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Drew Davis: Grow Your Business, Transform Your City & Leave Your Legacy

You are going to meet Andrew Davis. He's a bestselling author and keynote speaker. He's built and sold a digital marketing agency, produced for NBC and worked for The Muppets.

Drew is going to share with us how to grow your business, transform your city and leave your legacy. There's a lot more to the show including how to leverage curiosity to get people engaged and get people paying attention. We also talk about how to create loyalty and why it's easier to go back to the customers you've already got to get the customers that you want. If this sounds good to you, you are going to love this show. With that said, let's get to it.

Dustin
Drew, you were a childhood actor, worked with The Muppets, produce TV such as the NBC's Today Show along with the documentary, cofounded, built and sold a marketing agency, written two books, spoken all over the world and all before the age of 40. Do you have some secret achiever elixir or have you figured out how to travel back in time because you know a bunch of stuff and was able to tell it to your younger self?
Drew
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes like everybody else. Maybe I ride the ship faster. To be honest, the secret to my career has been to think of it as a quest instead of a path. When I first started my career I was like, “I'm on a path to be a children's television producer.” That was where I wanted to go. My dream job was to work at The Muppets. I mapped out exactly the steps I needed to take, not necessarily on paper but in my mind to get to where I wanted to be. As soon as I got there by the age of 25, I was working at The Jim Henson Company. The job wasn't as great as I thought it was and the company was struggling at the time. In the 1990s, working for The Muppets was a drag.
For example, I worked on bad movies like Muppets From Space, which was terrible. I worked on Elmo in Grouchland. It was not The Jim Henson Company's finest hour. I realized, "I put all my eggs in this basket to get to this point and now I realize that I'm here and this isn't what I wanted to do." I immediately said, "I've got to rethink my career." That meant instead of worrying about a path, I would go on a quest. I would go on a journey. If I encountered dragons, I would make the best of the dragons. If I had to slay the ogre, I would slay the ogre. With every twist and turn, I'd meet new people that would help me along my journey.
Instead, I lived in the moment. How can I make the best of the opportunity that's in front of me to move to the next step as I see it? For a number of reasons, it was much more fun but it also takes the pressure off. It allowed me to do things I never thought I'd do. I didn't think I'd run a marketing agency. I didn't know what marketing was when I was working at The Jim Henson Company. The secret to success is not over planning. It’s trying to find your way and thinking of it as a quest and a journey that's going to end with saving the princess or whatever it is you think about. It makes it much more fun.
Dustin
You seem nonchalant and detached. I can relate to the path thing, getting to a point and completely pivoting. You seem pretty open but was there anything like, "Here I am and I hate it?" Was there any fear or self-doubt there or did you just change that perspective?
Drew
I make it sound like it was easy but it was not good. When I was working with The Jim Henson Company, I was in charge of the workshop, which is where they made the puppets. It seemed like a pretty cool job except my job was to keep 40 creative and talented artists on a budget and on schedule. If you've ever worked with an artist, you know that's entirely impossible. I found the job unbelievably frustrating. On one end, I had a bunch of finance people telling me I’ve got to stay on budget. I had a bunch of artists telling me it costs $20,000 to make a Miss Piggy head. We go through eight Miss Piggy heads in one day of shooting, which means if we're shooting for five days, you're going to need a lot of money and a lot of Miss Piggy heads. My problem is to say like, "Can we cut $10,000 off of that, just a little less time on each Miss Piggy head?" They looked at me like I was crazy.
It was not the creative job I thought it would be. I felt like I've made a bad decision. I have chartered my entire life around getting to this point only to find out that this isn't what I want to do. I was depressed, upset and frustrated. The best thing that came out of working at The Jim Henson Company was I happened to work with a woman who is now my wife, Elizabeth. She is the bright spot. Before we were married or before we were even dating, we'd go out for drinks and both commiserate about how bad the job was. That was the only thing that made it workable.
The transition I made sound easy but I was so lost. This is the late 1990s when the internet first blew up in the first dot-com boom. I had friends who were leaving television. They were making four times as much as me working in "marketing" or web development. I had no idea what these things were. I knew that they were making more money and I thought, "I'll give it a shot." I tried my hand at web development through a staffing agency. I was all over the map until I realized that all the experiences I had leading up to The Jim Henson Company had taught me everything I needed to know about marketing. I had a mentor who invited me to join a startup in Boston.
