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Lessons Internet marketers can take from Apple’s Steve Jobs

He was born Steven Paul Jobs on Feb 24, 1955 in San Francisco, CA. The world would know him better as “Steve Jobs”. To the Apple faithful, he would be like a god to them, but that image was broken when he died on Oct 5, 2011, aged 56, having lost his long-running battle with pancreatic cancer.

Some will be fixated with Forbes’ estimate that Jobs’ net wealth was $8.3 billion in 2010, making him the 42nd wealthiest American. They’ll probably see the glowing success of the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMacs and neglect to see the failures Jobs encountered along the way. That could be a major mistake because it’s only in failures that lessons can be learned, especially for Internet marketers.

Jobs was an astute businessman, in an early episode with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, the book iCon recounts:

Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnell (who later founded the Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant chain). Bushnell asked Jobs to figure out a design for the game Break-Out, where players would use a Pong-like paddle to smash a wall of bricks. Unbeknownst to Bushnell or Alcorn, Jobs turned around and made a deal with Woz: Do the coding, and Jobs would split the $600 completion fee with him. Woz did the work, and Jobs got his money and gave Woz $300—his “half.” Problem was, Jobs got $1,000 as his fee. Woz didn’t find out about Jobs’s lie until a year later, according to iCon, the 2005 book by Young and William L. Simon. When he did find out, he was so hurt he cried.

The lesson is that if you own a business, you need to run it astutely. I most would consider Jobs to be charismatic and project an aura. Not as many would call him a nice guy.

His desire for getting things right played a large part in his success. In the same way that successful marketers will continually strive to get something right so that their business ran correctly. As some would say, “If you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll get what you’re supposed to get”.

Here’s an insight into Jobs’ quest for perfection from iCon;

Jobs wanted the next computer to be something different—an appliance, something anyone could use. That was the Apple II, which came out a year after the Apple I. He hammered at his message as the company grew: Computers should be tools. Trip Hawkins, one of Apple’s first 50 employees, remembers Jobs obsessing over an article he’d read in a science magazine about the locomotive efficiency of animal species. “The most efficient species was the condor, which could fly for miles on only a few calories,” Hawkins says. “Humans were way down the list. But then if you put a man on a bicycle, he was instantly twice as efficient as the condor.” The computer, Jobs said, was a “bicycle for the mind.”

Jobs had another message: These tools had to be beautiful. The Apple II did look great, for then: It had a case and keyboard and fit easily on a desk. Jobs’s aesthetic suffused everything, even the circuit boards. He insisted the circuits be redone to make the lines straighter.

And just in case you mistakenly associated Apple’s touchy-feel human-friendly products with the personality of it’s founder, here’s a reality check:

At Apple, Jobs inspired without inspiring much love. “He’d stop by and say, ‘This is a pile of shit’ or ‘This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen,’” Andy Hertzfeld, who helped develop the Macintosh, told Moritz. “The scary thing was that he’d say it about the same thing.” The people at Apple had a name for that behavior, too: “the shithead-hero roller coaster.” Guy Kawasaki, another early employee who was assigned to recruit outside developers to write software for the new machine, said Jobs once came by his cubicle with an executive Kawasaki didn’t recognize. Jobs asked for Kawasaki’s opinion about some third-party company’s software. Kawasaki replied that he didn’t think it was very good. “And Steve turns to the guy and he says, ‘See, that’s what we think about your product,’” Kawasaki says, laughing. The stranger was the third-party company’s chief executive officer. “I’m sure the CEO did not expect to get ripped like that.”

Lesson: If you want to get what you want, you need to do whatever it takes. This means working on your PPV, PPC, SEO campaign till you get what you are shooting for. It means working on it on weekends, holidays till you get it right. Closing shop at 5pm every day is just asking for trouble.

Despite all that hard work though,

The board told Sculley he had to act. In April he relieved Jobs of day-to-day duties and made him vice-chairman. Then Jobs lost that title, too. At 30, he lost the thing that most mattered to him. “I didn’t see it then,” he would say in 2005, “but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.”

So even if you start a company, there’s no guarantee that you won’t be kicked out. Though Jobs’ managed to turn it into an opportunity:

After losing a power struggle with the board of directors in 1985, Jobs resigned from Apple and founded NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in the higher-education and business markets. Apple’s subsequent 1996 buyout of NeXT brought Jobs back to the company he co-founded, and he served as its CEO from 1997 until August 2011.

Although Next was touted to be the next big thing in computers, Jobs’ struggled to find buyers for his $9,999 computers. He poured $7 million of his own money into the company and it nearly went bust. Funded by VC money, the company continued to chug along.

It was only after a turn of events that Next was acquired by Apple in 1996 for $429 million.

In case you’re wondering, parts of the NextStep operating system formed the foundation of Mac OS X, which were a crucial part of Jobs’ iMacs after he rejoined Apple.

Also, Next’s WebObjects, an object-oriented software platform, would power the Apple Store, iTunes and the MobileMe services.

Lesson: Smart entrepreneurs will learn to reuse, recycle, repurpose tools and intellectual property from previous projects. If you’re an enterprising marketer, this won’t be news to you.

While Jobs was involved with Next, he also acquired the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm for $10 million. The company, which would later be renamed Pixar, first tried to sell the Pixar Image Computer, but failed. After years of unprofitability, the company would contract with Disney to produce animated films, the first of which was Toy Story and the rest is history, with hits like A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and the Incredibles following.

If you think running a business with “years of unprofitability” to its name is a good thing, you’re probably an optimist, but might not do well running a company. Being able to adapt Pixar’s business model not only ensure its survival, but brought it to a whole new level of profitability.

And Apple was not without it’s failures too. It’s attempt to launch a tablet computer-type device through it’s Newton subsidiary was a pretty big failure. Placed side by side, you can see some similarities between the Apple Newton MessagePad and today’s iPad.

Lesson: Expect failure no matter how smart or good you think you might be. Picking yourself up is a test of whether you’re capable of getting to where you want to be.

18 comments on Lessons Internet marketers can take from Apple’s Steve Jobs

  1. Gary Riding
    October 8, 2011 at 9:24 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi Andrew!

    Steve Jobs is not just a lost to Apple but a lost to technology. I just hope that his successor is as good as Jobs.

  2. Cyanne Campbell
    October 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm (4 years ago)

    Wonderful lessons from Jobs. Good to see what you are focusing on the more positive side of this. Whilst it is a tragic thing to happen, we should also be celebrating all the amazing advances he has brought to our world. I like what he said, ” Drive to do great things.” We all can achieve wonders and we can master everything we want, so why not be great and achieve great things in life? After all, life is short. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Louis Vuitton
    October 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm (4 years ago)

    This blog is very good you really like me

  4. Thomas Hoi
    December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm (4 years ago)


    Thanks for this great post. It’s true that as an entrepreneur, the fastest way to learn is to fail fast, then learn from it and come out with your own winning formula.

    Too many people are looking for the “magic bullet” to instant success and wonders why they can never find it.

  5. Kent
    July 9, 2012 at 8:05 pm (3 years ago)

    One of the greatest thing we can learn from Steve Job for SEO is creativity. SEO needs creativity when comes to link building and creating content.

    Information is overload, if we don’t know how to differentiate our SEO strategy with others, it is very tough for us to overcome our competitors.

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