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Everyone wants to scale, whether it’s in profit, audience size, influence, skill, or some other type of gain. Scale prevents stagnation, so in order to remain relevant, you must grow or improve in some way.
How you do business changes as you scale, and the details that were once easy to implement are now much more complicated. Because the nature of your business changes, the ways you interact with your customers and clients must also change.
A lot of companies have had this experience: when they were smaller, they could give every order the care it deserved and treat each customer like they were the only one.
However, as they scaled, and as twenty orders a month became a hundred orders a day, they simply couldn’t give the kind of attention to each order as they used to.
It’s the same if you have a smaller audience. While it was once easy to respond with multiple paragraphs to every email that came in, your inbox sits cluttered and covered with cobwebs because it’s dozens if not hundreds every day.
Aaron Dowd joins the show to discuss how to do the “unscalable”, how to make every customer feel like they’re the most important person to your company, and what the unscalable things do for your brand.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Do things for your customers or audience that they don’t expect.
- As you grow and scale, how you do business has to naturally also scale.
- When you have a smaller audience or customer base, you can devote more time to each customer.
- Care and show care.
- A lot of people are not reaching out to their audience in unscalable ways, and it’s the best way to stand out.
- As your company grows, you can teach your employees to do unscalable things.
- Show care by helping make the lives of others better just because you want that for them, no strings attached.
- There is never a downside when you add something positive to someone else’s life.
- Doing the unscalable is really difficult, but it’s really fulfilling.
- 02:44 Aaron: This is one of my favorite things to do. It really is. There is immense power in doing things for people that they don’t expect—really, really nice things that make people pay attention. They’re like, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. Now I really like this person.” It leads to incredible things.
- 03:08 Cory: So good. Do you remember any experiences with a company where they did something specific that was unexpected that you really remember?
- 03:24 Aaron: Yeah, I can talk about Sean McCabe. One time, after I started a podcast with him and then after I had left that podcast, we hadn’t really talked too much. I was starting my podcast editing business. I was helping people make podcasts, and I had a website up. It was okay. I don’t remember if I asked him for his feedback or if he just gave me some, but he checked out my website, and he gave me a few things to change.
- 03:52 It was this incredible, unexpected feedback. I was like, “Wow, that’s really nice of him.” He’s a busy dude. Even back then, and this was 2013 or 2014. He took time out of his day to give me some personal advice and feedback, and it made this huge impression on me. It helped me out immensely on my journey towards becoming a full time freelancer. What about you, Cory?
- 04:24 Cory: It’s hard to choose one. I can think of a few. One that comes to mind, and Aaron and I have talked about this company before, is Sweetwater. With every single order, you get the box in the mail and there’s a handful of candy in the box. I think it’s in a little bag or whatever, but you always know, with every order, that you’re going to get a handful of candy.
- 04:53 It always made me really anticipate the box, whenever I got it. I was like, “Ah, Sweetwater is so great!” You never get that from Amazon. You get a bag of candy in a box from Amazon, and you’re like, “There’s probably mold in this.”
- 05:08 Aaron: Right. I’m not sure I trust this bag of candy.
- 05:13 Cory: You’re not really into it. There’s that. You know how sometimes you’re checking out a product online, and they’re like, “Hey, do you have any customer notes you can put on the order?” I’ll ask things like, “Please draw me a picture of a T-Rex eating a pizza and skateboarding down a pyramid,” and then they would do that. My friend Callum sent me a drawing of a dog that I requested, a specific dog, and it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in my whole life.
- 05:58 Aaron: I thought of another one. My younger brother had this second generation iPod Touch. It was probably three or four years old, kind of beat up, and it had a problem. It was some kind of white screen of death, and it wasn’t working. He was like, “Can you take this into the Apple store and see if they can fix it?” I was like, “Sure.” I took it in, and I wasn’t expecting anything. Here’s this old, beat up iPod Touch. It’s maybe worth $100, maybe less.
