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10 Business Lessons to Learn From Apple

Apple Park

Have you ever looked at a really successful brand that’s thriving and wondered, “How on earth did they do it?” For me, Apple is that brand. Apple does not need to put in so much effort to sell any product. In fact, in our world today Apple is associated with Premium, just that apple logo on any device means some kind of status or class.

Apple Inc. was co-founded on April 1st 1976 by Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak, since then it has grown to a level of utmost significance. It is a fact that Apple has had an incredible journey, growing to be the first company to be worth over a trillion dollars in 2018. However, Apple has managed to double its value within the space of just 24 months! In August 2020 Apple was officially worth over 2 trillion dollars in market value. According to the World bank‘s 2019 report, the GDP of the world is 87.698 Trillion US dollars. Meaning Apple is now 2.28% of the world total GDP, 9.36% of the United States GDP, and over four times the GDP of Nigeria.

Graph showing Apple's market value since 1976
Source: macrotrends.net

With these levels of success, it is obvious that Tim Cook and Apple are doing something different; something that other companies are not doing, not even competitors like Google, Facebook and Amazon. 

Studying Apple Inc. right from its inception in 1976, here are the top ten applicable business lessons to learn from Apple.

1. Stay Simple

The principle of keep-it-clean is something that has been built into Apple’s DNA right from time, and up till now it still remains one of their strategies for growth. Right from when Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, it is their principle of simplicity that easily crushed other brands like Blackberry. Back then, tech products were not user-friendly, they required some level of skill to use, even mobile phones! But since Apple aimed at reaching people of all ages, demographics, and academic ability, they thought it wise that their customers should be able to understand their device without any hassle. This probably accounts for the reason the iOS interface on iPhones does not have a menu, all your apps are simply displayed on your home screen so you can identify them easily. And also applications on the iPhone, the Notes app is designed to look like an actual spiral notebook, the phone app has a phone icon and iMessage has a chat bubble. So when someone is given an iPhone for the first time, they don’t need to be directed on how to use it. This strategy has worked so well for Apple and they have been able to reach people of kind. 
Another thing that reflects Apple’s keep-it-simple principle is their approach to social media. On Twitter, for example, other companies like Huawei and Oppo tweets at least five times a day, making promotions for their products. But not only that, these companies do not only have one Twitter handle, they have over twenty Twitter handles doing this at the same time! And this is a trend almost every smartphone brand has followed. For example, Samsung has a different Twitter handle for Nigeria, for the US, for the UK, for India, and almost any country you can think of. Meanwhile, Apple has just one single Twitter handle, and what is even mind-blowing is that Apple has never tweeted anything on this handle!

Screenshot of Apple's Twitter handle
Apple’s Twitter handle

It’s not like Apple doesn’t have anything to say, but they only make announcements when they have something to say. And when they do it is as if everyone stops to hear what they have to say. Apple understands that simplicity is key to their brand.

Keep it simple with your brand, more isn’t always better. A very little confusion about your offers might be what will prevent your customers from buying your product.

2. Get the Right Team

It might surprise you to know that Steve Jobs, one of the co-founders of Apple once left the company. This happened on September 16, 1985, and this was because Jobs had a disagreement with then-CEO John Sculley, and he decided to leave afterwards. Jobs understood that he could not achieve his goals with people who did not have the same mindset as him. However, Apple did not have much success after Jobs’ exit and this was the period that Apple almost went bankrupt. Jobs later rejoined Apple in September 1997. This time he was able to make a lot of changes to the company and since then Apple has been soaring.

Even today, Apple still ensures that they have the right group of people working with them. Apple makes a point to hire people for their winning personalities, not just the skills listed on their Curriculum Vitae. They understand that a person’s perception of their brand may be the impression that one of their staff has created, so they always work towards having the right people represent them all over the world.

Your business will succeed better when you have a team of workers who are creative and have the same goals for your business as you. Get the right team and carry everyone along.

