We all have a pretty good idea of how successful the Apple Corporation is. We’ve seen enough MacBooks in Hollywood movies, heard about massive lines at the latest Apple Store opening in the area, seen monuments and murals dedicated to the memory of the company’s visionary founder. But what does any of that have to do with actual success as a business?
That is, actually putting products in people’s hands, providing solutions to problems, and getting those customers to come back for more. Sure, it’s got something to do with the thought leadership of Steve Jobs, and it’s got a lot to do with how well the products work, but that’s only part of the equation. So, what makes the Apple Store the most profitable retailer in the country?
Here are 10 factors that helped the company get to the top – each a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur:
1. Find the Right Team
If you’ve ever been in an Apple Store, you know it’s home to some of the best service around, but even more noticeable is how friendly all of the employees are. Apple makes a point to hire people for their winning personalities, not just the skills listed on their résumé. An enjoyable experience isn’t accomplished with technical know-how (though it helps) – it’s created by warm, awesome people that make your customers feel welcome and appreciated.
2. Keep It Clean
Clutter makes people uncomfortable, plain and simple. Apple has made sleek simplicity part of their brand, and you can see it reflected in the design of their computers and mobile devices, the interface of their software products, and even the layout of their stores. You may notice that there aren’t exposed cables or posters on the walls. The open spaces and “clean” appearance helps keep people relaxed, happier and more likely to enjoy their time in the store. And that better experience helps create a lasting impression that can transform into lifelong loyalty.
3. Put People Before Stuff
When the Apple Store launched, growing market share wasn’t even on the priority list. Instead, the guiding question was, “How can we enrich people’s lives?” (That’s right, it’s “The Growth Factor question” in full effect!)
See, it wasn’t about selling stuff – that’s just the means to an end. Opening the store was about helping people. And it works!
When you put people first, they can tell. And when they don’t feel like you’re trying to shove products in their hands and shoo them out the door, let’s just say it makes a big difference in where they want to spend their time – and money.
4. Stick to Principles
The whole idea of “enriching lives” is a pretty big deal to Apple, to the point where employees of Apple Stores are encouraged to carry a credo card with them to remind them of this dedication to the people. And dedicated they are — building play rooms for customers’ kids, the Genius Bar, even having their salespeople NOT working for commission (so they’re focused on the customer, not the sale) – these are all examples of simply making the experience better at every turn.
5. Empower Employees
Experience first. That’s what Apple Store employees are told from the get-go. If the customer wants to chat about something other than computers, no problem! If the employee can help a customer make a better choice (even if it’s the less expensive option), they’re encouraged to. Beyond those little freedoms to make the customer’s time in the store more enjoyable, Apple Store employees (as well as other Apple employees) are encouraged to be creative at every turn, providing a tailored experience for the needs of each individual customer.
6. Encourage Interaction
When you walk into an Apple Store, everything’s turned on, online and ready to be explored. In fact, store visitors are encouraged to use the display models to their heart’s content – no one will tell them to stop! The screens are even positioned in a way that people have to touch them to adjust for use. When working one-on-one, employees will have the customer do the interacting with the device. The “hands-on” component helps customers get the feel for owning an Apple product, but completely on their own terms.
7. Create a Realistic Workforce
In a time when some other companies might be trying to maintain a façade, Apple wants to employ “real” people.
That means there’s really no such thing as a “typical” Apple employee – they come from all walks of life, different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Tattoos don’t matter, gender doesn’t matter, age doesn’t matter — it’s all about having the right attitude.
For customers, this subtly lets them know that they don’t have to fit into a certain mold to join the Apple family – they see firsthand that all types of people are welcome!
8. Focus on the Benefit
This is that classic “sell the sizzle” approach. Instead of focusing on features, Apple sales specialists focus on the benefits the products provide. Their purpose is to understand your needs, and show you how they can solve the problem. The actual equipment is secondary and the specifics don’t really matter – what matters is that the customers see exactly how their lives can be improved.
9. Provide a Code of Service
This one’s simple:
A – Approach with a customized, warm greeting.
P – Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs.
P – Present a solution the customer can take home today.
L – Listen for and address unanswered questions.
E – End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
10. Empower The Customer
For a $99 annual membership fee, customers can enroll in Apple’s One to One program for personalized instruction through Apple Store teachers called “creatives.”
Whatever the customer wants to learn, the creative will teach. And the more familiar the customers are with their devices, the more personally valuable those devices become.
Through the Apple Store alone, the computing giant has completely redefined what customers can expect from salespeople. Apple has effectively created an enjoyable, informative experience out of something that used to be… let’s face it, a confusing hassle.
What ways can you incorporate these principles and strategies into your business?
This post was originally featured on the Predictable Profits blog here.
Charles E. Gaudet II is a leading marketing consultant and speaker providing advanced marketing strategies to small business owners. He’s the author of “The Predictable Profits Playbook.” His advice appears in worldwide media including Forbes, Inc. and Fox Business. Follow him on Twitter @CharlesGaudet or at his blog at http://www.PredictableProfits.com.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.