Customer Love, with Vance Morris

Customer Love, with Vance Morris

Vance Morris

Vance Morris is the king of client experience. He coaches executives in Disnifying their businesses; is the author of multiple books; is a keynote speaker… and still runs his own services business as well.

To chat about all of this, as well as the nuances of running information services businesses, which is what many of the Pixie’s customers try to do, Leticia brought on Vance for a chat.

Here is the audio, and the transcript is below. Remember to subscribe and rate it if you enjoy it!

Podcast transcript

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Leticia:

Hello Pixie fans and friends. Today, I have a very special interview for you. It is with Vance Morris, who is someone way up there on my pedestal of people to watch, and follow, and learn from. Vance Morris is one of the world’s leading authorities on customer service, or what he would probably prefer to call it, client service and experience. He’s a renowned expert on direct response marketing, and business building, and marketing strategy. He worked for Disney for a long time, 10 years as a senior manager, where he started in the opening team of the yacht and beach club resorts, and progressed through the management ranks as a nightclub manager at Pleasure Island, service trainer of both the Empress Lilly, and on the revitalization team of the Contemporary Resort in the mid ’90s.

Vance is now a Disneyfication trainer, is what I would like to call it. And his book about how to Disnify your business is called Systematic Magic: 7 Magic Keys to Disnify Your Business. And it’s all about service culture and how to improve the customer love, client love in your business.

He is a business leader and entrepreneur himself. He has owned a bricks and mortar business, still owns it, still runs it in carpet cleaning. And it’s in that business that he tests his own marketing and direct response strategies before teaching them to other people. And one of the results of that is that his business has started sucking up it’s competitors who couldn’t compete with his marketing. It’s actually quite amazing.

I have been following Vance for a long time, and we recorded this interview a few months ago. And so is my intense pleasure to bring this to you. The interview goes for about an hour, and we talk about everything, from service cultures, to remuneration, how kids are raised, what employment is like for them now. The differences between regular bricks and mortar businesses, or regular service businesses and information products businesses, and how you can start thinking differently perhaps about your own marketing, your own publishing, and what kind of place that has for your clientele, and some of the attitudes that it takes to create it. It was a really fun chat. So enjoy it, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Vance, welcome to the show.

Vance:

Well, I appreciate it. Thanks so much for having me.

Leticia:

Now, there are many, many, many things we could talk about, and that you have been interviewed about ad nauseam, from your career, to working for Disney, to entrepreneurship, to direct response marketing. And each one is really an episode in itself, but no doubt, we will touch on each one of them. What I would really like to focus on today is the nexus kind of between all of them at that place where customer love, and content, and publishing kind of overlap.

Vance:

Certainly. And they do overlap.

Leticia:

They really do, don’t they? First, let’s get one thing out of the way up front. Where does your passion for service truly come from? Surely, it’s part of you, and not just from your working life.

Vance:

Yeah, definitely. I’ve done it all my life. I don’t know, if I sat on a psychologist sofa and somebody wanted to examine my brain … There’s something just, I think, inherent that just makes me feel like, not that I want to serve people, but that people deserve to be treated well. That if they’re paying for a service, they deserve to get the best service that they possibly can for what they paid. And I’ve just been a firm believer all my life is, before Disney pounded it into my head, that if you’re going to do a job, do it well.

Vance:

I had … They don’t have them anymore here in the States, I don’t know if they do in Australia, but we used to have newspaper routes, where teenage kids, boys and girls would deliver the day’s newspaper, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Those jobs are all now held by adults.

Leticia:

Yes, they are.

Vance:

The newspaper route is gone. Kids can’t get that job anymore. It’s an adult that gets in a car and drives around. Now, when I had the newspaper route, my mother taught me, she goes, “This is your job. I’m not going to drive you around if you’re sick or if it’s raining because this is your job.” Now, she did take me around once I had the flu. She wasn’t going to do the job for me, but she made me come along with her. Same thing with lawn mowing. I mean, kids used to mow lawn. You could find a neighbourhood kid for $10 and they would come and mow your yard. Now, it’s all these big giant companies run by adults. So, a lot of what’s built my background and really shaped me for the future, really, it’s kind of sad those opportunities aren’t there for kids anymore.

Leticia:

Do you think that makes it harder for kids to learn a service ethos given that they can’t get into it young enough for it to make a real impression?

Vance:

100%, 100%. One job I had, this is a few years ago, I was a food service director for our retirement community, so where all the old people came to live. No offence to anybody 65 and over listening to your podcast. But we felt so strongly about giving young people an opportunity that we actually started to hire them at age 14.

Leticia:

Wow.

Vance:

Now, in the States, they are allowed to start working, they’re allowed to work three hours a day at age 14, as long as they have permission from the school and permission from their parents. And I tell you, I mean, we can teach them … I can teach anybody anything. I can teach you how to carry a tray, I can teach you how to clean a carpet, I can teach you how do direct response marketing. But what I can’t teach is what you bring to the tables, that sense of pride, just having that happy personality. There are certain personalities that people bring to a job that you can’t teach those kinds of things.

Vance:

So we were very fortunate, I had 350, 14 to 17-year-olds working for me at one point. So we were very lucky. I knew it was probably over the course of my career, probably about 4,000 teenagers came through that programme.

Leticia:

Wow.

Vance:

So they were very fortunate to have it.

Leticia:

What kind of an impact did that programme have on those kids? Do you know? Did you ever do any followup?

