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The Show Business Philosophy: Creating Emotional Connection with Scott McKain | Ep. 171

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection


All businesses have different strategies that work for them. That said, it all boils down to getting customers engaged and increasing profits. What could be the strategy that stands out? It is undoubtedly an emotional connection, and Scott McKain would totally tie in. The bestselling author of ALL Business is Show Business, Scott gives us a sneak peek of what entrepreneurs and business owners can take away from his book to create an impactful strategy that would win the hearts of customers. Having been part of Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame and Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, this legend shows the ropes of the show business philosophy – building an emotional connection with customers, delivering your high concept, and creating an ultimate customer experience. On the side, Scott touches on the power of leading by example and the five factors of an iconic performance.

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The Show Business Philosophy: Creating Emotional Connection with Scott McKain

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection
All Business Is Show Business: Strategies For Earning Standing Ovations From Your Customers

Our guest is a member of the Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame and Professional Speakers Hall of Fame and the bestselling author of ALL Business is Show Business, What Customers Really Want, 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry, Create Distinction and ICONIC. He worked with some of the largest companies in the world and inspired millions globally. Personally, he has made a huge impact on me and my teams. He is one of my mentors from afar. I am pumped to welcome Scott McKain to the show.

Thank you for having me. It’s great to meet you remotely and I look forward to the chance to do that in person.

I’m so excited to talk to you. With Fans First Entertainment, everything we think about is the show and how to put the ultimate customer experience. You’ve talked about this since the beginning. I want to start with ALL Business is Show Business. It’s one my favorite. It made an impact on me to think of business differently. I believe that every business is in the entertainment business. How did that book come about because I think that there are things that are still true now several years later?

It was a strange time in my life because I was trying to build a business. I was advising and on the board of another business and I had this weird part-time thing where I was a movie reviewer. I would review movies which were syndicated to about 100 television stations across the country. That also gave me the opportunity to participate in what they call the junket. The studio would fly you into Hollywood or New York City on a Friday morning. You’d see the movie on Friday night and you’d interview all the celebrities that were in the movie on Saturday. I had the chance to talk with people like John Travolta, Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Meryl Streep. I was living this double life.

A couple of days a week, I was in the entertainment business and then the other five I was doing real businesses. I thought, “There are so many things that Hollywood is doing. They understand about making these emotional connections with their customers, fans or people that buy tickets for a movie that every business that I’m working with five days a week need to understand.” That’s where that concept came from. All businesses ought to have a philosophy of show business, which means that we’re going to create an emotional connection with our customers. One of the problems was when I would go to regular business and say that they were in show business, their immediate response is, “No, we’re not. We’re not in laughter and song and dance.”

Schindler’s List is a product of show business and that’s hardly the feel-good hit of the year. Show business creates an appropriate emotional connection. The deeper the connection, the stronger the loyalty. Titanic, at the time that I wrote the book and later Avatar, they became the biggest selling movies of all time and the biggest box office hits of all time because you went to see it and you went back to see it again. When you went back, you brought a friend because you wanted to share the experience. What more do we want in any business other than customers that come back and bring their friends? It amazes me how few businesses got that principal at that time.

It’s how do you make people feel. When you grab their heart, they want to become a part of it. We think about that at the ballpark. We talk about the concept of happy tears. We’ve had a seven-year-old kid who got so excited to take a picture at a game with me and he was crying. I was like, “What’s wrong?” He goes, “No, don’t worry. These are happy tears.” We talk about that emotional connection that we can provide. What are the steps to do it? You said that at whatever company you’re in, you could think of the entertainment business is sports business like, “It’s easy. You’ll just put on a show.” What are the steps to focus on that emotional connection?

It’s one of the main challenges that I encounter with professionals is that they don’t think about that, to begin with. The first step is to think about it. I was speaking a while back to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. I’m talking about how they had to create an experience in their practices. One of the things they said that surprised me is that in many schools and in many states, you can become a doctor or a surgeon and never have a single course on the patient experience. Then I started researching. You can graduate with an MBA and not take a single class of creating a compelling customer experience. The more I thought about that, the more I realized that that’s the first step is to think about it because our training in business is to maximize revenue and minimize expenses. We’re very bottom line oriented not thinking about if we obtain and retain customers profitably, what else could you ask for?