I moved from Boston. I started working with a startup where they said, "You're going to help us with marketing." I was like, "I don't know what this is." I realized that I'm droning on so if you want stop me, it doesn't stop me. Here's what I learned at The Jim Henson Company. I worked on a show called Bear in the Big Blue House. It's an amazing show. It's about an awesome bear who lives in the Blue House. It's phenomenal and it was a kid's show. We were over budget on the show when I started. I went to the first meeting to tell everybody that we were over budget, but everybody else around the table, Disney, Sony and Jim Henson executives were all saying, "We're going great."
They got to me at the workshop. I was like, "We're over budget. We're in big trouble." They're like "That's okay. Don't worry about it.” I thought, "This is crazy. How can they not care that I'm over budget." I ended up meeting with the people from merchandising and licensing, which was essentially two women ran the entire division. I said, "I have a question for you. I'm over budget but no one seems to be concerned." They said, "If you're at the point at which the artists are creating puppets that kids are going to fall in love with and if you constrict their budget or stifle their creativity to the point at which they create a character that consumers will not fall in love with, we will not be able to license anything. Instead of worrying about the fact that you're over budget $500,000, think about the fact that if you create a character that is so mesmerizing, so beautiful and so lifelike that people will fall in love with Bear in the Big Blue House, we'll be able to license tons of products. Your $500,000 budget overrun will make up in a week's worth of sales for an interactive toy that's branded Bear in the Big Blue House.”
I realized at that moment that great content like that essentially creates a demand for a product that never existed. You don't fall in love with Bear in the Big Blue House unless you fall in love with the puppets and the show, which means now there's a demand for the product. When I started working in marketing, I realized it's exactly the same thing. Can I get people to fall in love with the content, the people, the product, the brand and inspire them to buy something they didn't know they needed as The Jim Henson Company does? That's how I approached the rest of my career thinking not that I made a bad career move but that all the things I learned in television, I should try to apply to my next piece of the quest.
Dustin
I'm glad you shared that. It also makes me smile a little bit because bean counters have a job, I affectionately call them. If they didn't set a number, you've probably been $1 million or $2 million over or whatever. I want to get into your mission now, however, you've got a documentary on the world's largest ball of paint. Why?
Drew
It's been a long fascination of mine like roadside attractions. As a kid, I was into the Guinness Book of World Records. When I started a marketing agency with Jim Cosco, who's a journalist, we wanted to make documentary films. This is back in the era when Michael Moore was making a big splash and Supersize Me had come out. That was a big documentary. We thought, "Let's make documentary films while we’re running a marketing agency." This is our side job. We decided to find something we could tell a great story about that was very Michael Moore-ish. We happen to know this guy named Michael Carmichael, who is from Alexandria, Indiana. He had been working on the world's largest ball of paint for the last 30 years.
He was painting a baseball every single day with a new layer of paint. When we talked to him, his goal was to use the ball of paint as a roadside attraction to save his dying town. This town was a shell of what it was in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. He thought, "We can attract people off the highway to come to see this." They'll buy food at the restaurant. They'll buy souvenirs. We wanted to follow him on his quest. When we went to this little town, we learned all this stuff. They were famous for another large ball. They found a giant hairball in the sewer in the 1990s. They got international press for it. Every Christmas, they pull a replica of the giant hairball in their Christmas Parade. While we were there, there was another kid who was trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest ball of Saran Wrap.
Over the course of two years, we shot the documentary film and enjoyed the process. We debuted it at a local theater in Boston, which is where we were based. We had grand hopes for the film. We entered a ton of film festivals, we didn't get into any. Maybe in hindsight, the film wasn't that good. The funniest part of the story is that in 2002 or something, we got an inquiry from a company who was interested in licensing the film. We thought, "This is great.” They saw the trailer on YouTube. We thought maybe these people are really interested. They threw out a number, $20,000 or something, which was a lot for a small budget film that we had racked up our credit cards to do. We thought this might be great.
