Apple’s Marketing Genius

August 26, 2011

With Steve Jobs stepping down from the CEO post at Apple, is inevitable we look back at the history of such an iconic company. Marketing, at Apple, has always been a differentiating point and key to their eventual dominance of the electronics consumer market and their resurrection in the personal computer industry.

While Brand Republic’s post “Appointment to view: Apple’s History of Marketing” takes us back to the early days of Apple advertising the Apple-1 in 1976 until today’s iPad commercials, Tom Hormby’s “Think Different – The Ad Campaign that Restored Apple’s Reputation”  is a great analysis of the role marketing played in lifting Apple from almost demise to what became the greatest turnaround in that company’s history.

There’s been speculation about Apple’s ad spend but it is clear that Apple’s marketing has always followed a set of guiding principles, no matter how much money they had for the marketing budget at the time.

For more about Apple’s best ads, check out Advertising Age’s “The 10 Best Ads to Come Out of Steve Jobs’ Reign at Apple”  and Marketing Week’s “Apple: A History in Ads”.

Apple: History in Ads

Apple Silhouettes Commercial

10 Best Ads from Steve Jobs


   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
You may also want to check out this video showing the original marketing group at Apple at the launch of the McIntosh reminiscing about the old days, telling tales and sharing some insider stories of what it was like to work at Apple in the early days.

Finally, Guy Kawasaki’s book “The McIntosh Way” talks about his career as a McIntosh Evangelist, the early efforts of Apple to dominate the personal computer market, and more. His book is now offered as a free download.


How Great Content Can Solve Problems

August 18, 2011

This is the third post in a series of “Principles of Great Content Marketing”. The first post talked about creating simple content, and the second post discussed timely content.

The Principles of Great Content Marketing series is based on three core ideas:

  1. Create simple content
  2. Create content that is timely
  3. Create content that solves a problem

The Problem with Content

Content abounds, and no matter what we call it (Whitepapers, eBooks, Videos, Infographics, etc.) we have been getting more and more of it every single day. Via email, via Twitter, Facebook, and word-of-mouth. The problem? Most of the content is not looked at. Or, if it is, is not shared.

Content that isn’t shared usually die without having made an impact.

Useful content will be shared. Even if only internally in your company. Even if only when you call a friend and say “hey, check this out!” and even if only mentioned during lunch with friends when you say “oh, and I just read this interesting article that talks about…”.

Getting Read and Getting Shared

Besides being simple and timely, great content has a third element. It is focused on solving a problem. But not just any problem, YOUR problem.

You see, even if you come across something amusing and decide to pass that on it doesn’t mean you will actually take any action because of it. Entertaining videos are just that, entertaining. Funny quotes are also just that and nothing else. But content that speaks to a problem you are having right now is golden.

If you are struggling with creating your own WordPress website, for example, and there comes a content piece that addresses your current issue (“How to get your WordPress site up and running in 5 easy steps” kind of content, for example) you will drop what you are doing and check it out. If it’s good you will even forward it to a couple people that you know are also dealing with the same issue or maybe send a Tweet about it.

If you had gotten content related to your issue but that doesn’t solve it (“Why use WordPress for your website” for example), it won’t get shared, commented, and more importantly, acted on.

The Content Solution

How do create content with the “problem – solution” in mind? You’ve got to know your audience. Draw buyer personas. Talk to sales and ask them about the prospects they engage. Discuss the typical questions tech support gets during lunch with the tech support manager. Ask around your company, but more importantly, ask outside what are the challenges facing the industry you serve.

Make a list of 5 to 10 items. Then, break those down into small problem statements. You don’t want to have to address something like “world-wide retail operations are low margin, companies are struggling to make a profit” because is too generic and too daunting. Go down a few levels until you have something more tangible, like “apparel retailers are pressured by increasing labor costs in China”. Then, look for what could be a solution to this problem (I’m assuming you sell products or services to retailers) and create content addressing the issue (maybe “5 ways to squeeze more cash out of your sales” or “The new retail mindset and five steps to improve your margins today” for example).

Regardless of the topic, you have to ensure you are addressing a need that your target market has. And, the need could range from basic (“Trends and opportunities in apparel retail”), to more advanced (“How new inventory solutions are transforming the apparel retail industry”), all depending upon your target’s knowledge of the issue and their stage in the buying cycle.

As mentioned in the previous post about timely content, Marketing Automation is a great way to get the right content out to the right person, but you still have to think through all the stages and understand the different needs. It goes back to understanding your market.

Principles of Great Content

In conclusion, you can spend a lot of time creating content in different formats and for different buying stages. What will set your content apart (because you can bet your competitors are also creating as much content as you are) are the three key components:

  • Simple content
  • Timely content
  • Problem-solving content

Keep these three elements in mind when crafting your messages and you will be on the right path to creating great content.


Why Timely Content Always Wins

August 16, 2011

This is the second post in a series of “Principles of Great Content Marketing”. The first post talked about creating simple content.

So just to recap, there are three key principles for creating great content:

  1. Is it simple?
  2. Is it timely?
  3. Will it solve a problem?

Simple content was explained earlier and is a sure way to create engaging and direct content. But, even simple great content can’t win you over unless it is timely.

