Today, I spoke to Harry Beckwith, one of the world’s most respected marketers, has advised 23 Fortune 200 companies, including Target, ABC and Wells Fargo. Harry first book, Selling the Invisible, was named one of the top ten business and management books of all time. In this interview, Harry talks about personal branding from a service industry perspective, dives into how he’s built his brand, goes over some important changes and trends in the marketing world, and more.

What are some of your bigger ideas in You, Inc.?

My purpose was to tell my kids what I’d learned, sometimes with pain. Many of the lessons are “Don’t do what I did. Do what I should’ve done.”

I began with the idea that you must think of yourself as a service, and apply the lessons of service marketing. When you sell someone a service, all you are selling is a promise that you will do something at a future time. So if you want to thrive, you must keep every promise.

To be in business today, do you have to think like a brand?

Think of a brand as reputation. We each own one, like it or not. So yes, you should you think about your reputation.

You represent a version of FedEx and H&R Block; you offer services to others, such as to your employers. Your prospects–clients or employers–choose you based on your reputation. If its for performing well, your prospects will assume that you will perform well again.

Not long ago, “word got around.” With text, email, blogs, and other vehicles, word now travels much faster and farther. Millions in Indonesia could know about you tomorrow, for example, given the right YouTube video. The word that now gets around fast includes words about you.

So your brand lives, in part, on the internet. If you’ve earned several thousand Twitter followers, for example, that suggests something.

If there’s nothing out there about you, that suggests something, too.

How have you built your personal brand? What do you feel that you’re known for?

My brand is based on Selling the Invisible. 13 years later, it still sells in hardback and recently passed a half-million copies sold in the English version. That book has led many people to consider me an expert on marketing a service.

People also have gone slightly nutty about my presentations. I’ve clocked in my thousands of hours of practice now, which certainly helps. It took about 15 months before the reviews with lots of exclamation points started appearing.

As for building a personal brand, you are interviewing the Unrole Model. I like helping others, but I squirm at the very idea of promoting myself.

Your first book came out in 1997. What changes have you seen in the sales and marketing world since then that people should know about?

It’s turned upside down.

Advertising dominated in 1997. Then and years after, everyone preached “brand,” and built brands primarily on two major platforms: television and print.

But the audience members felt spun. They knew advertisers were trying to charm them into buying.

Any institution built atop a foundation that shaky must be destined for a fall. So along came the internet. It looked benign at first.

And then it didn’t.

A major shift came with Google, and its Page Rank. Now a company that had no business doing advertising, or no money to do it, could create a website that appeared on the first page of a Google search. When that happened, the company’s phones started ringing. Advertising? Who needs it, many thought.

Another huge change: Dozens of new media. YouTube and Twitter can work. Google has grown a media colossus and Facebook appears headed that way. Games have become major media. And the good marketer always asks, “Are there some bloggers we should be cultivating? Maybe send a couple the new Audi to drive for a week?” A marketer faces so many more options. It can be paralyzing.

A third shift: Word-of-mouth. It’s become a massive force–maybe the massive force, People now spread the word about products every day. From this, companies have realized that they no longer can hide behind their advertising, and now must focus on creating better products and services. So they are shifting dollars from advertising to product.

Not surprisingly, everyone is shouting Innovate! Go to Google Trends and type in the word innovation. You will see that the number of news stories about innovation surged upward in 2008, and has stayed at that high level since.

This shift, to a greater emphasis on innovative and improved products, represents a fourth major change.

Companies also are shifting their dollars into creating better customer experiences. Free WiFi represents one simple example. Nordstrom is using digital technology to improve the shopping experience. Nike and Adidas are enhancing their customers’ experiences with devices that monitor and record all kind of metrics–distance, pace, calories burned–and even offer coaching suggestions through an ear piece.

The old saw is finally coming true: Build a better mousetrap–or a better mousetrap experience–and the world will beat a path to your door. You don’t need millions in conventional advertising, although it still works.

Why is it easier to sell something for a larger company?

Well, big companies cannot sell bad products anymore. Small companies never could.

However, when we buy we prefer things that seem familiar to us. Big brand names feel familiar and seem less risky. So if two products seem similar to us, we regularly opt for the more familiar one. But now with the internet, we can investigate the quality of a small company’s products. We may find so many favorable reviews that we reach a decision we might not have pre-internet: The small company feels like the better and safer choice.

So Goliath is slipping.

What are some ways to form deeper relationships with customers?

Think of each customer as a person, not a customer. If you view a person as a customer, she will see you as a seller. That starts a short relationship.

If you truly want to help the person, that comes through. If you just want the cash or lack faith that you can help the person, that comes through, too.

I’d add that in dealing with customers, you are dealing with two key feelings: That person must feel comfortable with you, and feel important to you. So ask yourself in each case:

What must I do to create those two feelings?

Among other influences, a person feels important when you recall whatever is important to her–a daughter’s quirky habit, for example. Decades ago, Dale Carneige advised his readers to regularly use a person’s name when speaking to that person.That seems like another version of this advice: Talk about things that matter deeply to the other person.

Harry Beckwith, one of the world’s most respected marketers, has advised 23 Fortune 200 companies, including Target, ABC and Wells Fargo. Harry first book, Selling the Invisible, was named one of the top ten business and management books of all time. His subsequent BusinessWeek bestsellers, The Invisible Touch and What Clients Love, brought his total sales worldwide to over 700,000 copies in 23 languages. Beckwith was named creative supervisor of Carmichael-Lynch in Minneapolis, four times Advertising Age’s pick as America’s most creative mid-sized agency. When Beckwith catches his breath and calms his accountants, he serves on the Athletic Board at Stanford, strives pathetically to regain his nine handicap in golf, and plays Webkinz with his eleven year-old daughter–something every man should experience at least once.