Customer Evangelists – LIFE APOCALYPSE – Jim Kukral Speaker *Mindset *Lifestyle *Impact *Purpose

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If you’re going to charge more for your product/service, then you better make sure you deliver more. I’m constantly amazed by how greedy business owners can be. They work so hard to build up a brand that people love, and when the first sign of success hits them, they scale back and raise prices and make their product not as good. That’s pure greed.

Here’s a tip. You can raise prices, fine. But you can’t scale back quality at the same time.

Restaurants do this all the time. My family used to frequent Boston Market all the time as a Friday night dinner spot. But the franchise decided to both raise the prices, and cut portions… all at once. So you tell me. Why in the world would I continue to eat there? I don’t.

Look at the businesses in your neighborhood who have lasted for 20+ years or longer. Those are the ones who realize that once you build a brand and find success, you can raise your pricing here and there, but you absolutely can’t lessen the quality of the product you serve.

Are you guilty of this? If so, you’re not going to be in business very long. The rules is this: If you raise prices, make sure you raise quality or quantity as well. This is true in any online or offline business. It’s the classic upsell and downsell argument.

For example, if I offered you coaching services at $50/month. Then a month later reduced that price to $25 to all new people. The people that paid $50 are going to pissed off, assuming I’m selling the same coaching product.

Now, if when I reduced the price, I also reduced the features… well then, that’s not the same is it? It works the same way when you raise the price.

So if I raise the price, I should add features. Your customer will continue to trust you if this is the way you practice. Otherwise, they’re going to feel like you cheated them.

Long-term success comes from consistency and fairness to your customer.

Blogworld Expo 2009 Recap

I’m just getting back into the swing of things, despite having been back over a week from Blogworld 2009. Whew, what a show. This was my third year attending, and also organizing and moderating the entire monetization track. If you didn’t make it to any of my sessions, too bad for you, because they were the best ones at the show!

Day 1 – Zappos

King Jim at ZapposThe week started off by taking a tour of the Zappos facility with a gaggle of others who also wanted to see just exactly what “awesome customer service” meant. On the bus was @ctango @jasonrubacky @AllisonNazarian @leesabarnes @elizabethpw @sarahrobinson @carlayoung @davetaylor @mpgomatic and me. We were picked up at the LV Hilton by the Zappos tour bus, and driven to their facility. Our tour guide, Mika, was fun, perky and well versed in the inner workings of the company. (I think they all have to be to do tours.)

Mika Tour Guide At ZapposWhen you first get into the lobby, you’re greeted by many bookshelves filled with books that their CEO Tony has read. You’re instructed to help yourself to a book as well. I helped myself to two, sorry Mika! Then it’s off on the tour. What a fun place. It’s lively, open, loud, and in general fun. I don’t see how it would be possible to get any “real” work done with all the “noise”, but I guess you get used to it?

One of the highlights of the tour was the blending station. With an actual Blendtec blender from the series. Of course, I had to ask if we could blend something and we did. Here’s the video of that.

Part 1

Part 2

Overall, Zappos is #1 because they get it on so many levels. You can tell they treat their employees right, and the employees love them for it. The do an extensive weeding out of the bad apples during the hiring process, and if you haven’t heard, they even offer potential employees $2k to not take the job. It works.

The rest of the day I spent doing a staff meeting with the Blogworld team. We get a tour of the show floor and the rooms and this and that. Same thing every year, I know what to do. :) I met with John (Vegasgeek) about a project we’re working on together, and had a few drinks with @jasonfalls of social media explorer. Wednesday was also the night I got to go see Mystere at Treasure Island.

Time I was in bed sleeping? Midnight.

Day 2 – Off Day

My track didn’t start until Friday, so I got to spend Thursday hanging out in Vegas. You know what the problem with “hanging out in Vegas” is? It means either drinking too much, or spending too much. I did both. At last count I drank Sake, Whiskey, Vodka, Beer and something else, I forget. Dinner was blur, and so was the late night fun. I do remember, however, meeting up with my new super-cool editor for my new book from Wiley… the awesome Shannon Vargo. I also remember not being let into the super-party at “The Bank” club because I was wearing shorts and sandals. It’s ok, I hate clubs anyway and I like it when they don’t let me in.

Time I was in bed sleeping? Um… 3am-ish.

Day 3 – My Track Begins

Got up out of bed and headed over the show with a mean head hurter. But managed to get all the panels in my track off without a hitch. Heck, I even moderated a few of them. If you want to see what my track looked like, you can view the agenda here. Tim Jones has a summary of the panel he was on here.

anniedukeFriday night was a blast because I got the opportunity to play in the Blogs with Balls charity poker tournament at the Hard Rock Casino. For $60, I was able to sit at a table with two professional poker players… and beat them both! Yep, I sat with Annie Duke (she was on the Celebrity Apprentice) and another guy named Gavin Smith. Side note: I’m pretty sure Annie and Gavin were completely annoyed that a total n00b beat them both. Oh well!