We looked into the company and both Jim and I thought, "This company doesn't seem to have a good idea. No one's going to ever buy into this. It's an interesting idea, but we'll hold out for the big deal because this company doesn't seem that big.” It turns out that the company was Netflix. We don't have the best foresight in predicting what's going to be the next big thing. As a result, I'm one of the earliest 10,000 subscribers to Netflix because I'd never heard of them and signed up to try it out. The idea of getting DVD mail to you seemed like fun but it also didn't seem like anyone was going to ask for Roadside Ambition documentary. We thought this was silly. It's lots of fun. Jim and I should talk about trying to put it up online on Vimeo or Netflix or something these days because it's sitting on a hard drive somewhere. The trailer is the only thing you can find but it was lots of fun doing. We learned a lot.
Dustin
That would be fun. If anything, giving people when they're researching you to see that. I think you'd get some interesting questions. You wrote a book called Town INC. Was this the inspiration for that book?
Drew
It goes back to the quest. I didn't realize at the time when we were doing Roadside Ambition, diving into this roadside attraction and it's a dream of saving a small town in the middle of nowhere, that I'd eventually be fascinated with how you market cities and towns. It's not the inspiration for the book, but I realized as soon as I was intrigued by how cities and towns market themselves that I've been preparing for this for two decades. I've been thinking about this whether it was in the front of my mind or not. I had a lot of questions. I had spent two years wondering if this guy was going to be able to save his town, he doesn't. Alexandria, Indiana is still a small struggling town. When I wrote Town INC., there's a chapter about what worked and what we learned along the way. I know now given my marketing experience as well as all the research I did for the book why it didn't work. I found it fascinating in hindsight to revisit a young journey in my career and say, "I was intimately involved in watching a town trying to save itself. Now I see where they went wrong and what they could have done to fix it."
We were intimately involved with the ball of paint. Jim and I both fell in love with it and the little town. To realize that if I had the knowledge, I have now to save the town and go back in time, that would have been fantastic. We could have made an impact. It's a big piece of the puzzle, but it wasn't the inspiration directly. The inspiration directly came out of a visit to a town in Indiana as well. I was speaking in Warsaw, Indiana. It's the orthopedic capital of the world. When I got there, I was like, "How is anyone coming to this small town and manufacture orthopedics here?" It was phenomenal. That sent me on a three-year journey to figure out how does that town find massive success while down the street, Alexandria, is still struggling to get by.
Dustin
I want to go a little further in this because this is a unique concept. To market a business or to grow a business, people are heads down in it. A lot of business owners and entrepreneurs are passionate about their thing. You advocate this idea that one ought to market their town as passionately as they market their business. My question would be how? They're so busy working on my baby, my creation, my biz, how can I market my town? What's the benefit to me?
Drew
If you think of it like this, marketing the place you do business as much if not more than the business you do instead of thinking of it as a replacement or an addition to it. For example, if you go to any company's "About Us" page, it might say, "We're located in Hanover, Pennsylvania.” It doesn't tell you why Hanover, Pennsylvania is a better place to be if you're in the business you're in than anywhere else in the world. In a digital world where you can buy products or services from anywhere and it doesn't matter where they are, location can be a big differentiator.
For example, Warsaw, Indiana, the orthopedic capital of the world. If you're in the orthopedic industry and you want to hire an accountant who understands the business that you're in, that understands orthopedic manufacturing and you're based in Red Bank, New Jersey. You can hire an accountant in Red Bank, New Jersey and there are probably dozens and dozens of accountants that will fit your needs, but they will not understand the business you do like an accountant who is based in the orthopedic capital of the world and deals with orthopedic manufacturers like you on a daily basis. If you're an accountant based in Warsaw, Indiana and you say, “We’re an accountant who specializes in orthopedic accounting and we’re based in the orthopedic capital of the world,” you all of a sudden have a leg up on any other accounting firm outside of Warsaw, Indiana. You're differentiating the product and service you deliver by using the place you do business.
As I traveled around the country, I went to 50 different cities and towns and researched them to try to figure out what is the difference. Why would the RV manufacturing capital of the world be also in Indiana? Essentially, you get two things. One, you can reduce the cost of the service you provide by attracting other service providers, suppliers or even employees to a town or city when you market the business that way because people want to be there. They also can have location envy. They're like, "I need to move to where the industry is if I'm going to be successful,” which reduces your costs and increases the quality of the employees you can get.
