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Anthony Mink of Live Bearded: “Empower your team to always do the right thing”

Empower your team to always do the right thing. Your people are on the front lines of the business, your social media managers, customer service reps and marketing personnel are the ones who see, hear, and connect with your customers the most so you MUST empower them through a culture of serving to do the […]

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Empower your team to always do the right thing. Your people are on the front lines of the business, your social media managers, customer service reps and marketing personnel are the ones who see, hear, and connect with your customers the most so you MUST empower them through a culture of serving to do the right thing.


As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Mink.

Anthony Mink is a marketing and branding expert who has applied his expertise throughout his career to build and sell 3 companies, accumulate over 10 million subscribers and generate millions in revenue. He is the co-founder and CEO of livebearded.com


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

To set the stage for you, it was July 2009, I was 24-years-old, dead broke, I had just filed for bankruptcy due to a failed business and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt lost and had no idea where to start. So I sat down and I asked myself this question: What do I want my life to look like in one year? Five Years? 10 years? How do I want to live?

I started to intentionally write and one thing was very clear, I didn’t want anyone else in control of my time, or how I have lived my life. I had a deep desire for freedom, freedom to spend my time doing what I wanted. At this time in my life, all I cared about was spending my time doing what I wanted, where I wanted. I didn’t care about “money,” I felt true wealth was being in control of my time.

I knew I needed money to make that happen, but the goal wasn’t to simply make money, or start a business, it’s to build a life that allowed me to spend my time doing what I wanted, where I wanted. This lead me to starting my first online company. My hypothesis was, if I can make money online, I should be able to work anytime I want, from anywhere I want.

At the time, I didn’t know anyone who was making money online so I bought books, training courses, and went to seminars trying to learn everything I could about how to make my dreams a reality. I immersed myself in education and studied everything I could get my hands on for 18 months. I spent every waking minute outside my day job building my business, failing, learning and growing.

Then in January 2011, I set up my first successful ad campaign and made my first dollar online. I could feel I was on to something. I doubled down, repeated the process and very rapidly things started to grow. I’ve never looked back since. In April of that year, I was making a full time income online and that’s when I quit my job, sold everything I owned, packed a suitcase and moved to Costa Rica.

From 2011–2018 I travelled full time, living in airbnb’s and vacation rentals all over the world, visiting 35 countries in the process all while working on my computer, building businesses remotely. In that time I started 2 e-commerce sites, a lifestyle blog, health blog and sold all of them to competitors.

Through this entire process, Spencer, who has been one of my closest friends since 2006, and I always talked about starting a business together. We were both very entrepreneurial and love the idea of building a company based on the values of friendship and brotherhood.

This is where the idea for Live Bearded came from and we decided to go all in on the idea, co-founding Live Bearded in 2016. Since then we’ve focused solely on building Live Bearded, supporting our community and growing our team. What started as another “virtual” online business has grown some incredible roots with eight full-time employees, an office and warehouse in Scottsdale, AZ with hundreds of thousands of customers all around the world.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In our company, I am notorious for making bone-headed grammatical errors when sending out important emails, or publishing posts online. I guess I still haven’t learned the value of “proofreading.” During one of our product launches, I sent out an email on the last day telling everyone it was the last chance to go get the product.

Sometimes if we put the customers’ name in emails to increase open rates and get people to read the email. So I tried to use the script that would pull customers name into the subject line of the email. I was supposed to say; Anthony, this is your last chance!

Instead, I miss typed the script that pulls the customers name in and it literally said; {{First_name}, this is your last chance and it went to everyone on our list! Instantly we got dozens of emails with complaints that we were spamming people. We got lots of angry messages from customers so I immediately sent out another email calling myself out on this. Here’s what the first and second email looked like.

Here’s what I wrote in the second email;

Subject: Well, that was really dumb!

Hey Brother,

Mink here, and you likely just received an email that addressed you by “{{first_name}”…

Clearly I screwed that one up!

In my attempt to be fancy and use the cool features of our email software, I jacked up and smashed the proverbial egg all over my face!

Please don’t unfriend me, I promise I’ll #dobetter next time…

But feel free to write in and bust my chops. I totally deserve it!

I hope you have an amazing day, let us know if you need anything!

