If there’s one thing we’ve discussed in depth on Technically Speaking, it’s the importance of learning to sell for yourself in your thought leadership business.
But the greatest, most-impactful tool in your sales toolbelt isn’t actually any of your own skills – It’s the testimonials from your past clients or, as they’re also known, the “superfans” of your products and services.
In this episode, we’re talking all about superfans including how to define them AND how to ensure every single one of your clients becomes one by the time your work together is done.
Here to help us out is award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker Brittany Hodak.
Having worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton, Brittany knows more than anyone what it takes to turn people into evangelists for your brand.
These are people who love you and your sales offerings and tell others in their network (so they buy from you, too). So, whether you’re a one-person show or running a team, you’re not going to want to miss this episode!
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Grab a copy of Brittany’s book, “Creating Superfans”: https://www.amazon.com/Creating-Superfans-Five-Step-Multiplying-Reputation/dp/1774580780
📷 Watch the video version of this episode and subscribe for updates on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYAr3nGy6lbXrhbezMxoHTSCS40liusyU
🎤 Thank you to our sponsor, Libsyn Studio (formerly Auxbus)! Want the best podcasting solution out there? Learn more here: https://www.libsynstudio.com/
🚀 And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources at https://speakerflow.com/resources/
Read the Transcription 🤓
Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing onstage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip by? This is called the flow state. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Taylorr: We did it. We are here. Brittany, holy cow, this has been a long time in the making. It’s so good to have you on.
Brittany: Thank you, it’s so good to be here. Always fun to see you guys.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.
Austin: You too. We are super fans of the Brittany Hodak brand, for sure. So, we appreciate the work that you do.
Brittany: Awe, thank you. It is mutual, my friends. I feel like I’m real close to an OG with SpeakerFlow, right? We’ve been friends for a while, going back to what 2018, 19? How long has it been?
Taylorr: Yeah, pre-Covid for sure.
Austin: 19 probably.
Brittany: Been a while. The before times.
Taylorr: The before times, yeah.
Austin: Good times back then.
Taylorr: Yeah. Good time. For sure. Oh, man, well, this is going to be a great show. We’re super excited to unpack how to create super fans and an amazing experience. And, obviously, as thought-leaders and small businesses, I think some of this stuff can go missed sometimes because we, kind of, expect larger entities to be responsible for this type of thing, but, as we all know in this room, that’s certainly not the case. So, we’re going to be able to unpack a lot of that. Though, before we dive into the weeds, we have to talk about your background, of course.
Now, you have a very decorated background. You’ve had experiences as an entrepreneur that most of us dream about, and most namely, of course, that’s going on Shark Tank. So, was that everything it was cracked up to be? What was that experience like? And how did that turn into what it is today?
Brittany: Yeah, it was really fun. So, when I was in college, I had an idea for a business and I didn’t realize, at the time, it was an idea for a business, I thought it was just a product idea. And I worked for various record labels and I tried to get support behind this product, so I worked for Warner Brothers, I worked for Sony I worked for a big entertainment agency and I could just never really get any momentum behind this idea, everybody was, sort of, like, oh, yeah, that’s a good idea, now go back to your desk and do your job. We’re not in the product creation business.
And so, after, gosh, I’d probably been out of college for six or seven years because I’d worked at three different places at this point. And I was like, okay, I’m oh for three, let me try to go somewhere else and see if I can bring this to life. And during that time, post-college, I’d worked pretty extensively with Walmart. And so, the buyer at Walmart knew about this idea, believed in the idea, was a hundred percent onboard with me trying to make it happen. And when I said, okay, I guess they don’t get it here either, let me go somewhere else.
She said, why don’t you just start your own thing? I believe in you, you’ve been talking about this idea for years, I’ll support you. And if you can get someone to essentially hire you to do this as a contractor, just keep the money, just start your own business. And I had never dreamed of being an entrepreneur and never thought about it. Literally, Googled how to start a business while I was on the phone with her, because I had, kind of, always thought if you want to do big things, you go work at a big company, as you said in the intro, people, I think, sometimes think like, oh, you have to work at a big company to do big things. That’s how I had always thought.
