Jay Baer is a social media expert, consultant, thought leader, keynote speaker, podcaster and NY Times bestselling author of five books. He’s the most retweeted person in the world among digital marketers, which makes him practically a celebrity in that industry.
Baer is best known for founding Convince & Convert, a conversion rate optimization (or CRO) blog turned consulting firm focusing on social media marketing and customer service. He and his team work with some of the best brands in the world, including Adidas, Allstate, Cisco, Oracle, and even the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the C&C blog continues to be ranked among the very best content marketing blogs on the web, and their Social Pros podcast has been named one of the best podcasts for entrepreneurs in 2017.
Last year, Baer published his fifth book, Hug Your Haters. It’s all about how critical it is to listen to feedback from your customers—especially the ones who hate you. This is the first modern book on customer service, and it’s essential reading for anyone who cares about their business.
Jay sat down with me at the Convince & Convert headquarters in Bloomington, IN to talk about his journey as an entrepreneur, the importance of networking, how to tackle customer service in the age of Yelp reviews, and why you need to love your most vocal critics. I even walked away with a sweet pair of “I Love Haters” socks!
In this episode with Jay Baer, you’ll learn:
- How to handle dishonest customers (6:45 in unedited version)
- Why you need to network (20:45 in unedited version)
- How to approach customer service in the digital age (32:40 in unedited version)
- The importance of loving your haters (36:30 in unedited version)
Please enjoy this interview with Jay Baer.
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From VERGE headquarters in Indianapolis. I’m Matt Hunckler. With powderkeg igniting startups. And in the upcoming conversation, you’ll learn how customer service is being completely disrupted by technology, and why an often overlooked area of business presents a massive opportunity to innovative companies.
Well, customer service has been disrupted in the same way that marketing has been disrupted. But we don’t talk about it enough. Everybody thinks they’re good at customer service, but they’re not. In fact, the research from Forrester says that 80% of businesses say that they deliver superior customer service 8% of their customers agree. So we have this like massive problem here, where everybody thinks they’re good at it, except for your customers whose opinion actually counts.
That’s Jay Baer, a social media and customer service expert, thought leader, keynote speaker podcaster and New York Times, best selling author of five books, including Hug Your Haters, which is a book on customer service in the 21st century, which made waves in the business community when it hit bookstores in 2016. In this interview, Jay shares his personal entrepreneurial journey, and the lessons that he learned on his way to being one of the most influential marketers and customer service experts on the planet. You’ll learn how you can create your own entrepreneurial path just like Jay has, connecting with the influencers and disarming the gatekeepers to pave the way. And you’ll learn some of the best techniques that forward thinking companies are using to revamp their customer service for the 21st century. All that and more coming up on powderkeg igniting startups, where every week we share the untold stories of innovation, leadership and technology beyond Silicon Valley. Here’s a great way to listen to powderkeg on your commute, at the gym, or anytime you need a quick hit of inspiration. I’ve got just three words for you subscribe on iTunes. Yes, we are in the iTunes Store. And you can find us by searching for powder keg that’s powder, keg all one word, or you can simply go to powder keg.co/itunes, which is going to take you directly to all of our episodes with our amazing guests. This episode of powderkeg is brought to you by developer town, developer town has helped more than 200 leaders of businesses ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies launch new products with the right approach. So what’s the right approach? Here’s developer town partner and senior designer Darren Shapoorji. To explain, a lot of
times you’re going to run into a typical development shop. That is just give me my marching orders. Give me the list of features and priorities. And I will build it I don’t, there isn’t this, I’m going to immerse myself into what you’re, you know what your market does or what your product does. I’m just here to build what you tell me to build, we will never be like that we are a company that is going to constantly challenge assumptions, and ideologies of what exists today, and how they can be better and how we can make them better.
Developer town is not a typical development shop. They’re serious about providing the tools and the digital product strategy that companies and entrepreneurs need to build these digital products. They validate your product strategy through customer research, rapid prototyping and testing. They design and develop quickly and iteratively by keeping users at the center of your strategy. And they help you launch with nothing short of raving fans and paying customers that believe in your product. Learn more at www dot developer town.com/powderkeg. That’s www dot developer town.com/powderkeg. For more information, developer town, start something. Here we go powderkeg ears. Today’s guest is none other than Jay Baer, who is a serial entrepreneur, a New York Times best selling author, and an incredible keynote speaker, an angel investor and so so much more. But Jay is probably best known for founding convinced and convert, which is the conversion rate optimization or CRO blog turned now into a consulting firm focusing on social media marketing and customer service. He and his team work with some of the best brands in the world including Adidas, Allstate, Cisco, Oracle, and even the United Nations. Meanwhile, the convincing convert blog continues to be ranked among the very best content marketing blogs on the web. And their Social Pros podcast has been named one of the best podcasts for entrepreneurs in 2017. Just last year, Jay published his fifth book, Hug Your Haters. It’s all about how critical it is to listen to your feedback from customers, especially the ones who hate you or maybe have a little bit of a problem with you. This is the first modern book on customer service and it is essential reading for anyone who cares about their business. If you’d like to see what Jay is up to these days, definitely jump over to his print is no website at Jay baer.com. And that’s J J A Y. Bear be a e r.com. Or you can follow him on Twitter at Jay Baer. I recorded this conversation with Jay in his offices in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. Now, this is actually one of my favorite places in the world because it’s where I went to college at Indiana University or Kelley School of Business. And I recorded this conversation at a very interesting time, just before Hug Your Haters hit the shelves at bookstores. So all the research and case studies were fresh in Jays mind. And it was the perfect opportunity to take a step back and look at the incredible entrepreneurial journey that got Jay to where he is today. In this conversation, we talk about all kinds of things from Jay start in Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to coming to Indiana. What brought him here, in this conversation, you’ll learn how to handle all kinds of customers, but particularly how to handle your disgruntled customers, and how you can leverage that into real business value. You’re also going to learn about why your business network is the most important asset you could possibly acquire and how you can develop your own world class network just like Jay. I like that we get to talk about how to approach customer service in the digital age. But I love that we get into some of the psychology behind customer service, and ultimately dive into why it’s so important to learn to love. Yes, love your haters. Jay is an amazing storyteller. So you’re in for a treat. Please enjoy this interview with Jay Baer. Jay, I want to talk about all the things that you’re up to these days. But first, I would love to talk about sort of the history of where you got your entire entrepreneurial Mojo, your your business sense, some of the things that were inflection points along the way. But first, let’s talk about where we are. Where are we right now?
