How to Sell Like Steve Jobs

image of steve jobs

It’s a simple formula.

To convert readers into buyers of your product, you must provide them with:

  1. Jaw-droppingly relevant benefits
  2. Reasons they can give to their spouse

If you can provide your prospects with the reasons that they want/need/expect to own your particular product, it can go a long way toward helping in that crucial — and inevitable — spousal “sales” conversation.

Writing that fails to convert often contains only half of this formula.

Take a look at how masterfully Steve Jobs (and his copywriters) accomplish this — with product after product after product …

I didn’t even know I had iPad envy

I was recently in a meeting with a graphic designer.

I watched — starry eyed — as she zipped through the stunning examples of her work on her brand new iPad. The screen was breathtaking.

She instantly moved from a five to a ten on the cool scale.

“The economy is tough out there buster. You already have a laptop, desktop and a smart phone. Besides, your wife will kill you if you drop 800 bucks on an iPad! You can’t justify that purchase,” I said to myself.


“I’ve got to get me one of those. Now.”

Getting hooked on mere words

Two hours later I found myself researching iPads on Apple’s website.

As I read the sales page, language like …

“It makes surfing the web, checking email, watching movies, and reading books so natural, you might forget there’s incredible technology under your fingers”

… made me imagine myself lying on the couch with the power of the Internet resting in my hand.

Then, I read that …

“iPad is one big, beautiful display — 9.7 inches of high-resolution photos, movies, web pages, books, and more.”

… and I fantasized about using my iPad in front of colleagues, proudly displaying my membership in an exclusive, imaginary community I called iPaddians.

Oh yes, I would be one of them!

But these were just fleeting thoughts. The practical side of me quickly threw cold water on this emotional, shallow thinking.

While I wasn’t buying a Malibu beach house I was still making a significant investment.

How could I tell my wife I spent $800 for such vanity?

Nope, I’d have to pass. The iPad would have to wait until next Christmas.

How I was eventually sold

Then, I saw that the iPad has:

  • A dual core A5 chip — I could work so much faster with this technology!
  • 10 hour battery life — That’s like twice the battery life of my laptop!
  • Instant on — I must have been wasting like 3 minutes a day booting up!

20 minutes later, I was printing the sales receipt. And I felt good about it.

Steve’s copywriters had assured me that the purchase was justified.

Here’s how they did it.

Getting emotional

You’ve heard it before, because it’s true — buying is an emotional experience.

And there are numerous ways you can tap into the emotion of your prospect.

The sales page for iPad uses a number of strategies to cause an emotional reaction in their reader, including those discussed below.

  • Make them feel it: If you are selling a product, make your prospect imagine they already own it. For services, use language that stirs the satisfaction of receiving the benefits that service provides.

Apple is second to none in writing copy that conveys the experience of owning their products:

“The view is amazing … hold it up to someone across the room, or share it with someone sitting next to you, and everyone gets a brilliant view.”

  • Include them in the club: Tap into your readers desire to belong to a group that owns an exclusive product or experiences a unique service. The desire to “belong” is a powerful motivation to buy.

The copywriting for iPad is riddled with language that excited my emotional need to join the iPad clan by purchasing this unparalleled product:

“Now iPad is even more amazing. And even less like anything else.”

  • Kill them with curiosity: Any time you are selling something that cannot be physically touched, curiosity is a powerful motivator to buy. If you can make your reader say “I wonder what it would be like to experience that!” you’ve done your job.

The iPad copywriters did a wonderful job of exciting my curiosity:

“Apps on iPad look and feel like nothing you’ve ever experienced.”

The power of assurance

Now that you’ve excited the emotional side of your potential buyer, you need to satisfy their more prudent side and, perhaps more importantly, their spouse.

No one wants to make a mistake and your potential buyer will want to be ensured that they are making the right choice.

The Apple copywriters provide logical arguments for buying their product using a number of methods including those discussed below.

  • Tell them what’s different: To help your buyer determine why they should buy from you, you must differentiate your offer from other offers of its kind. You must answer the questions in your readers mind. Why should I buy this product? Why should I buy it from you?

Apple copywriters are masters of differentiation:

“iOS 4 is the reason no other device has yet come close to iPad.”

