[Video] Chris Brogan: The Simple Approach to Earn More Customers

Can customers be “earned?”

CEO of Owner Media Group, bestselling author and influencer Chris Brogan joined me on “Magnificent Time” to share his simple marketing and sales approach based on valuable content to earn the right to sell and serve.

I originally learned about Chris’s work when I participated in the Agents of Change Conference. Chris’s keynote presentation was brilliant, but what struck me the most was the unique way he connected with the audience. It was clear to me that Chris was driven by a real passion to help entrepreneurs.

Every Sunday, I look forward to receiving Chris’s newsletter. He always provides an actionable step or insight that motivates me to take action. And if you reply to him, he’ll get back to you and start a conversation. The newsletter is a “very personable experience,” as he says.

Reading Chris’s newsletter is like talking over coffee with a trusted ally, who knows enough to help you make the next move, and who can help you see a better path to your own success.

Tune in to this episode of “Magnificent Time” on iTunes.

Below is the video conversation with Chris about how you can earn more clients and customers by following a simple approach that works!

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript of the conversation:

Cloris:            Well, hello magnificent people! This is Cloris Kylie, excited to be on this new episode of Magnificent Time with a very, very special guest. Today, we have one of my favorite people on, and he is Chris Brogan. And he’s here to talk about his simple approach to earn more customers. So, I love words “earn customers” because we have to earn the right to have people work with us and do business with us, right?

Let me tell you about Chris:

Chris Brogan provides strategy and skills for the modern business. He is CEO of Owner Media Group, a sought-after public speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of nine books–and working on his tenth. Ask him about it!

Chris has spoken for or consulted with the biggest brands you know, including Disney, Coke, Google, GM, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker, Titleist, Scotts, Humana Health, Cisco, Sony USA, and many more.

He’s appeared on the Dr. Phil Show, interviewed Richard Branson for a cover story for Success magazine, and once even presented to a Princess.

Renowned people such as Paulo Coelho, Harvey Mackay, and Steven Pressfield enjoy sharing their projects and best ideas with Chris, because they know he’ll share them with you.

Tony Robbins had Chris on his Internet Money Masters series.

Forbes listed Chris as one of the Must Follow Marketing Minds of 2014. They also listed his website as one of the 100 best websites for entrepreneurs. Statsocial rated Chris the #3 power influencer online.

So, in a nutshell, he’s had so much to give, so much value to provide, and that’s why it’s an honor and a pleasure to have you here on the show, Chris. Welcome.

Chris:             Well, thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

Cloris:            I originally met Chris through Agents of Change, a conference in Maine. He was one of the keynote speakers, and at the time Chris, I didn’t really know who you were. The name kind of resonated, I read the speaker profiles, so I kind of knew about you a little, but it was only when you got onstage and you really spoke with such candor… It really felt like you really wanted to help people and your message really resonated with me. And that’s when I became a fan. I said, I have to really learn about Chris and what he does, and I love your newsletters, which is something I’d like you to talk about. I think it’s probably one of the best newsletters I’ve ever read, and I get a lot of them. So, it’s an honor to have you here, and I’d like to know how did you get here? How did it all start? What ignited a passion to do what you do?

Chris:             Thank you. I started in a lot of strange ways, but it’s funny because the theme has been true ever since I was fairly young, which is I’ve always found that it’s really interesting to use technology to encourage nice interactions with people.

So, when I was a kid growing up in Maine, I didn’t want to talk to just my neighbors about the same things. My neighbors only wanted to talk about the same 3 things and it’d get boring after a while. And so, I thought what if other people existed, out somewhere in the other parts of the planet, that were interested in what I was interested in.

I started reaching out to people when the first online services starting happening. There were these things called bulletin board services, then there was America Online, there were some others, and then the Internet, and I found that I could reach out and connect with people about things that were interesting to me.

And that’s really been the theme ever since. I worked regular day jobs like regular people do for a long time, and then I had started blogging way back in 1998, when they were calling it journaling, and between that and then learning podcasting in 2005, I ran this event called PodCamp with my friend Christopher Penn, and everything kind of blew up from there.

I worked in the event business for a little while, and I started consulting and I started working with all these big companies and speaking professionally. And that’s sort of how I got there, and then all along the way, a lot of times, when I’m working with any particular company, they’re wanting to reach the people that they’re hoping to do business with, and they wanna get more of the right people, that sort of thing.