We are in the global headquarters of Convince and Convert also known as my basement in Bloomington, Indiana. It’s a really cool basement. Thank you.
I really like the way you’ve decorated down here. I mean, it looks like I could entertain myself for you know, at least days. You got plenty of booze too. Oh, no kidding. All right, so I can stay here after you have to. Cool got on tape. You’ve got this place decorated with a certain type of art down here.
Can you talk a little bit about that? Yeah, I’ve kind of been a fan of this style for a long time. My wife and I it’s Canadian First Nations art. So it’s, it’s the Aboriginal art of Canada, if you will. And it’s from the Pacific Northwest. So Vancouver, Victoria, Vancouver Island that that area, there’s six or eight different tribes there. And they all make different styles of art, but but often carved into cedar, and almost all of the art from that region of the world is figurative. And so they’re all different animals. So here we’ve got a, we have a beaver, we have a skunk. We have a trout, a raven, which is one of the most famous animals in that kind of collection of art. There’s an Orca. And each of these animals have different legends for those peoples and, and each of those animals have different kind of spirits and talents. And they use these animals to tell stories. And it’s almost like their Bible. So where we would turn to a Bible passage and learn something from it. They’ll say, Well, let me tell you the story about the beaver. And that’s a story for their kids and their culture. And I just really liked the style of the art. It’s very, very colorful, and, and linear. And I just liked the message in the story too.
Well, I think it’s really interesting that that you have these artifacts that are representations of stories, because you yourself are just an amazing storyteller. I think that it’s one of the things that comes through in all of your books in every speech I’ve seen you present. And then also, even just an emceeing, you always seem to find the right story to tie ideas together or bring an idea to life. Could you tell me the story of how you first got introduced to entrepreneurship?
Well, in terms of storytelling, too, I was named in high school most likely to be a game show host. Okay, so I’ve almost achieved that goal. And so I kind of come by it naturally, I guess. You know, the entrepreneurial thing was sort of always around me, my my family owned a furniture store in Nebraska since like the 1870s. My great, great, great, great grandfather and great, great and great and everybody has been self employed, like my whole life. And my dad, we I was in Nebraska was only like a year old. But he went out to Arizona on a flight and it was this sort of real estate deal. Like, hey, it’s winter in Nebraska, it sucks here, fly on out to Arizona for free and we’ll show you some land. He’s like, I don’t care. I’ll go. And he was a financial planner at the time working in an insurance company. He’s like, 23, he’s like, I’ll go. And so he’s in the airport in Phoenix and meets a guy who says, Where are you going to my dad says like have a suit. Now for those of you listening? Lake Havasu is now America’s home of the London Bridge and a famous Spring Break destination right on the border of California and Arizona. But at that point, there was like 500 people there. Oh, wow. So my dad because I’m gonna like have a pseudo look on some land and the guys like, like have a suit, man. I’ve always been thinking about putting a restaurant there. This guy happened to own a very famous Steakhouse in Phoenix, like, I want to put a restaurant like how do you want to run that? My dad’s like, well, I’ve never worked in a restaurant. I don’t care. I like you. You’re a good guy. So my dad’s like, Oh, sure. So my dad comes home like two days later, I’m an infant. My mom’s a school teacher. In my dad says, Hey, we’re gonna move to Arizona, and I’m gonna open a restaurant, you know? And it’s like,
exactly. So I wait, what? So packed up did that. Then my dad started his company timeout. So everyone was just on board. They’re like, I
was only a year old. So my car my ability to negotiate was was limited. Sure. I don’t think my mom was fully on board. But But I think it was one of those. Well, we’re in this together. So. So yeah, we moved out there. And he started a restaurant, it was successful. And then he started the very first ice company, making ice. And this Lake Havasu for those of you don’t know, is literally the hottest city in the US the highest average temperature of any city in the US. And so only an ice company is good gigs. I did that. And so my dad’s always had sort of the entrepreneurial bug. And that kind of wore off on me a little bit, I think, did you work for your dad?
I didn’t know I was always too young. Well, I didn’t really I never really had a real job for my dad. They got my parents got divorced when I was younger than he moved back to Nebraska for a while. But when I was little, and my dad on the steakhouse, my job and I was like seven. My job was to man the jukebox. So he would give me a roll of quarters was like, okay, whatever you want to play, this is your gig. Just don’t let the music stop. So that was my job. And so I know so much more about like, early 70s rock than I should because that was my that was my gig. And I think that may have gotten me on my path to to be in radio and podcasting. I started the radio station at the University of Arizona, and now do lots of lots of podcasting. So maybe maybe that long ago, jukebox was was impetus for all that early appreciation for audio. Yes, for Helen Reddy and a lot of other like weird. You know, Olivia Newton John and Donnie Marie Osmond. Like a lot of things that are well before your time
that well, these are all familiar names to me. I don’t know if you knew this, but my first entrepreneurial venture was taking vinyl records and putting them on the popular format at the time, the compact disc, the compact disc, the CDR, yes, exactly. I had a CDR burner, which is just hilarious that that was we call a transition transitional occupation.
