Factor in both works and words, and no executive in U.S. history lived as notable and quotable a career as Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died this week at age 56.
As well-earned tributes flow, along with “best of” articles on Jobs’ contributions to computing, connectivity, media and management, what might content marketers infer from 10 of Jobs’ most quoted observations on business, innovation and life?
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
Even the most prolific and accomplished content marketers will make mistakes now and then. Typos and bad line breaks creep into blog posts. Links are occasionally broken. That e-book we thought would light up the landing page proves woefully short on wattage.
We sweat the details and fret the mistakes — or at least we should. But ideally it’s the commitment to envision, then publish, that next added-value content asset, and then the next one, that overrides the occasional glitch in the minds of our communities.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
If content marketing were a race, tortoises would have the edge. Focus and consistency over time. Being multi-channel and integrated vs. going for the one blockbuster downloadable asset. More about regular blogging than writing a best seller. Continuously measuring, rethinking, improving.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
Listening is valuable and important. It should be part of content strategy. But the big wins and wows tend to come when marketers say: “We know this category. We understand these people, their businesses, their dreams and pain points. There’s an opportunity to change the game here. To create something they’ll find uniquely valuable.” That asset, that idea, doesn’t necessarily appear fully formed in customer surveys or sentiment analyses. More often is shows up while you’re singing in the shower, or riding the bus home from work.
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have… It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
Except in rare cases, there won’t be the money, staff or time to plan and execute exactly what we’d draw up on the white board. So you look at your budget, and all those tactics you’ve been investing in for years, and ask yourself: Can we start by shifting 20, 25 even 30 percent of our budget from what has been to what could be? If we always do what we’ve always done will we always get what we’ve always gotten? And then you identify a core team of passionistas — internal stakeholders or external partners — and start talking strategy, personas, channels and KPIs.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
And don’t waste time repurposing someone else’s content. Guest bloggers are great. Curating to help your audience stay abreast and make sense of relevant news and information is smart. But too many would-be content marketers assume the quick and cheap path is to slap their logo on a collection of previously published work, or rely on a content farm churning out articles for a nameless, faceless reader.
“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”
Sometimes it’s the tweet you dare not to send, or the “viral” video you choose not to post, that sustains the integrity of your content strategy. Or that skimpy blog post you elect to hold for further development, even though it’s Friday and the planning calendar says it’s time to keep cadence. If you’ve thought hard about your brand’s personality and value proposition, and have a clear vision for the audience personas that matter most to your business, way more often than not you’ll make the right call.
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
When it’s all said and done, do you want to have bested the direct mail control by half a percentage point? Found a clever way to put one over on those search-engine swifties over at Google? Or do you want to have attracted and engaged a business-critical audience — prospects, customers, employees, dealers, you choose — in ways no brand has dared try, much less accomplished?
“I want to put a ding in the universe.”
Imagine if every B-to-B marketer went to work looking to put a ding in their industry, never mind the universe. Can’t do it, you say? Easy for Steve Jobs, selling those cool consumer technologies. My product’s a commodity. I’ve got no say in R&D. There’s not enough budget. And besides, customers only care about price. Tell it to Rick Short. He’s making a ding over at Indium. His product? Something that operates deep and unappreciated inside all those devices Jobs and Apple are renowned for: Solder.
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently…”
Paul Gillin dares to declare that big ideas don’t have ROI, and he’s probably pretty much right. Sadly, most big content strategies don’t come gift wrapped in a spreadsheet of predictable lead volumes and revenue numbers. But what you know in your head, and your gut, tells you there’s this opportunity to do something special. And you know you can measure, course correct and evolve as you go. Planned smartly, executed well, it stands to reason ROI will come. But to get there, you might have to challenge yourself, your boss, your team, your clients, to see things differently.
“Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”
Likewise, if you keep putting relevant, value-adding content out in the market. Via your online channels, within social media, through your sales force, in your advertising and direct marketing. Exposed to great content consistently, over time, customers and potential customers will open their minds, hearts, browsers and office doors. Invite them to do that, and their wallets will open, too.
From an early Mac Plus owner, a movie buff and a content marketer, thanks, Steve Jobs, and the employees of Apple and Pixar, for your leadership, products and ideas.
What about you? As a marketer, as a business person, what inspiration do you take from the works and words of Steve Jobs? Comments welcome.