Here are three lengthy excerpts from Evangelist Marketing. I’ll rotate these regularly, bringing in new excerpts, so please check back for new content here….
From the Introduction:
Why I’m Writing This Book
People ask me: Why are you writing this book? Why do you care? Don’t you think tech companies are doing pretty well?
Yes, I say, they’re doing well enough. But they’re also leaving billions of dollars on the table. Tens of billions. Because the market- ing—which must be incredibly powerful to develop mainstream evangelists—is atrocious in our business. That’s right. Huge compa- nies—Hewlett-Packard, Dell, AT&T, Samsung, Panasonic, Microsoft, and nearly every other company in our business (at least 98 percent of all consumer electronics manufacturers)—run by millionaire execu- tives with graduate degrees from the most respected universities in the land are succeeding in spite of their marketing, not because of it. Con- sumers have an intense natural interest in technology—more so than in any other industry besides sports. But not only are these companies not capitalizing on it, the harmful marketing actually drives away cus- tomers who’d likely buy their products if they said nothing at all.
How do I know all this?
I was a syndicated technology columnist at the Chicago Tribune for five years and hosted a tech radio show on Midwest powerhouse WGN-AM for four years. I’ve been on the receiving end of thousands of press releases, have interviewed technology executives in the thou- sands, and have talked to thousands of consumers about their use and perceptions of technology. Since my media years, I’ve worked with many of the largest technology manufacturers in the world as a private consultant and adviser, speaker, and spokesperson.
For years, I’ve had deep insight into what technology makers are doing to market their products, and how consumers perceive that mar- keting. I’ve seen the rather massive disconnect between consumers and the executives trying to sell technology to them. They think about the same technology very differently. They use different language. Con- sumers have told me what they’d like to see from manufacturers in terms of marketing, communication, and education—and I’ve watched company after company invest millions of dollars not delivering it.
So yes, the industry is doing well enough. But only a few compa- nies have passion in the mainstream. Every other manufacturer sim- ply has fleeting users. That means a select few firms—just three—are creating extraordinary marketing, while everyone else’s marketing is ordinary at best and suicidal at worst.
If you’re reading this and you’re connected to a consumer elec- tronics company, that company is likely leaving millions or billions of dollars on the table.
This book will teach you how to move that money off the table and into your bank account.
As I see it, only five products—made by just three companies— have a critical mass of mainstream consumer evangelists:
- The iPhone® mobile digital device
- The iPad® mobile digital device
- The Mac® computer
- The Amazon Kindle® electronic book
- Netflix® video streaming service
Always remember that success in consumer electronics comes to those companies that develop a critical mass of mainstream consumer evangelists. I am sure that many companies have some highly technical early-adopter evangelists, but their networks mostly consist of other tech types. Parents with jobs and responsibilities are generally not get- ting their tech recommendations from early adopters who religiously read tech blogs and message boards. In this book, my focus is strictly on the mainstream—which is where your focus needs to be as well.
I will never argue with you if you say, But there are lots of other com- panies that have evangelists, Alex. I would say you are absolutely right. Google has evangelists but not as many, and not as energized as Ap- ple’s, Amazon’s, and Netflix’s customers. Facebook has evangelists, but would they remain evangelical if there was a cost to use the site? I have my doubts. Twitter has evangelists, but they are not really mainstream consumers. Zappos, the Internet shoe retailer, has evangelists, but it’s not a critical mass of mainstream customers. The people who use Zap- pos love it. But there are not nearly as many moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas who use Zappos as those who buy Apple’s products or Amazon’s Kindle content or pay for a Netflix subscription every month.
So here’s the point: many companies in the consumer electron- ics space have some evangelists. That’s great. It’s a terrific start. This is not an all-or-nothing process. Companies cannot go directly from Point A—having no customer evangelists—to Point B—having a criti- cal mass of mainstream evangelists. This is a continuum, with many steps in between Point A and Point B. It’s a process.
I believe that only Apple, Amazon, and Netflix have reached the ultimate conclusion in the process, but even they must repeatedly do the right things to maintain this position. For example, we witnessed the emotional reaction—and the resulting financial ramifications— when Netflix increased prices on its DVD and streaming subscription plans in 2011. Gravity pushes backwards in consumer electronics. Do nothing, or the wrong things, and you’ll quickly lose ground.
This book is your road map for the journey between where you are now and that critical mass of mainstream consumer evangelists.
Bon voyage and good luck!
From Chapter 2: Your Success Depends on a Series of Shifts:
Shift Toward Involving Your PR Department Early
Later in this book—also earlier!—I detail the real problems caused by public relations departments and agencies for consumer technology makers. PR people, particularly those who pitch the media, are of- ten young and ineffective. Journalists literally wonder aloud how such sophisticated companies can put so much of their company’s success into the hands of such unsophisticated, low-level employees. Chapter 9 covers in depth the problems caused by your public relations profes- sionals and prescribes solutions.