2-hours later, I had won the entire table and earned my way to the finals. What a rush! I hadn’t played poker in over two-years at least, but I kept getting good cards and kept getting lucky. For my effort, I won some prizes, including a year subscription to Sports Illustrated, a Tiger Woods Xbox game (which I gave to mad man Jason Rubacky) and a bottle of Crown Royal. Side note: You can’t pack a bottle of whiskey in your carry-on. TSA threw it in the trash. Duh, Jim. I didn’t advance very far in the final table, but it was a great time!

ipThings only got more fun that evening. After beating the pants off some poker sharks, the crew I was in headed over to the Imperial Palace to play some cards. “Why go there Jim? Isn’t that place dumpy?” Why yes, it is, in fact the bathroom I was in had raw sewage coming up through the floor drain. But! And a BIG but… they have celebrity lookalike blackjack dealers. We got to play against Tony Orlando (who was super funny) and Garth Brooks. Great time. Thanks to Brian Littleton for leading the crew. And Missy Ward, well, she’s always just awesome to hang out with.

I hate to admit that I had not eaten since noon and I had the cab driver take me through McDonalds at 2am. That Big Mac was great though.

Time I was in bed sleeping? Um… 2:30am-ish.

Day 4 – Final Day

Chad Vader & Jim KukralThis was actually the best day of the show for me. My panels were kicking on all cylinders. My room was packed for almost every one of them too. People were swarming the speakers at the end of every session wanting to get more questions answered.

On the show floor, I fulfilled a life-long dream of meeting Chad Vader, from the Web series. I got my picture with him and watched as he played actor Kevin Pollak in Rock’em, Sock’em Robots. Kevin won.

That night the show wrapped with a very nice dinner out by the pool put on by Blogworld, hanging out with Cleveland buddy Joel Libava, and a Tech Karaoke event in the casino. I was going to sing, but went upstairs to pack and fell asleep. #finalnightinvegasfail Rumor has it that Shannon Paul does a mean Pat Benetar Heartbreaker, but I can not confirm this.

I’ll be back for Affiliate Summit West 2010 in January.


Another GREAT show in Vegas for Blogworld. I was able to have a LOT of fun, and connect with many people that I only get to see on Twitter usually or in emails. There’s a million people I would want to call out here but it would take me hours. Remember, you NEED to go to shows like this because you NEED to get the face time with your peers. You need to be seen.

If you’d like to see a bigger breakdown of a ton of excellent blog updates from the show, visit the Blogworld blog.

Thanks to Rick, Dave and Jim for the invite again. See you next year!

My Customers Will NEVER Use Social Media!

jfk_lookIn my presentation called “Beyond the Website” (watch here) I have a slide that says this.

“The Internet is for kids and geeks, and MY customers will never be online.” – Unnamed 1990’s executive.

I don’t remember where I found that quote online, and I have no idea if it’s real or not (I bet it is). But I love it because it illustrates the short-sighted approach that many people take when emerging trends and technologies grab the hearts and minds of the world.

The thing is, people are still saying that quote, but today they’re inserting social media in place of “the Internet”. You know, things like Twitter, and Facebook and Myspace and all the rest. All of those things are just for kids and geeks… right.

Let’s redo the quote for effect. You know you know somebody like this.

“Social media is for kids and geeks, and MY customers will never use social media.” – Unnamed executive.

At this point I could go on and on about how that’s a big fail waiting to happen, and most surely a pink slip for the person who said it down the road as their business lags behind competitors who didn’t think that way.

However… let’s not do that. Let’s prove them wrong. On another slide in my presentation I point to a BusinessWeek piece that defines the 6 types of social media users.

BIG Image of above graphic

If you could really dig into this slide you would see that it’s not just kids that are using social media. The scale skews to younger, sure, but in fact, this data (which is two years old btw) does indeed show a major trend toward “older” people using social media in all kinds of facets.

Ignore social media at your own peril. This is your last warning!

Affiliates, Customer Evangelists & Twitter

So let me ask you a question. I’ve been trying to be an outside customer evangelist for many companies for years now. I won’t name the companies here at this time, but if you know me and have followed me you know who I’m talking about.

Here’s the question.


Why is it ok for a company to “market” their services/products on Twitter, but it’s not ok for me to do it as an affiliate evangelist of that product/service?