  • Get physical: Let your reader know each and every relevant characteristic and why it matters. Where does the service take place? How is it delivered? How much does the product weigh? What colors are available?

Apple gives numerous physical characteristics and explains their benefit in their copy including:

“[iPad 2 is] 33 percent thinner and up to 15 percent lighter, so it feels even more comfortable in your hands.”

  • Appeal to their inner-geek: For the right offer and the right audience, a technical explanation will be critical. Tell your readers how the product works and display your expertise in the industry. In some cases, using language that your reader may not completely understand is warranted.

Consider Apple’s description of their LED display:

“Because [iPad] uses a display technology called IPS (in-plane switching), it has a wide, 178° viewing angle.”

Failing to provide practical reasons to buy, is failure to provide your buyer with the benefits to tell themselves (and their spouse).

As a result, no sale.

Finish the story

The emotion you stir in your readers will often be the primary reason they buy.

But it will require technical descriptions, physical characteristics and other rational descriptions to seal the deal.

It’s human nature to repress the emotional and cite the practical when justifying a purchase to ourselves or others. This is such a powerful psychological principle that, in most cases, it can hardly be called lying.

When I broke the news to my wife, it wasn’t pretty. She went all “down economy” and “day care costs” on me.

So, I did what any confident owner of a new toy would do.

I looked my wife square in the eye, and with ammunition provided by capable Apple copywriters, I said “Honey, I bought this iPad so we can do video calls with your mother in Florida.”

About the Author: Russ Henneberry is the evil genius behind the largest community of tiny business owners in the galaxy. Receive ten free Internet marketing video lessons for tiny businesses including “The #1 Barrer To Gaining New Business” by clicking here.

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Reader Comments (70)

  1. says

    Haha Russ, you pulled the video calls to mom card? Nice!

    Apple product launch language IS second to none. I read their material just to see which emotional triggers they’re pulling “this time.”

    They do a great job addressing all the normal objections to sale. As a non-Apple product user (just personal choice) I don’t buy simply because I don’t like being saddled with more tools. Or toys. If I’m away from my PC then I’m grateful to be away. I choose to not have a smartphone or iPad. I wonder how many other CB readers choose the same?

    There’s no arguing they make an attractive product. I’ve held iPads, tinkered with them, longed for one of my own even. But my resistance to carrying distractions around with me overcomes my justification to own a new, practical business tool. Let’s be honest, I’d just watch more silly YouTube vids and download time-killing apps :)

    I enjoyed reading your story. You drew me right in.

    • says

      While I admire Apple and Jobs for their marketing, I avoid all their products since the mid-80s when I got burned by their Mac transition. And here’s the issues:

      -forced obsolescence or product abandonment with short product cycles
      -little walled and locked-down garden
      -high-priced unique hardware
      -the apple ‘club’/’fanbois'; (I like ‘alternative music’)
      -iPad specific: how do you actually do real work on it? Yes it’s great for consuming content, but doing work?

      I ran Windows for years, until I found Linux. Now I have an operating system that I get real work done, is extremely stable, no virus issues (like Mac), it’s good on old and new commodity hardware, and it’s open and free.

      Since I can often buy two laptops for the price of one Apple product, I don’t have to spend any time justifying it to my wife. Rather, I hear, “ooh can I get that too?”

      • AB says

        Hi J S,

        Apple products are not for everybody… just as Windows is not for all as well. It depends on your work and what you do with the products. I find Apple products best since I do multimedia and creative stuff. But if you usually do regular office works and programming, then Windows might be the best option.

        Yes you can work with the iPad, but again, it depends on what you’ll do.

        Apple products are expensive, but it’s worth every cent!

  2. says

    Ha, that was an awesome punchline.

    This was great.

    Buying is emotional. You were on Apple’s site looking for ways to justify a purchase you already made in your head. Apple made it easy!

    • says

      Well said Sean. That’s exactly what happened. They removed all the obstacles for me by giving me the logical reasons to buy along with the emotional punch that had knocked me out long before I even reached their sales page.

  3. says

    @Russ: Excellent guest post.

    “What’s that Apple laptop for, honey?”

    “Well, Russ. I want my mother to have a computer when she moves in so she doesn’t have to borrow yours.” 😉

  4. says

    I would first like to say that this was an excellent post!

