6 Unfair Market Advantages You Should Steal from Apple

image of logo for Apple Computers

Remember when you last walked into that Apple retail store? It was really hard walking out empty-handed, wasn’t it?

Why is that? What makes Apple so special? How does their market share keep escalating? Why do fanboys rave all day about them? What’s their secret?

Apple consistently uses a handful of techniques to simply out-perform their competitors, both in the creation and the marketing of their products.

Here are six of those techniques that you can borrow to create your own Apple-like “unfair advantage” — a loyal market that’s eager for everything you have to offer.

1. Apple puts their customers first

Apple’s goal is unsurpassed user experience. This is their number one priority. Everything else is related to how customers respond to their products.

Apple handpicks the tile for their retail stores. They hide the wires, cash registers, and clutter so the audience can focus on their products. They keep the tables and glass squeaky clean.

They give away lots of stuff, too. They offer free wifi. They let you play with their computers — and they have an unlimited number so nobody has to wait. You can spend all afternoon playing on an iPad. When you leave, the staff smiles and tells you to come back, even if you didn’t buy anything.

You can see why Apple stores are always the busiest in the mall.

How you can use it: Remember that if you want anybody to listen to you, you’ve got to write for them. Deliver content that educates in an interesting way. Become obsessively attentive to what sparks their interest, and give your readers and customers more of that.

2. Apple is impeccable in their design

Apple’s dedication to design is so strong that the design team has precedence over the engineering team. In other words, the designers dictate the mold and user experience, and the engineers have to match the hardware so it’ll fit inside.

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, wants his products to be like “fine jewelry” — beautiful, crisp, and exact. He’s not just making electronics. He’s creating art.

Though most people think of Apple as a technology company, they’re actually a design company that reframes existing technology. Sony had the MP3 player long before Apple did, but Apple created the iPod. They proved that consumer-oriented design is critical.

How you can use it: Don’t shortcut on design. There are lots of great-looking WordPress themes out there, there’s no reason to do without killer design on your blog and landing pages.

Use great design to enhance the content experience for your readers. This can’t be stressed too much.

3. Apple knows how to write good copy

Subscribe to their sales letter to see for yourself. They don’t send stuffy reports. The letter is mostly made up of pictures, with a bit of humorous teaser copy to accompany it. It’s a joy to read, even if you already have the newest iMac.

Whenever Apple sends a newsletter, they have something important to say, and they say it concisely. They never pitch you for an outdated product that’s six months old.

How you can use it: Apple writes their three-sentence sales letters very carefully. If you’re writing a blog that runs hundreds of words per article, you need to be spending hours of hard work creating dynamite content. It’s a good bet that you should be spending 2-3 times as much time writing your content as you are right now.

4. Apple ships 200% of expectations

From beginning to end, the experience of buying and enjoying an Apple device is seamless and delightful. Apple packages their hardware carefully so even the box and wrapping are a pleasure.

Should your computer need repairs, the support is fast, phenomenal, and often free.

How you can use it: Pay attention to the details that deliver a superior experience to your readers and your customers. Deliver more than you promised. See how much value you can pack into everything you produce.

5. Apple doesn’t ship too often

Apple updates their products just once a year. This ensures each product launch is thorough and polished to perfection. It means they don’t wear out their audience with lots of noise and chatter about mediocre, minor updates.

How you can use it: Yes, you need to ship, but go for quality over quantity. Just getting something out there doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t remarkable. You’ve got to make it worth clapping for.

Try posting a little less often, but make those posts doubly valuable. And keep your buyers hungry by making product launches a rare treat, which will help make sure each one is excellent and well-planned.

Minimize your noise. Control every word you put online. As you develop a reputation for quality engagement, people will pay close attention to what you do say. Have you noticed how everyone quiets down when Steve Jobs takes the floor?

6. Apple redefines consumer demand

Apple doesn’t let their competition determine the design or pricing of their products. They stay clear of the status quo and bravely pioneer new ideas. The result is that they’re always first to the game (sometimes because they’ve invented a whole new game from something that already existed), and start scoring points before other players arrive.

Someone once said, “The artist gives you what you didn’t know you needed.” When Apple launched the iPad, tablets had been available for a couple of decades, but consumer demand was marginal. At the end of 2010, less than a year after the launch, Apple had sold nearly 15 million iPads. They reinvented a market that nobody thought was viable.