That’s a successful business. The first step is to think about what experience is our customers wanting, how do we emotionally connect with customers and what is the appropriate emotion? I think the three best words in creating customers is “And then what.” The customer comes to the ballpark or the customer walks in our store, and then what? We’ve got to get specific about it. It’s not just putting on a happy face. There’s a lot of hard work behind this. What do we say? What do we do? How are they greeted? Where do they go? What does it look like? Everything matters. That’s the key. Everything matters. I was speaking to a group of chiropractors a while back and one of the chiropractors wrote me later and he said, “I typically park in the rear of the office building because my patients have back problems, so I wanted to reserve the closest spaces for them.” He’s coming from the right place.

[bctt tweet=”Get people to subscribe and get people to have this ongoing relationship and not just try to close a transaction.” username=””]

It also meant, “I hadn’t walked in the front door of my own practice for weeks because I’m always entering at the back door and I go into my office.” He said, “I parked at the front and I walked in. I wanted to imagine what my patients were going through. I noticed that there were a few weeds over here on this side. I had a landscaper come out and we weeded everything. Here’s the terrifying thing. Every patient for the next two weeks mentioned it.” I said, “I don’t quite get it. What do you mean it’s terrifying?” He said, “Don’t you understand? They had to notice the weeds to notice the difference. I realized at that moment that everything matters. We put new chairs in and we had cool posters now in the office, whether they’re making it so sterile. We had music playing.” They changed everything about the experience and he says, “My referrals have expanded dramatically.” That’s what we’re talking about.

It’s about every single touch point and how you make them feel. When you were talking about that, we started doing something we called an undercover fan. Every night, one person on our staff went completely undercover. We drove into the ballpark. We parked where the fans were. We took tickets, we went through it, we stood in lines and we sat in different parts of the ballpark. It was eye-opening for me because we pride ourselves. The first thing you see is our parking penguins routing you. They’re people dressed up as penguins. Then you’ll see our players at the front gate passing out programs and signing autographs. Then you’ll see our pep band and then our Banana Nanas senior citizen dance team and then all these things.

What happened was I planned on getting there a little late. I got there a little late and the players were already out on the field ready to play. The band was already set up in the stadium and all those touch points I missed. I was like, “This is what we pride ourselves.” It was eye-opening. I was like, “We’ve got to find a way to deliver that for the people that show up late as well, not just the fans that show up early.” We got 30 pages of notes from every one of our staff members on what they noticed as a fan. Every single company should do that and look at those touchpoints. You talk about the emotional connection on how you make people feel. What is the emotion when they open your books, when they walk into your store and when they leave? Do you map the emotional journey at all?

We have a project in Australia where we’re doing that. One of the push backs that we get is that old line, “We’ve never done it that way.” It’s a group of car dealers. We’re saying, “Maybe you ought to have a concierge.” When you buy a car, you build this relationship with the salesperson and then as soon as you sign the contract, they dump you off at finance. We’re working with them and talk with them about one of the things they could do is to have a customer relationship manager who says, “Here’s your professional salesperson that’s going to help you buy. Here’s your professional service manager who’s going to keep your car service. Here’s the professional finance.” Your relationship is not with a salesperson who then breaks up with you and hands you off to service and finance. It’s with this relationship manager who manages the emotional connection every step along the way.

We do that so many times in business. We let the sales team create these initial connections and then all of a sudden, we drop them to go recruit somebody else or to go sell somebody else not thinking about the emotional impact that has on customers all the way through. We haven’t mapped that emotional journey that we want our customers not just to take but to maintain. We are moving from a sales economy to a subscription economy. Sports has gotten this forever. We want to sell you the season ticket. We want you to buy the merch and to wear our logo. We want you to have a relationship with this team, not just close a sale to buy a ticket for a game. Sports has gotten that forever. Show business has gotten that forever. For some reason, most businesses have it. Get people to subscribe and get people to have this ongoing relationship and not just try to close a transaction.

It’s not the responsibility of the customer to want to have to subscribe. As a business owner and operator, you have to give them a reason and a value to be involved with you year round. Many companies are like, “If they buy this, they should come back.” No, you’ve got to provide value every single day. We talked about the emotional connection, mapping the journey and what those touch points are. You talk about the high concept and also telling powerful stories and the ultimate customer experience. Can you explain why this is the best starting point?

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection
Emotional Connection: The first step is to think about what experience your customers want, how to emotionally connect with customers, and what is the appropriate emotion.


