Why do marketers routinely ignore one big thing that can make or break their marketing strategy?

Dan Gingiss
Dan Gingiss

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Dan Gingiss talks about why customer experience trumps marketing every time - and how you as a marketer can create viral customer experiences.

Dan is an author, podcaster, keynote speaker, and noted customer experience expert who has headed up social media and customer experience for a slew of Fortune 500 companies. He has made it his business to curate examples of the best and worst customer experiences and distill the lessons learned into actionable strategies for companies looking to take their game to the next level.

In this week's episode, Dan shares both why customer experience is so important as well as how marketers can develop a customer experience strategy, including actionable tips on things like writing marketing copy and getting more in touch with what your customers actually want and need.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.
Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Dan include:

  • If you don't have a great product or service, then really no amount of marketing is going to work in the long run. It might get people to buy your product to service, but then they're going to be dissatisfied with it, and they're going to return it, or they're going to tell their friends that it's terrible, or what have you.
  • Today there's no longer such a thing as an offline experience. Any experience - good or bad - throughout any stage of the customer journey, has a strong likelihood of being shared online.
  • 30% of consumers say after a negative experience, that they would post a negative review online, or on social media. But, almost 50% of consumers say the same thing about a positive experience.
  • Being responsive on social media is so critical, especially to the people that are complaining because you have an opportunity to make things right.
  • People who complain, complain because they care. The ones who don't care have already left for your competition. They've already switched providers, and they don't care whether you fix it or not.
  • The best place to start when building a great customer experience is with language. So many companies are using language that frankly, most consumers either don't understand, or can't connect with.
  • One way to do this is by writing marketing copy that is witty (this is not the same as being humorous, which may or may not resonate with your audience).
  • If you struggle to be witty, the easiest way to start is to eliminate jargon and technical terminology from your copy, and then to read what you write back to yourself and ask yourself, "does this sound like something I would say in conversation?"
  • The best way to identify opportunities to create shareable customer experiences is to actually be a customer of your own product.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn how to build a best-in-class customer experience strategy and hear specific examples of other companies that are already doing it.

Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm Kathleen Booth, and I am your host. This week my guest is Dan Gingiss, who is the Chief Experience Officer at Winning Customer Experience. Welcome Dan.

Dan: Well thank you Kathleen, a pleasure to be here with you. I'm excited about the conversation.

Dan Gingiss and Kathleen Booth
Dan and Kathleen are all smiles while recording this episode

Kathleen: I am too. You have such a fascinating background to me.

About Dan Gingiss

Kathleen: I'm going to just toot your horn for a second, and then I'm going to let you tell my listeners really who you are. But, when I thought about introducing you it was actually kind of a challenge because most people I just introduce with their name and their title, but you are like a customer experience expert, a keynote speaker, author, podcast host, your professional background is fascinating.

You've been in senior marketing and customer experience positions at places like McDonald's, Humana, and Discover. I mean, I feel like if I was to do a thorough introduction of you it might take 10 minutes.

Instead of me rattling on for 10 minutes, can you just give my audience a little synopsis of kind of who you are, and what you're doing today, and also how you got there?

Dan: Sure. Well, I should bring you along on the road with me, because that was a fine introduction. I'll take that anytime I get a-

Kathleen: My fee is very reasonable.

Dan: ... Well, I describe myself as a 20 year marketer. Marketing is at my heart, it's my background.

But, some time along the way I really got passionate about customer experience, and part of it is that I realized the customer experience and marketing go hand in hand. I think that the catalyst was when I first got into social media. I had done, in my career, pretty much every offline marketing channel you can think of. I've done direct mail, and I've done newspapers and magazine ads, and package inserts, and all these things.

Then, I had started going through all the digital channels. I'd done email, and website marketing, et cetera. When I finally got into social media I realized that, that was the first marketing channel where people can talk back and I thought that was fascinating. That just immediately struck me as, "Wow, this is going to be something different."

If you go back to the early days of social media, you see a lot of companies treating it like another broadcast channel. "Hey, I have a great idea. Let's put our TV commercial on Facebook, people will love that." Right? Shockingly, people didn't love that very much, and so the companies that started figuring out that customers talking back was a good thing, that this was an opportunity to get closer with the customer, and to learn more about them, I think became better marketers in the process.

Historically we've used voice of the customer, focus groups, and other listening devices to formulate our marketing, to figure out what it is that people want to hear. But, social put it all in front of us, in an easy, analyzable way because it's all in print. And really, I think, just presented such new opportunity to get close to the customer.

That fascinated me, and I kind of made a pivot over to customer experience. It helped that the role I was in at the time at Discover, that I was in charge of the website and digital experience, so I was getting into the nitty gritty about how to create experiences that therefore became marketable.

And, I started at the same time, with sort of a side hustle of blogging, and podcasting. I eventually wrote a book about social customer care. It was only recently, really 2019, when I decided that the side hustle was killing me because it was taking up so much time on top of a full-time job, but it was the thing that I really loved doing.