How you can use it: Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer. Or the cell phone, or the MP3 player, or the nice-looking laptop.

Just because a market is “saturated” doesn’t mean you can’t show up and be successful.

Refresh and tap into abandoned ideas. Analyze pre-existing ideas and products, and ponder how you could make them better. Find your own exciting hook or interpretation. Once you get a vision, roll up your sleeves and revolutionize the market.

There you have it, Apple’s six lessons you can’t ignore. By following in Apple’s footsteps, you can turn your blog and your business from mediocre to excellent.

But remember, your competition is reading this post, too. Don’t procrastinate — change your direction today!

About the Author: Martyn Chamberlin is an entrepreneur who blogs about copywriting and digital marketing at Two Hour Blogger. You should follow him on Twitter here.

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  1. Martyn:

    Thanks for correlating good marketing and copy practices with the Apple experience. It’s always a pleasure when Copyblogger posters tie together technology and marketing. Good stuff today.

    Randy

  2. Great article…all these are great tips that can be applied to a variety of business

  3. Daniel Shamburger :

    Great post, Martyn. I think you just revealed some of Apple’s “magic”.

  4. This almost goes without being said, but you’ll notice that Copyblogger follows these six steps religiously. That’s why they do so well.

    Yes, I’m getting my MacBook Air next week. :)

    Thanks guys.

  5. When you under-promise and over-deliver, you are bound to keep your customers. The other way round sucks.

  6. Very nice article! Gotta love this website.
    I don’t think number 1 is completely rightful.

    Apple has limitations on everything.
    A lot of apps doesn’t get accepted into the app store!
    And every company let’s their visitors play with their computer – or at least they should do :=)

    • I was going to say I agree with everything EXCEPT #1 as well. Apple has a reputation for acting like they are smarter than everyone else – including their customers. It comes straight from the top. Although they are probably right on most occasions, it’s not the best business model. Remember when the iPhone 4 was dropping calls like mad? Apple’s first reaction (before they quickly wised up and sent out cases to the early adopters) was that it was the dumb user’s fault for not holding the phone correctly.

      • Less than 1% of all iPhone 4 customers had issues with dropped calls. You can hold a Blackberry “incorrectly” and kill your bars too. No mistake, Apple had an issue there, but it was far smaller than most people think. :)

        Andreas, don’t confuse developers with customers. True, lots of apps get rejected, but that guarantees that when we download stuff from iTunes, it’s going to function and do exactly what it says.

        Thanks for keeping life interesting guys.

  7. Just because a market is “saturated” doesn’t mean you can’t show up and be successful.

  8. Martyn,
    Excellent post. You’ve done a great job of explaining some of the key pillars to their marketing success.

    One area that I’ve just noticed is Apple’s use of Strategic Pricing. Although Apple is routinely the most expensive option, it’s used a $500 price point on the iPad to attract non-apple users into the Apple funnel. Obviously, pricing is a marketing weapon that use liberally in their marketing copy. Steve Jobs hinted at this when he teased other manufacturers for not being able to sell their tablets at the $500 price-point.

    The second area that Apple excels is at “framing the headline”. With iPad, they are stressing that it is the pre-eminent “Post-PC” device. The introduced ipod by simple saying “1,000 songs in your pocket”. These simple taglines position their products while stealing the microphone from their competition.

    Your post encourages me to use all of these factors in my marketing.

    • Hey Stanford! You’ve got some really good insights here. Thanks for sharing.

      I like the article you write yesterday. Especially this part: “My wife hates Apple because they do a spectacular job of arming me with the rational reasons why I need to blast a $500 hole in my bank account.”

  9. I like the sentence “Just because a market is “saturated” doesn’t mean you can’t show up and be successful.”

    I especially like #2 in this post. Lately, I’ve heard many people suggest that products don’t have to be good as long as the marketing is good but I purposely avoid mediocre products, even if they have elaborate marketing or even celebrity endorsements. If I do it as a consumer, I do the reverse as an artist, by trying to create exactly what the client desires and then exceed their expectations on top of it. There’s no place in my world for poor things marketed well. 2+ 4+ 5 go hand in hand, but all 6 matter.

    Loved this post!