Talk soon,

Mink

I owned the mistake, apologized for it and invited them to “bust my chops” a little bit. The response to that message was unbelievable — three or four times greater than my first message. Dozens of people wrote in and busted my chops in a fun way. Our customers love authenticity and the way we owned it and invited them to tease us about it. Here are a few of the responses we got:

This taught us authenticity and integrity can be a superpower. We all make mistakes, fall down, and need to find ways to figure things out and throughout this process, the most powerful thing we can do is be real, raw and honest about it. Authenticity and integrity are vital in this world, especially for internet businesses. If we can just be real humans and speak to people like that, we’re going to get really far. That’s what carried us through — not taking ourselves too seriously and taking ownership of our mistakes and as a result of this, our community sees us as regular guys and is able to connect with us and our brand.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Throughout my career as an entrepreneur, I’ve had several incredible mentors that have helped and inspired me through books, courses and content. After I started to have some success in my business, i began attending Tony Robbins events and ultimately ended up joining his Platinum Partnership program which is his highest level of coaching in the program.

It was incredible for me, and my business as I had the opportunity to spend a year of my life traveling the world with him and some incredible souls who were in the program with me. Some of my closest friends to this day are a result of Platinum. While in the program, I had the privilege of going to Tony’s house and spending some one-on-one time with him. It radically transformed my mindset, psychology and approach to business. In addition to Tony’s work, Richard Branson, Michael Singer, and Keith Cunningham have all had a big impact on the way I look at life and approach business.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Two reasons: they are focused on the wrong things and it takes a lot of work to truly create a Wow! experience. Too many companies are focused on themselves, their products, their marketing, and the results they are trying to create. They fall in love with their products and services and see their customers as order numbers, email addresses, and followers. They miss the human connection aspect of business in their attempt to “grow” and “scale” the business. This lack of focus on the customer shows up in the customer experience and the service they provide.

In addition to that, providing great customer service is harder than ever before and the simple truth is, most companies just aren’t committed to putting in the time, energy and resources necessary to provide great customer service.

To give you an example, at Live Bearded we have customers who leave us comments on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube posts and they all want a response. We may receive hundreds, if not thousands of comments on ads and posts and it’s incredibly time insensitive to respond to everyone. Then other customers send us DM’s asking questions on Facebook and Instagram about our products and why they should buy from us.

Again, those all need to be responded to. And if that wasn’t enough, we get hundreds of messages a day that come in as emails, voicemails and text messages. Everyone expects a response and responding to everyone is an overwhelming task at times. It takes an extreme commitment to customer service and most just don’t prioritize it the way they should. They settle for the half-solution on being “good enough.”

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

I absolutely do. When they are swimming in the sea of commodities, I believe the №1 way to stand out is prioritizing your customers. If you have true initiative to put customers first, they are going to remember that. They are going to remember when a company does the right thing, or goes out of its way for them. The simple gestures still go a long way and as competition increases, I believe you will see more companies who prioritize their customers rise to the top.

Again, people don’t buy products because they want the product, they want to emotion and experience the product. If you can create emotion through customer service before they even buy anything, you’re going to win every single time.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

We work very hard to empower our customer service reps to connect with our customers. Anytime someone calls in, or has an issue, our focus is to do everything we can to solve their problem and make sure they leave the exchange feeling better than when it started.

One day, we had a customer named David write into customer service because he bought one of our products and he didn’t like the fragrance. Adam, one of our customer service reps, responded to the email with a phone call. Adam proceeded to help him decide what fragrance he might like in place of the one he received.

As a company, we’re always doing fragrance swaps if someone bought a product that they don’t love. During the conversation, one thing led to another and David shared with Adam that his wife had been struggling with cancer and she wasn’t doing well. With a heavy heart, Adam held space for David to share and they bonded during a routine customer service call. This isn’t out of the ordinary for us, but what happened later is.

About a month later, we received this message from David:

“Hey guys, I wanted to share an update with you. I spoke to Adam about a month ago and I would like to let him know that unfortunately my wife passed away on Tuesday. I would like him to know that I really appreciated his kind words and prayers. It helped me to deal, in a small part, with her passing.”

I get choked up thinking about this, and it makes me so freaking proud of my team. This is exactly what it is all about, taking the time to hear people, to hold space for them and to develop meaningful connections whenever possible. Nothing a brand can do is more powerful than this and the impact on the business is incredible.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

I have dozens of customers with similar stories. Again, most companies are set up to automate and try to turn and bum. They are going for efficiency. We take the opposite approach. We have in-person customer service and we’re going to go the extra mile to call people back and respond everyday. It’s a more personalized approach as opposed to an automated approach. When you do that, the “wow” experience is achieved and turns into customers that truly love the brand. As these stories and customer experiences stack up over time, the loyalty, brand affinity, and word of mouth referrals and growth a brand receives are invaluable.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

№1 Create a culture of service over selling (serving > selling)

Our core philosophy in business is serving is greater than selling so as a company we are always looking for whats to add value and support our customers. If you instill this culture and train your team to always look for ways to “do the right thing” and support your customer, you’re going to win.