I decided to finally go out on my own. The feedback I got on LinkedIn, most people said, "It's about time. Can't believe it took you this long." Now I am speaking, and consulting on marketing a customer experience, and I love it. What I'm telling people is, it's a lot more fun working for the Dan, than it was working for the man.

Why More Marketers Don't Focus on Customer Experience

Kathleen: That's a great line. I am going to quote that.

I have so many questions for you, but I want to start with one in particular because this came up once before on this podcast, and it's something I think a lot about which is, to what degree do you think organizationally we undermine ourselves as businesses by setting the goals, or the KPI's, or the yard stick for success for marketing, and have it be so focused on that top of the funnel, that traffic generation, that lead generation?

I mean, most of the marketers I see, at least on paper, are measured by the degree to which they can generate qualified leads for the company. There's no incentive system in place in 99% of the cases that I'm aware of, to do anything on the customer end.

I feel like there's a structural problem that prevents us from tackling this topic, and I'm so curious to know what you think about that, and if you see that as well?

Dan: Yeah, I definitely agree. It's almost like we're putting the cart before the horse, right? If you don't have a great product or service, then really no amount of marketing is going to work in the long run. It might get people to buy your product to service, but then they're going to be dissatisfied with it, and they're going to return it, or they're going to tell their friends that it's terrible, or what have you.

You can put tons and tons of marketing dollars behind it, but you have to have that basic, you know, you have to fulfill the basic need of a product or service that people want and are going to enjoy.

I think also, you have to have a customer experience that people also want and enjoy. That's the added piece that now today's customer, today's "I have a voice" customer, and today's powerful customer is demanding that they have a great experience as well. You can't just have one without the other.

I did an interview with a great guy in my old podcast, this is now a couple of years ago. He runs a series of brewhouses called Scotty's Brewhouse. It's in Indiana, Florida, a couple other states. And, very successful business, his name's Scott Wise. I asked him ... or, he said to me unsolicited, he said, "When people ask me what business I'm in, I tell them I'm in the customer service business."

I'm like, "Really? You're a restaurateur, that's an interesting answer." He said, "Dan, I could have the best food in the world at my restaurants, but if I have crappy service I have no customers. No one will come back. If I have good or great food, but amazing service, I'll have a full restaurant every night."

He said, "You can't have one without the other, it doesn't work. If I had to choose either one, I would choose a great experience, because if I mess up on somebody's burger but I'm really nice about it and I take care of them, they're still going to come back, right? But, if I have servers that are rude, or slow or whatever, I'm going to lose customers."

I think you're right, that we're so focused on that front end. You've read, probably the same stats that I have, about how much money we spend on customer acquisition versus on customer retention, right? Or even just customer engagement.

I think that, that ... that, the smart companies are starting to figure out that some of that money should be shifted. Because after all, if we keep more customers then we don't have to be as stressed about bringing on more new ones.

Kathleen: It's really interesting to hear you talk about the Scotty's Brewhouse example, I hope I got the name correct.

Dan: Yep.

Kathleen: Because, it in my head, the echo that I hear when I hear you tell that story is Marcus Sheridan, who I work with at IMPACT. He always says that, "It doesn't matter what company you are, we're all in the same business which is the business of trust."

It really doesn't matter what your product is, or your service is. If your customer doesn't trust you, that's like table stakes. The company's with the most trust are the ones that are going to win, and it's almost like customer experience and trust go hand in hand because it's true.

These are the universal things that, regardless of what kind of a business we have, what it is we're selling, our fundamental truths about the way people want to spend their money. They want to be able to trust you, they want to have a great experience, and oh by the way, those two things are never ever going to change. They're never going to go out of style, there's no digital trend that's going to make them obsolete. I love that.

Dan: Exactly. I'm an unabashed Marcus Sheridan fan. I'm a fan boy. I love Marcus, I love everything he talks about, and he is one of the best speakers I've ever seen.

But, you know, what you just said reminds me actually of a story I have not told to other people before. This is a first-

Kathleen: Ooh, breaking news.

Dan: ... If I could get a drum roll here, yeah.

Gingiss FormalwearMy dad ran a family business for over 20 years. He was in the formal wear business. Those in the United States may recognize Gingiss Formalwear. It's been around for ... it was around for a long time, it's been gone now for a couple of decades.

He always used to tell me the same thing that, it doesn't matter what product you're selling. He said, "I never grew up dreaming of selling or renting tuxedos." Right?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: Because, nobody does, right? But at the same time, if you think about how critical that service was at a point in people's lives, right? They're getting married, they're going to prom, they're having a moment that cannot be ruined. They're placing all their trust-

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: ... In the company to get everything right. Yeah, I would say absolutely, he was in a business of trust too. This is back in the 80's, in a completely undigital way.

One of the things that I also love about what you said is, I believe today that there's no longer such a thing as an offline experience. Now, back in the 80's it was all offline.

Today, it sometimes feels like we have offline and online. But, all you have to do is look at the video of a guy being dragged off an airplane to realize that any experience can come online now.

