Apple Gets It: Lessons from a Tech Giant

It’s no mystery that Apple is the ultimate tech giant. They solidified that position as their latest quarterly revenue came in at a record breaking $74.6 billion. These earnings were spread primarily across iPhone, MAC, and iPad products. The most impressive numbers came from their iPhone category with a reported 74.5 million units sold. While Apple doesn’t share a breakdown in sales between models of the iPhone, I’m willing to bet the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus definitely made its mark on Apple’s bottom line.

Being in the business of helping other businesses, I’m always in tune with the lessons we can learn from the example of other brands. When I read about Apple’s record breaking numbers I couldn’t help but use it as a teachable moment. Here are 5 take aways from the Apple brand that we can use to drive our own new product launches.

1. Check out your competition.
When you know what’s popular and profitable for your competitor you’re in a better position to compete. Everyone always wants to be the innovator. But innovation is often bred from what already exists. Using Apple as an example, the introduction of the iPhone 6 plus could be attributed to the success of its competitor the Samsung Galaxy. I’m willing to bet many Samsung users were converted (or reconverted) to iPhone because the 6 plus is the best of both worlds. Apple paid attention to the market and responded in a way that their target could enjoy. Whenever my clients are toying with the idea of releasing a new product, I urge them to find similar products that are already on the market. The purpose of this task is to find out what’s working and determine what can be done better so that the product they release is a few steps above the rest.

2. Keep your customers values top of the mind.
Your new product must tackle all of your customers’ pain points plus add value they didn’t even know they wanted. I have been an iPhone user for 3 years and up until a few weeks ago I had the same phone I started with. I’m sure that’s hard to believe for a lot of you. The thing is, I’m not a true techie. Technology is a means to an end for me. I need it to efficiently run my businesses and to communicate on a daily basis. As long as my phone is in good working order I don’t feel the need to replace it. But after 3 years of serving me well, I thought it was time to give my 4s a rest. I went in the AT&T store with the intention of purchasing the standard size iPhone 6. That was until I experienced the 6 Plus. I thought the size of the phone would be a nuisance; however, it has proven to be everything I never knew I wanted. How did Apple know? Because they know what their customers value. You need to be just as in tune with your following in order to have a successful product launch.

3. Pad your risk.
If you’re going to innovate or release something new there’s always the possibility that it may flop. Every business makes financial projections with the hope of actually meeting the mark. But what if you don’t? No decision comes without risk. The key is to adequately prepare and deliver in a way that minimizes your risk. There are many ways to do this, but you absolutely must have sufficient research, exhaustive testing and profit margin control. How did Apple pad their risk? They built in a higher profit margin. The average price per unit on the iPhone was up from $603 from the previous quarter to $687 in the most recent quarter. According to consumer reports, the iPhone 6 Plus wasn’t the popular choice in many regions. So how was Apple able to post its highest gains in history on the heels of this release? When you pad your risk even low performance results in a win.

4. Deliver to a captivated audience.
We have seen this in action since the release of the very first iPhone. The amount of effort Apple puts into promoting their product is to be applauded. With every new release there is a promotional build up. First the rumors and whispers start surrounding testing of a new product and the possible release date. Then someone “leaks” an image of the prototype and the tech blogs go wild. They start reporting what may be new features and what may be a new design. Nobody really knows, but everybody cares even when they don’t care. Then Apple makes the big announcement and they start trickling out information about the features, and the design and the improved functionality and… the pre-order date. Pre-ordering is a hugely successful marketing strategy that can be employed seamlessly when you’ve done your job to captivate your audience. Once those first purchasers start receiving their product in hand they want to brag. They take pretty pictures of their new product and post on all their social media accounts. Be jealous. And with that, the late comers wait on their chance to purchase the product to join the cool kids. This strategy works for any brand in any industry that does it right. And as long as you continue to deliver a new, high quality, high value product your captivated audience will continue to grow.

5. Worry about yourself.
No matter what your competition is doing, you have to be clear about the core values of your own brand. Chasing trends is the quickest way to stay behind the wave. Great brands, successful brands strive to stay in the forefront. If you are consistently good at selling lipstick, it’s not a good idea to jump over into the skin care industry if it doesn’t fit into your brand strategy. Before any new product release you have to show your customers that you can lead in that space. You do that by having a solid brand strategy in place before you ever get started. Your brand strategy acts as your guide to grabbing your piece of the pie- whether that piece has 4 slices or just one huge slice. It is up to you to set the stage and be consistent with your performance. Just make sure you build in a little wiggle room in the event that you need to pivot to meet the market. If you notice, Apple gradually increased the screen size of their iPhones in response to the demands of the market. The size increase has consistently been apart of the marketing and promotional strategy of each new release. Was that always in Apple’s plan? Who knows. The important thing here is that the iPhone has continued to deliver the type of design and functionality that fits the brand and consistently pleases their customer.

Of course Apple isn’t the only brand with a great marketing strategy and impressive numbers. There are plenty of brands achieving success. When you keep your eyes peeled and your mind open you can learn from everyone.