Content Marketing World is a big conference that’s held in Cleveland every year. It was run by the Content Marketing Institute and they have long claimed that Cleveland, Ohio is the content marketing capital of the world. They've used that claim to attract new businesses that are in the content marketing industry, whether it's technology, staffing or agencies to Cleveland because they have a better pool of resources available to them. That's the key. You can win a lot more business and reduce the cost of doing business if you market the place you do business as much if not more than the business you do. No matter how big your business is, go to your "About Us" page, see if it says where you're doing business and ask yourself, "Why do I do business here?” You could do business anywhere, why is it there?
Dustin
Drew, you're an amazing storyteller. You speak on stages. I even look back through your career and it's clicking for me. We all know or we've heard that saying at least those who tell the best stories. What advice do you have for business owners, entrepreneurs or people in general that have a message, cause or a movement? How can we be better storytellers?
Drew
The key to a great story is ensuring that there's real drama involved. You're giving the story enough time and breathing room to help build that tension for the audience and getting them to be emotionally invested in the outcome. We live in an age whether you're presenting a new business idea or you're creating a YouTube video where we've tried to make the video or the content short that we've removed all the best storytelling elements. If there's anything I learned when I was producing for television or writing, it was that you can't rush a great story if you're going to get the audience emotionally involved. The key is to raise the stakes. Show me what's at stake in the story and threaten it for as long and logically as possible. Get people to want to desperately know the outcome because that's when they're excited about what you can offer.
Even in the entrepreneurial world, we spent a lot of time analyzing the problem, trying to understand the problem, trying to find the right fit for our product or service and ensuring that we solve the problem. We end up presenting those kinds of things without realizing that whether we're pitching to investors, prospects or clients that what’s going to get them to take action is to get them emotionally involved in the story. One of my favorite quotes is from a retail psychologist named Dr. Donald Kohn. He says, "Reason leads to conclusions while emotion leads to action.” The emotion is what we lack when we try to sell stories.
Dustin
I'm feverishly writing that. I love that quote. I grew up as a marketer. I'm fortunate to grow up in that background. There's always that conversation of short versus long copy at least that's what it was for me. It's the same conversation. I've been on the side of the emotion and telling the story. It's refreshing and great to hear. It's one thing to tell a story, however, the best story in the world falls on deaf ears if you can't get attention. What do we do when people say, "I got no attention. I’ve got a baby and family, social media is in my face. I've got all these things to do?" Before we get to that story part, how do we get people's attention?
Drew
I have a whole formula for earning people's attention. Modern marketing has grown up under this assumption that we can grab people's attention. You need a great headline. You have to write a better subject line and get people to open the email and then they will read the email. If they're not reading the email, make the email shorter because they don't have an attention span that's long enough. People constantly are saying they don't have time to consume the content you're creating whether it's a podcast like this or whether it's a video that you've created. At the end of the day, we know those people will make time to watch two seasons of Stranger Things or binge-watch Game of Thrones for a week. These people will make time for the content that maintains their interests.
We know how to grab people's attention. You can use a great headline to get people to click on something and start to watch it. The problem is we do not know how to maintain their attention. That's the real key. The goal is can we create curiosity gaps? How can we create these little subconscious questions in the mind of the audience that keeps them consuming our content? For example, if I say at the end of this interview that I'm going to give you three great ideas on how to tell better stories and I'm even going to give you the formula on how to earn people's attention, I have created a curiosity gap because there's a void between what they know. They know that we're going to talk about this.
What they want to know is what is the formula to earning attention. They will keep listening as long as I can maintain their attention and keep opening new curiosity gaps. For example, if I say the first ingredient to creating a great curiosity gap is making sure that you're generating tension, that there's emotional anxiety around knowing the answer that you're creating a little bit of tension in the mind of the audience. Now, they've got ingredient number one. That's the key to keeping people's attention. I believe that you can create a 90-minute long podcast. You could create a two-hour long podcast. If you architect it correctly and you create an attention-grabbing headline that gets people to at least hit play, the goal then is to keep them listening for the full two hours by creating small curiosity gaps over time that you keep closing in an organized way to keep them listening.
Dustin
I've heard this is open-loops.
