Dan Gingiss: “Listen to your customers”

Give yourself a minimum of 6 months to start marketing before your launch (more time is even better). If you want to experience more of your potential, you need more time. A faster way to move books is through your relationships, and those take time to build. With more time, you can get interviewed on more […]

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Give yourself a minimum of 6 months to start marketing before your launch (more time is even better).

If you want to experience more of your potential, you need more time. A faster way to move books is through your relationships, and those take time to build. With more time, you can get interviewed on more podcasts, engage with and condition your audience better, and grab a hold of bigger opportunities. With more time you can also monetize in advance of the launch so you can reinvest back into your brand’s growth.

As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Gingiss.

Dan Gingiss is an international keynote speaker and customer experience coach who believes that a remarkable customer experience is your best marketing strategy. His 20-year professional career spanned multiple disciplines including customer experience, marketing, social media and customer service. He held leadership positions at McDonald’s, Discover and Humana.

Dan is the author of The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share (September 2021) and Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media. He also hosts the Experience This! podcast and The Experience Maker Show. For more information, please visit https://www.dangingiss.com.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?

After working at Discover Card for nearly 7 years, I was recruited by the Chief Digital Officer to head up digital customer experience. The only problem I saw was that I had zero experience in either digital or customer experience at that point in my career, let alone social media which the role also oversaw. I asked the CDO why he picked me for the role and he said it was because he had watched me in meetings and I was always “wearing the customer hat” — tackling business problems with the customer in mind, not just profits. He liked that and thought it should be applied to the digital experience. He was right, and that launched a major shift in my career from a pure marketer to a customer experience thought leader.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

I found my first job after college at The Danbury Mint — a high-end collectibles company selling porcelain dolls, figurines, sports memorabilia and the like — by seeing a newspaper advertisement before anyone else. As I was putting the finishing touches on an issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, I noticed an ad that promised to “teach you everything you need to know about direct marketing.” Knowing very little about marketing, I had a lot to learn.

The company delivered on its promise. At age 22, I was given ownership of several multimillion-dollar product lines and told to develop and execute marketing plans to grow sales. My love for marketing was officially kindled.

But what they didn’t teach me — what I sort of already knew but had to experience on my own — was how to deal with an angry customer.

One year during the week of Christmas, a call came through to my desk. I was in the Marketing department, not Customer Service, but the call somehow got to me and I answered it. An elderly lady was on the phone and she was livid. We were ruining her Christmas because the gift that she had bought her grandson had not arrived. It was December 23rd.

As I listened to her talk, it was just instinct that kicked in. I told her that Christmas was not going to be ruined on my account. I didn’t have access to the Customer Service system, so I wrote down her name and address and figured out what product she needed from a catalog on my desk. I walked over to our warehouse, which was luckily in the same building, and checked the product off the shelf. I packed it up in a box with plenty of shipping peanuts. Then I personally walked it over to the mailroom and made sure that the package got out the door via Overnight Express — to be delivered on the 24th.

That wasn’t in any training manual. I may have even broken a company policy. But that was what my instinct said to do because I wanted to take care of that customer. And you know what? She became a customer for life.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

I just launched a free 10-day CX Challenge that presents a 90-second video each day along with a simple tactic that companies can initiate immediately to help improve customer experience. It’s a great team-building program as well since it gets everyone on the same page in terms of customer centricity.

I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about diversity and inclusion as it relates to customer experience. We tend to think of D&I from an employee experience perspective, but clearly our customer base is also diverse in many ways, and a good customer experience takes that into consideration. Whether it’s race, ethnicity, religion, language, sexual orientation, or customers with disabilities, the customer experience should strive to be as inclusive as possible. After all, why would any business want to turn away a customer that wants to pay them money?

Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?

Let’s face it: Competition is tougher than ever these days. Competing on price is a loser’s game — just ask the two gas stations across the street from each other. And competing on product is getting harder and harder as almost everything is copyable — just ask your favorite ride-share company.

So what’s left? How can we stand out in a crowded marketplace that is constantly evolving?

The answer is customer experience. And the best part about customer experience is that it’s delivered by human beings which are unique to your company. No one else has your human beings, which means that you can provide a customer experience that no one else can. It’s time to make your customer experience a competitive advantage.