I helped them (the companies) figure out how can they connect in meaningful ways. How can they do something useful and how, in any set of technologies, can we build a better human connection so that we can empower ourselves to do better business.

Cloris:            Right. I see one thing kind of led to the next.

Chris:             Sure.

Cloris:            I also see how you got feedback from what people needed and then focused on that more, correct?

Chris:             That would be true. One of my sort of joking ways I talk about this is, I always just want every company in the world to treat my mom better. And I figure that if they’ll do that, then everything else will be better in general.

If they’re good enough to teach my mom or treat my mom really nice, then they’re gonna be better all the way around. And so, I look often at businesses in that way, even if they’re business to business: how do I help them bring more human connectivity to their business and how do I make that into something that’s value for them, so that it’s not just for the good of the heart but also for the good of the business?

Cloris:            Exactly. That leads us to: how can customers be earned, really? And what do you have to do to really earn their trust and to convince them or show them that it’s the best decision to do business with you? So, content marketing is a big piece of digital marketing. As we’re here doing business online, we’re delivering value.

What are the pillars that hold content marketing together? Because it’s not just about releasing information left and right, there’s much more than that.

Chris:             Sure. The phrase content marketing is a fairly new phrase for something that’s been done a lot of different ways. And the idea is that if we can tell a really good story that also leads people to consider more about whether they’re going to buy something from us, then that makes it content marketing.

So, I say if you throw worms into the water and the fish come and eat the worms, then you’ve just told a story.

If you put a hook in the water, then you’re just advertising “get on my hook,” but if you put a juicy worm on that hook, now we’re talking content marketing.

Content marketing is, I sometimes call it weaponized storytelling, meaning it’s storytelling with a real intent that we’re gonna make something happen professionally.

The pillars of it, though, are that it must always be helpful to the person that’s reading it or consuming it. It must always be educational and entertaining. It must do something in most cases that satisfies something in the customer’s need, whether or not they buy your product.

That one’s really important to me, because if it’s just an advertisement, then that’s not really content marketing either. It has to be something that can help whether or not they choose to purchase your product or service.

And then finally, it really has to be something where you deliver some direct value so that the person feels like it was worth their time, it was worth their attention. So, even if you’re giving content away for free, if it’s not worth someone’s time, then you’ve taken some money and time out of that person’s life.

Cloris:            I was thinking, even if they don’t buy from you at that time, they already know about you, right? So, it’s like nurturing that relationship, correct?

Chris:             That’s correct. Sometimes, you need the fast transactional sale, but that’s not what content marketing is built for. There’s other tools and systems for faster sales.

I never try to help people sell something faster, I try to help somebody build a relationship that would in turn allow more opportunities for selling or a referral. A referral is almost a sale, right? So, I think that there’s a lot of times where content marketing is perfect for encouraging referrals and giving some people some tools to help better refer and sell the product or service that you’re selling. So, it doesn’t always have to lead directly to a sale, but it has to promote the environment of moving something towards a sale.

Cloris:            That makes total sense, and referrals are such a big part of any business, especially small businesses. You really depend on people spreading the good word about you, and if you put out something that is not really up to par, that people feel it was a waste, they will never really go back. You have that one chance to make that good impression.

Chris:             Sure. But it works also for really large businesses. If you take a platform like Amazon, if I type in digital camera, it’s gonna just give me a big pile. So if Canon is supposedly the best, but Sony makes a camera that would compete with another Canon camera, how do you know this?

You only know this if enough people start saying, you know you really should check out this one too. And so, in a world where they can buy from Amazon or anybody else besides you, even the big guys have to earn that right to sell and serve.

Cloris:            That is true. Now, one of the ways you deliver value to your audience is by building a sense of community and by having a high-touch type of interaction with your audience and people on your list. And a great example is your newsletter. So, when did you start writing the newsletter and tell us, for those who are not familiar with it, what exactly you do on a weekly basis.

Chris:             I started my newsletter 2 or 3 years too late. I wish I had started it earlier. The newsletter is the best work I do every single week. I try to put my best information in there, as opposed to just regurgitate everything else that people find on the web.

I find that most people’s newsletter looks more like their junk drawer or like leftover food in the fridge. So, it’s like you invite me to dinner and you say, “Come to my house,” I say, “Sure.” I come and you open the refrigerator and you say, “Find your dinner in there somewhere.” And that’s not the same as “Come for dinner.”

