10 Marketing Tips Dell and HP Need to Take from Apple

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10 Marketing Tips Dell and HP Need to Take from Apple

by Don Reisinger

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Build Hype

Apple is a master at building hype for its products. Part of that is due to the company's legendary secrecy, but it's also partly due to the company's products. Apple realizes what consumers are looking for and it goes with it. And all the while, the corporate culture Steve Jobs created ensures that none of his employees will spill details on some of the products or services Apple has planned. Dell and HP, on the other hand, are nothing like that. Product details leak without any trouble and their ability to build hype for products is non-existent. Consider the HP Slate. It's a device that can match the iPad on every level, but how many novice technology users have heard of it? Not many. Meanwhile, Apple is selling more than 450,000 iPads in less than a week.

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Remember the Value of Software

Although Steve Jobs has consistently said that Apple is a hardware company first, it's Apple's software that has made it such a success. When users pick up an iPhone, they might be impressed by its design, but the software is what pulls them in and creates the "wow" factor. The same can be said about the iPad. The iPod's software isn't revolutionary, but it's functional and easy to use. HP and Dell have had some trouble with software in the past. The companies have relied too heavily on Windows, which in more recent years, has had difficulty competing with any Apple products. Dell is starting to invest in Android, which is a good first step, but it needs to do more. Apple realizes the value of software. Dell and HP must follow suit.

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Hardware Design Means Everything

Whenever Steve Jobs takes the stage, he shows off some of the best looking products in the tech business. More often than not, they easily outdo anything Dell and HP offer. But if Dell and HP want to match Apple, they will need to do a better job of delivering high-quality hardware. HP's Slate is nice, but it looks too much like the iPad. Consumers want to see unique designs that portray sophistication and forward-thinking. HP and Dell just aren't offering enough of that right now.

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Fight Microsoft

Dell and HP are in a difficult position. As two of the largest PC vendors, they need Windows. But they don't seem to realize that Microsoft also needs Dell and HP. The companies seemingly believe that it's a one-way street and they need to adhere to the demands set in place by Microsoft. They don't. As Apple has shown, fighting Microsoft can make for a profitable business. HP and Dell obviously can't rail against Microsoft or Windows publicly, but they can use Apple's battle as inspiration to place demands on Microsoft and get a better deal from the software vendor. That should provide them with more latitude to do what they want.

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Invest in the Future

Apple isn't content to stick with what has made it successful. If it was, it wouldn't have developed any other mobile products beyond its iPod. This is one place where Dell and HP need to listen carefully. Apple is never content. It never plans to be a company that sticks around and rakes in cash. It attempts to find the next big market, design a product that should best the competition, and go for it. Unfortunately, Dell and HP aren't so forward-thinking. The companies are late to new markets and typically deliver products that don't match Apple. Remember Dell's MP3 player or HP's PDAs? Some folks might have liked them, but they couldn't match Apple's offerings.

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Closed Software Is an Advantage

Although I'm a staunch supporter of open-source software, closed software has proven to be one of Apple's key advantages. Rather than open its software for anyone to use and add to devices, the company has kept its operating systems closed off, which has only helped it control what goes into the OS and what stays out. Dell and HP need to consider such a strategy in their mobile products. Although they are typically comfortable using Windows or Android, the PC vendors should consider investing in their own, proprietary software. Controlling a platform allows for uniqueness. It has worked for Apple. Why wouldn't it work for HP and Dell?

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Covet Leverage Over Partners

Too often, Dell and HP have not done enough to leverage their positions over partners. Apple has. Regardless of whether Apple is working with AT&T or developers, the company makes it abundantly clear to all parties that it's in charge and if they don't like it, they can go elsewhere. HP and Dell, on the other hand, seem scared to assert themselves against Microsoft or any other partner. By taking that beating, they're not using the leverage they have to better their products. That's a problem.

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Look Toward End-to-End Solutions

When a consumer buys an iPod, they pop it out of the box, download iTunes to their computers, plug the iPod in and start adding music. It's a simple, end-to-end solution that made the iPod such a success and Apple such a dominant player in the market. Dell and HP need to realize that. The companies force users to do too much in order to get what they want out of devices. When the HP Slate is released later this year, will HP have an iTunes-like service that will make it easy for users to add content to the device? It's doubtful. If HP and Dell can learn anything from Apple, it's that controlling every aspect of the experience of using a device can mean everything to the bottom line.

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Have a Swagger

One of the things that people who don't like Apple can't stand about the company is its swagger. But it works. Steve Jobs wants to make it clear that his company is offering premium products and it's a cut above the rest of the competition. That kind of swagger starts with Jobs and carries throughout its many employees. Dell and HP don't have a swagger. If we polled users about Dell and HP's corporate cultures, they would undoubtedly find little difference between the two companies. Believe it or not, if HP and Dell start acting like they belong to be on the same plane as Apple and they deliver products that support that, we might just believe it.

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Stick to Your Guns

Say what you will about Steve Jobs, but he's tough and if he believes in a product when no one else does, he goes for it. Prior to the release of the iPhone, few believed that a touch-screen device could revolutionize the mobile-phone space. It has. Others contended that, prior to the iPad's release, attempting to bridge the gap between the mobile phone and the laptop with an iPhone-like product was lunacy. With more than 450,000 iPads sold, he's proven that he's on to something. HP and Dell need to see that. Yes, market research might say that a product won't work and pundits will claim that releasing a product is a mistake. But if Dell and HP can believe in the products they sell and start offering something revolutionary, they might be able to follow Steve Jobs' lead.

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