Creating Fans Through Human Connection

Last Updated March 3rd, 2020

David Meerman Scott, Fanocracy, human connection, creating fans, raving fans

 

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If you’re looking to grow your business, then having a raving fan base can help you get you there. Passion is contagious, and true fans are passionate about who you are, what you have to offer, and the ways in which you provide it.

So, as your fandom flourishes, so will your company.

To accomplish this, you have to give people an experience they’ll always remember – one built on human connection. And that’s hard to do.

But you can’t have truly invested fans without it.

Fortunately, our guest on this episode of The Customer Experience Podcast, David Meerman Scott, is deeply steeped in what it takes to create a solid fanbase for your company.

He’s the bestselling author of 11 books, including …

David is also a marketing strategist, speaker, and advisor.

So, he joins us today to talk about the importance of human connection in cultivating your fanbase. We chat about:

Why real human connection is vital to your business success
What the foundation of a true Fanocracy is built upon
Why giving things away for free makes more fans
Why and to increase proximity with current and potential fans in person and through video
When data obsession gets in the way of real relationships

 

Listen to the entire conversation with David Meerman Scott right here:

 

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David Meerman Scott, Fanocracy, video, human connection, proximity
 
 

Full Transcript: Creating Fans Through Human Connection

Ethan Beute:
A smart passion project, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan and his latest book, which I highly recommend, Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans. David Meerman Scott, welcome to the Customer Experience Podcast.

David Meerman Scott:
Thank you, Ethan. I’ve done over 100 podcasts in the last 12 months, and that was by far the best introduction, so I appreciate that.

Ethan Beute:
That is really kind. I’m really happy to have you here. I love your work. I’ve read several of your books and this latest one, Fanocracy, it’s fun to read, it’s easy to read, and I really think it taps into … this is obviously a theme of new rules and real-time marketing and PR as well. It just really taps into the state of affairs with a level of clarity that you don’t find often. It’s a blend of theory and tactics and really tapped into the moment, I feel…

David Meerman Scott:
Thank you very much for saying that because that’s actually exactly what I wanted to do, and what I have been able to do in the past, and I think that now that we’re starting a new decade, the decade of the 2020s, I think we’re in a new moment. The promise of social media has always been unicorns and rainbows and communicating with people and everyone loves one another, but that’s not the reality today. The reality is it can be a very dark and cold place for many people.

David Meerman Scott:
There’s polarization everywhere. The social networks themselves who used to be optimized for communicating with your friends are now optimized for profit, and then you’ve got the whole political world on social networks, which is just a danger zone for everybody involved. I wanted to look at what’s next, and to me true human connection, it’s not that it’s new. We’ve always had, it’s always been an important part of customer experience, but true human connection is what I think will be driving success in the 2020s.

Ethan Beute:
I completely agree, and you use language around it that I use in describing some of the work that we do, which is this pendulum swing back away from a lot of the stuff that’s come up and some of the stuff you refer to. So, I’m going to ask you to define customer experience, but prior to that, I’m going to ask a more personal question just to warm it up. And, I’m going to ask you a little bit about parenting, so congratulations to you and your wife because your daughter Reiko completed a neuroscience degree at Columbia, she’s working on her medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine. She’s an accomplished writer and she co-authored Fanocracy with you.

Ethan Beute:
Based on the research in Fanocracy, you point to fandom starting in adolescence and so before we get going on customer experience and Fanocracy, I’d love for you to talk briefly about your journey as a parent helping your daughter discover, explore, and kind of live out these passions because it seems like you’ve done a very good job.

David Meerman Scott:
Oh, thank you for that. And, she’s a better writer than me too. As you know because you read the book, we originally … and you don’t know this part, we originally wanted to create one voice. So, we were co-authors and we created a unified voice that brought us together. It just wasn’t working. It was too generic, so we ended up writing individual chapters. I wrote about half, she wrote about half, and we let our own voices shine through, and we actually say, Chapter Three by David, Chapter Four by Reiko and it worked out great because her voice shines through in that way and being a millennial mixed race woman neuroscientist who loves Harry Potter is really different than being a middle-aged white guy who loves live music, especially the Grateful Dead, so we were able to really have different perspectives.

David Meerman Scott:
But, we only have one child, my wife and I, and we were focused from the very beginning in treating … always having her with us. We only had a babysitter once, one time in our entire lives. When she was young we decided to go to a Madonna concert and we had a babysitter, but otherwise, we took her everywhere, everywhere. When she was three years old, she went to the restaurant. When she was four years old, she went to the play because we exposed her to many different things, and then let her make decisions as soon as she was able.

