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What does product evangelism or being a product evangelist really mean –with Guy Kawasaki

Photo by Product School

Every time we talk of product evangelists, who’s the first name that pops into your head? Guy Kawasaki, right?

I had an opportunity to interview Guy for The ABM Conversations Podcast, and I wanted to share the nuggets of wisdom he shared with me on product evangelism.

If you are in the world of marketing, you don’t need an introduction to who Guy is. Still, to give enough context for any beginners in marketing, Guy is the Chief Evangelist of Canva and was the Chief Evangelist of Apple during the Steve Jobs times. He is currently also the brand ambassador for Mercedes Benz.

Ok, let’s quickly get to the meats and potatoes of evangelism.

What does evangelism for a product really mean?

Evangelism is probably the purest form of sales at the outset, where you are part of creating a movement or inspiring people to jump onto the bandwagon. And yet, when you put that into a sales context or look at it from a product company’s lens – it’s more than chasing sales quotas.

So how exactly is evangelism different from the traditional form of marketing or sales?

In Guy’s words:

For starters, evangelism comes from a Greek word, which means bringing the good news. So, what an evangelist does is bring the good news, and hopefully, you are evangelizing something that is good news.

For example, for Macintosh, it increased people’s creativity and productivity, and now for Canva, Canva has democratized design. So the difference between sales and evangelism is that sales is usually concerned primarily with one’s success, like quota, commission, income, etc.

Evangelism is concerned with the other person’s success and benefit. So when I tell you to use or ask you to use Canva, it is because I genuinely believe it’ll make you a better communicator by creating great graphics.

Having a cause for your product

There are very few marketing gurus who keep it real and believably talk about things. And that’s one of the reasons why I have so much respect for Guy. He once said it’s not what Guy touches turns into gold, but it’s Guy touching something that’s already gold. It does take a lot of character to say something like that.

Side note: I sincerely recommend reading Guy’s recent book – Wise Guy: Lessons from a life.

And Guy also adds, ‘you cannot evangelize crap’ – bold but fair enough. If you have been a marketer or a salesperson for a decade, there must have been several times you must have asked yourself, ‘Do I really believe in what I tell my customers?’

And that brings us to think about – does our product have a genuine cause? I asked Guy what Canva’s cause was?

Guy’s response on Canva’s cause:

Well, Canva’s cause is to make anybody a better communicator by creating compelling graphics, be it a presentation or a business card or social media graphics, etc.

Building a cause when you have a great product is just about getting out of the way. It’s because there could be so many people wanting to be affiliated with it. Your role in such a scenario is to be open to accepting help.

But that said, there are some qualities that I associate with great products.

  1. A great product is very deep. There are lots of exciting features with lots of functionality. It means that the company has anticipated what you’ll need as you come up in the power curve.
  2. They are indulgent in the sense that you feel special about it. You feel like you’re getting a treat – as if there’s something magical happening.
  3. And they are also complete in the sense that it’s not just the product or the software or the website, but the totality, including service and support. To add to that, it’s even better if there are third-party developers as part of the community.
  4. And the final thing is that great products are elegant; it feels like someone cared about the user interface design.

So if you have those four qualities, I’m pretty sure you will have a great product.

On Steve Jobs’ style of building a cause

A lot of us are fans of Steve Jobs’ ability to tell stories and inspire the world. The launch of the ‘Think different’ campaign and the way he launched the iPhone in 2007 is etched into our memories.

He truly understood great products and what people might need. And he was a showman, and there are not many people who have all those qualities. I can’t think of one who has all those, maybe Elon Musk, but that’s about as close as I can come to someone who has the impact of Steve Jobs.

So, it’s a rare person who can do that. But don’t get me wrong – it still starts with a great product.

Setting the right goals for an evangelist.

Every company has a vision and a mission statement that 90% of their employees don’t give a damn about. I’ve seen CMOsand CROs talking in town hall meetups, making their entire set of employees chant the mission statement.

