Businesses tend to see customers, consumers, and followers merely as numbers. But what if you get past that viewpoint and actually see the people behind them? Pat Flynn believes you’ll gain superfans, who will not only buy your products and services but, most importantly, will support you all the way. Pat is a renowned speaker, best-selling author, high-level entrepreneur, and top podcaster, who has built a tribe of Superfans with his Smart Passive Income website and thought leadership. In this episode, Pat shares with us how you can create your own superfans by nailing your story and make them part of the experience. He lays out the details through his book, Superfans, and lets us in on the many ways you can speak to your customers that shows you have their best intentions in mind. Get inside this episode and learn about giving quick wins, making small bets, putting the spotlight on your fans, and more.
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Creating Your Own Superfans With Pat Flynn
Our guest is a bestselling author, renowned speaker, high-level entrepreneur, top podcaster, lover of Back to the Future and former marching band member and director. He’s built a tribe of Superfans and Smart Passive Income to go along with it by testing ideas and asking, “Will it fly?” I heard him give a closing keynote at the Social Media Marketing World and was absolutely blown away. It was the most inspiring performance I’ve ever witnessed, and the talk has become his latest selling book Superfans. I’ve become one of his biggest fans, and I’m honored to have the legend himself, Pat Flynn on the show.
Thanks, Jesse. I appreciate you for having me. I hope you guys are having a great day, and let’s have some fun.
Pat, rocking and rolling early in San Diego. The concepts in the book, you kept everything simple. I want to share this with the audience because many people think of fans, they think of sports, they don’t think of, “How can we make this in business?” One of the first aspects you talk about is breaking the ice, why wouldn’t we start with break the ice here? What does that mean? Why is that important for businesses to do?
Breaking the ice means, when you build a relationship in real life with people, you’re not going to be best friends right from the get-go immediately. When you find those commonalities, when you get to know that person a little bit more like a human, then you get to know them better as a friend and then that can lead to many other things. There are a lot of different strategies I talk about in the book, especially in business, how do you start that relationship? A lot of us think it’s all about answering all their questions and that’s part of it. A lot of us think it’s showing off our credentials and that’s why we put like, “Featured on Entrepreneur Magazine, featured on this and here.” That’s important too, social proof is a part of it, but more it’s, how can you be a human being? That will help you stand out.
One of my favorite things to do is putting more of my personality into my work, and by doing so, I’m able to stand out from other people who are doing the same thing or teaching the same kinds of things because nobody is like you. Nobody is like me. Nobody is like you, Jesse. We’re all unique in our own special way, yet we don’t often use that to our advantage when it comes to business for whatever reason. Back to the Future, that’s one of the things I love to talk about because I’m a nerd about those kinds of things. Even in my content business, it ends up in that content, when I’m on stage I talk about it and I tie in the Back to the Future story to business. When I write blog posts, sometimes I take lessons from Back to the Future and teach using that as an example. Not everybody on the other end is a Back to the Future fan like I am, but they see that I am and then they know that about me.
What’s cool that happens is, somebody will be driving down the road and see a DeLorean, the car from the movie, and then immediately they’re triggered to think of me, or they go to the store and they see a Marty McFly doll in the toy section and then they go, “Pat, this reminded me of you.” My brand is showing up in places where normally I wouldn’t even be thought about, because it’s not just about business, it’s about the person behind it. My good friend, Chris Ducker, he always talks about the story of Bob the Baker, a made-up person. Imagine you go to Bob the Baker’s bakery because not just he has good bread, but because when you walk in, he’s like, “Jesse, how are you? How is the family doing? How is the game last night? Are things going well?” You go, “Bob, everything was great. We won last night. Did you end up making it? Next time you’re in town, let me know.” You have this relationship. Even if a supermarket opened up in between you and Bob’s bakery that had bread for cheaper, you would still make the track to Bob because you had that relationship and it was because you got to know each other a little bit. That’s all about what breaking the ice is, in getting to know the person on the other end, but also having them get to know you too.
It’s much easier for people to connect. For instance, business people, we don’t all understand like, “If you’re in Entrepreneur Magazine, you do this.” People don’t know how to talk about that, but they know how to talk about their favorite restaurants, their favorite movies. One thing we’ve done, I want to see our businesses, but we interviewed all of our people in videos of things they love, even their love languages and their movies. We’re putting that in all the email signatures so you can get to know the people. I learned this from Marcus Sheridan, They Ask You Answer. One of the things a business could do is say, “We want our people, the businesses to know the people behind the business.” Do you see that could happen quickly?
Number one, understanding that it’s all about the human aspect. It’s about the relationships, it’s about building that relationship, and when it comes to business, there are some great ways like putting a podcast up to help a person hear the voice on the other end. I promote products as an affiliate, which means I earn a commission if I send people through a special link that a company gives me and people buy. One thing that I do is I love to use my podcast as a platform to bring the founders of those products so that they could also build a relationship with my audience as well. It’s not them coming on to go like, “Here’s my product and here’s why it’s great.” It’s like, “Tell me the story about this product, how did it even come across your mind to create this thing? What were some of the struggles you had in creating it?”