David Meerman Scott:
So, as soon as she was able to choose which restaurant to go to, as soon as she was able to choose what play to go to, choose what movie to see, what book to read, those were her decisions. And, she made choices that were right for her, and we never second-guessed those choices, and if she would do something a little bit odd and get into a little bit of trouble, well that was her choice, and then she had to dial back from it.

David Meerman Scott:
So, she’s really doing some wonderful things in her career. She’s going to be graduating from medical school in May and then will be embarking on her residency program in emergency medicine and doing so as a Wall Street Journal best-selling author, so that’s kind of awesome.

Ethan Beute:
So cool, that’s so great. Congratulations to all three of you. So, let’s move into customer experience. When I say that, what does it mean to you?

David Meerman Scott:
So, I think of customer experience as everything that’s sort of outside of the product and service itself. And so, how does the organization treat you as a person, what are the intangibles that go along with the delivery of that product or service? What are the overall ways that an organization engages with you as a customer when you’re a customer but also as you’re evaluating a particular product or service, and in fact, just before we got on the phone, I had an opportunity to contact the Wall Street Journal because I wanted to cancel my digital subscription, and when you cancel a product, that’s customer experience, and I’m happy to say they did a good job with my cancellation. They did try to keep me, but they weren’t obnoxious about it.

Ethan Beute:
It’s a careful balance there, especially at that point of exit. And the fact of the matter is, you might be back one day. Your situation today might change.

David Meerman Scott:
And, I told the rep that when I was younger I subscribed to the print publication and I was just trying the digital publication several decades later and who knows, you’re right, maybe I’ll come back.

Ethan Beute:
Versus burning you on the way out and you’re like, “Okay, I’m done.”

David Meerman Scott:
Yeah, that’s right.

Ethan Beute:
So, for folks that aren’t familiar, could you give just a definition of Fanocracy when the subtitle in part speaks for itself, but just give a little definition to Fanocracy because obviously it’ll be part of the ongoing conversation here.

David Meerman Scott:
Sure, so it’s when fans rule and it’s an organization that puts customers ahead of everything that it does. It’s an organization and a feeling of true humanity, of true human connection.

Ethan Beute:
What does that look like in practice? I know that’s a huge question because you cover so many styles of businesses and organizations in the book. For folks who are listening, that sounds awesome. If you’re in an organization, you want to be more human-centered and build community and build true fandom, and you can, but many things I enjoyed about the book, is it’s just a range of examples in there from car insurance to government agencies, B to B, B to C, everything, batteries.

David Meerman Scott:
Batteries, Duracell batteries. So, we went into the book five years ago. Reiko’s 26 now, so she was 21 at the time, and we went into this idea of the fact that she and I are both passionate about a few things. I’m incredible passionate about live music. I’ve been to 790 live shows, including 75 Grateful Dead concerts, and I’ve got a Grateful Dead Wall of Shame in my office. I own a road case that was used in 850 concerts by the Grateful Dead, so I’m a dialed-in fan.

David Meerman Scott:
And, my daughter Reiko is really into Harry Potter. Not only has she read every book, seen every movie multiple times, she wrote an 85,000 word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series where Draco Malfoy is a spy Order of the Phoenix put on a fan fiction site. It’s been downloaded thousands and thousands of times, commented on hundreds of times. So, we entered this project as fans of the things that we love, and our thesis was that any organization, any company, any product, service, idea can build fans. That was our thesis.

David Meerman Scott:
And, we’ve proven that to be absolutely correct, and one of my favorite examples of that is Hagerty Insurance, and they do automobile insurance, and I’ve asked thousands of people in my presentations around the world in multiple countries, how many people love auto insurance, and nobody ever raises their hand. It’s a terrible product, nobody wants to buy it. When you put it on your credit card, or you write that check, it’s no fun at all. And furthermore, no one wants to use the product because it means you’ve crashed your car.

David Meerman Scott:
So, it’s a terrible thing, and so I was talking to the CEO of Hagerty Insurance, his name is McKeel Hagerty, is the entrepreneurial founder and CEO of the company, and they do classic car auto insurance, and he says, “David, everyone hates my product. My product sucks, so I can’t market the way everybody else does. I can’t become the low cost provider, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to outspend on advertising. I can’t compete with the Geckos of the world.” So, he said, “We’re going to go out and specifically set out to build fans.”

