• April 2014

"Enchantment Is the Key to Marketing Success," Insists Guy Kawasaki

From “PR Rules: The Playbook—The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Supersizing Your Small Business.” Available in April 2014

By Hope Katz Gibbs, with Kathleen McCarthy
PR Rules: The Playbook

Defining Marketing

If you haven’t read Guy Kawasaki’s books, you are missing out on some of the greatest guides on how to launch a successful, effective marketing campaign.

At the top of the list is his 2011 tome, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.” In it he explains: “Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers and the undecided into the loyal.”

Not surprisingly, “Enchantment” charmed millions and hit three best-seller lists: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly. So we were keen to share his insights with our readers and thrilled when Kawasaki agreed to be our Entrepreneur of the Month in the August 2011 issue of our national business magazine for entrepreneurs, BeInkandescent.com.

Another winner is, “Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition,” which he published in 2008.

Scroll down for our Q&A.

Be Inkandescent: How do you define good marketing?

Guy Kawasaki: Marketing is the creation or fulfillment of demand for a product or service that people usually are not aware of. Ultimately, it is about anticipating or creating a need. Take Apple, where I worked earlier in my career.

The key to Apple’s marketing success is not marketing, per se, as much as it makes great things, and so Apple’s path is, “If we make great things, we do well and the marketing works. If you make crappy things, it doesn’t work.” It’s kind of simple that way.

Be Inkandescent: Your book, “Reality Check,” which is an encyclopedia of essential marketing information and business tactics, offers a 10-step checklist that includes important questions for business owners to ask themselves, including, “Do you have a mantra for what you do?” What do you mean by that?

Guy Kawasaki: Slogan-wise, I think that many companies create something that is much too complex. My recommendation is that you limit yourself to about two, three, maybe four words to describe why your product or service should exist, and I call this a mantra. So the mantra for Nike could be “authentic athletic performance”; the mantra for FedEx is “peace of mind”; my personal mantra is “empower people.”

I think that if companies had something as simple as that, it would really make their lives much better, because employees could remember what they are doing, consumers could understand what they’re doing. It leads to a certain clarity when you are limited to such a small number of words.

Be Inkandescent: Your goal is to empower people, which is wonderfully admirable.

Guy Kawasaki: I hope I can empower people with my writing and my speaking. My latest book is called, “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur,” and I’m trying to empower people who want to write a book. So with my investments and my writing and speaking, I try to empower entrepreneurs, and now I am trying to empower writers.

Publishers may not be happy with what I teach, but arguably those people should be ticked off. Traditional publishers are trying to maintain the status quo where only a few companies pick the winners and losers.

If you have that kind of power you don’t want to see your power being eclipsed, I understand that, but you know, life goes on. So this book is about how people who are interested in writing a book can do it. There are three stages: authoring, which is writing; publishing, which is producing; and entrepreneuring, which is marketing.

My best tip is to get off your butt and start building your social media platform the moment you decide you’re going to be shipping something, whether it is a book or a piece of software or a website or a service, because you’re going to need a social media platform. Don’t wait to start the platform once your product or service or book is done.

Be Inkandescent: You have more than 1 million followers on Twitter. How do you wield your power in the social media sphere?

Guy Kawasaki: I have about 1.2 million followers, and there are people with many more. But many of those people got their high number of followers by being on the Twitter “suggested user” list. I was never on that list, so mine is more organic. And organic marketing is more powerful than spending $100 million on Super Bowl commercials. Although at some point, money does buy marketing, for the reasonable range that we are discussing, organic marketing rules.

Truly, the best way to make your marketing great is to have a great product. It sounds like an evasive answer, but I’ve tried to enchant people with great stuff and I’ve tried to enchant people with crap, and it is a lot easier to enchant people with great stuff than it is with crap.

So, that’s step one. Step two is to keep an empathetic perspective—don’t ask people to buy, register, or do anything that you wouldn’t do. Assuming you’re not a psychopath, that will keep you on the straight and narrow in what you ask people to do in your marketing.

Be Inkandescent: When it comes to marketing, is there anything that you advise entrepreneurs to avoid at all costs?

Guy Kawasaki: I advise people to avoid things that insult people’s intelligence, things that are too “in your face.” I like marketing that assumes that the person is intelligent and is providing information, and then enables a person to make a free-will decision. I don’t like marketing that insults people.

In fact, I think it’s good for ethics and karma that you maintain those kinds of principles. I’m a big believer in karma, and those are some of the principles that guide me.

At the end of the day, yes, you would of course like to close a sale, but the real question for a marketer is not, “Can you close the sale?”—which is good, don’t get me wrong—as much as, “Will the person that you’ve just closed the sale with then tell other people to buy the same thing?”

That’s the test. Yes, it’s hard to close a sale, but once you close the sale, truly, if you are doing things right—great product, great marketing—then that person will become your evangelist. That’s a good test.

Be Inkandescent: What’s your favorite example of guerrilla marketing?

Guy Kawasaki: It’s the story of a pizza chain that was coming to I think Denver for the first time, and it ran a promotion where if you brought in the Yellow Pages ad of its competitor, you would get two pizzas for the price of one. They effectively removed their competitors from the Yellow Pages for a year! So that’s an example of guerrilla marketing. I think that’s a very cute example.

Another example is a Costco/Price Club kind of store opened up next to a small independent, and the independent didn’t know what to do, since it was up against, you know, a bigger store, bigger selection, cheaper prices. What it did was, it renamed its store Main Entrance, and it was right next to the big box store, so that’s also kind of a cute idea. Things like that show you’re using your brains and your humor, instead of your ego and your wallet.

Be Inkandescent: That goes back to what you advise in “Reality Check,” where you offer ways to get your product to market with no budget.

Guy Kawasaki: I think the key to taking your product to market with no or low budget is social media, and with the book for example, I had about 1,500 people read the book before it was shipped, and that yielded, I don’t know about hundreds, but certainly dozens of great reviews on Amazon, and that is an example.

First of all, you have to get over your paranoia that people are going to get your book electronically and then give it away to everybody so then no one will buy your book. So you need to trust people. And secondly, you need to be willing to take that kind of risk, and I think it pays off. I have never been screwed by doing something like that.

Be Inkandescent: So you advise coming from your heart, and doing the right thing when it comes to all aspects of marketing—and business—in general.

Guy Kawasaki: Yes, along with thinking like a guerrilla as opposed to being a gorilla. It’s also one of the essential elements to building a sound business.

The key is to hire people who are better than you in any given skill area, because if you are better than they are, then why do you need them at all? If you are the engineering person, you should hire a better finance person, a better marketing person, a better PR person, a better ops person.

If you’re the ops person, you sure as hell should hire a better marketing person and a better finance person, and a better engineering person. So if everybody hires people who are better than they are, the level of quality of employee just keeps rising. I think losers hire people who are worse than they are so that they can always feel superior.

Be Inkandescent: You also advise entrepreneurs to “give to get.” What does that mean, exactly?

Guy Kawasaki: For example, one last marketing tip would be, to the extent possible, enable people to test-drive your product or service. If it’s a book, give them excerpts; if it’s a website, let them use much of the service until some time period expires or you go over a certain storage limit or number of records or something.

Basically you’re saying, “I think you’re smart. I’m going to give you the experience—then you decide.”

Learn more at www.GuyKawasaki.com.