  10. Stanford wrote about Apple yesterday. Go check it out:

    The Apple Guide to Copywriting Magic

  11. The above statement rings like a bell above everything else you said previously about Apple, and is very encouraging,especially in my business as a creative marketing consultant and caricature entertainer. For years I was hesitant putting out a product, or offering a service because ” it’s already been done””people already have enough of those” , and similar statements. Apple is the real life story of “The Little Engine That Could” Another company raised out ahead, with rumors that it had stolen some of Apples ideas. That company marketed to BIG business, and for a time, seemed to have more than the lions share of visibility and profits. But while the lion was busy eating the little Apple engine was planning, improving, refining until one day the little Engine came roaring out of the station with all the power speed and majesty of a bullet train. And has been out front every since.
    What I love about Apple is that they never gave up on their vision of creating products and services for individual users, so called regular people, who are often overlooked by companies in pursuit of corporate dollars.

    Thanks for writing an inspiring article.

    Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling
    Apple iPad user.

  12. I see new discipline coming in a close future… Apple Syndrome…

  13. Very good and strong reasons why apple is apple. A lot of take home for people involved in marketing technology at a human level.

  14. Good article, and I would like to add that Steve Jobs is also an “unfair market advantage” even though the iPad 2 wasn’t his best, but on his average day his presentations are better than most people on their best days. And this is not me drinking the “Apple Kool-Aid.”

    • That’s a good point, although Jobs grew into that. When he started out, he was so antisocial (and actually smelly, he never bathed) that his employers kept him on a solo night shift. Sometimes I think people think Jobs was born some kind of business angel/genius, which isn’t true, although he’s certainly very gifted and smart.

      It’s definitely going to be interesting to see if Apple’s approach can outlive their CEO.

  15. Putting customers first is important, of course — and equates to always doing what is right for your customer. Monetizing will have to fit in there, somewhere — but that part is easy once you have your following, and you never want it to stand out as being the purpose for your site.

  16. Excellent Post Martyn!

    I totally agree with everything you said here, especially paragraph #2.
    Ever since the first iPhone was available for purchase, Apple have always been my favourite!
    Their impeccable design amaze me! I’m stunned!
    I think it’s because of this reason i started my iPhone Blog, iPhoneFuze.com

    But their’s always been something on my mind; How?

    How did they do it?
    How did they stand out from the raging techno-crowd?
    What made them at the stage they are now?

    It’s the same with a blog!
    How does a small blog which has a cool design, clean layout and attractive content stand out?
    How does it become an extremely popular blog?

    I think it’s this question that all bloggers with small blogs need answered.

  17. I found this post interesting especially after I recently read a blog by Seth Godin where he was quite unhappy with the service for his new mac.

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/03/cascade-of-broken-promises.html

    (He did add in at the end that it wasn’t a rant against apple.)

    I do love my mac though. :-)

    • I thought of that as well, Susie. And if Apple can’t keep that customer-obsessive promise, they’ll falter. The territory they’ve staked out isn’t easy to defend. My guess, though, is that they can keep it — it’s fueled by the fact that employees (in the retail stores, anyway) seem like they’re the biggest fanboys of all, so they want to live the brand promise.

      • I think that Apple’s territory is actually easier to maintain than it would be for another existing company to replicate. Microsoft, for example, has a pretty shaky history in a lot of IT circles, and that’s not because of any OS War, it is because of the difficulties that Microsoft system admins have had dealing with the company in search of support. Microsoft is working on and in fact has rectified many of their systemic issues, but there is certainly a lag in the perception of them in a lot of IT people’s minds. That perception–fair or unfair– opens the door to their competition.

        As for Apple, their outstanding customer service and perception of high quality is not a new thing. Truly, it has almost always had a reputation as a company that makes products that “just work.”

        It was true in 1984 when I bought my first Macintosh, and it was true in 1978 time frame when I bought an Apple ][ as well. Out of the box and quickly into heavy usage, the computers worked as advertised…and then some. That earned Apple loyalty from me, and my staff as well. We needed computers do our jobs, and we did not need to make working on computers our job focus. Apple delivered that.

        Each successive machine has “just worked” and generally speaking, each experience with Apple has been a pleasant and fruitful one.

        By no means am I claiming their products are perfect and that they’ve never made any mistakes during our 34-year relationship — in fact they have, but at the end of the day, they have fixed the problem and then some.

        Once, for example, it took a very long time for them to ship me a new Mac II, which I desperately needed its color capabilities. Calls to the vendor (this was long before the Apple Store concept) were unfruitful and the local Apple rep never seemed to be able to move my issue up the food chain. One call to corporate held in reasonable tones and pleasant words carried the day: I received a shipping notice the next day, received the computer before the end of the week and was able to fulfill my contract with my client.