3. Put People First

Customers enjoy their experience with Apple products and at Apple stores, and you can tell this from the very loyal fan base that Apple has. Apple has consciously looked to offer something that works and something that’s reliable. Even in Apple retail stores, Apple has put so much effort to ensure that there is that premium treatment or feeling you get in their stores. And this is the same for their retail stores all over the world. Apple building playrooms for customers’ kids in their stores, having the Genius Bar, and even having their salespeople not working for commission all point to the fact that they’re focused on the customer, not sales. Apple has been focused on enriching lives that they now have a successful brand and they need not spend much on advertising their products. Today you will agree with me that most people buying an iPhone 12 do not even have time to go through the specs or do some research about what the phone is capable of doing. Instead, they spend up to a thousand dollars ($1,000) just because it is a new iPhone, and since it is Apple selling it, then it must be a great product. Apple has worked so hard to ensure that you get this premium feeling whenever you are dealing with anything Apple. Frederick E. Allen explains on Forbes that Apple’s three main principles might be summed up as:

  • understand and serve the customer better than anyone else
  • forget about everything else, and
  • make sure every little thing you do serves, always and everywhere.

Put people first, look to solve the problems people have in your field. Look to offer what your competitors are not doing. Take feedbacks and ensure your customers are happy.

4. Stick to the Principles

Apple of today is not so much different than it was twenty years back. Apple has always been about premium, simplicity and quality. Apple does not joke with its principles, they even work hard to remind themselves and all their employees about their principles. Apple are so dedicated to their idea of “enriching lives” to the point that employees of Apple Stores are encouraged to carry a credo card with them to remind them of this dedication to the people. The principles of Apple mentioned above are something anyone can see merely by looking at the company., they do not compromise their standards for any reason whatsoever,  they know that it is these principles that have made them rise to where they are today.

Clearly define the core values of your business, state what you want to achieve, and don’t just leave it written, find a way to constantly remind yourself of it.

5. Be Quick to Adapt to the market

Apple has been able to stand out as a company because of its ability to look into the future, plan ahead and adapt to changes in the market. The smartphone market has had some changes in the last decade, and Apple is not left out. Smartphone sales have declined over the years, and this is understandable because smartphones are now more expensive and more durable, therefore, people are more likely to hold onto their phones longer rather than buying a new one every year. The iPhone, being Apple’s top-selling product has also declined in sales but Apple saw this and they’ve been planning for this. Their plan has worked so well that the decrease in the sales of their major product, Apple’s net income has continued to soar.
Bar chart showing iPhone sales from 20017 to 2020

So what did Apple do? Apple has seen that the future of sales in the tech market is in subscription services, so they’ve gradually shifted their attention from selling new products into Subscription-Based Services. And this makes sense because, for normal tech products they have to convince you to buy their product this year, and then next year they still have to convince you that the last one is not enough and you should get the present one, but for subscription services, they just have to convince you once, and then you keep paying. Therefore Apple has worked towards offering subscription-based services. Currently, Apple offers Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, Apple Pay and iCloud. And Apple has done all sort of things just to funnel people to pay for their subscriptions. They introduced the iPhone SE and tweaked iOS 14 just to funnel more users into their ecosystem. They have even introduced what they call Apple One, which is just a full package of all their services. And Apple’s plan to leverage on subscriptions is even more perceptible with their introduction of iPhone SE earlier this year. Though Apple has been known for making only high-end smartphones for the elites, did not hesitate to make a mid-range phone just to funnel more users who are potential customers to pay for these subscriptions.
Apple One

 Although the iPhone still remains Apple’s top-selling product, they have been quick enough to adapt to demands in the market, and not holding unto their top product with the hope that things will get better. And this does not mean that Apple has thrown away their long-standing principles, it just means they were not dogmatic about them.

Study your market, look into the future and be quick to adapt to trends in your niche.

6. Pay attention to details

A simple look at any of Apple’s product shows that Apple pays attention to every single detail in whatever they’re doing. Their products are carefully engineered and go through rigorous testing before they are released. Take the Apple Pencil for example. Although it is completely round like a pen, it is designed so that when it is dropped it rolls till the word pencil faces up. This looks like a simple feature but Apple must have spent time working on the weight distribution of the Apple pencil.
Apple Pencil rolling on a table
The Apple Pencil

This is just one example out of many of their products that show that they pay attention to detail. Apple understands that it is some of these little things that matter and make the overall user experience great and they do not joke with it. Also, Apple ensures that their products have a sleek, clean and minimalist design. They do not include unnecessary features, they only include what is needed.

