Steve Jobs was a visionary. He was a pioneer in the field of technology and business. There have been many books written, quotes quoted, and a thirst to emulate his success. In this rush to use “Jobian” techniques to help leverage success for our own business , we often forgot some basic issues that cause us to stumble. I fear that many business owners read a few one liners from Jobs’ handbook and try to apply them to their target audience with little insight into how effective the strategy will be. The genesis for this article comes from a recent conversation I had with a small business owner. let’s call him Pete. One of the things I really enjoy about working with people is they have many things to teach us.

Learning from someone can either come in the form of the things that they do, or from the things they do not do.

In this case it was the omissions that garnered a wealth of learning for me. I was involved in the development of a website for the sporting goods industry,and  the primary audience was consumers. Our project team asked Pete the ultimate question: “Who is the target audience  and what is the primary goal of this audience?” The second answer came very fast, from the client: “The goal is for them to give us their money.” The more important question of who the target audience was, couldn’t be answered as quickly. After many meetings we focused on a clearly defined target audience for the project. My team armed with a clear direction started to build  the website and marketing materials.  

Everything was moving along smoothly until the business owner started to make changes to the site that in our expert opinion would hinder his objective.  During a meeting one day the owner of the company paraphrased Steve Jobs: “The target audience doesn’t know what they want. We will show them what they want.” I was shocked at first when I heard this come out of his mouth. This business owner was very successful , but not ‘Steve Jobs’ successful.

I think sometimes our own previous successes can blind us to innovation and forward movement.

Who knows, maybe he was right? Maybe he could show his target audience what they wanted? But the problem with this scenario was that , unlike Steve Jobs and the Apple Corporation, he didn’t have millions of dollars for a marketing budget. Steve Jobs could “show people what they wanted.” because he could pay for million dollar TV spots during the super bowl. I’m afraid Steve Jobs was a “marketing god” (in terms of marketing budget that is). For the rest of us mere mortals,  the laws of reality apply. These laws dictate that  you have to create a product or service that fulfills the needs of a target audience. Creating the “need” as with the case with Apple , does not come from a website with a budget of $4,000.00 and a marketing budget of $0.00.. For the rest of us mere mortals living in the real world, it’s important to intimately know our target audience and give them what they want. Anything short of this will result in a failure of our mission. ‘ User focused delivery’ should always be the mantra of any project. When you solve a problem for a user, that user will reward you with dividends. Ignore your user’s goals and you will fail. We have much to learn from Steve Jobs.However you should always plan a practical response when applying any mantra or ideology to your own business objectives.