Once upon a time, business schools taught us classical marketing, strategy, and sales models and defended those models with research and case studies. For today's entrepreneurial leaders, those approaches may do more harm than good.
Guy Kawasaki's latest business handbook, "The Art of the Start--The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything," will turn many traditional business growth strategies on their heads.
As Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, a columnist for Forbes.com, and legendary Apple Computer Fellow, Guy has played the role of salesman, jewelry designer, venture capitalist, and computer evangelist. Few leaders have re-invented themselves as many times as Guy. His insights have helped launch successful startups such as Tripwire, Bitpass, GuruNet, and Santa Cruz Networks.
In a nutshell, Guy offers several strategies: Make meaning first; make money second. Burn the crusty mission statements on the wall. Polarize your market and let a thousand flowers bloom.
What does he really mean?
Leaders who want to re-energize a fledgling corporate division, or want to increase the odds of launching a successful startup cannot afford to ignore this time-tested advice from Guy.
The first "antique" startup strategy is over-dependence on wordy mission statements. Guy pities (and ridicules) most mission statements that he sees in the business plans that get submitted to Garage Technology Ventures. Says Kawasaki; "Mission statements were originally meant to be short and memorable; but end up looking more like 'mission impossible.'
He prefers companies who instead create a mantra, and use that mantra to drive innovation, hiring, marketing, and sales. Powerful mantras contain no more than 4 words, and can be memorized easily. Wendy's Restaurant is remembered for "Healthy Fast Food." Mary Kay is "Enriching Women's Lives." Mantras are even beginning to infiltrate the technology industry, which has been historically driven by buzzword-heavy, self-centered mission statements: "Change Powered by Cisco."
Guy asserts that any good mantra will fulfill one of these criteria: It either increases the quality of people's lives, stops or minimizes something that is not working in the world, or perpetuates something that is good.
Love Thy Enemies
Guy believes that polarizing the market will naturally happen in companies that love what they offer. Says Kawasaki, "Just accept that certain clients will absolutely agree with you, and that certain clients will absolutely loathe your service no matter how you try to convince them otherwise." The Toyota Scion is a classic example. Toyota expects very few buyers over 30 years old to buy this vehicle. "You should strive for creating great passion in a very specific market. Polarization is a much better alternative than creating the dangerous position of creating a big market of buyers who are ambivalent, or just don't care."
Market polarization is a proven strategy in the technology marketplace. "You don't get to be industry standard by appealing to everybody immediately," says Kawasaki. As "Inside the Tornado" author and technology marketing expert Geoffrey Moore recommends, recommends identifying very specific niche markets first, and becoming the dominant player. Then companies are in a position to determine how they can penetrate additional markets.
On the other hand, Guy suggests that companies remain open to brand new, untapped market opportunities. Like it or not, new clients will buy new solutions, and stump even top market segmentation experts. Guy recommends, "Let a thousand flowers blossom. That's a good thing. Take the money!"
Sucking Down is a Good Thing
One of Guy's favorite expressions when describing ways to penetrate corporate accounts is to "suck down and suck across." He asserts that too much time and sales training dollars are spent on getting to know the Very Important Top Officers (VITO) in their accounts. Sales teams are often over-investing their time trying to suck up to C-level executives while ignoring many lower ranking influencers.
Guy's "Making Rain" chapter shares my personal story of how I sold $334,000 worth of enterprise software to a large Miami insurer. I owe much of my success to the time I spent working with Armando, the top level Data Base Administrator-the man who occupied the smallest cubicle and the carried most influence with the CIO.