I recently interviewed Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop.com and the author of the bestselling book, The Art of the Start. His latest masterpiece is called Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.
In this interview we talk about what makes for great content, how he came up with the title of his latest book, what Enchantment means for business, why businesses need to embrace nobodies and how he promoted his book. (Be sure to listen to the MP3 of this interview below.)
Mike: Most of our readers are marketers and business owners. Can you explain what Alltop does for them and why they might find it useful?
Guy: One of the functions of marketers, PR people and social media people is they need to keep on top of things.
The vision of Alltop was that we should aggregate RSS feeds for people by topic and create essentially an online magazine rack so that you could go to one place and say, “Okay, these are all the social media blogs and websites aggregated in one place.” It’s the five most recent stories from each source, and we give you a preview of the first paragraph of each story so you can see if you really want to click through.
This way, if your audience went to social-media.alltop, for example, they would see several hundred sources aggregated in one place, the five most recent stories from each source, and in seconds they could scan through hundreds of stories and get a good feel for what’s going on. That’s the vision of it.
Mike: Now you can create your own custom Alltop, right? How does that work?
Guy: Yes. We have about 850 topics ranging from adoption to zoology. A person who has a greater interest than just social media might have a few favorite tech blogs. Maybe the person has a desire to adopt kids, is a foodie, is a Macintosh user and is a real hockey buff. So he or she would want a couple of hockey blogs, a couple of tech blogs, a couple of social media blogs, some food blogs, an adoption blog, and that would be the person’s custom magazine rack. What we let you do is select from any of the 40,000 blogs that are at Alltop, and you can create what’s called “My Alltop.” That’s your custom magazine rack.
The difference between us and Google Reader is Google Reader says, “We’re giving you a container. Fill it up.” We say, “We have preselected 40,000 blogs for you. Just click on a plus sign and you’ll subscribe and create your own shelf.”
Mike: Obviously, you’re looking at a ton of content, and Alltop is really not just any content—it’s from the best content providers. Thinking about content, in your opinion, what do you think makes good content? What separates the best of the bunch? What makes certain blogs stand out?
Guy: For me, one of the easiest, quickest and most effective ways to determine if content is really useful is if it uses either unordered or ordered lists; i.e., bullets or numbers. Maybe it’s just my mind, but whenever I go to a blog post and I see 1), 2), 3), 4), 5) or bullet, bullet, bullet, my mind says, “Better organized, better thought out, more easy to use.”
When I go to a blog post that’s just paragraph after paragraph with nothing in bold and no sort of navigation tips, it’s hard to find the value. The ones I hate the most are “How to Be a More Effective Social Media Marketer” and you go to the post and it’s just paragraphs. There are no bullets. So you have to dig out of each paragraph what the tips are. Where are the tactical, actionable items? I think one very good indicator of a good blog post is, “Is it in bullet list format?”
Lots of people say, “Guy, that’s such a superficial way to look at things,” and “It’s not my style to write in bullet points,” but try looking at the world through the bullet point filter, and I think you’ll see that the best information is bulleted.
Mike: I’ve often said that I think the path to the mind is through the eyes, so if you can get the attention of an eyeball through formatting, then ultimately you can ensure your content makes its way into the minds of people. I think what you’re saying resonates true. It’s all about the way it’s presented, first and foremost. And you know, if it’s crappy content, then people won’t pay attention to it, but if it’s great content and it’s presented in a way that accommodates the eye, then I think you’ve got a magic formula.
Guy: With a bulleted list, I would make the case that even if it’s crappy content, it will be easier to determine it’s crappy with a bulleted list because you won’t have to dig through the crappy paragraphs to determine it’s crappy. You could just glance at a bullet, which is much faster.
Mike: Most of us are becoming inundated with content, so we have to make it easier for people to digest, and that’s where bullets come in.
Guy: I think a second and related point to this is that the greatest headlines to me are “Top 10 Tips…”, “How To…”, and “The Art Of…”. It happens that I’m a very tactical, action-oriented person. I’m looking for ways to do things better. Just give me what to do, tell me the 10 things to do.
Guy: Well, I came at it from two directions. One very pragmatic, which is I needed a word that Guy Kawasaki could own in the same sense that Tom Peters owns the word excellence and maybe Geoffrey Moore owns the word chasm and Clayton Christensen owns the words innovator’s dilemma. Everybody has his or her word, and I needed a word.
The genre of this kind of writing is influence or persuasion, and those kinds of things.
Mike: Cialdini has the word influence, right?
Guy: Right. Cialdini owns influence. He’s also my friend, so I’m not going to try to steal the word from him. So when it came right down to it, coming from that pragmatic direction, enchantment was the word.
Coming from the other direction, which is a more philosophical direction, I wanted a word that went beyond influence and beyond wooing and beyond persuading. I wanted something that took it to the next level. It’s one thing to influence another person—it’s another thing to enchant the person.
