S3E8 The Super Fan Edition with Brittany Hodak

S3E8 The Super Fan Edition with Brittany Hodak

James chats with Brittany Hodak, an international keynote speaker and award winning entrepreneur, who is widely regarded as the go to source on customer engagement and retention.


She’s been invited to speak to organisations across the world, including American Express, We Work, Inc, and the United Nations, and has published more than 350 thought leadership articles from media including Forbes, Adweek and Success.


They discuss what makes Super Fans, Shark Tank, Guinness World Records, really understanding your customers, knowing your story, buying dog food online, the Platinum Rule and of course great customer service.


Contact Brittany:


Email: brittany@brittanyhodak.com
Web: www.brittanyhodak.com
Twitter: twitter.com/BrittanyHodak
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BrittanyHodak/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/brittanyhodak/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/brittanyhodak/

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James Nathan 0:55  Hello and welcome to The Only One Business Show with me your host James Nathan and today I’ve got a fantastic guest for you who’s seven weeks away from having a baby, which is absolutely fantastic. I’m so delighted that she’s able to take the time for me. This person is an international keynote speaker and award winning entrepreneur, and is widely regarded as the go to source on customer engagement and retention. She’s been invited to speak to organisations across the world, including American Express, We Work, Inc, and the United Nations, and has published more than 350 thought leadership articles from media including Forbes, Adweek and Success. She’s also been featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, NBC, CBS and the Shark Tank. She co founded, scaled and has successfully exited the Superfan Company, a fan engagement business whose roster include Walmart, Disney, Amazon, Luke Bryan, and Katy Perry to name a few. She’s also been named in Advertising Age’s 40 under 40 list, Inc’s 35 under 35 list 530 and Billboard’s 30 under 30 list, as well as being a Guinness Book of World Record holder, She was once the mascot for a radio station. Please welcome Brittany Hodak. Brittany. Hi, how are you?


Brittany Hodak 2:14 Hi, James. I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me on the show today.


James Nathan 2:18  Well, I’m just delighted that you’re able to… so close to having a baby, you’re actually still working, which makes you a supermom, in my view.


Brittany Hodak 2:28 Oh, thank you. Thank you, you know, I’m just about to get to the point where I’m not comfortable travelling on planes anymore. So the next few weeks I’ll be mostly writing and catching up with friends like this. So it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be a fun few week period before baby arrives.


James Nathan 2:44  Fantastic. Britney, tell us about the Shark Tank for people in the UK, there’s a very similar show called the Dragon’s Den. How did you get on there and what happened?


Brittany Hodak 2:54 Yeah, so I think Dragon’s Den was actually the precursor to Shark Tank up in Canada. And then the UK and a few other countries it was airing. And so yeah, Shark Tank is a very similar concept. And I was actually approached by a casting agent for the show, I just got a phone call one day saying, hey, we read about your business in Forbes or Entrepreneur or somewhere and we think you’d be a great candidate for the show. And I will the show was in probably its fourth season at that point in the United States. And I was a big fan of it. So I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. So my business partner and I made the decision to go on the show.


James Nathan 3:31 And what happened?


Brittany Hodak 3:33 We were offered deals from four of the five sharks and ended up on the show closing a deal with two of them. Although then when we were going through all of the kind of due diligence period after the fact, we decided not to go through with the deal in real life.


James Nathan 3:48 You know, it upsets me…. it’s a fairly common story. I had someone on the last series of the show here who similar thing got through, won, accepted the offer and then it never happened. And you kind of think how often that actually happens on those shows but fabulous experience for you and you’ve got a Guinness Book of World Records. Let’s just not leave that out before we get other stuff.


