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Be like Apple (used to be) in 4 words

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Here’s the secret to creating an exceptional company:

stand for something meaningful

 
Standing for something meaningful is what has set Apple, for one, apart from the rest of the pack. If you want passionate followers, their passion needs to be given voice by your passion. If there’s a hole where your passion should be, you’re not going to fool anyone into lining up for your product or service anytime soon (in B2C- or B2B-land).

There's a hole in this passion

Dell was a cool company. What happened to them? Their passion was standing-up for the customer by super-efficiently “cutting out the middle man” and saving customers lots of money. Unfortunately, that led PC manufacturers into a race to the bottom on price that ended-up being a dead-end for everyone. Today, Dell stands for nothing in particular, and its performance reflects it. Passion around pricing rarely works out well.

On the other hand, Rackspace is a billion dollar company with mojo to spare. Their passion is fanatical support and their customers are as fanatical about Rackspace as Rackspace is about support. Where do the passions overlap? Rackspace is completely dedicated to keeping small businesses up and running, and small businesses who are passionate about keeping their businesses up and running, appreciate it. Rackspace is a true partner in their customers’ success in a very meaningful way.

Simon Sinek has made a career of helping companies find their mojo — their inspired “reason for being” that makes people want to be part of their tribe. You can watch his TED presentation below. It’s worth a look.

Importantly, your passion can’t be random, calculated, or opportunistic. It has to align with:

1. What you actually believe.
2. What you can actually deliver over the long-term.
3. What a sizable number of people actually care about.

The price of entry, of course, is that you need to execute brilliantly on your communication and delivery. Addressing these in reverse order, delivery depends on how well you serve-up the customer experience — a discussion for another day. Communication depends on a value proposition that aligns the two passions. According to Sinek, here’s how Apple approaches it:

 

Company Passion Fan Passion
Why In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. “That’s me. That’s how I feel! I believe things can be better.”
How The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. “These guys have integrity. They walk the walk.”
What We just happen to make great computers and music players and tablets and…. “I want to be part of this.”

 

Note that the response of the Fan in the lower right corner of the table above wasn’t “I want to buy this”. I want to buy this are the words of a buyer. I want to be part of this are the words of a fan. Not surprisingly, according to a great study by Infoquest, fans contribute 2.6 times the revenue of “somewhat satisfied customers” and 14 times the revenue of “somewhat dissatisfied customers”. It pays to align.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “my company is in a boring space — that kind of passion alignment just couldn’t happen here”. If so, you should be hearing alarm bells going off somewhere in the background. Any space that is boring is ripe for disruption. Hosting was not a sexy business. Rackspace made it so. Car rental was definitely not a sexy space. Zipcar disrupted the heck out of it.

Ironically, the notion of creating fans out of your customers is often an afterthought in marketing. The focus has long been to get prospects in the door, convert them to a sale, and head back out again to find some more. If you’ve ever flirted with the idea that your company should be more like Apple (and who hasn’t?), you might want to start by talking to your existing customers to see if you even have fans, thinking about whether your industry could do with a dose of disruption, and digging deep to find where your passions and those of your best customers might line-up.

A good discussion-starter is Simon’s TED presentation:

 

 

About Drew Williams

My name is Drew Williams. I’m an author and marketing entrepreneur. “A what?”, you say. I call someone who’s passionate about building businesses a marketing entrepreneur. So that’s me. Full Profile | Google+

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