September 24

Stan Phelps on Standing out in a Crowded Marketplace


Stan Phelps walks the walk. He stands out in the sea of sameness by modeling his own Differentiated  Experience (DX) message: Differentiation isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what you do and, more importantly, how and why you do it. Stan leverages his unique collection of 5,000+ case studies on customer, employee, and brand experience to engage audiences with informative learning-based experiences. He challenges audiences to think differently by exploring new opportunities to be more successful in tomorrow's changing world.

A show and tell speaker, Stan empowers audiences to take action that delivers bottom-line impact. He strives to change the paradigm of marketing by encouraging audiences to focus on experiences as the ultimate competitive differentiator. He believes purposeful DX wins the hearts of employees and
customers, and differentiation ultimately boosts loyalty, retention, referrals, and results.

 Stan is a Forbes Contributor, TEDx Speaker, IBM Futurist, Certified Speaking Professional™, and bestselling author of the 13-book Goldfish Series that begins with Purple Goldfish 2.0 - 10 Ways to Attract Raving Customers.

 A masterful storyteller who quickly connects with audiences, Stan has delivered keynotes and workshops for Fortune 100 brands including IBM, Target, and more. He works directly with you to customize content that matches your audience and your goals to create a memorable and meaningful experience every time. Count on Stan to show up early, arrive prepared, and disrupt the all-work-and no-play methodology with his sharp wit and trademark showmanship. He makes it his mission to exceed expectations and inspire audiences in ways they just can’t help but talk about — and won’t soon forget.

Find Stan’s keynotes and workshops at StanPhelpsSpeaks.com.

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone. My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies, and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you. Do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed not only remove it but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you too much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes. Click on it to find out more. All right, let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:41
Today, I'm privileged to have Stan Phelps here with me today, he is a speaker with the NSA, he's making a difference in the world. And Stan, welcome to the program.

Stan Phelps 0:51
Thank you for having me.

Umar Hameed 0:53
So Stan, the reason we are connected is you're coming to Baltimore to speak at the American Marketing Association in the Baltimore chapter. And you're going to be talking about how to get weird. So tell me what you're going to talk about when you arrive.

Stan Phelps 1:06
So very excited about coming to MA Baltimore, we're going to be diving into the latest book in the goldfish series of books. It's called the Pink Goldfish.

Umar Hameed 1:19
And your goldfish did they swim in the school? Do the books come together? What's going on here?

Stan Phelps 1:23
So it's this one's actually the sixth color in the series seventh book, but sixth color.

Umar Hameed 1:31

Stan Phelps 1:32
The the the metaphor of a goldfish is the idea that little things can truly make the biggest difference. And so the kind of overarching theme of the series is, how can you actually differentiate and stand out in business, either by the little things that you do for your customers, or I think even more importantly, the little things that you do for your employees to drive their engagement and to reinforce the culture within your organization.

Umar Hameed 2:06
Before we dig deep down into this subject matter, when you give us like 90 seconds, who you are, what you do, what's your passion, and what impact you're making in the world?

Stan Phelps 2:15
Sure. So my my passion is marketing before I started writing and speaking full time, I spent two decades as a marketer, I started out on the agency side, I worked for a, I worked in sports for a while, started my career with IMG, which is one of the bigger event marketing and athlete,

Umar Hameed 2:37

Stan Phelps 2:37
Marketing agencies, I then went to the brand side, I spent almost a decade working with Adidas or if you're anywhere else outside of the US, it's Adi-das. And then went into I spent a couple years working in golf, working with the PGA of America. And then I went full circle back to the agency side, where I was the number two at a small boutique agency in the New York area called Synergy. And yeah, so I kind of saw marketing changing in the, in the, in the quick kind of what brought me here, right now, I saw marketing changing, I think marketing needed to be more about the customer, and less about chasing the prospect and interrupting them. And I, I needed to be part of the change that became part of my purpose, is trying to, yeah, examine the future of what I think marketing should become.

Umar Hameed 3:07
So one of the things you mentioned, when you were talking about, you know, the Pink Goldfish is, you know, those little things you can do to connect with customers better. And you said almost more importantly, the little things you can do to connect with your employees. So you inspire them to be better, stronger, faster.