- 06:53 I took it in, and I said, “Hey, I’m having this problem. Is there anything you guys can do? How much would it cost to fix this?” This dude who was working at the Apple store took a look at it and said, “Hang on one second.” He walked in the back, got a brand new iPod Touch model, probably $200, and said, “Here you go, just keep this.” I was like, “Wait, there must be some kind of mistake. I handed you an old, busted, beat up iPod Touch, and you just gave me a brand new one. Why? Why would you do that? It doesn’t make sense. What’s the trick here? Do I have to sign something that’s going to auto-draft $100 from my bank or something?” He said, “No, just, here you go.” Blew my mind.
- 07:36 Cory: When it comes to doing the unscalable, everybody wants to scale, whether that’s in profits, audience size, influence, business employee number, whatever. Scale is natural-it’s part of human DNA to grow.
- 08:06 It has to change. Things are more complicated. When I first started doing shirt orders in 2014, when I had my small apparel line, I was shipping maybe one shirt a day. It was very small. It wasn’t over the top. I could take the kind of care with those packages that I wouldn’t be able to if I was trying to ship out 100 shirts that day.
- 08:49 There’s a level where, when you have a smaller audience or customer base, you can devote more time to each customer. Those things change as you scale. If I still had a clothing line and I had 1,000 customers a day, I would not personally be able to give the kind of time and attention that I might want to with each order. The level of attention has to change.
As you grow and scale, how you do business has to naturally also scale.
- 09:23 Cory: The question becomes, how then do we do the things that are unscalable? How do we stand out with our customers so we’re not just another order-fulfilling business? This is the easiest way I can remember to help businesses, if you’re trying to build a big brand or a brand that has a positive perception. There are four words you need to remember: Care and show care. Staple them to your computer monitor or whatever you need to do.
- 10:05 When you actually care about someone else, it doesn’t matter if you never show it. You could have all of the love and care in the world for another person, but if you never show or demonstrate it, then it doesn’t matter. Nothing ever changed because you didn’t show that you cared for someone. Keep in mind that most businesses out there, other people who are doing similar things to what you’re doing, a lot of them are just trying to make ends meet and get a profit.
- 10:37 They’re just doing the work. You can use this to your advantage. I recently made a video for something I was submitting to, and they asked, “What’s one of the benefits to being a smaller creator?” My response was, “I can actually engage with my audience on a level where people who have five, six, seven, or eight million subscribers or followers can’t.” I got an email today from someone who listens to the show, and it just made me smile as soon as I read it.
- 11:16 Her name was Laura. She said, “I’ve been listening since episode 1, and I felt like I wanted to reply to you today because of the episode that came out recently, episode 61, Which Comes First: the ‘Who’ or the ‘What’?, “ It really helped her get a breakthrough.
- 11:33 She wanted to say thank you, that she appreciates what we do, and to keep up the awesome work. It was so helpful for me today. I really needed that. I responded and I said, “Thank you so much for your email, it meant a lot. Thanks for writing in. I’d love to hear about your breakthrough, what it means for you. Is there anything else you’d like us to address on an episode in the future? This show is for you.” I genuinely wanted to hear.
- 12:00 She just wrote back. I just checked my inbox. There’s this massive email, and I’m so excited to read through it and create an episode around her needs. I look at that and I think, if I was getting 10,000 emails a day—heck, even 100 emails a day—that would not be as possible, to respond individually, to show that kind of care. That’s where you can set yourself apart. You can still go in to one of those 100 emails and respond. For one person, you have shown that care.
- 12:42 You may not be able to affect everybody. You have to limit yourself and remind yourself that you can’t respond to everyone, you can’t give the level of attention and care that you want to to every single person that you interact with in your life, but you could do it for one person, and you could change everything for them. You could do it for five people.
As you scale and you want to do the unscalable things, there’s a limit to what you can do but no limit to how much you can care.
Do the Unscalable
- 13:16 Cory: I wanted to share some examples, some practical examples, and hopefully this will generate some ideas for your own business and as you build an audience. I want to help you figure out what you can do for your customers, for your clients, that goes one step beyond. Continuously ask yourself, “What else could I do?” It’s showing the care. It’s not just, “Hey, thanks for your money.” Nobody wants to feel like they’re just a wallet.
