Steve Jobs Definitive Guide to PR & Marketing for Early-Stage Startups and Entrepreneurs
Mention Steve Jobs, and the first thing that often comes to mind is Apple. His vision for creating affordable personal computers led to him launching one of the largest industries of recent times. Remarkably, Jobs was only in his early twenties when Apple took off.
However, there is far more to Steve Jobs than just Apple computers. His lifetime involved being an American business executive, a computer programmer and an entrepreneur. There is no doubt that he remains one of the most energetic and inventive minds in American technology.
Brief Introduction to Steve Jobs
Steven Jobs was born February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. Paul Jobs was a machinist and fixed cars as a hobby. Jobs remembers his father as being very skilled at working with his hands.
In 1961 the family moved to Mountain View, California. Situated just south of Palo Alto, California, this area was becoming a center for electronics. Electronics form the basic elements of devices such as radios, stereos, televisions and computers. At that time people started to refer to the area as “Silicon Valley” because of the silicon used in manufacturing electronic parts.
As a child, Jobs showed an early interest in electronics and gadgetry. He spent a lot of time working in the garage workshop of a neighbor who worked at Hewlett-Packard, an electronics manufacturer.
While in high school Jobs attended lectures at the Hewlett-Packard plant. On one occasion he boldly asked William Hewlett, the president, for some parts he needed to complete a class project. Hewlett was so impressed he gave Jobs the parts and offered him a summer internship at Hewlett-Packard.
After graduating from high school in 1972, Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, for two years. He dropped out after one semester to visit India and study eastern religions in the summer of 1974. In 1975 Jobs joined a group known as the Homebrew Computer Club. One member, a technical whiz named Steve Wozniak, was trying to build a small computer. Jobs became fascinated with the marketing potential of such a computer. In 1976 he and Wozniak formed their own company. They called it Apple Computer Company, in memory of a happy summer Jobs had spent picking apples. They raised $1,300 in startup money by selling Jobs’s microbus and Wozniak’s calculator. At first, they sold circuit boards while they worked on the computer prototype.
The Steve Jobs PR strategy
PR was always very important to Steve Jobs and Apple. When Jobs and Wozniak received their first ever venture capital money from angel investor Mark Markkula, they had many possible ways to use it. They earmarked most of the money for the production of the Apple II, Apple’s first mass-market product. But before spending any money on hardware, Jobs used his cash to hire the best PR professional in Silicon Valley, Regis McKenna. McKenna’s two specialties were doling out exclusive interviews with his clients to journalists he had cultivated and coming up with memorable ad campaigns that created brand awareness for products such as microchips. Jobs understood the power of exclusivity. He used it to great effect for the rest of his career. He mastered the art of giving exclusive interviews in a dramatic manner.
Jobs’ success at launching products, which he perfected during the last decade of his life, was not a matter of luck. Very early on, Jobs understood the importance of a flawless execution of a market introduction campaign, and he would perfect Apple product launches step by step for the rest of his career.
The level of involvement Jobs dedicated to advertising is amazing when you consider that he was spending the rest of his time running one of the most valuable companies in the world.
Jobs had his own intuitive sense of how to stoke the excitement, manipulate the competitive instincts of journalists, and trade exclusive access for lavish treatment. Leveraging the competition among journalists is a great tool because giving someone a scoop is almost guaranteed to bring results.
Jobs had an unbridled passion for media. One of the most mundane aspects of the communications business is the development of a media list, which is simply the names of the reporters and publications to approach with a news story. Most senior executives leave that type of work to employees beneath them. Jobs took a different approach. He analyzed every name on the chart and every story angle that was going to be pitched to them. He would choose to personally make the call to certain reporters. Jobs was willing to make the effort to develop close personal relationships with the journalists who covered his company.
Today, with blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Pinterest boards, there is no shortage of places to tell your story. Don’t be afraid to pick up a phone or a mouse. Whether at the top or the bottom of the career ladder, Steve Jobs showed how to use the power of media to your benefit.
Examples of how Steve Jobs used PR effectively
Many people may wonder why Apple has become such a well-known and well-loved brand. The key to Jobs’ and Apple’s success is a combination of quality, innovation, and market strategies that were designed extremely carefully. They were so effective at this that Apple managed to reinvent products that were, in fact, already available on the market, and got consumers to think they had never seen anything like them before. Jobs’ clever use of PR meant that Apple would become an iconic part of technology not just now, but in the past and long into the future.
