Award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker Brittany Hodak shares tips and tricks from her most recent book, Creating Superfans.
Every business owner and entrepreneur wants customer retention and the ability to always have people who are willing to buy their products or partake in their business. Author Brittany Hodak joins us on the podcast today to discuss tips and tricks from her most recent book "Creating Superfans: How To Turn Your Customers Into Lifelong Advocates". We go over why it's important to make the customer feel appreciated and unique, ways for real estate entrepreneurs to get investors consistently, and much more.
Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting, and she is the former Chief Experience Officer of Experience.com. Her debut book, Creating Superfans, is in stores now!
Every business owner and entrepreneur wants customer retention and the ability to always have people who are willing to buy their products or partake in their business. Author Brittany Hodak joins us on the podcast today to discuss tips and tricks from her most recent book, Creating Superfans: How To Turn Your Customers Into Lifelong Advocates. We go over why it's important to make the customer feel appreciated and unique, ways for real estate entrepreneurs to get investors consistently, and much more.
I got a great guest for you. Brittany Hodak is with me in the house. She has written a new book called Creating Superfans, creating the customer experience that we all are wishing for. How do you create superfans that not only love you but they refer you to their friends? She dives into that in her book. Before I introduce Brittany, I want you guys to take a minute and go over to IronDeep.com. This is our website. This is for men that are business owners of faith that we're digging deep into sharpening each other like iron sharpens iron, but also into our faith and that deep relationship with each other.
We need each other. We are not alone in this. Also, go over to our Iron Deep YouTube channel. We got a lot of videos on there that we're coming out with each week that relate to men and the struggles of life, and digging deep into that. Without further ado, I'm going to introduce you to Miss Brittany Hodak. What's going on, Brittany?
I'm excited to be here.
I'm super excited. This is a topic that I'm very fascinated about. We're going to be diving into how to create superfans. Readers, I know you're business owners, men and women out there, a lot of real estate men and women investors. We're always trying to figure out how we build that brand and that reputation. How do we create people that love working with us and that refer us because that's the best recommendation is referrals to come into our business? Our clients come best from referrals.
Thank you so much. We're going to be diving into how to create super fans. Brittany, before I didn't talk about creating superfans and your book, talk to us about you. How'd you get into this? I know you've been around the globe. You've been speaking and writing. You know some awesome people like Katy Perry and Dolly Parton, to name a few, all these different corporations out there, companies and people. How'd you get into this and what gave you this idea of creating superfans?
I got into the customer experience world totally by accident. I always wanted to work in the entertainment industry. When I was sixteen, I got a job as a radio station mascot. When I was seventeen, I had a very lucky break where I was able to start interviewing bands for our station's website, travel around and do that.
I became very fascinated with fandom, why some bands went viral and others went bust. They went away. I started to see again and again, both when I was interviewing bands in high school and then when I was working at record labels throughout college and after college, that the bands who cared the most about their fans were often the ones who had the most success. They were growing very steadily.
Their fans felt that connection. They had a vested interest, so they would come back and see the show the next time the band was in town. They would tell their friends, buy their merch, request their songs on the radio and stream their songs. All of these grassroots activities led to this very sustained growth. I became fascinated by this idea.
As I progressed in my career, I started working with a lot of brands and saw all of these parallels of the brands who were going from potential commodity providers to category leaders or maybe even category of one in the minds of their customers who were doing the same thing. They were connecting their story to their customers’ stories. They were saying, “Here's why I'm different from everybody else.”
I became very fascinated by this intersection. I went back to grad school. I got an advanced degree in Consumer Behavior and Marketing. I nerded out on all of the things that make us attracted to the brands that we love. It was like all of these light bulbs going off. I was like, “The exact same thing that works in the entertainment field is working in the business. It's all about connecting your story to theirs. It's all about making your thing relevant to their life. It's all about overpowering apathy.”
That's what led me to this place where I try to make customer experience and customer-centricity feel exciting for people because I think it is. Every business exists because of its customers. When you keep that focus in mind and that customer centricity at the heart of everything you do, you will naturally become more customer-oriented in the decisions that you make, which will lead to all those things you were talking about, more referrals, more five-star reviews, and ultimately more revenue.
