Bezos Philosophy Blooms on ‘Rose’

Build It Well and They Will Come, Says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

The Internet is a word-of-mouth accelerator. If you build a great product or service, people will talk about it.
—Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com

In a week when PBS’s Charlie Rose Show had such entertaining guests as actors Steve Carell and Paul Rudd and baseball writer Roger Angell, a little serious banter sounded good last night in the form of Jeff Bezos.

It has been a whirlwind month, of course, for Amazon, first with the statement two Mondays ago that it has sold more e-books than hardbacks over the past three months. Second that the growth rate of Kindle device sales had “reached a tipping point,” having tripled since the company lowered its price to $189 from $259 last month.

And third, according to the Website, Mashable, “the Wylie Agency has signed a deal to bring the e-book editions of 20 classic titles, including Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, exclusively to Amazon’s Kindle Store for two years, the company announced Thursday.”

But it was other Bezos quotes from his interview with Charlie Rose that intersect more with SIPA. Bezos has very strong feelings about what the Internet age means for companies.

“In the past, if you were making a product, you would put 70%–which was the right business strategy—of your attention, energy and dollars into shouting about the product, marketing the product. And 30% into building a great product. You could win with a mediocre product—if you were a good enough marketer.”

“I think that is getting harder to do,” Bezos continued. “The balance of power is shifting away from companies and towards consumers.”

What Bezos is basically saying is build it well and they will come—though maybe not right away.

“The individual is getting empowered, and the right way to respond to this if you’re a company is I’m going to put the vast amount of my attention, energy and dollars into building a great product or service,” he said. “And put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. Because I know if I build a great product or service, my customers will tell each other. You have to mix in some patience with that, take a longterm attitude.

“We’ve been doing that for many years at Amazon and it’s been a very successful strategy for us,” Bezos continued. “Another way to say that is maybe is we’re moving into a world where the truth is more on the surface. I think that’s a very healthy and good thing. [Though] it won’t be without its bumps, I’m sure.”

Bezos said that growth starts with having something worth talking about. For him, the process of creating often begins by getting away.

“I isolate myself from everything for a couple days—every quarter,” he has said previously. “Once a quarter feels about right. I get more creative, do some web surfing, try to look at what others are doing that is on the cutting edge. I’ll write memos, sometimes just to myself. Or I’ll bring them back to the office, socialize those things. [Interesting using ‘socialize’ there instead of share.] After that process, I’m not sure I invented anything or not. Because it starts here and finishes there [with other executives’ input]. And that’s a good thing.”

We may look at Amazon in awe sometimes; I mean, they now have 600,000 books available for the Kindle. But it all started and it all continues with good solid ideas and taking the time to work out those ideas.

“In the new world of information transparency, great service shines through,” Bezos said.

Words to prosper by.

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More words to prosper by come courtesy of the
SIPA 2010 Annual International Conference
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of information, step-by-step plans and new ideas.
The fact that so many of the sessions are available on audio –
to go along with a host of handouts – is a wonderful thing.

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