David Meerman Scott:
And so, he’s developing a human connection with potential and existing customers. So, initially what they did was they went to classic car shows around North America, hundreds a year, he and his people. And, they would meet with people who love classic cars, so they’re taking existing fans of classic cars and then connecting with those people as a like-minded part of that tribe of enthusiasts. And then, that developed some people who then joined their company as customers, and then they created a drivers club to bring different owners of classic cars together in both a virtual and a physical way.

David Meerman Scott:
They created valuations reports, so using their data for how much they’re insuring cars for, how much is your car worth, and they have now an incredible amount of data that practically any classic car you can get a valuation for, and they have a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers. So, all of these things have developed a human connection, a true human connection with a potential and existing customers where Hagerty now has a fandom of their own.

David Meerman Scott:
They have hundreds of thousands of people who are fans of them, including me, and I actually got a card from them. It arrived several days ago. I’ve got it right here, and it’s my 15th anniversary card. I’ve been a customer of Hagerty for 15 years now. They insure my 1973 Land Rover, and they sent me an anniversary card thanking me for my business on being a customer of their insurance company.

David Meerman Scott:
And, McKeel Hagerty told me, “David, we’re crushing it. We’re now the largest classic car insurer in the entire world. We’re going to grow by 200,000 new customers this year. Everybody loves what we do, and it’s all built on fandom. It’s all built on a human relationship that develops into people who become fans of a company that sells a product that everybody hates.”

Ethan Beute:
Love it, and really, that example is so good. It speaks to the subtitle of the book, which is Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans, and so this idea that by approaching it, I love the way that you position what McKeel wanted to do there which is, I want to create fans. And, it wasn’t, I want to turn my customers into fans. It’s, I want to create something that people can be fanatical about, connect people together. And by the way, some of them are going to become customers, and some of the customers are going to participate in the fandom.

Ethan Beute:
And so, it really speaks to that give and take and working both sides of it. You’re not just trying to take … typically when people think about this it’s take a customer and turn them into an advocate or a fan or whatever you want to call it, so I love this idea of building that in upfront. So, for folks that are listening, if you have not visited bombbomb.com/podcast, you’re missing out on video clips of these conversations, and I just got a really nice tour of David’s Grateful Dead collection on his wall as well as that travel box and the card from Hagerty.

Ethan Beute:
So, if you want to see some of this stuff that we’re talking about, and see the guest, I’m putting it all up in blog post at bombbomb.com/podcast. So, speaking of the Grateful Dead, I feel like this book is kind of a natural extension of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead in that it picks up the lessons. It expands on them, and again, as I already said, it illustrates some of the ideas with a much broader range of companies, organizations, fandoms, things that we can connect to. Would you say that’s fair?

David Meerman Scott:
Yeah, absolutely, and that book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead came out about a decade ago, so Brian Halligan, who’s the CEO of HubSpot, and I wrote that together, and Bill Walton, the NBA basketball hall of famer wrote the foreword to our book. And so, Brian and I were exploring the ideas of how did the Grateful Dead build fans, and can the ideas about how the Grateful Dead built fans be applied to other businesses, and the answer is yes.

David Meerman Scott:
So, you’re very perceptive in asking me that because indeed having already written one book about this idea of growing fans, and in that case, very specifically using the techniques of the Grateful Dead did, helped me to give a much broader thought to fandom in general, and then bring my daughter in, Reiko, as a very different person, a mixed-race millennial woman, to figure out how this can apply to all different kinds of people and cultures and ideas and products and services.

David Meerman Scott:
And, one of the things the Grateful Dead did that was so unique, still is so unique, is unlike every other band, the Grateful Dead allowed fans to record concerts. So, fans could bring in professional-level recording gear and the Grateful Dead actually gave them a special place that they could go to, right behind the mixing board. They even had power strips you could plug into, and you could put your microphones up in the air on stands. They really let you go to town and record the shows.

David Meerman Scott:
And, the only rule was that you can’t sell the resulting recordings, but people could freely trade. Initially in the early days, it was cassette tapes and it became MP3 files. You could trade the tapes, you could give them away as long as you don’t sell them. And, that then generated an incredible passion for people who listened to the Grateful Dead in these freely recorded, initially cassette tapes and then MP3 files.