But I ended up starting a business and had quite a bit of success early on, crossed the million dollar revenue mark in under a year, continued to grow every single year. By our third anniversary, due in very large part to the support that we had from Walmart, we had worked with Katty Perry and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and George Strait and every big country star on the planet, and so many huge consumer packaged goods brands. And because I had launched the company without any outside capital and had all of the equity, we were written about a lot, and a casting director for Shark Tank had read an article and I think I was Forbes or Entrepreneur or somewhere.
And I just got a call one day from somebody saying, hey, I read about you, your story sounds really cool, would you want to be on Shark Tank? And I, kind of, laughed and was like, well, yeah, who wouldn’t want to be on Shark Tank? And he was like, no, I’m a casting director, I would love for you to come be on the show. And I thought, wow, what a fun opportunity. So, filmed a little video and was fast tracked and a couple of months later was recording an episode out in LA, it was a blast, it was a lot of fun. Learned a lot about how reality TV works and all of the, sort of, preparation that goes into it.
And, yeah, once that episode aired several months later, so I, on the show, was offered deals from four of the five sharks at a valuation that, at the time, was the highest valuation for a female founded company, the valuation was close to 5 million. I was offered three quarters of a million dollars. So, there was all of this press that, sort of, snowballed from the episode, it also happened to be one of the highest viewed episodes of that season, just thanks to the TV gods. So, there were 8 million people or something that watched the segment of the episode that we were on.
And so, that led to all kinds of speaking gigs and consulting opportunities and other really interesting things that, sort of, put me on this totally new trajectory that I’ve been on for the past several years that I never would’ve thought about. Which is talking and teaching and writing about customer experience and trying to take what I learned working in the entertainment industry for so many years and teach other business owners to have that same sense of creating fandom and creating an experience that makes someone want to come back and work with you again and choose your business at the exclusion of others. So, it’s a little bit of that entertainment industry pixie dust sprinkled into other non-entertainment verticals.
Austin: Yeah, man, that is such a cool story. I feel a little bit of jealousy, but mostly just happiness that you’re able to go and do that. So cool.
Brittany: Well, thank you. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot about reality TV.
Austin: I bet. I’m highly curious about that too, for the purpose of keeping more or less on topic, though. I’m curious about the entertainment space, specifically. Do you think that they do this customer experience or this creating brand loyalty better than other industries tend to do? Was there something specific about entertainment that inspired you or was it just the principles that you were able to be exposed to because that was the space you were already in?
Brittany: So, I would say a little bit of both. I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, I always wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but my dad worked in customer service. So, he was the manager of a fast food restaurant for a really long time, then he was the customer service manager at a car dealership, and so always from either seeing him at work or hearing his stories, I was getting this sense of like, you have to put people first, everything is about the way you treat people, you always have to treat people well. So, I think I always had that lens and that outlook, but I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, so I got my first job at a radio station when I was a teenager.
I was exposed to tons of concerts and, especially, festivals, radio station festivals, and I became fascinated with why some bands would go viral. Some bands would just become the biggest acts in the world and others would just, sort of, fade away. And one commonality that I saw again and again and again was that these bands who were really taking off and having their careers really explode, were the ones who were creating a unique experience for their fans. And they were also inviting their fans in to the experience, it was a two-way street. It wasn’t just a one-way exchange of like, we’re going to play these songs and you’re going to love them; it was, we’re going to take the time to meet you at the merch booth after the show, we’re going to keep you updated with everything we’re doing.
We, actually, care who you are as people, we want to hear about your stories too, we don’t just want you to listen to our stories or our music. And so, I started to see again and again and again, the artists who had the most success were the ones who were creating those true relationships with their fans. And because of that, their fans were saying, yes, I want to support you. You are no longer just one of 10 bands I saw on this festival gig, you’re my favorite because I now have a personal connection with you; I now have an overlap between my world and your world, my story and your story.
