The Apple Store has become a very successful channel for Apple products. But did you know that industry-specific, third-party products also have a place in these high-visibility locations? Through a series of Apple Store Business Workshops, third-party developers can work with Apple Business Consultants to showcase their products to targeted potential customers. If your software and business are qualified, the Apple Store Business Workshops could be a great opportunity for growth.
In this article, you'll read about two developers, Salon Transcripts and POS•IM, who partnered with Apple in the Apple Store Business Workshops and successfully expanded their businesses. Salon Transcripts saw their sales increase 38% after working with Apple Store sites across the country. In the same program, POS•IM—a much larger business where it is harder to increase sales by large percentages—still enjoyed a significant 15% uptick in sales.
If you develop products for a clearly defined business market, consider whether your business may be a fit for this model (see How to Participate below); if so, you may be eligible to participate in the Apple Store Business Workshops. At the end of this article, we'll tell you how to contact Apple Pro Markets to explore the possibilities.
Apple set up this flexible initiative to demonstrate the business viability of the platform at the retail level and to offer vertical solutions developers an opportunity to leverage the marketing power of the Apple Store identity. Participating developers may not get shelf space, but they do get the opportunity to find new customers and to win mind share—especially with the Apple Store Business Consultants, whose mission it is to help local companies find and deploy Mac-based solutions.
To date, several smaller vertical solutions developers such as MacPractice, PayGo, HealthWare, Salon Transcripts, and POS•IM have participated successfully in Business Workshops at Apple Store locations nationwide.
For example, in this photo, potential customers of Salon Transcripts watch a demonstration of the STX software presented at an Apple Store.
Let's take a look at two of these businesses, how they worked with Apple Pro Markets, the Apple Stores and the Business Consultants, and the results of their collaborative efforts.
Case Study 1: Salon Transcripts
Salon Transcripts provides software to the growing salon and spa industry. Their STX product has been a runner up for an Apple Design Award and features online booking, inventory management, payroll, appointment books, and client tracking—all tailored to the specific needs of salons, spas, cosmetic surgery clinics, and other personal wellness businesses.
After an initial consultation with Apple Pro Markets, Salon Transcripts staged one-hour product presentations at two Apple Store locations (San Francisco and Santa Monica) in October 2004. They sent out invitations to leads in their database and also used a small, regional mailing list. Based on the success of these trial efforts, the company then decided to launch a nationwide marketing effort.
In March 2005, Salon Transcripts put on presentations in 77 stores, all on the same day. To invite prospects, they purchased a mailing list from a national trade magazine. To deliver the presentations, they enlisted the help of local spa and salon owners who were already enthusiastic customers. (At that time, the Salon Transcripts staff numbered only 15.) Nationwide, attendance was 350 potential customers.
Pleased with the results, Salon Transcripts decided to move forward and do another round of presentations in September 2005. This time the company focused on 45 Apple Store locations in the most promising markets.
Salon Transcripts Director of Sales Tonya Moran reports that the overall results were very good:
For all these events, says Moran, we ended up reaching 720 business owners and closing business with 250.
Tonya feels that the combination of reaching their target market with the help of the Pro Markets team, combined with the credibility of the Apple Store venue, directly contributed to this impressive number of leads and stellar closing rate.
In 2006, Salon Transcripts has continued their marketing activity in the Apple Store, working in close consultation with individual stores and the Business Consultants. There are a lot of benefits to this relationship.
When we reach out to the Business Consultants and show them the software, says Moran, they know what the product is good for and can better inform people who come in to the Apple Store. Also, they have been wonderful in calling us and giving us leads.
In fact, Tonya continues, Im getting on a plane today because we got a call from the Cleveland Apple Store about a couple of businesses that had come in. Since I was going anyway, I sent out an e-mail to our leads database for anyone in that area. And the Business Consultant at the store said he would do a little marketing. As a result, we have five business reservations for tomorrow. All with very little marketing and at very low cost.