Vance:

Oh, certainly. I mean, kids would come back after they graduate high school and they went on to college. Kids would come back every summer, one, to work because it was a great place to work. Two, they came in to say thank you, because we taught them how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and greet someone the way you would expect to be greeted. Not these days, where kids, they look down at the ground, they give you that limp fish soggy handshake. They thanked us for doing that. And they actually said that we gave them a leg-up over so many other candidates, whether it be in school or job applications, because they already had the experience under their belt for three or four years before they got out into the workforce.

Leticia:

That’s huge. It brings me actually to my next question. About four years ago, you were at an interview with [inaudible 00:08:41], in which you were talking about how service in America sucks.

Vance:

Yeah.

Leticia:

And it made me think that, in Australia, we don’t have a service culture really, and so when you provide outstanding service to people in a lot of businesses, that’s seen as overdoing it. But it strikes me that some of those barriers are what people bring to the table because they’ve never had an experience when I were younger, where they was shown the impact of what great service could be.

Vance:

Right. I was in Australia doing a speaking tour back in November before all the smoke, and fires, and the devastation, although beginning end of my trip, they started to come into Sydney. But I know there’s no tipping really in restaurants or services like they do in the States. But I found that people that had that inner drive, or that inner desire to, say, satisfy people, but to really serve someone to their fullest, they were still there regardless of whether they were getting tipped or not.

Vance:

I went to a small pub in Manly Beach, and the bartender was just … I mean, he was busy, but he took the time to explain the menu, explain the specials. He was very friendly, continued to make sure that my glass was always full, etc. So those are … I think I found 15% of the places I went delivered great service in Australia. And I’ll tell you, usually in the States that’s not even close to 15%. So whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it right.

Leticia:

I’ll have to eat my words then. That’s good to hear. I have wondered sometimes whether the fact that we don’t have a tipping culture is something that kind of evens the playing field a little bit, like people are in the job because they want to be there, or they have a natural strength for it. It tends to be more like that rather than everyone having a baseline, very, very low wage, they’re all paid reasonably well for what they do. But I haven’t travelled to somewhere that does have a tipping culture, so I could be just talking rubbish really.

Vance:

No, not at all. I mean, I think regardless of how you get paid or what you get paid, there are superstars in every industry. And those are the ones that will get the raises, those are the ones that’ll get the promotions. A lot of these wages, they call it a minimum wage here in the States. And I think that you’re really doing people a disservice service, it should actually be called an entry-level wage because it’s not designed for you to support yourself on for the rest of your life. I mean, this is a starting job, and the expectation is that the more valuable you become to the company, the more you would be compensated.

Vance:

This is one of the things we did at Disney when I was a leader at Disney is, as people learn new tasks or new job responsibilities, they got increases in their pay. And I wish more companies would get away from that, well, you’ve been there 10 years so we’ll give you that longevity increase, is a bunch of garbage. Just as you’re hanging around, it doesn’t mean that you’re doing a good job. So pay for performance is definitely something I 100% agree on.

Leticia:

That’s a really good point, to call it an entry-level wage. I feel like it would solve a lot of angst that kind of naturally exists. I hear a lot of business owners talking about millennials, for example, often in a disparaging way, about how they come into jobs and expect to be paid X, Y, Z amount, which is way too much for where they are. But if it had that kind of terminology, it would change literally everybody’s perspective about what it means to have a job, that you do have to start at the entry level and somehow work your way up. And if you’re in a great business, they will teach you how to level up year on year, or whatever.

Vance:

Yeah. And I am not a millennial, although I have a few that work for me. And again, I don’t want to broad stroke this to say that all millennials are this way.

Leticia:

No.

Vance:

But you know there are diamonds in the rough out there that want to do the hard work, start at the entry level and work their way up. And I think most employers appreciate that, so that they don’t have to be [inaudible 00:13:46].

Leticia:

Yes, I agree. I have a curly question for you, Vance. The terms, user experience, and customer experience, and customer service have all kind of separated and seem to becoming increasingly generic, while customer service seems to be an expense line that people always constantly want to reduce as opposed to helping people. But how would you define the difference, for example, between customer service and customer experience? Because, to me, they are different things.

Vance:

Yeah. One of the thing, and I just wrote an article about this last week, and I’m trying really hard to stop using the word customer, because a customer indicates that it’s just a transaction that’s occurring. And in my carpet cleaning business that I still own, we call them clients, because clients are somebody that is under your and protection, so I feel that my clients are under my care when it comes to their textile cleaning needs. As opposed to going to McDonald’s, and those are customers because it’s just a transaction, there is no experience there other than maybe a poor one. So I really try to just get away from that word customer.

Vance:

Also, customer service is not a department. They say, “Oh, we’re going to transfer you to the customer service department.” I’m like, “Well, what the hell are you? What were you?” And it’s really frustrating.

Vance:

I think the difference between service and experience, experience is the overall thing you get from dealing, well, not dealing, but working with or experiencing a company. That starts with the marketing. What do their ads look like? What do their videos look like? How do they present themselves in their marketing? Are you attracted to this particular business for whatever reason? Or does their marketing repel you? Which marketing is designed to do that. It should attract the people you want to do business with and repel the people you don’t. But that starts the experience.

Vance:

And then that first phone call, or that first email, or that first online form that’s filled out, how did that feel? I mean, people make buying decisions based on feelings. You like to think that you’re going to think through it logically, like, okay, it’s got a flux capacitor and 19 knobs that will do this, and it’ll fold my laundry, and sort the socks, and everything. No, no, no, they don’t do anything. How do you feel when you’re making the purchase? If you don’t feel good, the purchase is not going to happen.