David Meerman Scott:
And then they would say, “You know what, this is great. I want to go to a Grateful Dead concert too.” Or, “I want to buy a studio album too.” And, that actually created one of the most popular touring bands in American history, and even now, 25 years after Jerry Garcia died, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead are still touring. Dead & Company with John Mayer in the Jerry Garcia role is still touring, and I’m still going. In 2019, I went to seven concerts.

Ethan Beute:
Wow.

David Meerman Scott:
And, the tickets are expensive. I’ve probably spent four or $5,000 in 2019 on the Grateful Dead, and it all goes back to when I was a teenager and I heard music coming out of my friend’s stereo system, and that got me hooked on the band. And, this idea of giving something away completely free without any expectation of anything in return is one of the chapters in Fanocracy, and any organization can do that. So, we have a cool example of Duracell batteries, and what Duracell does is they have something called the PowerForward program.

David Meerman Scott:
When there’s a natural disaster, hurricane, flood, fire, or something like that, and power goes out, they have a fleet of trucks that go to the place where the power outage is to give away free Duracell batteries. Absolutely no obligation, nothing in expectation of anything in return. They just give away free batteries when people need them. Now, what’s interesting about this is, this is when batteries are in the most demand. They could price gouge. People are willing to pay, five, $10 for a pack of batteries that are normally $2.95, but Duracell doesn’t do that, they just give them away for free.

David Meerman Scott:
And, that goodwill is something that people remember for many years, they tell their friends, they tell their colleagues. What I see though, are too many organizations B to B companies doing the opposite. What a typical B to B company does is they create a white paper or an ebook, or some other piece of content, and rather than give it away for free with no expectation of anything in return like the Grateful Dead and Duracell, they slap the requirement that you have to give an email address in order to get that white paper or ebook or other piece of online content.

David Meerman Scott:
That sets up an adversarial relationship. It’s not a good way to build fans because what you’re doing is you’re saying, “Oh, no, no, no, no. I’m not going to give anything unless you give me something first.”

Ethan Beute:
First.

David Meerman Scott:
You must give me your email address before I’ll give you my white paper, and that’s an adversarial relationship. It’s a business contract, if you will rather than giving away something for free. So, I recommend that people take a page out of the Grateful Dead playbook or the Duracell playbook and make that white paper or ebook completely and totally free with no registration at all because that’s what will allow your content to spread, and that’s what will help you to build fans.

Ethan Beute:
I love it, so ungate that content for starters, don’t price gouge just because you can, respect people as humans. I really appreciate that you specifically named artists that protect the price integrity of tickets to live shows. You named eight or 10 of them because there’s so many bands, and of course, some of the venue owners and it’s all at this point conglomerated. The tickets go on sale at 10 AM, by 10:01 it’s completely sold out, and two-thirds of the venue is now marked up at 400% of the original ticket price.

Ethan Beute:
And so, I appreciate that you called out folks that are intentionally doing the opposite of that, and welcoming people in at acceptable and appropriate prices.

David Meerman Scott:
And what that’s all about, it’s a different chapter. That chapter we’re talking about transparency and telling the truth is that it’s a really big part of customer experience to always tell the truth as in anything. So many companies hide behind legalese or they make an excuse for something that goes wrong or in this example of tickets, they blame the venue, or the blame Ticketmaster, or the other ticketing systems for what’s going on, and fans, customers have a horrible experience buying tickets.

David Meerman Scott:
You want to go to the big concert, you want to go see whatever band it is, and you go to the ticketing system at 10:00 AM as you said, and all of a sudden all of the tickets are gone, but you go into StubHub, and there’s thousands and thousands of tickets for the same show that you couldn’t get on the primary market, available at a huge markup on the secondary market.

David Meerman Scott:
It’s really disconcerting, and it’s a horrible, horrible customer experience. So, what some bands, The Rolling Stones, Jack White, and there’s a bunch of other ones have done is they figured out different ways to make it way more transparent and way more honest, and give the true fan an opportunity to buy tickets on the primary market, and it turns out that fans don’t have a problem with a highly-priced ticket. If you have to pay $400 for a good seat to The Rolling Stones, fans understand that, and if you’re willing to pay it, you want to pay it to the band, not to some scalper.

David Meerman Scott:
So, these bands have figured out ways to sell directly to you, and if you want to pay, that’s fine. It’s kind of like when you buy airline seats. If you want to spend the big bucks to sit in business class, you know you’re going to pay more. If you want to spend less money, you can sit in the back, and the same thing’s true of sitting in a Rolling Stones show. You don’t want to pay a little bit extra, or a lot extra, you can be up front. If you’re not willing to pay the extra, you’re going to be in the back.