These custom, ad hoc marketing efforts in Apple Store locations will continue, Moran says. But Salon Transcripts is planning to evolve the type of marketing event they present at the Apple Store. Rather than just repeat the same presentation over and over, they want to come up with creative, new ways to get their message across.
One approach under consideration is to offer a series of events featuring successful business owners where the focus will be general business tips and advice, not just the Salon Transcripts software.
Moran explains, We still do want to do national events once a year—a full push to get to the wider audience. And we will continue to use prominent business owners—we call them rock stars—at certain locations.
The Apple Store identity is really invaluable for us, says Tonya. Because we develop exclusively for the Mac, working with Apple and the Apple Store makes us look all the more credible. Also, the Apple Store goes that extra mile in hiring people who can think with their right brain. Everyone, including the Business Consultants, is really easy to talk to. For our prospective customers, thats really important.
The results of working with Apple and the Apple Store are impressive. Last year, Tonya says, our sales grew 38% and we hired three new staff members to handle the increased business. A huge part of this is attributable to our new relationship with the Apple Store. We are very, very pleased.
Jon Maple, president and CEO of the company, adds his thoughts:
Networking with the Business Consultants at the Apple Store locations has allowed us to bring our potential clients to a place where they can touch and feel a Mac and speak to true hardware experts, he explains. As well, it has connected us with a store's current clients who are looking for salon/spa management software. Its truly a win-win situation for both the Apple Store and Salon Transcripts.
Case Study 2: POS•IM
POS•IM, from Ensign Systems Inc. in Utah, is a leading Point of Sale and Inventory Management solution. Selling mostly through a network of VARs, Ensign Systems provides independent retail stores across the country the software capabilities that big chain stores enjoy, but at a fraction of the cost. POS•IM customers include computer stores, clothing stores, show stores, and and any other type of retail business where, typically, the owner is deeply involved in day-to-day operations.
Stacey Davies, Director of Public Relations at Ensign, says that the initial effort in Apple Store locations in 2005 used a standard Keynote presentation without a software demo delivered by either an Ensign VAR or an Apple Store Business Consultant.
But we found that an actual demo was more effective, Stacey comments.
And the results?
In 2005 we went to all the stores, Davies explains. In 2006, we narrowed our focus on 40 stores and had a big success.
Immediately following the 2006 June event, we received a 15% increase in sales. We find that one out of five people introduced to our product in an Apple Store will purchase the software.
Another big benefit is establishing a relationship with the Business Consultant.
When one of our VARs can build a relationship with a Business Consultant, says Stacey, it allows the VAR to educate the Business Consultant on POS in general, as well as POS•IM. Then, when a customer comes in the store, the Business Consultant can educate the customer about POS and, as appropriate, mention our solution.
From now on, Stacey comments, Ensign is encouraging its VARs to hold a marketing event in an Apple Store whenever the VAR and the store believe its opportune to do so.
Alan Thurgood, President of Ensign, sees real benefit in working with the Apple Store.
Our relationship with the Apple Store, says Alan, has been a valuable tool in closing the gap between our VARs and those people searching for a POS solution. In addition, the Apple Store effectively provides a neutral environment for the exchange of information between the VAR, the Business Consultant, and a prospect.
If you want to take part in Apple Store Business Workshops, your first step is to submit your product to the Macintosh Products Guide. This provides recognition of your product as a Mac product.
Next, know your target market. This is important so when you acquire mailing lists, you know the right lists and get the names of the businesses that are appropriate for your product.
Now, make sure your software:
In addition, your business should already have:
Your final step is to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Designing Your Event
If your product is selected for an Apple Store Business Workshop, you then need to think how best to organize your event. Advice and support from Apple Pro Markets and Business Consultants can help you with the details and considerations for presenting your product and company in this retail environment. This includes everything from the invitations and pre-event marketing all the way through to post-event follow-up.