Vance:

So I think it’s that overall, the entirety of that, I don’t want to use the word experience as definition of experience, but that overall experience that people are having is so much different from just that customer service or customer experience, if that makes sense.

Leticia:

Yes, it does. It’s interesting, years ago, I worked in a major newspaper in the customer service team. And we were separate from sales, and they were on a different part of the floor, and completely separate from marketing. And internally, it didn’t really work terribly well, because what would happen is, someone over here in marketing would design a thing without having talked to any customers. And then the customer service team would try and help people through whatever that package was after the sales team had sold it. And at some point, the connections between them would break down. So we always had people coming in to listen to phone calls to work out why we weren’t better at doing the things to retain clients or upsell them on stuff. But from the customer service team’s perspective, lots of people felt like everyone else in the business didn’t even understand the reasons why people purchased in the first place.

Leticia:

And that comes back to your point that, the experience is a whole business. It’s not just someone who calls you to say, “Hey, do you want this thing?” And pass you on to someone who then will service your needs. Because everybody in a business should do that.

Vance:

I mean, you could work for the worst company in the world and be the best salesperson, best interviewer, what have you, and the people that are dealing with you are going to have an entirely different opinion of the company than maybe dealing with somebody else, one desk down from you.

Leticia:

True.

Vance:

So, I mean, it always comes down to the individual. I mean, yes, there are things that companies do, there are philosophies, how they do business will certainly wear on people. But the people, again, they bring it to the business themselves. These are traits that we have, that we bring to our jobs. And those are the ones that you have to look for and hold on to.

Leticia:

Yeah, good point. I find when it comes to small businesses, that so many of them are so focused on acquisition, getting new people all the time, that they neglect the kinds of simple systems and courtesies that create longterm loyalty. And I don’t think I’m living in a bubble. Is that really the case?

Vance:

Oh my. We have this argument all the time with clients. Until I show them on paper mathematically that it is 7 to 10 times more expensive to get a new client than it is to hold bond to an existing client, they really don’t get it. I mean, again, I’ll use my small business that I own, the carpet cleaning business. And it costs me $65 to get a new customer or new client. That’s a big expense. The cost for me, and not even the cost, the investment that I do to retain a client is about $14 a year. So I would rather spend $14 a year all day long than spending $65 because you’re 7 to 10 times more profitable by doing this.

Vance:

The small courtesies, I mean, I’ve always done handwritten Thank You letters to all of my clients. I do them to this day. And, yes, is it tedious? Yes. Does it take some time? Yeah. But I feel that it is extremely important that people realise that they are doing business with a person, and they’re not doing business with a business. And that’s the way it really is, some people do business people.

Vance:

But the thing is, is that if you add any of these small courtesies, like a handwritten Thank You letter … I just bought a roof last year. We had to instal a new roof of the house, so $15,000 US purchase.

Leticia:

Wow.

Vance:

I didn’t even get a Thank You email, let alone a handwritten Thank You. And my clients who spend maybe $300 are getting a handwritten thank you. And that’s one of the things that … Your competitors are too lazy, they are, your competitors are too lazy to copy you. They don’t copy me. They know exactly what I’m doing and none of them copy it.

Leticia:

That’s true. And you have a very high profile in this stuff, it’s not like nobody knows who you are.

Vance:

Exactly.

Leticia:

That’s crazy. It’s funny, I do something similar, I don’t send Christmas cards or whatever, but I send Valentine’s day gifts to all of my customers. I call it Customer Love Day. So what I do is, I send handwritten thank yous telling each one why I appreciate them, with a gift. And the response is extraordinary. And it doesn’t matter how many people know that you do it, nobody else does it because they can’t be bothered spending the time.

Vance:

Right. I mean, and when we’re talking about gifts, people love surprises. I don’t know if you guys ever had Cracker Jacks. It was a little box of popcorn candy, and there used to be a little prize at the bottom of the box. This is going back into the ’70s and ’80s, I don’t even know if they do it anymore. But people love surprises, people love gifts. And in addition to my Thank You cards, every month I go through our client list, and I pick out between five and seven of our best clients, people that have either spent a certain amount of money with us, or have cleaned with us a certain number of times, and then I will actually send them … Maryland, the State I live in, has a State Cake, it’s called the Smith Island Cake.

Leticia:

Okay.

Vance:

And I will actually order these cakes and have them shipped to these clients’ homes, just as a thank you, they didn’t even have to buy anything within the last couple of weeks or months. It’s just that they were just next on my list that I’ve segmented, who were due up for a cake. And there isn’t a cake that goes out that I don’t get a call or a thank you for the thank you that I sent out.

Leticia:

Brilliant.

Vance:

You just have to be creative when you’re doing it.

Leticia:

And to some extent, in my mind, anyway, it’s about kind of getting over the fact that you own a business, right? These people come to you because they trust you, and you do a good job, so they will pay you what you deserve to be paid or whatever. But it’s more about creating friendship and genuine feeling of community, isn’t it? It’s not just about you paying me to do a thing?

Vance:

Oh, certainly. I mean, I’ve had this business now almost 15 years. And I’m not in the field that often anymore as the owner, but when I do see my clients, they ask about my children. Now, you’re saying to yourself, why would somebody be asking a carpet cleaner about their children? Well, they have watched my kids grow up. I have always shamelessly used my children in all of my marketing. So my clients know that my daughter is in ballet, that my one son is a fantastic competitive swimmer, one is a musician, and one is studying at college right now. And they’ve watched them, and they ask, “How was Emma’s recital last week?” And I’m like, “How did you know about that? Oh, wait, that’s right. I told you about it.”

