Guy Kawasaki: The Catalyst for Good

May 20th, 2013     by ddeal    

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Many of us think of Guy Kawasaki as the master of evangelism marketing, but he actually answers to a higher calling: to inspire you and me to be better people. Guy Kawasaki is what I call a market maker. Market makers are not satisfied with simply selling products and services more effectively. They think like artists and aspire to change the way people think, act, and believe.

Guy Kawasaki influenced others by teaching everyday people how to become marketers. And now he’s emerged as a Stephen Covey for the digital era by showing us how your personal values influence your professional success. Today’s re-introduction of Guy Kawasaki completes a recently launched blog series that profiles four famous market makers (including Steve Jobs, Body Shop Founder Anita Roddick, and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun) who formed the foundation of my recently published point of view, How to Be a Market Maker. I hope you are inspired to act like a market maker, too.

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If you’ve ever Liked a Facebook page to support a brand, contributed to a program like My Starbucks Idea, or given a shout-out to your favorite restaurant on Yelp out of your sheer love for the place, you’re practicing the kind of consumer evangelism that Kawasaki helped popularize.

Kawasaki cut his teeth in the business world at a jewelry company “counting diamonds and schlepping gold jewelry around the world,” as he told the New York Times. In the jewelry industry, he learned how to sell and “how to take care of your customers.” He would really make his mark from 1983 to 1987 when he joined Apple as a software evangelist for the Macintosh computer, a role that entailed him convincing companies to write software for Mac products and to convince others to start using Macs.

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His mandate from Steve Jobs was, “Get me the best collection of software in the personal computer business,” as he would write in Selling the Dream: How to Promote Your Product, Company, or Ideas — and Make a Difference — Using Everyday Evangelism in 1991. After Apple introduced the Macintosh via an iconic Super Bowl ad in January 1984, “Initially many people condemned Macintosh and Apple as losers,” he wrote. “Macintosh didn’t have software. It was cute and easy to use but flaccid. It was a joke computer from a joke company.” Kawasaki’s job (and that of the evangelists who preceded him) was to popularize the Macintosh. Here’s how he did it:

The software evangelists did more than convince developers to write Macintosh software. They sold the Macintosh Dream. The software developers who bought into the Dream (and only some did) created products that changed Macintosh’s principal weakness — a lack of software — into its greatest strength — the best collection of software for any personal computer.

When IBM attempted to unseat Apple with its PCjr personal computer, IBM failed miserably.  According to Kawasaki, IBM failed because it sold a product, whereas Apple “evangelized a dream of improving people’s productivity and creativity.”

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Kawasaki is the first to tell you that he did not create the title of marketing evangelist. (The title existed before he joined Apple.) But he certainly defined evangelism through practical application, and in doing so he learned the difference between evangelism and sales. He would later make the distinction this way: “Sales is rooted in what’s good for me. Evangelism is rooted in what’s good for you.” And Apple’s success, rooted in a loyal following among passionate user groups, was a testament to his work.

Kawasaki became a public figure after he started teaching others about the art of evangelism by speaking, and writing best-selling books such as the aforementioned Selling the Dream, in which he put a stake in the ground by defining evangelism in ambitious terms:

Evangelism is the process of convincing people to believe in your product or idea as much as you do. It means selling your dream by using fervor, zeal, guts, and cunning.

He was an early adopter of digital, using his popular blog, How to Change the World, as a launching pad to build a brand via social media.

Throughout his career, Kawasaki has epitomized the role of idea curator. As a founding member of Garage Ventures, he’s seeded start-ups. He launched Alltop, an online newsstand that curates best social media and news on the web. If idea curators are “the new superheros of the Web” in the words of Fast Company, then surely he’s the first of the great superheroes. Here’s how he describes his role in his ebook, What the Plus: Google+ for the Rest of Us:

By necessity I became a curator, which means that I find good stuff and point people to it. Curating is a valuable skill because there is an abundance of good content but many people don’t have the time to find it. The best curators find things before anyone else does.

He applies what he calls “the NPR model” when he acts as curator. “My role is to curate good stories that entertain, enlighten, and inspire people 365 days a year,” he writes in a May 13 guest blog post for HubSpot (a post that demonstrates Kawasaki’s astonishing penchant for helping people by sharing valuable information and asking nothing in return). “My goal is to earn the right to promote my books, companies, or causes to them just as NPR earns the right to run fundraising telethons from time to time.”

This is not to say that as a curator, Kawasaki lacks a personal vision. In his book Enchantment, he articulates a clear vision for how marketers can build enduring relationships through our personal values and behavior. As I wrote when I reviewed Enchantment in 2011, Kawasaki wants marketers and entrepreneurs to aspire for something more ambitious: changing the world one person at a time through behavioral attributes such as trustworthiness and likability. In other words, being an evangelist starts with building personal trust and treating other people with respect. Focus on values and the great marketing and communication skills will follow. For instance, communicating with clarity and brevity is not just good marketing but also reflects deeper values of respecting other people and their time.

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In Enchantment he writes, “This book is for people who see life for what it can be rather than what it can’t. They are bringing to market a cause – that is, a product, service, organization, or idea – that can make the world a better place. They realize that in a world of mass media, social media, and advertising media, it takes more than instant, shallow, and temporary relationships to get the job done.”