Drew
That's a television term. It came from storytelling and it probably came way before television. That's exactly what they say like, "We need to create an open-loop here because we're going to lose people," or another term that's thrown around TV a lot is a cold open. If you're watching Law & Order, it starts with the murder because you have a bunch of questions like, "Who killed that person? Why were they killed? I couldn't even tell. It looks like they were killed out of a hate crime, is that true? I don't know. We're going to have to find out. Are they going to ever catch the killer?" That's the perfect series of open-loops. All of those little questions that come up in your mind subconsciously have to be answered. They're able to do it over the course of an hour because they board tension and the action takes you from wanting to know who the killer is to needing to know who the killer is. That need for closure is unbelievably powerful. If you're good at crafting open-loops and creating curiosity gaps, you can earn the right audience's attention for as long as you want. I'm a firm believer in that.
Dustin
I don't know how I came across this, but I start the podcast off with a car chase. It's in that environment either success or craziness versus how everyone does is like, "Give us your backstory." I got it. That's perfect.
Drew
Those are exactly the right kinds of things. If people are reading, I should give you the formula because right now you're like, "He's not going to give the formula.” Here is the quick formula, attention is tension over time multiplied by the payoff. Giving you the formula is the payoff. I created a little bit of tension there over a short amount of time and I gave you the formula. You've got a payoff for the curiosity gap I created. It's simple to think through. The key is executing them well enough so that each time you close a curiosity gap or close a loop, you're able to open a new one fast enough that gets them to subconsciously ask a new question.
Dustin
I want to make sure I got this. You said tension over time equal pay off. Did I miss something?
Drew
It's tension over time multiplied by the payoff. The reason the payoff is multiplied is that if the payoff is zero, you anger the person. You might have earned some attention but not much. They will never come back and they won't stay very long. That's what clickbait is, “You're never going to believe what happens when this guy tries to pat an elephant.” You’re like, “I'll click that, I'm never going to believe it,” but if what they end up showing isn't a payoff that deserves that headline, you get angry. That's what BuzzFeed is good at like, "Ten celebrities you never would have imagined side jobs before they were famous.” If you look at them all and they’re like, “I would have believed all of those.” You're frustrated and that's not a great experience. The payoff is a multiplier of the tension you build over time. If your payoff is crappy, you've built too much tension over too much time, you're going to make people angry.
Dustin
I don't even click those even though the headlines are great. The experience of having to click seventeen times and the payoff isn't there. That's fascinating.
Drew
It's funny, my wife and I sit down at lunch a lot of times and we read the headlines in the news. You're smarter than me, Dustin, because I still click on the clickbait all the time. I'll read the headline and be like, "You're never going to believe what Meghan Markle said to the Queen." I'm like, "We’ve got to click this." She's like, "Don't click it. It's not going to be worth it." I click it anyway and in two seconds I'm like, "It was terrible." She's like "I told you. Why did you click it?" It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy because you get more of it. They're like, "He likes to click this stuff so send him more crap." That's how powerful your need for closure is, it will force you to do things that are uncomfortable or painful.
There's a psychological study that one psychologist did from the University of Wisconsin. He posted a riddle at the elevator of an office park. The riddle question was, "What word changes from a noun to a verb when you change the capitalization of the word.” It said, "The answer is at the top of the stairs." He wanted to see how powerful that open-loop was or that curiosity gap was in convincing people to take the stairs instead of the elevator. It turns out 10% of the people that read the riddle stopped taking the elevator and will take the stairs to get the answer, which is huge. Taking the stairs sucks. No one wants to do it. It's a lot easier to take the elevator. It's more painful to take the stairs. If you can create a curiosity gap that increases the number of people that will consume your content by 10%, that is amazing. Creating curiosity gaps will get you up to the stairs. It will also get you to do stuff you didn't want to do. The payoff to that riddle is the word "Polish," which if you change from a capitalized P is “polish,” which is a verb.
Dustin
When you have great experiences and you are getting payoffs for your audience, your customers or your subscribers, you create loyalty. I know that's one of the areas that you talk about and so much of marketing and business is the next new customer. There's this opportunity. If they've already bought from us and we can make them loyal or keep them to our brand, that's a lot easier. It's interesting because it seems nowadays, a lot of people would say, "Loyalty, I don't know.” People are looking for the quick and easy also known as Amazon one-click two-day delivery in my house. How can we create loyalty and compete against the quick easy solution?