If you don’t need it, you won’t look at it. It’s that simple.

What is Timely Content?

There are three different perspectives to consider:

  • Content that is a hot topic
  • Content that meets your needs
  • Content that creates urgency

The first perspective deals with the hot issues at the moment. Maybe your industry is going through additional regulations or new certifications are being required. Or maybe there’s this new methodology everyone is talking about. The hot topic is not necessarily something you actually need to do right now, but is top of mind, it will get looked at because is part of the trend.

Content that meets your needs is not necessarily about the hype, like the previous perspective, but rather something related to a mandate or a need. If you were told by your boss that you have to close down one of your locations and you come across a Whitepaper that talks about how to calculate which plant to shut down you will be interested in checking it out. Or, you have to start outsourcing the IT function overseas and a webinar invitation for a “how to outsource IT and not regret it later” just came to your inbox so you decide to register.

Finally, the urgency perspective is also related to creating timely content, but content that has an expiration date attached to it. Promotions that will only run for the next 5 days or those offers that gives incentives to you to act now (or be the first, or among the 10 first) before it’s too late.

Timely Content Perspectives

Being urgent or a hot topic doesn’t help much though, unless the content meets the needs of the reader. Content that answers a need will always win. The best content is one that combines the three perspectives to create something that meets the prospect’s current needs, is a hot topic, and creates a sense of urgency. That’s the best timely content you can create.

Timely content needs to evoke the following reaction from the reader: “I’ve gotta check this out now”. And there is either a download, registration, or whatever the call to action is. That’s how you know you nailed it.

Crafting Content for the Right time

Sending content at the right moment (when there’s a need) is tricky. How do you get to send content to a person who is at the right moment to receive it? That’s one of the big promises of Marketing Automation software, of automating the sending of the right content to the right prospect at the right moment in time.

Easier said than done? You bet. That’s because someone has to actually think through what “right moment” really means and also has to understand what clues will tell the software that the right moment approaches.

Regardless of whether you automate or not, one thing is certain. Timely content can only be created if you intimately know your audience. You’ve got to know what their daily activities are, what their challenges are, and what their hopes are as well. It means talking to customers and prospects, getting out of the building, and learning about the industry you are selling to.

Want some shortcuts? We’ll approach them in the next segment, when we talk about creating content that solves problems.


Principles of Great Content Marketing

August 10, 2011

Whether creating a Whitepaper, an eBook, a new Email Marketing campaign, a web page, or any other type of marketing content there are a few basic principles you should follow:

  1. Is it simple?
  2. Is it timely?
  3. Will it solve a problem?

If you can answer “yes” to all three questions above, you’re on the right path to coming up with great content.

Three Key Questions for Creating Quality Content

Simple content wins all the time. It doesn’t matter how many pages, nice graphics, or famous quotes it has, simplicity is key. Making it simple, though, doesn’t mean dumbing down the message. It also doesn’t mean forgoing colors, trying to fit it in one page, or even chopping it up so that people get it in chapters instead of a full book. Simple content means creating something devoid of distractions that don’t contribute to having a better understanding of the message.

Here are three key questions you should ask for each content you create:

  • Is it worded in a way that anyone will understand the message we are trying to convey? Are we using too many technical terms, acronyms?
  • What part of our message do we want to have the most impact? Is it clear and prominent? As journalists usually say, “don’t bury the lead”.
  • Are we providing action points for the reader? Is there a “call to action” clearly defined that is immediately obvious and enticing?

Want a good way to test your assumptions? Get someone in your office outside the marketing department to read the content you just created. It doesn’t have to be finalized, formatted, and nicely designed. Just a draft or mockup would do. Get a few different people (i.e. the accountant, the receptionist, the IT guy) to read it and tell you what they think. You may get some interesting reactions and questions that can help further fine tune the message.

The Message Behind the Content

Want to make sure the content you and your team just created is really the best you could have done? A good practice is to let the content alone for a while (hours or days). Then, go back to it and read it as if you were reading it for the first time. Then, think about the following:

  • What is the core message?
  • Why is this message important?
  • What does the message mean for the reader?
  • If you were to summarize the core message in one sentence (5 to 10 words max) what would it be?

Write it down (for greater impact, ask another team member to do the same so you can compare notes). Then review it and see if the content you had created still looks like the best you can do.

Sure, in most situations content you create today was due yesterday. We’ve all been there… if we only had more resources! But I challenge you to say that the content you created can’t wait 1 more hour before being sent out (or published, or uploaded). Whether you have 1 hour or 1 day, let it rest. Then come back refreshed to it and honestly assess if there’s a better way of crafting the message.

How Simple Content Will Win Always

A principle of simple design (designing interfaces or products that are simple to use) is to always think of what features can you remove from the product that will make for a better user experience. Think of the iPod, for instance. Steve Jobs removed buttons instead of adding new ones (the iPod never had different “stop” and “pause” buttons, only a “pause” button that was the same as the “play” button).

So think of your content and ask yourself what can you remove? What images, what copy? What content, if removed, will make the remaining content stronger and more appealing? It comes down to asking “what can I remove in order to make the main message stronger?”.

No, is not easy. But it is worth trying.

Next up I’ll talk about the two remaining points, creating timely content and focusing on solving problems.


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