So, I cook you something every week that’s unique and fresh, and that’s on the plate and so you can enjoy it. The benefits of what I put in the newsletter is usually some tool or system or strategy or idea or thought that puts you in the path of improving your way of interacting with the people that you serve.

Maybe I’m trying to give you a better idea, I’m trying to recommend a tool that might be useful. I try really hard not to focus on any particular technology, because I think that most of the marketers of the world are focused really too hard o a specific channel or channels and they’re thinking only about that but they should be focused solely on the buyer. And it doesn’t matter what channel that buyer chooses, and so I think the emphasis is on the wrong part of the equation and that’s what I cover the most in my messaging.

Cloris:            The strategies that you give to people are strategies that survive in the long-term. It’s not like the latest fad that is going to go away. It’s something that really makes you think about your business, about what you’re doing, even as a person. That’s why I find it so valuable.

Now, tell us about the engagement that you get with that newsletter. Do people write to you? What kind of things do they say about their business and about what they receive from you?

Chris:             I’m very fortunate. I built my newsletter as such that you can hit “reply” and anyone can send a reply.

And my list is small in comparison to some people’s – it’s 28,000. So, we do a lot of active work to remove people who aren’t opening, and we’ll send them messages to kind of make sure that they do or don’t want the email, but we try to keep people off the list more than on, because we only want really active people.

So, we have very high open rate. When I seek responses I get them. And so, in any given week, I might get anywhere from 200 and 600 responses per every email I send out, just replies.

When I do sales, then I get anywhere – it could be 100, it could be 800, it could be 1200. So, on 20,000 that’s not so bad, and it sort of fits, it’s a little bit higher than the industry standard, but my goal in every case isn’t always just sell, sell, sell, but my goal is to have the right tool or the right solution at the point that someone needs it.

So, sometimes I’ll be selling something that someone doesn’t need yet, and then they might remember and they’ll come back 8 months later and say, “Do you still have that?” and I maybe do or maybe I don’t.

And I think that the beauty of the tool, the way I use newsletters, is that people can reply. They can ask me things. I mean, I had several people write me over the last couple of weeks and the answer happened to be something I sold. And so, they were able to buy.

Other times, I don’t have the direct solution, but I know a way that I can help them in some other way. When people say, “Oh, you have to write back to all of those people?” To me, it’s a pleasure, it’s an opportunity. The opposite is saying, “Oh, no one ever writes me, or no one contacts me, or no one’s giving me a chance to sell,” right? So I have hundreds and hundreds of chances out of 28,000 every single week and I’m thrilled every time.

Cloris:            That’s the core element of delivering value, it’s to really be interested in doing what’s best for our customers. So then, you’ve built this community, you have all this value you’re creating through content marketing as well, right?

So, let’s say that I’m a small business owner and I do have some content marketing or what I think is content marketing. How do I know if I’m doing the right thing? How do I know if there’s something missing that I should add to my marketing mix and to the way I’m relating to my audience?

Chris:             Very first question when creating any kind of content is “Will this be helpful to my buyer?”

I know these 2 brothers who run a beer company up in Maine – by the way, I live in Massachusetts now and I travel the whole world, so it’s funny that I’ve mentioned Maine 3 times in one – but cause that’s where we met.

They run a brewery up in Maine, a beer company, and so they might write a letter about fun new foods to try or they might write a group hub guide to some city that’s nearby or something, where you could go and try out different restaurants or whatever. That is useful information for the kind of people who might like their beer.

My friend Sam Calagione who runs Dogfish Head Brewery, which is a much bigger but still independent brewery, he does pairings with music, for instance. And so, he likes a lot of really independent deep cut music, lots of really kind of cool music, lots of bands that you’ve never heard of, which means they must be cool. He pairs those to his more interesting beers and he supports music festivals and that sort of thing.

And again, is it helpful, number one? And does it show or help that person that you’re trying to serve do something more in their life or do something better in their life or do something that makes that work better?

You can do this with anything. It doesn’t have to be a consumer product, it could be a business product. You can make selling air conditioning interesting, because you might talk about the other things that the person who runs the building facilities needs to know about.

You could sell data servers, if that’s your thing you sell, because you could talk about the other challenges that those people face. So, there’s always a topic. There’s nothing that’s too boring to sell, and there’s nothing too weird and obscure, because if you’re in business, that means someone’s bought some of it and so you probably have to go find other buyers anyway.

