The recent passing of one of America’s top corporate executives and hi-tech geniuses, Steve Jobs, garnered headline coverage, saddened his customers, and left his employees feeling bereft of their leader. What made Jobs such a factor to so many people?
When Steve Jobs of Apple wanted to build buzz for his newest product, he didn’t merely suffice with issuing a press release in the hopes that the media would pick it up and carry it. With his oratory, presentation skills and a splash of superb showmanship, he would ascend a stage; spotlights trained on him, and demonstrate the product’s latest gadgetry.
Some folks have labeled Jobs, the innovator of famous products such as iPods and iPhones, as a second Thomas Edison.
Jobs’ achievements are indisputable. He is an example of the consummate corporate leader; a man with a vision and a mission. He kept his focus at all times. By continually trotting out a progression of new products, Apple remained ahead of the curve, not to mention his many competitors.
It is worth noting that Apple products are not cheap. In fact they are generally priced at the high-end of the scale. It takes a special marketing talent to sell the highest-priced items in a market cluttered with low-priced competitors. How did Jobs do it?
Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor in the faculty of environment at the University of Manitoba, recently wrote an article in which he actually downplayed Job’s hi-tech prowess. He said that while he had no desire to disparage or dismiss anything Jobs did for his company, for its stockholders, or for millions of people who are incurably addicted to their tiny Apple phones, Jobs was no Edison.
Smil wrote that contrary to the standard narrative, scores of inventors beat Edison to the punch when it came to inventing the light bulb. Edison’s true genius was in developing a commercial system of electricity generation, transmission and conversion. Thanks to Edison, the world has an affordable and reliable supply of electricity. According to Smil, it was Edison’s system, not his inventions that made his contribution so significant.
But why is that? Can a system be more important than the product itself? The answer is that Apple gets it right, because every Apple product is developed completely centered around how a customer will actually use the product. A “500 page manual” is never necessary for an Apple product. The average person is up and running with their Apple device in 15-20 minutes.
In addition, purchasing an Apple product is an experience! From the retail Apple stores to the unique packaging, Apple is always obsessed with the customer experience. Naturally, it’s success is fueled by a very creative – yet simple – aggressive advertising and marketing campaign for each product when it’s launched and available on the market.
Herein lies the secret to Job’s success. He created a culture centered around the customer experience, which ensured that his products would be the ultimate in user-friendliness, and therefore build a huge and loyal following in the process. His ultimate focus never strayed from his customer. He was going to ensure that the customer got a complete experience from each and every Apple product. His “obsession” of looking at a product from the customer’s viewpoint is an object lesson for every product, and a model for every company to emulate.
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Make the needs of the end-user your top priority.
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