Mike: What does that mean, especially for a business?
Guy: I think that a business that enchants a customer has a customer who’s beyond loyal. It’s delight. You can influence me and you can woo me and you can persuade me, but when you enchant me, that means that I’m head over heels in love. It’s the difference between like and love.
Mike: I think of Walt Disney World fans. People who are fans of Disney are enchanted, and they’ll do anything to participate in any of those kinds of activities endorsed by Disney because they’ve been enchanted, right?
Guy: Yes, and of course, the greatest example of all is Apple. What other company gets people to buy a phone that can barely go one day without charging, and that has the worst (until a few weeks ago) carrier in the world exclusively? That’s the power of enchantment. Anybody can sell a great phone with a great carrier.
Mike: What’s the benefit to a business of enchanting its customers?
Guy: Two levels. One is loyalty, repeat business, forgiveness at times. It just makes sense to have this relationship, this Nordstrom-esque kind of relationship with your customer. So that’s an obvious sort of business return, bottom-line answer. But I also think there’s a higher-level answer, which is that it’s a lot more fun to have a customer relationship based on enchantment rather than arm’s-length, sort of tit-for-tat, quid pro quo. I think that permeates the entire organization.
That’s a very different attitude than, “Oh, let’s just get up and see what our click-through rate is, and can we get a better CPM deal? How are we being rated in a statistical survey?” It’s a very different outlook on life.
Mike: Well, in Chapter 4 of your book, since we’re talking about Apple, you say the following about Steve Jobs: “Steve Jobs can enchant the shell off an egg without disturbing the yolk. But without Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, or iPad, Steve wouldn’t have anything to sell.”
You worked for Apple and you worked with Steve. Can you talk to me a little bit about the connection between being enchanting as Steve Jobs is, as you talk about him in your book, versus having something that is enchanting? What’s more important?
Guy: Neither, or both, actually. A great enchanting person with nothing to sell has nothing to sell. And a great product, without people who can enchant people and evangelize people to embrace, it is also a half-completed project.
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Apple has this sweet spot of a CEO who really can enchant people with just his keynotes alone, and he has an enchanting product. So if you said to me, “Guy, you can either have an enchanting person or an enchanting product. Pick one,” I would pick the product. I would say, “Give me an enchanting product and then I can train people to be enchanting with it.” Whereas, if you give me enchanting people but a crappy product, it’s a lot harder to fix the product.
Mike: What makes an enchanting person?
Guy: I think an enchanting person starts off with a fundamental basis of being likeable. If you think about it, have you ever been enchanted by someone you can’t stand? Probably not.
The second component is trustworthiness, because you can like a person—you can like a Hollywood star, or their persona anyway—but that doesn’t mean you trust them. So the second component is trustworthiness.
The example I cite in the book of trustworthiness and competence and likeability is someone like Terry Gross of NPR. I don’t know her personally, but in listening to her on Fresh Air, you have a very good sense of her that she really is competent. She really can conduct a great interview across many, many subjects. She’s laughing, she’s teasing. You have a sense that she’s just not reading off a teleprompter that some producer put up 30 seconds ago.
So it’s between likeability and trustworthiness and knowledge and competence. And the difference between knowledge and competence is that knowledge is what you know, competence is the ability to apply it. A knowledgeable, competent, likeable, trustworthy person is enchanting.
Mike: Now let’s flip it over to the enchanting product. What are some qualities of an enchanting product? Can you give us some examples?
Guy: Sure, there are basically five or so key elements to the product. The first is depth—a product that is feature-rich. It does a lot.
The second thing is that it’s intelligent in the sense that its makers have intelligently figured out the customers’ problem and a solution to their problem, maybe even before the customers have.
The example I like to cite is that Ford Motor Company has a product called MyKey. What that enables you to do is program the top speed that the car can go. Imagine if you bought a really hot Mustang and you had to loan the car to your teenage son. You could program it so that the car could go no more than 60 miles an hour. I think that’s a really brilliant idea!
The next quality is completeness. Great products, enchanting products, they’re not just a physical entity and they’re not just a download. There’s a totality of the experience, which would be a string of enhancements, online documentation, technical support, all the good stuff. It’s not just the car. It’s the totality of the experience.
The last thing is that I think enchanting products are empowering. That is, they make you feel better about yourself. A Macintosh is enchanting because it makes you feel more creative and more productive. Some computers you fight and some computers make you better.
Mike: I like the way you’ve analyzed that. I think a lot of businesses can really be thinking about this when they’re developing their products and services.
Guy: The acronym is DICEE. It’s deep, intelligent, complete, elegant and empowering.
Mike: Let me switch into a totally different discussion. You talk about the importance of embracing nobodies in your book. I’d like to explore this a little bit with you because so many people simply go after who they think is the highest profile individual when it comes to trying to get endorsements or support. I like the fact that you’re kind of going countercultural here and saying maybe you should not just look at those people. Can you explain what it means to embrace nobodies and why it’s important?
