Fly To Quality

by Randy Murray on November 4, 2009

I’m glad the economic news is improving, but from what I can tell by talking to business owners and people looking for full time employment, there’s a long way to go. This morning, a small business owner told me that he’s receiving around 400 resumes for each open position. And he’s having people offer to work for free to prove themselves. That sounds like a very long way to go before we’re fully recovered, if we ever do. Welcome to the new economy.

And it may be some time before both businesses and consumers return to significant levels of spending. I’m thinking decades. Seriously. The dramatic reduction in business spending and the shocking number of business failures over the last year has created a new awareness of the importance of cash flow and a perhaps overly cautious attitude towards spending. That’s not going away overnight. But one of the bright spots in the economy shows a path for other businesses and individuals as well.

It’s Apple.*

If you were to disregard the stock price and look at Apple’s financial performance over the last two years you wouldn’t be able to tell we were in a recession at all. In fact, you’d see the opposite. It appears to confound the experts. They claim that Apple’s products are too expensive, aimed at an elite, with luxury items when what people should want is bargain basement basic items, if anything at all. But the exact opposite is true. While others, like Dell, have slashed prices and face declining revenue and tighter margins, Apple is stacking up record quarter after record quarter.  How are they doing that?

It’s quality.

Some think it might be marketing, but Apple spends significantly less than Dell does on advertising. Apple has done a brilliant job of creating a tightly integrated set of products of such quality that the users are drawn into considering their other offerings, regardless of lower priced alternatives. If you use an iPod and it’s time for a laptop, why not a Macbook? It’s time for a new phone - you’ve got to have an iPhone. Maybe a new iMac for home  use, to be the center of your media library. Each product cements the user closer to the brand. Cost is almost irrelevant, primarily because the experience is so good.

When you’ve got to cut costs, the initial price is no longer the only factor, it’s the cost over time, the lifetime of costs that businesses consider. If you have fewer people doing more work, their tools need to be reliable and powerful. You can no longer treat laptops as disposable. And who would you rather cut from your payroll: a front line revenue producer or the staff that keeps that producer’s PC running? The more of your staff actively engaged in creating revenue, the better. The less overhead, the better. That means quality, highly dependable tools. A slight increase in up front cost means nothing in exchange for a dramatic reduction in support cost.

What does that mean for you and your marketing message? You have to demonstrate, as Apple does, that your product or service not only meets customers’ base requirements, but your quality and service will reduce their costs. You have to demonstrate that this is true and make it clear to your customers.

If you’re not sure how your product or service does that, it’s time to stop and find out. This is a top priority for you. If it’s not true, you need to make it true. You can’t get by any longer by being “as good as.” You have to demonstrate how what you sell will mean a net savings for your customers. They’re not going to spend unless they’re sure. It’s your job to show them. All of your marketing messages need to be crystal clear on this. You’ll want to feature testimonials from your customers that carry the message of quality and value they’ve found with you, not just that they like your products or services. The payoff is an organization that not only can survive an economic downturn, but prosper.

*Full disclosure: I’m an Apple stockholder.

Fly To Quality by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steven Riddle November 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

Dear Randy,

Personal experience requires me to demur on the “quality” factor and have recourse to the “cool.” Which is really what makes people choose an iPhone over other equally capable machines. Apple produces cool stuff. My personal experience has not been the same as yours-I’ve had far more failures on everything I own the is Apple driven than my PC. Had iPod replaced twice and then gave up (drive failures in both before two months were out) same on laptop end.

But they are undeniably cool, and cool is where a lot of my attention is focused because I know that quality is a variable, individual thing. I know people who swear by Apple and those who swear at them.




Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: