The evangelist's evangelist
Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple Computer, introduced evangelism to Silicon Valley in the early years of Apple Computer. His 1991 book, Selling the Dream: How to Promote Your Product, Company, or Ideas - and Make a Difference - Using Everyday Evangelism, is Guy's dissertation on how to build support for a cause that changes the world. If there was a marketing Hall of Fame, Guy would be in it.
Research for "Creating Customer Evangelists" took us to Silicon Valley to meet with Guy. Here's the inside scoop on our chat.
There's no garage at Garage Technology Ventures headquarters. The company Guy Kawasaki founded in 1999 has an open-air blacktop parking lot and a regulation basketball hoop.
Kawasaki's corner office, inside a glass-and-gleaming-metal office building that's nestled among the numerous buildings of nearby Hewlett Packard, is filled with high-tech toys: brand-new cell phones, beepers, computers, the latest Palm, and a hefty-sized model of a Porsche (right next to the coffee table book about Porsche).
The toys of any early technology adopter are expensive and can break early and often, and Kawasaki has recently been paying the price. He kvetches for the first several minutes of our meeting; he's having "a very bad digital week." His cell phones don't work, a Macintosh is misbehaving, his new Palm isn't synching up correctly because of beta software from Palm and... he isn't evangelizing any of the stuff at the moment.
He's whining, actually, but it's still funny, which makes this native Hawaiian endearing to his thousands of fans. He's Guy Kawasaki, the technology marketing pro whose mantra for success is, "Whatever is gold, Guy touches."
US: We'd like to explore the roots of your idea of everyday evangelism: How did it come about at Apple?
KAWASAKI: The job title (of evangelist) already existed at Apple when I got there, so I didn't invent the title. The way it was initially used was not the way I just described, i.e. of getting people to get more people. It was used more in the evangelistic sense of preaching, pounding on the pavement, getting the job done, taking the battle to the customer - all that stuff. And that's the sense. It was kind of a good way of saying that this is a real intellectual sales and marketing kind of hype job (laughs).
The secondary effects of getting people to believe, who then got more people to believe, is something that was stumbled upon. In my recollection, I was never told, 'OK, you go get XYZ to write software, and they in turn will get more customers to buy your software and to buy Macs.' We never thought it through that much. That's what happened, but that was not the plan.
US: How did you stumble on that second part?
KAWASAKI: It just happened! As I like to say, I believe in God because there's no other explanation for Apple's continued survival. We didn't plan it that way, it just happened. Apple has thousands of user groups. Those are truly the evangelists. They're not paid. They're not employees. They tell people to use Macintosh solely for the other person's benefit. That is the difference between evangelism and sales. Sales is rooted in what's good for me. Evangelism is rooted in what's good for you.
US: After you started to see the effects of customers bringing in other customers and the fervor that started to develop among Apple's customers, did you start to codify it into the marketing mix and marketing strategy?
KAWASAKI: Not really, well, yes and no. There was definitely an established program to codify working with user groups and accelerate that phenomenon. My evangelism was to get software companies to write Macintosh software, so that was definitely codified. I just don't want to give you the impression that we knew what we were doing because we didn't. One of my great motivations for writing, "Selling the Dream" was to codify this. "Selling the Dream" was as good as I could get it for 'this is how you do evangelism.' But that was all after (Apple). I could not have written the book before.
US: How much do the personalities of company evangelists weigh in inspiring others vs. a really great product?
KAWASAKI: Let me give you what's called 'Guy's Golden Touch,' the most important concept of the day. Guy's Golden Touch is: Whatever is gold, Guy touches. This is very different than whatever I touch turns to gold. Lots of people say, 'How do I become an evangelist?' Ninety percent of the battle is: pick the right thing to evangelize. If it isn't exciting or doesn't excite you, it cannot be done. Now, some people can get excited about salt, I mean, literally, if it's the best salt, at an extreme. I resent the concept that people think that I can evangelize anything, and I cannot. Most stuff I don't give a damn about and more stuff is crap, so I can only evangelize a few things I really love.
US: Have any of the tenets you wrote in 1990-91 about evangelism marketing changed?
KAWASAKI: Jeez, I don't even remember what I wrote in 1990 (laughs)... well, certainly in 1989 there was none of the online evangelism because the medium didn't exist. (pauses). I don't really don't think -- I mean, I ripped it off from the bible, so it's had 2000 years to change (laughs), so what's the last 10? (laughs).
US: You attended the Billy Graham evangelism school as part of your book's research. What are some of the memories that come back to you recalling that experience?
KAWASAKI: I am a Christian but that [the Billy Graham School] is 'Beyond Thunderdome.' I was just a fish out of water. I was there for secular reasons. I thought it would be fascinating, and it was fascinating. Evangelism comes from the three words of 'bringing good news' and clearly, that's what Billy Graham believes what he does. When I was evangelizing Macintosh, I believe that I was bringing good news. Any car manufacturer should go to the Harley Davidson biker rally. They would learn a lot. It's almost too obvious. I'd like to know: How many car manufacturers have sent their marketing staff to a HOG (Harley Owners' Group) rally? They would learn a shitload of stuff. Pardon my French.
US: Speaking of that, why don't companies promote their cause as opposed to grabbing customers and throwing products at them? The buy-buy-buy! theory...
KAWASAKI: Maybe because many of them came from Procter & Gamble, where everything is a science and you run a test in Columbus (Ohio) and all that. That's one factor. Another factor is that, ironically, companies have too much money. One of the reasons why you get evangelistic is because you don't have money. If I had unlimited money, it's much easier to place a magazine ad than to go out and pound people to buy a Macintosh! It's an overabundance of resources. Another reason is that it takes a certain amount of willingness to put yourself out there. On the one hand if you're rejected because no one wants to buy your soap, it's OK. But if you're telling people that this is changing the world, then you've upped the ante. I tell you, though, I think people are just used to the 5 Ps of marketing, whatever they are. And evangelism is not one of them! So, people have never been taught that you can get people to do stuff for free for you. This never occurs to them.
US: How do you suggest evangelism marketing should fit into a company's overall marketing mix?
KAWASAKI: So what you're saying is that there's a marketing budget and one line item is mentally or financially, evangelism, right? I think the right concept is: Evangelism and there's a line item called marketing. That's very different! It should not be, 'OK, so we're spending $20 million on advertising, $2 million on coupons, $1 million on trade shows and $500,000 on evangelism. The whole company needs to be evangelistic. Some of that stuff will be expressed through audio, some through print, some through trade shows, and some through whatever, but evangelism is the overall philosophy, some of it through engineering, some of it through tech support. It's a very different orientation.