Exactly. Well, I know that you at one point in time or a shopkeep. Is that right? Yeah. Did you learn any lessons in business when you’re working as a shopkeeper?
Well, I was never really I never really had any prominent position. But I but I was certainly worked in retail quite a bit when I was young, especially in high school a lot. And I, I had a circumstance and actually talked about in my new book where a guy I was I was a stock boy. And so one of the things I did was man, the returns desk and a guy comes in, and he has underwear that he wants to return. And this underwear is is not new. This underwear had been worn and not just one time this this had been multiple times. Warren’s like, Yeah, I’d like to return this and I’d have to ask how did you know it had been worn? It was all stretched out. Like if you know, he was like, you know, you could tell it was not like this is not snapback, right. I mean, the elastics all like kind of funky. And I’m like, so he’s like, I’d like to return this. I’m like, Okay, well, what’s wrong with it? It’s the wrong size. I’m like, Okay, well before or after, he weren’t a few times. So I’m like, okay, hold on. I gotta, I gotta ask about this. I go to my boss, whose name was and I swear, this is true. Mr. Big, which is the best name for a manager is asking for a manager ever. Like everybody’s boss should be named Mr. Big. Yeah. So Mike, hey, Mr. Big. This guy’s at the front, and he wants to return some underwear and the underwear is used. And so I suspect that the answer to that is no. It’s like, no, actually, our policy is we’ll we’ll take anything, no questions asked. And even in a weird circumstance like this, and I didn’t really understand that, like, I couldn’t like white. Like, really? That’s our policy. That seems so silly. And I couldn’t I couldn’t figure it out. But what is interesting about that, is that, you know, Mr. Big and the company figured hate to the price of doing business, right? That that yes, some of your customers suck. And some of your customers sucked then which is 30 years ago, and some of your customers will suck 30 years from now, what changes is technology, right? What changes is is consumer behavior and how customers interact with businesses, but the core sort of whether your customers are honest or not, right? That doesn’t change and the ratio doesn’t change and and the reason I think that’s an important story to tell is that what I find today is a lot of businesses are really frustrated by customer service and the disruption that Tech’s not like technology has caused. So yeah, lots of businesses law, including businesses owned by really good friends of mine, who purposefully willfully and strategically do not answer complaints on Facebook. Do not answer complaints on Yelp do not answer complaints on TripAdvisor do not answer complaints on Angie’s List. It’s not accidental it’s a perfect they just don’t that’s our plan. We don’t answer. And to me, that’s crazy. And I asked them about that like, well, we you know, those guys at Yelp suck and that’s totally BS. And I’m like, why are you billing aiming the messenger, right Mr. Big didn’t blame the car and say, Well, if it wasn’t for these cars, enabling these customers to come back in return underwear, it wouldn’t have these problems, right? So your customers morality remains static only thing that changes is technology?
Well, it’s clear, you’re an early adopter of technology. And if you’ve been invested in over a dozen technology companies, I want to make sure we talk a little bit about Sure. Take me back to that gap between shopkeep to starting your first company, what were some of those pivotal inflection points that led you to the path that
so when I was in high school, I did a lot of writing. And that led me to journalism. And so I was edited the school newspaper a couple times. And it was a really good high school newspaper. And we went lots and lots of awards. And I did a lot of writing for that. And then I ended up working for the city newspaper writing high school sports. So I was the high school sports columnist, which was awesome, right? Because nobody actually knows what happens in high school games. Like, you know, football, yes, but anything else? No, nobody goes to high school baseball, nobody goes to high school, swimming or volleyball. So I would just go get the score bug from the coaches, and any of my friends that played the game like they were the star of the game regardless, so I’d be like, you know, the Friday nights, last six to three, but Alberta had a key walk in the ninth inning. Right. You know, I’m I’m sort of like trying to try to craft the story. So my friends get all the angst. So that’s good times. So I did that. And then that’s making it Yeah, absolutely. So that led me to go into school for journalism at the University of Arizona. And once I was there, I realized that I was kind of actually burnt out on it. And so I got involved in politics, I had a class first class, for the first class I ever had in college was honors political science, actually, where I met my wife, no first day of college first class. That’s pretty great luck. I knew right away, she definitely did not did not know right away, took her quite a while to come around. And so I had an amazing, amazing professor who’s now a professor at University of Virginia. And we did a whole unit on political consultant and kind of political campaigns. And I was just fascinated by it by the whole concept of marketing and individual. And I ended up switching my major to poli sci and got an internship for a very, very prominent political consultancy in Phoenix and and launched a career in politics. So for the first few years of my career, I was a political consultant ran campaigns ran races for Governor for Senate for statewide initiative for President did all kinds of things like that. And eventually kind of got out of that and into more traditional marketing to
when you’re obviously good at it. You know, if you can continue to maintain a career in that path. Was there a mentor or a handful of mentors or guides that helped? Yeah,
so what was interesting is that that professor was actually a pollster. So he was a professor, but his side gig with his wife was as a political pollster. So he was really one of my mentors. And it kind of led me into that business. And I really liked it and can explain what a pollster is. So somebody who does surveys, so it actually does public opinion surveys, which, of course, is the lifeblood of politics in many ways. And so I realized that later, like a long time after that, that’s why I ended up getting into digital marketing, because the mechanics are really some of the great thing about politics is that you either win, or you lose, like, you know, the day after the election, like you’re elected or you’re not elected, right, there’s no, there’s no question about that. And so I was in traditional marketing for a while after I got out in politics, and I didn’t like it so much, because, uh, well, we ran some ads. And I don’t know, do we sell some stuff? I don’t know. Maybe we did. But was that from print or radio? I don’t really know. And then digital came around. And I was super early on that I can tell you that story. And I loved it. Because it was so measurable. Like, oh, I know whether somebody clicked I know whether somebody opened this email. I know, I have a conversion funnel. Like there’s math there that I can understand that I can test and I can optimize. And so to me, online marketing is is very similar to politics. And that’s why I ended up there.