Cloris:            Now, another challenge that I’ve heard from my clients is how to stand out. Because if I have value that I want to offer, it has been covered already. So, how do we go through the block that prevents us from taking action and say to ourselves, “It has been done, what can I do next?” But then we end up not doing anything because it feels like  we’re not really providing any value.

Chris:            Everything’s been covered already. Almost all musical songs, pop songs are all the same 4 chords used a different way. There’s a really beautiful YouTube video that shows a band go through 50 or 60 songs with the same 4 chords. So, everything’s been covered.

And I can tell you that what helps you stand out is, first, if you know to whom you’re selling.

I think anytime someone says how do I stand out, I say who do you want to stand out to? And they always pause because they don’t have an answer. “I don’t know, people who buy this thing.” That’s not how it works.

Yeti is a brand who sells mugs and coolers for travel. Rugged, outdoorsy people, or people who wish they were outdoors are who buy Yeti, right? So, the site is very bold and the site has kind of a rugged feel to it. Even while they still sell colors and things that definitely appeal to women, it’s for the kind of a women who like to be outdoors. And so, if you know your buyer better, then you know how to stand out because you can say it (your message) in a different way.

I wouldn’t buy a ceramic mug with a kitty cat on it, because one, I’ll break it, two, I don’t like kitty cats. But I like my Yeti mug, not because I happen to like going outdoors. In this case, it’s because my coffee could stay warm for 20 hours or my icy drink can stay cold for 20 hours. So, I like the function and I like how durable it is because I travel a lot.

So, how to stand out is to speak to exactly your buyer about the thing they really exactly care – and if you say, but I don’t know my buyer, then you have homework. Content marketing will not save you. You still have to figure out who’s your buyer.

Cloris:            I always suggest to people that, to know their avatar better, they have to go straight to them. Having conversations one on one, doing surveys to their list and so forth. What other ways can we use to really get to know them better? What have you done to really understand that entrepreneur who relates to you and can benefit from your services?

Chris:             I do 2 things and one is, by way of content. I sort of signal who I want to reach. I use language and I use style and I use certain methods to make sure that people understand I’m who I am versus someone maybe who’s a little more slick or versus someone who’s a little more polished.

I’m not looking for the suit kind of buyer. For instance, I do work with lots of really big companies, but only the companies that are more progressive on how they want to see their interaction with people.

So, on one side, I shine my bat signal like Batman. I shine my nerdy bat signal into the sky and say, “Come get me if you relate to this.”

On the other side, I allow my email for someone to reply to me. Because I actually read the replies and respond and think about the thing the person’s telling me, I have an ongoing database of what’s really bothering people. And I have to be really present in that and start to adjust and adapt my conversation and my style.

I think a lot of times, we try to make our product, we try to make people fit our product or our service, but it’s our job to fit our business around that person. We have to see that person to make that true, so we have to put a lot more of our focus on how that person fits in the world and then how we fit into that person’s life, as opposed to how do we get them into our thing.

Cloris:            Now, let’s say that we have our avatar really well defined. We’re communicating, things are going well. When do we know it’s time to expand and do different things, reach out to other markets? How do we know we’re ready for that?

Chris:             Sometimes, you’re not. That’s an important detail. Sometimes, you should stick to one market.

Dollar Shave Club, for instance. Dollar Shave Club has one market, razor blades for guys. I don’t even think they sold lady razor blades for a very long time, if they even do. I don’t even know if they do. And then, there’s second market, intimate wipes for your bottom parts when you’re done using the bathroom. I think what they just thought in that moment was “You just finished shaving, you might also have been in the bathroom, so there’s another use that we could sell to.” That’s how they did it. See, they complemented instead of going really far afield.

It’s always a question of do you want to be CocaCola, or do you want to be the CocaCola company? And in a lot of cases, it’s much more beneficial to be the CocaCola company, because they own Honest Tea, which is for people who like organic, fair-trade tea. They own Vitamin Water, a lot more athletic maybe, a lot more fitness related, etc. They own Coke, which is one of their lesser performing products right now, and has been for the last few years.

In your building of your business, you ask, “Did I master the group that I’m going after? Do they need something else that I’m selling? Or can this thing that I sell serve some other group?” That’s the only real question. And then, when it’s time, you can always dip your toes out and see what’s going on, and if it doesn’t work, then don’t serve that. No problem.

Cloris:            When we’re trying to reach that market in the best way possible, does it make sense then to position ourselves as the experts in one small field? And then when people come to us, we can always provide more services or should we just tell the world everything that we can do for them right from the beginning of the relationship?