David Meerman Scott:
And so, this idea of transparency and honesty as a really important aspect of fandom, and a really important aspect of customer experience is something that we can all work on, and it’s fairly simple.

Ethan Beute:
I think honesty and transparency, of course, are part of the trust-building process. When you have trust established is when we can be a little bit more vulnerable with each other, and when we can be a little bit vulnerable with each other is how we build real, true human connection. There’s so many places I want to go. I just love the material, but where I want to go next is around that human connection because a lot of the work that we do here at BombBomb, we make it really easy to record and send lightweight videos in place of faceless digital communication, emails, text messages, social messages.

Ethan Beute:
And, you have some really cool research in the book about face to face communication, physical proximity and it has implications for video too. So, I’d love for you to do a drive by on that proximity layer and how it translates even through the screen.

David Meerman Scott:
No, it’s incredibly important, and I believe it’s so important that BombBomb is just going to do so well going forward because what we did is, my daughter Reiko did an undergraduate neuroscience degree at Columbia University, and as we were talking about this idea of fandom, one of the things that we really wanted to do was dig into what’s actually going on in our brains when we become a fan of something. What’s happening? And, we wanted to be able to talk about that in the book, and figure out whether that leads to any prescriptions, and the answer is it does.

David Meerman Scott:
So, we spoke with a number of different important neuroscientists about what’s happening in our brains, and it turns out that all of us are hardwired to feel safe and comfortable within our own tribe of people, and this goes back tens and tens of thousands of years because if you’re within your tribe, you’re safe and comfortable, if you’re outside of your tribe, you’re vulnerable to attack.

David Meerman Scott:
We modern humans can’t help the fact that we’re still concerned about that, and so it turns out the closer you get to somebody physically, the more powerful the shared emotions, either positive or negative. One neuroscientist named Edward T. Hall actually identified different levels of proximity. Further than about 12 feet away is he called public space, and in public space we humans know the people are further than 12 feet away from us we understand that, but we don’t yet begin to track them in our subconscious. Once people get within about 12 feet, that’s call social space, inside of 12 feet to about four feet. We track the people that get into our social space.

David Meerman Scott:
So, if you walk into a crowded room, you can’t help the fact that you’re scanning people within about 12 feet to find out, is there anybody here I know? Is there anybody here from my tribe? Is there danger here? And so, this is why when you walk into a room with your friends you feel great, and when you walk into a crowded elevator you feel nervous. You can’t help that. That’s hardwired into our brain, and then inside of four feet is called personal space. That’s like cocktail party distance, or when close friends are together maybe over an intimate meal, that kind of thing, even more powerful connections.

David Meerman Scott:
So, what this means for us to grow fans is can you figure out ways to get your customers or potential customers into social space or even personal space of you, and your employees or even better, can you get your customers into the social and personal space of other customers, and so this is why a physical event, a customer event, your client conference, your sales kickoff, these things are really important in a world of digital communication is having those physical events are amazingly important.

David Meerman Scott:
And, I speak all over the world at customer events, and many of them are love fests where you’ve got thousands or even tens of thousands of people that converge on a city, and it’s fans of that company getting together, really powerful stuff. Well worth the investment even if you’re losing money on ticket sales. But then, some people say, “Well, David, we can’t do those physical events. Our clients are all over the world, or we run a virtual business, or whatever it is.” And, that’s where video services like BombBomb as well as things like YouTube for providing marketing videos incredibly powerful because it turns out through something called mirror neurons, which are the part of our brains that fire when we see or even just hear somebody doing something can be very applicable when it comes to video because the virtual proximity found on a video camera is really powerful.

David Meerman Scott:
And, I’m going to demonstrate that now, so here’s another clip that might go on your site. I’ve got a lemon in one hand and a slice of lemon in another hand. Now, if I take a bite of this slice of lemon, wow, it’s really powerful to take a bite of a slice of lemon. My eyes closed and scrunch up, my mouth starts to water. My mouth puckers up a little bit, a powerful thing to bite into a lemon, and just by seeing this, Ethan, I bet you’re feeling some lemon too.