I love exactly what you're saying. I love that you came from the entertainment industry and the bands. There are certain bands that I have fallen in love with that typically I'll go to a concert, but then it turns into 5 or 6 concerts. I'm buying their T-shirts, and I'm wearing them around. I'm like, “Why is it that I'm hooked?” The music is good, but then there's something different about that.
That's what you're diving into with your book, Creating Superfans. The keyword that I heard from you when you were going through this is sustainability and steady growth. Can you dive into that a little bit? A lot of times, especially in the entertainment industry, things go fast and quickly. Someone is a nobody, now they're completely famous and then they're everywhere, but you've seen the people that are superfans for these organizations. It maybe went over time. Can you talk to us about that and dive into how important that is for sustainability and steadily growing?
This is important for any business, but especially small businesses where you might be working both in and on your business at the same time. You go through cycles of you're doing a lot of customer acquisition, and the numbers are looking great, but then you're busy taking care of those customers, so you're not doing sales. After 2 or 3 months, you're like, “It's down again.” There's that rollercoaster. That's something that plagues a lot of small businesses. What happens a lot of times is you have those cycles in your business where you're all in on sales, and then you're not doing a lot of actual production.
You're taking care of those sales and then you're like, “I need more sales again.” When you focus on thinking of customer retention as part of your customer acquisition stage, like, “How am I going to attract this customer and make them want to stay with me forever?” you have that growth over time. It's like, “Next month is going to be better than this month. The month after that is going to be even better than that.” It grows because people want to come back. They want to tell their friends and they're not looking for another partner because they've already found their one.
I work in the real estate industry. There's a lot of sales. We're focused on sales, and then we're trying to fulfill those sales and orders. Sometimes I'll think about, “How do we give the customer a better experience?” but then I'm selling, and then I forget about that for a little bit. It comes back and it's that rollercoaster. I want to dive into some of the nitty-gritty about how we retain these customers and make them superfans. I know you have a step-by-step process in your book, but I'd love to maybe go into a real estate professional.
We buy and sell a lot of houses. I flip and sell a lot of houses. I have investors all over the nation that sell houses that love to invest here in Indianapolis, Indiana. We try to treat them good. I don't know what to do or what that even looks like. How do you treat them good? We can give them a good deal on the house, but then what are some of the other things that we can do to retain that customer? Can you start to go into it with your step-by-step process?
A lot of times, people, especially those who are in sales and in transactional verticals, think of customer experience as just the sales process. From when they pick up the phone and somebody says, “I'm interested in this investment property,” to the day it closes or the day the paperwork is done. In their mind, that’s what the customer process is. If you think about it from the side of a customer, there's so much more. There's the before and the after, not just the during.
The before part is all of the research somebody is doing, trying to decide if they want to invest in Indiana or in Iowa, “What are the regulations? What are the rules? What are the building codes? What's the zoning like? How difficult is this going to be? How long is it going to take me to recoup my investment?” Things that you can do to proactively make things easier for your customer to show them that you understand what they're going through. You are here to help them. You're the expert who's going to be their trusted partner to hold their hand and walk them through all of that to the extent that they need it.
That would be an example of the before process. Differentiating yourself, whether that's through creating content, making resources available or showing up and saying, “I'm able to help with these things.” We know that as much as 70% of the sales process takes place before anybody ever talks to you. They're qualifying and disqualifying things. We all do research online because we want to make sure that if we're going to pick up the phone and talk to a human, we're not wasting our time.
We've already made many decisions. That before a part is critical because that's where you make your case to where you are not going to be wasting somebody's time. You're trying to overpower that apathy that I was talking about before because you lose many leads that you never even know about because you have no idea who they are because they didn't give you their name or email address. They didn't pick up the phone. They checked you out and were like, “Not for me,” and went on with their lives. That's why I always say the number one step to creating superfans is overpowering apathy. You've got to make someone care.