When we talk about trust, it's about not just that online experience but also what's happening throughout the customer journey because when you anger, or disappoint, or miss the expectations of a customer, they just have to pull out their phone and take a picture of it, or take a video of it, and share it. Now, you're dealing with many other people who are disappointed.

Kathleen: Yeah. Not only can those quote/unquote, "Offline," experiences go online but, the worse or the better they are, the more likely they are to go online.

Dan: Absolutely.

Kathleen: You don't hear about the "meh" experiences, you hear about the really terrible ones, and the really great ones. Yeah, I mean it's fascinating to me just, I mean you hear a lot about the really terrible ones.

People are really incentivized to post when something doesn't go right. It should serve as a really good incentive to make that experience great, because that's your one chance to control that conversation that you mentioned earlier.

Dan: For sure. I just want to say because I talk about this a lot when I'm on stage is that, people ... you're absolutely right that people are willing to share both the positive and the negative.

One of the things that I try to teach companies is how to create more positive experiences so that you can tilt that sentiment. I came across a great statistic recently that I love from Sitel Group. This was out of their 2018 CEX Index. What they found was that 30% of consumers say after a negative experience, that they would post a negative review online, or on social media. But, almost 50% of consumers say the same thing about a positive experience.

Kathleen: Hmm.

Dan: Which, means that people are more willing to share positive experiences than negative ones. The problem is, as I'm sure you know as a consumer as well, we don't have very many positive ones.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: We don't have enough that are so ... On our podcast we like to call them "remarkable experiences," literally worthy of remark.

If you think back to the last time that you had an experience with a brand that was so great that you wanted to tell all your friends about it, it just doesn't happen very often.

But, if you think back to the last time a brand disappointed you, you could probably come up with something that was more recent.

What I love to think about is how as brands, can we create more and more positive experiences to get people talking since they want to talk about, we just have to give them something to talk about.

A Real World Example of How Great Customer Experiences Can Make a Lasting Impression

Kathleen: Oh, I could agree more. I feel like sometimes the negative and the positive come hand in hand.

I think I mentioned to you when we first spoke, I had, when we were talking about great customer experiences. I had one, this was years ago now, but it will always stand out in my memory.

Actually it's funny, I've had two from the same company. I'm going to give them a shoutout right now. Both are from UPS.

The first was when I used to own an agency, we had a daily UPS pickup that was the lifeline of our business because in addition to marketing services, we sold branded products, swag. We had to ship things, and hit deadlines for clients. So, UPS coming every afternoon was essential, we counted on it.

I remember we had a big shipment going out one day and they didn't come, and we called our UPS business rep and he was like, "Oh, it looks like there were some issue in your billing, and so we froze the account."

We were like, "Well first of all, wouldn't you call when that happens and not just not show up?" I remember it was a Friday too, so we were like, "Oh my God, this has to get resolved now because we're going to lose two days over the weekend."

Long story short, the business rep couldn't solve it. He didn't have enough juice. They were like, "Oh, we'll fix it but it will take 48 hours to reset in the system, and then the truck will start to come back." We were like, "Mm-mm (negative)."

I remember I went on Twitter and I tweeted something about how grumpy I was about this, and I got a call ... or, I got a DM first from UPS corporate. They said, "DM us your phone number." I did that.

Within 15 minutes I had the head of UPS's social media on the line and he was like, "I'm going to fix this for you now," and within an hour everything was fixed.

It went from being a really horrible experience to being an amazing one, which I was happy to sing to the world about.

Then funny enough a few years later, we sponsor Midshipmen, so I live near the Naval academy in Annapolis Maryland. We have Midshipmen who come to our house on the weekends and things, they become part of your family.

Two of our Mids -- a guy and a girl that had been dating for ages, and we knew he was going to propose to her on this two day visit to Annapolis before they got deployed to Afghanistan -- they were in our house, and I was in on it, on the whole plan.

He had it all mapped out, and the ring was like out for delivery, and wasn't coming in time. We had a great relationship with our UPS driver and so my husband called him on his cellphone and was like, "Here's what's happening." The ring was being delivered by somebody else, but our driver went out of his way to go find the other driver, get the ring, deliver it to our house so that he could propose in time before they had to deploy.

Kathleen: I mean-

Dan: That's amazing.

Kathleen: ... Talk about just unbelievable stories, both from the same company funny enough. But, the first one really made me think like, just how often sometimes those incredible experiences can come out of what might have been a really terrible one.

Why Negative Reviews and Complaints Are Actually a Good Thing

Dan: I love that, and I mean I don't know if you were intentionally teeing me up here, but that's basically what my book is about, right? Is that-

Kathleen: Yep.

Dan: ... Being responsive on social media is so critical, especially to the people that are complaining because you have an opportunity to make things right.

Dan Gingiss Quote 3
Click to tweet

I always say that people who complain, complain because they care. The ones who don't care have already left for your competition. They've already switched providers, and they don't care whether you fix it or not. But, people who have a legitimate complaint, I'm not talking about trolls here who are swearing.

Kathleen: Yeah, or like looking for a free gift certificate to a restaurant.

