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Business Book Review: Guy Kawasaki's "Enchantment"

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In his new book, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions,” former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki briefly recounts his experience working for Steve Jobs in the 1980s.

“We were so enchanted by our own product that we could not understand why everyone else did not feel the same way,” he writes about the Macintosh. As a result, Apple failed to sell Macintoshes to the business market, he adds. The reason?

“We did not understand what potential customers were thinking. Indeed, we believed they should leave the thinking to us … That’s when I learned that one must understand what people are thinking, feeling and believing in order to enchant them,” (p. 3).

Failure to correctly interpret consumer trends and technological changes can be bad for business, whether you’re selling computers or newspapers. So how do you preserve your marketshare and successfully launch new products and services for growth? That’s the question Kawasaki, the co-founder of AllTop.com, a site with the top headlines from various blogs and news sites, attempts to answer in his book.

Mike Blinder, president of The Blinder Group in New Port Richey, Fla., and author of “Survival Selling Even in the Toughest Times,” recalls a presentation Kawasaki made at Newspaper Association of America conference around 10 years ago. Blinder said that at the time, Kawasaki chided the newspaper industry for “thinking too much” or analysis paralysis. Blinder said Kawasaki advised publishers to adopt Apple’s “ship, then test” philosophy, meaning don’t wait for a product to be "perfect" before releasing it in the marketplace—it just has to be “good enough.”

These days, Apple enjoys an unparalleled ability to excite people with its iPhone and “magical” iPad products. With these great products, Kawasaki said, “Steve Jobs can enchant the shell off an egg without disturbing the yolk,” (p. 39). That’s a great line, but what does it really mean? For Kawasaki, enchantment is the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea. Throughout the book, he offers examples of where companies have succeeded in creating an emotional connection with the customer. Connect at that level, and you’ll have a passionate customer base. But in order to get there, you first need to be ethical, trustworthy and likeable, he writes.

Enchantment, however, is not the same thing as getting people to do what you want them to do. Enchantment is also not about making money from them. It’s just about “filling them with great delight” with great products and/or great services. Do this, Kawasaki argues, and you’ve got the makings of a successful business.

In the review copy of his book, Kawasaki cites five qualities of great products: 1) They have many features; 2) They solve people’s problems in smart ways; 3) The business offers great service and a great customer support experience; 4) They allow you to do old things better and new things you couldn’t do before; and 5) They’re elegant. For Kawasaki, elegance means someone cared about the user interface and experience. (For newspapers, this, of course, could apply to your website or the experience readers have when they access your site on a smartphone. Is it clunky or elegant? More here.)

When Kawasaki refers to great products as “intelligent” products in that they solve people’s problems in smart ways, I’m reminded of Newspaper Next, the American Press Institute’s newspaper innovation initiative for its focus on "jobs to be done" for consumers, or simply solving their problems. Newspaper publishers will no doubt find API a far better source of industry-specific advice for media companies looking to transform themselves to match their new market realities than Kawasaki’s general business book. (Former Inland Press Assn. Publications Director Randy Craig’s upcoming book, “Reclaiming Your Readers,” to be published by Marion Street Press, should also contain of wealth of ideas for newspapers.)

Nonetheless, Kawasaki’s perspective is valuable to anyone serious about engaging online audiences because of his personal example and success. For one, he’s a heavy user of Twitter, which Kawasaki believes is a great marketing tool more companies should take full advantage of. Kawasaki believes people are more likely to follow people, not companies, so he tweets from a personal account (@GUYKAWASAKI). Consider this: Kawasaki has more than 316,000 followers on Twitter; how many do you have?

According to Kawasaki, the best use of Twitter for business professionals is to serve as a resource, or thought leader, providing links to compelling content on any topic people would want to read and retweet as opposed to tweeting personal details of your life (“my cat rolled over”) that would be irrelevant to your followers.

In the digital age, responding to people’s e-mails, tweets and voicemails are prerequisites to establishing a “halo of trustworthiness,” Kawasaki writes, and it’s unfortunate expressions like this one that can be an unnecessary distraction for some readers who find such rhetoric very ethereal, wondering whether the “halo of trustworthiness” has genuine application in the real-world of competitive business. All Kawasaki means is that the customer service experience impacts how much your customers trust you. For example, many businesses still list a webmaster’s e-mail address on their site, but then don’t respond in a timely manner when someone uses it to submit a question or comment. The point is, if you buy the book, be prepared for Kawasaki to use his creative license when presenting well understood but mundane business principles.

Use push technology like Twitter to “bring your story to the people you want to enchant” and use pull technology, like LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and YouTube, to encourage people to come to you. The book offers specific tips on how to do so.

Digital tools, as powerful as they may be, are no substitute for old fashioned human connections, however. Kawasaki argues that digital communication works against maintaining personal relationships through physical proximity, face-to-face communication, but a sincere smile and a firm handshake can still go a long way to becoming enchanting.

Depending on your business culture and the difficulty in changing corporate policies, preparing and launching “an enchantment campaign” is a process that can take weeks to several months, Kawasaki notes. He devotes an entire chapter on how to overcome resistance to change.

Finally, enchantment shouldn’t be thought of as limited to the customers’ experience; it must also be found throughout the business. Kawasaki uses the Japanese word “bakatare” meaning “stupid” to refer to people who think disenchanted employees can enchant customers. But he also writes that overly ambitious employees should enchant their boss:

“Sure, changing the world, delighting customer, and increasing shareholder value are all part of the big picture, but making your boss look good is your day-to-day job. You should do this within the boundaries of ethics and morality, but the reality is that when your boss looks good, you look good. When your boss advances, you advance … Forget any fantasies of outshining your boss and replacing or rising above him. I’ve never seen a case where a boss’ boss says, ‘We need to promote that person above her manager.’ It takes most people years to understand the wisdom of making your boss look good—often by learning it the hard way. If you can internalize and implement this concept, you’re 90 percent of the way to enchanting your boss,” (pg.s 165-166)

Kawasaki acknowledges that success requires hard work, a lot of creativity, trial and error and careful analysis. But the fact is, success in business is also a matter of luck. Also, those looking for deep research on business success will be disappointed. On this issue, Kawasaki notes:

“The truth is, there is limited black-and-white, scientific proof of many enchantment techniques, and that’s OK, because the right attitude is, ‘This technique is interesting. Maybe it applies to us. Let’s see if it works,’” (p. 6).

And just to cover all his bases, the business guru ends his book with the words: “reject what doesn’t work, and enhance what does,” (p. 183).

On the other hand, Kawasaki’s book does offer several good social media marketing tips, useful checklists for improving business operations, and includes a test to measure your knowledge of “enchantment.” The book will be available in stores on Tuesday, March 8.