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Product management – six lessons from Apple

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Product management can be the difference between a product’s success and its failure. In the US, for example, 30,000 new products are launched each year. Of these, 90 per cent fail. When faced with such odds, a business needs to take the product back to the drawing board and determine what makes it, and its prospective market, tick.

Product management is aimed at gauging the marketplace’s needs and wants and refining a product to suit. Essentially, it encompasses all marketing activities before the product is released.

When big businesses have entire divisions and a product manager or 10 dedicated to the task, it can be difficult to compete. In this case, it is best to look to a market leader to develop you own set of standards.

Take Apple, for example. The tech-giant reported US$3.38 billion net profit for the fiscal 2010 first quarter, ending 26 December 2009. What’s more, only three months after releasing its iPad product, it reported selling over three million units. Clearly, Apple are doing something right. But what?

Here are six of Apple’s tips for product management success:

1. Identify your unique point of difference

The iPod was by no means the first mp3 player introduced to the consumer. It was, however, the first that had the means to create a monopoly on the market. The product was simple – functionality and portability with a sleek design and interface. Other players, such as Creative’s Zen and Microsoft’s Zune, could not gain significant market share as they had no unique point of difference.

To ensure a product is well-received, the key is differentiation. Is your product something new and different, something to fill a niche or improve upon already present products, or is it going to drown in an already saturated marketplace?

2. Functionality first, design close second…

What sets Apple products apart from the rest, other than the ever-present logo, is its design. Unlike its chunky-black competitors, Apple focuses on streamlined, minimalist design. The white shell of the original iPod, for example, looked like technology stolen from the Death Star, and only further accentuated Apple’s futuristic appeal.

3. Market the lifestyle, not the product

The iPod earphones are unique in their own right – white, simple and streamlined. Steve Chazin, consumer marketing expert, says that their design is not by default.

“They are a pure Apple marketing trick designed to make the visible part of their product a status symbol. Wear white headphones and you are a member of the club,” he says.  

All of Apple’s marketing activities hinge upon this ‘us vs. them’ ideology. Consider ways you can get your consumers to buy into your brand.

4. Create with intent

Remember how it used to feel unwrapping presents on Christmas morning? Apple mimics this by creating packaging that inspires excitement in the consumer, making the unwrapping as much of an experience as its use.

Every aspect of the product should be well-thought out and designed with intent.

5. Focusing on a brand instead of segmented products

iPhone, iPod, iBook, iTunes. Noticing a trend here? Linking everything with ‘i’ created a synchronicity between Apple products.

Take a look at your stable of products. Could you synchronise these with your brand?

“Brands generally return better profits because they’re less sensitive to price undercutting,” says Eugene Rea, principal of the Elevate Group. “They achieve a level of awareness and customer loyalty.”

6. A thoughtful process

Snatch a branch from the Apple tree and turn customers into clients. If a product or service isn’t selling, consider recalling, investigating and evolving it rather than trying to hock it harder. Though more expensive, it is an investment that will reap rewards in the long-term. A customer’s want of a product is only as strong as your process of product management.

So, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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