        Since, Apple has continuously done the same. Are they perfect? Hardly. Do their computers “walk on water?” Let’s be real. But do they deliver a good value? Unequivocally.

  18. Great article Martyn. I agree with what you said about design and quality being more important than quantity. That is something that has taken me a while to learn but now that I understand it, I am working on it. Apple is a great brand because people can be assured of great service and an extremely innovative product that is cutting edge and not on the market which all goes into the user experience. The design is just beautiful.

  19. My favorite point in this is about not having to actually invent something brand-new. Instead, take something that already works and is useful, and reframe it so your market can get truly excited about it.

    There are limitless ways you guys can go out and do this right now. It’s absolutely connected with what Hugh talked about yesterday. Go forth and start telling a really amazing story, start creating a really remarkable frame.

  20. Martyn,

    Great lessons on apple and the importance of quality. For anyone who doubts the importance of quality of SEO for results the recent Google Farmer (Panda) update should be a wake up call. organic search results will continue to be able to define and refine higher quality over low quality.

    Because of this high quality will not only stand you in good stead with your readers but it will continue to become a significantly more important factor in being found.

  21. You are spot on about Apple’s design. They just add a touch of elegance in whichever product they launch. That’s why their products are so popular.

  22. Apple does a lot of things right, but they also cause a lot of unnecessary frustration. Just read Seth Godin’s post from a few days ago describing how he had to go from one salesperson to another to handle a migration issue with his new Macbook Pro, and how he got shuffled around for days. I’ve also experienced here at our local store in Palo Alto, continued aggravation, in that I start talking to one salesperson, only to have them walk away and say they just need to attend to something, and then completely disappear! I was actually nearly ready to buy on my last visit, and got so fed up I left the store. Salescopy is only as good as the customer service behind it. I’d rather have less fancy design and marketing copy, and meet with a nice person who can handle my needs and not walk away when I’m in the middle of talking. I believe that’s one of the basic rules of customer service, yes?

  23. Author: Sonia Simone
    Comment:
    That’s a good point, although Jobs grew into that. When he started out, he was so antisocial (and actually smelly, he never bathed) that his employers kept him on a solo night shift. Sometimes I think people think Jobs was born some kind of business angel/genius, which isn’t true, although he’s certainly very gifted and smart

    Sonia, your info was so good I had to repost it just. For those who might have missed it. EXCELLENT point, and a piece of info that I did not know. It’s very encouraging, actually. So many times we see leaders, trend setters, and deal makers in this finished state, not realizing that they needed polishing. There’s hope for all of us.

  24. A lot has already been said on the impeccable design of Apple products. But virtually nothing has been said on the reason why the youth market loves Apple so much. I call it, the COOL FACTOR. The cool factor is definitely tied into the design, so I may be splitting hairs a bit, but according to my keen ease dropping ears, young ins buy this stuff for the following reasons.
    . So and so has one of those!
    . The come in cool colors
    . Only losers carry the other brands.
    With youth it’s all about raising and maintaining your level of coolness, and that goes for the techno geeks too, who are constantly trying to out geek each other.

    Apple knows how to market to both these users.

    • Hey Elgin,

      Let’s dig a little deeper here.

      1. So and so has one of those. Yes, but why? Because Apple succeeded in selling to so and so. How did they do that? We’ll have to back up.
      2. They come in cool colors. Well, I guess the Shuffle does and the Nano used to. But not the iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Apple TV, etc. We’ll have to think about that for a second.
      3. Only losers carry other brands. Again, why? How did Apple create an “us vs. them” environment?

      The reason to #1 and #3 is design. Apple’s taken pre-existing technology and repackaged it in a way that customers find appealing.

      Make sense? :)

  25. Your points #2 and #4 for me especially hit home. Both for Apple and for business in general. Always be conscious of how things look. Not just for the ‘pretty’ factor but is it easy to use, do the videos or sound work and is it seamless? And if you say that someone is going to get a particular result, make sure it happens bigger/better/more. It’s really the best way to impress customers and gain a loyal following. Apple fans with buy nearly everything just because. But, Apple proves time and again that you will have a superior experience.

  26. I’m wowed.

    Not only by the 6 Unfair Market advantages but by how easy you’ve made to digest them.

