Five ways Apple’s practices can help your business

Apple is getting a lot of press these days for its best-selling products, and rightly so. From iTunes to the iPhone to the iPad, the company is leading the pack.

Yet while I appreciate every neat device Steve Jobs and his folks create, as a businessperson I’m more impressed by the way they run the company. In area after area, Apple is demonstrating smart practices we’d all be wise to emulate. Here are five I really like:

1. Apple adapts rather than invents. We may think of the iPhone, iPod and iPad as breakthrough technologies, but Apple was not the first-to-market in cell phones, MP3 players or wireless tablets. Instead, it made its mark by recognizing potentially high-grossing categories that were filled with poorly executed products and creating devices that wowed users.

2. Apple lets others create new markets then it jumps in and exploits them. While Apple most surely is innovative, it doesn’t waste its money building new product markets; it lets others do the heavy and expensive lifting then jumps in to takes advantage. When I worked for a multi-million-dollar publishing company, our president had a favorite phrase that aptly describes this philosophy. We’d pitch ideas for creative and expensive-to-develop new projects. His response: “I’d rather be on the leading edge than the bleeding edge.”

3. Apple always seeks simplicity. Steve Jobs is renowned as the king of “no” for his famous penchant for rejecting needlessly complicated products. When his engineers attempt to add more features, buttons and capabilities, he shuts them down, recognizing that “more” usually confuses rather than inspires consumers.

4. Apple artfully plays the pricing game to maintain demand. Ben Kunz of Businessweek wrote a perceptive article on this last year in which he noted that when Apple launches a new product line, it first teases consumers with devices that are missing a feature or two (ex: a camera on the iPad). Then, when the company has sold millions of its first-generation devices and built interest, it adds those features, bumps up the price a bit and reaches a whole new audience with second-generation devices.

You could even argue that Apple’s recent move to sell iPhones through Verizon is an example of this philosophy. The company sold millions of phones through its AT&T deal; now it will sell millions more with many, no doubt, being bought by AT&T iPhone users who believe Verizon has better cell service.

5. Apple gets it right the first time. With the exception of its “oops” with the iPhone 4 antenna, Apple usually builds products that are artfully conceived, well engineered and thoroughly tested before they’re launched. That builds confidence in the Apple brand, and encourages consumers to buy when the company launches in a category such as mobile phones that we don’t expect based on its past products.

From careful spending, to creative marketing to customer service, it’s clear Apple sets the industry standard. I’m going to study the Apple way to see how I can adapt it to my business. How about you?

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