And so, I started to see that pattern happening again and again and again, and as I started my first business and began working with consumer packaged goods brands and retailers and other verticals, I saw that the exact same principles were true. The brands that made it clear to their customers that they cared about them, that they wanted to have them as customers, were the ones who gained that loyalty and who had customers that would come back again and again and tell their friends to give this brand a try.
Taylorr: Yeah, man.
Austin: It, kind of, seems logical.
Taylorr: Right? I was going to say it’s almost like, it feels like it should be common sense, but to put it into practice is probably a completely different thing, which, obviously, is why you do what you do.
Brittany: Yeah, I joke it’s not rocket science. I’m, basically, saying treat your customers better and they will spend more money with you.
Taylorr: Wow. Who would’ve thought.
Brittany: Not a difficult concept and yet, it’s so funny, I was playing around with ChatGPT the other day and I was asking questions about like, tell me some brands who have terrible customer experience and tell me brands that are known for bad customer service. And it was spitting out a bunch of the sort of, common names, people or industries in transportation, a lot of rental car companies, airlines, utilities companies. And I was like, it’s pretty crazy that we live in a world where even AI can be like, yeah, these companies are doing a terrible job.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.
Brittany: You’re not going to be treated well at these companies.
Taylorr: Don’t make the ChatGPT list, folks, that’s the takeaway here.
Austin: Seriously. There’s a bar that’s been set.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Okay, so, obviously, entertainment, did the Shark Tank thing. What was the segue between realizing that fandom, that creating experiences was, one, something you were passionate about, but two, a gap? Were you passionate about that from day one because of the experience you had with your father growing up? Or did that come later in hindsight? Tell me about that segue between your original Shark Tank company and then moving that into being an expert and creating these experiences for people.
Brittany: So, I think I always had a passion for it, but I didn’t really know it. I thought my passion was for entertainment, and so what would happen, I was running my entertainment industry or my entertainment agency and we would have clients who I would say, okay, here’s the plan, here’s what we’re going to do. And sometimes they would push back and say, well, no, we’re not going to do that because we can save this much money if we don’t. Or we’ll get the project done this much quicker. And I would say, well, yeah, but it’s a much weaker finished product or the experience is going to be much worse for fans.
And I was always so personally offended when client partners wanted to put revenue above experience, because I just, sort of, had this mindset of like, you owe it to your fans to make the most amazing product possible, you owe it to your fans to create this amazing experience. So, I ran the business for nine years and over the years that was, sort of, like the Litmus test upfront, was I had developed the questions of saying like, if we are not on the same page about the customer experience being the most important outcome and we’re not putting customer centricity at the forefront of all of our decision-making, we’re not going to work together.
Because this is not going to end well, because I’m going to continue to push and fight for creating the best thing possible because that’s what fans deserve. And if you believe that, if you’re aligned in that belief, then great, this is going to be an amazing project, but if you are like, no, I just want to make extra money and I’ve heard that you’ve created these amazing things for other artists and we want to add some zeros to our bottom line too, then you’re not the right customer for us.
And so, as I got clarity on that, I realized it wasn’t necessarily the entertainment industry that had been so alluring to me, it was the small subset of the entertainment industry that was doing a really amazing job creating these experiences and putting fans first. And so, I went back to school, I got a grad degree in marketing and consumer behavior and really started to understand, again, how those psychographic principles that draw us to the things that we enjoy in entertainment are exactly the same that make us attracted to other products and other brands throughout the other parts of our lives.
Something that, as innate as like, I feel like I belong, I feel like I matter to this brand or this company or this activity, and we’re living in an experience economy, experience is everything and that’s true regardless of the industry that you’re in. So, I think over time there was just, sort of, this shift of, while I still love the entertainment world, I think that this is so needed in other industries that are even more core to people’s lives. Entertainment can feel a little bit like, oh, it’s escapism, but there are so many parts of everyday life that you can’t get away from that are service-based industries that traditionally have not had a very high bar for customer experience.
So, I’ve, sort of, made it my mission to eradicate the world from subpar customer experiences, because at the end of the day, if you’re paying money to someone, you deserve to have a great experience.
Austin: Amen. I’m really excited to get your brain to the table with the DMV. I think that could be really nice, there’s a lot there.