I interviewed Nathan Barry, who’s the Founder of an email service provider called ConvertKit. When I brought it on the show, he talked about how he purposefully made sure that he never took outside investments. How he almost gave up on it because it was too hard in the beginning, and he plowed through and he’s crushing it and he’s making about $20 million a year in that business. People hear that story and they’re like, “I can connect with this guy, and I see the love and the care that he put behind it.”When you get to know a person a little bit more as a human, then you get to know them better as a friend. Click To Tweet
People resonate with that and then when they email, they’re reminded of Nathan and then they click on that link. It’s similar to a strategy that I talked about in the book called opening up the factory doors, letting people in on your process and what happens on the inside. It’s one of my favorite things to do. For me, when I first started teaching people online business, I said, “How can I open up my factory doors? Let me show people some reports of how my businesses are doing and whether they’re going well or not so well, here are all the numbers, here are the expenses, here’s how we won us last month, here’s how we failed last month.” The whole thing, people love that and resonated with it because it was different.
We, as human beings, are born to be curious. When you offer those things that people don’t normally get access to, it connects you more with that brand and your fans. If you go to a beer factory tour or a brewery tour, not only do you get a small taste test, you see the machines, you see the factory and not only that, you get to meet the people and you know their name. When you’re in a store and you’re making a selection of beer, you go, “The factory tour, I remember that. I’m going to get that one and support them because we have this deeper relationship than just a commercial I saw on television.”
It’s smart when you did your talk, the opening video and in one of the videos, you showed your wife in pajamas in a closet pulling out her Backstreet Boys. It was showing behind the scenes of your house and how you were reacting. It was vulnerable, authentic and real, but many people are scared to show that but immediately, we were like, “We’re rooting for you, we like this guy.” Before, it was my first real interaction with you.
You feel bad for me.
Maybe I’ll feel bad for you. Many companies, they’re probably scared to show this side because they feel they have to be on this facade of strength, power and success. It goes down to breaking the ice and saying, “This is who we are.”
This isn’t in the book, but I saw a commercial for Domino’s Pizza, we all know Domino’s Pizza, and they were like, “We’ll get you your pizza in 30 minutes or less.” That was their unique selling proposition before. All of a sudden, a number of years ago, we started to see commercials from Domino saying, “We messed up. Our recipe wasn’t as good as it was back in the day. We started focusing too much on making money and not on what people wanted. We completely redid our recipe and we guarantee this is going to be better, you’re going to love it.” I saw one, they have this pizza insurance thing where if your order goes wrong, they’ll fix it for you versus another company that might be like, “We’re always going to get the order right for you.” It’s like, “We mess up too but if we do, we got your back. We’re going to give you a free pizza if we mess up.”
The whole concept of breaking the ice is like, “This is who we are. Share some stories. If something goes wrong, we’re going to show you that it goes wrong,” which I love. Even in the subtitle of the book, you say, “The Easy Way to Stand Out,” and grow your brand. For you, it was a long road. It was a lot of learning. It was going through the process. There are some easy things in the book, but it’s sharing this journey and what you’re going through. How many years in the making to where you are now, Pat?
It’s been several years since I got laid off from my architecture job. The vulnerability piece is huge, I’ve always included my story in the beginning. The story is an important component, the better that you can nail the story, share your before and after of your personal brand especially, you’re more likely to connect with people. I was interviewing Patrick Lencioni who is the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and he shared this amazing story. He gets hired by high-end businesses, Fortune 500 companies to fix teams that are broken. He goes in and the first exercise that he does I found out is, he has all the executives go in the room and he goes, “Tell me about what your childhood was like.” He has every person say that. It was interesting to me and I was like, “Why don’t you do that?” He’s like, “What happens is people share stories about their past and they’re not always great stories, but people start to open up to the other team members in the room like they never have before.”
It’s that vulnerability that creates the trust that is absolutely foundational for a team to be able to grow and execute and do what they need to do as a business. It shows you people need to hear sometimes the not so great stories. It’s not like you’re going to have a page on your website that says, “Here are all of our failures.” That’s not what it’s about. It’s number one, owning up to mistakes when they happen. Number two, being okay with the journey that you had and the fact that it probably wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Being open about that allows you to connect with people more and to break the ice to allow that relationship to be able to grow.
When we first connected, I said, “We went through these years ago, the struggle, but then this is what we built, and it’s all about the building.” Some of the quick wins, I want to go through these because I want the group to know this, Superfans is an epic book. Learn the lyrics is something I know you talk a lot about and it’s powerful because many people aren’t speaking the same language as their fans.
This goes back to the story of my wife, April, the Backstreet Boys. She’s a superfan. She has this closet full of stuff and it’s crazy, but I can’t hate because I have a closet full of Back to the Future stuff. When I was learning more about how she became a fan of the Backstreet Boys, she took me back to when she was about fifteen years old. She had broken up with her boyfriend as many girls do at that age, they fall in love, they fall out of love, and they’re sad. In the moment of sadness in her life, she turned on the radio, this is back before Spotify, iPods or anything like that. She heard a song on the radio that she heard before but she never paid attention to it, but this time it was different because of the state of mind she was in and what she was going through.
She started listening to the song and every word in that song was describing exactly what she was going through in that moment of her life, and that song was titled Quit Playing Games With My Heart by the Backstreet Boys. If you think about it, it’s perfect, Backstreet Boys, their target audience was girls between 13 and 18 at the time. What happens in their lives? They fall in love, they fall out of love. How do they talk about that? Do they say, “My romance is gone and I’m never going to get married?” No, they say, “Quit playing games with my heart.” That’s their lyrics, let’s put that in a song and then it became a number one hit. Business owners are often good at figuring out the problems that we’re solving, and that’s key, that’s mandatory.