That was part of what I realized about what I was doing with movies. They could describe it so succinctly and so powerfully. Sometimes it even became the title of the movie like Snakes on a Plane. Here’s a story, Brandon Tartikoff was then the president of NBC. He called producer Michael Mann in and this was in the ‘80s. He just handed them an index card and all it said on the index card was MTV cops and that became Miami Vice. The whole core is, take a cop show and shoot it like an MTV video. It looks dated if you see it now, but it was revolutionary for the time. Steve Jobs standing on a stage pulls the first iPod out of his pocket. It’s the first non-Mackintosh major product that Apple ever introduced. It simply set a thousand songs in your pocket.

That’s the high concept. It’s interesting what competitors did back then. There were MP3 players that said, “We have more buttons and we have a bigger hard drive.” They started describing features. What Jobs got was that the high concept. Just that centering principle made all the difference in the world because what we wanted was a thousand songs in their pocket. That’s what we’ve got to get down to. What is that core of what our business is about? The high concept challenges as to say that in six seconds or less. Domino’s said, “Your pizza in 30 minutes,” back in the ‘90s. Even though they haven’t used that slogan for twenty years, we still think of Domino’s. Their flag is in the ground that we are hot and fast delivery.

Papa John’s always said, “Better ingredients, better pizza.” They compete in that same pizza marketplace. For years, we thought of Papa John’s as having a superior quality product, but Domino’s is the one who got it there hot fast until now. They differentiated themselves based simply on that core principle and that high concept that everything else springs to them. If customers can’t explain that, then how do they refer you? If your employees don’t know that, how do they explain it to a customer? It’s easy for me to tell you about Domino’s like, “Their pizzas are hot fast.” It’s easy for me to tell you about Snakes on a Plane, but we make it so hard to explain what our business is.

Our problem is it’s not that we can’t focus on what we are, it’s that we’re so afraid to say what we’re not right. In most businesses, we want to tend to be wide and we want everybody to come in. For example, try to buy a tuxedo at Walmart. You can’t do it. They know what they’re not. Try to buy cufflinks at Walmart. You can’t do it. They don’t sell them. Even when we say low prices every day and we have this wide range of products, they’re very specific about what products they don’t carry and what they’re not. That’s what many businesses mess up. We try so hard to get everybody in. Nobody is loyal to a generic. The more specific and precise we get about the high concept, the more we attract people about what we are.

The real test is if other people are saying it too. I have a company Fans First Entertainment. We talk about fans first all the time and we’ve had a lot of customers share that. What’s fascinating to me is when we were interviewed by MSNBC. The senior producer was interviewed by our local media about covering us and she said, “It’s like a circus in a baseball game breaks out.” That says it. It’s tough to grapple that because we say on our website, “We make baseball fun. Fans first entertain always,” but then we’ve been called a circus and we have other things. What is the best high concept? Even going through with me, other companies could be able to figure out because that’s a very important thing for people to know.

I love that it’s a circus in a baseball game breaks out because that’s very clear to me what it is. It’s baseball, but it’s also a circus. Even if you’re not a sports fan, who hates a circus? Everybody loves that. It’s so inviting and it’s so precise about what separates you from other baseball teams. It’s what separates you from other circuses. I love that because it also creates an emotional connection. As a kid, what are two things that you remember from your childhood? The very first professional baseball game I saw was at an old Comiskey Park in Chicago. I will never forget that moment where you come through and all of a sudden, there are grasses. I still remember that like it was yesterday. I remember sitting in a circus just being thrilled. Marry those two and I’ve got to see what this is about. When you deliver, now you’ve created a customer for life. You’ve got to deliver on that promise, but you’re separating yourself from the competition with that. That’s what I encourage every business to do.

[bctt tweet=”If you don’t think you’re creating a culture, then the culture you’re creating is indecision and reticence about being involved.” username=””]

I talk to financial advisors and they all say, “I’ll secure your financial future. You’re going to have peace of mind with me.” Your competition is saying, “You’re going to be awake all night if you invest with me.” That’s so generic. Nobody can relate to that. When the book first came out, I was doing the speech for financial advisors and this one guy came up. He was a retired air force pilot and he was starting his second career. When people say, “What do you do?” he says, “I fly clients through financial turbulence.” It also changed how he looked at his business. He focuses on more secure investments and low-risk investments as opposed to speculative investment. How do you define yourself and the precision in which you define yourself? It’s what’s attractive to customers. The customers you attract are more valuable than those we pursue.