Vance:

So if you’re marketing through email, the worst thing you could possibly do in an email is send a corporate looking email that’s got your logo and an image on it. No, have a personal conversation, or write like you’re writing to one person and tell them about what’s going on. This stuff works. The relationship building piece is so crucial to … I mean, once people have that relationship with you, they’re never leaving. That lady who asked me about my daughter and her ballet is never leaving me. She’s emotionally attached to my company and to me, and you can’t put a price on that.

Leticia:

No, you can’t. You really can’t. And then if anyone was to watch you do that, they would just stand there and say, “Vance, tell me the trick that you used to do that.” And there isn’t one.

Vance:

There isn’t, there isn’t. I mean, marketing is very incestuous. Back when there were phone books, the plumbers, for example, would open up the phone book, look in the plumbing section, and look at all the plumbing ads, and saying, “Okay. Well, I guess that’s what a plumbing ad is supposed to look like. It’s got a picture of my van. It’s got, we 24/7 service.” So all the ads end up looking the same. Now, what a van has to do with plumbing, I have no idea. We assume you have a vehicle to get to my home to fix the plumbing, so why is there a van there? Why are you wasting that ad space?

Vance:

So everybody copies everybody else, and most of the time they’re wrong. So doing your own thing, whatever feels right to you, whatever brings your personality out is going to certainly attract the right people to your company.

Leticia:

I talk about that to my clients constantly, and to my prospects as well, in my email lists and whatever. But sometimes I think that this whole idea of doing your own thing is really scary for people, they feel like they don’t have … maybe they have imposter syndrome, or maybe they just don’t have the courage to back themselves perhaps. But it does take a little bit of effort to not copy people and to do your own thing.

Leticia:

And so, when you have built your systems for your clients, and for your prospects, and in your marketing, and all of the stuff that you do, did you go through a period of validating what you did? Because I know that you’re reasonably big on data. Could you talk me through what that process was like for you? Did you test a lot of things before you worked out what was great for you?

Vance:

Oh, yeah. I made so many mistakes, and very expensive mistakes as well. And it really wasn’t until … And I encourage people to go out and find masters at whatever it is that you’re looking to learn, whether it be marketing, sales, advertising, etc. And I was smart enough to know that I was not a good marketer for my business and that I needed to learn. So I went out and I looked for people to teach me. And the people that I sought out, the Dan Kennedys, Joe Polish, and folks like Jay Abraham, folks like that, that became my teachers, were all 100% don’t …

Vance:

Nobody has the budget of a Coca Cola, a Walmart, or any of those brands. You can’t do brand advertising as a small business, you’ll go broke. And that’s what everybody tries to do. They tried to do brand advertising. And the only thing that we can do as a small business that’s effective is direct response marketing, but doing direct response marketing with our personality. It takes time. I mean, it took practise to be able to really be constable using … I mean, I have a very dry sense of humour, I am very sarcastic. Two things that if my wife knew about me she wouldn’t have married me. But those things come across now and people understand my sense of humour.

Vance:

In the States here, back a few years ago when we had the elections between Trump and Clinton, I used stuff that was going on in the news in my marketing. And I had a very large postcard that had a caricature of Trump and a caricature of Clinton, so this way I was covering both sides, and I was not going to be judged left, or right, or anything like that. And then I used that as marketing piece, and the headline was very tongue in cheek, Don’t Build a Wall Around Yourself. That was back when Trump was trying to build a wall.

Vance:

People appreciated that because you are more interested in what you do than anybody else is. So nobody cares about carpet cleaning.

Leticia:

Sure.

Vance:

They really don’t. I care more about it than my clients and my prospects. So you’ve got to talk to them about things that are going to interest them, and then you weave in, “Oh, by the way, we were having a special on this.” But you’ve got to work your personality into your marketing and into your business.

Leticia:

That’s true. That’s so true. And when you do that you become a leader almost by default, don’t you? If you think of all of the great influences that anybody could think of, they wouldn’t be like that if they didn’t have a personality.

Vance:

Exactly. It’s funny, I don’t know, but I would say I put somebody out of business, but last year I purchased a company that was going belly up. And when I met with the owner, he says, “Your marketing put me out of business.” I was like, if that doesn’t say you should be doing personality or education-based marketing, I don’t know what that is.

Leticia:

No, that’s right. Also, it’s an interesting situation, where I wonder if he saw that as a challenge, could he do it better, or maybe he just didn’t know how?

Vance:

No, he didn’t know how, and he was lazy.

Leticia:

Huh?

Vance:

He thought that he could just, like I said, put an ad in the yellow pages and people will come. Well, maybe 25 years ago, you could do that. It doesn’t work that way now.

Leticia:

No, it doesn’t. Do you think that laziness or the unwillingness, perhaps, if we don’t judge it, if we say it’s an unwillingness to put the effort in to do a thing, is that what prevents so many small businesses from putting things in place that would enable them to market effectively to their existing clients or prospects?

Vance:

Oh, certainly. You’ve got to get out of your own way a lot of times. A lot of times it’s just it’s head trash, stuff that’s going on inside your head that is preventing you from doing what really needs to be done.

Vance:

Also, you look at some people feel entitled to having business, people maybe have advanced degrees or things like that. And they say, “Well, I have a doctorate in this or a PhD in that, and people should just come to me because I’ve got this alphabet soup behind my name, all the letters and things.”