- 13:54 I’d like to share some examples. We can tag team on this if you want, Aaron, if you have anything I didn’t write down. There are so many different ways. These are just a few. I figured we could go through some of those and then get to some questions. What do you think?
- 14:07 Aaron: I love it. Let’s go.
- 14:10 Cory: Some examples. I’m not going to elaborate on them, because you can use your imagination. Here’s an example. Write a hand-written note with every order you send out. You know who does this really well? Have you ever ordered stickers from Sticker Mule? They do not write a hand-written note with every order, but if you make an order for stickers, just go with Sticker Mule. Just do it.
- 14:37 But they have this little card that they make, and I don’t remember the exact wording, but it says something like, “Your package was hand-packed by,” and then someone actually signs their name. Like, “Sue Stephanopolis,” or, “Larry Lawnson,” or something. It reminds me that it’s not just a machine churning out orders. Someone is actually packaging it up. I like that. For a large company like that, they can do something like that. It allows them to be slightly more on the unscalable side.
- 15:28 It’s just part of their process that they’ve baked in. They take a little bit of extra time to grab that card, sign their name, and remind the person that’s receiving that order that there’s a human on the other side.
- 15:41 Aaron: Absolutely. To take that a little bit further:
- 15:52 You always see, when you order something on Amazon, how you get that printed page that’s just like, “Here is your order.” There’s nothing nice about it. It’s just print text on a white page, boring. Design this thing that is fancy. Put some of your personality into it, some of your brand personality into it. That goes back into actually having a brand personality. So many of the companies, the bigger ones especially, strip so much life out of the products they create and the packaging, the receipts and all this stuff.
- 16:32 Even just a little bit of extra care and attention into designing something that seems like it was made by a person, even if you’re at huge scale, can be really powerful.
- 16:48 Cory: There are some other ways that may seem unscalable, and you have to get past feeling like it might be a little bit creepy. One thing you can do to is research your customers or your prospective clients before getting on the phone or sending an email, and see if they have anything that they really love or that stands out. You can mention that in the conversation. Anything like that. Let’s say your customer’s name is Kevin Sanders, and you’re like, “I’ve got Kevin Sanders’ email. I’m going to go on Facebook real quick and see if I can find him. There’s Kevin right there. I see him wearing a Bulls jersey.” That’s a football team, Bulls. Is that right? Basketball?
- 17:35 Aaron: Yep. Sure.
- 17:41 Cory: I’m kidding, I know Bulls is basketball. You write a handwritten note or your email, and you say, “P.S. Go Bulls!” That’s it. Even if you don’t like the Bulls. Who cares? All of a sudden, that person is like, “Hey, he knows I like the Bulls. How did you know I like the Bulls? Haha.” All of a sudden, it changes the dynamic of the relationship. Some people might go, “How did you find that out?” Your Facebook is public! Those are some other things you can do.
- 18:18 I know that we joke about this a lot, but it’s true. People are always like, “Did you know that your iPhone that you text on actually has a phone app? It’s this new thing.” We joke about that, but get on the phone. I did this last year. There was a Community member who was having some issues with our membership changes. In August we had some changes happen to seanwes membership, and there was some confusion with billing.
- 18:53 There was some stuff like that. We were going back and forth on email, and it just didn’t feel like we were connecting right. I was like, “It’s more important that this Community member feels heard and that we can actually have a conversation.” I called her up on the phone, and I said, “Hey, it’s Cory Miller from seanwes,” and she was like, “Well, hello Cory Miller!” It was this moment where we instantly had this great connection because it was actually a human on the other end of the line.
- 19:25 It was so powerful. There are some things that sending pixels to another person just can’t do. You get on a phone call or a Skype chat, any of that stuff, and you put some humanity into your relationship with your customers or your members. That goes so far. Again, that’s not very scalable. I can’t call every single Community member. I could, but some of them would be like, “I’m INTJ, why are you calling me?”
Go the extra mile to do custom design for your packaging or your order.
You can actually make phone calls.
The phone is not dead.