Stan Phelps 3:51

Umar Hameed 3:51
Give me an example of a company you're working with. And one of the things you brought into the equation, that small thing that changed the relationship of employees with a company and with their customers.

Stan Phelps 4:05
Yeah, so just just for just for clarity sake, I do not do consulting. So it's going to be I'm going to be hard pressed, I can tell you, I've studied now over 3000 companies, and what they do on both the customer and the employee side. I think one of the most effective things that I've studied, or actually I'll give you two things, Umar as it relates to the employee is one, the little things that you do to onboard them into the organization. And what I found through my research is that the majority of employees make a decision within the first few months of starting a new job, whether or not they're going to be with the company for the long term. And so what I think great companies do they understand the importance of getting off on the right foot. And they actually even begin the onboarding process before the person actually even shows up, first day at work, and then they have a variety of things that they can do to make sure that that entry point within the new position is smooth and sets the stage for a successful relationship. So that's number one. I think the second thing is recognition. And what's interesting, what most managers think they do, and what employees perceive is there's a huge gap. And so I think finding creative ways that you can recognize your employees, was probably one of the biggest takeaways at looking over 1000 examples in the engagement space. And,

Umar Hameed 5:53
Hold that thought just for a second Stan. So go back one, two, in your research, did you find a company that was doing something specific before employee came in on day one that stood out to you?

Stan Phelps 6:06
Yeah, I'll give you one that I really like. It's actually Nordstrom. And so and this is, you know, your first day, you usually show up or before you get to the job, you might be mailed or your email, this PDF that's 150 pages long. It's, you know, the the corporate policy or the staff manual.

Umar Hameed 6:33

Stan Phelps 6:34
Nordstrom does this a little different. When you show up, and even advance, they literally give you a business card. And so on one side of the business card, it says here at Nordstrom, we have only one rule, we only have, we only have one purpose. And that's to provide a superior customer experience. And then you flip it over, and it says we only have one rule. And it says, use your best judgment. And I love that because what you're saying to somebody is when they come into the company is that we trust you. You're allowed to ask as many questions as you want. But look, don't get bogged down into 100 page manual that you're going to look at once and never referred to, again, we're going to trust you and empower you to make judgments on your own and trust you to do the right thing.

Umar Hameed 7:36
So Ritz Carlton as an example, at the beginning of each shift, they actually bring up a story from some Ritz Carlton somewhere on the planet that did something exceptional, that aligns with one of their values. So they not only get the rules, so to speak, but they get the spirit of it. So what does Nordstroms do to instill that, you know, you have the power. Here's an example of an employee doing this amazing thing that so you kind of learn from it. And you feel very comfortable using this newfound responsibility.

Stan Phelps 8:08
Yeah, so good question. I'm I'm not sure I do know that. There are some stories that get told all the time at Nordstrom, I'm not sure they do the same thing that Ritz Carlton does. Ritz Carlton does, that's, that's called the lineup. And I've actually stated Ritz Carlton before, it's always a standing meeting. So everyone's standing kind of in a circle. And to your point, Umar one story of something that happened within the Ritz Carlton network gets shared to all of the employees. And that's literally before every shift. So that's happening multiple times a day. That's a great way of continuing to reinforce their core values. I know one story that I love to tell that always gets told is there's a story about Nordstrom, and they put such a high level on service that, and this is a legendary story. I believe it happened in Alaska, but someone had actually brought in snow tires, and tried to return them at Nordstroms. Was you can imagine Nordstrom doesn't sell snow tires, but they actually accepted the return.

Umar Hameed 9:25
You know, what I'd really love to see, Stan is if that in fact happened or it was just a story they tell to make a point because there was this really interesting thing that you've also probably heard, it's that, you know, the the 1950 whatever class at Harvard, they asked the graduates, you know, how many you have written goals.

Stan Phelps 9:44

Umar Hameed 9:45
And the 3% that did that it at it. We've all heard the story.

Stan Phelps 9:48

Umar Hameed 9:49
And it was Brian Tracy was asked, you know, where did you get this data from? He said, Well, I heard it from Zig Ziglar. And when they asked Zig, what did you get it from? He says, Well, I actually got it from Tracy. So as long as the story is useful, that's the main point, I think.