Ethan Beute:
I felt a little pull in the front of my mouth is you were …

David Meerman Scott:
I know, it’s weird, right? And, even people who aren’t seeing the video clip that are just hearing me talk about it, are probably tasting a little bit of lemon. So, this is the concept of mirror neurons because your brain is firing as if you took the bite of lemon yourself. Here’s where that applies to video. When you watch a video of people cropped as if you’re in personal space, so about four feet away, looking directly at the camera, people intellectually know they’re just on a camera. I’m not actually in the same room, but your subconscious, your mirror neurons tell you that you’re actually in close physical proximity. You’re in the personal space of the person who’s on the screen.

David Meerman Scott:
This is precisely why feel we know movie stars even though we’ve never met that movie star, and intellectually we know they’re just an image on a screen, we feel we know them. So, this is a powerful way to grow fans of the business. Create a YouTube channel and do videos that drive people into your business, and then use services like BombBomb to communicate to people using video because that’s an incredibly powerful way to build fans by establishing a virtual close proximity to existing and potential customers.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. That psychological proximity is such a big deal. It’s easy for us to quantify things and we’ve done it through surveys and mountains of anecdotes and things like, I get more replies and responses, I get more clicks through my emails, I convert leads at a higher rate, I can stay in touch more effectively, and all these other kind of quantifiable benefits, but this other side of it we hear all the time, but it’s hard to put a number to.

Ethan Beute:
And, one of the most common things I hear from people that use our service often is, people feel like they know me before they ever meet me, and that’s exactly what you’re talking about. It’s a really interesting dynamic, and I get that reply myself.

David Meerman Scott:
And, it’s rooted in neuroscience, and that’s what’s so fascinating to me about it is that this is real stuff. This is not just marketing materials from BombBomb, this is real stuff. It’s really rooted in neuroscience. Some evidence that we’ve found, which is so interesting is that the average social media post that includes video crop … if you’re looking at the camera crop as if it’s four feet away or photographs just looking at a camera as if it’s about four feet away, and by the way, that includes a selfie because your arm is about four feet long.

David Meerman Scott:
So, if you’re doing a selfie, you’re in personal space with that camera. Those posts, video and photographs included, get way more social interaction than posts that are just text or images that are not of people. So, it’s all kinds of evidence that this concept around neuroscience of proximity, virtual proximity is true.

Ethan Beute:
I want to go into something that you just kind of did a drive by on, but I think it’s worth mentioning. I think a lot of people when we’re having this customer experience conversation, we talk about the relationship of company to customer or employee to customer, but what it is running throughout Fanocracy and in one of your last responses is it’s not just company to a customer or employee to customer, it’s customer to customer, and it’s employee to employee in that … and I thought about that too is you’re talking about honesty and transparency it’s, what kind of company do you want to work for? One that you can respect because it’s honest and transparent or not, and so talk a little bit about this give and take all the way around for a holistic Fanocracy it includes those three stakeholders and more.

David Meerman Scott:
So, one of the things that was kind of surprising to us is that once we started talking to people over the last five years about fandom and what they’re a fan of, and just the idea of how and why people become fans, people would light up because everybody loves to talk about the thing they’re passionate about, and it turns out that passion is infectious. When you’re passionate about something, that passion shines through, and the person that you’re speaking with does not have to share the same passion as you do, and this is why sometimes that people who are fans of rival sports teams can have really good strong relationships because they recognize in each other that even though I love the Red Sox and you love the Yankees, for example, you’re both passionate about baseball and you can both understand that passion.

David Meerman Scott:
And so, this becomes a really important concept around Fanocracy that passion is infectious. It leads to how do you hire the right people, people who already have passion in their life for something are much more likely to be passionate about you and your brand and your business, and share that passion with customers. When you bring customers together who are passionate about your brand, they share the fact that they’re passionate about what you do about your company, about what you do, and that is something that then that passion goes both ways.

David Meerman Scott:
And so, these things are all really, really important, and I think very often overlooked. Another thing that’s overlooked, which we found to be really cool is that people who share their private passions in their professional life generate way more engagement than those who don’t, and we found a dentist, his name is Dr. Jon Marashi, and Dr. Marashi came to me about two years ago and said, “David, I’m a dentist in Southern California. There’s tens of thousands of dentists in Southern California. How can I stand out when we all have the same websites, we all show pictures of dirty, crooked teeth turning into straight, white teeth, how can I stand out?” And, we just started to talk about what we’re passionate about, and Dr. Marashi is passionate about skateboarding.