Brittany Hodak 4:12 I do I do. Yes. When I was in college, some friends of mine and I set a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest Christmas stocking. And you know, it’s a really funny story. I was actually afraid I wasn’t going to graduate. Because the graduate thesis project I had been working on, which was the business plan for what eventually became my business several years later, was sort of imploding, a couple of months before graduation, because this band that I had been following around whose album I was going to do this deluxe package for thereby hopefully, you know, creating a proof of concept for this product that I wanted to launch a company around, the band broke up. And so all of a sudden, this project that I had been working on for so long as my capstone was just gone. And I was like, what am I going to do? How am I going to graduate? And I’d always wanted to set a world record. And so I started looking into some of the Guinness World Records that seemed attainable. And one of them was this record for the world’s largest Christmas stocking. And I was going to school in Arkansas. We had just faced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina here in the state. And there were so many thousands of people displaced, who were in our communities they had, you know, fled New Orleans, and they were resettling near Little Rock where I went, where I was going to school. And so my friends and I decided to create this stocking for me to hopefully graduate, and we were able to collect over 13,000 donated toys to give to people who have been displaced from the hurricane and who otherwise needed some toys for Christmas. And the final stocking was something like 55 feet tall, which I’m not, I’m not great at conversion. I don’t know how many metres that is, but like…


James Nathan 6:02 No you don’t need to, that’s enormous.


Brittany Hodak 6:05 What is that almost maybe almost 20 metres, something like that. So yeah, it was it was a really fun experience and very cool. And to your previous point about the deals on Shark Tank, there was a really fascinating article that Forbes did a couple of years ago, that analysed all of the deals from the US shows. And it was something very close to two thirds of the deals that close on the show don’t actually finalise in real life. And you know, that’s a little bit because you are essentially agreeing to get married on a first date on the show. And then you go on subsequent dates, and it doesn’t always work out.


James Nathan 6:43 Yeah, I mean, I love those programmes, and it’s interesting watching you, you sit there with your family, and suddenly you’re an expert on absolutely everything. You’re like, Oh my god, what are you doing? How come? Where are you going to play it? Why don’t you know your numbers? Fantastic stuff. Talk to me about superfans, and fandom, how did you get involved in the world of fans?


Brittany Hodak 7:05 So I’ve always been kind of obsessed with this idea of what makes us love certain things. What is it that makes us root for a certain sports team, or align ourselves with a certain brand or drink a particular kind of tea or soda? You know what, what causes those synapses to fire in our brain that makes those points of connection. So that was something I was always fascinated by. Most of my career was spent in the entertainment industry. I got my first job when I was 16 years old as a radio station mascot. And so I started spending a lot of time at concerts and live events. And it was so fascinating to me how some bands had these huge fan bases, and others who were arguably just as talented if not more talented, didn’t and so I started wondering, you know, what makes one band more popular than another, what makes one movie have a larger opening than another, it can all be the marketing. There’s got to be something else going on here. So I started really studying and honestly obsessing over this idea of fandom. And what it takes to create the types of connections that create long term sustainable fan bases. And it’s been so interesting to have all of this align with the rise of social media, and the proliferation of, you know, having every type of media and every type of content we want at our fingertips on the internet all the time, you know, trying to figure out exactly….that’s my little guy we talked about before. Sorry about that.


So figuring out, you know, what makes people will love what we love and to use my little guy, Kadoh, who you guys just heard as an example, for the time he was a year old. He was really, really, really drawn to Mickey Mouse. And my husband and I couldn’t figure it out because, you know, we’re not huge Disney fans, and we hadn’t done anything to knowingly expose him to Mickey Mouse or Disney. But he was just a really, really, really into Mickey Mouse. And so we started trying to figure out where he would have even come across Mickey because every time I saw Mickey, you know, like in a store or on a commercial or something he just was like really drawn to Mickey Mouse. And the only thing I could come up with is the diapers that we’ve used on him since he was born the Huggies Diapers, are Mickey Mouse branded like they have the Disney licence. So I don’t know if it’s from seeing Mickey on his diapers from the time he was born, that made him sort of recognise Mickey Mouse, and I, you know, as like an 11 or 12 or 13 month old he wasn’t necessarily saying I love Mickey Mouse. He recognised Mickey Mouse. And so in this world of disorder where it’s just like all chaos around him all the time, he was acknowledging the fact that he recognised that thing, but he couldn’t talk yet. So as parents we internalised him, like reaching and pointing and smiling is oh, he loves Mickey Mouse. So we’ve been sort of perpetuated this way and like, oh, well, we should buy him this Mickey doll and like, we should get him this Mickey shirt and we should do you know, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey, his first birthday party was Mickey Mouse. Because at the party store, he went up to a Mickey thing. And we were like, oh, he must want a Mickey Mouse birthday party. So just things like that. It’s so fascinating how recognition and identity and you know, all of these things are tied into these properties and brands and products that we love. So that’s what I’ve been researching and studying for the past several years. And now spend the majority of my time doing keynote speaking and writing on the subject because, as I said, it’s something that to me is just so completely fascinating, because as humans, we sort of choose these groups to self select in to.