That’s not how you make people embrace it. It only makes me laugh. Won’t you agree?

If it’s not memorable, then it’s not ingrained to the DNA of people. But then Guy talks about having mantras, not just mission statements. It’s about having those two or three words that define your purpose of existence. For example, with Guy, it’s ’empowering people.’

But we need to get a bit tactical here to put it to use. How do we go from having a mantra to setting goals for a product evangelist? More importantly, what are the kind of goals does a product evangelist carry?

Here’s what Guy had to say:

It depends on the product, but for me as an evangelist for Macintosh, my quantifiable goal was the number of third-party applications available for Macintosh.

For Canva, it is about the number of new signups and monthly active users. So evangelism can be quantified. But on the ground, the most effective tool for an evangelist is the ability to do a great demo. Demos are the key.

The 80/20 rule Vs. Planting many seeds

Let’s look at evangelism from a slightly different angle. You often hear statements like ‘not all customers are equal’ or something like ‘20% of your customers are going to contribute to 80% of your revenue’. We also hear things like –-only one or two of your products will be your cash flow, etc.

But Guy talks about planting as many seeds as possible. Is it the complete opposite route?

Not really.

Planting many seeds and being open as an evangelist isn’t necessarily in contradiction with the 80/20 rule. But the key question boils down to – how did you figure out who the special customers are?

The difference between evangelism and sales is that often, sales pre-determines and picks the winners in advance.

The concept of letting a thousand flowers blossom is that you plant a lot of seeds, and you see what takes root. And then you help what’s taking root.

For example, Guy thought he knew who would use a Macintosh and why. He and his team back then thought it would be all about spreadsheet, database, and word processing. But it turned out that their customers’ actual reasoning was that they saw Macintosh as a desktop publishing machine.

Does an evangelist target users or decision-makers?

Often in marketing and sales, you are taught to talk to the decision-makers. For example, about 12 years ago, when I started selling CRM implementation services, I was asked to reach out to IT directors, CIOs, etc.

And you can imagine how many of those folks took cold calls. So, being an evangelist, should you target the users or decision-makers?

When I asked this, here’s what Guy said:

My observation is that the higher you go in most organizations, the more busy the decision-makers are. And also, more often than not, they are less familiar with the real work. The middles and the bottoms do the actual work of most organizations.

When you have a product or service, most likely, you’re trying to change the minds of the people who are the users, as opposed to the decision-makers. Therefore, the possibility of them realizing the importance of your product in the context of the pain points of people working on the ground is minimal. So my concept is to work with the models and the bottoms.

That said if a CIO or CEO says they want to help you – take the help, but don’t depend on top-down decision-making to make you successful.

Finally, how to use social media better without trying to be a wannabe influencer?

We are in an age where pretty much everyone on social media tries to act like an expert or an influencer. For instance, not many people get that they are not going to become a GaryVee by just developing some swearing

skills 🙂

So how does a product evangelist make the best use of social media without getting lost in the noise of mee-toos and wannabes?

The response from Guy is gold. Please print this and keep it on your desk!

He goes:

First of all, the product evangelists should focus on making the products successful, not on increasing their personal brand and ego. That’s the fundamental.

I want Macintosh to be successful, not Guy Kawasaki to be famous. I want Canva to be successful and not Guy to be recognized.

And if you buy into that, then your social media is all about information. It would be information about your product, offering support to your product, talking about tips and tricks for using your product, making the best use of your product, etc. It’s not about positioning yourself as a thought-leader, a visionary, or a guru.

Closing notes

The conversation with Guy didn’t stop there. I just pulled together the nuggets around evangelism for your perusal. I also asked him some questions about his thought process, personal viewpoints, and learnings on a few aspects of my podcast’s rapid-fire section.

So please give it a listen. Let me know if it was helpful.

And as always, thanks a ton for your time here – love you, cheers!

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