David Meerman Scott:
He’s also passionate about bow ties, and I said, “Well, that’s it. I mean, let’s just focus on that, Dr. Marashi.” So, he did, he sort of doubled down on this idea of skateboarding and bow ties. So, he normally wears bow ties, and his white lab coat thing, dentist coat on, he’s got skateboards in his office hanging on the walls, he skateboards from one examination room to another. His Instagram, which by the way, has more than 13,000 followers, a dentist with more than 13,000 followers. He’s got a whole bunch of photographs and even some video of him skateboarding.

David Meerman Scott:
Sometimes he’s skateboarding wearing a bow tie, and what he told me was just this idea of showcasing what he’s passionate about in his personal life, skateboarding has nothing to do with dentistry, but what a cool customer experience to say, my dentist is a great skateboarder. My dentist loves to skateboard, and he told me that he’s grown his business by 30% a year just by talking about the fact that he’s into skateboarding, and showing that when he’s in his office, and having the Instagram focus on skateboarding.

Ethan Beute:
There’s so much good stuff going on there, and I think vulnerability is part of it. This idea that this dentist who two, three decades ago was supposed to act as if. I’m supposed to act as if I’m this all put together dentist that conforms to whatever the image of a dentist is, and this idea of this comfort of being yourself is fundamentally attractive to other people. And again, to your point, it doesn’t matter if I love skateboarding. I love the fact that he loves what he loves, and he wears it on his sleeve and he is who he is.

David Meerman Scott:
Exactly, and so you have a choice. What’s behind you in the office? Is it all of your wonderful dental degrees? That’s exactly what every other dentist does, or is it a couple of skateboards, or pictures of you skateboarding? To me, the difference is clear, and to me, I know what I would sign up for. As long as he’s a good dentist, I’d much rather have the skateboarder than the buttoned down, all business, I went to Harvard guy.

Ethan Beute:
Totally. You’ve been super generous with your time. I want to ask you, or at least get your response to a few quotes from the book that are all kind of around the theme before we get to our standard close. Is that okay with you?

David Meerman Scott:
Sure, it sounds good.

Ethan Beute:
Cool, so there’s an underlying theme in the book. It’s been kind of at the tip of the conversation as we’ve gone, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, which is all of this is just how we make people feel. That’s what this is all about, and so I want to read a few quotes and just get your reaction to it. A fandom business is human-centered instead of data obsessed. A number can be a ceiling if a person is too focused on it, and it alone. We see many consumers becoming more and more distant from brands that rely entirely on automated processes, and what I’m getting here is the data obsession, focus on numbers, automation versus human-centered, and focusing on the process, not just the outcome. What is the role of feeling in all of this to you, and what kind of pushback have you gotten about quantification of these things that are difficult to quantify?

David Meerman Scott:
A good series of questions, so I think you’re right that this is very much the human connection. It is very much a feeling. Your theme and what this podcast is about, it’s a customer experience, and that’s not to say that you don’t use data, that you don’t use technology. You certainly can. You may remember one of the stories in the book that I absolutely love is a company called MeUndies, and they’re an underwear subscription company. So, it’s completely data-driven in the sense that they sell underwear and you buy a subscription, so you get a new pair of underwear every month.

David Meerman Scott:
And so, it’s highly data-driven in that once you subscribe, they got to take your credit card every month, they have to send you a link to the available underwear that you can choose for that particular month. They know your size, they know which style you like whether it’s boxers or briefs or whatever it is, and so very, very, very data-driven on the back end, but that’s just to drive the humanity because they love sharing customer stories, they love sharing photos of their customers in their underwear. They have video of their customers in their underwear, and they have just a fun vibe. Their tagline is 10 million happy butts and going strong.

David Meerman Scott:
That’s just fun, and human, and interesting. So, I don’t think it’s an either/or, but I do think that so many companies are only obsessed with numbers, and not obsessed with the humanity of it, and I think in our world where there’s so much more data, you log into Netflix or whatever video service you use, and it’s so data-driven that you don’t see films outside of the ones that are similar to what you’ve seen in the past. I think that’s wrong. I think that yes, you should be able to see films similar to what you have, but that should be a choice. It shouldn’t be that that’s the default that you can’t get away from.

David Meerman Scott:
I watched a number of documentaries, especially music documentaries when I first subscribed to Netflix. I can’t get away from them now. Every time I log into Netflix, they’re showing me the same damn thing, and so algorithms are important, but they can’t be the sole driver of how an organization communicates with customers.