Dan: Yeah. I mean, people that have a legitimate complaint want you to fix it, that's why they're letting you know. They care enough to let you know, and I think that certainly when we started off, companies were afraid of complaints, which I thought was a big mistake because complaints also give you great insight into what you're not doing right, into where you're missing customer expectations.

You might think that some piece of your experience is working just swimmingly, but you’re not sure your customers think that and here they are giving you this free feedback. To me, that's incredibly valuable.

Yeah, tons of stories of companies that have started off with an angry customer, and turned them into an advocate.

I've had it happen at all three of the Fortune 300 companies I worked for, and it's always nice to see because it kind of proves the value of being there for your customer through thick and thin.

Kathleen: Yeah, and I know I've read over the years a couple of different times that there was data to support this. You can probably even cite the stat, if I had to guess.

But, I've read that like companies that have no bad reviews are, people don't perceive as being as trustworthy as companies that have some bad reviews. I think it had to do with Yelp or something, and that the relationship capital you build by having a problem and then solving it well, is so much greater than the relationship capital that you build by never having problems in the first place. Which, is counterintuitive, but-

Dan: For sure. It's for sure. I was thrilled when I got my first three star review on my book on Amazon, because they had all been five until then. It's not believable, right?

Kathleen: ... Yeah.

Dan: There's no perfect product. The person that gave me a three star review gave me, I thought very valuable feedback about what he liked and didn't like about the book. I of course responded on Amazon, because I practice what I preach.

Yeah, that to me, that adds so much credibility. Then also, I wasn't offended, right? I mean, if my book didn't land perfectly for him, I'm sorry about that but I also very much value the feedback of why it didn't. Because, then when I write my next book I'll be thinking about that, right?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: I think that as companies are ... it's almost like you have to put the ego aside a little bit to be willing to hear what can be tough feedback.

It's just like in the business world when we have our year end review with our boss, right? A year end review that says, "Hey Kathleen, you're the best, you're awesome, you're terrific, keep doing what you're doing. Here's a two percent raise," doesn't give you much, right? Because, you don't know, there's nothing for you to go, there's no action items. But, a review that says, "Here's three things you're doing really well Kathleen, and here's three things I want you to work on in the next year," is so much more valuable because how often do you get that feedback from somebody? Where somebody's willing to be honest with you and say, "You know Kathleen, if you could just work on these three things, I think your career could go so much higher."

I mean to me, that kind of feedback is a gift, and it's in a gift in the corporate world as well because sometimes we can't see through our own rose colored glasses, right?

We all think our own product, and service, and experience is fantastic, and it's very difficult to see otherwise especially because you get things like ... I remember when I first joined Discover, I had the option of getting an employee credit card. I intentionally did not choose that option, because I didn't want to be treated like an employee when I called customer service. I wanted to be treated like a regular customer. Because, I mean imagine when the CEO of Discover calls customer service -- they probably roll out the red carpet for him, right? He's not getting a legit experience, and I really wanted that, to see it from the customer's perspective which I thought was so much more valuable.

Kathleen: Well, I couldn't agree with you more about your point about feedback. I always think you need to be suspicious of the people that never have anything constructive, or even negative to say. You don't want to, in life or in business, surround yourself only with a bunch of yes men. It's not healthy, and it's not real.

I really appreciate you adding that to the discussion, because it is so important.

Building a Customer Experience Strategy: Where To Begin

Kathleen: We talked a little bit about the why, this is so critical. The audience listening to this podcast is usually marketers. Can you talk a little bit about from a marketing standpoint, if somebody hasn't really considered customer experience as part of their strategy, where do they start? How do you define that? Is that just managing the conversation on social, or is it more wholistic? What are the elements to taking a marketing approach to customer experience?

Dan: Yeah, I mean I think that it's a couple of things.

First of all, as consumers we often don't like being marketed to. Let's start there, and be honest with ourselves, right?

Is that, when we're scrolling through our Facebook feed, we're not excited when an ad pops up. No matter really who it's from, occasionally maybe it's from a Starbucks, or a Coke-A-Cola, or some brand that we really, really love, we're okay with it. But, for the most part, it's interruptive.

If you start, and this is where I'm going back to what I said about sort of putting your ego aside. When I ran Discover's website I used to remind my team, "Look, nobody wakes up in the morning wanting to go to a credit card rep website. Zero people do that, right? So we've got to make that experience as quick, and painless, and easy as possible."

I think with marketing it's the same thing. You have to understand where you fit into the world of your customer. Now, how can you make your marketing an experience? Which, is one of the things that I really love. I would suggest the place to start is with language. I think that so many companies are using language that frankly, most consumers either don't understand, or can't connect with.

There was a recent study done by a company called Visible Thread that looked at the top 50 banks in the US, and actually scored their marketing on a readability score.

Kathleen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan: They calibrate the readability score based on famous books. They looked at everything from Moby Dick, which is a very hard to read book, to Harry Potter, which is a pretty easy to read book.

Then they ranked banks marketing on this same score. What they found is that what you want on this 100 point scale is, you want to hit at least 50 which is an eighth grade reading level, which is basically the average reading level of the American consumer.