That’s really interesting. And it’s interesting to see how politics today are now you know, adopting the marketing it was back
around, it’s all it Yeah, it’s like this weird infinity loop. So So digital was like politics. And now politics is has taken a play a playbook all the social media, you know, look at look at what in the Republican primary right now is happening. It’s so much of what we would consider to be sort of a social media, you know, campaign.
Sure, absolutely. Well, I know Obama was the first president to ever have his own staff videographer. Absolutely. Yeah. And I can content baby. Yeah, exactly. Just just pumping it out. And, and now everyone has their own videographer and
their own Snapchat account and everything else. And here’s all the behind the scenes stuff. And, and when I was in politics, you would never think of doing something behind the scenes or less than, you know, it was hey, if we’re going to do any video, we’re getting like the full on legit film crew. And you know, we’re getting dry ice and lasers and lighting. No, there was no like, hey, let’s just run and gun it like that was not even. I mean, it’s inconceivable that you would do that.
That’s that’s so interesting. Well, so So you’re in politics. Why did you decide to get out of politics? So
the problem with politics at that time It’s no longer true is that if you’re not working on a campaign, so once campaigns are over, you had nothing to do for like a year. So you’d really only do elections every other year. Now, you’re always running just because the way politics works. But back then, in the off year, you typically had to go be a lobbyist. And I didn’t like lobbying because there was no finality to it, you’re like, Well, I kind of convinced some people, whatever, I just didn’t like it as well. So. And it’s also when you’re when you’re like, seriously in the campaign business like that? It’s a tough gig. Yeah, it is a tough gig. It’s not a good family gig. Because during the high season, I mean, you’re you’re seriously doing, you know, you’re doing 18 hour days, like, all the time, and it’s really rough. And I’m like, Yeah, this is, I can’t see myself doing this for 25 years, it’s tough. So I got into more traditional marketing, look, if I can get somebody elected, I can sell soup, or whatever. So I ended up working for about four years as a marketing director for waste management, the big environmental services guy. So I can tell you, Matt, so much about landfill design and enterprise recycling programs. So I did that for a while I really liked it. And I left there, and ended up as the spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, where my job was primarily to give tours of juvenile prison, which is not even as good as I just made it sound in the previous sentence. No kidding. Just fun times, what
what made that job position stand out to you that said, I have to apply to that.
Well, it was it was more the other way around. So I liked my waste management job a lot, then my boss got promoted. And so the new guy who came in was an idiot, if they were really bad. And I was young and foolish, and I’m like, I can’t work for this guy. I quit. And so then I’ll take any job. And I ended up as a spokesman for the prison. And then of course, the guy who I quit because I’ve got fired like 30 days. Yeah, so I learned a really important lesson there about about patience about, hey, you know, let things find their own level. You don’t have to, you know, be knee jerk and reactionary. So, I was I worked for the government for four months. That was, that was the extent of my and I still get like pension checks for like one penny. And so I decided to take my leave after they put me in charge, like how you did a great job here, Jay. We’re gonna put you in charge of the we’re going to rebrand the Juvenile Corrections Department. First, we’re gonna start with business cards. We’ve got a committee a 13 person committee, you can be in charge of it. I’m like, if it takes us 13 People to redesign the business cards. This is probably not the entrepreneurial culture for me. So at the same time, some friends of mine had started the very first internet company in Arizona, this is 1993. Wow. And I had met them at school, and we were having beers as one does. And they said, hey, you know, this internet company that we started is starting to get kind of busy. And we don’t know anything about marketing. And I said, Well, that’s good. Because when you say the word internet, I don’t know what that word means. And I really didn’t. You know, at that point, it was basically AOL. Right? That was it. But I’m like, Look, I’ll do anything to not give another tour of this prison and to not run this business card committee. So I walked in the next day and quit and started as the Vice President of Marketing for an internet company having essentially never been online, which is a very interesting first day of work. You’re like, Whoa, this is crazy. Yeah, I bet it was like drinking from a firehose. Absolutely. And it turned out my partner in that business, my buddy from school, invented web hosting. So before he invented this, it used to be back in the day, that if you wanted a website, you had to have a server, it was one domain to one box. So you could only run one domain name on an actual, an actual piece of hardware, one server. So he invented the partitioning algorithm that would allow you to run multiple domains on a single box, which of course begat everything that we have now, Rackspace, GoDaddy, you know, whatever, no WordPress, in but for a while, we were the only ones in the world who could do virtual hosting. And so we went from a handful of customers mostly dial up like, you know, that thing. Yeah, in Phoenix to about 1200 hosting customers in 23 countries. Oh, my God, that happened in like, 60 days, you know, it was insane. You know, like all the apocryphal stories, sleeping on the floor to make sure the servers don’t melt down, like all of that happened. We did all those things, right, kind of hyper growth. And did you get were you guys able to patent that or So anyway, we were able to protect it a little bit, but not in and it was it the technology moves so fast? Yeah. No, it was really tough. And so we made all kinds of classic mistakes. I was the senior partner at 23. You know, so we were we just did a lot of bad things. And so I ended up leaving to start another internet company. And we sold that business ultimately to mind spring, which eventually became Earthlink. Back in the day, so
Okay, the first company that second company, that first company, yeah, that versus guys. Yeah, we sold it. Wow, that’s awesome. Yeah. What What made you decide to leave and start the next one,