1) People before product
Steve Jobs rarely talked about the various features of Apple products. For example, when stood on the stage, he didn’t push the speed of the iPhone’s processor or the screen resolution. He knew that wasn’t important to the average consumer, and if someone did want that information, they could easily find it on Apple’s website or product literature.
Instead, he went out of his way to emphasize how the product affects you. He talked about how annoying it is to carry around both a phone and an MP3 player and how, with an iPhone, you’re condensing them down into one easy-to-carry device. It’s about simplicity, productivity, style — all things he knew people would be interested in.
That approach takes discipline. When you launch a product, everyone in your company is probably excited by the technical specifications and all of the different ways your product stands out above the rest. So it’s easy to assume your customer feels the same way. But the chances are they don’t. They care about real problems and how your product is going to help them.
The Takeaway – frame your marketing in a smart way. Focus on the people, not the product. Don’t just talk about what your product does or why it’s superior, show them a compelling picture of how it’s going to make their life better. That is what will get people excited.
2) Get the Media On-Board Early
Apple has a knack for getting bloggers and other thought leaders on board before their product launches. They are able to get everyone talking months before the product launches, often before there’s even a demo for anyone to see. People are not talking about what the product does, they’re speculating, talking about what it might do.
Having a history helps Apple in this regard. Journalists and bloggers know that Apple has a past record of releasing innovative and useful products, and they rely on the fact that subsequent product releases will be just as innovative and useful.
The Takeaway – you may not have a history like Apple and have every journalist and blogger queuing up to predict your next move. But you can help yourself by working with the media in advance of your product launch. Even if it doesn’t get a great deal of coverage, it’ll give you something to build on. The media will begin to know who you are. Then when launch day arrives, you’re not starting cold.
3) Taking Pre-orders
Before the launch of the i-phone 4, Apple took over 600,000 pre-orders in just one day. That was a record breaker for Apple at the time. However, for many companies, this is a greatly overlooked strategy.
Most companies that have been around for a while has a set of customers who will buy anything they release. As soon as you announce the product, they’ll be lining up, eager to be the first to get their hands on it. So make the most of their keenness.
Apple almost always offers pre-ordering of their new products, and because of that, they can easily sell hundreds of thousands of units within a week or two of launch.
The Takeaway – harness the enthusiasm of your consumers. Make sure you have a way for prospective buyers to sign up for updates. Then ensure those updates offer a link to pre-order as soon as it’s possible.
4) Creating Suspense
Apple always makes a big deal about announcing new products. But prior to those actual announcements, their product lines are kept hidden like a great secret. And Apple will do almost anything to protect those secrets.
A good example of this is what happened when some bloggers found a late prototype model of the iPhone 4. At first, Apple denied they had any knowledge of the product. Then after the details were made public, they pursued legal action against the bloggers who wrote about it. The aim was to set an example to deter future leaks about other products.
Another example of how Apple created suspense about a product was when the iPad was getting ready to launch. Speculation and rumors were flying around about Apple’s new tablet, but no one really knew anything about it. People were so hyped up about it that some even went to the effort of creating realistic 3D mockups of it, in the hope of getting more readers for their websites and blogs. By the time the iPad actually launched, its reputation had grown to unrivalled proportions.
The Takeaway – take your hottest product and deliberately release a few very carefully selected details about it. The mystery will create a huge buzz amongst your customer base.
5) Making Something Beautiful
Apple relies heavily on its image. That is an important key to its success. Consumers know and expect that Apple products will be aesthetically pleasing. If Apple were to suddenly stop launching beautiful products, they would almost certainly see a big drop in sales.
Apple products are loved for their beauty as much as their technical abilities. When people buy a new Apple product they want to share it with their friends and colleagues. A professional, sleek design makes people want to talk about it, and online or offline, that can have a big impact on your product sales.
The Takeaway – release a product your customers will be proud to show off. Don’t underestimate the importance of the appearance of your product.
6) Illusion of scarcity
Sellers of luxury goods realise that scarcity, whether real or perceived, makes a product more desirable and in demand. Scarcity not only increases the value of a product, it makes people who don’t want to be left behind by the crowd step up and buy.
Apple has found its own ways to increase the sense of scarcity. Just one hour after the iPhone 5 went on sale for pre-orders in 2012, the Apple website reported that heavy demand meant delivery would be delayed. The tactic was a success. The iPhone 5 set a record for first-day sales. Even two weeks after the iPhone went on sale, it was on a back order of three to four weeks. By prolonging the difficulty of owning one, Apple increased the desire of consumers to get their hands on one.