Drew
The definition of loyalty has to be broadened. It's not about loyal customers meaning I'm interested in using the customers you've got to get the customers you want. A true brand that's trying to create a great consumer experience has to focus on loyalty from the outset before they're a customer. How can you create a great experience that shows people you're different instead of telling them you're different? For example, if I sign up for a podcast, I call that a moment of commitment. You're trading your time and probably your email address if you've signed up for the weekly email from the podcast for some information and insight that's supposed to make your life better or your business better. That is a transaction. When I think of loyalty, it's not just about trading money for value. It's about trading either money, data or time to support a cause, buy a product or a service, or get some information that you didn't have before.
Loyalty starts way before you buy. Great consumer experiences are focused on beginning with their loyalty way before you've had an experience. That being said, I spent the past few years trying to figure out what's the best way to build a great consumer experience no matter when they're committing to your product. I have six things but let's cover three for now. One is can you raise anticipation for the products or services arrival in your life? You mentioned Amazon. Amazon has an interesting experience that whether you know it or not increases your anticipation and enthusiasm for the product before it arrives. You hit the buy button. You get a notice that says, "Your credit card hasn't been declined. We purchased the product for you." You're like, "Yeah.” You go from 50 enthusiasm scale to 55.
They said, "We've got a tracking number," a few hours later. You're like, "Yes, it's shipped. This is so exciting." You go from 55 to 65. If you click the tracking number and it's not in UPS system, you'll go back down to 55. You're like, "It's not shipped." This happens with everything. If you're making an appointment with someone, what are you doing between the time you've made that appointment and the actual appointment to raise anticipation for the meeting they're going to have? If you sell a product and it's going to take 24 to 72 hours to get to that customer, what are you doing to raise their anticipation for the product's arrival in your life? The greatest brands do a good job of increasing your anticipation so you're more excited about the product than you were when you bought it. That's a key to creating a great consumer experience.
The second way is building a great honeymoon experience. The honeymoon starts the minute you get the product or service or have that meeting and it ends after the first use of the product or the meal you had at the restaurant. It ends the moment you leave that meeting. They are never going to be more excited about the product or service you provide them that honeymoon phase. Even let's say you get your kitchen renovated. The moment you show off your brand new kitchen to the first guests that come into your house, that's the end of the honeymoon phase because after that it's not new anymore. You're living in it. The honeymoon phase is important to getting great referrals and unbelievably emotional testimonials. It's a big part of making sure that you're showing people that they're not just satisfied with the product or service you deliver but unbelievably excited about it.
The third thing is to maintain inspiration. That's one of the keys. It's hard to remind people how they felt the moment the honeymoon phase ended. Those people that you can maintain the inspiration for overtime will refer you more often because they're thinking of you more top of mind. You have an ability to spark that stinging feeling in their mind. That's what gets the passionate referral. That creates a great loyalty loop. It doesn't have to be just a purchase, it's any moment of commitment. If I'm subscribing to your podcast, what are you doing between the time I subscribe and the first episode I've subscribed to dropping to increase my anticipation, maximize my honeymoon period, get that great review and re-inspire me to listen every week?
Dustin
That example was a great one. I was thinking in the context of you. I had this amazing opportunity to interview people like you, the best at what they do in the world. It's the classic podcast circuit like, "You could sign up or I reach out." There's no anticipation. I wrote down the goal to create an incredible podcast experience not just for the subscribers and readers but also for you, because you're advocates. You could refer. You'd also want to promote it more, the more you invested into it.
Drew
You've got it. You've identified a great loyalty loop experience that you could enhance and use to differentiate the experience of being on the podcast but also the experience of promoting it later. I'm having a great time right now. If you said the podcast came out an hour from now, I'd be like, “I've got to promote that. Dustin was awesome. I had so much fun.” When it comes out three months from now and I am still uninspired by that point, I'm like, "Was it Dustin?" I've done a lot of other podcasts between then and now. What can you do to make sure that I'm inspired and reminded how great this podcast was in a way that's meaningful to me and to you? When it does come out, I'm like, "Dustin, that guy is always thinking of me. He's promoted other stuff I've worked on,” whatever it is but building a great experience so that I feel like we've had such a great time together is important for the long-term success, not even just the experience leading up to it.