    But I definitely agree with you here, customers will never forget how you (your product/service) makes them feel. Apple has a magnetic cool factor that turn average people into cult-like zombies.

    One thing that Apple excels at, as you pointed out here, was communicating the benefits of doing business with them.

    They have beautiful products, did you not thing they wouldn’t have a way with words?! Lol

  5. says

    Super post, Russ. You’re absolutely right, no one has the emotional sell down like Apple. They do an phenomenal job of painting pictures in your mind of what it would be like to own an iPad (iPhone, etc.) and how much better your life will be because of it. There aren’t many examples of companies who pull this off better.

    Just one question for you…

    how are those video calls with your mother-in-law going?! 😉

  6. says

    All are SO true! We can also learn a lot from watching late-night infomercials. Talk about appealing to the emotions… making you “feel” it.

    Great post, Russ!


  7. says

    Very fun guest post – enjoyed it!

    As one who already regularly drinks the Apple kool-aid – I know how convincing they are with their copy. They have a way of making you believe what they believe or maybe its….what you believe is what they confirm.


  8. says

    Yep, they got me with the iPhone 4… I held out until the released it on Verizon, and even a few months after that to be sure the influx of new data users wasn’t going to overwhelm the network – but you better believe that I kept going back to the Verizon website throughout that time to re-read the copy. So shiny! Such a clear display! I’m not at all ashamed to say that I bought it – hook, line and sinker :)

    So yeah, I definitely agree – great stuff they’re doing with their copy. The key is to figure out which of those concepts apply to your own business (not everyone can get away geek appeals and so on) and then actually use them.

    Great post!

  9. says

    Truly anecdotes with the Apple. I enjoyed this guest post. It’s jaw dropping and has inspired for for success. I need to tell them what’s different henceforth. This is priceless.

  10. says

    Wow that really was quite a read. I’ve never heard of the idea of giving your prospects reasons they can give to their spouse. That’s such a great way of looking at it.

    I will definitely try to “bake this in” to the copy on my own promotions from now on.

  11. Karn says

    I praise the punchline at the end there. Overall it was a great read. Keep up the sales posts. I am trying to get into that.

  12. says

    Oh Russ, love the emotional end of sales. I have been a Steve Jobs emotional slave ever since the Apple IIc. I used to sleep with an ad I tore out of a magazine. I was 8. Today, after much sighing, and begging, and plotting and finally a very loving spouse…I am the proud owner of an ipad2. I love being an ipaddian and I already don’t know how I lived without it. (It’s been all of three days.) With that said as a person who has spent many years in fundraising: It is definitely the emotional connect that parts people with their funds and makes them feel good. If we work to live and not the other way around then it reasons that we should feel good when we part with our cash.

    Have fun skyping with the MIL!

    • Russ Henneberry says

      No small thanks to you Jon. Your Guest Blogging program is absolutely outstanding.

  13. says

    unfortunetely the ipad just doesn’t cut it for me

    I went for a macpro as the ipad is missing so many elements.. heck even its weak competitors have more in them than the ipad

    i will wait a few more releases before i get one. I did go for the motorola xoom ( android ) which has more in it but took it back 1 day later because of one issue ( connectivity over my router was weak compared to my laptop )

    Anyway I bought instead the macpro 2011 version and love it 😉

  14. says


    THAT was a great Post that included a great personal story.

    Everyone wishes they were the ‘Apple’ of their industry.

    As you pointed out, Apple makes us want their products. One BIG reason, as Steve Jobs loves to say is, “It just works!”

    There is a reason the Apple Store is always buzzing and stores selling less expensive computers have salespeople having coffee with each other.

    Loved the ending and the specifics you pointed out about Apple’s marketing.


  15. says

    Okay, that does it. I’m going out to buy one today. Great blog.

    Steve Jobs and Apple are the masters of soundbyte storytelling. I testify to its success as I pull out my corporate card :).