Let's dive into that before the process a little bit deeper. What are some of the simplest ways in creating content? I'm a real estate professional in Indianapolis. Maybe creating an offer of why is Indianapolis an amazing place to invest in real estate? There are a lot of different directions you can go with that selling someone. Is it a good place? Should I invest in Indianapolis? Iowa or Austin, Texas, or they can go to a lot of different places, hundreds and thousands of different places. That's one way. What are some other ways that before process, content, what are some other ways possibly? You don't have to go into real estate too. Maybe some ways that you do or you've seen some of your clients do as well.
Content is a great way. Content is going to add value. Content marketing is a huge part of SEO and getting people to land on your site, but also telling your story, letting somebody know how you are different. What will it feel like to work with you? Why should they choose you and not somebody else? When you can position yourself as a person, as that right partner, as that trusted expert, that's when somebody says, “Now I feel like I've got an opinion on this.” It's not just like, “I'm going to talk to the first person who answers the phone. I'm going to reach out to the first person who comes up in the Google search.” It's, “I want to talk to this person because this is an expert who's going to walk me through this.”
What you're trying to do is differentiate yourself saying, “Pick me.” The way you get somebody to pick you is by making your story relevant to theirs, talking about what it is that you are fantastic at. Why should someone work with you and not one of your competitors? What is it about you that's going to make that process better for them?
First of all, if you're not clear on that answer, that's a huge problem because nobody else is ever going to be able to figure it out. You've got to know what it is that you're the best in the world at, but then you've got to tell that story. You've got to let people know through what you're saying and share what it's going to feel like to work with you and why they should choose you.
That before or the nurturing part of the process is hugely important in real estate and every other industry because that's where your qualifying customers are. That's where you're making it to where not 1 out of 10 people you talk to is going to convert, but 9 out of 10 or 10 out of 10 because they've already decided they want to work with you.
Similarly, a lot of people ignore the after part. They don't do a great job of keeping up with their customers. They don't treat their CRM the way they should. They're not checking in and continuing to add value. What happens is maybe people come back or maybe they won't, but you're not saying top of mind. You're not giving them incentives and reasons to tell their friends about you and help you grow your business organically.
By stretching your focus from the first time I talked to you to everything's done, signed, sold, delivered, like the deal is closed, if you think of that as like 50% to 60% of the customer's journey, where 50% to 60% of your attention should be, and then spread out your attention to the before and after, you're going to find that customers become more loyal. They send more very qualified leads and referrals your way.
A lot of times, we are focused on just that whole middle ground of that transactional piece. In real estate, someone gets interested. They talk to us. We are selling them a house, now we go through that process and then we sell them the house and then onto the next. We don't talk to them again unless maybe we have another house to sell them possibly. Practical tips. We talked a lot about the before, nurturing, giving some content, telling your story and having them link their own experience and what they're going through with you so that they can trust you. For example, one of the things that I love doing is podcasting.
I've been podcasting for many years now, and it's great. I have a couple of different podcasts. We have one called The Indy Investor podcast, where we talk about more Indianapolis and investing for people interested in Indianapolis real estate investing. They are listening to that podcast. It makes it much easier because I'm talking. They know me already. They can trust me. I've told my story a few times throughout the episodes. That's just one way, podcasting or developing an email or nurturing list of why you are gifted and how you can help them and care about them.
Let's talk about the after process because some people are pretty good at the before process, they're trying to nurture leads and getting people on their email list. They're going through that process. They finally get the sale and then the post-sale, where it gets dropped off a lot. What are some things that you personally do to help continue to nurture that lead and help give them value after they buy a product from you?
One thing that I personally do is I send a lot of cards but not on the holidays you might expect. I sent cute Valentine's Day cards to all of my customers, saying how much I loved working with them. I sent cards on St. Patrick's Day saying, “I'm so lucky to get to work with you.” Looking for ways like that to stay top of mind, but for real estate investors specifically, the best way to continue that relationship is by putting yourself in the minds of your customers and saying, “How can I help them?” There's going to be a ton of overlap in the needs of the people that you're serving.
They're probably going to need a painter, gardener, electrician, roofer, or a sighting guy. If you are in the industry, you have many relationships already with the types of people that are going to be helpful to them. If you can prove that you are a trusted resource and you can help them with all of those needs, stay top of mind and remind them, and you know, if you local to Indy, then the weather is going to be very predictable because, around the same time, people are going to need to remember to winterize their pipes or plant the seeds to have their front lawns looking great.