The Takeaway – limit the initial production of a product to create scarcity and fuel demand for your product. Use the tactic of special offers that are only available for a limited time. Report on your website that only a small number of certain items are left in stock.
7) Unconventional Marketing
Perhaps the best Apple example of unconventional marketing is with the iPhone X. Apple presented the iPhone X, not as a device but a phenomenon. Like a summer blockbuster, iPhone X was the new big thing that everyone was talking about. Much like the original iPhone, iPhone X represented the next 10 years of Apple’s mobile strategy. This version though was marketed as not just a revolutionary mobile phone. iPhone X was sold as a lifestyle device, the first iPhone in years that you just had to see.
The approach Apple took for the iPhone X was to encourage lines at Apple stores. It gave exclusive hands-on access to a select few on YouTube before it became available to traditional outlets. Most reviewers were given a 24-hour window to organize their thoughts. Perhaps the most unconventional move Apple made was to collect the best comments about the iPhone X and publish them in a press release.
It can be said that Apple’s main motivation with all these iPhone X first looks is to put the focus on its fun features rather than its specs. This is clear to see in the YouTube videos that were heavy on entertainment and light on examination. Even the traditional outlets focused more on exciting features such as Face ID and the new design rather than battery benchmarks and speed tests.
Apple made the core features of iPhone X such as buttonless navigation and hands-free unlocking an essential part of its culture even before most people are able to buy one.
Many people had concerns about the iPhone X, such as the Face ID feature. Some wondered if it was worth such a premium over the iPhone 8 Plus. Some even started questioning whether Apple “all screen” claim was even accurate.
But that was, in fact, part of Apple’s clever marketing strategy. Apple knew there would be questions about the iPhone X. But with a powerful first impression, Apple dispelled all of these concerns. Face ID worked beautifully and the screen was amazing. People soon realised it was well worth the extra money. As a result, everyone wanted one.
The Takeaway – don’t be afraid to go against the norm. If your product is good enough, any doubts about it will soon be dismissed when people realise how clever it is. Ultimately, people will be talking about it and sales will increase as a result.
Lessons We Learn from Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was unique. We can’t all have his charisma and style. But we can learn some important lessons that can be applied in business startups. Here are five things Jobs did that you should think about:
a) Love what you do
Jobs loved his company, the people who worked there and their products. Apple was his calling, he wouldn’t have done anything else. So ask yourself is: am I in the right job for me? Is this the right company? Am I working with the right people? Will this lead to fulfilling work and a fulfilling career?
b) Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
If you want to sell an idea, product or service, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Apple, more than any other company of our time, was always the best at dreaming up a new product that we never could have imagined beforehand but seemed so natural to us the first time we held it. That’s seeing the world not as it is but as it should be.
c) Be the best in your niche
But don’t be so exclusive that a majority of the world can’t experience it. One of the things Steve learned with his first stint at Apple was that he produced some amazing technology, but it cost way too much money for most people to buy. Microsoft continued to dominate the bulk of the market because it cost less and was good enough. Jobs really took that to heart when he came back to Apple. Not only were the iPod, iPhone, and iPad completely new and exciting, they were aggressively priced. You can have the best ideas in the world for whatever your niche is but it won’t make a difference unless you find a way to get it in front of people. With the Internet today, if you’ve got something good, people will be able to find you. Just make sure your stuff isn’t wildly over-priced when they do find you.
d) Bring a game-changer
Don’t try to beat the competition at their game. Instead, redefine the game. The leading smartphones before the iPhone all had physical keyboards like the BlackBerry, Palm Treo and the first versions of Google’s Android. Apple came up with something completely different. Create a whole new game by thinking outside the box.
e) Presentation is important
Steve Jobs was unique in the way he could do a presentation. Apple critics didn’t like the way this aspect of Apple and Jobs got so much attention. Your products make be good, great even. But by creating excitement through your presentation of them, you can capture the attention of a much larger audience.
Steve Jobs Legacy
Apple products obtain and retain their uniquely covetable status by continually rolling out new features and upgrades. Each device is better than the previous release. Apple’s advertising does a better job creating buzz about their products than it does indirectly building brand perceptions. It boils down to how Apple generates word-of-mouth. That word-of-mouth builds brand perceptions, and those enhanced brand perceptions build desire for the product.
Although Steve Jobs is no longer with us, his legacy lives on. His extraordinary ability to use PR to his advantage and capture the attention of so many people sets a high standard for other entrepreneurs to attain. By considering his example and methods of business, we can learn many valuable lessons on growing a successful, enduring company.