You can't turn 'crap' to gold, says former Apple evangelist, Guy Kawasaki

'Evangelism has the other person’s best interests at heart' he says. Kawasaki also railed against marketers who use a series of adjectives and buzzwords to spruik a product.

Guy Kawasaki outlines his golden touch rule at the Australian Technology Park.
Guy Kawasaki outlines his golden touch rule at the Australian Technology Park.

An effective evangelist focuses on other people’s interests and doesn’t worry about a sales quota, according to Guy Kawasaki.

Kawasaki is known for being the chief evangelist at Apple and has recently taken on the same role for Australian graphic design startup, Canva. At a talk last night hosted by ATP Innovations in Sydney, Kawasaki drew a stark line in the sand between evangelism and sales.

“With sales, typically the salesperson has his or her business interests at heart. They need to make their quota … It’s about them,” he said. “Evangelism has the other person’s best interests at heart.”

That means showing how a product or service can empower someone to do something, he said. However, Kawasaki noted it’s quite difficult to do that with a product the would-be evangelist does not actually care about.

“The key to evangelism is to evangelise something great, because it is very hard to evangelise crap,” he continued.

Kawasaki described his own “golden touch” rule, which he said does not mean – as the name might imply – that whatever he touches turns to gold.

“Guy’s golden touch is: Whatever is gold, Guy touches,” he explained.

Kawasaki also railed against a common style of pitching in which the marketer uses a series of adjectives and buzzwords to spruik a product.

“That approach might work if every other company said their product was “a piece of crap,” he said. “Then [if] you come along and you say, ‘patent-pending, curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, scalable, enterprise-class product,’ you’d be different.”

A better approach is to tell a story, said Kawasaki. For example, he said, Pierre Omidyar tells a story about how his girlfriend wanted to sell a collection of PEZ dispensers – and so he created eBay.

In fact, Omidyar made up that story after starting eBay, but Kawasaki claimed that’s OK. “As a speaker, you cannot let the truth get in the way of a great story.”

Also, it’s important not to be too high-level with a pitch, he said. The approach that has worked for Apple for years is to localise, showing how a product can empower an individual user to be creative, he said.

On social media, Kawasaki advised marketers must earn the privilege to pitch their product. This means providing good content, even if it is only indirectly related to the business.

Related: How to prove social media’s worth

A restaurant could for example provide cooking tips, he said.

“The key to social media is that you provide value,” Kawasaki said, adding that about 80 per cent of social media posts should be information, analysis, advice or entertainment.

The goal should be to get reshares of the content, he said. Giving a “like,” “+1” or comment is like tipping the waitress, but a reshare is the much more valuable recommendation to friends.

But whatever you do, it’s important to remember that the success of a product in the end will be determined by the customer.

“You take your best shot in positioning the product, branding the product and marketing the product, but fundamentally, when all the dust settles, truly the customers position you and brand you,” Kawasaki added.

“No matter what you do, they’re going to decide.”

Adam Bender covers digital marketing and wearable computing for CMO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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