Close Close

Technology > Marketing Technology

Steve Jobs, The Cult of Apple and Creating Raving Fans

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve Jobs, the founder and former CEO of Apple, died Oct. 5, 2011 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer and complications associated with that illness. Jobs played a seminal role in the consumerization of technology, ushering in the personal computer (Macs), mp3 players (iPods), smartphones (iPhones) and tablets (iPads) to the masses.

He also pushed digital animation into the mainstream when he acquired Pixar in 1986 from George Lucas for $5 million. He invested another $5 million into nurturing the fledgling movie studio and would sell it to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion.

To be at the forefront of just one of those technical innovations is a monumental achievement; to ping pong from personal computing to animation to the digital music revolution to mobile computing is staggering to comprehend.

As we’ve all seen in this past decade in particular, the tectonic shifts in technology are hurtling past us at supersonic speeds. Blink and you get left behind. Most technology companies rely heavily on consumer surveys and consumer data. While Apple is not immune to being a slave to analytics, Jobs, more than other executives, relied on his instincts.

At times, he drove employees to tears with his outbursts and obsession with perfection, but there was a grand design to the genius: He truly believed he knew better than consumers what they actually needed—before they actually knew they needed it.

In 2005, roughly a year after Jobs was diagnosed with cancer, he gave what some have called the Gettysburg Address of commencement speeches where he touched on his own mortality and gave insight to his inner drive.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

We were blessed to have Jobs, warts and all, among us for another six years. His genius and drive will be missed.

Senior Market Advisor editor Daniel Williams wrote the following blog on “The cult of Apple and creating raving fans” on Oct. 4, 2011, after the Cupertino, Calif.-based company announced its new smartphone, the iPhone 4S.]

Nearly 20 years ago, while I was finishing up in business school, one of my professors handed me a book by Ken Blanchard titled Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service.

As with all of Blanchard’s books, it’s based on simple, commonsense principles. In this case, it’s directed at getting your clients to not only remain with you and be satisfied with your level of customer service, but to rave about you to others (think referrals and growing your business exponentially).

Amazingly, when I looked up Raving Fans at, the book is still ranked #1 in the customer service category. So I guess that commonsense approach continues to hold true today.

What also holds true is the idea of keeping things simple. When I think of companies today that are at the top of their game, who keep it simple and cultivate a rabid fan base, the first one that comes to mind is Apple.

On Oct. 4, a day some Apple fanatics think of as Black Tuesday., the Cupertino-based company announced its latest iPhone iteration—and it wasn’t the mythological iPhone 5. Instead, Apple will release the iPhone 4S on Oct. 14.

To the techies of the world “It’s the same old phone with some souped-up innards,” as one depressed “Apple fanboy” surmised on a tech message board. To most non-techies like me—who considers programming the ever-complicated microwave to heat up hot cocoa at bedtime an act of computer coding—the new iPhone is pretty sweet and I’ll be lining up around the nearest Apple Store to get one.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I’ll step out of the closet and let it be known if you can’t already tell: I own Apple products. I own an iPhone, iPad, Macbook, multiple iPods and two Apple TVs. And I don’t want to get into the books, music, movies, TV shows and apps I consume through the iTunes, iBooks and App stores.

The point is Apple has me hook, line and sinker. I am too low-tech and too old to consider myself an “Apple fanboy,” but I like the simplicity of the products and the Apple ecosystem.

I like to keep things simple. When I use technology, I pretty much want the gadget to do all the heavy lifting for me. I don’t even want to read an instruction manual.

When I take a gizmo out of the box, what I want to see happen is that “it just works,” as former Apple CEO Steve Jobs has often said.

So before you meet with your clients today ask yourself two questions: 1) are you keeping it simple? Are you talking in terms that a retiree who doesn’t have a CFP or CPA can understand? 2) Will your advice, customer service and client appreciation program create a raving fan?

If the answer to either question is no, then look at what you can do to simplify your message. Also, remember clients on special occasions like birthdays and holidays and make any adjustments you need to make those clients sing your praises.

If you need any additional help, I’m sure there’s an app for that.