We have a culture of asking questions like; how can we add more value to our customer, or what else can we do to support our customers beyond the products we provide. These questions can be cliche or arbitrary at times, but if you sit with them and search for authentic answers, the results can be powerful and your customers will feel the intention you’ve made to improve their experience. Serve first and the selling will take care of itself.

№2 Empower your team to always do the right thing

Your people are on the front lines of the business, your social media managers, customer service reps and marketing personnel are the ones who see, hear, and connect with your customers the most so you MUST empower them through a culture of serving to do the right thing.

In our business, we do not have rigid guidelines for what our people can and cannot do, the guideline is always do the right thing and treat people how you would like to be treated. I realize that might not work in a “large corporate environment,” but I truly believe if you empower your people and support your customers magic happens. This is why exchanges between Adam and David happen.

Whether it’s product returns, exchanges, questions or anything else, create culture that empowers your people to support your customers and do the right thing on their behalf.

№3 Focus on Creating Experiences

Selling products is what keeps the lights on, pays for salaries and allows you to thrive. But creating experiences for people, getting to know them, and then providing that wow experience is what keeps them coming back for more and turns them into brand evangelists.

One example of this is the content we create about being a man, where we uplift, encourage and support our community to be the best they can be. We’ve hosted events, donated to charities and created initiatives to help our community look, feel and be the best by creating experiences, not just selling products.

№4 Give the gift of being heard and understood

To truly create customer service and experience comes down to one very simple thing, connecting with people. Too often customers feel their feelings and experiences don’t matter as they fall to the wayside and become just another “number” in a database. That’s why we believe giving our customers the gift of being heard and understood is critical to providing a wow experience.

An example of how we do this is through hosting Facebook Lives as a way to connect with our audience. It provides a very simple and easy way for us to connect with our customers. While live, we can answer questions, directly connect with viewers and call their names out to acknowledge them and thank them for being a part of our community. Its powerful and has allowed us to really connect with our audience and give them the gift of being heard and supported.

№5 Lead by example

As a leader, your actions are always going to speak louder than your words, we must lead from the front. If you want to demonstrate the importance of any of these principles and develop a culture focused on serving the customer, you must lead by example. Get on the phone, talk to people. Answer questions. Go live, be willing to do whatever is necessary to show your team, and your customers that you are here for them regardless of your title or how “busy” you might be. Taking a few minutes here and there is powerful and has a huge impact on your team, and your customers who witness it.

Whether it’s coaching and training your team, responding to customers or calling up people to thank them for their business, just being engaged with your community has a beautiful impact on the business and will absolutely leave a lasting impression.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

I think the most important thing anyone can do is make it easy for your customers to share your story, and to share their experience. People are busy, very busy, so if you want them to inspire others to reach out, you have to make it as easy as possible.

That will likely look different for every company, so asking yourself the question, how can we make it as easy as possible for people to share who we are and what we do is critical. An example of how we do this is with product exchanges. If someone buys one of our products and they don’t love the fragrance, we will often ask them to give it to a friend who will use it and tell them about us. Because we sell grooming products, if it’s open and used, we have to throw it away. So in some situations, we empower our customers to give it as a gift to a friend who they think will like and use the product.

This makes it very easy for us to turn a frustrating/negative experience of someone not loving one of our products and it turns into an opportunity to share who we are with a friend. In fact, we currently have a guy named Dusty working as a customer service rep and this is exactly how he found out about us. His brother bought a product, didn’t love the fragrance, and ended up giving it to Dusty. He loved the product, and the culture and ultimately applied and was hired to be a customer service specialist

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We have a saying at Live Bearded called, “Do Better.” It’s the foundation of our company and what it means is; we believe it is our responsibility as men, do to better everyday, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be. To inspire and encourage people to take responsibility for where they are at. To strive to learn and grow a little everyday. This is a movement we have started within our community because we wholeheartedly believe we are responsible for our experiences in this life and if we strive to do better everyday, we will lead by example and inspire others to do the same.

Once upon a time we used to give people the benefit of the doubt and as a society we acted with a bit of grace. Unfortunately a lot of that is lost today as we jump to conclusions, criticize, and go after people on social media. In that process, grace is lost, and most immediately assume the worst-case scenario.

If there was a movement to encourage people to “Do Better” and give the benefit of the doubt, I’d be all for that.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @anthonymink

Linkedin: Anthony Mink

www.livebearded.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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