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How to Build a Loyal Following

Despite predictions, Apple breaks its own sales record once again. Here, Inc. columnists give you insights on how you can replicate that success in your own business.

The More, the Merrier: Long lines for Apple's new releases are good news for Sena Cases.

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Most everyone who questioned Apple's post-Jobs capability was silenced this weekend. Despite the 33 percent drop in the stock price this year, the public demonstrated its love for Apple products with a record-smashing 9 million sales of iPhones this weekend. This is pretty amazing considering there were minimal changes in technology. What's more, everyone knows that six months from now Apple will release another product that will improve upon the last. Yet millions worldwide act as if this is the last cool product that will ever exist, lining up to be first, even though in a few months they won't have to wait.

There are marketing lessons to be learned here. For one thing, Apple goes to great lengths to add mystery and scarcity to its launches.  It's a very different approach than companies that overhype their products only to show up late and disappoint. Apple's fans now actually create the buzz and press that allows the company to act like the Willy Wonka of the tech world. Understate with a sense of intrigue and you are much more likely to attract attention and delight.

Here are more great takeaways from my fellow columnists:

1. Focus on Simplicity, Quality and Consistency

As a professed fanboy, I'll be the first to admit that I totally buy into the magic that is Apple. That said, it's not hype that keeps people coming back to Apple products time and time again. It's a focus on three key factors: simplicity, quality and consistency.

Every Apple product is simple in form, function and beautiful design. Each product is high quality, and Apple delivers consistently with each upgrade. Even when a new version is only incrementally better, customers know they can count on these three things. And that delivers sales. Dave Kerpen--Likeable Leadership

Want to read more from Dave? Click here.

2. Attach Status to Buying

Apple taps into consumer behavior hardwired into many of us: we want to be the "first" with a new product. This desire is a strong consumer driver and few brands speak to it as well as Apple does. People want the opportunity to own something first--especially if it means others will have to wait. This is both an advantage and a potential Achilles heel for Apple. They must continue creating truly innovative products that are worthy of "limited availability" and "first to own" bragging rights.

Any company can tap into this "first to try" desire, and every restaurant that opens in my area does, even with the most minimal advertising. Lines form and people wait for hours, even though the restaurant will certainly be there and much easier to get into a few weeks later.  But a few weeks later, everyone's already tried the restaurant and it's hardly worth a mention when chatting with your neighbors at the PTA meeting. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

3. Make It About the Experience

It's tempting to laugh at Apple fans waiting hours to get a gadget a week before everyone else. But to laugh is to miss the point. Apple's products are revered and its launches are events because of the company's obsessive attention to design, simplicity and customer experience. This isn't only in its devices--it is also true for the stores where they're sold and even the boxes they come in. Bring the same attention to your own products and user experience, and you'll wind up with customers as loyal as Apple's. But you can't take shortcuts or focus on maximizing profits. The devotion to quality must be real. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.

4. Please Your Customer

Apple sells a lifestyle as well as a superior product--anticipation of the next release while standing in long lines adds to the allure and excitement. But what that really means is that a very specific consumer knows and trusts them, and Apple focuses on only those individuals. Don't try to appeal to the masses; you can't please everyone. But you can please your niche market--the customer you know as well as you know yourself. Identify that niche market and place the emphasis on making them happy. Not just any company can replicate Apple's magic, but your unique signature can generate loyalty and year's worth of repeat business. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

5. Exceed Fan Expectations

The secret to creating products that have buzz on the level of Apple's iPhone is to create raving fans--the core group of people who absolutely love your products, love your company and love you. In his book Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard offered three ways to accomplish this: (1) First decide what you want, then (2) Discover what the customer wants, and finally (3) Deliver plus one--that is, always deliver, and always deliver a little extra each time. Consistency creates credibility, and the extra one percent of magic creates raving fans--and buzz that just doesn't quit. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here

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IMAGE: Flickr/Ed Yourdon
Last updated: Sep 25, 2013

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An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, KEVIN DAUM is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York.
@awesomeroar




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