Vance:

So I really think that there is a certain amount of people that don’t want to put in the hard work in order to get this kind of thing up and running. Maybe lazy is too harsh of a term, maybe uneducated or unknowing that this is what they should be doing. But, yeah, in order to succeed, you’ve got to be able to put in the time.

Vance:

I mean, now, I have all of my stuff running on Autopilot. I don’t have to do anything with my marketing for the carpet business because I’ve tested stuff, I’ve measured things, I’ve seen what worked, I’ve tweaked what needs to be tweaked, and things just happen automatically now. And I don’t need to spend a lot of time on it, which gives me the time to go and figure out how to generate more sales, or get more clients.

Leticia:

That reminds me. Who was it that wrote Love Your Customers? Was it … That was …

Vance:

I have that book on my shelf, I’m-

Leticia:

Me too, I’m just looking at it. Jack Mitchell.

Vance:

Yeah.

Leticia:

It’s Jack Mitchell. Yes. So that book is amazing. And one of the things that really stuck in my mind about Jack’s narrative when he wrote about loving customers in his own business, was the fact that they had a database, like a really good database in the ’70s. And that their family always took service, I guess, as the key principle in everything that they did, to the point where when they first opened, if you came in to have a look at the suits on the rack, that you could have a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever.

Leticia:

And that notion of having the systems in place to enable you to do that is actually one of the critical things that you have to create as well as doing the work. And yet, even though we’re in this sea of amazing technology, where anyone can build a database really easily, or don’t even have to now, you can just buy a subscription somewhere and someone else will do it, people still don’t do that, and I wonder why. In your experience, because you’ve worked with so many companies, what is it that stops people doing that? Is it because they … And I’m struggling with this idea that people don’t know that they should do it, I guess. Maybe you could shed some light on that.

Vance:

Sure. Are we talking more about creating systems, are we talking about really loving the database?

Leticia:

Really loving the database, I think.

Vance:

Well, if you know your numbers … and I think this is where a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners really fall flat on their faces, is they don’t understand or don’t know the key metrics that are in their business. As I mentioned before, it costs me $65 to get a new client. If you don’t know what your client acquisition cost is, you don’t know how much you can spend to market to people, you don’t know what your pricing should be.

Vance:

And when you realise that if you … and I’m in a low tier category, there’s nothing sexy about carpet cleaning. But if you’re in a hot market, some kind of computer, or artificial intelligence, attorney, where marketing and getting a client is extremely expensive, think about if you have 1000 people in your database and it costs $65 per person, your database is now worth $65,000. Your database is one of, if not the biggest assets in your business. And when you go to sell, people, yeah, they’re going to look at the building, yeah, they’re going to look at your equipment, or your vehicles, or your toys, or what have you.

Vance:

But the main thing, people and people that are assessing the value of a business is going to look at the database. How many people in that database are active? How many are repeat clients? What is the repeat client frequency? So knowing those numbers is, is vital. And I think that’s what, and maybe even the word database scares people. I mean, it don’t scare me because all I know is it’s just a list of people that do business with me.

Leticia:

Yes.

Vance:

So, I mean, maybe, again, reframing it, or changing the title of it will help people. But I think if you put a dollar figure, what did it cost you to build this client list, you will treat that client list a lot better.

Vance:

I mean, think about it as a new car. You get a new car, you treat that thing really, really well. I mean, you clean it, you have people take their shoes off before they get into it, nobody’s allowed to smoke, you can’t eat, you can’t drink, nothing in the new car, because it’s got a tremendous amount of value to you.

Leticia:

True.

Vance:

Whereas, a used car or a car that’s 5 or 10-years-old, it’s got a couple of scratches, the value of it is low. I’m not going to treat it as well as if it was brand new. And I think treating your clients like a brand new car, one, they deserve it. Two, that should give you the forethought of mind, that this was an expensive investment to get this database.

Leticia:

I like that. That’s great, because that’s kind of-

Vance:

I just came up with it.

Leticia:

It’s excellent. Well done. I think that’s really good. Because that’s really the mindset that a lot of business owners have to start with is dollars. So that makes sense.

Vance:

It does come down to a lot of things. Unfortunately, do come down to money, but it’s one of those metrics that people understand.

Leticia:

Yes. Correct. I want to wind one back a bit, you mentioned that you’ve made many mistakes and expensive ones. Are you willing to tell us a story about one of those mistakes and what you learned?

Vance:

Sure. Again, copying what everybody else is doing, we’ve already said that. But, yeah, back when I first started the business, I bought what the salespeople were selling me. Again, let’s take the phone book, for example. The salesman came to my office, and he showed me the phone book, and said, “Okay, this guy’s got this half page ad, this guy has got this full page ad, but you want to be at the beginning of the section. And in order to do that, you need to do a two-page ad.” I’m like, “Well, okay.” And then they sell it to you, like, “Well …” I said, “Of course, how much does that cost?” And they’re like, “Well, how many, how many jobs do you need to do to pay for this ad? And they sell it to you like that.

Vance:

There’s really not true math, because sure if I only need just do three jobs to pay for the ad, well, I still got to pay my employee, I got to pay for the chemicals, the vehicles, and everything else, so it’s really not just free jobs to pay for the ad. But I bought it. I didn’t know any better, I didn’t have anybody to talk to or ask about it. And that cost me bundle of money. I mean, just an absolute bundle of money. But I learned, and I slowly would … And actually, phone book still work in certain parts of the States. And I still have a couple of ads in a couple of books, but ones that are working. But I know that was the big one financially.

