What the rest of us can learn from Apple

Belief in your product or service, and passion for them, are big assets for any company. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

The opening of Australia’s first Apple Store in Sydney last week attracted a surprising amount of attention given this is their 215th outlet. Much of this was down to excellent media management, but there’s more than a few just canny PR tricks that other businesses can learn from them.

The first lesson is to trust and entice the public to engage with you. The store’s bright airy atmosphere showcases the stock to passers buy and invites them in. Once in, the stock is well laid out and you can play with the merchandise without being scolded or hassled by a salesperson.

Far from hassling customers, the specialists, as they call the floor staff, are understated, well trained and not driven by commission like at other computer stores. Training and trusting your staff and allowing them to focus beyond the short term sale is another lesson many of us can learn.

This level of investment in service comes at a cost though, you simply cannot do this if you are trying to sell at the cheapest possible cost. I’ve always believed the fast moving consumer goods model of “stack ‘em and high sell ‘em cheap” is flawed in technology markets.

Chasing market share at the expense of quality, service and, most importantly, margin is simply flawed in many markets. In technology it’s suicidal.

A good example is NEC, which grabbed market share early this decade for its Packard Bell brand of computers by offering cheap units at the cheapest prices. To make the problem worse it offered fat commissions to the dealers, which further eroded their margins.

In the end, NEC abandoned both the brand and the market. Dell had a similar nasty experience over the same period for the same reasons and is now working hard to recover from the damage to the brand.

The technology industries have made a serious mistake over the years by conditioning customers to buy only on price. On the internet it’s worse as the widespread belief is that everything should be free. Apple shows this need not be the case.

While chasing market share at the expense of longer term business aims is a big problem in the tech sector, it’s a not only the techies that fall into this trap – we see this happening in many other industries. Often too much attention is paid to sales and not enough to the profit on those sales.

Even margins though shouldn’t be the only benchmark. When talking to the Apple staff, from the specialists in the Apple store floor to their senior people from the US, you’re struck by the passion and belief they have in their product.

That’s probably the biggest personal lesson we can all learn from Apple; the biggest asset is a belief in your product and passion for what you do. When you lose that passion and belief, it’s time to reinvent yourself.


Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator. For the last 10 years he has been the resident computer expert on ABC Local Radio and has written five computer books. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.

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