James Nathan 11:01 And if you can work out if you’re a business and you can bottle that stuff, you’re gonna be a massive success aren’t you?


Brittany Hodak 11:09 Yeah. And that’s, that’s really the number one determinant and how successful business is going to be is if you can create customers that create more customers for you. Everything else is going to take care of itself. And at its base level, that’s really a super fan, a super fan as a customer that’s creating more customers, because they’re out there advocating on your behalf as part of their everyday life.


James Nathan 11:36  So it’s, it’s…. we’re talking about word of mouth times 1000 really high level stuff. Where does the engagement piece then fit in with that?


Brittany Hodak 11:47 So the engagement is so important. Every business needs to have a fan engagement strategy, whether they’re B2B or B2C. You’ve got to figure out how you are making your customers feel like part of your story. So the way super fandom really happens is when you can connect your story. So whether that’s your brand story, your product story, whatever it is that you’re trying to sell… the story of that when you can connect it to the story of your customers, to where they see those points of overlap. That’s where fandom really begins to happen.


James Nathan 12:22 So give us an example of a business that we all might know where that you think that’s done incredibly well.


Brittany Hodak 12:29 So, let me, let me see. I’m trying to think about like with your listeners, being all over the world, what’s like, a global brand. We’re anywhere a global brand that people might recognise. Well, let me ask you this. What are what are some of your favourite brands?


James Nathan 12:46 I have a real mix, I mean, I love businesses who really look after people so and businesses who go out of their way to delight and I talk a lot about that on this show. You know, so Disney is obviously you know, the leading light in a lot of that. I’m an absolutely massive fan of Amazon and the way that they work with people. But then I really like the, you know, the little grocers in our village where, you know, they know you, they chat to you, they, you know, engage with you. Because they just have that kind of style about them.


Brittany Hodak 13:20 Yeah, I would say the common thread between all of those businesses you mentioned, whether it’s the giant ones like Disney or Amazon, or the local grocer, it’s that you feel connected, right? You know how that brand fits into your story. And that’s really what it’s all about. So, in terms of some examples that I could give one company that does an amazing job here. I’m not sure I’m not sure if you guys have them, but it’s a company called Chewy.com.


James Nathan 13:51 I was talking earlier a couple of weeks ago about Chewy it’s not here in the UK yet, but it sounds amazing.


Brittany Hodak 13:56  It probably will be at some point and Chewy is an online Online pet food retailer, and about two and a half years ago, my husband and I got a couple of rescue puppies and knew nothing about dogs we knew nothing about, you know anything we had never had dogs before. And one of our puppies just kept having horrible digestive issues. We couldn’t find a dog food that wouldn’t upset his stomach. And we had really no information on his background or his breed or anything like that, because he was he was a rescue dog. So we, you know, we ended up doing a DNA test. But like, while we were waiting on all that to come back, we were just, you know, constantly the vet trying to get him to be able to keep anything down. And finally, the vet recommended this prescription dog food. And I was looking online to see where I could find this prescription dog food. And Chewy was one of the first results that came up. And so I ordered the food and there was a little note that said you’ve got to send your prescription in. And so I sent a super simple email just you know: Hello, here’s the prescription for this order, thanks so much. And the email that I got back from the customer service rep immediately, by the way, like, within a couple of minutes was so fun and so personal that it kind of stopped me in my tracks. She’s…. and it was very short. It was, you know, hello Brittany, thank you so much for sending Bear’s prescription. And I thought wow, I didn’t even mention my dog’s name was Bear. She actually looked at the prescription and acknowledged my dog by name and her response. That’s pretty cool. And then there was all this fun language she used. So she’d said, you know, if you need anything, we’re here 24 seven simply bark in our direction, and signed the email something like over and snout, and it was so fun. And it was you know, things like that, that don’t take really any extra time at all. And don’t cost any money. But they infuse the point of connection between your story and your customer story. So for Chewy, that’s you know, their story is we love pets and their people and know for customers, the customer story is I love my pet. And my pet is the most important pet in the world. You know, to me, my pet matters more than any other pets. So, points, being able to show that hey, we love your pet, too, is what Chewy really, really excels at. So doing things like, you know, beyond the fun language in the marketing emails, sending handwritten notes for pets birthdays, sending fun surprise and delight things in the mail, whether that’s a box of toys, whether that’s, you know, I actually was lucky enough to receive these beautiful hand painted portraits of my dog after being a customer for a few months. Like one day, all of a sudden, these portraits of my dogs just showed up in the mail and I was like, wow, this is so fantastic and just doing little things like that to show your customers. Not only do you care about them, as it relates to the fact that they’re doing business with you, but you care about them beyond that, right? You’re not just coming to them when you need them you’re not only reaching out when you want them to spend money with you. You’re finding ways to show through active acknowledgement that you appreciate them and validating important events or things or people in their lives.