Almost every business has a “leaky bucket.” Most companies are so focused on sales growth and bringing in new customers at the expense of the existing customers who are funding the business. Without our existing customers, we’re out of business. So why do companies spend so much money and time focused on higher and higher sales goals and new customer goals and yet not nearly as much time with the people they already have?

Instead of spending more money on marketing and trying to acquire new customers, what if you focused on providing your existing customers a remarkable experience? Listen to your customers, engage with your customers, and they will become your best marketers. That’s right, your existing customers will actually help you acquire new customers, and plug your “leaky bucket.” And this book will show you how.

By learning from the successes of other companies and applying the proprietary WISER method (Witty, Immersive, Shareable, Extraordinary, Responsive) to your business, you will create an array of remarkable experiences that your customers will want to talk about with friends, family, and social media followers. In turn, you’ll benefit from marketing that is far more credible, engaging, and authentic than yet another email or social media campaign.

Your business CAN compete on customer experience. When you create a remarkable experience for your customers, they become your best marketers and salespeople. The result is more customers, who stay longer, spend more, and recommend your company to others.

You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Be a great content curator in addition to being a great content creator. I take pride in sharing other people’s amazing content — blogs, books, podcasts, etc. — as well as my own. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I think it’s important that my audience looks to me to point them in the right direction toward other thought leaders as well.
  2. Listen to your customers. Too often we’re not paying attention to our customers’ struggles, or we don’t even bother to ask. The more we know our customers, the more we are able to create products and services that they want. The stories and examples I share in my book are carefully curated from my keynote speeches, blogs, and podcast episodes based on customer feedback; in other words, I already know they resonate with my audience.
  3. Just do it. This was some of the best advice I received when I first joined Twitter. A mentor told me to just jump in there and start tweeting, and that I’d figure everything out along the way. I think the same is true about writing a book; you just have to start. I already had so much great content that I had produced in other places, so some of it was compiling everything into a clear storyline and then filling in the missing parts with additional content. Even if you don’t have existing content, open up Word or Google Docs and turn on the Voice-to-Text feature. Then just start talking about something you’re passionate about. Before you know it you will have a ton of great content.

In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?

There’s no question that having a book gives you a certain level of credibility when selling other services like keynote speaking or even just putting yourself out there as a “thought leader.” My first book, Winning at Social Customer Care, established me as a key influencer in the space of social media customer service. When I wrote it, very few people were talking about the “social” part of social media — everyone was focused on social being another broadcast marketing channel. I immediately saw that social media was the only marketing channel where people could talk back, and I found that fascinating. So I started a podcast where I interviewed social care leaders from top brands and learned from them. A lot of that podcast content went into the book. After it published, I became known as the “Social Care Guy”. That was OK for a while, but then I wanted to expand my thought leadership into a broader topic, which was customer experience.

Unless your name is J.K. Rowling or James Patterson or you’re a former President, you’re probably not going to make a ton of money selling books. But the book becomes like a business card — a conversation starter toward bigger things. As the saying in the speaking industry goes, “books sell speeches and speeches sell books.”

If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

I say go for it! Everyone has a story or something valuable to say to the world, and too many people keep it bottled up inside. And today with the ease of low-cost self-publishing, there isn’t nearly the barrier to entry that existed a decade ago. Publishing my two books has been perhaps my greatest career accomplishment, and I’m genuinely proud of myself for making it happen.

What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

A friend and mentor once told me about speaking: “The work isn’t in doing the speech, the work is in getting the speech.” How true that is, and that same applies for promoting a book. The promotion is far more difficult than the writing! With so many books in the marketplace, it’s no longer “build it and they will come.” I have aligned with Morgan James Publishing the amazing Amber Vilhauer to help launch my book so that my friends, social media followers, clients, and businesses of all sizes can become aware of it and not only buy it, but hopefully tell their friends and colleagues.

Even if you’re on your own, though, there are easy and free things you can do to promote your book, including:

  • Writing blogs on your website or as guest posts on other websites that contain content from the book
  • Sharing excerpts on social media
  • Sending complimentary copies to relevant influencers
  • Asking companies you know to consider bulk purchases for their employees or clients
  • Approaching local bookstores and libraries to offer a presentation and/or book signing
  • Researching the many book review sites that will read and review your book for free

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?