The next level is in addition to understanding the problems, how does your target audience discuss and talk about those problems? When you nail those words, magic happens. It brings people towards you. It was Jay Abraham who said, “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution.” When you send emails out, you want people to reply and say, “I feel like you wrote this for me.” If you’re talking to somebody, you go, “You get me.” They go, “You’re in my head, how do you know that?”
On a sales page, the first part should be absolutely the same words that they used to describe these problems, even before you mentioned your solution. When you nail the lyrics, people start to pay attention because they know and they finally found somebody who knows what they’re going through. That’s what people want with pains, problems, needs, whatever, they want to know that other people understand them first, it’s similar with relationship. Before you try to solve a problem, try to understand how they feel first. It’s not always about solving the problem right away.
We always say, “Stop doing what your customers hate.” You have to know what do they hate and how do they talk about it. For us, you get nickel and dime when you go to a ballpark. You hear people saying, “It’s $8 for this, $10 for this.” It’s like, “Stop doing that.” That’s why you play the all-inclusive ticket, but then you’ve also got to promote that, “It’s all your food.” What would they say? “It’s all your food and drinks, everything’s included.” You have to use that language. What are other ways that you can easily say, “This is who we are.” Do you have to listen to them? What do you do to hear it and then be able to speak for the customer?
Opening up your ears and eyes is the biggest thing, but purposely having one-on-one conversations with people is by far the most powerful thing you can do. One thing that I do in my business is, even though I have an email list of 250,000 people, I still make the time every month to reach out to ten random new subscribers and try to get on a Zoom call, a Skype call with them, or phone call because I want to know where are you at? How did you find me? More than that, what are you struggling with? What are your challenges? What have you tried to solve? How come it didn’t work out? How can I help you with that? I sit back and listen, and you hear them talk and you dig deeper.
It’s like an interview but it’s not recorded or it’s not put anywhere and you’re keeping track of how they share what they need. In addition to that, those conversations are gold for me because I don’t have to guess anymore about what to put on an email or a subject line for an email or on my sales page. I don’t have to guess what articles I need to write. I don’t need to guess what guests I have on my show because I can find the people related to the exact and specific struggles that they are having. The one-on-one conversations are more powerful to me than even surveys, which are often surface-level data versus the actual language and the empathy that you’ll then have also for the people who are on the other end too.
That’s absolutely huge, paying attention to where those groups of people and your target audience exists, whether it’s Facebook groups or comment sections or the review sections on Amazon. Amazon is a great place to find out what people are thinking especially if you look at the three-star reviews. The one-star review is often like something terrible happened. The five-star reviews, some people default that. The three-star reviews are the ones where people go, “Here’s what I liked about this product, A, B, C, D. Here’s what I didn’t like about this product, 1, 2, 3, 4.” You can take other people’s experiences with other products and make yours even better, or make your service even better. Reviews are a great place especially when you get the honest ones that people show both sides of the coin.We're all unique in our own special way, yet we don't often use that to our advantage when it comes to business. Click To Tweet
It’s such a simple concept but it’s not done. You listen, you look at the reviews and you make adjustments. One of the great things we talked a little bit brief was about the quick wins. You’ve been talking to all these people and they’re being able to implement things because of your book Superfans. That’s something that many businesses don’t do is have a quick win. I want to dive into this because, even for us that we’re working with different businesses, giving quick wins is tough because it is a long journey. Pat, it took years for you to be able to be having a huge impact that you’re having. Implementing quick wins, I’m fascinated. Can you give some examples? I know they have mentioned a hundred email clubs, some other ideas, but I’d love to hear some.
Quick wins are defined as, in my eyes, something that a person who finds you can do within 5 to 15 minutes, to offer them something that they didn’t have before. The story I love to tell is about my good friend, Ramit Sethi, who has a website called IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. Back before I became an entrepreneur, I was an architect and I loved reading personal finance blogs. I was subscribed to 30 or 40 of them back in the day when you would subscribe to a blog with an RSS feed reader and you’d wake up in the morning and you’d see all the new articles that pop into your feed reader. That was how far back this was.
I was not a fan of Ramit, I did not subscribe to him because I was a little put off by the name of his website and he was a little bit more aggressive than the others. However, there was an article that was being shared on social media from Ramit that I had to read because everybody was talking about it. I opened it up and it was an article, I can’t remember the exact title, but it was like, “Call your cable company and save 20% on your cable bill in fifteen minutes, here’s the exact script you need.” I opened it, it’s a word for word of what you say to your cable company and by the end, you’ll save 20% to 25% of your cable bill.
During lunch one day, I was like, “I’ve got fifteen minutes, I can try this out during lunch.” I called my cable company, I have the blog post open, I read the whole script, and then I ended up saving 25% of my cable bill in fifteen minutes. I dove deep into Ramit stuff right after that. Even though he teaches things that are more about bigger things like life or getting a dream job or an increase in salary, all those things are huge and take a long time. He gave me something that these other guys didn’t give me because consider the things that they were teaching, save a little bit every month and when you’re 65 then you can enjoy those. You don’t feel it at all, versus in fifteen minutes, I now saved hundreds of dollars a year and then extrapolate it throughout many years, that’s thousands of dollars he saved me in fifteen minutes. I’m diving deep into Ramit’s stuff.
Every time that I have a chance to, I try to offer a quick win, whether I am on stage, I try to put a quick little thing, let’s say a person had to leave halfway through because they have already gotten something and take it home with them and implement it. I try to insert something quick upfront to show people, “There are some small quick wins that you can do, but make sure you stay all the way through because we’ve got even bigger things to talk about.” The phrase I like to share is, “If you want to change somebody’s life, start by changing their day first. Go small to go big.”