You want to hit a 50. The top 10 banks in the US hit something like a 51, and everybody else was far below that which means that they're speaking in a language that literally their customers don't understand and can't comprehend.

I saw the same thing in the healthcare industry. There was a really interesting study that interviewed 2,500 Americans and said, "Do you know the definitions of the following four words, deductible, co-payment, co-insurance, and out of pocket?"

Kathleen: I'm getting a headache just thinking about those words right now.

Dan: I know you are, I know you are. Well, three quarters of Americans said they knew the definitions, but then the researchers said, "Okay, prove it and give us the definitions."

I'll cut to the chase, only four percent of Americans could define all four of those words. Yet, every major healthcare company uses those words in the quote/unquote, "Explanation," of benefits. Which, I laugh at because it's neither explanatory nor beneficial.

Kathleen: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Dan: But, so that's where I would start. I think there are lots of cool examples of what I like to call, I use the word "witty" as being where I think you want to aim. It's not about being humorous, because I may tell a joke that I think is funny and you may find offensive, so I'm very careful about humor. But, I think witty is a good place to be.

Examples of Brands Nailing Customer Experience With Witty Copy

Dan: Let me give you a couple examples with witty. There's a wonderful sign in Manhattan for a retailer, and people who have walked the streets of Manhattan have maybe seen this sign before. It says, in big bold letters, it says, "We are probably the lowest priced in the city."

I love that, right? I don't even know what this company sells and I already love this company, right? Because, I know that their honest-

Kathleen: Yeah. I was going to say, it's pretty honest.

Dan: ... I know ... Yep, I know they're honest. I know they have a sense of humor, right? Already, so they're fun. You've told me so much about this business, and I don't even know what they sell.

That's how powerful words can be in marketing.

There's a sign I love to show that is at the bottom of a huge skyscraper in Chicago and it's got some arrows and it says, "Almost there ... Please use other entrance." I looked at this and I was like, "You know, that was two words. The almost there, that made this from a sign that was completely unremarkable, to one that made me smile." Because, somebody took the time to add those words, "Almost there," and it was now a fun sign instead of just a tactical sign.

I think this can come, this can happen anywhere in marketing.

There's a gas station near my house where the big sign outside with the price says, "Unleaded 2.99." Then, where they ... the place where they can put the letters up and write something it says, "Customer service, priceless." Again, think about the expectations that, that gas station has already set. This is going to be the friendly gas station, this is going to be the one that the person inside greets you with a smile, because they believe customer service is priceless.

These are very simple, inexpensive, really free ways to change your marketing to create a different experience, and that's where I suggest people start.

How To Craft Witty Marketing Copy

Kathleen: And, any advice for the marketer who might be listening and thinking, "Ugh. I just don't, I'm not witty. I don't have the talent to think of these things." Are there any tricks, or things that people can do to start getting more in that mindset?

Dan: Yeah. I mean, the first is just eliminating the words that are industry jargon, or acronyms, right?

I wrote about that bank study because I had seen somebody post on LinkedIn, a bank ad which was an email. It was a subject line. The subject line had seven words in it, and three of the words were acronyms. It's like, I mean come on. That is not ... the post on LinkedIn was a guy quoting his daughter who had received the email and she said, "Is this even English?"

That's where I would start, is I would look at the language that you have. Again, if you don't want to be witty, that's okay. But, you can look for industry jargon, you can look for big words and turn them into small words.

I'm a prolific writer, I blog all the time. But, I was never real good at the verbal side of the SAT's, so I never thought of myself as having a really large vocabulary. But, as it turns out, I believe it makes my writings more readable because I'm just speaking in normal words. I'm not using big, scientific, or long words to make myself sound smart. I'm just, I'm writing like people talk. Therefore, it's easier to consume, and I think marketers can absolutely do that.

I remember my high school teacher used to say, "Read your words out loud-"

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: ... "And, hear how they sound." You should do that with marketing, right? If you're reading your marketing out loud, you're going to catch things that don't sound right, and you can make them simpler that way.

Kathleen: Amen. There have been a few times where I have filled in for the person who heads up our editorial content for our website, and I've had to review draft articles that people have submitted to us. Once or twice I have gotten articles that were nonsensical that literally I was like, "I need to send this back to this person and just tell them to read it out loud to themselves, because I have no idea what they're trying to say. It doesn't make any sense." They would know that if they just took a minute, and like read it, you know? Even if they didn't read it out loud.

It's amazing, I think, how often we create content and we don't take the time to even review what it is we've created.

I love those tips, and I think that's a great place to start. Eliminating the jargon, almost like writing as though you're talking to a friend, or a family member, what have you.

Moving beyond messaging then, what would be kind of the next step for that marketer looking to really take a better approach to customer experience?

Why Viral Experiences Are Your Best Marketing

Dan: Well, so I'm going to sort of turn your question around, because I believe that you have to ... just as we said before that you have to have a great product or service to market, you have to create the experience first, and then it becomes your marketing, not the other way around.