Honestly, it all comes down to budget and your goals. Experts don’t come cheap; a typical book publicist can cost several thousand dollars per month. But what’s your goal in publishing the book? Is it simply self-fulfillment? Then you don’t need to spend a lot of money promoting it. Is it to hit a bestseller list? Then you are probably going to need some help. The most important thing you have to do on your own though is to nurture your professional relationships so that when you ask for help in launching/promoting your book, tons of people are ready and willing to help.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Start planning your marketing and launch early in the writing process.

Most authors sell less than 500 copies of their book in the life of the title and that’s largely because they don’t have a plan that sells the book long-term. If you start marketing discussions while writing, you can strategically add in stories or case studies from key influencers or companies that could order bulk copies or support the launch on the back end. If you start planning sooner, you can strategically add in monetization hooks throughout the book in a slick way which will help you grow your business post-launch. Hire a strategist early so you’re not hoping for success at launch, but instead having confidence when your big day arrives.

2. GET HELP from a qualified team who knows what they’re doing.

Delegate, delegate, delegate — but to the right people. Most launch teams offer a rather generic, cookie-cutter launch plan that will help you sell some books to your existing network. I recommend finding a Book Launch Director and team who thinks bigger than that (which is why I hired Amber!). A team who can help you grow your network (both in followers and influencers) so you can sell a lot more books, grow your authority in a stronger/faster way, and create a larger impact at launch. My team helped me find a VA to help with my lower level marketing activities, then trained that person for me, so I could focus more on my unique ability and less on time-consuming, draining tasks that didn’t move the needle. My team also helped with the website, copywriting, strategy, marketing, webinar and course launch, social media, enhancing my influencer relationships, creating a bulk order strategy for corporate and so much more.

3. Start saving so you have a bigger budget to exponentially grow your reach.

Putting yourself out there and moving thousands of copies of books isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll want to leverage all sorts of marketing activities to profit and make a larger impact. And those activities take time and high levels of expertise, which requires an investment in the right support. I’ve heard of some authors investing 10–20,000 dollars and some investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in their launch. Mapping out your strategy early on can help you narrow in on a budget that will allow you to hit your launch goals. My Book Launch Director had a constant focus on helping me monetize so I didn’t feel the same pressure as other authors might. It’s a way more fun situation to launch in the black than the red, so plan ahead to invest in yourself and the growth of your business.

4. Give yourself a minimum of 6 months to start marketing before your launch (more time is even better).

If you want to experience more of your potential, you need more time. A faster way to move books is through your relationships, and those take time to build. With more time, you can get interviewed on more podcasts, engage with and condition your audience better, and grab a hold of bigger opportunities. With more time you can also monetize in advance of the launch so you can reinvest back into your brand’s growth. With the help of my business coach and launch team, I launched a new webinar and course 3 months before launch. Not only did it force me to hit my goals sooner than I originally planned, but I was able to test out my material before the launch when I was getting a lot more attention. This timeline grew my confidence, cash flow and I had a lot more fun.

5. The launch is only the beginning.

It’s hard to accept that after all of the time spent writing and editing the book, formatting and publishing, then marketing and launching… that it’s just the beginning. Most authors hit fatigue and start to develop a lack of confidence when starting to sell themselves outside of their own network. I have learned that this is when you hit the gas and go even harder. It’s only when we stop our consistent efforts that we lose momentum. It’s that loss of momentum that breeds fear and stops our results. So my advice is to launch with everything you’ve got, then keep going. Ride that wave and sell as many books as you possibly can over many years. Keep making an impact, keep monetizing, and know that re-launching your book is always an option. My Book Launch Director recommends you launch your book every year to create a new pop of exposure and buzz, to generate more book sales, and to further monetize and scale. No Guts No Glory!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I have two business crushes — Jeff Bezos and Howard Schultz. Both are such visionaries and 100% customer-focused that it’s no wonder Amazon and Starbucks are two of the most successful companies of our time.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can always reach me at www.dangingiss.com, sign up for my bi-weekly customer experience newsletter, or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. I love engaging with other people who are passionate about customer experience!

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.

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