Stan Phelps 10:06
Well, look, I mean, that's one of the things of legend. Now, I do know if you research that Nordstrom story, I do believe it happened in Alaska. It's actually a true story. I think whoever took the took the return, actually went to whatever the place was in the mall, and actually returned the snow tires to the store on behalf of the customer. But to me that there's these legendary stories. I one of the we've all heard of six degrees of separation. So if you can,

Umar Hameed 10:39
Oh, Kevin Bacon.

Stan Phelps 10:40
Yeah, so you've heard that story? Well, that was actually a study where people would be given somebody in the world. And what they had to do is, this is back in the days of mailing a letter, they would have to mail it to someone, and ask that person, see if you know somebody that could be closer to this person on the other side of the world. And what they found was that the average amount of times that that process had to happen was six times. But,

Umar Hameed 11:12
Thanks for sharing that. I did not know.

Stan Phelps 11:13
Here's the interesting thing. It was like, it was either like 29% or 34%. But only 29% of the instances did the the the letter actually get to that final person. So for over two thirds of the people, then it was it may have happened 10 times and it still never got to that that person, right, the target that happened 20 times. But we always we always quote, well, everyone's everyone is separated from everyone else, just six degrees, right? Well, again, that only happened 29% of the time. But as as I love to say the first rule of marketing, or advertising. And this is goes right to the distrust of advertising and marketing is never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Umar Hameed 11:16
It sounds like politics, too.

Stan Phelps 11:19

Umar Hameed 11:21
Let me ask. The second point you brought up was employee recognition. And I'm going to give you an example. First, I'm going to ask the question, we've all been to a restaurant where you go to the restaurant, the host or hostess, you know, greet you, they take you to your table, they make sure you're doing okay, they make sure you know what's going to happen, and they're so happy that you're at their restaurant. And as soon as they leave, you turn to your spouse and go, that person did not mean a single word of what they said. And then you go to another place with someone does the exact same words, and you just feel that warmth, and that connection that this person is really happy that I'm gonna have a great experience here. So with that frame in mind, a lot of companies try and recognize their employees for accomplishments, but some companies do it exceptionally well, where it actually adds value to the organization and other companies do it. And it's more, you don't get that connection on that warmth. What do you think is the distinction between the two? And do you have an example of a company doing it? Right? Yes. So I think you hit the nail on the head, it has to be authentic. And we've all we've bought the all been in that situation, whether it's employee of the week or the month, it gets to the point where, you know, well, we have to give this so and so because they've never gotten it before. And everyone in the room knows, that is a check the box hollow recognition. Yes. You know, so i think i think you know, the word authentic gets thrown around a lot.

Stan Phelps 13:49
But I actually like to use a word that you actually just mentioned, and its warmth. And, you know, we're as humans, our brain has developed over the years that in a split second, we have to answer two questions about every one we meet. And there's a great book on this. It's called the human brand. But the first question we ask of someone we're coming into contact with or dealing with is one, what is their intention? When they're dealing with me? And then two, you very quickly have to ask, what is their ability to carry out that intent? Now think about that, as we evolved as humans, that was life or death, we confront an animal or another person, in a split second, we would have to, and literally 80% of how we judge people. And there's been tons of research on this comes down to just warmth and competence. And so again, you think about this idea of recognition. One, it needs to be needs to come from the right place and it needs to be done correctly. And if you don't have those two things, it loses a lot of what what the impact can be. Here's here's one thing I found and this is a great thing that Shawn Aker, I picked up from Shawn Aker, who's done a ton of work around happiness. He says a lot of times, Umar, we look at recognition the wrong way, we look at recognition as something that has to happen after the fact. Whereas he says that's the wrong way of looking at it recognition done correctly, is like gasoline, it can light a fire. And it can be fuel for performance. So you can't do it too often, you can't do it too soon, too soon. But you have to find ways both structured and unstructured, to be able to find ways to be able to recognize your people. And again, it's not happening anywhere near enough in the workplace, when you look at all the research from employees.