Every brand can think that way. It's about micro-moments. We think of commitments as these big things but we have to remember that if you call someone, let's say it's a cold call, and they pick up the phone, they have committed to giving you some time. That is a moment of commitment. What can you do on that call to create an experience so different and so great that they're like, "That was an unbelievably good investment of even five minutes of my time. I had a good feeling about this person and I committed to the next step of their journey?"
Dustin
I am fired up about this. Thank you, Drew. I know we're talking about podcast and talking certain examples, but I want our audience to take this information and apply it to their situation.
Drew
I know there are a lot of entrepreneurs reading. One of the pieces of the new journey that people don't think about especially with entrepreneurs is I call it the moment of inspiration. It's an instant in time that sends you on a journey you never expected. Entrepreneurs don't know the moment of inspiration for the customers they're trying to serve. There's a super-secret question you can ask customers you have or clients you've secured that will help you uncover the moment that they decided to go on a journey that ended with buying your product or service. All you have to do is with the next customer you close, it has to be a fresh customer because otherwise they're jaded and they don't give you a real answer.
The next customer that walks in your door or calls or signs up, you should pick up the phone or ask them directly and say, "I'm glad you signed up. I'm glad you became a customer. I'm glad you bought something. What inspired you to buy our product or what inspired you to decide you wanted to listen to our podcast?” What you're listening for is the very first step in their journey and that will help you tremendously build a better experience all the way through your loyalty loop. You'll understand where they came from, what were they struggling with, what questions they have and how you can better serve them long-term, but also how you can use that information to close the next person faster and understand the emotional piece that's missing from most marketing.
Dustin
You’ve mentioned entrepreneurs, we’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs tuning into the show. I would be remiss if I didn't ask this question. You successfully cofounded, started, grew, built and sold a marketing agency. I'm curious as to that journey and what was that decision point to sell? That's a dream of a lot of entrepreneurs is to sell it someday. What's that story and what was that turning point?
Drew
It was a twelve-year journey. Just like every business, we pivoted or reinvented ourselves a few times over the course of that twelve years, probably four times every three years. We started out focused and understood the value we provided to clients. As we got bigger and busier, we expanded our products offering. We started out creating great content for clients. We started getting clients for content who would then say, "Can you redo our business cards?” We'd say, "Sure. Can you rebrand our company?" They're like, "Sure. We'll figure that out." By 2008, we thought we were doing everything and we were a full-service boutique agency, which is a misnomer I realize in a paradox. We went all over the map and we reinvented ourselves a bunch of times.
Two things contributed to the decision to sell and move on. I was exhausted. It's exhausting building a business and having employees who rely on you and your team, the team in general for paychecks and reinventing the company every three or four years gets tiring. That was one of the big pieces. When I left I was like "I never want to start another business again with employees because managing employees can be exhausting." It turns out I'm just a bad manager. I blamed the employees. A big part of it was my fault. I didn't know what to do when you have employees or how to manage them.
I learned a ton. The second thing is in 2012, as an agency, we started seeing clients turning to publishers to do what we were doing. We would lose a client who we'd have for a long time to a publisher who had access to an audience and was getting a marketing agency. The bottom line is we started seeing the writing on the wall we thought, which was more publishers have figured out that they have an asset we don't have, which is access to people. They can also create great content which we can do. We thought, "Our days are numbered here and we should probably get out.” Not every publisher has realized this. It turns out that in hindsight they haven't figured it out.
Like when we decided not to go to Netflix, we made maybe a bad decision. Honestly, I have no regrets. I don't miss running an agency. I spend my days traveling around the world speaking to people, meeting great people, sharing ideas I have with people and trying to transform businesses in a way that I'd never could or did when I was working at Tippingpoint Labs. I had a great time. I don't worry or wonder whether I shouldn't have or should have sold. I don't have any regrets. I don't miss it. Maybe the thing I miss most is having a team of people that I could bounce ideas off of. If anything, I feel lonely sometimes in this job where you're on the road by yourself a lot. I miss being able to swing open my door and walk into somebody else's office and go, "I have a great idea," and have them talk me out of the fact that it was a bad idea. Now, I pursue bad ideas for a longer, which is not fun.
Dustin
It's quite the duality. I want to talk a little bit about speaking that's near and dear to my heart. You are an amazing speaker. I was able to see your talk at Content World and the team. I saw you live there. They said it was quite a journey that you took people on. They said you're working out there like you're moving your body. I'm curious is it a rush for you? Do you get nervous or that excitement for you? When you're doing it, is it the ultimate rush?