Charles Duhigg wrote a whole chapter about the power of small quick wins, because psychologically what it does is it triggers those good feelings that we have when we get those small little rewards, what do we do? We keep coming back for more. This is often considered the yes ladder in business, start with small yeses to get a person shaking their head, “Yes. I got something. Let me keep coming back.” Bigger, yes. Bigger investment, bigger ask, bigger transaction. Going straight to the marriage on the first day, it’s going to be tough, but starting with a small date and then adding up over time, you can get there.
What happens is once you give them a quick win, they are becoming the fans and talking about you. That’s a difference. How many people have you told about Ramit Sethi?
Tens of thousands.
You’re telling everyone, you give a quick win. What are some examples that you give onstage that they can go on and start telling people, “I did this and it worked?”
It depends on the topic. If you are on stage speaking, what would be something that in the first ten minutes people could say, “Wow,” about something and do it? I love including little exercises like that. In my books even, for example Will It Fly?, the first few chapters are quick exercises that you could do so that you can get some thoughts in your mind about things that you probably never thought of before. In Superfans, you’ll see that every chapter is considered a possibility to have a quick win, there’s an exercise at the end of every chapter so that you could implement and start to see some results right away, even in the middle of the book if you’d like, and people are experiencing that.
For me, for example, I want to help people build an email list, and that’s a tough thing for people to think about because it’s like, “I don’t even know what to do with the technology. I don’t even think I can get emails.” One of the best things that you could do to create a quick win is to think of, “What are the immediate objections that people have in their brain and stopping them from working with you, or using your service or becoming a client?” Give them something that tackles that objection upfront in 10 to 15 minutes, and then you got them. For email, for example, people don’t have the understanding that they can build an email, I go, “This is what we’re going to do, for 72 hours on this date, and we’re going to do an email challenge, 100 emails. I’m going to help you get 100 emails. You don’t have to buy anything. You don’t have to subscribe to anything. I’m going to show you that you could get 100 people to say, “I’m interested in your thing and send me more info when you have it.”
For three days, once a day, I send an email to all those people who subscribed to this challenge, and by the end, most people have 100 emails, they go, “Pat, I got 100 emails. I didn’t even know I could do that. What do I do with that? Tell me what to do next.” Step two, go to ConvertKit, here’s my affiliate link, I get a commission if you go through this link and here are some examples of different broadcast emails you can send to them to keep them up to date. Here’s how you can build an auto-responder so that the email is going to be sent out automatically after people subscribe. I’ve taken this big idea and found that first step for them and now their lives are being changed because they’re growing that email list I know will help them, they needed a little bit of a boost up front.
You don’t talk too much about this in the book but I’m sure you’ve done it, small bets. How often are you testing things out? For instance, we think, “We’re going to do this big quick win for them, but let’s test it with ten people. Let’s test it with twenty people.” I’d love to know your experimentation in learning this.
There are a couple of things involved, number one is finding time to experiment and making time to experiment, being diligent with, “We are going to experiment.” One thing I love to do is what I call the 20% Itch Rule. I had been in the camp of, one thing only, focus, all this noise out there like, “Don’t look at it, don’t listen to it.” We suffer from bright light syndrome all the time like, “Oh, that,” or “Oh, this.” If you give yourself permission to experiment and try things, what happens is you are okay whether or not it works or not. 80% of your time is still on the stuff that you know you need to do.
I got this from a couple of places, Google allows 20% of employees’ time to try and experiment new things and things that we know and use all the time. Gmail had been a result of an employee or a group of employees using that time to experiment and try to do something new. Gary Vaynerchuk does this. He has the major platforms that he uses, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. He allows himself time to experiment on these other new growing up and coming social media platforms because if he starts on the platform, he knows that he’ll have a leg up, and the trick with this is doing that.
For me, 20% is easy, it’s like Monday through Thursday do what you need to do, get the stuff done that you need to do and the responsibilities that you have to anything that you have, but Friday, that’s your play day. That’s your day to experiment and try new things, learn new things and implement new things. My implementation of the 20% Itch Rule was the SwitchPod, a brand new physical product. I don’t even belong in the physical product space and I’ve never done it before. I’m not even in the video space too, but I wanted to experiment and try and see what happened.
This SwitchPod we created, we invented, was launched in February 2019 and it made about $500,000 in 60 days. It’s this product that could potentially be a multimillion-dollar company because of experimentation. The other part of this is if it fails, you have to be okay with that knowing it’s a learning experience too, at least you tried. It’s like when you go to a casino, the best strategy is to have a certain amount of dollars that you would be okay losing. You don’t go deeper in your pockets after that. This is your entertainment money and you’d be happy if you win, you’d be happy if you lose, it’s about having to get a time and that’s what this experimentation is all about.
When it comes to implementing these experiments, what I love to do is iterate. Test, like the small tiny petri dish with a small group of people to see what they respond with or how they like it or don’t like it. If they don’t, at least it’s controlled in that little petri dish that you can throw that away and then move on to the next experiment. SwitchPod, for example, we could have designed something, build it out and pay all this money and then go, “Check this out. We’ve been keeping it a secret this whole time.”Before you try to solve a problem, try to understand how people feel first. Click To Tweet
What we did instead was, we went to a video conference, and we started talking to people. When it comes to trapping, I was like, “What are your needs? What are your pains with what you’re using right there? Tell us more about what you want.” We got that, we went to cardboard, cut out the shapes, and then we went back to the video people that we knew and be like, “Is this the right shape? Hold it in your hand. Tell me what you like about this.” They’re like, “Bigger or smaller, I want it to work like this.”