It makes everything very clear. When you know what that high concept is, you have to deliver on it. You just go backward. You reverse engineer. I was thinking even with that circus in a baseball game, it’s about the show we put on. It’s about how we deliver fans first and how we deliver entertainment. What is your high concept? What makes you different and not like everyone else? We also work on what makes you the only. We try to pride ourselves, we’re the only team with a break dancing first fans coach. We’re the only team with a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas. When you become the only, you become distinctive and potentially iconic. We’re going to have a fun game to break up our segue from show business into ICONIC. This is going to be a show business showdown, Scott. I’m going to name a type of industry and I want you to give some elements that they could put on a show for their customers. Let’s with a golf course.

If I was a golf course, I would have everybody dressed like they were working at Saint Andrews. They were Scottish and welcoming in that manner. I would have the bagpipes every morning. A lot of people want that early tea time. That’s the time the first key is backed up. Why wouldn’t you bring in bagpipes for that? The other thing is, I would make certain that everybody left with a sleeve of balls that had the logo of our course on it. When they were playing another course and they took the ball out of the bag, they would see the logo of that course and it would link them to, “That was such a great time.” They would tell their friends and another person about that.

Those are just the ones right off the top of the head. One of the great things about golf is the tradition. It might be a fun thing at every golf course to connect with a charity. You could buy a mulligan for the charity and then connect with your community because at the end of the year, you would make a donation. It’s against the rules, but you’re going to have a mulligan. Most of them would do it anyway. If you got $20 from every person to donate to charity, then you make a big splash in your community and you’ll become the golf course that’s connected with what matters in your local area.

I’ve heard of one golf course that literally has iPad docks in every one of the golf carts. It’s all about playing music and they have different colored golf balls all throughout the course. You win prizes if you find one of the golf balls and they make it an experience. You could throw one at me.

A funeral home.

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection
Emotional Connection: The more specific and precise we get about the high concept, the more we attract people about what we are.


In the book The Reinventors by Jason Jennings, he talks about Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home and what they do. I am a little biased in a sense. If you think about what is a typical funeral home? What are the friction points? They are dark. They’re uninviting. It’s not fun and it’s morbid. Open it up and make it fun. Anderson-McQueen has legacy films. They have a coffee place where it’s all lit and they have a dog funeral home. They make it where it’s fun and inviting. You think about how do you make it more of a celebration as opposed to mourning so when people leave, they look forward to going to the funeral home? When you first come in, what do you see? What makes it fun? It sounds crazy, but that makes it different. I don’t think people want to go to someone and just be, “I want to be sad. I want to make this an experience.” I would think about the touch points like, “Why does everything have to be dark? Can’t it be opened up?” That’s what I think of a funeral home. That’s a good one though.

How much different can you get from a golf course to a funeral home? That’s pretty big golf there and we’ve done it for both of those businesses. If you can do it for a golf course and a funeral home, if you could do it for baseball and other things, every business can do it. All business truly is show business if we start thinking in that manner.

How do you make people feel? What are the friction points and have that concept of what makes you different? I want to go through that a little bit.

There’s a program that we do called the Ultimate Business Summit. It’s geared for small business people with Larry Winget and Randy Pennington. The number one question that we get asked by small businesses is, “Where do you find good people?” How do you do that in Savannah finding these people that create this amazing experience?

The first thing we do is tell our story over and over again. We share our beliefs and we share who we are. We’re very vocal on that. We started focusing on our internship program. If you look at our staff, everyone right now started as an intern, including myself and my wife. You build the culture from within. I didn’t get paid when I started as an intern. My wife didn’t get paid. We went through this journey and we talk about the stories. In finding great people, you have to be very clear about what you want, but also what you don’t want. We finally put an ad out for a new position and we wrote, “Do not apply for this job.” We give all the reasons why you shouldn’t apply. We are so clear. We interview our whole staff constantly and we asked, “Who should not work for our company?” People that can’t deal with constant change.

These different things that happen in our organization are part of our Fans First way. We also asked for a future resume. What have they done in the past? What do they want to do in the future? We test. Part of our Fans First way is always be different, always be caring different, enthusiastic, fun growing and hungry. If their future resume has them at the same position for the next five years, they’re not growing or hungry. We can test that and see that. We’re still learning, but what we’ve learned is when we brought people from the outside and they didn’t understand our culture, they didn’t work out. We had our first ever turnover the last few months and it was people that came from the outside and everyone who’s been with us has been interns.