Pay attention to every detail in your product, think about the customer experience and not just a spec sheet that can make your product sell better.

Apple

7.Offer a complete package

No matter what Apple is selling to you, they always try to offer you a complete package. What do I mean? Apple thinks of all the supplements you need to enjoy using that product and they supply you that. And more than that Apple tries to force you into buying these supplements. For example, Anyone buying a smartphone would also want to listen to music on the device. Apple knows this, so they do not offer standard music players on their App Store, and then they offer you Apple music and make you pay for it. Apple’s AirPods also. Apple knows that you’ll need some kind of earphones to listen to music. So they do not only offer you their AirPods for hundreds of dollars, they removed the headphone jack since the iPhone 7! Meaning you can hardly use any other kind of earphones except theirs! This is what is called the Ecosystem.

Apple Ecosystem
Apple’s main products

Apples plan to keep their customers locked in so that they can hardly use alternatives to apple products. From your phone, to your PC, to your TV, to your speaker at home, Apple wants you to buy theirs.

Think of other potential problems your customers might be facing. Look to solve problems relating to your field. Use your products to promote other products of yours.

8. Know your customers and talk to them in their language

Apple is very good at doing this, they know how to connect with their customers and get into the head of potential buyers. For example, when Apple first launched the iPod it wasn’t anything new, but it was a major hit for Apple. Apple could have just and said “We have a new mp3 player and its got 5 Gigabytes of storage”, but they didn’t do that. Apples main tagline to the campaign was: “A thousand songs in your pocket”.

iPod Banner

By doing this the customer is already thinking of how this product will benefit him. And this strategy has not stopped for Apple. You can hardly hear Apple throwing the words ‘megabyte’ and ‘gigabyte’, they speak in layman, simple terms so that anyone can understand. Consider the screen iPhone 12, it is a new OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen, new only to iPhone, nothing special. But Apple knows that very few people will be able to relate with the name OLED so they decided let’s call it “Super Retina XDR Display“. Apple always communicates benefits and not features. Apple hardly gives a spec sheet of their products, all they tell you is this product is great, it’s better than the last one, you need it and you are going to love it when you purchase it. Simple. They speak their customers’ language.

Speak your customers’ language so that you can connect with them. Do not just tell your customers what you offer, tell them how they can benefit from it. Try to eliminate any for of ambiguity in your promotions, and do not underestimate interaction with your customers.

9. Charge Premium

Apple doesn’t joke when it comes to pricing, they’re not competing with anyone. They don’t care whether their competitor is charging half the price for the same product. They know that once they can convince you that their product is unique, you’ll put in efforts to get it. Apple’s pricing has not only helped them get decent profits from their products, but it has also helped in portraying their brand as unique. They charge what they know will be beneficial to them.

Airpods pro vs some cheap alternative

Price your products properly, compromising your price standards might not always be good for your business. If you’ve properly priced your product and it’s not working, work on other areas of your business like building your Brand name. 

10. Imitation over Innovation.

There’s hardly any ‘new invention’ in technology. When other companies like Oppo and Vivo are working to make new innovations and be first with certain features, Apple just spends their research and development budget on working on already existing features. Apple didn’t invent the PC, MP3 player, smartphone or tablet. They enter a market, take existing concepts and apply a different approach or extra polish to make them desirable. The iPad for instance is one of Apple’s groundbreaking products. Companies like Microsoft and Samsung dabbled in the tablet market for many years before Apple. But when Apple did they took over the market. They had studied the market and they knew what was best for consumers. The iPad came with the iOS a mobile operating system rather than the desktop operating system everyone was making their tablet with. This made Apple stands out even if they weren’t the first. Apple is not so concerned with being the first, they just want to ensure that what they offer is excellent and works for people.

You do not need to start from scratch to establish a business idea. Sometimes you just need to study at what your competitors are doing and ask “How can I do this better” or look at what your competitors are not doing that needs to be done.

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