Here’s an example. A fishing supply company monitors Twitter search for people talking about fishing. The company then follows the person on Twitter and begins to engage them in a conversation about fishing. Which ultimately leads to them maybe getting a sale for their fishing supplies. Or a backlink, or publicity, whatever. They get something.

Now what about me? I’m a partner or affiliate for the fishing supply company. If I do the same thing. If I engage a follower/friend and talk about a product I truly love… People might say that I’m spamming? Shilling for a commission.

I am.

But isn’t that what the fishing supply company was doing?

It is. Don’t deny it.

So, why is that different then when I do it, assuming I’m an evangelist?

Why does the company get a free pass promoting themselves and the evangelist doesn’t?

When they do it, it’s “outreach” and being social/cool.

If an affiliate/partner/evangelist does it, it’s “trying to sell something”.

Fair? No. The way it is? I guess so?

I simply find it interesting to explore this new dynamic in our current social media world of marketing and sales. I also find it very interesting how the same companies that worked hard to quell customer evangelists, are now leap frogging the evangelists by adopting their techniques from the corporate level on their own.

What’s your take? For more reading, check out Scott Jangro’s two part series on affiliate links in Twitter. Part 1, part 2.

You can also hear a spirited discussion of this in our podcast from the other day.

Lastly, make sure you attend the Affiliate Summit this summer in NYC to talk more about this type of thing.

The Secret To Success Is Amazing Customer Service, Learn How

Over at my coaching site, ($1.00 Trial), I’m constantly interviewing the movers and shakers and experts in the online marketing world. Here’s another interview you will enjoy. Please leave a comment.

So do you do GREAT customer service? Are you sure? I sat down with author and entrepreneur John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group to get his advice on how to transform your business with amazing customer service.

Listen to the podcast with John here.

Want to know the secret to being successful? Shhh… It’s GREAT customer service! Don’t believe me? Listen to this podcast with John Dijulius of John is the author of What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience.

About John

He is the founder and CVO (Chief Visionary Officer) of The DiJulius Group, a consulting firm helping companies “Make Price Irrelevant”. Top organizations across the world use his philosophies and systems for creating world class service. He has worked with companies such as the Ritz Carltons, Lexus, Nordstroms, Starbucks, Hallmark Cards, Panera Bread, Cheesecake Factory, Hotel Del Cornado, Progressive Insurance, US Bank, Nemacolin Resort, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Chick-fil-A, and many more, to help them continue to raise the bar and set the standard in customer experience. John has pioneered dozens of revolutionary customer service concepts and techniques that are easy to use. He also makes them easy to implement with a process that will not allow your organization to let these great ideas slip through the cracks.

John is not just telling others how to do it. Besides owning and running The DiJulius Group, he is also the founder and owner of John Robert’s Spa, five locations (over 150 employees), which he uses as his living laboratories to test his findings and theories. John Robert’s Spa has been named one of the Top 20 Salons in America.

One of the most captivating and charismatic speakers today, John will not only share what the best customer service organizations do, but more importantly “how” they implement and execute it consistently companywide.

The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Annoy Your Customers

Are you annoying your customers with little things? Maybe you have some process in place that requires your customer to do extra work that is unneeded? Why? Because it’s more convenient to you and that’s just how you do business?

That’s the wrong attitude. You should never annoy your customers. Never. Here’s an example.

The other night I was at a Linkedin event at a local brewery. The good news I found out was that all pints of beer for the event were only $2.00. Which is a great deal because they’re usually $4.00. But when I went to pay the waitress, she said it was actually $2.16.

“Why $2.16,” I asked.

“Taxes, I know, it’s a big pain in the butt,” she said.

Ok, I have no problem paying the taxes. But $0.16 cents is annoying, very. Who wants to get a big gob of change back to hold in their pocket every time they order something? That’s fine at the gas station when I get some gum, but if I’m at an event and I’m socializing… do I really want to be annoyed trying to find 16 cents in my pocket?

The next day I was talking about this with my friend who was at the event with me. No, we weren’t talking about how good the beer was, or the place we were at, or the food we ate. We talked about how annoyed we were with the 16 cents. Heck, the could have charged me $3.00 for the beer and I wouldn’t have cared. I for sure wouldn’t have been annoyed.

What’s worse?

So a question for you, again. Do you annoy your customers? When they have an experience with you, is the last thing you want them to remember about you that annoying thing you do that bothers them?

It’s not about you. It’s about them. Fix it. Nobody wants to do business with someone who annoys them.

Creating Lifetime Customers

Have you ever thought about the lifetime value of a customer? Your customers? It’s huge. If you knew that your average customer spent $1,000 with you every year, then it’s pretty easy to calculate the average amount of money they will spend at your business for the next 30 years or more.

