Phil Knight is the co-founder of Nike, and the current chairman emeritus. He’s the author of NYTimes best selling “Shoe Dog”; investor in Laika Studios; and a philanthropist, remaining involved with his alma maters, the University of Oregon, and Stanford University.
- Understand your Audience and or Customer
“The problem with relying on charm as a sales strategy is that it’s difficult to scale. It’s not impossible, but when there’s a mismatch between product and market, the bottom usually drops out.”
Great selling is actually not about trying to force-feed customers an ill-fitting product. It’s more about matchmaking. First, tell the world who you are, and then do everything you can to find and connect with your ideal customers.
Who are these ideal customers? The ones who respond to your authentic brand. They’ll be the ones who stick with you as you scale.
“I never thought I was a sales personality. An extrovert is a person that stares at other people’s shoes. So I’m not really the typical salesman. But, you know, eventually you gotta sell something.” – Phil Knight
2. Stick to your guns
Be honest about who you are and what you are building!
“the world needs a better running shoe. And these were people that made good shoes and were really responsive to ideas on making better shoes. ” Phil “They said, “This is a great high-jump training shoe,” and it had some cushioning in it. And I say, “Well, it’s sort of silly for the high-jump shoe, but cushioning for a running shoe makes perfect sense.” And it didn’t make that much sense in Japan, where the average runner weighed about 125 pounds, but in the United States, where the, you know, 160-pound runner are running on the streets, cushioning meant a lot. Bowerman was tearing shoes apart, which ultimately led to a shoe called the Cortez, which was the first cushioned mid-sole running shoe, which really kind of got us going.”
3. Create Value First and fast
Innovate as quick and make things better sooner
The partnership between Phil Knight, Bill Bowerman, and Onitsuka Tiger clicked because of a shared goal: improve functionality and quality, while keeping their price point below that of Puma and Adidas. To Phil, the value of the product was obvious. If the shoe performed, it would sell, period. And the proof was in the receipts.
4. Simplify the branding
At its core, great branding is about simplifying. It’s about stripping away the irrelevant details until only the essence remains. Imagine a sculptor, chipping away at a block of marble, until the statue beneath is revealed.
That isn’t just true of logos and names. It’s also true of messaging. Your company’s values must be just as identifiable as its font and signature colors. In Nike’s case, what they valued most was competitive edge. Think back to Bill Bowerman’s Frankenstein shoes, crafted to help his runners win. Now, it was their job to tie that quest for victory to the brand.
5. Community is important
Create a community for your brand .
Nike’s strategy relied heavily on its association with star athletes. Nike didn’t invent the endorsement. But they may well have perfected them, going for world-class competitors that captured the public’s imagination. Steve Prefontaine, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Freshening up the look of their shoes was a good start, and style has been an integral part of Nike’s strategy ever since. But it wasn’t enough. They also had to pivot their sales strategy. They needed to inform the non-elite athlete that Nike was for them too.