There are things that are true of almost all of your customers at the same time. By creating communications around those things, not only are you adding value to your customers because you're making something easy for them, but you're also creating warm referrals and leads for all those partners that I talked about, like the roofers, floors, painters, electricians and the handymen.
Those people are going to be very grateful for those introductions and referrals and very likely to then return the favor when somebody says to them, “I need a real estate investor.” You are going to be top of mind. Showing up, looking for ways to serve and continuing to add value to your customer even after your primary thing is done.
The truth is if all you do is help them with that investment property or with that property, they are not going to think of you again until they need another property because that's the space you're occupying in their mind. If you can go to this space of, “Brett is helpful and well connected, I've got to save him on my phone because he's the guy I'm going to go to when I need to know where to send my kid to karate lessons or which one is the right car dealership I should go like get a used car at?” Making yourself known as somebody who knows all the right people is a great way to stretch that relationship into the after and stay top of mind.
You're talking about that personal touch and connection. At the very beginning, business owners are working on their business, and then they start to grow. This takes a lot of time. A lot of my readers are like, “I’m already overwhelmed. I don't want to think about sending out Valentine's Day cards.” That might be what they're thinking. Systems and processes are big. You've grown and I know that you have certain systems and processes, maybe your own team that's helping you leverage your gifts and even by being on this show.
How huge are systems and processes when it comes to this customer retention, and how do you build that out? It's one thing to think about it, and then you can get overwhelmed always thinking about it, “How do I bring more value? I got to send out cards. I got to help them bring the value here, but then now I'm overwhelmed and not selling. What do I do?” How do you build that out?
In the show, we can't get into it, but in my book, Creating Superfans, I'd lay out a five-step framework and all of the steps within each of those five parts of the framework to have a customer experience strategy. Ultimately, a great place to start for any business owner is to get intentional about what I call the experience design because every customer is going to have an experience with your business.
It's not like, “Are they or aren't they?” Is it going to be one that was carefully done by design or one that's going to default to how busy you are that month, what time of year it is and who on your team they're talking with? Gett intentional about what you want that process to look like before, during, and after. What are the touchpoints? What are the ones that you can elevate into a meaningful, memorable moment that somebody's going to want to talk about, that they're going to want to tell their friends about?
The answer is going to be different for everybody. Think of it as you're baking cupcakes. You can choose different ingredients. Your cupcake is going to be different than somebody else's cupcake because it's ultimately about yours. To your point, systems are a huge part of it because technology allows us to multiply our time. I don't believe that most of the positions that knowledge workers are occupying are going to be replaced by AI and technology in the next twenty years.
I know that professionals who embrace technology, AI and utilize it to scale their reach will absolutely replace the professionals who do not. Putting systems and processes in place to automate things that you shouldn't have to spend your time on because there's a way for it to be done much more efficiently and automatically allows you to find some of the time to focus on those higher touch things that we're talking about. You could still use automation to get you 80% of the way there, but then you still need a personal human touch to get it from the red zone across the goal line.
You went the 80% and 20%. There are many different things that you can do. Sometimes, I get completely overwhelmed. Everyone is crazy. We're hurrying around. We're busy. I've been doing a lot of studying on the hurriedness of our culture and how years ago they did studies. They thought that by the time year 2000, we would only be working fourteen hours a week because of the advanced technology at that time. That has flipped. It's the opposite. We have so much productivity apps, automation and different things, but we're still hurrying around. We're still busy because I think there are many options and things to do.
Where would you start if someone wants to create that experience for their customers? There are all these social media apps. They could write letters. They can produce a podcast, send out a newsletter and do the content. Where does someone start with all this from the beginning? If you're like, “I want a better client relationship. I want super fans that we work with, but there are all these different things I can do,” what should they do?