Chris:             I don’t like either of those suggestions. I think, on the one side, if you tell someone you’re the expert, you set yourself up for failure. I never tell anybody I’m an expert. In fact, I usually explain how much I don’t know in life and it’s served me really well. I want my surgeon to be an expert, and I want the person who lands my airplane to be an expert. Everybody else has a pass, they can be an amateur.

The other side, telling everyone I know everything, if you’ve ever gone to a restaurant where the menu has 50 pages, you never know what you want. You just say, “Uhh…” and that’s the end of the, you’re gone. And so, I think instead, try to solve a very discreet problem for your buyer, and then say “what else do you need?”

Entrepreneurship is thinking, I just did this, oh I could do this. And that’s how that works.

Dollar Shave Club didn’t go that far, they never left the bathroom when they decided to sell their next product, and I think that that’s a way to look at it is, is there something right nearby? Or is there something really far away that still looks exactly the same with a new name on it?

I guess, in neither case would I make myself the expert but I would try to make myself the number one in mind for that activity or that choice.

Cloris:            You want to make yourself a resource and to show that, yes you’re not perfect, but you are a step ahead of the game so you can help that person and solve that problem.

Chris:             100%.

Cloris:            Okay.

Chris:             I think we value imperfection more than we know.

A lot of the people who buy what I sell come from having spent money with other people who sell something they thought was similar, but they didn’t connect very well.

They said “I spent all this money, it was terrible, you’re offering this other thing, oh you’re like me.” And I think that there’s some real power in that because a lot of people have unwittingly said, have unintentionally said, “Wow Chris, we like how successful you are because you don’t seem all that smart and you don’t seem all that special, and so that means that we can probably do it too.”

So, what they’re saying is if a loser like Chris Brogan can do it, I can do it too. I’m okay with that. I think that’s a great methodology.

Cloris:            It’s about a conversation, right? You have a conversation with people that can relate to you. We’re just human beings interacting with each other, and if we understand that, that’s the secret.

Chris:             That’s what makes it magnificent.

Cloris:            Before we go, I always have a question I ask all my guests. And that is, is there one thing that many people don’t know about Chris Brogan that you’d like to share, that is kind of fun or interesting? Something, a special pet peeve or something you can think about?

Chris:             One thing that’s interesting about me that I don’t often share…

Cloris:            Right.

Chris:             Well, you know, I’m the worst guest for this because I share everything. I overshare, which is pretty obvious with my bad ideas. But I’ll tell you one – this is random and weird – every time ever that I go to put my pants on, which hopefully I do every day, I always have to tap my left foot on the ground before I put the pants on. I don’t know why, but there’s little tap, it goes “tip!” and then I put my leg in the pants. I have no idea, maybe I did it once, hundreds of years ago, but I just noticed it recently. Every time.

Cloris:            Well, that’s the power of a routine. Doing the same thing at the same time gives you a sense of comfort. We all do it.

Chris:             It could be!

Cloris:            Thank you so much Chris. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. And as always everybody, remember, it’s about taking one step to build a magnificent business that you know you can build. It’s about taking action, just one small thing. Chris has gotten to where he is just by being himself and by having a true and honest relationship with his customers. Thank you so much, Chris. It was such a pleasure to have you on the show.

Chris:             My pleasure, Cloris. Thank you so very much.

About Chris:

Chris Brogan provides strategy and skills for the modern business. He is CEO of Owner Media Group, a sought-after public speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of nine books–and working on his tenth. Ask him about it!

Chris has spoken for or consulted with the biggest brands you know, including Disney, Coke, Google, GM, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker, Titleist, Scotts, Humana Health, Cisco, Sony USA, and many more.

He’s appeared on the Dr. Phil Show, interviewed Richard Branson for a cover story for Success magazine, and once even presented to a Princess.

Renowned people such as Paulo Coelho, Harvey Mackay, and Steven Pressfield enjoy sharing their projects and best ideas with Chris, because they know he’ll share them with you.

Tony Robbins had Chris on his Internet Money Masters series.

Forbes listed Chris as one of the Must Follow Marketing Minds of 2014. They also listed his website as one of the 100 best websites for entrepreneurs. Statsocial rated Chris the #3 power influencer online.

Chris Brogan Current Blog:  http://www.chrisbrogan.com

Chris Brogan Newsletter:  http://www.chrisbrogan.com/nl