top two emotions that the most viral content evoked in readers were awe (25%) and laughter (17%). Similar emotions, such as joy and amusement, accounted for another 29%.
What this means is that if you can quite literally make your readers happy with your content, you’ve really hit the target.
To evoke and build on your customers’ emotions the way Apple does, use emotional language in your copy where it makes sense to do so. Make sure it flows naturally. One way to do this is to use emotion-trigger words in your copy to develop smart content marketing material.
Tip: To make sure copy flows naturally, record yourself as you read it aloud. Then, play it back. If it sounds stilted or formal, revise it until it sounds more conversational.
Also, think about what emotional impact your product or service evokes in your customers. Then, look for or create images to use that evoke that same emotion.
What emotions does this image evoke for you? Personally, I see joy and awe – skydiving has got to be one of the world’s most awe-inspiring activities, after all. There’s also the empathy and happiness that being generous and giving to worthwhile causes can create for people making charitable donations.
Finding the right images for your content can take some time and patience, but it’s so worthwhile. Images not only create visual interest on your page and break up long blocks of boring text – they can also help communicate your message and convert readers to subscribers.
In fact, I believe so strongly in the power of great images and screenshots that I routinely use as many as sixty in a single post – but I always make sure they add value, as well as depict the right emotional state in my readers. This is part of my marketing mix.
7. Build a Community of Users or Customers
Over the years, Apple has built one of the most hardcore fan bases for any brand, anywhere in the world.
The “fanboys” (and “fangirls”) who camp out for new product launches may represent a small percentage of Apple consumers overall, but that kind of fanaticism and enthusiasm are rare.
Apple has created a brand personality and culture that’s cool, fun, and friendly — the opposite of some of its competitors. Apple’s marketing strategies include making customers want to belong to that community. Their market share shows just how successful they have been.
Do you remember Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign? It started with voiceover narration that said “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.” Haven’t we all felt like that at one time or another in our lives?
Apple smartly capitalized on the universality of that self-perception, which made its customers believe that the brand understands them and is like them.
Even small brands can build a community of devoted users and customers. You can start building a community before you even offer the first item for sale.
The first and most critical step to take in building a strong, vibrant and engaged community of users is to get crystal-clear on your brand values and personality.
You have to create a vivid and accurate picture of your brand in your own mind first — your brand’s core message, its deeply-held values, its personality and what it stands for above all else.
Then, your next step is to make sure that your pages, marketing copy and content all express those values and that personality. Every aspect of your website should be consistent with those words you chose to describe your brand, from graphics to fonts to color scheme.
Last, but not least, show your readers and users you value them, as well as their opinions. Let them know that you’re deeply interested in them with your content.
How can you do this effectively on the web? You can try any or all of the following tips to start with:
- Ask open-ended questions in your content.
- Respond to comments on your blog posts – carry on a conversation.
- Try to initiate conversations with your users/readers on social media.
- Create a referral reward program for customers who refer other new customers.
- Reach out to customers with email.
One of the fastest ways to achieve any goal is to model those who’ve successfully achieved that same goal before.
Apple, the app store and their retail shops are a role model for any smart modern brand that wants to create a raving fan base and super-loyal customers who will refer their friends and family members.
The idea isn’t to mimic Apple. Rather, get a sense of what Apple – or any other successful business – does well, then find creative ways to do the same in your business, always keeping the marketing mix consistent with your brand.
You can learn a lot from your competition, too. Competitor analysis can tell you what they’re doing right and what you can learn from and implement in your own marketing.
What other lessons can you draw from Apple’s marketing efforts?