Is Enchantment a Competitive Advantage?


The holy grail of business is coming up with a competitive advantage that can’t be reasonably matched by your competitors.  If you can pull it off, you essentially don’t have competitors.  When you think of creating competitive advantage, you typically think of innovation, maybe technology, barriers of entry of some sort, maybe even some sort of geographic advantage (think oil fields).

However there is another way to develop a competitive advantage and although he doesn’t expressly lay it out that way, that’s what Guy Kawasaki’s latest book Enchantment (The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions) made me think about.  (Full Disclosure:  I received a free review copy of the book – thanks Guy!).

Quick – think about the coolest restaurant you’ve ever been to.  Maybe it’s an elaborately themed place in Vegas…or that hole in the wall diner where everyone knows your name and just fits you.  Or maybe it’s the place that got everything right and you walked out feeling like you had more than a meal, you had an experience.

That’s what Kawasaki means when he talks about Enchantment!  It’s about creating a genuine feeling of delight in your customers and prospective customers.

An obvious example of Enchantment is the response and feeling that Apple generates among their many fans.  Apple is used as an example a lot in the book – partly because that’s where Guy Kawasaki really got his start – as an evangelist for the Apple Macintosh, but it’s also used a lot because Apple does a great job enchanting people. 

This is a technology company who has inspired millions of fans to eagerly wait in lines to grab the latest expensive gadget (in fact the iPad 2 is already hard to find).  If that’s not a competitive advantage, then I don’t know what is.  Sure some of that stems from Apples technology and design prowess, but I would argue that most of that excitement comes from Apple living out their core values and purposely doing everything they can to enchant their target audience.  They create and delight fans!

So what’s in the book?

Overall Enchantment is an easy read – it has a lot of stories and examples and Kawasaki’s style is light but still packs a punch in terms of ideas and things you should be doing.  In fact there are a lot of ideas that business owners should pay attention to, including things like: The importance of baking a bigger pie, leveraging social proof consistently, how to use Social Media for business and how to enchant your employees (so they can enchant your customers) just to name a few.

The overall approach of the book is a ‘how-to’ manual for making your cause, your big idea, your business enchanting.  A lot of the book ties into ideas on how to Influence people (and in fact Robert Cialdini – the author of the bestselling book Influence) is referenced many times.  However it’s a practical approach – the ideas are based on psychological principles, but a lot of it is a refreshing common sense way of looking at things.

There are several prerequisites to being enchanting.  First of all you have to have a great product / service or the whole game is off (average isn’t going to enchant).  From there you need to be likable and you need to be trustworthy.  The book gives you ideas on how to build those traits into your business and how you build the other ongoing processes you need to continually charm your customers.

From there he also goes into practical examples of Push (twitter, e-mail, etc.) and Pull (blogs, websites, Facebook, etc.) marketing ideas.  At the end of the day, every company and cause is different so there’s really not a step by step, one right answer approach to building an enchanting company, but there are a lot of ideas here to get you moving in the right direction and get you thinking.

Why is this important?

Every entrepreneur dreams of thrilling their customers who get more than they expect and then feel compelled to go tell a dozen people about the cool thing they just experienced.  Unfortunately the reality is that most businesses are unremarkable at best and repulsive at worst (kind of the opposite of enchanting).

If you take some time to think about why over 50% of businesses fail within the first 5 years, a big driver is because they haven’t figured out how to be remarkable in a positive way.

The good news is that if you can start building the infrastructure that cultivates Enchantment you can quickly build a real competitive advantage that allows you to charge a premium, even if your product or service is essentially the same as your competitors.  When people really like you, when they trust you and when you deliver consistently beyond their expectations (that you carefully set)…then you’ve built something worth talking about and something that will enchant!

Want to get a better feel for where you stand with Enchanting in your business?  Here’s a link for an Enchantment Assessment.

Personal Example

We ran into a good example of Enchantment recently – the picture at the top of this post is from a recent spring break trip we took in Phoenix.  One of the highlights for the family was a balloon ride.  It was a great experience (very cool if you’ve never been up).   We really enjoyed it…not because of the balloon or the technology or even the skill of the pilot, what the family really remembered was how great the crew members were.  At every turn they went out of their way to be friendly, welcoming and to make the whole thing fun.  I don’t know if they did it on purpose, but they were using many of the principles recommended in Enchantment to make it a special trip.  Maybe all of the other balloon operators do the same thing, but if you’re in Phoenix and want a great experience, I recommend the guys from Rainbow Ryders.  They were great! 

Have you read Enchantment yet?  Could you build that into your business?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

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