We 3D-printed a model that open and close the legs as we wanted it to. Even though it definitely didn’t work perfectly, we handed it to people and said, “Tell us, do you like this? Is this working out?” After seventeen different iterations of this thing, we finally got to the final point, but all along the way, we were sharing our product with people, letting people know its coming. We were open with the fact that we were figuring it out along the way and we brought people along on the journey with us. They became a part of that story.
As much as we say, “Caleb and I invented this thing,” we say, “It’s made for creators that’s our target audience, by creators.” Not just me, Caleb, but every single person who lent their advice or their feedback along the way. Some people said, “I hate this thing.” We started to dig deeper and go, “Why is this thing not for you?” We realize they’re not in our target audience and with that it helped us inform a lot of what ended up on the kickstarter page. It’s all about green light, next step, red light, interesting, let’s go back to that previous green light because that worked. Now we can, if there’s a problem, hone in on where that problem is and have conversations with people so we can understand it better and then go to the green light again if we want.
I want to dive into this, the SwitchPod. You probably followed many of the tactics of Superfans, you went through it and now you have these fans. People think, “We’ve got to market more. We’ve got to advertise more.” You weren’t marketing, you weren’t advertising. You were listening, you were following the trend of getting the part of the experience, and now you have fans all over of the SwitchPod. For a business, they’re going to launch a new product, a new T-shirt, new food item, whatever it is, they can follow this like what you did. Could you go through quickly some of those examples of what you did with SwitchPod that’s superfan relatable?
As we were coming up with the idea, we were already letting people know that something was coming and then asking people, “If you do any vlogging, let us know. We want to show you something that we’re building for you.” Always come in from a place of service. Not, “I want you to tell us what our next product is going to be.” It’s not like that. The language that you use is important, we’re building something for you and we want you to be a part of it and people got in on that journey quickly. We were open with our process as well and with the iterations that we had.
Potentially somebody could have gone, “Look at this project that they’re working on, we’re going to work on it too.” We also knew that even if a person stole our idea, what they wouldn’t steal was the connection that we would have with our people along the way. Building those superfans is important. Another thing that we did that worked out well was how we approached influencer marketing. There would be a lot of large YouTubers out there, if we had them mention our product that would change everything. We could have potentially pay for that to happen, but we wanted to take the more natural organic friend approach. What we did was we connected with a number of influencers through relationships that we had already built, and not from a place of, “Look at our product,” but, “This is built to serve you. Is this what you want?”
Even we got Casey Neistat, one of the biggest bloggers in the world, when I was speaking at an event with him. We were introduced to him through the founder of the event coincidentally, and we never were like, “Casey, look at our product.” We didn’t show it in his face, we were like, “We’re working on this thing for vloggers. We know vloggers don’t often get products built specifically for them. Do you want to see it?” He’s like, “Sure, let me see it.” We pull it out and he leaves his comments, he’s like, “It should be smaller. You should make a black version to start.” That’s exactly what we did, but we also captured that on video and it’s interesting because nobody’s ever seen that video.
We wanted to respect Casey and not use him, the same thing with Peter McKinnon, another big vlogger in the space. We have a video of him looking at it for the first time, saying these amazing things. If and only if we could use that in our marketing material, but that’s not what it’s about. When we told the story at VidSummit where this product idea was born, we told the story and people were surprised that we didn’t use that footage from those big YouTubers. What ended up happening is Peter McKinnon, because he loved the product so much, he created a video on his own to support it and this video had been seen nearly a million times and that came out in the middle of our launch. That was worth more than anything we could have ever paid for and it’s because we took an approach of service to those people, not just our customers, but especially the influencers of how can we help them, not how can we use them.
Serve oversell. Pat, we’ve got to do a short game, we’ve got to break it up. It is truth and dare, what would you like first?
Let’s do truth.
We’ll go serious here and then we’re going to make it fun. What’s one thing that’s holding you back in success and business?
One thing that’s holding me back is the feeling that I have to do and have a hand in every part of the process myself. Even though I have a team and I’m learning, I’m still getting involved in parts of the business that I know I shouldn’t be involved in. It’s not because I don’t trust my team, it’s because I’m trying to get better at letting go of things. There’s a sense of pride when you have a hand in things. However, I know that there’s even more pride involved when I can get another person to feel good about supporting and doing what they need to do to serve my audience too using their special power. It’s because they often can do things better and faster than I can. I’m still learning that process, I’m an only child, everything has to be mine. I have to learn how to let go a little bit more.
I’m the same. I heard the 80% Rule, if you allow people to do the job, they may do it 80% as good as you, but that’s how you’re going to grow. Be okay with 80%.
It’s either that or burnout, trying to do everything 100% yourself.
Are you ready for the dare?
Let’s do it.
This is a game we do at the stadium, it’s Sing-Off, but we usually do 2,000 people in one grandstand versus 2,000 people in another grandstand. We play a song, when that song finishes, you have to finish that song lyric. It is just you, Pat, and I know you have some music background. When the song stops, you have to finish that song lyric. Are you mentally prepared?
I’m scared.Fans aren't created the moment people find you, they’re created by the moments you create for them over time. Click To Tweet
If it’s a theme, you should know it. You’ve seen the movie. “Don’t need money, don’t take fame. Don’t need any credit card to ride this train. It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life.”