Vance:

I haven’t really had anything come back to me. Well, no, I did one email a while back that I got a lot of complaints on. They thought that I … Every year I do a Save My Marriage campaign, where it’s designed to … Christmas time is usually slow for in-home service providers, so I do a whole story about, hey, help save our marriages by giving us some work so we get out of the house and our wives aren’t completely complaining to us that we’re not doing anything. And then it was a picture of my wife strangling me. And I got three or four people who called and said, “How dare you make fun of domestic abuse?”

Leticia:

Oh dear.

Vance:

Seriously?

Leticia:

Wow. That’s a process [crosstalk 00:42:06].

Vance:

I may never clean for those 3 people again, but for the other 3000 that got the card, I didn’t have any problems.

Leticia:

That’s one thing I was going to ask you about is, a time where you published something that could potentially have done more harm than good, and how do you recover? Because in my business, which helps people to understand publishing and write material, that’s a big fear. And I think it’s one of those things that stops people from doing something that is really unique to them, because they’re worried that it’s going to be unprofessional, or it’s going to damage their careers in some way. And it really does.

Vance:

[crosstalk 00:42:45] professionalism sometimes needs to be thrown out the window because you don’t want to look too corporatey as a small business. But I always look at it, when I write my emails or I write my headlines, I’m always thinking, if my grandmother heard this, would she take me out back to the woodshed and take me to task? That’s kind of my litmus test.

Leticia:

That’s a great test.

Vance:

And I talk to my grandmother about the subject or the way I’m writing this particular piece copy. And if grandma’s okay with it, if somebody else has a problem, I’m happy because grandma’s happy

Leticia:

A like the grandma rule. I used to say that in customer service teams, if you wouldn’t say it’s our policy grandma, then why would you say that to a customer?

Vance:

Exactly. Put grandma at the front or at the end of the sentence. And if it doesn’t sound right, don’t use it.

Leticia:

Don’t use it. And you’ve been in bricks and mortar business, your carpet cleaning business, and you’ve worked in large corporates, and you have an information products business. And the information products businesses is what a lot of my clients are kind of building inside their own small businesses as well. What’s the one key difference between the two types of business in terms of sales that you think everybody should know?

Vance:

I really don’t think that there is that much of a difference. I’m still selling … In either business, I still think of the information products as a service. People have a problem and they are looking to me to solve the problem. And the way I solve the problem is by providing support, resources, whether it’s the books, or videos, or what have you. So to me, it’s the same. I really don’t see a difference.

Vance:

And I think that’s where a lot of information marketers get hung up, is that they look at some of the big names out there, and information marketing, and think that they need to do it like that. And what they don’t realise is that, 20 years ago when they were first starting out, people always try to copy the Frank Kerns, and the Dan Kennedys, and those guys. And you can’t copy them because they’ve been in business 20 years, they’ve got a mailing list of a million people and you don’t. So, again, getting it onesie-twosie, just continue to build and work, and build and work just like you would a bricks and mortar business.

Leticia:

That’s great. That was the answer I was hoping you were going to give me. It was kind of a trick question.

Vance:

But you didn’t catch me.

Leticia:

No, it’s great. You are too sharp for that. That’s true. It’s exactly the same. One of the things that I often say to people is that, if you are publishing, then you’re publishing is a business, and it has a mission, and it has an intention. And you have to treat it that way. It’s not just something that you bolt on to something that you already have in a sense, because if you want to create it effectively, it can become its own entity in a sense. And I think that’s an ideal where a lot of people want to go, but just can’t see the path ahead of them.

Vance:

I would agree.

Leticia:

So in Systematic Magic, you talk about Disney’s key principle, which is to create happiness. And one of the things I wanted to ask you about is about working to a principle, which we kind of have in this conversation about the fact that people deserve great service, and that treating people like is important, and being personal is important, and not copying people and just doing what’s in your heart is what’s really going to succeed for you. But why do you think that working to a principal, as opposed to a stayed mission and purpose, which everybody tries to write and often doesn’t do correctly anyway, but why is working to a principal so effective?

Vance:

Well, because it’s easy for everybody to get their head wrapped around it. For example, I mean, Disney, I’m sure has a mission statement that is in a six inch big binder, probably encased in golds, sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust that nobody knows, even the guy who wrote it doesn’t even know what it says anymore. But their driving force, their theme, their mission is to make people happy. And so, your mission has to be bigger than your job. And that mission covers every facet of Disney business models. I mean, it covers their theme parks, their resorts, it covers how they do their films, their cruise line. I mean, every little piece of Disney is covered by that mission, make people happy.

Vance:

And as an hourly roll, this is how they get … I mean, in Orlando, they have 85,000 employees on the one property, and this is one of the ways that they get all those employees doing the same thing, it’s because they understand the mission, oh, we can make people happy. My job might be to sweep the streets, my job might be to queue the line, but my mission is to make people happy. And so, they know that they can wrap their head around it. It’s very simple. And that’s one of the things that does need … It looks complex from the outside, but when you’re on the inside, these are not complex systems. They are very simple because if they get complex, the thing’s going to fall apart.

Vance:

So if you’ve got a … I don’t even like to call them sales funnels, but if you’ve got a funnel, and you look at the picture on your screen, and the funnel looks like some kind of algebraic, and geometry with some trigonometry thrown in there, it’s too confusing. It ain’t going to work. Simple, straight line, I’m going to do this, and to do that, and then to do this, because that’s the way Disney does it, and it’s $153 billion a year company. And then they can do it with simple systems, anybody can.