Drew
The ultimate rush like I bungee jumped once, that may be stopped my heart a little bit. I do get nervous before every event. There's a scale of anxiety I have. I'm always nervous about something. Sometimes I'm nervous that the audience is in a niche or industry that I've never spoken to before. I'm like, "Are they going to get this? Can I relate? Do I have good examples that they will see themselves in?" I have a lot of anxiety around that. If it's an audience of 5,000 people, I'm like "This is a big audience and a big stage. Is my performance going to hit for the person in the back row?” Sometimes it's the opposite, "This is a small audience. It's only 25 people. Am I going to be too much for this little audience who just woke up and it's 8:30 in the morning in Vegas?"
I'm always anxious about something. That's healthy, to be honest. If I'm not nervous, it means I've probably gotten a rut and I'm giving the speech because it's the speech I gave last week or something. Onstage for me, I enjoy it. I have much fun with the audience and taking the audience on a journey with me. Every time I deliver the speech, I feel like we're going together. Even though I spend a huge amount of time rehearsing, I practice a lot of stuff and I rework things, I always feel like I don't know where this might go even though logically I do. The audience, the venue and the people I've met are always different. Maybe the most exciting thing is I always learn something. I always learn either from someone I meet at cocktail hour or I learn something on stage that I shouldn't do next time or something I should do next time. I videotape every one of my speeches and try to watch it within 24 hours so I can find what didn't work and how can I make it better. All of those things make it exciting, energizing and a fun experience for both me and the audience.
Dustin
For you speaking is not just getting paid to speak, that is a lead generator for some of the back end of your business, am I right?
Drew
It used to be. Now all I do is sell books and speak, which is fun. When I was running Tippingpoint Labs, the agency, the last few years of the business, we tried all sorts of marketing things. We’d go network and we'd go to events and meet people. We'd hand out business cards in content marketing, which we were selling. We’d generate leads however we can. Those things did generate leads. Not to be disparaging of any of those things but we found that the most effective way to generate the highest quality leads was through speaking. In the last few years of Tippingpoint Labs, I spent a lot of time on the road generating leads for the business.
I'm not talking about what we did as much as we challenged the market to think differently. The leads would come in when we got off stage. C-level executives would walk up and say, "That was amazing. You challenged us to think differently. Is this something you do or do you know an agency that can help us think like that?" I would always say, "Funnily enough, it turns out that's what we do." That was a great piece of learning how to speak. If we take this full circle that was part of the quest. I’ve never imagined I would be a full-time speaker. This is far from my mind.
When you add up the fact that I used to do television commercials as a kid and be into acting. When you think about my marketing experience and the problems I wanted to solve as an agency, you add to that the fact that lead generation using speaking and the acting skills I'd gotten as a kid, as a seven-year-old, would make me who I am now, I would have said that was crazy. That's the quest I've been on. It's been an unbelievably winding journey but all of those experiences have made me better at what I do and are preparing me for whatever is next. Who knows?
Dustin
You have taken me and the audience on an amazing journey. Thank you. I appreciate what you're doing in the world and sharing freely as you have done here. If people want to continue the journey or the quest with you, where’s the best way for people to do that online?
Drew
Online the best way is probably to check out the Loyalty Loop on YouTube. The Loyalty Loop is a weekly YouTube video series I do. If you search the Loyalty Loop or Andrew Davis Loyalty Loop or #LoyaltyLoop or Andrew Davis speaking loyalty, you'll find me. I've done a lot of those videos. Every week we dive into a different part of how to build loyalty. I like to say they're small marketing ideas that can have a big impact on your business. That's probably one of the easiest ways. I'm pretty active on Instagram @DrewDavisHere. Those are the two best places.
Dustin
If someone is reading that is an organizer for events or associations, is there another place that they go to?
Drew
Everybody can go there too, but it's AKADrewDavis.com. It was not the best. It works and you can find me there and put a date on hold if you're an organizer or reach out. That would be great.
Dustin
Drew, thank you for being on the show. Thanks for what you're up to in the world.
Drew
Thank you so much, Dustin. This has been lots of fun. I appreciate it.

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