The answer is going to be different for everyone because what you should do is what feels natural and authentic to you. In my book, I share a framework that I call The SUPER Model. It’s start with your Story. Who are you? What's your superpower, origin and uniqueness? Embrace that. The U is Understand your customer's story. What do they want? What's the transformation they're seeking? How do you show up not just with authority but also with empathy to help them? P stands for Personalized. That's where you connect your story to theirs. E is Exceed expectations. That's all about the intentional experience and the intentionality behind deciding what you want that experience to be.
R is Repeat. The R part of the book is where we talk about the systems, processes, automation and scalability. Where somebody should start is ask yourself the question, “How do I want a customer to feel when they work with me? What do I want them to say when a friend is like, ‘How was that?’” Presumably, you want them to say like, “It was great.” Ask yourself, “What am I doing to deliver that feeling? What am I doing to ensure someone has a great experience?”
The answers are going to be different based on who you are and who your customer is, in the same way as there are a lot of ways to get to Orlando. Just because the destination is Orlando, it doesn't mean the answer is going to be like you're going to get on a plane and fly there. Maybe you're going to drive, walk or take a boat.
There are lots of ways to get there. The right way is going to be the one that makes sense for you based on your circumstances, story, strengths, uniqueness, and what your customer needs. If you are somebody who hates to be on video, don't make video your strategy. If you're somebody who loves talking on the phone, great. Lean into that. Use that. If you're somebody who loves to do research and gets drawn into market trends, analysis and is constantly checking stuff like that on your phone, awesome. Use that.
Don't try to make yourself the best at something that you hate or that you're not interested in. Lean into your own strengths. Asking yourself like, “How do I want my customer to feel? What is it that I want them to say about how they felt working with me?” Reverse engineer it based on the things that you love to do. Let’s be honest. That's the only way you're going to do it. It's got to be something you're going to enjoy doing and want to show up and do again to make the change. It's like when you're working out. Don't pick the thing you hate the most. If you hate to run, do yoga. Don't say, “I'm going to force myself to run,” because you're setting yourself up for failure.
I know that your book probably dives into how to figure that out because, honestly, it's a lot of people don't know. “What am I fantastic about? What do I love?” Sometimes you're in the minutiae of everything that you sometimes forget about it. One last question before we wrap up this show. A lot of times, especially in business and when we're in sales, reaching out to people, clients, even they get on that defensive mode like, “What do you have to sell me?”
They're waiting for that line of, “I have this thing to sell you.” You talk about the bands caring for the superfans. The bands cared about their audience and fans. Businesses cared about them. What would your advice be on how you veer away from that? Should you veer away from that? “I'm reaching out to you, but by the way, can you do this for me?” That's typically the conversation.
The answer is going to be different for everyone. A guy named Jesse, who's become a friend of mine, took over as the alumni association director at my undergraduate alma mater. When he first called me, I was like, “I launched my first business. I am not going to be able to give you guys more than $100 a year or whatever I give you. I don't have money.” He was like, “Cool. That's not why I'm calling. I'm not here to fundraise. I'm here to friendraise. I am trying to meet people. I want to create relationships. I'm never going to ask you for money. When the phone rings, it's never me asking for money.”
He doubled down on the relational side. He's like, “I want to know about the things that you loved about the school. I want to invite you back for homecoming. I want you to come to our tailgate and do all of these things,” because he knew it was about the relationship. Over time, as I was doing those things, I was like, “I should donate to this scholarship fund. I should do this and that. Do you guys have this? That's cool. I want to contribute.”
Showing up with the mindset of generosity of wanting to give before you get is a critical component of it. You can say to somebody, “I'm calling to help.” That needs to be true and authentic because you have to believe that if you give it, you will get it. Those things will come, but you don't have to call to remind somebody. You don't have to be like, “I'm calling to remind you that it's time to winterize the pipes at your house. Also, do you have any business for me?” That will be implied. People know what you do. You want to stay top of mind.
It's an awesome episode having you. Where's the best place for them to go to get Creating Superfans?
They can go anywhere they want. It's available in bookstores and on Amazon. You can get the hardcover, eBook or Audible version that I narrate. Feel free to pick it up at Amazon or your favorite local bookstore.
It's been awesome having you on the show. I wish you much success. I am a superfan of you. Thank you so much.
Thank you. It is mutual. Super fandom is a two-way street. You made yourself a new super fan in me.