The Power of love.
You are such a band member, you went to playing the instruments instead of doing the lyrics. That was absolutely the first time it’s ever happened on the show.
That was good.
We go Back to the Future, but The Power of Love, that’s everything. It’s fitting because fans, they love you, customers may or may not like you. I thought we’d go on that route to finish with that song.
That’s a big thing here, fans aren’t created the moment people find you, they’re created by the moments you create for them over time. That’s how they fall with you. It’s all the things that lead up to it. It’s not the first time they hear your song. It’s after they hear your song then they get the album, then they go to the concert and they get the poster and they talk about it with their friends. They invite their friends with them and then they have a closet full of Backstreet Boys action figures. That’s the sequence that it takes. When you have those superfans, the cool thing is you don’t need a lot of them to have some amazing things happen in your brand. Jongo Longhurst wrote a book called 1000 True Fans, or he wrote an essay called 1000 True Fans, which is more of like the theory behind it and my book was the how-to. He said, “You don’t need a million subscribers, a million emails, a million followers, a million views, you just need 1,000 true fans.”
If you have 1,000 true fans, let’s say on the low end, they’re paying you $100 a year for your art, your craft, your event, whatever it is and that’s on the low end too. That’s less than $10 a month. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on things that I’m a fan of it and oftentimes we spend hundreds of dollars on things that we don’t even use like cable television. $100 is small, 1,000 people times $100, that’s a six-figure business right there. It shows you that you don’t need a lot. The cool thing is when you have 1,000 true fans or even 100 or even 10, they’re going to invite new people into the brand for you.
Instead of you have to always focus on SEO, ads and all these other things that are trying to pull new people in externally, the people who are in your brand already will want to support you this much, where they’re going to bring new people in and they’re not bringing people in the cold anymore. They’re coming in with a recommendation from somebody who’s on the inside and they’re coming in warm and they’re more likely to become a superfan too. It can grow exponentially from there, even without all that advertising, even without all that extra stuff, that might be even expensive too.
This is fitting to us because we had our special event fans giving and it was exactly 1,000 people, 1,007 people that showed up and it was a special member event over 1000 die-hard people. They were in pilgrim costumes. They were wearing turkey costumes, and they all got these ridiculous costumes because they wanted to be a part of it. That’s who you focus on. You don’t market to the masses, you go all-in on them and then they spread the word, they tell everybody, and then that can potentially grow. In your book, Pat, you talk about letting fans be a part of it, letting them take a shot, letting them decide. I love this. I love the example of Chubbies too, their whole Instagram is their fans, involving their fans. I want to say areas of how are other ways we can do that?
Chubbies is an eCommerce brand and they sell shorts and summer type of clothing. All their models are customers, it’s such a cool brilliant idea because people see people like them and they go, “I want that too.” Versus, “There’s this model that they obviously paid for who looks nothing like me and it makes me feel bad about myself.” That’s the typical thing. When you get your audience, your subscribers and your fans involved, they then invest. When they are involved, they will invest and not just invest in money, but with time, emotion, support, love, and that’s huge making people feel they belong.
The story I tell in the book is I had a lot of tall friends in high school. I was short. I was the shortest kid in the entire class. Unfortunately, all my friends love to play basketball. Even though they were good friends and they invited me on the court, they never passed me the ball, they never let me shoot. Even though I was on the court, I never felt I was playing basketball. In a lot of businesses, we invite people into our business but we never make them feel they belong there. Whatever you can do to make them feel they belong, there are a lot of classic examples that do this well. I’m not saying having them influence the entire business, but getting them involved in a way that helps them feel they’re a part of it is great.
A lot of the examples that I use is when I come up with covers for books, I get my artist involved and ask them to help me select which one they like better. Not only am I getting great data to understand which one they resonate with more, but I’m also making them feel they’re a part of the process. Even my good friend, Amy Porterfield, who’s this brilliant marketer, I remember I was surprised one day on her Facebook feed as she had asked her audience for some font help for our newsletter that was coming out. She was like, “Which of these four fonts do you like better?” There were thousands of comments and I was like, “Amy, you don’t need font help. What are you doing here?”
I dug a little bit deeper and I realized what she was doing, she was getting our audience involved in a simple way that wasn’t going to change the course of the entire business, but it was a fun way to get people involved. At the same time, she was also letting people know that something was happening in the newsletter and it was something that they look forward to. Andy Weir, the author of The Martian, did you know that book was a result of a series of blog posts that turned into a book?
In those blog posts, he started to attract people who could offer their advice on what life would be on Mars, from NASA scientists and rocket engineers. All these smart people coming in and wanting to get involved in that process, and this book was created not just from Andy, but from the community that he built around it as he was creating it and getting input from all these people. That went on to become a huge bestseller and a movie starring Matt Damon. The more that you get your audience involved, the better because that’s what we as humans want. We want a sense of belonging and it’s innate in us. We, as the creators, as the business owners can create those moments where our community can come together and feel they belong. Even to a point where sometimes it’s easy creating a name for your community, to make them feel they’re a part of something, like Trekkies who support Star Trek or Taylor Swift’s Swifties. For me, I have Team Flynn. Every fan base should have a name, in my opinion, because it makes them feel more tied to the brand, it makes them feel they’re a part of something.
The cool thing is when a person who’s a fan of something meets another person who’s a fan of the same thing, they might not even know each other, but now they have this commonality. Now, they’re together supporting the team, also feeling they’re more of a part of it because there are other people who they found who are like them. Online, offline, big, small ways, creating opportunities for that community to meet each other is huge too and to know that they’re a part of it and they’re there and they belong. This is your people, come join your people.