Leticia:

And in any platform, in any market really-

Vance:

They’re certain.

Leticia:

… which is why when Disney+ launched, everyone went, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” Yeah, because their goal is to make people happy. It’s really simple.

Vance:

Right.

Leticia:

It affects everything from, the pricing structure, to the types of shows that are on there, to how you use it. It’s actually really simple.

Vance:

And people always ask, okay, well, it’s great you talk about Disney, but you know what, I don’t own a theme park. What does Disney have to do with anything else in the world, or dentists, or in-home service people, or physical therapist, or what have you? And I always remind people, you’re not trying to adopt what Disney does in your business because you can’t, and it won’t work, but you do want to adapt what Disney is doing.

Vance:

And people can have come up with their own mission. I worked with a dentist who wants to create a million smiles. That’s his mission.

Leticia:

I like that.

Vance:

[crosstalk 00:50:29] around that. For my carpet cleaning business, it’s we create healthy homes because we’re getting rid of the allergens, the pollutants, the dirt, the soil, the garbage, dog pee, etc. So that’s a mission that my employees can wrap their head around. Oh, we me a healthy home? Good, I can do that. As opposed to, we strive to serve our public through the [crosstalk 00:50:56], all that.

Leticia:

Yawn.

Vance:

Yeah, exactly.

Leticia:

At Brutal Pixie, one of the key principle, I guess, that underpins the business is to create safety and comfort. And that’s because our work is hidden. So when you pay a ghost writer like $25,000 a year for argument’s sake, which some people do, but they can’t see what you’re doing with their money, that’s a really terrifying place to be. And one of the outcomes of that in the earliest years of the business which I learned from was that, I had a customer that would send like 20 or 30 emails a day, because every time she had an idea, she would put it in an email, and the act of doing a thing made her feel better. So that was a big wake up call for me in terms of saying, well, what is it that’s driving the behaviour?

Leticia:

And it was a fear of disconnection, and not being able to see things which then created one of the simplest systems in my business, which is where we send an email every Monday saying, this is what we did last week, this is what we’re doing this week, here’s how to change it if something has moved for you. And suddenly, all of her emails stopped because she felt safe now. And so that’s kind of the principle that underpins everything. And the upshot of that is, now, one of our clients assesses her other service providers by our benchmark, which is fantastic, because that’s one of my goals.

Vance:

That’s fantastic.

Leticia:

Yeah. But you’re right, you have to experiment with that, and you have to do the work to understand how does that function in your business because your business has a thumbprint, it’s different to everyone else’s.

Leticia:

So that’s pretty much all I have except for the last comment that a great service and great content is kind of like slow food, isn’t it? It’s more nutritious, it’s made with love, people anticipate it, and it’s more valuable for people I think in the long run.

Vance:

That’s good. I’m going to have to use that one. No, I’m just kidding.

Leticia:

Oh, you can, you’re welcome to.

Vance:

Thank you. Ill send you a royalty every time I do it.

Leticia:

Yeah, 10 cents is enough. It’s fine.

Vance:

It’s a great analogy. You think about the great chefs out there who literally love their product, and they love the food, and they treat the food with respect. And then they produce some of the most incredible, gorgeous dishes that known demand. And you look at a fast food place, where you’ve got an eight-year-old teenager, who dropped the hamburger on the floor, and picked it back up, blew on it, he saw that looks good, put it back in a wrapper, and away it went. So, yeah, now, you’re absolutely correct with your analogy.

Leticia:

So all of that aside, what are you reading right now, Vance? And what do you think of it?

Vance:

I don’t know, a whole bunch of stuff. I usually have three or four books that I’m working through at one time. One is very light, very funny, Scottish comedian, name Billy Connolly, who just … He’s not a joke teller, he’s a storyteller. And I think that’s where … And I read things that will not only entertain me, but help me in my business and in my life. And his method of telling a story is so [inaudible 00:54:37], that I highly recommend that book. It’s called Billy Connolly, it’s called Tall Tales.

Vance:

One business book I’m reading right now, just started, it’s called The Formula, which is the universal formula for success. And this is all about a scientist who is broken down. This is not the Napoleon Hill success or anything like that, this is an actual person who has studied successful, and has literally come up with the formula to emulate to become successful. It was a very, very interesting read.

Vance:

And then I’m reading a history piece called 1983, Reagan and drop off and the world on the brink of cold war. It’s all about how in 1983 Soviet Union and US almost destroyed the planet. It’s really good book. So that’s what’s on the shelf right now.

Leticia:

Fantastic. They all sound really good. I’m going to have to get them. I love Billy Connolly. He’s fabulous.

Vance:

Oh, okay, so funny.

Leticia:

So funny. And lastly, Vance, the t-shirt question. If you had one shirt that you could control the message on wherever you walk around, what would the message say to people?

Vance:

Can I have two shirts?

Leticia:

Sure. Or a front and a back if you like.

Vance:

Okay, front and the back, there we go. Well, on one side, I’m a big Star Wars fan, not a freak, I’m a Star Wars fan, so Yoda is near and dear to my heart, and I would have, Do or Do Not, There is no Try on one side.

Vance:

And then on the other side would be my saying that I use with my clients, and I use with myself. And it is, You Won’t Profit Unless You Implement.

Leticia:

And it’s so true. In fact, I followed your advice with my newsletter, and I can say definitively, it works. It actually works.

Leticia:

Thank you so much for joining me today, Vance. It has been fantastic.

Vance:

Oh, my pleasure, Leticia. I’m glad we could do it.

