'Making Meaning' with Guy Kawasaki at eBay Live
By Julia Wilkinson
The crush in the hallway on the way to Guy Kawasaki's "Art of Evangelism" session at eBay Live Tuesday afternoon was a tipoff to how good this was going to be.
A straight-talking (and very funny) business "evangelist" who worked at Apple Computer from 1983 to 1987, Guy's job was to spread the word about the Macintosh. Now he runs Garage.com, a venture capital firm looking for the next big thing.
Guy's first order of business was to urge the eBayers in attendance to "make meaning" with what they do. "An eBay seller is an evangelist," he said.
Guy showed the audience examples of real-world ads with meaning, such as one of a Nike woman's shoe that speaks to a woman as a person, about how she is more than her measurements (she knows "measurements are statistics, and statistics lie"). This pitch is effective because it is about efficacy, power, etc., not just selling a shoe made of leather rubber, cotton, etc. to women, said Guy.
The big mistake he sees a lot of entrepreneurs make is to focus simply on making money and not making meaning. "That is a big turnoff for a venture capitalist," he said. "We want to make meaning; to change the world."
He suggests that entrepreneurs focus instead on "the company that makes meaning...it is very hard to evangelize crap."
In addition to "making meaning," he suggests people dispense with the fancy corporate off-sites to create a "mission statement," with a facilitator who "knows nothing about your business, but has the magic marker pads." Instead, he says, all you need are "three or four words...a mantra."
As an example of a mission statement-to-mantra makeover, he suggests that Wendy's changes its clunky mission statement that contains a long phrase including the words "leadership, innovation, and partnerships" to simply "Healthy Fast Food."
Guy's acronym for good products and businesses is "DICEE" (as in "roll the DICEE"), which stands for Deep, Indulgent, Complete, Elegant, and Emotive. A couple of examples are the Thump 2 sunglasses by Oakley which have a built-in mp3 player. (You may not "need" it, but it's cool to own - indulgent).
An elegant product example is the iPod - other digital music players may have several buttons, but the iPod has only one wheel - a simple, elegant design.
Another of his rules of thumb: "niche thyself." You want to sell those products for which there is a very high value to the customer and for which you have an ability to provide a unique product or service. An example of a product with low value to the customer and which is not unique? The dot-com (or dot-bomb) companies such as the many pet food sellers (the problem being "dog food weighs a lot!"), he said.
Another key point is to listen to yor customers, even if they don't behave the way you'd expect. For example, the maker of Brillo pads started out selling pots and pans to housewives, and offered the free brillo pad as a free bonus. He later found there was stronger demand for the pads than the pans, and voila, a successful brand was born. "People buying your products are not, many times, your anticipated customers," said Guy.
Also, make it personal: target your pitch to what will directly impact your buyer. As an example, if you want people to worry about global warming, talk about removing melanoma from their children's cheeks.
At the same time, don't waste time pitching people: "If people don't get it in the first five minutes, they're never gonna get it," he said. Look for "agnostics, not atheists."
When he was at Apple computer, "the most difficult person to sell a Mac to was someone who worshipped MS-DOS" (or, as he said to laughter, "worshipped false gods"). The easiest was an "agnostic" - someone who never used a computer.
Finally, "don't let the bozos grind you down." Sometimes even successful people can make negative, critical statements that are wrong: for example, someone at Western Union had concluded "the telephone has no value" in 1876, and in 1943 the founder of IBM said there was a "world market for five computers."
After he wrapped up his speech, Guy introduced demos of two products his company is funding: one, MyCollectibles, is a way for people to showcase their collections and also intergrate their auctions (Bill Cobb mentioned it later that day as a new eBay feature at the Keynote address). It's made by a company called Kaboodle.
And Alice Lankester demo'd FilmLoop, very compelling software which allows you to run a continuous scrolling list of eBay auction images to speed up your browsing of the site. Sellers can also plug customized filmloops into blogs and other web sites.
Early in the talk, Guy joked about how "most CEO's suck" as speakers, to much laughter. And the only thing worse than a CEO who sucks, he said, is a CEO "who sucks as a speaker and has no idea how much longer he or she will suck."
One thing is sure...Guy not only does not suck as a speaker, he rocks. It was an entertaining, inspiring session. The audience seemed ready to go out and start evangelizing on their own.
Julia Wilkinson Author, "The eBay Price Guide," (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2006); Publisher, Yard Salers and eBayers, http://www.yardsalersebayers.com; Blog: "bidbits" at http://blogs.gowholesale.com/julia_wilkinson . You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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