  16. says

    Terrific post Russ….loved how you wove your point throughout your (very real) story!. Branding is emotional. Sales rely on an emotional transaction at any number of levels. Your insight is right on the money.
    That being said, here’s something Apple does even better than romanticize copy….they create and bring to life new technology experiences that WORK. An emotional connection – branding and/or sales – must be built on a platform of authenticity, trust and the ability to deliver what’s written…otherwise there will be a short spike in interest and sales followed by a vast dropoff of both.
    I’m not yet an “iPaddian” (nice term) so at best I’m still only a 5 on the cool scale – but I can feel the distant tuggings starting …………

  17. says

    Wonderful post. Really valuable lessons here. Follow their template to success.

    Geez, I ONLY have the iPhone, Macbook, iMac, Time Capsule and Airport Express.
    Feel like I am 2nd class citizen.


    Thank you.

  18. Krista Stryker says

    Seriously awesome post Russ! Full of valuable information AND it made me laugh! Definitely a plus. I’ll be saving it for future reference.

    Like you said, Apple is brilliant at this – I want every single product they make, even though I know I don’t need half the stuff and fully understand that part of the reason I want to shell out money for their products is because they are so amazingly good at selling it!

  19. says

    Enjoyed this, Russ.

    I’m still a holdout. I just try to look the other way…and since I don’t have a mother in Florida, it’s easy!

    Thanks for the real-life lessons.

  20. says

    Ha, ha – great ending to an awesome post, Russ. I had a Mac mini when I worked for Apple as a chat agent and loved it. Did you go through online ordering or chat? Their customer experience teams are awesome too!

    I want one so bad, but still holding out. I get Apple envy watching my significant other using his iPhone to put in his calories for every meal and ticking off all the things he’s done on his to-do list. My Razr still works so no reason to switch just yet. Hopefully soon though!

    Thanks for a great post and copywriting reminder to write great content.

  21. says

    Nice job Russ, your quotations from the Apple store sucked me right in and kept me engaged! The closing line was awesome and finished the post off nicely. Now I just have to learn how to copywrite!

  22. says

    Hah, amazing. Awesome post, I think this could work for buying something, as well. Sort of like a test drive to have it sold to you.

  23. says

    You not only made me laugh, you made me nod in agreement. But really, you had me with your simple list of two at the top. Even if you don’t have to justify it to a spouse, we have to justify it to that inner devil that says “you just spend HOW MUCH on WHAT?” Did I just compare spouses to devils? I think I did!

    Apple has a great formula for solving that “which is more” equation – the juggling act we all do that says “is this thing that I want worth as much or more to me as the money I will pay for it.” You broke that formula down to the basic elements and gave a recipe for us “do-it-yourselfers” that is worth taking to the kitchen!

  24. Cristian says

    I decided to have a look at the iPad site and I noticed another trick they use, all their headings, and sub headings, have the same format: Feature, Benefit. Which immediately gives you ammunition for when justifying your purchase to yourself or – as you put it – your spouse, for example “Dual-core A5 chip. It’s fast, times two”, this is amazing because the feature is mostly meaningless (what’s an A5?) and the benefit is completely abstract, (twice as fast as what?) but it sounds concrete.

  25. says

    I like the way they make you feel like there is a shortage and if you don’t go and get in line 3 a clock in the morning then you not going to get it. I think it is just so clever how that make people believe that this or that product is limited and you must get it now. I would certainly like to use their marketing people for my website. ( for free of course )

    • says

      Hando, interesting observation. You are right, Apple is somehow able to create that feeling of urgency for a product that will not only be available for months/years after the launch but will also drop in price as time goes on. Thanks for your take!

  26. Jose says

    The iPad sells because it’s an amazing device. It’s easy to sell something that is quite cool. Ask Jobs if he could sell MobileMe. I thought so.

    • says

      I’m with you on this one Jose, Apple have great advertising – but it only supports the product. If the products stank, I daresay their advertising would be less admired.

      Apple have released several very disruptive products into markets since they were just a Mac vendor – the iMac their first attempt at the emerging PC market, the iPod transformed Music like the Walkman did 20 years before, the iPhone revolutionised smartphones, and the iPad kicked off a whole new generation of tablets.

      Their marketing is way smarter than their advertising, they spot an emerging mass-market and they first-to-market a high quality product in that market, then keep innovating it slightly so people buy the new one. I’d love to market like Apple, not just advertise or sell like them…

      I’d also love to be able to get away with the excessive premium they place on Apple products – £60 for replacement Apple iPhone headphones anyone? £20 extra for a cover in a particular colour?