    The structure of this post is stellar!!! You give the Unfair Market Advantage, explain what it looks like in the real world and then MOST IMPORTANTLY you say you, yourself can use it. Nicely done Martyn!!!

    I trust from looking at how tight this is written that it took some time to weave and that you’re taking you’re own advice about creating your content and it paid off. Keep shining!

  27. Great post! In college I have had many professors use Apple for case studies and learning examples because they have great marketing. Of course a big part of that does tie back to their great product designs!

  28. I like this quote,
    Just because a market is “saturated” doesn’t mean you can’t show up and be successful.

    However, I wonder how this works out in the Groupon’s army of clones.

  29. I’d like to expand on point #3. Good copywriting isn’t about quantity it’s all about quality. Providing concise, relevant and beneficial information is the way to go when sending out an e-newsletter. Apple got it right with their 3 sentence letter. How many people actually read daily newsletters from the same publisher that contain useless and repetitive information?

  30. I regard this as a landmark post. Your practical application of each of those six points is quite remarkable. I found # 5 refreshing amid all the clamor out there to be heard, and # 6 is encouraging. Thank you for an excellent post!

  31. Great article. Love to see how the big boys do it. Thanks for sharing !

  32. What a great post — and a clever idea. I found myself nodding as I read through it. One other thing Apple does differently: they worry less about consumer and market research. In fact when the New York Times asked what sort of research it does, Steve Jobs replied, “None.” Here’s a link to that article: http://nyti.ms/eSkbOK

  33. Just because a market is “saturated” doesn’t mean you can’t show up and be successful. ~ LOVE IT!!!!!

  34. Great post. Apple is a great company. Thanks for sharing

  35. I like #5. That’s why I post only twice a week.

  36. Steve Jobs has done a wonderful job with Apple as it exceeds in two of the most important areas of business. 1) Apple’s focus is on the human – human interaction, making life simpler for the human and exceeding the needs, wants and desires of the human. 2) Apple always puts quality before quantity. When Apple was failing, it was because of the number of products they had on the shelf. When Steve Jobs returned, he threw out everything except the most paramount products and focused on the quality of these products.

    It’s about human beings and quality of building relationships that makes success. Plain and simple.

    Thanks for the awesome read!

  37. Looks like Apple is doing one hell of a job and I must follow their tactics, if I want to get succeed with my business. Thanks for sharing their business tactics with me (I don’t do researches like this myself).

  38. Martyn,

    Great article and it was fun to read. I appreciate the point of view that you provide into Apple’s world. I am absolutely amazed at what they have been able to do over the past several years as I was not a believe in their products. I was completely wrong! Steve Jobs has done an amazing job reinventing Apple.

    Thanks again. I plan to implement your advince on my blog.

  39. Very good list of advantages but i do not believe are so unfair as Apple has worked really hard for them.

    Elias

  40. Great, another Apple fanboy article, telling people to do as Apple does.

    Um…no thanks, I don’t want to make a closed system that forces people to jail-break their phones if they want something as simple as their own custom SMS alert tone, rather than be forced to use Apple’s tones. Oh, and allow Flash on iDevices… “users” want this, Apple doesn’t because it competes with iTunes apps. So how does that put customer first?

  41. Some great tips there Martyn – I think 6 is the most important point for any entrepreneur, it’s the whole ‘reinventing the wheel’ thing and sometimes we can be innovative without needing to create something completely new, often it’s just about changing the user experience

  42. Another point that would also fit in with this list:

    7) Apple hires the best people.

    With it’s wealth, market presence and legendary CEO, it’s a company a lot of people want to work for, which helps, but Apple obviously takes care to hire the best and the brightest.

    This has a significant knock-on effect on every other point on this list.

    How you can use it:

    Don’t just cast your net once and pick from the first lot you happen to haul in. If you’re not satisfied, trust your gut and keep looking until you strike gold. It’ll be worth it in the long run – and every other point on this list will be that much more successful when you implement it.

  43. Another differentiating factor that jumps out at me is the Apple culture. Every time I walk into a store I’m greeted quickly by a pleasant employee who is actually interested in helping me, and not for a commission. The feeling they give each person who walks in the door separates them from all the rest and that’s why people line up for new products and keep coming back.
    @BrettRelander

  44. Catching up on CB posts. This one is really good. Enjoyed.