Modern Small Business Marketing Plan (And How Steve Jobs Used It At Apple)

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Today I want to share a framework that can help you build a marketing engine for your business. But first, I have to talk about something that happened in 1997.

It was January 1997. The venue is the MacWorld conference. That was the first big public appearance Steve Jobs made after he returned to Apple.

He had inherited a company that he founded, but in a rather bad shape business wise. Sales had declined 30 percent the last quarter of the previous year. Microsoft had gained market share. The brand name had taken a beating. And Jobs had some serious work to do. So he got to work.

He looked at the company’s endless list of products. And he called for his top managers, showed them the product list, and asked them one question:

"Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?"

And when he got a long winding answer, Jobs spotted the first problem. He then decided to cut the number of Apple products by 70 percent. Instead of bragging about the number of products, he decided to shift the focus to something else.

Think Different Campaign

That was the campaign that caught the world’s attention. It helped relaunch Apple. With an increased focus on Apple’s values and purpose. And then you know what happened...

iTunes, iPod, iPad, the iPhone. The rest is history.

Instead of thinking of competition as enemies, Jobs decided to partner with them. In fact, it was the $150 million partnership with Microsoft that infused fresh life back into Apple when Jobs got back.

He made friends in the music industry with iTunes. This is not an episode about Apple or Steve Jobs. But instead, it’s about what and how Steve Jobs transformed a fast dwindling business.

It’s what Jobs did at Apple that got companies like Forbes calling him A Marketing Genius.

But what does it mean to be a marketing genius?

The answer to the question lies in the plan and strategy Jobs used to turnaround Apple.

If you carefully looked at every action he took, you will start to see a framework. I call it the MMMA framework to marketing.

The MMMA Framework

MMMA stands for the Market, Message, Monetization, and Affinity. And these are the four key levers of any business. If you turn these levers the right way, you progress. When even one of them is ignored, your business will start to go down.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, many Apple employees lost their jobs. But that was done for a reason. It was not cost-cutting. The Think Different campaign was the culmination of turning these four levers. Let’s look at each of these four levers closely.

Lever #1: The Market

The first lever is the Market. In simple terms, how well do you understand your market?

By asking the question "Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?," Jobs made a very important point. That if you aren’t sure who your market is, you don’t have a business.

Just to give you some context, at that point in time, Apple manufactured products for many markets...

For example, they made the Newton, a Personal Digital Assistant. They made computer displays, Macintosh Server, printers, speakers, the Apple Quick Take cameras, Apple PowerCD cd player, the list was endless.

So that’s what you do when you decide to focus on understanding your market and decide to serve that market. Instead of serving all kinds of customers, Jobs decided to serve only those who valued design and innovation. The creators.

The next is Messaging.

Lever #2: Messaging

Once you understand your Market, it’s the Messaging that you use to connect back with them. In order to get someone’s attention, you got to know something about them. Their name, for starters. Or perhaps where they live or hang out. Or what they like.

And only when I get to know them with any of these details, can I send them a message and get their attention. The ‘Think Different’ ad was one of many different ways Apple coined its message to its market. But it didn’t end there.

That’s because ‘Think Different’ was not just a slogan. It was a marketing campaign. And it was not complete without the rest of the company aligning to deliver on the promise.

And that brings us to the third M in the MMMA framework.

That’s Monetization.

Lever #3: Monetization

Imagine what would’ve happened had Steve Jobs decided to do the ads, but not delivered the products and services. While Apple put out a message that they stood for design and innovation, it was also important they delivered the goods.

Creating products, services, and offers that your market will pay for. And Apple did just that, starting with Macbook Air, the iPod, iTunes, and everything else that followed.

Their messaging has ever since been consistent, with a focus on design, innovation, and creators. That’s the third key element in the MMMA framework. Monetization.

And that brings us to the final element of the MMMA framework.

Alliances and associations.

Lever #4: Alliances and Associations

It’s the relationships we form with people that buy our products, that we make our products with. And Steve Jobs did that really well too.

Be it partnering with companies like Microsoft, or forging alliances with independent music artists, or with developers and customers. Jobs knew that the marketing was never complete without forging these alliances and nurturing these relationships.

And that’s what you need to do with your business too.

That brings us one full circle with the MMMA Framework for marketing.

So what did we talk about today.

  1. First, we started with the example of how Steve Jobs used the MMMA framework to turnaround Apple.
  2. Then I walked you through the key elements of the MMMA framework.
  3. The first M is the Market. It’s important that we always stay on top of the market, understand it really well. Because without understanding the market really well, it’s impossible for us to create value in the long run.
  4. The second M is the Message. Learning to use the right language to communicate with the Market is as important (or more) as understanding the Market.
  5. When you have nailed your message, it shows up everywhere. On your website, ads you run, marketing collaterals, your emails, talks you give at conferences. Everywhere.
  6. The third M is Monetization. And that’s not just about making money, but what we create to make money. The more specific and intentional we are about our Market, we can create products, services, or experiences that clearly echo our understanding of the Market and the Messaging. And that’s why when you own an Apple product, you feel different.
  7. The final key element in the MMMA framework is Alliances. Despite everything else that you do, it’s the Alliances you form that help you run the home stretch. Jobs couldn’t have turned around Apple but for these alliances. Even today, Apple is known for the alliances they have with their partners.
  8. For small businesses, it comes down to the relationships you have with customers. The emails you send. And the businesses you partner with.

That brings us to the end of today’s episode.

How do you plan to implement the MMMA framework for your business?

For starters, you should consider downloading the 90-Day Marketing Plan. The link should be in the show notes. It’s designyourthinking.com/plan.

Download the Launch Plan Workbook:


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