Guy: My theory is that nobodies are the new somebodies. In the old world, information came down from the mountain and trickled down to the masses. You had to look up at the mountain and see god, and god was the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune and Forbes, Wired and CNET.
So in a world dominated by gods or goddesses on a mountain, you had to suck up to the gods and goddesses, hoping that they would like your product so they would tell the great unwashed masses, “We, the gods, have decided that you should like Facebook, and you should like Twitter, and you should like Macintosh, and you should like Shutterfly, and you should like Delicious.” I guess Delicious is a bad example now.
That’s the old world. In the new world, with blogging and tweeting and Facebooking and all the other stuff, I think it’s just as likely that someone you never heard of who has absolutely no platform compared to any of these publications will love your product and spread the word.
LonelyBoy15 on Twitter might tell 200. But it may be that LonelyBoy15 who is really a database administrator telling people about your product is more powerful in aggregation than this godlike person on the mountain.
I’m not telling you to ignore the gods, what I’m telling you is that the LonelyBoy15s and the Tiffany65s, they all add up.
Facebook grew because nobodies signed up for it and these nobodies created this total force. Now the somebodies have to say that Facebook was interesting, and they had to cover Facebook because if they didn’t, they’d look stupid.
My theory is that you don’t know who LonelyBoy15 is. It’s not like there’s a LonelyBoy15.com that’s ranked according to Alexa or Compete in the top 500 sites on the Internet. What you have to do is plant a lot of seeds, and you just hope that some of them are LonelyBoy15s.
Mike: What kind of practical tips would you give to your fellow marketers who want to try to plant seeds with nobodies?
Guy: The more seeds you plant, the more likely some will take root. With my book, the typical business book rollout involves inviting a few hundred reviewers. Obviously, you try to get The New York Times and The Washington Post and whatever. That’s the traditional method.
I happen to have a very valuable asset that’s kind of unique in the world, which is I’m the co-founder of Alltop, which has 40,000 blogs created by 20,000 people. I sent an email to all 20,000 saying, “I’m coming out with a new book. Would you like to review it?” Of those 20,000 people, roughly 1,200 said yes, so 1,200 people are going to review this book.
In a perfect world, I’m going to send out all 1,200, so on or about March 8, there’ll be 1,200 reviews of Enchantment. I don’t think that all 1,200 are going to come through, but let’s say 500 do. I don’t think there’s ever been a book that rolled out with 500 reviews, to put it mildly.
One of them might be Silicon Valley moms blog, or it could be the homeschooling blog because I have homeschooling.alltop, so homeschooling bloggers got my email. If they responded and said, “Yes, we would like to review your book,” then my book might be reviewed in Homeschooling World. Homeschooling World might only have 1,000 readers, but God bless them.
Mike: And they’re probably very influential people, I would imagine too.
Guy: In homeschooling, absolutely they are. So do I care if the person who’s the homeschooling main blogger tells all the other homeschoolers, “You have to read this book”? That is my best-case scenario!
Don’t get me wrong. I would love for The New York Times Book Review to say, “Everyone should read this book,” but that’s highly unlikely. On the other hand, I think I’ll get a lot of homeschooling blogs, I’ll get travel blogs, I’ll get mommy blogs, I’ll get food blogs.
Mike: And social media blogs.
Guy: Social Media Examiner. And they all add up.
Mike: Just a few closing comments. I was skeptical at first, I’ll be honest with you, because I wasn’t sure what you were trying to accomplish with the word enchantment. But having read through it, I believe that it’s really powerful what you’ve done here, and I think that time will prove that what you’ve done is created your next bestseller, so congratulations.
Guy: Thank you. Everybody has to have goals. Do you know the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie? That book is totally awesome. It came out in 1937, and it has sold roughly 15 million copies. If you go to Amazon today, you’ll probably see that it’s in the top 200 sellers to this day. That’s kind of my goal.
Mike: You want it to be a timeless book.
Mike: That’s awesome. I want to close with this last question. If folks want to learn more about you specifically, and your book Enchantment, where would you like them to go?
If you want to find out more information about Enchantment, go to Facebook.com/enchantment. It’s a fan page where I post all my information. Mari Smith opened my eyes to Facebook and she introduced me to the Facebook programmer who did my custom work. She also introduced me to Wildfire, that is doing an Enchantment quiz for me.
Mike: Guy, thank you very much. I know that you’re a busy man and I greatly appreciate your taking the time out. We look forward to seeing more great things from you very soon.
Guy: Michael, I know you would do the same for me!
Mike: You know it!
Listen to our complete extended interview (below) to hear some of the interesting ways Guy promoted his book, as well as the dark side of enchantment.[audio:GuyKawasaki.mp3]
What do you think of Guy’s ideas? Leave your comments in the box below.