Carmine Gallo’s new book, “The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World’s Greatest Salesman,” is a must-read for anyone interested in business communication. The book about Bezos stands a chance of becoming a classic, much like one of the author’s first books, “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs”.
Gallo’s “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs,” written in 2009, is still one of the best books about presentations and communication. In that book, Gallo dissected Jobs’ presentation techniques and presented them in a surprisingly simple yet insightful way. The new book follows a similar pattern with the same goal: to deconstruct the communication techniques of another of our time’s greatest businessmen – Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
The End of PowerPoint
Bezos is known for his aversion to PowerPoint presentations. In the summer of 2004, Bezos sent a shocking email to his employees: from now on, no PowerPoint presentations at top-level managers’ meetings. Instead? Maximum 6-page “memos”, essays with a linear narrative, in which the author presents his vision and project.
Many managers were taken aback. Engineers, IT specialists, with a typically technical mindset and advanced mathematical knowledge – from now on, they were to write lengthy dissertations and essays. Could this revolution have happened smoothly and without resistance? Of course not.
But it was an important turn towards focusing on communication as one of the key areas of company development. In his book, Gallo shows how this change took place. He also shows how important communication has been and still is for Bezos himself. And how effectively he infected the managers in the company with his approach. He infected them so effectively that many of them continued exactly the same communication policy in their newly founded startups after leaving Amazon.
Start with Press Release
The “ban on PowerPoint”, which Bezos introduced, is still considered one of the most controversial decisions in the world of business communication. However, this decision is just one of many aspects of Amazon’s unique approach to communication.
After reading “The Bezos Blueprint,” one must admit unequivocally: Amazon is a kind of communication oddball. They do many things differently. Exactly the opposite of what others do and different from what business textbooks say. And yet – or perhaps precisely because of this – this oddball is so effective.
Take, for example, the idea of starting every new project with… writing a press release. They start with what most companies do at the very end. Bezos introduced a practice where, instead of a detailed presentation with technical aspects of the project, the start of the entire creation process begins by defining what the planned product or service is supposed to be. But not from the perspective of the company and the people creating it, but from the perspective of the customer.
The form of a press note was perfectly suited for this. It clearly defines the capabilities offered by the described product and is written in simple language. Not for engineers, but for a wide audience. Bezos’s assumption was that press notes should be written as simply as if they were read by Oprah Winfrey herself on her television show. Such a written note served as a guide for programmers and engineers at every stage of work.
And because it only outlined the goal without focusing on technical details, it gave full freedom of creativity on how to achieve the goal.
On this basis, products such as Kindle, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon Prime were brought to life.
The Most Customer-Centric Company on Earth
The press release as the beginning of the entire project process is not accidental. This approach stemmed from the deeply rooted mission in Amazon: to be the most customer-centric company on Earth. Bezos repeated this mission many times, both during meetings with employees and during public appearances. Bezos wanted becoming the most customer-centric company on Earth to become an obsession of every employee.
“I would like every one of our employees to wake up every morning with a sense of fear for our customers – to motivate us to meet their expectations and requirements,” Bezos said.
This one short sentence – to be the most customer-centric company on Earth – is an example of how a short, simple formulation can create a great vision. Compare this sentence with the typical mission statements of other corporations – long complex sentences, clichés, generalities. Nobody remembers such missions. At Amazon, every manager knows this mission by heart – it is simple, often repeated, and easy to translate into specific actions. Every new feature, change, and procedure at Amazon is considered from the perspective of usefulness to the customer. Amazon’s simplicity of communication has reached the highest level.
Jeff Bezos’s Communication Method
While working on the book, Gallo analyzed all of Bezos’ letters to shareholders, which were sent each year with the financial report for the given fiscal year. He studied Bezos’s public appearances and conducted a series of interviews with his colleagues. So in his new book, Gallo very thoroughly deconstructed Bezos’s communication method. What characterizes this method? Here are a few of its characteristics.
- Simple language
Bezos uses simple words and simple language structures. He usually creates short sentences, although for variety, he occasionally introduces longer ones. As a result, statements, speeches, and texts written by Bezos are understandable even for eighth graders.
- Metaphors and analogies
Bezos could effectively persuade and dispel the doubts of interlocutors with metaphors and analogies. Bezos’s statement in which he described the stage of development of the internet market right after the burst of the internet bubble is famous. In 2001, there was a stock market crash due to excessive investor expectations towards the nascent industry. The thesis that the world was momentarily gripped by an internet fever just as a century ago a gold fever had flared up became popular then. Bezos explained that this analogy is not accurate. He compared the beginnings of the internet to the beginnings of the electricity era. “When we compare ourselves to the gold rush, we think of a finite amount of gold that can be mined. With the internet, it’s different. The internet is like the invention of electricity. The invention of electricity gave impulse to a series of subsequent innovations. And it’s the same today. The internet provides huge possibilities for subsequent new things.” Today we know he was absolutely right.
When he needs to touch the hearts of listeners, Bezos knows that a story will work best. He has expressed this multiple times. Even during the hearing before the anti-trust committee of the American Congress. He didn’t just talk about his company’s policy. He started by talking about himself. About his beginnings. About his parents. In this way, he gave a wider picture of what his values and goals are.
- Working on communication
Bezos knew that to communicate at the highest level, he had to undertake the challenge of exercises. He practiced through intensive reading and writing. He encouraged everyone around him to do the same. When he introduced the practice of 6-page essays instead of presentations, he explained to colleagues this way: “A good essay is not created by just, well, writing it. Good essays are written and then rewritten and edited. A good text is the result of work spread out over time and in which many people participate.” There are no good effects without effort. It’s the same with good communication.
Communication mastery can be achieved in many ways. Certainly, looking at how Bezos communicates will give us insight into interesting techniques. But to start communicating effectively, practice is needed. We focus on practical ways of business communication during my trainings: Simple Communication in Business or Storytelling vs. Simple Communication.
To learn more about these trainings, simply send me an email.
Is it worth reading this book? Yes, and multiple times. The first time you’ll understand the general style of Jeff Bezos’s communication. But to delve into the nuances, remember specific techniques, and be able to implement them in practice – I recommend at least a second reading.