Brittany: Yeah, it’s such an interesting time we’re living in with technology and innovation, some of the government agencies will probably lag behind, as government tends to do, but technology and innovation are coming and we are now living in a time where the bar is so low for new entrants in every single vertical. It’s so easy now to start a company and be a challenge or brand that a lot is going to change over the next 15 to 20 years.
And what has, sort of, been accepted as the norm in terms of customer experience in a lot of those, sort of, DMV-type industries, it’s going to look very different in the next 15 to 20 years because it’s going to have to, right? So, even though the government ones are going to lag a little bit behind innovation is coming.
Taylorr: Heck, yeah.
Austin: Which is great, it’s a deeper focus around putting the needs of the customer first over, even revenues, to some degree. To your point earlier, you focus more on creating a really good customer experience, you’re probably going to have increased revenues, but for so long the corporate world has just been focused on what the shareholders want. But for transitioning to this new world, maybe is a little bit of a dramatic way to put it, but where the companies that are the most successful are super focused on the best experience for the customers possible, is really like, at least from my uneducated view.
One of the first times I’ve heard of the consumer really getting the best end of the deal in a lot of ways where in times past that was just not the major focus. So, it’s good for all of us, we should be excited by this, as people that are consumers and inspired as business owners.
Brittany: Yeah, and it’s really interesting when you go back and look at the stock market, a decade at a time, to see some of the companies that, sort of, blow up and then go bust. It’s, I think, finally starting to become clear to people that you can’t just run your business looking at your stock price as the metric of success. Because when you’re making decisions based on the quarterly reports that are going to be out in 45 or 90 days, you oftentimes are not prioritizing that customer, to your point; you’re oftentimes not prioritizing your employees. And one of the things that’s become abundantly clear in this post-COVID reality is that you’ll never have a better customer experience than your employee experience.
Employees are such a critical part of the brand and you absolutely can put your customers first and have incredible profits, but it has to be in that order. You can’t say profit is the core and we’re going to make the right decisions for our customers so long as it is not in conflict with the bottom line. But if you put your customers at the core of what you do, they will come back, they will tell their friends, you will have higher lifetime values, you’ll have lower customer acquisition costs, your customer retention costs will pretty much go away, because people would never dream of leaving you because they’re having such an amazing experience.
So, all of these things work, you just have to have an executive who believes in it and sees the long-term vision and isn’t beholden to a board or shareholder saying, yeah, that’s fine, but in order to make that investment for customers, the stock price is going to go way down for 90 days or 180 days while we invest. And we all saw this play out in December with Southwest Airlines, right? They’re huge, epic meltdown because they had not invested in the technology upgrades that they needed because they were more focused on their stock price.
They had a CEO who was an accountant and now they have a different CEO installed who, sort of, rightfully said, yeah, we messed up, we should have made these investments, we should have done the right thing, but we were a little bit too focused on the dollars and cents, rather than the common sense of this is something that we need to do to create a better experience.
Austin: Such a good lesson learned and relevant, that’s in all of our minds right now. Especially the speakers listening to this that got stuck in airports, which we’ll embrace.
Brittany: Yes. You must travel all of the time.
Taylorr: The Facebook feed was blowing up.
Austin: Yeah. Oh, man. So, an idea that you, kind of, planted in my head earlier that I think is a good time to revisit, is this sense of practicality around creating this awesome customer experience. And a quote that this brought up, for me, of all people, Gary Vaynerchuk; divisive figure, I realize, but he said in one of the videos one time, and he was, actually, referencing Taylor Swift, if I remember correctly.
But he was saying that the benefit of, I think to some degree a personal brand, but certainly a small business, is that because you’re inherently going to be more intimately involved with the end user, you have a better opportunity to set yourself apart in customer experience since you can go the extra mile in a way that a huge corporation with lots of SOPs might not have the opportunity to. And seeing as a lot of the listeners to this show are going to be small businesses or single person businesses, if that provides true, has that opportunity, do you find that that’s an accurate assessment of what’s possible for a small business?