James Nathan 17:19 And, you know it sounds like… I firstly I hope Chewy comes here but I will still go down to the local pet food shop because I love the people there. But I also it’s it sounds….I’m thinking about it thinking okay, well you know, we love people who love dogs, the best people in the world. That’s the first important point to make. Dog people are just great. But you know, it’s easy to identify how do I how do I light the eyes up on somebody loves dogs.You know, I talked on the on the first series I think of the podcast, to Dutch Von Someren who started a business called the Bike Shed, which is, it’s a very cool restaurant come bike shop. You know, it’s modern motorcycle culture and it’s for people who love motorbikes and people who love people who love motorbikes. Right. And so for that, it’s easy to kind of identify how he does that. And he’s just opened in in Los Angeles, and I think San Diego as well. But if I’ve just got an other kind of business it does, it doesn’t revolve around, you know, something lovely and cute like a dog. Where do I start Brittany when I’m sitting in my office and I’m looking at the world thinking I really need to understand my customer story better, I need to engage with them better. Where do I start with that?


Brittany Hodak 18:41 So I always tell people, the way that you start is first by getting a really great sense of your own story. I am always absolutely floored by the number of business owners or sales executives who can’t answer the question: Why are you the very best person for me to work with? People are unable to tell me why they’re the best option. And as a consumer, when someone can’t tell you why you’re the best option, what’s your automatic response? Like in your head, you’re thinking, Oh, they must not be the best, right? Like if they can’t explain to me or articulate why they’re a better choice than their competitors, they must not be. So the first thing is start with your own story. Understand what it is that drives you motivates you, sets you apart, makes you uniquely qualified to service your customers in the very best way. And really, you know, one exercise that is helpful in this is like, think back on childhood, you as a person, what did you love? What brought you joy? What did you excel at? Because the answer could be different for everyone, right? Some people, some people might say, I really, really love education, and I am more educated than anyone else in my market. I’m going to be able to answer every single question. I have my finger on the pulse of every single thing that’s happening, versus somebody else in that exact same industry might say, I love people, I am a people person, I am going to, you know, take your call 24 hours a day, if you want to communicate via messenger or WhatsApp or phone call or text, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to be there for you, I am going to be like your best friend, right hand person. So those are very different value propositions, right. So they may be targeting from the same broad customer base, but they’re naturally going to attract different people based on their skill sets. So I think the number one thing for people to do is to really figure out their superpower, like, what are they better at than anybody else? Because once you know that, you can stop trying to compete on everything. Instead of trying to be the smartest and the most personable and the most social and like all of these other things at the same time, you can really lean into that one thing that you know you you can become the best in the world at.