And so, I believe it's about how do you create a, as I said before, a positive experience that people want to share? Then, you have other people doing the marketing for you first of all, which is awesome, right? Because, we all strive for this word-of-mouth marketing, this elusive word-of-mouth marketing. It's not going to be found in a viral video. Any of us that have worked in corporate America have heard a C level executive ask us, "Well, why can't you just create a viral video?"

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: Because, that's not how it works. But, what you can do is create a viral experience. You could create an experience that people love so much they want to tell people about it.

I think there's a couple things that you have to do in order to create such an experience. One of them is to be really intentional about it. It's to -- as you build the experience -- to think about all of the places that people may be willing to share.

We talk about certain meals being Instagram worthy, for example. Well, I believe that the chefs are creating them that way intentionally, right?

Kathleen: Yes.

Dan: Because, they want people to share them. I'll give you an interesting example here. There's a company called Sip Smith, it's an alcohol company. It's mostly known for its gin. It's a London based gin, and it just recently came to the United States in the last, I don't know, year or two. Or, at least it came to Chicago in the last year.

I was at a local Chicago festival and they were doing a tasting. Now, most of the time when you go and get a taste of a wine, or a beer, or an alcoholic beverage of some sort some person hands you a little plastic cup, and you take a sip, and you either like it or you don't. You throw out the cup, and you move on.

Sip Smith didn't want to have that kind of experience, so they built an immersive experience where you walk up to this bar, there's a bartender behind it with bottles of Sip Smith Gin. The first thing is, he asks you what kind of tonic that you want. Now, I didn't know I actually had a choice of tonic, so here I'm already learning something, right? Well, there was Mediterranean tonic, and European tonic, and standard tonic, so I choose one of the tonics.

He then points me over to a garnish bar.

Kathleen: Hmm.

Dan: Now, a gin and tonic usually has a lime in it, right? Pretty basic. Well, this garnish bar had about 18 different garnishes. Everything from lemons and lines, to dried strawberries, and peppercorns, and ginger, and rose petals, and all this stuff. You could create your drink, but they didn't stop there. By the way, I did the math in case anybody was wondering. There were over a billion combinations that you could make.

Kathleen: That's awesome.

Dan: They didn't stop there. The next thing they did is they sent you to a table where you could grab a little miniature card, and name your drink. Right then-

Kathleen: That is so cool.

Dan: ... They keep it on the card, and they gave you a little tiny clip that you could clip to your cub so that as you're walking around with your beverage, you're advertising the name of your drink to everybody.

Of course, what do people do? They clip the name to their cup, they take a picture of it, and they share it on social media.

This whole experience was intentional. It was meant to be immersive so that it was meant for you to try their product in a realistic setting, which is not drinking it out of a plastic cup straight, because most people drink gin that way. But, it was immersing you in the way that you, you exactly you, independent, unique you would drink it. Because, I might drink it with European tonic and a lime, and you might drink it with Indian tonic and a strawberry. But, we all can do it our own way.

But, it also was intentionally shareable. It was done in a way where once I personalized it with a name of my drink, of course I wanted to take a picture of it and share it with people.

That's, that to me is how ... Then, it makes marketing's job that much easier, right? Because, you have everybody else sharing, and talking about your brand. Then, really all marketing has to do is get in the conversation and say, "Hey, thanks for sharing. We love you too. You guys are great." It becomes, it makes marketing's job a whole lot easier.

Kathleen: Well, for the record when it comes to gin and tonics, I am a Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic and lime kind of a girl. But, that's amazing. I inexplicably have a craving right now for gin and tonics and it's before noon.

Dan: Sorry about that.

Kathleen: But, that sounds incredible, it really does. It's not like a very expensive way to engage. If you're already going to be there, you're already going to be offering samples of your product. It's not a huge leap from a budget or an effort standpoint to do what you described. That's a great example.

Dan: Yeah. I mean, I'd say the biggest example of all time of shareable word of mouth marketing to me was the share a Coke promotion, right? That had all of the names on the bottles. If you think about that, that was a reasonably sized operational undertaking.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: But, what I thought was so interesting about it was that it continued to evolve over time. The first time they released the names on the bottles they got a lot of people loving it, and sharing it, and happy. But, then they got people with different names who were unhappy-

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: ... That there name wasn't on there. So, they went back and they created a whole bunch more, several thousand more names were added. Because, once they were doing it, it wasn't hard to add names to it. But, most recently, and I don't know how many people have noticed this.

But, most recently they made another change. The names are no longer on the actual label of the product, they're on a sticker that you can peel off of the product and actually share it with the person.

Kathleen: That's very cool.

Dan: If you think about it, if I got a bottle of Diet Coke that had "Kathleen" on it, if I drank that bottle and then tried to hand it to you, you're not really excited to receive it, right? But, now I can just peel off the sticker and hand you your name, and I think they made it even more shareable.

Kathleen: That is so cool, and I have never seen a Kathleen coke. If you find one and you're listening, send it to me.

Dan: Challenge accepted.