[bctt tweet=”The customers you attract are more valuable than those you pursue.” username=””]

There was an interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon and they were talking about how difficult it is to work for Amazon and that’s the culture there. He says, “One of the important things about that is it’s self-selecting. If you don’t want to work hard and if you don’t want to put in these hours, you don’t apply and go to work at Amazon. When you create that culture, it’s okay not to like our culture. It just means you choose not to work here.” I have some business leaders say, “You know the culture. I have other people.” It’s got to start with the CEO, it’s got to start with the owner and it’s got to start with you. If you don’t think you’re creating a culture, then the culture you’re creating is indecision and reticence about being involved. That’s so critical. What you’ve created is almost self-selecting. If I don’t want to be enthusiastic and I don’t want to be engaged, then I’m not going to go to work there because I’ve self-selected my way out or my way in. That’s one of the critical aspects of being iconic and creating those goals.

It’s a great tangent because it made me think that every company needs to niche down on what makes them different and what their high concept is. Also niche down on what’s their culture, what are their employees looking for and be very clear on that. I don’t think many companies focus on who they want for customers. It took us twelve years to realize that we are just going to keep looking for interns, people that can grow with us and work three to five months and see, “Do they believe enough that they want to come back and do we want them back?” I want to move quickly into ICONIC. The five factors of iconic performance are play offense, get promised performance, stop selling, go negative and reciprocal respect. Any of those that fascinate you and your research.

There were two. I’m a positive guy. What I realized from talking with the leaders is that you can go negative and try to root out where are those friction points without being a negative person. Jack Miller is the CEO and General Manager of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. One of the insightful things he said to me is, “By aggressively trying to find out what’s upsetting our customers, we fixed the process.” What many businesses try to do is to placate the customer that’s had a problem, but they don’t drill deep enough to fix the process that created that problem, to begin with. Therefore, what you might have is another customer with the same problem. We go someplace else or never come back and you don’t realize what’s happened there. Sometimes we’ve gotten into this point where if an employee brings us a problem, we assume the employee is negative. We shoot the messenger. We’ve got to be better than that to be iconic.

The language I use in the book is, “What’s pissing off our customers?” What are those points? It’s like what you talked about when you said, “If you get there late, you don’t get the experience than you get there early.” You didn’t know that unless you looked at the process and what these points might be. That’s part of what we have to do. The whole thing about SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, many people are afraid to point out a weakness or a threat so we reposition it as an opportunity and it doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. If it’s a weakness or a threat, we’ve got to jump on that with everything we have and fix that process to solve that problem. I found that the iconic companies and iconic leaders were aggressive about that.

I don’t think you have to survey your fans or survey your customers. It’s being aware and thinking if you are a customer, what does it look like? I heard so many people complain in general about going to stadiums and arenas and getting nickel and dimed. We eliminate it. We said, “What would be the best experience?” We made all of our tickets all you can eat including all the burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, soda, water, popcorn and everything for $15. I reimagine the experience. It doesn’t have to be like that. One of the great points you make in the book focuses on the customer, not the competitors. You look at your competitors and how they’re doing it. No, what’s the best customer experience. You said, “Every moment you’re playing defense against the competition wastes a moment you could be innovating to make them irrelevant.” Talk to me a little bit about what you’ve seen companies that aren’t paying attention to the competition that they’re doing to play offense and they stopped selling. Just some of these iconic things.

We were talking about the car business. What happens there is they tend to worry more about the dealership down the street than they do about, “How do we create this amazing experience?” You get a business like Carvana that comes in and you can go online and you don’t have to haggle and they’ll bring the car to your house. If you want a great experience in some markets like Nashville, you can go and they’ll give you this big coin. You put a coin and it’s a car vending machine that comes around and lowers your car and comes out. There’s a little sign on the vending machine and it says, “No, you can’t shake this and get one free.” It’s like, “How do we reinvent? How do we think of this not in terms of what other car dealers are doing, but what would be a great experience for a customer?”

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection
Emotional Connection: What many businesses try to do is to placate the customer that’s had a problem, but they don’t drill deep enough to fix the process that created that problem to begin with.


There’s a dental office in Austin, Texas that’s in a converted trailer. They bring it to your neighborhood because if you have a great experience, what would that great experience be? A lot of times we don’t feel that good when we walk out of the dentist’s office. They’ll park in the front. They’ll bring the dentist to you. It’s all of these things thinking about how do we make it incredible for the customer? How do we create this ultimate customer experience rather than letting tradition and how it’s always been done and how the competition is doing it defines us?