James Nathan 21:02 Be great at the thing you’re great at,


Brittany Hodak 21:04 Right. The thing that you’re great at the thing that sets you apart the thing that people tell their friends about you, right? What is that you can, you can compete and win on. And then the second part is really understanding that each customer has their own unique story. So especially for people who are working in service businesses, or B2B businesses, where it’s like a more high touch sale or a longer sales cycle, it’s knowing that you can’t just treat every customer the same way or you can but you’re not going to be as successful as if the time to really listen to and understand the needs of your customers. There’s a really great quote from Oprah. In her final TV show that she did, she’s and I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t have it in front of me, but she said something along the lines of I’ve talked to over 30,000 people in my career, and every single one of them wanted the exact same thing, and that was to be validated. People want to know that you see them You hear them and what they say matters to you. And if you can show them that those things are true. If you can validate their fears, their questions, their concerns, their ideas, you’re going to find so much success because not only are you making them feel seen and heard and understood, but you’re able to offer a much better value proposition because you’re adjusting your own sales pitch or your own story to exactly what their needs are. So you’re offering something that’s personalised, rather than saying, here’s my one size fits all sales solution for everybody. So those are for sure. The first two steps is you know, understanding your own story, understanding your customer story. And then step number three, just being very open to personalising your process to connect with those people as the opportunities present themselves because if you take the time to listen to people, they tell you what, what they want, like people are so many cues about what’s going to really take them from like an average experience to just a wow over the top experience, that if you’re paying attention and you’re listening to those cues, you can deliver five star service every single time.


James Nathan 23:18 And listening is the number one sales skill, isn’t it?


Brittany Hodak 23:21 100% I would go beyond and say beyond it being the number one sales skill, it’s one of the number one life skills because if you can, if you can train yourself to become a great listener and to really listen with empathy and respond, you’re going to be so much more successful and every single thing that you do,


James Nathan 23:40 It’s really, it’s fascinating hearing what you’re saying because it resonates so enormously with, well anyone listening will understand because customers love to be understood. It’s nice. It’s one of those things that you hear when when you do feedback with customers and ask them you know, why do you work with so and so, they understand us, they get us, they provide us, you know, what we need because they know us. And in B2B, so many businesses don’t do that. What stops them?


Brittany Hodak 24:08 You know, I think a lot of it is overwhelm. It’s people saying, I’ve got so many things on my plate and so much to do. And a lot of the people that I work with are so concerned about technology, right? They’re so concerned about all of these new tools that they’re constantly having to learn or that they have at their disposal. But what I always tell people is, don’t worry about the how, you know if how is the channel I don’t care if you’re talking to somebody on a phone call, or on Instagram, or in a direct email funnel, it does not matter the how is not important, until you have nailed your who and your why. And the who is your customer story. And the why is your story. And if you don’t know those two things if you can’t clearly articulate where those two things overlap and how you are able to improve the life of your customer with your product or service, the how is never going to matter. No amount of automation, no amount of you know CRM tools, no amount of advertising budget is going to help you break through. Because the how is completely completely inconsequential. If you haven’t nailed your who and your why.


James Nathan 25:23 You know, while you’re talking, they’re thinking there’s a great quote from Gary Vaynerchuk, early in his career said that effort matters more than most people want to admit. You know, doing things for people and taking the time to understand that effort is really important, isn’t it?


Brittany Hodak 25:38 It’s very important because what you’re doing when you take the time to understand someone is you’re, you’re showing them that you’re giving your time to them. And time is the most precious, valuable resource that any one of us has. So when we show somebody else that we’ve taken the finite amount of time that we have to give something to them or do something for them, what we’re saying is, you know, I appreciate you, I acknowledge you, I’m happy that you’re part of my life. And even if that’s not on the surface, I think all of us intuitively, instinctually as humans, we recognise that, we recognise that someone has taken the time to acknowledge us, and it makes us feel good. And those are the types of things that over time lead to these incredible connections. And that’s why I always say you can’t buy super fans. It’s absolutely impossible. You cannot pay someone to love you. You’re not going to improve someone’s opinion of you based on the amount of money you spend. How you are going to start to change people’s hearts and minds is by making them feel appreciated, by validating their concerns by listening to them by showing them that they matter to you. And that’s often not through money, which is great news for those marketers, or those business owners or business owners out there that don’t have huge budgets.


James Nathan 27:01 When you talked about technology before and automation, and it’s obviously a big topic, people are talking about AI all the time, we’re forever being, you know, focused at chatbots these days rather than phoning into companies and, you know, the automation of service that way. It’s good in some ways, isn’t it? But how is it? How can we improve it? How can…. well, if I’m looking at my business again, and I’m thinking, right, I want to try and streamline some of this stuff. I want to make it a bit better, I’ve heard about all this technology? What should people be looking at and what should people be ignoring?