Also, it’s smart and inspired by you. We do a fan T-shirt contest where they decide which T-shirt do they want. We have three shirts, which one do they want the most contests, and then we did a design contest where we let the fans design their own shirt and that shirt sold more than anything else because a fan put it in. How do you do that? Look at those opportunities, it’s huge. I want to do a few final rapid-fire things, superfans showdown. Pat, I know you’ve probably never done this. I’m going to name a type of company and you can come back to me and we’ve got to think one thing they could do to create superfans maybe. The first one, a cleaning company, like maids, that go into homes and they clean different residences.
One thing a maid company can do is offer a little fun, unexpected surprise after you leave. This is the final part of the book, the thing that helps people get to become superfans, especially after being part of the community is that small, unexpected surprise. What if, maid service for example, got the permission perhaps of somebody else in the family to not just clean the house, but with the car that’s parked outside, to clean that car too. When you come home, you’re like, “My house is clean but my car is clean too, who did that?” It’s the maid service, they wanted to throw that in because they wanted to say thanks for being a client and a customer.”
That’s unexpected, different and easy to do things like that. Having a cleaning company every once in a while, if a person has been a customer for six months, you also say, “We partnered with this window washing company and because you’ve been a client of ours for six months, we want to have you be a client of ours forever because we love taking care of your home. We’re going to throw a window power wash for free the next time we come in, we are going to bring that company in for you. Is that cool?” That’s along the same theme as well, these things don’t have to be like, “We’re going to give him an iPad,” or something like that, which is oftentimes the way we think we need to build fans is giving them more stuff, but being more thoughtful is what it is.When you have a thousand true fans, or even a hundred or ten, they're going to invite new people into the brand for you. Click To Tweet
You killed the showdown on that one, you can throw one at me and I will throw one more back to you.
Let’s say you’re in an agency and you’re a website design agency. You have a number of clients that you work with closely on a contract basis to help them build their website.
The first thing we always think about is the first impressions. They’re already clients, let’s think about their website company, let’s wow them with extra. You’ve got me right now, this website is digital. I’m more in the retail space, the digital, Pat, you’ve got me. The digital thing that we do is we try to surprise with videos. We do a lot when people first buy, we have an over the top video, we surprise with videos. If you’re digital, you go into a little Giftology, John Ruhlin, do you know the people? Do you know their spouses? Do you know their families? Are there gifts that you can do that are different and unique throughout the process? John is amazing on that. The digital is tough because you don’t know people as well. You have to find a way to connect with the people.
That’s a great point. Video is an easy thing that you could do. Sometimes it’s as simple as reaching out to your customers and sending them a personal video, saying, “Nothing is wrong, I want to say thanks for being a client. You’re amazing.” That goes a long way. I can imagine and I’m in the digital space so I know a little bit more of this realm. Let’s say for example, their website also needs search engine optimization. I could find a reporting service that would allow me to pull from my client’s website an SEO report. I go, “I developed this SEO report for you so you can see how your website is doing, what keywords are ranking in case that might help you influence the blog content that you can create next,” or “I have a web designer friend who went over your website and he has five different things he wants to share with you about the type of branding that you have.” Anything would help you. A person who has a website more would help. It’s as simple as a video. Throw one back at me.
A bicycle store, and this is related, I’ve worked with Trek a little bit. It’s a bicycle store that’s antiquated and you can buy them online. What are you doing to create fans?
I’m going to reach out to my customers and ask if anybody has an incredible story that relates to their bike. I’m going to find somebody who perhaps was able to come back from some incredible accident they might’ve had and told maybe they were never going to walk again but is riding one of our bikes. I want to share that story with the rest of my brand, and I want to make that person the hero of the story. The fact that you can come back from adversity and encourage other people who are going through tough times in their life to be like Jane and fight through and be together with a community that’s going to help support you.
One of the tactics I talk about in the book is to put spotlights on your fans and to make them the hero of the story. Oftentimes in businesses it’s us, me, I, we versus they, the customer and how you can make them the hero of the story. When you do that, it brings the entire community, it makes people feel great. It also shows that you as the community leader, as the business owner, are paying attention too, and thanking your community. Even though it’s one person that I’m featuring, it’s everybody that I’m featuring in that way too. I would want to find a fun story and then probably do some giveaway related to that and asking nothing in return. You know you’re going to get loads more back in terms of great feelings, in terms of support and all that stuff. I would look for a heartwarming story within my customer base that I could feature and use as a way to not promote more bikes, but to promote this person and what they’ve done, they happen to have now purchased a Trek bike.
One of your most powerful quotes from the book, “When you become a superfan of something, it’s not because of a person, a product, a name or a brand. You become a superfan because of how that person, product or brand makes you feel.” When you make heroes out of your fans, that’s exactly what you do. Rapid-fire to finish up here, superfan faves for you. Favorite restaurant?
The Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney in Anaheim.
Did they become a fan because of why?
They have not only great food but there’s live music and it’s Disney. It’s New Orleans style in Disney with great food, all my favorite things wrapped up in one.
Online retailer, if you’re going to buy something online, what’s a favorite one that you go to?
I like Teespring and a lot of these T-shirt websites, like the shirt I’m wearing is a NASA-looking shirt, but it says 88 miles per hour with the hoverboard. This is my love language here, nerdy, Back to the Future related stuff. Geek Tees, SpreadShirt, Teespring, any of those nerdy websites that have random stuff on T-shirts are my favorite. I have too many of them.
