Guy Kawasaki's "Rules for Revolutionaries" - Key Takeaways

I just finished Guy Kawasaki's book "Rules for Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services" and thought I would share some of the key takeaways with you here. Kawasaki is the former "Chief Evangelist" at Apple and is also the co-founder of Alltop.com and founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures, so he has plenty of real world experience from which to draw his insights.


Start by thinking differently:

The revolutionary thought process consists of the following steps:
1. PURGE your pre-conceived notions
2. PROD the status quo by considering new solutions
3. Bring things together in a new way to PRECIPITATE an innovative new concept

Keys to a great product:
  • Deep - The product is so well thought-out that it often has features you don't even know you need. It should anticipate what the customer will want once they have become familiar with the product.
  • Indulging - The product provides more than what you minimally need. It provides a little extra.
  • Complete - All peripheral aspects of the product (customer service, user guides, etc.) are as exceptional as the product itself.
  • Elegant - The product was created with a focus on design. It is aesthetically appealing.
  • Evocative - The product catalyzes strong feelings. It tends to be polarizing  - You may have some detractors but it is worth it in order to obtain the evangelists. "You should strive to create something that some people will love rather than something everyone will merely like."

Keys to a great team:
  • Great Leader - "Great leaders are paradoxical. They catalyze, rather than control, the work of their teams."
  • Idealistic People - Your team members don't necessarily have to have the most impressive resume as long as they are passionate about what they are working on."
  • Small, Close & Separate - Small groups usually yield the best results, especially when they are in close proximity to facilitate effective communication and separated from the rest of the company to remove distractions.
  • Casual & Unregimented - The best results usually come out of casual working environments where team members are able to be creative and free to work as they feel comfortable.

Keys to great practices:
  • Find fault with existing products, then improve them in a significant way
  • Go with your gut - Follow your intuition when considering new products
  • Design something that you yourself would like to use
  • Use what you have - You don't need millions in capital; many successful companies have started out on a bootstrapped budget
  • You don't have to hit a home run - Just try to get on base. Small successes can turn into big ones once timing and circumstance take over.
  • Ignore the naysayers - they are the ones that have maintained the status quo
  • Once you've decided to pursue a project, commit to it. Have the guts to stand by your idea.

Time to Launch:

Don't be afraid to ship an imperfect product - The first iteration of most revolutionary products are not perfect, but be ready to quickly improve upon your first version. Value your customers' feedback to determine what needs to be changed. You should be constantly revising your product  with two goals in mind: making customers happy and staying ahead of the competition.


Crossing the Chasm:

After launch, you need to cross the "chasm", the significant gulf that exists between the market made up of early adopters and the markets of more traditional buyers. Sometimes early success can cloud your judgment and make you think you have a hit, but since early adopters' buying habits are so different than the standard consumer, this may not be the case. You need to make sure you are able to reach critical mass and cross the chasm.

Five barriers to crossing the chasm:
  • Ignorance - Make potential customers aware that your product exists
  • Inertia - Motivate people to try your product
  • Complexity - Make sure people can use your product easily
  • Channel - Make sure your customers can find your product to buy it
  • Price - Make sure your product is not cost-prohibitive

Breaking down the barriers:
  • Offer a free/no-risk trial, free samples or a money-back guarantee.
  • If your product is truly revolutionary, market it that way. Don't be afraid to use outrageous statements to grab people's attention.
  • Create a sense of ownership - Market your product in a way which customers can identify with
  • Associate your product with a trend that customers are already familiar with - It will make them more comfortable trying your product

Erecting barriers:

Once you've broken down the barriers to entry, you need to erect some barriers of your own. There are a few routes to take:
  • Exclusivity - Make sure your product is, and is perceived as, the best on the market
  • Mindshare - Make sure your product is the most prevalent in the marketplace so it becomes the go-to solution
  • Price - Make sure your product has the best price point
  • Customerization - Try to lock in customers with aggressive customization of your product for their individual needs
  • Knowledge - Become the expert in your field
  • Infrastructure - Look at the big picture and make sure your product is the best positioned
  • Alliances - Become your customer's "friend" so they feel guilty leaving
Once you've crossed the chasm, capture as much market share as you can, but don't get comfortable - You need to continue innovating to leverage your market leading position and stay ahead of the curve

Create Evangelists:

Get people not just to buy but to believe in your product, service or company so much that they are compelled to spread the word and tell their friends about it.

Practices to Avoid:
  • Targeting the "Low Hanging Fruit" - Since early adopters tend to behave differently than most consumers, if you tailor your product for early adopters, you are not making the best product for everyone else.
  • Limiting yourself by comparing your product to a competitor - Your product shouldn't just be superior relative to the competition; it should be excellent in absolute terms if you want it to be revolutionary.
  • Becoming a slave to the budget - Don't give up on a revolutionary idea just because it doesn't fit in the budget. If it is worth working on, figure out a way to make it happen.
  • Being too consistent - While consistency has its benefits, don't be afraid to shake things up every once in awhile to encourage creativity and outside-the-box thinking.
  • Always saying "Yes" - You don't need to be the right product for everyone. Focus on your niche and grow from there. Don't try to please everyone or you will end up with a lukewarm product.
  • Diluting your brand - Don't dilute your brand by adding products that are outside your specialty.
  • Outsourcing when it doesn't make sense - It is often more efficient and cost-effective to maintain a task within your own company to better integrate it with your existing processes.
  • Copying larger companies - Large, established companies have built their empires over time; if you try to jump to this level too early, you will be biting off more than you can chew. You need to put in the time to achieve their level of operation.
  • Trying to artificially increase market share - When you overextend your company in order to extend market share, especially by lowering prices to unsustainable levels, you will not reap the benefits of this increased customer base; instead, it will hurt you over time.
  • Making substitution your goal - Don't think of your revolutionary product as a substitute for a previous product. Put it in a category of its own.


Personal research is better than professional research:

Anecdotal evidence is often more useful than pure data. Your own observations are often more valuable than market research.
Always be absorbing information, trying to find connections and practical applications for this knowledge.
Once you see an opportunity, act quickly.

If you're going to do market research, use "real-world research": 
Use your own product
Talk to your own customers
Observe an actual situation in which your product is being used

Let all levels of employee view the customer experience so that they understand what they are working on and working towards. The result:
- Employees get better at the process
- The information is more reliable
- Faster solutions to problems
- Increased customer faith in the company

When you ask questions, the answers are already framed. Instead, watch how people act to accurately understand their behaviors.

"Perch in different trees" - Take yourself out of your comfort zone and make observations in different locations, different industries, different markets, etc. in order to see the big picture

Once you've gathered new information, don't be afraid to share the wealth. Let others within your organization benefit from your knowledge for the betterment of the company.

Think Digital, Act Analog:

Use technology to help your efforts, but make sure to maintain a personal touch. You can utilize data and technology for customization, but to provide a truly unique experience, there needs to be some human interaction.

Ignore titles - Treat all levels within an organization with equal respect; you never know when you will need their help or influence.

Collaborate with customers - incorporate customer feedback into your product to improve customer experience

Put yourself in your customers' shoes:

Don't ask your customers to do something you wouldn't do - i.e. wait on hold for long periods of time, shop in uncomfortable conditions, abide by policies that don't make sense.

Empower your employees to help customers with a problem instead of having to wait for upper-level approval. Empower your customers to handle problems in different ways - don't force them to follow a stringent procedure.

Underpromise and overdeliver.

Treat your existing customers just as good as new ones. Even better, reward their loyalty.


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