Brittany: I think that’s a really accurate assessment. And one of the things that I talk about in the book, Creating Superfans; is this idea of intentional experience design. And it’s not a question of is your customer going to have an experience or not? They’re going to. The question is, is it an intentional one that you have thoughtfully designed and curated, or is it an accidental one or a haphazard one that is going to be better some days than others or in some instances than others. And the real advantage that you have as a small business owner or a solopreneur is you’re in control of all of that.
So, I always say every employee is in the experience department, every employee has the opportunity to be the chief experience officer, at some point, to a customer. And a lot of big brands have been a little bit slower coming around to their recognition that your brand is not your logo. And your brand is not what you say it is. Your brand is the way your employees treat your customers, because that’s what they remember, that’s what they talk about, that’s what they go and say online or on social media or to their friends.
And so, as a solopreneur or a small business owner, you’re in control of that much more so than a larger organization. It’s just about being intentional about the experience that you want your customer to have, and also realizing that, that customer journey is much longer than you might think it is. So, a lot of times people think the customer journey starts the first time that you’re on the phone with them or meeting them, and it concludes when your service is done, but in reality, it stretches out in both directions much further.
That customer experience is starting the minute they start searching for someone who does what you do, someone who’s solving the problem that they have, and it goes all the way through, much past, when you’re not physically with them anymore, or when your service or product has concluded that sale, because they’re thinking about what did it feel like? How was it? Would I recommend this to my friend? Do I want to come back and spend money again? So, engineering the totality of that customer journey, in a really thoughtfully curated way, is something that can absolutely catapult small business owners and solopreneurs from, sort of, this commodity provider mindset, in the general market, to a category leader and perhaps even a category of one, based solely on what that experience is like.
Taylorr: Well, yeah, and to your point, right? What a better way to differentiate, to become a category of one. Especially like, I want every speaker to listen here. What’s the typical way that people engage with their clients? Wait for the phone to ring, sales call happens, deposit one, speak, deposit two, never talk to them again; that is the extent of your customer journey. That’s a commodity service to your point, Brittany, you’re not differentiating the way in which you deliver for your clients and stay with them beyond the point of the original sale. We see it all of the time, people talk about, well, what’s my differentiator?
And they come up with some kitchy phrase that somehow is supposed to summarize what they do. That’s not the differentiator, nor is your niche, it’s the process in which your people are going through and experiencing you, and you can go from a speaker of many to a speaker of one. Am I capturing that right?
Brittany: Absolutely. And I would say, your differentiator has to be a feeling. How do your customers feel when they work with you? And why is that feeling something that no other speaker can provide? What is your uniqueness? What is that differentiation? And how are you staying loyal to that at every single part of the customer journey? Before the event, after the event, at the event. Anybody can keep an audience engaged for 60 minutes, maybe not anybody, but probably everybody listening to this podcast; you can go up there, have some razzle-dazzle, pixie dust, get a standing ovation, but are you creating lasting change for the audience? And are you creating long-term value for your customer?
It’s crazy, to me, the thought that people never talk to their clients again after an event. My clients become, essentially friends. I get a hundred percent of my business from spin and referrals; clients who, sometimes, I haven’t worked with in three years, but I’ve talked to them 11 times, I’ve added value or found solutions for them so often, they just refer me to people who are like, oh, yeah, hey, Dan said you’re the right person to hire. We don’t even need to get on the phone. What’s your fee? Are you free this day? Great.
And then I do get on the phone with them because I want to create that amazing customer experience that happens long before the event, but by the time a referral comes in, they’re already so highly qualified that I know I’m not competing with anybody else. It’s not about price, it’s not about let’s see if we can make this fit. It’s, I want you, how much does it cost to work with you? And that’s the power of being that category of one.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure. No, I love that. I like that you summarized that as a feeling too, I haven’t had that perspective about differentiation; at least I wasn’t aware of it at least. So, it’s nice to have a label for that feeling, for lack of a better word there. I’m curious, though; you have a process, right? For creating superfans, I believe that’s your supermodel. Can you break that down for our listeners? How do you create a superfan?