Those are two brands. This is almost going into a person potentially, author or a podcast, something you keep coming back to. I know you work with lots of them, but one that you keep coming back to because they may be doing something that’s superfan-like.
I love Shawn Stevenson. Shawn Stevenson is in the fitness space, the model health shows, and his podcast. One of the only ones that I subscribed to, I’ve cut out a whole bunch of podcasts I was listening to back in the day so I could do more. I love what he does because he’s real and he shows a lot about his family on the podcast. It’s different than a lot of the other shows out there. He also has this incredible scientific knowledge behind the reasons why he says, “Eat this or get this many hours of sleep.” He’s the author of a book called Sleep Smarter as well, which has been game-changing for me. That book was essentially a whole load of quick wins to sleep so that I could get some better quality sleep and feel more energized in the morning.
Final four, what’s one thing you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?
I’ve always been open with what has not gone well for me and in business. That’s been great because it’s allowed me to show this realness of what it’s like to create a business and that it’s not all unicorns and rainbows all the time, and people appreciate that. In my life, it’s allowed me to build deep relationships with people who I always found to say that they’re going to be there for me if times get tough and that’s allowed me to have confidence in making bold moves and bold actions moving forward. I’ve realized that it’s okay to be open and not always have things perfect.
If you were to give advice to someone younger on how to stand out, what would you tell them?When you get your audience, subscribers, and fans involved, they then invest. Click To Tweet
If I were to give advice to somebody younger about how to stand out, it would be to embrace your weird. My son, I remember he came home from school one day and he was crying because his friends said he was weird and I was like, “You are weird.” He’s like, “What dad?” I was like, “You’re weird. Your sister is weird. I’m weird. Your mom is weird. Don’t tell her I said that. That’s what makes us special, that’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes me cool. If you were like everybody else, you would be average, you’d be lost. I love you because you are weird.” If you can embrace your weird, that’s how you’re going to help yourself stand out. My weird is the whole Back to the Future, marching band, nerdy thing and I embrace that. I make that a part of who I am and people know me for that.
You’re talking to a guy in a yellow tuxedo. I’ve embraced that too.
You are wearing your weird.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever received was about how important it is to build relationships. I was a shy kid, I was apprehensive, and I felt scared every time I was trying to meet somebody new. I realized that you might never know, the next person you shake hands with could potentially be a huge game-changer or know somebody who could completely help you or could be the missing link that you needed. What I do is even though I’m an introvert, I go out and I meet people knowing that any one of those relationships could become some amazing value on both sides for us and we could both win too.
Meet more people and come from a place of serving them first, and you’ll find that you’ll have a load of people who are willing and ready to help you when you need it. Along the same lines, it’s like digging your well before you get thirsty versus what a lot of people do is they try to create relationships when they have some purpose behind it like, “I want to sell something.” If you can build those relationships first ahead of time, then when you have something, it’s likely going to be a part of the natural conversation that you’ll have with them because you already have dug your well. If you dig your well and you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.
Finally, Pat, how do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered for being one of the most important agents of change in the world of education. I want to be remembered for having an entrepreneur should be a part of school curriculums, in all schools. Reading, science, math, entrepreneurship, it needs to be taught these skills, especially the soft skills that are now more important than ever to have. The skills of presenting to people your idea, the skills of learning how to come back from failures, public speaking, working with teams, communication, writing, those all play a role in entrepreneurship. Whether a kid becomes an entrepreneur or not, it doesn’t matter. When you have those skills, you will be successful in life because you’ll know how to position things in a way that’ll help your employer or yourself as a personal brand. Whatever you ended up doing, I want to be known for that.
You’re already on your way. I am honored to have you on the show. You are building fans of many people, Pat, and it has been a pleasure getting to know you. Superfans is the start. You have people that have reached out to you and said, “Whatever you sell, I’m going to buy it. You tell me. Whatever is coming out, I’m buying it.”
I’ve had people send me emails with their credit card numbers in them saying, “Next time you come out with something, charge it to this card because I owe you for what you’ve done for me.” I’m like, “Don’t send your credit card over email like that ever again, but thank you.”
I’m glad to get to know you and thank you for everything that you bring in, you showed up and we appreciate you, Pat.
Thanks, I appreciate you too.
- Smart Passive Income
- They Ask You Answer
- Nathan Barry – past episode of Smart Passive Income Podcast
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- Will It Fly?
- 1000 True Fans
- The Martian
- Sleep Smarter
About Pat Flynn
Pat Flynn is a beloved thought leader in the areas of online entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and lifestyle businesses. He overcame career adversity at an early age by finding his own path and true passion. Despite his success in business, Pat’s greatest joys are spending time with his family and friends as well as helping inspire and educate others on how to succeed with their own entrepreneurial careers.
Since 2014, however, he’s become more interested in areas of philanthropy, specifically in the world of education. He is on the advisory board for Pencils of Promise, and has helped build schools in Ghana, Africa. He plans to use his success to help education locally, a passion of his now especially since his two young children are now of school age.
Pat is routinely praised for his authentic leadership style and business principles. Forbes recently named him one of the ten most transparent leaders in business. The New York Times profiled him as a case study in smart online business building. And countless podcasts and blogs have featured his story and the techniques he uses to manage and grow this audience.
Presently, Pat enjoys focusing on writing books, growing his top-ranked business podcast, and speaking at conferences, and learning more about changing education and how kids learn.