“Insanely Great” inspiration from Steve Jobs & the Apple team (First published in Professional Marketing Interna

Here are five “insanely great” tips, inspired by Steve Jobs and the team at Apple.

Empathy, focus, impute

Mike Markkula wrote the Apple marketing philosophy based around three principles:

  • Empathy: the aim is to truly understand customer needs better than any other company. Investing time to speak to your clients and understand their future needs will pay dividends in the long term.
  • Focus: to do a good job of those things we decide to do, we must eliminate all the unimportant opportunities.
  • Impute: “people DO judge a book by its cover,”... “if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod, if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.”

Whilst leading firms have firmly grasped the concept of imputing a modern, friendly and professional image, I still see too many web sites which impute “outdated, low-tech, use jargon and difficult to contact”.  On recently calling a barrister’s chambers, I felt that I had been subjected to the Spanish inquisition before being allowed to leave a message.


“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” remarked Jobs when considering new product development ideas.

Most professionals have plenty of marketing ideas, so many in fact that they sometimes do not know where to start, or when to say “No”.

If you have a clear and planned marketing programme then it is easy to say to the pushy salesman “thanks, but we already have our advertising/ sponsorship/hospitality programme arranged.”

The scarcity of time and marketing resources means that it is particularly important for professional firms to find their niche and focus on promoting their unique selling point.  Too often firms struggle to think of any unique attributes. If that is the case internally, why should the client be any better able to determine why you would be the best provider for them?

Also, I often hear fee-earners worry about focusing their marketing in a particular sector or service in case it deters other clients or puts off intermediaries. Most other clients probably will not notice your marketing efforts outside their own needs.

Without focus, a marketing strategy might be described as “spray and pray”. 

Create a great customer experience

When Steve Jobs started opening the Apple stores in 2001, not only was the physical environment important, but so was the customer experience.

At a retreat with the team, retail chief Ron Johnson asked everyone to describe the best customer experience that they had received. Most mentioned the Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton hotel and so Johnson sent his first five store managers through the Ritz-Carlton training programme and came up with the idea of replicating that level of experience.

Too often law firms simply compare themselves with other professionals. But there is much to be learned from other industries and, as was the case with the Apple stores, a fresh perspective can give you that differentiating edge from the competition.

Ditch the PowerPoint

One of the first things that Jobs did during the product review process was ban PowerPoints “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking... people who know what they are talking about don’t need PowerPoint” said Jobs.

Have you fallen into the trap of using PowerPoint as a way of collating your thoughts and notes?  Before you know it, the PowerPoint becomes the script for the whole presentation.

My pet hate is when a presenter has not made the time to practice and learn their speech. Consequently they spend their time facing the screen, rather than the audience, to remind themselves of the next point.

Steve Jobs wanted people to “engage” and there is a big difference between a professional presentation and an engaging one which gets the audience enthused and energised. Over-full slides, tiny text or figures, direct quotes from legislation and poor use of images can result in “death by PowerPoint”.

Don’t be afraid to hit “rewind” (instead of stop).

In the world of manufacturing, product development involves many iterations on the bumpy path from concept to launch. “Jobs liked to tell a story about how everything that he had done correctly had required a moment when he hit the rewind button…to rework something that he discovered was not perfect.”

In a performance-oriented environment, ambitious professionals naturally seek immediate success from any marketing initiative. If something is not working as quickly as anticipated, then resist the temptation to abandon the project completely. Consider whether you can rewind and refine.

There is always room for improvement and few would disagree that Apple is not a bad company to use as a benchmark.

This year I am hoping for a much shorter book in my Christmas stocking.

*Steve Jobs: A Biography by Walter Isaacson.

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