But this section, this next shift in your approach to formulating marketing strategy, involves making far better use of your public rela- tions teams. At most companies I’ve worked with as a consultant and before that as a journalist, public relations is the last to be let in on outbound communications strategy but the first to distribute it to the media. That puts your PR people in the unique and valuable position of being among the first people in your company to get feedback about how your strategy is working. In fact, on a day-to-day basis, your pub- lic relations professionals get more reaction about your branding, po- sitioning, and messaging than anyone else in the marketing function.
The problem is, PR is the tail being wagged by the marketing dog. (The head of the dog is engineering.) Generally, your PR department receives instructions and executes them. Engineering develops the products and sets the course for what will be emphasized and how. Marketing molds what engineering gives them into a strategy: it de- velops the branding approach, the product story; identifies the heroes; crafts the messages, the language, the platforms from which everything will be distributed; and incorporates an advertising and media strategy into the larger plan. For most companies, this process takes weeks, if not months, for each product.
It is only then, after the strategy is developed and the direction is firmly set, that PR is brought into the process: Here are the products. Here’s the message. Get it to the media. In most companies, public relations executives execute orders handed down to them. This is all wrong. As the group of people who are among the first to distribute your carefully crafted messaging, and the first to get reaction and feed- back on it, public relations must be much more involved in your strat- egy creation process. And I don’t mean involving the vice president of public relations or the people who run communications in North America and Europe. I’m talking about everyone from communica- tions specialists to media relations managers, the front-line folks.
These people who distribute your message and fight for it on the battlefield of rude, rushed, unresponsive media should be brought into the earliest stages of your marketing planning. They know things your executives do not. Even though your media relations people may be young, they have experience relating to the media. They have instincts about what will and won’t work. They’ll be able to tell you, for ex- ample, that megahertz and megabytes are now meaningless to media. But an interesting consumer story, a memorable experience, is worth its weight in gold. They know this because they’ve had thousands of pitches declined, and also a few that have been accepted. Why would you not want to leverage this knowledge?
There are considerable benefits to this approach:
- Knowledge and experience that is unique to front-line public relations professionals is contributed to product marketing strategy.
- This brings a new real-world realism to the planning stages.
- Here’s the most powerful benefit of all: you’ll develop a more effective branding and positioning strategy for your products. Messaging will be more powerful. Language will be stronger. That is your media team’s domain!
- Your PR professionals, who often feel interchangeable (because they often are, burning out one after another, from endless press release distribution, follow-ups, and rejections), will feel valuable and involved.
- As such, because they were involved with the develop- ment of the plan, they’ll be more effective at executing it.
- The constant rejection that is the currency of their do- main won’t sting as much. They’ll become more resilient.
- They’ll be more inclined to communicate back to lead- ership about the media and outside reactions to the content they’re distributing. This new information will allow you to make in-game adjustments. It’s information you may not have been privy to in the past.
If you’re dubious or hesitant (and that’s a normal reaction to sug- gested changes, but you’re reading this book for a reason), ask yourself this: What can it hurt? It’s pretty much impossible that involving your front-line PR professionals early in the marketing planning phase can hurt. It can only help. What can you lose by trying?
Here’s what this shift looks like—it’s another one that is black or white. You must move from the left, where you probably are now, to the right, which is the desired destination.
From Chapter 4: Your Product: Functional Excellence
The first impression is stunning
What’s the first impression? Why, the packaging of course. Nine out of ten companies in our industry take packaging for granted. When you buy a mobile device from Apple, the packaging is just as “feel good” as the product. Ever see a Kindle box? It’s simple, slick, and inviting, just like the Kindle. This is no accident. Your packaging is your first impression for consumers. If your functionally excellent device comes in a boring white box, then you are not taking advantage of one of the easi- est and most important marketing opportunities avail- able to you. Your packaging should be a sneak preview of the good feelings that await your customers once they start using your device. Netflix does it every time you get a DVD in the mail. Every time you see that red envelope in the mailbox, you know there’s entertainment wait- ing for you—a night with your significant other or your kids on the couch, with drinks, food, and the comfort of home. That’s what Netflix has trained its millions of customers to feel when they see that red envelope.
I’ve had really smart executives of some very success- ful companies ask me this question: Isn’t packaging less important now that people are buying so many of our prod- ucts online? I tell them they’re thinking about it all wrong.
Sure, the packaging might influence consumers in mak- ing a buying decision, but even at bricks-and-mortar retail, a lot of packaging isn’t even visible anymore. It’s mostly locked away. On the contrary, your packaging should be designed to build anticipation between the purchase and the start of use. Use it to train people how to think about your products. Even if that moment is less than one minute—the time between opening up the outer mail order box and opening your package—you are missing an opportunity to excite your customers. If your packaging can get someone to think, Wow, that’s in- novative, or, That’s brilliant! they’re in the right frame of mind to begin a long, wonderful relationship with your product and your company. Shift your mindset, and use your packaging as a proper introduction to your devices for new customers.