so it was just getting too much rancor too much like intra friend rancor. You know, it just didn’t pick your partners. Yeah. And you know, when you grow like that, we just didn’t know what we were doing. Number one, you know, we needed a grown up and we tried to get it grown up and we couldn’t get it grown up fast enough, and then it just sort of melted down. So and then at the same time, I got a really great opportunity. I was the president of ad two, which was the young professionals advertising club in Arizona at the time. And I met a lot of people in that gig. And I got hired away to start an internet company for a family owned media conglomerate, which had three TV stations, three radio stations, and a magazine. They’re like, we got TV, we got radio, we got magazine we need on some of that internet. Can you can you get us some internet? And I was like, Yeah, I can get you some internet. So they poached me away from my partners and set me up with a sweet gig, sweet salary. And so I come in the first day, and I’m like, Okay, what’s the plan? Like? Well, you’re supposed to tell us the plan. I’m like, Oh, so you really have no, you’re just like, when you said get us some internet. That was literally what you meant. I’m like, okay, so they give me a desk and an office and a notepad and like, figure it out. So we use cool. Yeah, well, Sonam is cool. Yeah, it was. And so we we got into the the dial up business, did a partnership with, which was then quest, and then built a large local website. So what like indie star.com, like that kind of a thing, but powered by the TV stations. And at one point, we became the second largest TV station based website in the US. And we got into web design and did all kinds of other stuff. That was crazy, I want
to go back to add to the professional network that you joined. Because, Jay, you’re part of one of the best networked people that I know, you know, a lot of people, but a lot of people know you as well. And I think that’s probably by virtue of what you do as a source of income in terms of being a thought leader and author. You’re emceeing conferences, where other connectors are presenting, so you’re probably getting to know them. But then also what you’re doing with content, you know, atomizing, it putting it on several different platforms at once. And it sounds like this ad two, might have been sort of the early starting grounds of that professional,
I mean, even even before that, Matt I mean, it’s like my, my grandfather, and my dad really got me sort of tied into that concept, right? They were involved in every club and organization that there was, you know, and and, you know, in everything in rotary and Kiwanis and in gestures, and and this and that, and then this and, and that. And so they taught me like, look, you know, if you want to make a difference, you’ve got to be involved, right? You know, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. And from a very young age, it wasn’t even a conversation with just but that’s just how it works. You know, and I was always, I’ve always been a joiner, like, I’ve always, you know, liked to be around people and be in organizations and work on things together. And so, when I was in high school, I was I was involved in like, I don’t know, like, like a dozen 15 clubs is crazy. I think that’s awesome. My mom’s friend is still a guidance counselor there. And she says, and I still hold the all time record, the all time record for most, most bullet points on the high school resume, have anybody’s ever been in that school. So my kids now I’ve high school students now at home, and they’re always bitching about how busy they are. I’m like, you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. Like you wouldn’t know busy if it walked into your room and laid on your bed when I got out of college. And I was super busy in college, too. I ran the Student Activities Council and planned all the concerts and ran the radio station, all this other stuff. And so when I got out, and same thing, I’m like, okay, join a bunch of stuff. So add to was a great place for me, I started my own club, called version 27. For tech entrepreneurs way back in the day, and like, there isn’t a club for this, I’m going to start one, you know everything about that, right. And it was called version 27. Because we held meetings on the 27th floor of that downtown office building. And so I just always have done that, I always feel like, you’re going to meet a lot of people that you like, you’re going to meet a lot of people that you might eventually do business with. And you’re also going to meet all your competition, which is also a good thing to do. Because everybody’s everybody who’s a competitor is a potential collaborator. And I really believe that and so I try to be involved as many things as I can. And I’ve met a lot of people. And I had to, in fact, some of the people I still work with today, my graphic designer, Chris bond sack I met in that club, Christina Pader, who was my editorial assistant on my new book I met in that club, and this is what we’re talking about 25 years ago, right? And we’re still doing business together. How do you decide
who you stay in contact with? Or do you try to stay in contact with everybody?
Yeah, I mean, it’s, you know, it’s funny, it’s way easier now with Facebook, because you know, you’re at least have some idea of what people are doing. Some of it is random, and some of it is people stay in the same industry. Other people I know, like, there’s a good friend of mine, Dean Trostle. He and I used to do a lot of business together when he was in marketing, but then he ended up going into car sales. So I bought a lot of cars from him, but we don’t have we don’t you know, he doesn’t do what I do any more. So it’s different. So some of that is people go in different directions and things like that. So, but I try and keep tabs on as many people as I can. Because you never know when you’re going to need to, you know, need to get something and I find that as I get older, I want to work with people that I’ve worked with in the past, because I don’t have to explain anything to them. Like they already know what I want. They already know how I work. We already have a shared history, but most importantly, I trust them because they’ve delivered the goods in the past and we have a relationship. That’s not to say that I won’t work with new people. I do it every day. I mean we run good As posts every day from people I’ve never heard of, but but when the chips are down, right, like, I don’t care what it costs, I want to work with people that I already trust, right? It just, you know, it reduces risk. And I’m moving so fast all the time that that reducing risk is more important than cash flow and more important a lot of things as you
build up the trust along the way. It seems like a lot of that trust is also been poured into Convince and Convert, which is the brand that you’ve created for your career trying to company, which is amazing, you know, it’s consistently ranked as a top marketing and technology blog, the content that’s coming out there, you know, if not daily, several times a day, and promoted through all of your social media accounts, can you take me back to the moment you decided to start that company?