Think about your local dry cleaners. Where I go to the dry cleaners here in Las Vegas, if the one across the street said, “Shirts for a $1.99.” They’d post a sign that said, “Shirts for $1.98.” All they’re worried about as opposed to remembering my name, how great would that be? They can do it at Starbucks. Why can’t they do it at the dry cleaners? Finding all these ways to make us connected. Let the customer define that. This is what you do so well, Jesse. This is one of the many things I admire about you. Many people in business can’t think like the customer. I don’t know why it is, but as soon as they cross the threshold of their business, they think like the owner or the director of sales or marketing. We’re dying of terminal professionalism.

Are people talking about your business? If you’re a customer or whatever, you just talked about a few businesses right there. A company stands out for you because of their service. What comes to you and how do you make that your own company? How do you make that you’re the customer and you’re talking about it? If you’re like everyone else, you’ll get results like everyone else and no one will be talking about you. Are there any companies that you’ve worked with that their service or you experienced something they did that you started talking about?

The Fairmont that I used in the book, they’ve constantly knocked it out of the park. For example, you walk in the lobby and there are two dogs. They’ve got a Labrador and a golden retriever, Bixby or Gibbs and it changes your feeling of being on the road. For those of us that spend 100 nights a year in hotels, it is just the same everywhere you go. To walk in some place and here are two dogs that look like they’re smiling and wagging their tail as you walk in, it changes everything about how you feel about checking in. The other thing that they do is they know if you’re bringing the family. When you get to the room, the kids have a Bixby and Gibbs coloring book awaiting them in the room and an invitation or a coupon for a treat so your kids can get pictures with the dogs and feed the dogs. They’ll put their paw on the book and sign the coloring book that you get. They make it such an incredible homey experience that it’s not like, “How do we get our customer through the line and get them checked in more quickly?” It’s how do we create this experience that nobody else is doing?

What’s the first impression when people walk into your business? If they see amazing dogs that are agreeing, then it’s cool. How do they build characters into their business? Sports does a great job. They have mascots. Our mascot Split has become a big character. Why don’t other companies think about having characters that you can extend the line and have coloring books and have treats for the kids and have things like that? Those two things are such great touch points, but not many people are thinking like that. If you want to be iconic, you’ve got to nail the impression and how you make people feel. These characters that are larger than life that you go home and you’re like, “I can’t believe I met so and so.” People don’t talk about companies and people that are the same like everyone else. They don’t do it.

In recorded history, no customer has ever said, “I love those guys. They’re exactly like everybody else.” I would never think of saying to my wife, “The reason I married you is you’re like everybody else I dated.” We know that it doesn’t work in our personal lives. Why do we think we can then go to work and that’s going to be okay in our professional lives? It’s the differences that attract us, not the similarities. Doing all that we can to be like our competition is digging our own grave. Here’s the other thing that I want to emphasize. It’s not about being different to be different. If I slap every customer in the face, I am different, but they’re not coming back. It’s something that is meaningful. What is meaningful? It’s something that makes us feel. It’s an emotional connection.

[bctt tweet=”Doing all that we can to be just like our competition is digging our own grave.” username=””]

The more that I can create that, the greater the likelihood that now we’ve got a relationship. Now we’ve got something. Loyalty is only generated by emotion. I would never be loyal to something towards which I have no feeling. Those businesses that say, “We’re cheaper.” If they’re watching the price, then your customers aren’t loyal to you. They’re loyal to the cheap price because they don’t see any difference between you and the competition. It’s creating those memorable moments and that’s what struck me about these iconic companies and these iconic leaders. There wasn’t a single one of them that didn’t have an amazing culture to begin with.

At St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis, they want the wait staff to view this as a profession. They have business cards with years of service on the business card. Your waiter presents the card, “Please ask for me when you return.” They have a shrimp cocktail in Indianapolis. It’s the most famous shrimp cocktail in America because the cocktail sauce will eat you up. It’s so horseradish-laden, but it’s delicious. It’s so powerful, but you talk about it. They give you something to talk about. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me after reading the book and say, “This is St. Elmo’s. That’s cocktail sauce.” Immediately, that’s what people go to. They give you something to talk about. Every year, every person on the wait staff gets a bottle of wine from the year you started working there. Craig Huse who’s the CEO was telling me that it’s not a good idea at the time. They get people who’ve been there 30 years and that gets me an expensive gift, but then the next sentence was, “Glad to give.”

