Vocus Book Club: Think Like Zuck

Think Like Zuck - Ekaterina WalterGetting inspired nowadays is tough – the world moves at such a fast rate that after you’ve spent all that time creating an amazing idea, chances are someone else has already done it. Bummer. Whether it’s writing content or creating a new product, everyone needs a little passion and purpose in their business life. As a matter of fact, it’s a character trait of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Think Like Zuck” is a new read by author Ekaterina Walter that shares the business secrets of Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg. After devouring it, I felt truly inspired to infuse meaning into my marketing strategies as a community manager and inspire change. Here’s an excerpt that I found especially compelling and that I hope you will appreciate:

Great leaders (and great companies) create movements, not just products. “Those [leaders] who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained,” Simon Sinek writes. “Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they are swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal.” Whether they have a desire to work with you toward a shared goal or to buy your product because your company stands for something they believe in, people want to matter. It is a basic human need to be around those who share our beliefs. The sense of one purpose, of belonging, of we-are-in-this-together is a feeling that inspires. Purpose is essential to the success of any endeavor. It gives organization true authenticity.

“Great companies don’t just create great products, they create movements.”

Everything a successful company does stems from its purpose: the products it makes, the employees it hires, the working environment it creates, the customers and investors it attracts, the partnerships it forges, the way it markets its products or services, and the way it delivers customer service. The reality is that any new product or service can be copied, the quality can be made comparable, the incentives can be offered, and the prices can be cut in an effort to make a company competitive. But what really breeds long-term customer loyalty (and with it success of the company) isn’t a specific product or a discount but rather the authentic belief your customers hold that binds them to your company and makes them relate to your company’s mission in the world. That is what speaks to customers’ emotions, dreams, and values.

Throughout his book, [Start with Why] Simon Sinek keeps coming back to Apple. The company offers an ideal example. Despite the odds, Apple remained successful under the vision of one of its founders, Steve Jobs. We look at Apple’s higher pricing and smaller market share and wonder how it succeeded. One of the main reasons, Sinek believes, is that Apple was clear about the reason for its existence. The company’s “Think Different” slogan inspired a generation and consistently encouraged people to challenge the status quo. The slogan also embodied Apple’s choice to walk the path less traveled in creating every single one of its products. At the time Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were turning their passion into purpose and then into action, computers were considered business tools, not personal tools. The form factors and price points were such that a regular person couldn’t afford one. Apple started with the passion of its founders—to get personal computers into the hands of every individual—which turned into the purpose of challenging the conventional wisdom and changing the world, one product at a time.

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Apple’s success was amazing. In its first year of existence, the company made a million dollars in revenue. In six years, it was a billion dollar company. And that is not only because Apple lives and breathes its purpose in everything it does; it is also because the company clearly communicates its beliefs to the world. Apple’s people believe in the power of the individual and in empowering individuals to challenge the status quo, to create a revolution. And it is obvious in their every action. Like their marketing, for one. The “I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC.” commercials struck a chord; people could relate to the confident and rebellious Mac guy making fun of the old, orthodox PC guy. The company introduced the iPod by offering people “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Says Sinek: “Apple did not invent the mp3, nor did they invent the technology that became the iPod, yet they are credited with transforming the music industry with it.” That is because the company didn’t market a product itself but rather marketed the reason why people wanted it. Products that represent a belief or a purpose allow people to indirectly communicate their sense of who they are and where they belong. Apple’s founders, Apple’s employees, Apple’s customers—they all exist to push the envelope, to rebel against the conventional.

Making a positive impact in the world in one way or another seems to be the purpose of every successful business.  Apple’s belief—its purpose—hasn’t changed since its inception. It has stayed consistent through its history. So has Ford’s purpose of “opening the highways to all man- kind”; Southwest Airlines’ purpose to provide affordable transportation to the common person; Walt Disney’s purpose to bring joy to children every- where; Starbucks’ purpose to bring people together, to “inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”; Zappos’ purpose to delight its patrons through “wow” customer service; and Coca-Cola’s purpose to inspire happiness. Just like the DNA in our bodies, purpose should be the core, the DNA, of a business. And every action of that business should authentically articulate its heritage.

Ignited by Mark Zuckerberg’s passion, his Harvard friends got together numerous times to discuss the topic of changing the world. They talked about a better, more open, and empathetic world. From that, Facebook’s purpose was born—“to make the world more open and connected.” His friends, who shared Zuck’s beliefs, rallied behind that purpose of building communication bridges between people, and they dropped out of college to help Zuck make it a reality. They set out to build a directory of people, a gateway to the people in our lives we care about. They wanted to bring our offline world online.

Now, with close to 4,000 employees, Facebook  always buzzes with passion, excitement, focused activity, and sheer determination. Why? It isn’t because Zuck is charismatic. He may be brilliant, but he isn’t charismatic socially. But when he starts talking about Facebook and its mission, people cannot not pay attention. And Facebook employees will probably argue with me on the “Zuck isn’t charismatic” point till their throats are sore. That is because they are true believers, because the whole company is united by the same mission.

Book credit: Ekaterina Walter, Think Like Zuck, ©2013, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher -  provided by McGraw-Hill.

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