How To Create Viral Customer Experiences

Kathleen: Yeah, exactly. That's great. The question in my head is then, if it's really about starting by creating the experience, as a marketer how do you suggest that somebody approach that? Because really, you're talking about getting your tentacles into theoretically, many different parts of the business, you know? You're talking about production, if it's a product, when you talked about Coke. It could be getting involved in sales.

There's a lot of crossover there that I think can scare the average marketer. Any advice for how to approach that organizationally so that you get buy in, and you're able to go down that path?

Dan: Yeah. What I would suggest is that you make sure that you're the customer of your own product, and service and, that you are an engaged customer so that you're experiencing the whole journey.

A great example from Discover, we had a feature on the card that allowed you to turn the card on and off if you felt like you had lost the card in the sofa cushions. That was a feature that had been there for a long time, but it took our CMO to literally realize that, that feature existed and say, "Wow, this is really cool. We should be telling people about this."

Then the marketers came in and did their thing, and named it, "Freeze It." It became a huge television campaign, and it became sort of one of the lead features of the card. Since then, most of Discover's competitors have copied that feature. But, all it took was somebody observing something that was already there about the experience that was remarkable, but that nobody was talking about.

I think that's where I would start as a marketer is say, "Let me just be a customer here, and find the places that I really need, and the things that make us different and better. Then, let's figure out how to talk about those things. Often times those things already exist.

I think in other places, you can as a marketer, also be willing to let other people be marketers. I don't mean tactical, sending out the emails marketers. What I mean is, you can let the lawyers be marketers, right?

There's some great examples of legal disclosure that's actually fun to read, right? I mean, think about that for a minute. That's mind blowing. Legal disclosure that's fun to read.

There's a company out of Malaysia called Iflix, it's like an Asian version of Netflix. In that typical disclosure that you see in emails where it says like, "If you're the unintended recipient, you must give us your first child, and delete the message," and whatever.

Well, their disclosure starts off with the words, "Covering our butts." Now, if covering our butts doesn't get you to want to read that disclosure I don't know what does. I read it, and you know what? The whole disclosure is hilarious, and you can tell that a lawyer and a marketer, it's like on a joke. "A lawyer and a marketer walk into a bar."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: It's like, the two of them sat down together and they said, "Okay, the lawyer said, 'This is what you must say.' Then the marketer said, 'Okay. I'm going to take what I must say, and I'm going to add to it, and make it fun, and make it engage-able.'"

I think that's where marketers have to be more willing to sort of take the time to say either, "Here are the places that are already remarkable, let's talk about it." Or, "Here are the places that are completely unremarkable that we can make remarkable in a simple way."

Kathleen: I love that example you just gave, and I wish I could remember the name of the company (And I did! It's called Squaremouth). But, sometime in the last few months I heard about a company, and I think it was a big company, that halfway through their disclosures, or their privacy statement, or one of those horrible documents that nobody reads. Halfway through it they added, "If you have read this far, you can win X." I want to say the first 10 people that responded got a free trip somewhere, because they just literally read that far into it, and found this random paragraph. It was like, "Congratulations."

Dan: That's amazing.

Kathleen: "Nobody reads this, but because you did we're sending you to Hawaii."

Dan: Well, so that's a great story. I immediately ask the question, if we know nobody reads this, then why are we doing it?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: You know? It's like-

Kathleen: To cover our butt.

Dan: I remember ... Yeah, to cover our butts. Yeah, but I remember a number of times in corporate America, the marketers often looked at the lawyers as sort of the other side of the table, right? The guys that were stopping us from doing what we really wanted to do. I always reminded my team that the lawyers were there to keep us out of jail, so we want them to do their jobs really well.

But, it doesn't mean that we have to produce any content, and disclosures are content, right? I mean, disclosures are there because what's the legal reason they're there? It's to cover our butts, but it's also because we want to inform customers about certain limitations to our product, or in the pharmacy world, certain side effects or whatever it is.

This is important information. When you think about it from that perspective and you put on your marketers hat you say, "Okay, so what if I actually want people to read the disclosures?" Holy cow, that's different, right?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: Today what we do is we say, "Well, what's the smallest font size we can put the disclosures in so that hopefully people will read past them?"

Kathleen: No one will notice them.

Dan: Right? I say, don't do that. Ask yourself, what if the disclosures were in 30 point font? What would you say, and how could you say it in a way that actually gets the message across in a way that's beneficial to your customer?

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Oh, so interesting. I feel like I could sit here and just pick your brain all day long. Unfortunately, we don't have all day. I have a couple questions for you that I want to make sure I ask before we wrap.

The first is, this is the Inbound Success Podcast, a lot of the listeners here are interested in inbound marketing. I want to kind of bring inbound marketing together with customer experience, because that's really the whole point of this conversation.

When you think about the world of brands, companies, marketers out there, who do you think right now is really nailing it when it comes to marrying the two, an inbound marketing approach that also delivers a phenomenal customer experience?