Kawasaki’s appeal to personal behavior influences his two most recent books What the Plus and APE: How to Publish a Book.

What the Plus is ostensibly an in-depth look at the Google Plus social media platform, and to be sure, the book offers plenty of practical tips about utilizing the social media platform for sharing content, especially through visual storytelling. But when you read What the Plus carefully, you find a manifesto for acting with good behavior in the digital world revealing itself.  For instance, repeatedly, Kawasaki urges people to treat their social sites as their homes and respect the sites of others as well.

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“Stay positive. Stay uplifting. Or stay silent,” he writes. Don’t act like a troll when you comment on someone else’s social space. And don’t tolerate jerky behavior on yours, either. “Remember: you’re a guest in someone’s home,” he writes. “Show some class.”

Elsewhere he asserts, “Your posts are like your swimming pool. You can do anything that you want. If you don’t like profanity, delete. If you don’t like bigotry, delete. If you don’t like sexism, delete. The goal is building and maintaining an enchanting presence – not exemplifying free speech.”

APE, published in December 2012, is a guide to self-publishing, and as you might expect, the book contains in-depth tips for how to write, edit, design, and market a book. But whereas some pundits might focus on the mechanics of self-publishing and marketing, Kawasaki also discusses the importance of an author’s personal behavior as a factor in helping a book succeed. In a chapter that describes how to build a personal brand, he and co-author Shawn Welch write, “Likeability is the second pillar of a personal brand. Jerks seldom build great brands.”

He goes on to write, “If you want people to like you, you have to like them first. This means accepting people no matter their race, creed, net worth, religion, gender, politics, sexual orientation, or your perception of their level of intelligence. It means not imposing your values on others.”

And true to his role as catalyst, he has launched a Google+ community, APE, for writers to share best practices and ideas for becoming successful publishers and entrepreneurs. So far the APE community has 2,200 members who have agreed to live by the rules of the road: help members learn how to write, publish, and market a book. Promoting your own services and book will earn you a ban from the community.

Kawasaki is like a Trojan Horse: you read his ideas expecting to become a better marketer, and then he slips in thoughtful advice about how to be a better person — typically by sharing and being gracious. He does so with credibility because he links personal likeability and values to successful marketing.

My research into the lives of market makers like Guy Kawasaki reveals that these extraordinary people are willing to take risks, surround themselves with talent, possess passion in abundance, and live full, eclectic lives. Guy Kawasaki definitely exemplifies the trait of surrounding oneself with talent. Consider Enchantment: in each chapter, he invites guest authors to provide their own personal stories of enchanted marketing, which makes his book more collaborative and genuine. Similarly, What the Plus! relies on guest authors for some key chapters.

And according to his HubSpot guest post, he takes the same collaborative approach managing his social spaces. For instance, Peg Fitzpatrick manages his Pinterest page. Why? “There are two reasons,” he writes. “First, I don’t have enough time to do a good job with more than three services (my priority, in order, is Google+, then Twitter, then Facebook). Second, I don’t have Peg’s magic sauce to manage Pinterest as well as the Pinterest community deserves. Part of doing social media well is knowing what you don’t know and what you can’t do well, and then finding someone who does.”

Similarly, Steve Jobs was surrounded by enormous talent, people who became famous in their own right — superstars like John Lasseter at Pixar, Jonathan Ive at Apple, and Guy Kawasaki himself. Atlantic Records succeeded not because of Ahmet Ertegun alone, but because of Ertegun and visionaries like Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Herb Abramson. Anita Roddick might have been the face of the Body Shop, but the brand would not have succeeded without the talents of its anonymous network of franchise operators.

His approach of collaborating with others and inspiring us to become better people is rubbing off on other prominent leaders. Porter Gale, the former CMO of Virgin America and now a thought leader and marketing consultant, embraces the ethos of Enchantment in her new book, Your Network Is Your Net Worth. As I wrote in a May 13 post, Gale’s book argues the case for building networks with other people to enrich the world, not to be a career opportunist.

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“A key to unlocking the hidden power of connections is helping others when you don’t expect anything in return,” she writes, using words that would do Kawasaki proud (he contributes a foreword to the book). Your Network Is Your Net Worth, being published on June 4, relies on several examples of successful people who build their happiness quotient — for themselves and for others — by giving.

By celebrating and promoting the talents of those around him, Guy Kawasaki is an evangelist in more ways than one.


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  1. 2 Responses to “Guy Kawasaki: The Catalyst for Good”

  2. By Logan on May 27, 2013 | Reply

    I absolutely love Guy Kawasaki’s philosophy on marketing, especially inspiring people to become a community when it comes to products. There’s something also hypnotic about the entire concept of ‘enchanting’ your audience that changes the way I want to market my products.

    And of course, I also hate internet trolls. For some reason, aspiring authors breed quite a few of them…but that’s another story.

    Great post!

  3. By ddeal on May 30, 2013 | Reply

    Thank you for commenting! I enjoy the challenge of being “enchanting,” not just effective — a big difference between the two. Porter Gale’s forthcoming book, “Your Network Is Your Net Worth,” is also inspiring.

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