The Return on the Unscalable Things
- 20:00 Aaron: I think a lot of people avoid that step because it doesn’t have an immediate return. There’s no obvious benefit to that. Even if someone’s reaching out to you and asking for a bit of advice—this happens to me a lot, podcasting people will email me and say, “Hey, I’ve got a question about so-and-so,” and sometimes it’s a question I’ve already answered with a video. But sometimes, I will say, “Cool. Let’s jump on a Skype call and talk about it for a couple of minutes.”
- 20:28 You were going to mention this later, but I’ll reply with a YouTube video. I’ll make a video for them, talk to them, and then post it publicly on YouTube and say, “I replied. Here you go.” It’s a long term play. It doesn’t always have an immediate return, but who knows? Maybe this person knows some random awesome person that you’ll need to know somewhere down the road, someone who can really help you 10X your business or connect you with someone else. You don’t know the kind of payoff that can have.
- 21:02 It’s really easy to say, “This is going to be five or ten minutes that I waste talking to this person or making a video for them,” but it really is incredible. It’s a rare thing. It’s far more rare than you think.
- 21:22 Cory: I’m going to say something that might be controversial. I know a lot of people would disagree with it, but it’s correct. It’s very difficult to measure building a positive brand perception. That changes as you continue to do that. Oftentimes, going back to what Aaron said, we’re like, “I’m going to do this thing and look for that return. I’m going to look for that ROI. What is this going to do for my bottom line right now?”
- 22:00 Aaron: I post this YouTube video, and the way you measure response is by how many people click the Like button.
- 22:06 Cory: Like button… The truth is, all of the stuff we’re talking about isn’t necessarily going to put another $100 into your pocket tomorrow. It’s just not going to do that. The focus of this show, all together, of Invisible Details, is talking about how to build a strong brand, a brand that is memorable, a brand where people say, “Oh my gosh, have you heard about so-and-so?”
- 22:40 That’s what we’re talking about. When you are building a brand with your customers, potential clients, or even people who will never buy from you in your life, what is the downside to making a positive impact in another human being’s life? Zero. There is no downside.
- 23:14 That’s how we bring it back to brand. I follow this family on YouTube called The Bucketlist Family, and they sold everything they had and they’re vlogging their trip around the world. They’ve been doing it for like 63 weeks or something like that. They’ve just been traveling to Fiji, Australia, Europe, and all of that stuff. They’ve been vlogging this, so they show when they arrive at the place where they’re staying. One of the places they stayed actually had a picture of their family.
- 23:59 They framed it, put it on the bed, had some stuff on the bed, and then wrote out with candies or some local fruit or something like that, “Welcome home.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, you never get that at the Holiday Inn!” Never. That is an unscalable thing that immediately sets you apart. In the conversation we were talking about earlier, Cita mentioned Gary Vaynerchuck. He responds to Tweets, direct messages, snaps, and mentions constantly as he goes.
- 24:50 He’s a very important dude. He’s doing stuff all the time—working, entrepreneur, business man. He’s got a massive company. He’s got important things to do. He doesn’t have time to respond to tweets. He doesn’t have time to respond to people trying to get ahold of him on Snapchat. I’m sure he gets thousands a day. Guess what? He does as much as he can, and he makes a difference in those people’s lives. That’s huge.
- 25:25 Do this when you can. It doesn’t have to be this thing where you say, “Oh my gosh, I have to spend three hours on this.” It’s like, “Hey, thank you so much for your attention. Thank you for writing in. I’ll try and write a blog post about this,” or something. There are so many things you can do quickly, throughout your day, that make a difference to someone else.
A lot of people are not reaching out to their audience in unscalable ways, and it’s the best way to stand out.
There is never a downside when you add something positive to someone else’s life.
Another unscalable thing you can do is to respond to tweets, direct messages, or emails.
- 25:44 Aaron: It’s just gratitude. Gratitude is so important. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe that Gary Vee wouldn’t be as successful or well known as he is today if he hadn’t always taken the time to reply to people like that. Whether you like him or not, he’s well known because he puts people first. That’s his priority. It’s interacting with people. Some people are turned off by his attitude, by his language, by his always talking about hustling, but you can hate on him all you want. He knows more people than you do, and I’m guessing he’s more successful than you. Pretty much in any regard. That’s not something to get mad at, it’s just something to learn from. Prioritize people the way that he does.