It starts with caring more. Moments, matter, meaning. Create moments that show people that they matter and that’ll provide deeper meaning. It goes around in a circle and it starts with your employees. We’ve talked about being an iconic company and putting on a show, but you’ve got to start with your own people. At St. Elmo’s, it is taking care of their people. I love the quote from Show Business. You said, “If your employees are bored, they’re boring your customers.” You need to entertain and think about, how do you put on a show for your employees? I bet you when they present that wine that’s 20 to 30 years old, it’s not just, “Here you go.” It’s all about this presentation to show that this is why it matters. This is why you care and that’s so special.

It’s also aspirational for the younger employees because they see these older employees that are making six figures a year as a server in downtown Indianapolis. All of a sudden, they see the commitment that the organization has. You model the behavior that you want your employees to follow. You create these models of excellence within your organization, so it becomes internal and becomes cyclical as well.

We surprised our Fans First director. She does a survey. She cares about all our employees so much. She has a survey when they first start awhile back and her bucket list trip was to go to Ireland. We had dinner and we wrote this whole poem about her. It was all about her whole experience. We had all these Irish catalogs, Irish beer and it finished with, “You’re going to Ireland.” She’s taking her dad with her. When she first took this job, his dad was like, “What are you doing taking this job?” Now they’re going together on a ten day trip to Ireland. She got emotional. Everyone else was cheering. They weren’t jealous. They were like, “You deserved it.” Everyone has these aspirations of, “This is going to have meaning because I’m a part of this organization that cares.” It’s an expensive trip, but worth every penny. Companies need to start looking like that and not just giving little cash bonuses or gift cards. How can you provide meaning to people if you want them to provide that for your customers? It’s so powerful, Scott.

Sometimes when people that aren’t used to the show business philosophy and this kind of culture that we’re talking about, they think that every moment has to be happy for employees and that’s not the case. There are things about your job that I’m sure you don’t like. There are things about being a speaker that I hate. The point is, I’m willing to wade through that. I’m willing to work through that because of the purpose and the greater good that’s a part of it. It is not put on a happy face and everything working is going to be fun in every moment I’m on the job. Instead, I’m willing to do these difficult things because I’m so committed and I’m so engaged and the greater experience is so compelling that I’ll do what it takes to get to that moment. That’s so critical for people to understand.

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection
Emotional Connection: Many people are afraid to point out a weakness or a threat so we reposition it as an opportunity.


You talked so much about sharing your story and powerful stories. To get through those hard points, you have to, as a leader, share the story and have your customers share their stories. We have a full-time director of film and production, which is very rare for a baseball team year round. He’s producing constant videos of the fan experience because it’s also building that foundation of what we do does matter. We just released a documentary and there are hundreds of comments about how much the team means to these fans and how it brought these families together. I share it to our whole staff and I go, “Look at what we’re doing. It’s tough. We’re working hard, we’re working long nights, the season is crazy, but this is why it’s at.” There are hard points but as leaders, we have to constantly share why we’re doing it, the stories and share the impact that we’re making. That’s so important in being iconic. I used to do a lot of things, but I’m going to finish with a few things here. Question time, Scott. I believe questions are so important. What questions are you asking either of yourself or others right now? If you want better answers, you need to ask better questions.

The one I’m constantly asking myself is, “Am I modeling what I’m encouraging others to do?” Congruency is important for any of us. That’s why I love how you dress. It’s why I love what you do. You are modeling the behavior that you’re encouraging your team to display. That’s my goal. What I’m asking for businesses continue to elevate. It’s both a result of and a striving for elevating my own thinking and my own business and what I’m delivering for my clients because I think congruency is so important. That’s one of the questions I keep asking myself. Am I modeling the behavior that I’m encouraging?

Are you living your brand?

I got distinct tattooed on my arm. I did the Harley-Davidson dealer meeting and a guy comes up. He pulls up a shirt and there’s the Harley-Davidson logo tattooed on his arm. He said, “Mr. Speaker, you talked about all this. Are you as committed to what you talk about as I am to what I sell?” I said, “Yeah.” Then I got this thing inked on my arm because I want to live the brand.

You see it every day. It’s a part of you. When you get 30 to 40 years, am I still being distinct? I believed in it. Let’s start doing it. What’s one thing that you think you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?

At the end of the day, that’s for customers to judge because I’ve had so many people say, “This is where I stand out. In the business of writing business books and in speaking, it seems that there were folks that were great content people and there were entertaining speakers. The content people were boring and the entertainment people were fluff. My goal is to marry those two so you’d get a lot of content, but it was presented in such an entertaining story fashion that it married those two. Part of that is business showbiz. Garth Brooks became the biggest single recording act of all time and people don’t know that. He sold more records than Elvis. He sold more units than Frank Sinatra. What did he do? He took a Kiss concert and put it in country music.