Dan: Right now I am obsessed with a company that, in full disclosure, I am a customer of, called Imperfect Produce. It's a company based in San Francisco, and it was founded by a couple of guys who were noticing on their college campus that a ton of food in the cafeteria was going to waste.

They created this company, what they found after investigating was that we actually have a pretty big food problem in the United States, which is that tons, and tons, and tons of food on farms, perfectly usable produce, gets thrown into the landfill. Mostly because it doesn't look pretty, it's nice enough for supermarkets.

They started a company where they ship out boxes in a subscription service, of what they call ugly fruit. Often times, it's not ugly at all. It's just surplus, or it's a little bit big. Sometimes you get like a comically large cucumber, or you'll get really small pears, or something like that. But, they're not disgusting. In fact, they're wonderful inside.

What I love about what they're doing is first of all, they're using the witty part. In their marketing there's a billboard in Chicago that says, "We'll help you get dates," and it's got pictures of actual, of the fruit, and with smiles on there, kind of animated smiles.

imperfect produce billboard

They're very witty about that. In their social media they use food puns, and stuff like that. They're very brand on.

When you get their box, you literally want to look at all sides of the box, including the bottom of the box which has a really fun message on it. Again, this costs nothing, right? They're already printing on the box, so just print everywhere and make it so that it's usable.

But, the part they're doing on the experience that I think is awesome, is they are actually tracking for me, my individual contribution of how much produce I have saved from the landfill, how much water I have saved, and how many pounds of carbon dioxide that I've kept out of the atmosphere.

I'm just going to brag for a moment. In the last year I've saved 385 pounds of diverted produce, over 15,000 gallons of water, and 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide.

I love that, because you're creating again, this immersive experience. You're marketing to me, right?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dan: That's marketing. You're telling me, "Hey Dan, you're doing a great job. Pat on the back. By the way, stay with us and have those numbers go up." Right? I want to share that with people and say, "Holy cow, I've saved 385 pounds. That's so cool."

I just think they've -- from beginning to end, from prospecting, to communicating with their existing customers -- I think they're doing such a great job of being on message, consistent.

Obviously they provide a great product, and that's important. But, this continuous reminder of you're not just doing it because the food tastes good, you're doing it because you care about the societal impact as well. I think that is a perfect combo for me.

Kathleen: I love that example, and I'll make sure to give them a big shout out in the show notes. If you want to check them out, head to the show notes and there will be a link in there.

Separate question, the world of marketing is changing so quickly, social media is changing literally every day. I feel like it's a total fire hose if you're a marketer, to try and keep up. Personally, how do you stay on top of all of this? What are your go-to sources to make sure that you're up to date on everything that's going on?

Dan: Well, I would say that partially due to the success of your organization and others like Marcus talking about it, I think there's so many sources today that it's almost impossible to keep up.

I've actually moved towards using aggregator services like Apple News or Flipboard, because I find that so much easier than remembering to go to my 10 favorite websites every day to find news. I tend to search by keyword and topic, versus depending on any specific source every day.

I don't know if that's disappointing to inbound marketers, it might be. But I think, again, it's a result of the fact that so many companies are so focused on inbound marketing now, and are doing a good job of it. We have more great content out there than ever before.

But, to me what I'm finding is, I can find it in all sorts of places, so why limit myself to a single couple, one or two sources?

Kathleen: That's so true. There is so much information out there, and I think you bring up a good point for marketers which is that, yes, you need to be creating really great, helpful content, and have it on your website. But, don't overlook the fact that not everybody's going to come to your website to find it, and look at these other channels.

You mentioned Flipboard, I'm a big fan of Flipboard. Look at these other channels and see how you can get your content there too.

My feeling has always been, as long as people are consuming your content, it really doesn't matter where they're doing it.

Dan: Absolutely.

How to Connect With Dan

Kathleen: Love that. Well Dan, thank you. Again, so much good stuff. I love all the stories, and the concrete examples of companies doing it well. If somebody wants to dig deeper into this, what's the best way for them to learn more, maybe read some more of these stories, maybe get your book?

Dan: Well, I write for Forbes regularly, and this is what I focus on. In fact, Forbes requires you to create a sentence, one sentence that describes exactly what you do on Forbes. My sentence is, "I write about how customer experience can be your best marketing."

If you head over to Forbes and do a search for my name, you can see all of the, including some of the examples that I just shared with you.

But, people can also find me on my own website which is DanGingiss.com. It's G-I-N-G-I-S-S. You can find information about my book there.

I also host a podcast called Experience This, where we tell stories all the time about companies creating remarkable experiences.

And, of course because I practice what I preach, if you get in touch with me on Twitter @DGingiss I will respond and get back with you.

Kathleen: I love it. All those links will be in the show notes, so head over there if you want to check those out. Thank you again Dan, it's been so much fun. I've learned a lot today.

You Know What To Do Next...

Dan: Well, thank you Kathleen, it's been a lot of fun for me as well.

Kathleen: If you're listening and you learned something new or liked what you heard, as always please consider giving the podcast a five star review on Apple Podcasts.

If you know somebody whose doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork, because they could be my next guest. Thanks for listening.

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