Powerful Lessons from the iPad 2 Launch

by Victor Cheng

Do yourself a big favor (trust me on this).

Today at 5pm, the iPad 2 goes on sale at Apple retail locations across the U.S.

If you are anywhere remotely located near one, go to the store at 4:30pm.

The purpose is not to buy an iPad 2, the purpose is to stand there and experience what it feels like to witness true customer demand first-hand.

You will notice the long lines.

If you go to the flagship store in your area, you will notice the camera crews filming.

(Apple chose a 5pm launch time for a reason… it precedes the 6pm news broadcast showing long lines and people pumping their fists when they finally get one… but that’s a topic for another day.)

Notice the extra security guards hired to manage the crowd overflow.

Notice the security rope to force people to wait in line.

This, my friends, is customer demand.

Experience this yourself and you will not forget what it feels like to witness demand.

In addition to my consulting, I often teach seminars, workshops or get invited to speak at business schools, such as MIT or Harvard.

When I teach, I always tell my students to do something very important.

Any time you see a very long line in front of a place of business, get in the line… work your way up to the front of the line and figure out what that company did to create the long line.

There is always a lesson at the front of a very long line… just like there will be today at 5pm local time.

Now my explanation is absolutely no substitute for going to experience the demand yourself. Here’s why.

Demand is driven both by rational need and emotions.

Now if you happen to be a business-to-business type industry, you might be tempted to think, “Well I sell to businesses and they don’t have emotions (especially those darn people in procurement)”… this is a tempting thought, but it is my perspective that it is dead wrong.

Businesses never buy anything.

It’s the people in businesses that buy things.

Even that business buyer who is supposed to be sophisticated and rational, guess what she’s doing at 5pm today?  That’s right, going to the Apple store to get that iPad 2!

In the last 40 years, there has been one Fortune 500 company that I can think of that truly grasped this concept that businesses never buy anything, only the people within those companies do.

This company built a massive advertising campaign around this in the 1980’s.

Which company was it?

It was IBM.

You might recall their tag line at the time:

Nobody Ever Got Fired by Buying IBM.

Though IBM was in the business-to-business mainframe business and PC business at the time, they realized what business they were really in.  They were not in the business of selling computers.

No, they were in the business of selling job security and computers just happened to be involved.

Now circling back to 5pm today, when you show up at the Apple store, just notice how much demand is sitting out in front of the store, and then compare that to every other retail store in the area.

Are we in a tough economy?  Sure, we definitely are.

Does customer demand still exist even in a tough economy?

Go see for yourself at 5pm today.

Do you have to do an awful lot to get that demand to flow to you? Damn straight you do.

But the point is it does exist — you just have to figure out how to get it to flow to your company instead of someone else’s.

That’s the “secret” to thriving in this kind of economy.

And do me a favor, when you’re out at the Apple store, take a photo and email it to me. I’d like to assemble a follow up photo essay to accompany today’s thought of the day.

In future articles I will explain how to channel such demand to your business, how to handle the “dealing with procurement” problem, and other related topics.

But for now, just go experience what it feels like to be in the middle of demand so you recognize it when you see it (and far more importantly, you become acutely aware of its absence… and become alarmed by it on a gut level, not just an intellectual one.)

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