[bctt tweet=”You model the behavior that you want your employees to follow.” username=””]

If you take this show business philosophy and you put it someplace that’s not used to it, you can stand out. That’s from all business showbiz. Be derivative and not an imitation. You can take ideas from other fields and put it in your own. Jeff Bezos looks at Enterprise rental car taking the car to the customer and said, “What if we took the books to the customer rather than make the customer go to the bookstore to get it?” That was the beginning of that. My goal was to give business speeches that had high content that was so much fun that people would invite me back for more.

The conventional way of learning is not fun so you’re making it fun. It’s like, “Put on a show for your customers. Put on a show when you’re on stage. Put on a show at all time.” As much as a teacher, you’re a learner, Scott. I’d love to know some of the best advice that you’ve received.

My mentor in the business was a Christian humorist named Grady Nutt. He used to be on Hee Haw, but he was a very sophisticated deep thinker. You say that and it doesn’t create the right image of what he was. He gave me this advice as a speaker, but I think it applies to everything. He said that if the speech doesn’t go well, it could be your fault. You weren’t on your game. It could be the audience’s fault. They partied too late the night before and they weren’t prepared to be in a meeting. It could be the situation’s fault. If the PA goes down and they can’t hear you, what do you do about that? Maturity as a speaker is neither placing the blame in the wrong place. It’s not like, “It must have been the PA system.”

It’s also not being a martyr. It’s not like, “I was terrible,” then beating yourself up. True professionalism and maturity are understanding why it didn’t work out the way it should have and what you can do to take responsibility to make it go right the next time. That’s true in the speech, but it’s true in everything that we do. Understand, “If this didn’t go right, was it me not on my game? Was it that we didn’t have the proper tools to make it work?” It’s also the maturity to not be the martyr. Do what it takes to fix it and take responsibility. Even if it’s the audiences’ fault, the next time you say, “Maybe it’d be better if you had a 30-minute cocktail party instead of a two-hour one so people are fine the next morning.”

I’ve tried to take that to heart and everything that I do as a speaker, but also in my business. If something didn’t work out the way that it should have, did I not do my job? Was the process flawed? How do I fix the process? Sometimes it’s not people you want to work with. Did I choose the wrong customer? Did I choose the wrong client? My guess is if somebody shows up for a game drunk and rowdy and a jerk, they don’t last very long in your ballpark because of what you said about family and fun. There are some customers that we need to turn away. It’s the maturity to understand that. One of the things is, the more we do that, the more wisdom we gain. We can go on the internet and get tons of information, but the world is crying out for insight and wisdom. That’s what you deliver in these programs and what you’re delivering to your colleagues there at the park. It’s what I’m trying to do with my books and we all just keep on keeping on.

It’s the guy who opened my book with my eulogy, which was crazy. I’m always fascinated by reverse engineering everything and reverse engineering how people want to be remembered. My question to you is, how do you want to be remembered?

Someone that contributed to customers and people being treated respectfully and having extraordinary experiences.

Scott, it was an absolute pleasure having you on the show. You made a huge impact. We had fun and there’s a lot of wisdom. Where can people learn more? The newest book ICONIC is a game-changing book, but where else can people learn more?

We created a site called Distinction Nation. It’s and anybody that goes there, there’s a fourteen-day audio course on how to create distinction. It’s free. I wrote an eBook called the Ultimate Customer Experience. You can download that free. There are tons of free resources there. Anybody that would like to access those, go to the website and you can access those free resources. For stuff on my speaking business, it’s It will tell you more than you want to know about me and my business.

There are a lot of great things. Great podcast as well. You’re making a difference. You’re doing business differently than anyone I’ve talked to or worked with so I appreciate it more than anything, Scott. Thanks again.

Jesse, you’re the best. I appreciate it. See you soon.

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About Scott McKain

BDD 171 | Emotional Connection

Scott is the founder of a consulting and training company that explores the role of ultimate customer experiences in creating enhanced client retention and revenue, and is the author of three #1 business bestsellers; all teaching how to expand profits, increase sales and engage customers.

McKain’s latest book, released by publisher McGraw-Hill and titled 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry, provides the specific steps for every employee to create and deliver ultimate customer experiences.