Brittany: Yeah, so the number one thing, and I think this is especially relevant for speakers, I talk about in the book, the fact that the biggest threat to most businesses, and this is incredibly true of small businesses, is not awareness. So many times speakers are like, not enough people know about who I am and how awesome I am. If I could just get more bureaus to talk about me, or if I could just be on more websites or I could do more podcasts then everybody would know. 99% of the time it is not an awareness problem. People know who you are, plenty of people know, they just don’t care. And the reason they don’t care is because you have not given them a clear enough reason to. You don’t have an awareness problem, you have an apathy problem.
So, the way that you overcome apathy is by connecting your story to your prospect story. How is your thing relevant to their life? How is your process going to solve their problem? And that’s the first thing that you have to figure out. So, in the book, I talk about the idea of creating superfans. I say over and over again that superfans are created at the intersection of your story and every customer story; that overlap, that intersection where you bust through that apathy, where you make yourself relevant to their life, you make it clear how you’re solving a problem that they have.
So, I always say, if you want to create superfans, being great is not good enough. You have to be SUPER. SUPER is my acronym and my mnemonic for this idea of creating super fans, as you said, I call it the supermodel because it’s fun. Who doesn’t want to say that they know a supermodel, right? That they know a supermodel on an intimate level after reading this book. And SUPER stands for start with your story, understand your customers story, personalize, exceed expectations and repeat. And that’s the magic sauce, that’s what it is.
If you do that, if you get really clear on your differentiator, if you understand your story, if you use that as your North Star, if you then understand your customer’s story so that you know so well how what you do is relevant to their needs to change their lives; then you can personalize the entire experience, you can exceed their expectations. And then repeat is all about, what I know you guys love, the systems and processes to allow you to automate much of that so that it works like clockwork, so that you’re freeing up more of your time for the things that can’t yet be automated. And that is really the secret, that is how you create an amazing, intentionally designed experience that’s the same for every customer again and again and again, to create that reputation as someone who lives up to all of those things that you’re saying that you are.
Austin: Yeah. I think that you just drove home something that I think you were touching on earlier too, which is the nature of what you just described, is that it’s a process. It’s a series of things that if you do repeatedly, probably keying into that R in SUPER there; you’re going to create super fans. And, to me, that speaks to consistency. And earlier you mentioned that for some businesses it’s sporadic. Sometimes it’s an amazing customer experience and sometimes it’s just not.
And so, I’m curious, I don’t know if we can even prioritize this necessarily because I’m sure it’s all just so important, but do you find that, that process itself is the thing that works? Or is it the consistency behind it that’s really the differentiating factor of making it work? I guess what I’m asking is, can you do what you’re saying sometimes and still be successful? Or does it need to be all of the time?
Brittany: So, there’s a quote that I love that I have in the book, and it’s from Elizabeth Arden. And the quote is, repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers. And it is important to do all of the time if you want to have that reputation for greatness. Somebody used this analogy the other day, which I thought it was really great; they were talking about bureaus. They were like; bureaus want to sell Coke like Coca-Cola. I know it’s going to be great every time because the formula is there. I would much rather book a really good speaker who I know is going to be really good every time than a speaker who is sometimes brilliant and other times just okay because they’re doing a lot of improv, they’re doing a lot of like, I have some bullet points that I’m going to just riff or improvise.
They want consistency, they want Coca-Cola, I know it’s going to be exactly the same every single time. And consistency is so important; think about it in your own life, think about yourself as a customer. If you go out to a restaurant and it’s amazing and then you go out to that same restaurant a week later and it’s just, okay, you’re confused, right? You’re like, well, which one of those was the exception and which is the rule? Are you going to roll the dice and go back a third time when you’re like, oh, well, there’s a 50/50 chance I’m going to have a just okay meal. Maybe. Or maybe you’re like, oh, it’s a restaurant, there are 800 other restaurants in my town, I’m going to just try another one.
And so, that’s why that consistency is so key. Repetition is what builds your reputation. And, of course, we know that reputation is the most important thing that we have as speakers, in terms of growing our business.