Ethan Beute:
Great response, we will wind down on that. I appreciate your time so much, it’s been great. It’s an absolute pleasure for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

David Meerman Scott:
Oh, of course.

Ethan Beute:
And, I know people get tons of value out of the conversation. I know they will get value out of Fanocracy too when they pick it up and read it. I assume there’s an audiobook as well.

David Meerman Scott:
Yeah, and Reiko and I read the audiobook ourselves, so there’s an audiobook and ebook format if you’re into that and then good old-fashioned hard cover.

Ethan Beute:
Love it.

David Meerman Scott:
And, the book premiered as a Wall Street Journal Best Seller, so it’s done really well. We’re really happy about that.

Ethan Beute:
Well-deserved. Before I let you go, a couple of things. I would love to give you the chance to thank or mention someone who’s had a positive impact on your life or your career, and to give a shout-out to a company that maybe you haven’t mentioned already that you really appreciate for the experience they deliver for you as a customer.

David Meerman Scott:
Sure, so Tony Robbins wrote the foreword to Fanocracy. Tony’s my friend, I’ve spoken at Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery events for six years now between two and four events a year around the world, and he’s a giant among public speakers, and the fact that he has me for two hours on his stage several times a year, that he was willing to write the foreword to my book, he’s a true mentor and friend, and I appreciate that.

David Meerman Scott:
A company I totally admire that has a fabulous customer experience is called Grain Surfboards. They make wooden surfboards, and for those of you who are looking on video, there’s my Grain surfboard that I made. I made that surfboard, so what’s cool about the customer experience there is you can either buy a wooden surfboard they make in their factory, or you can go and make the wooden surfboard in their factory with them yourself. It takes four days. It’s amazing, and who does that? Who allows you into their factory to let you make their product with them? And, I just love them for it. It’s called Grain Surfboards, they’re in York, Maine, so you can buy a wonderful wooden surfboard, sustainable for the environment, beautiful, or you can even make one yourself.

Ethan Beute:
I love it, it’s a great story in the book. It was really fun to read, and I love the reaction of the folks at Grain that were like, “Yeah, we just get so fired up when it comes time to have one of these customers come in and make boards with us.” Again, it just speaks to the Fanocracy and as far as community goes, of course, Tony Robbins as you said is a giant.

Ethan Beute:
I want to give a couple of things, which is not something that I always do on the show, but your appearance here with me, and thank you again so much for your time was triggered in part by a previous podcast guest, Samantha Stone, who was kind enough to send me a copy of Fanocracy signed by both you and your daughter. Ann Handley and Joseph Jaffe, previous podcast guests here on the Customer Experience Podcast who’s work like your own, David, was very, very influential with me at a very important time in my life and career, and a guy named Jay Acunzo who said that visionaries don’t see the future, they see the present much more clearly, and that’s how I think of your work, David.

David Meerman Scott:
Very kind of you to say, sir. That’s a cool quote too.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, it is, and a sharp dude. If people want to follow-up, we already mentioned the book and the digital book and the audio book, but if people want to connect with you some other way, where would you send them?

David Meerman Scott:
So, we’ve got a really well-done site at www.fanocracy.com, there’s videos, there’s infographics that you can download, images, all sorts of cool stuff there to give you all kinds of information about Fanocracy. On Twitter and Instagram I am dmscott, that’s D-M-S-C-O-T-T, and if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, please do.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome, thank you so much and, David, by the way, for listeners, David of course was kind enough to move his camera around frequently throughout the episode and he’ll find all of those moments and several others and they’ll be available at bombbomb.com/podcast where you can see video clips and get roundups on these episodes. Thank you so much for your time, David, and thank you so much for listening.

David Meerman Scott:
Thanks, Ethan.

 

 

Video Highlights: Creating Fans Through Human Connection

Check out the top five video highlights from the whole discussion with David on creating fans with human connection below…

 

1. The Importance of Human Connection

 

 

2. Underpinnings of Fanocracy

 

 

3. Giving Things Away For Free

 

 

4. Building Proximity with Fans In Person and Through Video

 

 

5. Data Obsession vs Human Connection

 

 

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David Meerman Scott, Fanocracy, social media, profit, social reach, fans, friends

 

 

 

Ethan Beute

Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of Rehumanize Your Business, and host of The Customer Experience Podcast, Ethan collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion with simple, personal videos. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.