On May 2, 2018, Apple became the first company to reach $1 trillion in stock market value. This is a massive accomplishment and a historic milestone; Apple has become the world’s most valuable company and has been widely influential in many industries, from technology to music to movies. But what are some lessons that even small businesses or solo entrepreneurs can take away from Apple’s latest success? The truth is, there are certain components to Apple’s massive growth and dominance that any business can learn from.
Here are a few of the key lessons from the success of the world’s first trillion-dollar company:
1. Innovation is an ideal.
Apple has become an iconic company because of their culture of innovation. Starting with Steve Jobs and his visionary strategies for the company, and the “Think Different” ad campaigns, Apple sought to identify itself as being a company for iconoclasts and people who aren’t afraid to defy the conventional wisdom. Every company nowadays wants to think of itself as an innovative company with the restless ambition and scrappy culture of a tech startup. Apple helped to popularize these concepts and create this new ideal for corporate America.
Of course, not every company can invent the next iPhone, but what if you could bring some of the spirit of Apple’s innovation into your own business? Re-imagine your existing processes, take a risk on a new product, challenge your employees to be artists in residence, not just workers on an assembly line. If Apple can inspire lots of other companies to be more creatively ambitious, that will be a good thing for the world.
2. Design matters more than ever.
Starting with its candy-colored iMac computers, Apple has built a reputation not just as a tech company, but as a designer of sleek, beautiful consumer products. One lesson from Apple’s success is that aesthetics are valuable. People want to buy stuff that works well and that makes them look good. People pay a premium for Apple products not just for the technology, but for the design — and the design touches on every stage of the customer relationship with Apple, from buying on the website to walking into an Apple store to opening the box at home.
How can you make your company a more design-oriented business? Today, we are all in the business of creating memorable and valuable customer experiences, no matter what industry you’re in. If you’re not offering a well-designed, carefully curated customer experience, your customers might go with a cheaper competitor or a commodity alternative.
3. Build emotional connections with the customer.
Apple buyers are notoriously loyal, and not just because they’re trapped by contracts and by Apple’s occasionally criticized strategy of “planned obsolescence.” People tend to keep buying Apple products again and again because they like the way they work, and they like the way they feel. They have a strong emotional connection with Apple that goes beyond other gadgets or devices. In the same way, your business can create a stronger emotional bond with your customers. What do you do better than anyone else? What is unique about the experience of working with you or buying from you? How can you deliberately encourage people to keep coming back for repeat purchases? Apple does it, and so can you.
4. Speak to your customer’s higher value needs.
People pay a premium for Apple products because they’re sexy and elegant and make people feel like more productive, better versions of themselves. As Scott Galloway describes in his book The Four, Apple has become synonymous with sexiness, with creative life force. People will pay more for higher-level needs — not just mere survival like food and drink, but elevated needs like “the need to be loved, the need to be desired, the need to be educated and self-actualized.”
Make sure you’re creating a premium experience so you can charge a premium price. Re-think the value proposition of your products and services. Can you position your offerings differently so that they speak to people’s core fundamental emotional needs? What is the real reason people are buying from you? Can you change your marketing in such a way that it makes your product stand out as “the sexy option” in your category? Even if you’re not in a “sexy” industry, what can you do to be “the Apple” of your industry?
Just like Apple didn’t make it to $1 trillion overnight, becoming more like Apple doesn’t just happen. You have to decide to pursue this as a strategy and then back it up with smart marketing and product design. Find the elements of Apple’s success that work for your company and make sense for your customers. By being more innovative, focusing on design — not just product design, but customer experience design — building stronger emotional relationships with your customers, and speaking to your customer’s higher value needs, you can achieve great things.