So I, I had a company in Arizona that I started in 2000, called Mighty interactive, which is a digital consultancy. And online marketing firm, ran it for a few years, sold it to a traditional ad agency, work there for a few years on an earnout. And then my earnout was up, my plan was to not do any of this. So my plan circa 2007, was to go teach a bunch of different university gigs lined up that people wanted me to do, and I was going to kind of do that professorial deal. But at that point, we had the simultaneous collapse of the stock market, and the real estate market is that a bunch of money in real estate, because in Arizona, that’s what one does. And so all of a sudden was like, Oh, I no longer have the cash to just kind of go do that. I’m gonna have to get back up on the horse and ride. And so I started convincing convert. And the reason this company is called Convince and Convert Matt, know if anybody even knows this, this may be a world debut. A lot of it is that my original premise was I was going to do conversion rate optimization, I did a lot of conversion rate testing, optimization, multivariate AB, a lot of that stuff and my previous gig. And so that’s why it’s called Convince and Convert, because it was going to be all about conversion, didn’t know that. I realized, though, I started a blog and never blogged before, I wrote a lot of business magazine content. And for blogging, like, I’ll start a blog on this one. So I started writing blog posts every day. And so I’d write about email, and I read about conversion rate, and everyone’s mind read about social media. And I realized with a very simple analytics, examination that every time I wrote about social media, I got like, 800% more traffic, than when I wrote about anything else. I said, this business is no longer about conversion rate optimisation. This business is about social media. Yeah. And so I ended up picking up some great clients, primarily in agencies, my original thrust for this business was helping agencies kind of make the digital transformation and understand how social media works. We still do some of that work. But over the last eight years, now, my team and I, and there’s about a dozen of us that are sort of primary collaborators that can MIT to convert me, we’re working with the best brands in the world. We’re working with United Nations and Adidas and Allstate and Cisco and Oracle, it’s, it’s remarkable what what we’ve been able to do. But you said it, it’s not me. It’s them. Like it’s really not, it’s not J, it’s a whole team. And one of the things that’s been challenging, and we’ve worked really hard on it, is to set it up. So that Convince and Convert has an identity, right? Because if people think it’s J’s company or J’s blog, or J’s podcast, then if it’s not me, then they’re like, well, where’s J, you know, and so it takes years, like literally years to to change that, that thinking so that people realize, oh, it’s not just him. There’s a whole crew there. But that’s one of the reasons the most important reason that I didn’t call this company, Jay Baer, and associates or something, because then you totally boxed yourself in a corner.
Yep. That’s really true. And I know a lot of other entrepreneurs have struggled with that. I mean, it’s, you can see it in case study after case study after case study, and just in the marketing tech world, one that comes to mind is SEO Moz, or, you know, now Moz, with originally being rands blog. Yep. And then transforming into consultancy, and then a software company. I imagine that had to be just as difficult
incredibly and even more so because such a much bigger company than we are. And he’s been. What I love about Rand is he’s been so open and transparent about the struggles that he’s faced and mistakes that he’s made personally in that journey. And that’s why people love him. Yeah, absolutely.
Well, and likewise with yourself. And thanks have been very transparent, and always willing to hop on an interview like this and talk candidly for you, of course, because I trust you. So we already talked about that. I love it full circle.
I’d love to ask you, you know, you mentioned that you had transitioned to focus on the social media aspect. Yeah. And I’m curious if you remember what your early pitch was for the social media, focus to agencies.
Well, well, what was great back in those days, right, is that it to me, I had already been through this multiple times. Because in my first career in internet 93, we were working on internet direct it was, well, you don’t think you need a website? But you do. And here’s why. Let me show you that your customers are online. And then it was well, you don’t think you need an email newsletter? But you do. And here’s why. Because your competitors are doing it and your customers want it. Right. So, you know, by the time we get you, you don’t think you need paid search. But you do. And here’s why. Right? So by the time I get to social media, you don’t think you need social media, you don’t think your clients need social media, but you do. And here’s why. Because their customers already talking about them. I’d already already run that game, like four times, yeah, five times, right. So I already knew it was basically search and replace, right Search and Replace paid search for social media, same story. But what was great back then is that you could actually blow people’s minds, you just get some simple, you know, social listening software, radiant six or whatever back then. And you just type in the name of the brand, and then turn the laptop around. Yeah. And people like, Oh, my God, there’s this much conversation out there on the on the interwebs. About Us on this, what’s this platter, you know? And so, it was, you know, it was so easy to prove the point, because you just said, Well, look, you know, this is actually happening, I’m making this up, this is a real thing. And so that part is always fascinating to shock people into realizing that, oh, I’m behind. So once you
turn the laptop around, and showed them, everything that was being said about their brand, you had escalated the conversation to that moment, to make the ask you remember how you made the ask and got your first customer? So
what I what I learned at my previous company, is that being transparent about not knowing all the answers, is incredibly powerful and professional services. And almost nobody does it. Because usually professional services, your approach and a pitch is I know everything, I’m the Wizard of Oz, you need to pay me to tell you the secrets, I always do it the opposite. My killer line feel free to steal this is I don’t know the answer. I do not know what will work for your company. But I know exactly how to find out. And people love that because they realize that I’m not you know, it’s not it’s not magic beans, right? It’s not black boxes, like we’re gonna, we’re gonna go through a methodology together. And you’re going to know where every dollar goes. And you’re going to know what every dollar yields. And at the end of that process together, we’re going to identify a recipe that I guarantee will work for your business. Tada.