Case in point, my local auto mechanic. They know the value of a lifetime customer. Here’s two examples to prove it.

Example #1
Last summer I took my car in before our Summer trip to have the brakes changed because I thought it was time and they were squeaking. Two hours later I got a call saying “Their is nothing wrong with your brakes, you’ve got another 10k miles on them easy, come in and pick up your car, no charge.”

That’s instant trust. At that moment I knew I’d never have to take my car anywhere again.

Example #2
Last week I took the car back in because a piece broke above the tailgate which caused us to not be able to open the back gate. My mechanic looked it over for free, and ordered the part. The part came and we dropped off the car to have it fixed. A few hours later they called to tell us to come pick up the car, however “We were able to fix it without using the part, it was easy. So we’ll send the part back and the labor only took a few minutes, come get your car.”

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Can you give me one reason why I would ever, ever take my cars to another auto shop ever again? I won’t.

That’s the power of a lifetime customer.

Here’s what happens now. I will tell everyone I know about them, and I’ll go out of my way to do it to. I’ll also never question them in the future. If they came back to me with a big price tag next year, I’d say fix it, I trust you.

Again, are you seeing it yet? Are you seeing the power of this approach?

You can build lifetime customers too, if you follow the simple rules like my auto mechanic does. Any business owner can do this, in any industry.

Stop treating your customers like you hate them, and instead, start treating them as your friends.

You’ll be amazed at the results.

If you liked this blog post, you might also be interested in this podcast I did with a customer service pro named John Dijulius.

Do You Have Happy Customers?

Do you forget about the customers you already have? Some businesses do, and that will come back to hurt you down the road. Becky Carroll from says to take care of your customers, or lose them.

In this informative podcast, Becky and I talk about the top tips for retaining customers, as well as keeping them happy. Remember, if your current customers leave because you’re spending too much time thinking about new business… you’re in bad shape.

Becky lists the “4 Key Questions to Improve Your Focus”.

1. How many customers did we keep from last year?
2. Why did we lose customers?
3. Why do our best customers keep doing business with us?
4. How many of our retained customers can help us sell more?

Show Notes:

Identify your vip customers? Keep two-way conversation going.
Your existing customers want to be loyal to you. They want to be recognized and thanked for their business.
When a business creates a proactive customer strategy to retain and grow their current customers, everyone wins.
Customers feel appreciated and, in turn, buy more and refer you to others. The company grows their business with fewer resources. Sounds like a great way to beat the current economic woes!
Retention rate is like a relationship, it takes work.
At the very least identify the top vips and contact them.
Does bribing work? Gifts?


Wine School with Gary Vaynerchuk

A few weeks ago I got to spend a day and a night hanging out with Gary Vaynerchuk of as he was in town for a book signing. The full video experience of my time spent with him will come later, but for now, I have a video about a person I met who was in Gary’s entourage… Marianne Frantz of the Cleveland Wine School.

The video below is an interview I did with Marianne about the Cleveland Wine School, with a funny impromptu appearance from Gary V in a few places. Pretty funny. The video was shot at lunch after a live taping of the Thunder show with Gary in Cleveland Browns Stadium (personal video on that to come later). Go watch, great episode.

Why am I posting this video about a regional company when my blog is read by thousands of people who don’t live in Cleveland? Well, it’s a perfect example of how anyone can make a video commercial for their company with a simple inexpensive camera. Something I encourage all businesses to do. Tell me this isn’t a video you’d like to show to your customers to educate them about your business?

The whole thing took me 10 minutes to edit, and by using the Flip camera, easy to record. Why aren’t you doing video yet? Give me a ring so I can help you get on it, or sign up for my free Online Video Toolkit for some free advice.

Here’s the video on Youtube if you wish to view it there.

Social Media Strategies For Businesses

epsteinI can’t believe I found another old Internet geek like me! Yep, today’s conversation/podcast is with Jeremy Epstein, a hard core internet geek and now word-of-mouth marketing and social media strategist. Wow, I’ve been having a lot of people like this on the show lately haven’t I?

Jeremy and I do some venting about clueless customers and how to approach them and educate them about social media. We also talk a lot about customer evangelism and at the end Jeremy gives his picks for the top social media tools every small business should be working with right now.

Here are the show notes.

Chatting about customer evangelism. How do you convince a business to embrace evangelists?
Direct marketing traditional model of measuring ROI is a problem for most marketers.
How do you convince giant brands that social media is worth spending on?
How do you educate them? The key is starting small.
You cannot control the message anymore, but you can influence it.
Small business owner walks into your office and says social medis is b.s. How do you answer that?
What are the top social media tools I can get started with right now?
How are you measuring social media for your clients?