- 26:39 Cory: It all goes back to remembering that this is all about people. If you have profit, growth, or scale, and the last thing you care about in the world is people, history is not forgiving to people who only cared about themselves and did nothing to help other people. History doesn’t look kindly on those people. That’s just the truth. We can go really big here and talk about legacy, but that’s what doing the unscalable is for.
- 27:22 If it’s just you, you can do some of those things. Then you start growing. You’ve got 20 employees, 100 employees, 1,000 employees. It goes down. It spreads down. You teach your managers, you teach the employees, you make it part of your culture to actually care. Care and show care. That’s how you do the unscalable. There are so many things, like providing extra services for previous customers or clients.
As your company grows, you can teach your employees to do unscalable things.
No Strings Attached Value
- 28:16 Aaron: Dan Cederhold, the guy that founded Dribbble, asked me to help him with his podcast. Somehow, we got to talking about how he plays banjo. He’s a really cool dude, and he plays banjo. He’s like, “I’m curious about a microphone so maybe I can record some banjo.” I went out and made him a list for the best three microphones for recording an acoustic instrument like that. I also was like, “If you ever need any help recording some songs, some feedback on that, or you want me to mix or master an album for you, I’d be happy to do that.”
- 28:48 He hired me to be a podcast editor, to help with his podcast, but I saw an opportunity to give more. He mentioned this. I said, “I want to help you if I can.” Nothing has come of that yet, but I know it made a good impression.
- 29:06 Cory: There’s something so important that I have to bring into that. If you’re doing these things and caring for people but there are strings attached, you’re doing it wrong. You’re going to lose. If you’re doing anything above and beyond the transaction, the things you’ve agreed to where money is changing hands for these things, anything you do above and beyond, that needs to be with no strings attached. That’s how you show care.
- 29:52 You have to actually want that for people. If you’re just like, “Hey, I’m going to do these nice things. By the way, if you subscribe…” No strings attached! People catch on to that. They’ll know. They sniff it out like a bloodhound. People know stuff. It’s hard to get away with things these days, it really is. When I worked for AT&T a few years ago, at a business level, people could walk in and buy a phone or get on a plan. I’d be like, “Yeah, I can set you up with that.”
- 30:53 There would be times where I’d be like, “Hey, here’s a phone. We got you set up. If you don’t have time now, you can come back tomorrow and I will teach you how to use the phone.” Aaron, if I’m sitting there with a 75 year old woman who has never used a smart phone in her whole life, and I’m spending two hours teaching her how to use this smart phone, am I making money? Technically, I’m on hourly, but I’m not generating more income in that moment for the business.
- 31:28 I’m not doing anything for the franchise, but I’m showing that woman that I care. I’m showing those customers that it’s about more than just getting a profit. We actually want to help them. Trying to implement this across the board can be really difficult. Doing the unscalable is really difficult, but it’s really fulfilling. Your customers, clients, or audience will feel lit when you do those things. There’s never a downside to adding anything positive to someone’s life. Staple that to your desktop monitor.
- 32:17 Aaron: I agree with you 100%. I’m only 31 years old, so take it with a grain of salt, but in all my years, I’ve found nothing more satisfying than helping other people achieve success—whatever that looks like for them. I give someone a piece of advice or a world of encouragement, and then two years later, they come back and they’re like, “I did this thing because of that email that you sent. Everything has been incredible.” I have yet to find anything as satisfying and rewarding as that. Try to help people be successful. Do the unscalable things. Blow your customers’ minds.
- 33:03 Cory: Seriously, they’re going to say, “What?” Those are the best, when you get a package in the mail, you open it up, and you’re like, “Wait, what?” It’s so good. Do the kind of things that make your customer, client, or audience member go, “Wait, what?” Do that stuff.
You show care by helping make the lives of others better just because you want that for them, no strings attached.