And that’s great works every time. Well, I would imagine you just get an extreme amount of empathy and those customers or potential customers feel like you understand them?
Well, I think I think it’s the difference between being a guru which I don’t think it’s a very easy position to, to, to hold on to people bestow it upon you, but but I don’t like it. And being a coach, which is much easier, it’s like, we’re going to do this together. I’m going to show you how to do this not let me perform magic.
Yeah, that’s great. Well, and what you’re doing now with the book that’s coming out of your haters, is really focused around that same concept, right, where you’re actually saying, We don’t know exactly how to do this, right. But here, let me show you what others are doing. Well, customer
service has been disrupted in the same way that marketing has been disrupted. But we don’t talk about it enough. Everybody thinks they’re good at customer service, but they’re not. In fact, the research from Forrester says that 80% of businesses say that they deliver superior customer service 8% of their customers agree. So we have this like massive problem here, where everybody thinks they’re good at it, except for your customers whose opinion actually counts. And so this disruption is happening right now. So much of what companies have to contend with now is in public in ways that it wasn’t right, whether it’s social media complaints, discussion, board complaints, review site complaints, and most businesses are still thinking about customer service in private, they’re thinking about calls and emails. And we have to start interacting with with customers in the ground that the customers prefer what is increasingly digital and public, and not insist on dealing with customers in the ground that businesses prefer, which is private email and phone. And so lots of different case studies and examples in the book, small business, large business, US global, b2b b2c, kind of showing how customer service is the new marketing, it is the thing that can differentiate you because look, your competition can and if they smart will, will, if they’re smart, they’ll steal everything from you. They’ll steal your products, they’ll borrow your website, copy, they’ll copy your tradeshow booth, they’ll poach your best customers or go after your best employees, you know, they will do all of those things. But the one thing they can’t take from you, the one thing that is yours and yours alone, the one thing that they cannot grab, is if you genuinely and truly care more about your customers than they do. If you are willing to hold on to your customers in ways that your competition simply is not if you’re willing to invest in customer service and customer experience at a level that they aren’t. That is a differentiator that is the defining factor that will set you apart. And businesses are starting to understand this right. If I if I asked you, Matt, who’s really great at customer service, you can come up with a couple of names everybody listening can and that’s the problem. Yeah, right. The fact that you can come up with somebody who’s good at customer service tells me that it’s rare, so rare that it’s memorable to you. My vision it’ll probably never happen. my vision, my hope is that after people read this book, Hug Your Haters that we get to the point a year or two down the road when I say who’s great at customer service, and you can’t come up with an answer, because so many companies are good at it. Nobody is exceptional.
Yeah, that is, and that’s a really compelling pitch in and of itself. That, you know, you’re saying that the future of digital marketing is in your customers and turning your haters into fans? Yep. Or at least not neutral? Not attractive. You know, what do you say to the entrepreneurs who are playing by the four hour workweek philosophy of fire your worst customer? Yeah, get rid of them, you know, focus your energy on the 20% that gets you 80% of the results.
I don’t believe there is any such thing as a bad customer, right? I think all customers are good customers. Now not not every customer is right, of course. But every customer deserves to be listened to. And this is especially true when customers complain in public because it’s a spectator sport. Like, yeah, you want to make that person happy. And ideally, you want to hold on to their business. But you got to realize that when that person puts you on blast, and you ignore them, then all these other people see that and a lack of response is a response. It’s a response that says, We don’t care about you very much. And we don’t care about our customers. So yeah, mathematically, it makes sense to say, okay, fire, you’re 20% of your worst customers. But But when everybody else sees you do that, what do they think about your business? Right? Nobody ever talks about that side of the equation, right?
That’s a really, really good point. Well, and one of the things I love is you’ve been shared one of the stories from the book, Hug Your Haters. Hear in this podcast earlier in the interview, and all of your books seem to be just jam packed with really great examples that not only bring the principles to life, but you literally say steal the strategy. Like this is not a metaphor. This is not a concept or something just to bring it to life, like take this strategy, implement it in your business and go, do you have a favorite from this book?
Oh, yeah, I do. I do. I’ll tell you a sec, though. The one thing that I liked about this book, too, is that it’s rooted in research, right? So this isn’t just like, hey, I have an idea you should do this, because I say so. This book is is full of research that I conducted with Edison, which is one of the biggest and most well respected attitude collection companies in the US. Everything in this book is based on actual research from real consumers. This is not your typical customer service book, which says, you know, don’t point and be polite, right? I mean, this is real data about how business needs to act right now, as we’re having this conversation. It’s the first modern book on customer service ever written. And I think that’s why it’s doing really well. I think my favorite example from the book is from Lavon quotidienne. And they’re a chain of bakery cafes are based in Brussels. They have locations in Southern California, and also the Northeast. But mostly in Europe, and and there’s 220 of them, I guess, something like that locations, and their director of customer experience this woman, Erin pepper, she started with them, like two years ago, maybe. And so when she started, she says my goal, as the director of customer experience, is to triple the number of complaints, triple the number of complaints, think about that. Right? So why is that? Normally you would say want fewer complaints, she wants to triple the number of complaints. And here’s why, Matt, because the most overrated thing in business, the most overrated thing, but in frankly, the most overrated thing in life is praise. Every time somebody says Matt, you’re so good at this, Matt, you’re so good at that. It feels amazing. But it teaches you nothing, because you already know what you’re good at. You always already know. What teaches you something is negative feedback and criticism. Criticism is the petri dish for improvement. Erin understands that she wants every customer who has anything less than a 100% perfect experience to let her know. Because if she doesn’t know she can’t fix it. And that’s why I say quite literally that haters. complainers are your most important customers. Right? They tell you everything you need to know to get better, but yet we treat them like our least important customers. We haven’t backwards.