  27. says

    After reading this article I will just say….

    Copyblogger: Read and Feel & Learn like nothing you’ve ever experienced About Copy-Blogging.

    Russ….Thank You! :-)

  28. Michi says

    Hahaha…I know only too well what you talk about, Russ!

    But my entire family is Apple geeks, so we call ourselves “The Pod/Pad family”
    Apple has turned us over ages ago. Now we justify our purchases by saying:
    “Hmm guys, we have to be VERY creative this month about our dinners, get on the bike to get somewhere
    instead of taking the bus or car and skip weekend candy BUT we have one hell of devices to be creative on!”

    And nobody in the family complains. So my best move was to turn my whole family into Apple geeks. (Even my mother and father in law are.)
    You know the saying: Once you go Apple…” I guess I am one heck of a copywriter in my family :)

  29. says

    This is funny – as a woman I guess I dont have that inner geek thing going on BUT I definitely have ipad envy. Maybe if I take my hubby to the ishop I can get us both one!


  30. says

    Excellent post, Russ. Now I have to figure out how to convince my spouse that I should hire you for some marketing consultation 😉

  31. says

    Brilliant ending Russ! Psychological mastery is Steve Jobs’ forte. The iPad was high enough on my list before I read your enticing commentary. Has it met your expectations? What do you like most about it?

  32. says

    Oh yeah! Apple copy (and their site design) is brilliant. Try to navigate Dell’s site, or compare features on 142 different configurations and your head explodes. Apple keeps it all really simple.

    I’ve had Macs for years. My family is slowly coming around too. My brother got an itouch and dad got an iphone. Mom decided to earn money, rather than spend it, and bought shares of stock (which have roughly tripled in value).

  33. says


    Very helpful ideas for anyone selling something. Apple has always had great products, but their success exploded when they started differentiating their products with kick a$$ marketing and sales.

    Did you notice how Apple customers are always telling everybody how much better their iPhone, iPad or Mac is than the competition? Now that’s what I call enchantment :)

  34. says

    Awesome relevant example of such a powerhouse such as Apple to selling.

    All purchases are made after a justification process has gone through the buyers mind. It is effective to GIVE the buyer the justification in your copywriting rather than rely on them to create it on their own.

    As seen by Apple’s brilliant copywriting.

  35. says

    Great post. You are spot on about the quality of Apple’s writing… reminiscent of classic Ogilvy.

    Having an iconic, market-leading product definitely helps!!!

  36. Michael H says

    This is a great article that shows how two parts of the brain are always working when contemplating a decion, the question is are they working together or against one another. Apple and many other great marketing geniuses have long since figured this out and they know how to exploit it to make sales.

    I myself to not own an iPad but I have never subjected myself to the direct marketing adds on Apples site. I am single but my concious plays the spousal role and can tell you that you have to win me over on the practical side before I pull the trigger on any purchase down to a pack of gum!

    Great article and great insite on how good copywrighters accomplish this daunting task!

  37. says

    Waaw Russ, I hope your wife doesn’t stumble upon this post by accident :).

    You gave a very interesting and thought-provoking take on the “art” of selling.

    Selling is an art, indeed and if you can deeply understand your prospects needs and aspirations and link them to your product/service, closing the sale will become effortless.

    Apple is a sales and marketing legend for sure and I think it’s a great learning experience to check out their sales pages to fully grasp their sales tactics. Do you think if I told myself I will check out their sales page only to read, I won’t end up making a sale? I doubt it! Not with Apple. No wonder they are so successful!

    I learned a lot from your post and you have a beautiful writing style as well. Keep up the good work :)

  38. says

    Apple has really got me good. I have an iphone, a mac and an ipad. And believe it or not, I’ve found each of them very useful. I can make really creative presentation with my mac. The ipad is portable, very hand and easy to use when I travel. And of course, my iphone is always in my pocket. Great apple marketing.

  39. says

    I thought of this column after seeing the news about Steve stepping down. Will there be a Tim Cook version? Remains to be seen.

    A follow up on this would be great. Work in Steve’s presentation to the Cupertino city council, that was a great example copy/marketing.

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