Part 5 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Evangelizes

This is the fifth installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack.

What next?

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A Go-To Evangelizes a Prescriptive Point of View on the Problem and Builds a Following

Once it has declared ownership of the problem, a Go-To develops a prescriptive point of view on what companies need to be doing to solve that problem and widely evangelizes that point of view. Guy Kawasaki would describe it as a “cause.” This is not a sales pitch. The point of view is a genuine perspective on what needs to be done, with or without the Go-To’s help.

The Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), which is part of the Department of Management Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering at Stanford University has become the Go-To for technology entrepreneurship education, as evidenced by (among other things) the fact that the National Science Foundation chose it over numerous other institutions vying for a rare $10 million grant to help engineering students across the United States become more entrepreneurial and innovative. STVP firmly believes that all students can benefit from learning entrepreneurial leadership skills regardless of their major or intended career.

STVP faculty, staff and affiliates travel extensively and maintain close relationships with other leaders and influencers in technology entrepreneurship education and research. Almost everyone in entrepreneurship education around the globe knows or knows of STVP Professors Tom Byers, Kathy Eisenhardt and Tina Seelig, who are fervent evangelists of STVP’s point of view. They are so prolific in their “market,” that all of them have won numerous awards for their work and impact. Kathy Eisenhardt’s research is so influential that she was noted in 2008 as the most-cited research author in strategy and organization studies for the past 25 years, ahead of renowned Harvard management professor and author, Michael Porter.  Byers and Seelig won the prestigious Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education for their influence in this area. Presented by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), then-president William Wulf said the NAE created the award as “essentially the ‘Nobel Prize’ for engineering educators.” All of them have written books regarding STVP practices and insights.

A Go-To understands the value and power of engaging audiences’ emotions with storytelling and drama. The problem provides dramatic tension as the villain, and the prescriptive point of view saves the day as hero.

In the early days of Salesforce.com, Marc Benioff clearly saw installed software as a villain. He firmly believed that software-as-a-service was the hero that could come to the rescue. Everywhere he went, he got up on his soapbox and delivered the same impassioned  message: Companies are better off with software-as-a-service instead of buying enterprise software packages that require dozens of people, millions of dollars and many months to install or even modify, once installed. This point of view was espoused in every facet of Salesforce.com’s activities and interactions with the market.

A Go-To understands the soft-sell power of thought leadership. 

When Frank Vain of private club industry consulting firm, McMahon Group, stands up in front of an audience of private club general managers, he doesn’t talk at all about McMahon Group. He educates the audience on the core problem facing the private club sector and McMahon’s research-based point of view on what club leadership teams can do to solve this problem. By the time he’s done openly and freely sharing his expertise, he’s essentially given a credentials presentation while keeping the audience hanging on his every word. It’s like standing outside a restaurant giving free samples of your most delicious dishes. Customers can’t help but want more.

A Go-To also understands the power of building a following, so that others in the market place start doing your selling for you.

In a prior post, I referenced my involvement in selecting the McMahon Group for a private club member research project. While meeting with us, Frank Vain didn’t sell us on buying services from McMahon Group, our own general manager did! Another example is Apple, which has an entire army of rabid fans who spread the Apple gospel on its behalf. Mozilla, proud provider of Internet browser, Firefox, actually engages its users in helping to maintain and improve the product through the Mozilla Project – they work for free, because they believe in the cause: choice and control online.

STVP has created a “community of believers” throughout academia, who also share its passion and belief in STVP’s philosophy. For many years, STVP led a series of annual conferences in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the U.S. to bring together entrepreneurship educators from across these regions to advance entrepreneurship education. STVP would share its approach and encourage others to to the same.  Professors around the globe have tremendous respect for STVP’s approaches and its role as a thought leader in this field. More importantly, there is incredible bonding that took place among the participants. There was a deep sense of camaraderie and mutual support. STVP provided these events as a service to their peers, but the events paid immeasurable dividends back to STVP in terms of what it learned, brand building, and other opportunities the events created for STVP.

Now, to you.

What does your company stand for? What do you believe your market needs to be doing differently? And how might you build your following?

[If you’re stumped, subscribe to the blog – I’ll be posting a how-to series on this later.]

Part 3 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Obsession

This is the third installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack. Part 1 talked about how a Go-To focuses.  Part 2 talked about the importance of establishing a beachhead. Next up: The importance of obsessing over what you do.

A Go-To is Obsessed with Its Area of Expertise

I used to have an old Mercedes diesel sedan and would take it to the San Francisco Go-To for these cars, Fred, at Silver Star Motor Services. Fred didn’t just work on old Mercedes diesels. He loved them. He was an aficionado. He was constantly thinking about them, reading about them, learning more about them. And he had strong opinions about them. He could bend your ear for hours talking about the ins and outs of these cars. He wasn’t showing off, he was waxing poetic about something he was passionate about. He would just light up at the thought of these cars. It wasn’t a business or job for him – it was his life.

A Go-To doesn’t just specialize. A Go-To is a passionate aficionado, a devotee. A Go-To obsesses. And a Go-To is very opinionated when it comes to a particular market issue.

steve-jobs-iphoneSteve Jobs was obsessed with distinctive design. He insisted that Apple’s mantra be simplicity. In his mind, consumer technology was too complex, hard to use, and ugly. As a result, the company has always been obsessed with creating innovative, easy-to-use technology that people have an emotional connection with. When Apple started to work on the iPhone, Steve Jobs didn’t instruct the development team to create a device that would put a computer in your pocket. His directive was: “Create the first phone that people [will] fall in love with.” According to Former Apple product manager, Bob Brochers, “The idea was, he wanted to create something that was so instrumental and integrated in peoples’ lives that you’d rather leave your wallet at home than your iPhone.” Steve Jobs was clearly passionate, obsessive and strongly opinionated about how people should interact with technology, and these qualities have informed everything Apple has created, even after his passing.

800wi-jpgWhen Marc Benioff founded Salesforce.com in 1999, he was absolutely passionate about the need for companies to move away from installed software and to adopt the software-as-a-service (SaaS or “cloud”) model. I saw him on stage at a conference in 2006, and he relentlessly and completely unapologetically pounded on his primary thesis that installed enterprise software was on its way to extinction. At the time, it was still an emerging idea, but Salesforce.com was so passionate about the idea that it put a “stamp” of the word “software” in a red circle with a slash through it on every ad, on its website and any other bit of material associated with the company. Benioff wore a trademark pin of the image everywhere he went, including on the stage that day. It is difficult to find an article or presentation by him that does not espouse his point of view on this topic.

I’m obsessed with the importance of companies becoming the Go-To in their markets. What are you obsessed with?