Brittany Hodak 27:36 So that’s a great question. And when it comes to customer service, technology is great until it isn’t, right? All of us are, are quite happy with our chat bots until we need a human. And I think it’s, you know, a lot of times people have this fear that technology is going to replace people and I don’t think that’s going to happen in our lifetime, especially in customer relations and customer service related fields, which I always say every person in your business is in customer service, whether it’s in their title or not, because any single person at your company is likely going to be the first… the first impression, and sometimes the last impression that’s made on a potential customer, right? Any single person at your business has the ability to either create or chase off a customer. So that’s the first thing. But I don’t think that in our lifetime, technology is going to replace humans. But I do think is that humans who do not embrace technology will absolutely be replaced by humans who do embrace technology. So if you’re in a sales role or customer service role, finding out, figuring out ways that you can automate parts of your job and parts of the customer journey is a wonderful tool because what that does is free up more of your time to focus on the things that only a human can do. So if you’re spending less of your time worrying about follow ups, because you’ve got all of that automated or you’re spending less of your time, you know, emailing back and forth about when the next meeting is going to be or whatever, like all the little tasks that we can automate, what that ultimately does is save you five minutes here, 10 minutes there, 15 minutes there, that you can reinvest into doing things that technology is not yet able to do, whether that’s picking up the phone and calling someone, whether that’s sending them a card to acknowledge an award they just received or a birthday or an anniversary or something like that. That is the way that we can leverage technology to improve customer service. Nobody ever became a super fan because of you know, like some automation sequence they were dumped into right.


James Nathan 29:51 Exactly, yeah, yeah


Brittany Hodak 29:52 Those sequences may have freed up time for a human to then go above and beyond by saying sending something that really turns somebody’s day around.


James Nathan 30:04 I love what you just said that about the phone and card. You know, I love….. there’s nothing nicer than someone taking the time to pop a card in the post, to pick up the phone and say hi. You know when I was when I was a very new recruitment consultant many, many years ago I was sent down to London to meet this guy who was the kind of king at the time and he said to me said listen, mate, this is really simple you pick up the phone and money comes out of it. And you know, I’ve said that to so many people and on so many levels is true… you pick up the phone you talk to people and your business is successful.


Brittany Hodak 30:38 Yeah, I love that phrase. I’m gonna have to borrow that I’ll make sure that I get I give you attribution for it.


James Nathan 30:44 Please do and it wasn’t mine but I’ve stolen it and you know what, I can’t remember his name and I really wish I could because I’d love to be able to give him the credit for it. But it’s been so lovely chatting it I’ve charged that you’ve got that little little toddler running about there in the background somewhere else. Well, but Brittany, could you give us just your golden nugget, your one thing, one big idea or one big action that people could do in their businesses today to make their business better for today and better for the years to come? What would that be?


Brittany Hodak 31:15 Absolutely. And this is something that I also have borrowed from someone else it’s from it’s from a book, but it’s this idea of the Platinum rule. Are you are you familiar with the Platinum Rule?


James Nathan 31:26 I am, but tell us ‘cos there are plenty who aren’t.


Brittany Hodak 31:28 Okay, so many of us grew up with the golden rule, which says to treat others the way you want to be treated, which is good to a certain extent. But what the Platinum Rule says is treat others the way they want to be treated. Because every person has their own unique set of beliefs and values and experiences and a background that makes them unique. And because of that, not everyone wants the same things that you want. Not everyone is coming to a situation with the same feelings and thoughts and experiences as you. So by taking the time to understand what it is that your customer, each individual customer wants. And by acknowledging and fulfilling those requests, that’s how you really show someone that they matter. That’s how you really let them know that they are the most important customer in your life at the moment, by treating them not how you want to be treated, but how they want to be treated.


James Nathan 32:28 Brittany, that is awesome. Thank you so so much and good. Good luck in in seven weeks time.


Brittany Hodak 32:34 Thank you. I appreciate it. And thanks again for having me on.


James Nathan 32:39  Brittany it’s been a pleasure.



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