Wow. Is there something that she does? So specifically, so
the I think the thing that she does day to day, that’s so awesome. This is one you should definitely steel, okay. So anytime somebody has a negative feedback for them in a review site, and as a restaurant, they get a lot of reviews on like a Yelp and TripAdvisor Urbanspoon, that kind of deal right so if somebody has a one or two star review she answers them in public as you should every time answer everybody. She says I’m terribly sorry No, no, we’re gonna make sure we take this under advisement and let the store manager know the usual customer service playbook. Great, perfect. But it’s what she does next. It’s so noteworthy so she usually waits a couple hours and then in many cases she’ll answer them again but this time in private using the back you know, private messaging function of all these sites. She says you know, I left your message a minute ago but I’ve been thinking and you you are a particularly perceptive customer, you you see things that others people simply don’t see you have a gift for this. What I’d like to do with your permission is I’d like to send you two gift cards a month. And with each of those gift cards, I’d like you to visit a different law upon quotidian location. And upon the conclusion of your visit likely to click this link and fill out this very detailed survey of your experiences, because you notice things that people simply don’t notice. Your feedback can make us the best bakery cafe chain in the world. Will you do that for me? And it totally works. She has more than 150 Now, of these secret shoppers, working for her all the time filling out these super detailed experiences. She turned hate into help. And the total cost of that program, some gift cards. Yeah, total cost is remarkable. Like everybody should do that. Like, like do it in every business. Right? So you just tell us exactly what I mean. Tell me, it will 100% What was your experience with this, with this verge? And I will send you a gift card to upland, right, just, you know, tell me everything. That kind of solicitation of detailed feedback is, is really priceless.
Well, and it’s memorable and remarkable to absolutely, which is fantastic. Jay, I’m really excited about the book, we’ve bought 10 copies to give our listeners and our readers. So drop a comment below with something you learned or an interesting thing about J or customer service that you just loved. And we’ll send 10 copies out to the time.
Thank you very much for your support. Jay,
if people want to get the book, where do they go?
So you can get the book all the places and ways that books are available online offline, your local bookseller, Amazon, Barnes and Noble audio as well read by myself and Tom Webster. Awesome. That’s available. And if you go to hug your haters.com, which is the official site for the book, and buy it there from me, I’ll ship it to you for free. And there’s all kinds of special bonus stuff you can get including, which I’m going to hook you up with here in just a second. The limited edition incredibly awesome. I love haters, socks. Oh, what?
I’m getting a pair of getting a pair of socks. That is awesome. That’s awesome. Socks. Yes. Cool. J Thank you so much. And I really appreciate you hosting me here in Bloomington, Indiana
anytime. Come on down. All right, brother. Thanks.
Hey, Matt, here again. That’s it for today’s episode of powderkeg. Igniting startups. Thank you so much for listening. Please make sure you follow Jay at Jay Baer on Twitter, and check out his personal website at Jay baer.com. That’s Jay Baer, spelled J A y baer.com. And also make sure if you haven’t already grab a copy of his book, Hug Your Haters, you’ll be so glad you did. And if you don’t have a copy yet, and you’d like me to send you a copy, just drop a comment in the show notes page for this episode, and tweet at Jay Baer to say thanks for being on the show. And you of course can find those show firstname.lastname@example.org And just find the Jay Baer episode there. I’ll be picking three of those comments at random. And we’ll send you a copy of Jays book, Hug Your Haters absolutely free. So check out the show notes page at powderkeg dot CEO. Drop a comment there. Again, make sure you tweet at Jay. Let them know what you appreciated about this episode or asking if you have any follow up questions. And I will see you in the next episode. Just a little reminder, powderkeg is presented by verge which is a network of local communities with global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors and top talent growing companies beyond Silicon Valley, we have a ton of free resources for starting and growing your business at our website, which is just verge hq.com. We also host several events every month around the country. So check us out see where we’re gonna be maybe we can link up in person would love to see you meet you have a conversation. And again, you can find all that information on our website at verge hq.com. And of course, you can always find me Matt Hunckler on Twitter, and I’m just at Hunckler. I appreciate the follow. I appreciate the conversation and all of the ideas that we’ve been sharing back and forth over the last several weeks since launching the podcast. Thanks to all of our powderkeg errs out there who already left us a review on iTunes. Just a little reminder that you can leave us your honest review on iTunes by going to this link powderkeg.co/itunes. Give us a subscribe while you’re at it and we’ll be forever indebted to you. It’s your reviews. It’s your subscriptions and your feedback to help us get better and reach more people to help them grow and scale their companies beyond Silicon Valley. And again, that link is powderkeg.co/itunes. We’ve got guests like Paul Singh from 500 startups and results junkies who’s traveling all over the country investing in startups. Emerson sparks from dos.com who started his entrepreneurial journey, selling things on muggle net, a website for Harry Potter fans. And then we’ve also got Brian Clark, well known entrepreneur from Copyblogger, all of that coming up soon on powderkeg igniting startups