Leticia:

How cool is Vance? Seriously, if you’re anything like me, you would have taken loads of notes. I took notes at the time when I talked to Vance, and I also took more notes when I was editing that interview. And just came out with loads, and loads, and loads of ideas, and new things, and different ways of thinking about what I do at Brutal Pixie, and how that influences things. So I hope you did too. It was a really, really good discussion. And super huge thanks to Vance for making himself available at what was actually pretty short notice, I have to say, for the interview. And it was really great.

Leticia:

Now, I need to tell you something, darling listener, about this podcast. So over the past seven years or so, I have had a situation where my podcast brain has kind of proliferated. And the net result is that I’ve had this fantastic podcast with all of you guys who are amazing listeners, and I have a flash fiction Podcast, which is my own thing. I have a dense podcast as well, which is a little bit surprising.

Leticia:

And in some fantastic news, I have to share with you that I am currently expecting a baby, which is due sometime around the end of October. And what’s going to happen is that my entire business and my entire approach to my media empire, shall we say, is changing, fundamentally changing, in order to kind of bring things back into line with what’s really important to me, and also to make sure that it can continue post baby, which sounds retarded for most mums I’m sure. But I’m expecting that my entire attitude on things is going to change somewhat.

Leticia:

So with all of this in mind, what that fundamentally means is that the Pixie Podcast is going away. I don’t mean completely, therein what I’m calling the great podcast consolidation, the pixie Podcast is going to be rebranded. It’s location will be moved, you won’t notice any difference if everything works well, cross your fingers, touch all the wooden things, all that stuff. If everything works out okay, you won’t notice any difference except for the fact that the format and the content is going to change wildly, I’m talking wildly.

Leticia:

Currently these episodes range from 20 minutes to an hour, an hour and a half, the new format is going to be more like three hours. Yes, you heard that right. So if that freaks you out, deservedly, I completely understand. But really a part of this consolidation is, bringing things back into line with the narrative of the business as it is becoming, which has been a process of world building for me, new world building, again, this so far seven years into the company. I have removed all of the out staff and subcontractors, so it is literally just me as the Brutal Pixie now. And the focus is really on mastery and not on scale. Mastery and quality versus scale. That’s really where my head is. And that feels really right for me.

Leticia:

So what does this mean for you? Well, the first thing is you need to decide whether or not you still want to be a subscriber, because frankly, a three-hour podcast is amazing in the car, but if you’re not in your car, very often, you might just think, oh my God, there is no way, right? There is just no way.

Leticia:

Even though some of the stories I have lined up for you are freaking amazing, there is one guest whose story is basically a story of bigamy, and betrayal, and love, and crime, and murder, and heartbreak, and everything in between. Fascinating, fascinating life. And that’s really why I’m moving the podcast into this new shape, this new form, because what really lights me up is other people’s stories I have to say. And I know so many fascinating people, that it’s an absolute crime for me not to share them in some way. And this podcast is the best way for me to do that.

Leticia:

So what is the long and the short of this, Leticia? Shut up and go away. The long and the short of it is that the Pixie Podcast is going to change, shift, morph, be rebranded, retitled, have a new format. The location of it is going to move. It will have its own landing pages, and all that administrivia jazz. Hopefully, I can do that without disrupting your experience terribly much.

Leticia:

So what I need you to do is work out whether or not you still want to subscribe. Maybe you want to stay a subscriber and suck it and see, and I’m totally down with that. One thing I’m not going to do is lose all the podcast episodes that I have created with all of these amazing people and topics so far, because that would just be a shame.

Leticia:

So there’s a bit of work to be done, and it’s not going to happen immediately, but it is going to happen. And it is going to happen, if everything works well, before August, so sometime in the next two months.

Leticia:

So there you go. That’s a huge kind of insight into what’s going on at my end. And if you want to kind of stay abreast of all of the shifts, and changes, and things going on, one really great way to do that is to go over to my publication called The Next Five Years, which is over at Substack, which is a journalist platform primarily. It’s thenextfive.substack.com. You can find it there. That gives you insight into the underground goings on inside the business, and my decision making, and all of this stuff, which doesn’t go out to the world in any other way.

Leticia:

So if you’re keen on that, go there, subscribe yourself. I try to get a letter out to everyone like once a week. Tends not to happen lately, maybe once a fortnight. In any case, you’ll still get it.

Leticia:

And if you’re interested in the kinds of work that I do at Brutal Pixie as the Brutal Pixie and some of the sales offers that I have, because, frankly, this is the only way to get hold of them, is to go to brutalpixie.com/daily-tips-email, sign up, add yourself to that. It’s a lot of email, six emails a week, and I sell in all of them. So if you hate that, we’re not going to be friends by email. Just saying.

Leticia:

In the meantime, this is kind of the beginning of the next phase, and I am super excited. You could probably tell. So, hopefully, you will hang around, and we will have many, many more fascinating conversations with brilliant people, and about what it really is like to be a human because we don’t get enough insight into that, I don’t think, in a meaningful, deep dive, fascinating, conversational way. So, that is what I’m going to do. I’m going to bring you some lives, and we shall see how we go.

Leticia:

Thanks for listening for this whole time. I really appreciate you. I hope you have a sparkling week this week, whenever that you are listening to this episode. And I will talk to you again very soon.

Leticia Mooney

The Brutal Pixie is Leticia Mooney. Race: Eladrin, Class: Publisher. --- Leticia is Australia's foremost authority on publishing in a business context. She ghostwrites for, and advises, entrepreneurial individuals in the professional services.

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