Umar Hameed 16:07
And I think the word that jumped out to you warmth, and we were talking about being authentic warmth is it informs that authenticity in terms of that the person has to receive it in a way that makes them happier, makes them feel valued, and recognition, would work be the same word you use? Or would you use a different word to inform employers like this is what the experience has to be like, when you recognize we want you to go for? Like, what's that simple way of looking at it? Do you think that even the most obtuse manager would go I get this, you know,

Stan Phelps 16:44
In its simplest form, I mean, people want three things. And Dan Pink has done a tremendous amount of work on this autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So first, you don't want to micromanage people, you want to give them the leeway to be able to do things themselves. So that's autonomy, mastery. People want to feel like they're making progress. That's such a key part of feeling, you're getting better. You're improving. So little ways that you can recognize that mastery in people's work is key. And then three, which I think maybe the most important is recognizing what somebody is doing that purpose piece, how it's contributing to the overall. And that may be the easiest form of recognition to say, Hey, your little piece here was vital because it allowed this. And it could have been, you know, the rest of the team took it the rest of the way. But it's knowing that what you did contributed to the hole. And in an ideal situation, you know, improved the lives of your customers or even society itself.

Umar Hameed 18:03
Brilliant. I like that, because that's something that's actionable for people. So one of the things you're going to talk about when you come to Baltimore, is that quirkiness, that weirdness that we have within ourselves, our companies, instead of trying to hide it or suppress it, how we can actually use that as a strategic advantage. Can you give me an example of a company that had some weirdness that they repurposed it so actually became a strategic advance?

Stan Phelps 18:29
So I'll give you a great example because they just they're starting to expand around the country, but it's a movie theater, called the Alamo Drafthouse. And so Wired magazine is called these guys the coolest movie theater in America. I think Entertainment Weekly ranked them as the number one movie theater movie chain. So they're one of their quirks, Umar is that they are passionate about the movie going experience. I mean, they are pure cinephiles, they love movies and how it can transport you. And so one of the,

Umar Hameed 19:08
Cinephiles that's someone that likes doing bad things is that?

Stan Phelps 19:13
You know, I'm throwing around that word, I'm assuming that's a fan of the cinema.

Umar Hameed 19:18
No, perfect. I was just a cheap joke.

Stan Phelps 19:21
So they, they're pretty strict. One of their quirky things is, you know, they have a zero tolerance policy for talking or texting once the movie begins. And so, because they they want to, they want to preserve that experience for everyone that's in the theater. And so they,

Umar Hameed 19:41

Stan Phelps 19:42
And again, they'll toss people because of this, they just don't it's not just a meaningless thing that's on the wall, they enforce it. So they had thrown out a guest in Austin, Texas. And that guest called up and left a voicemail message that just tore the company, the policy, how they had texted in other theaters and just railed against them. Well, most companies would say, you know, the customers can, we're going to apologize. No, no, they double down on their quirkiness, they actually took that recording, and made it into a PSA that they play before movies, and they actually put it on YouTube, it went viral. And so what we're encouraging people and it's a simple idea in the book, is that you need to find out what makes you different. And it could be stuff that makes you know that that makes you it may be a weakness or a flaw that you have. But it's definitely something that makes you different or weird. And what we want to encourage people to do is either to double or triple down on that and actually embrace that, and turn up the volume on those, that weirdness or that flaw, or understand that, what normal is what all the other competition does is normal. What you can do to stand out is actually start to do less than what's considered normal by your competition. And that's another way to stand out. It's not by trying to match and do more, you can actually remove choice.

Umar Hameed 21:33
So give me an example of that.

Stan Phelps 21:35
So examples one is, and I'm pretty sure they're in the Baltimore area. They're, they're kind of especially very prominent here in the in the south, where I am in North Carolina. It's Chick-fil-A. And so,

Umar Hameed 21:50

Stan Phelps 21:50
Chick-fil-A when the they started back in the 1950s, almost everywhere you went in the country, they had blue laws and you couldn't be open on Sunday. And so that was just policy it at Chick-fil-A well. Fast forward 60 plus years. Well, everyone's open some some some even fast food establishments are open 24/7. Well, Chick-fil-A never changed that. They felt that that was the time to have with your your family if you were an employee of Chick-fil-A. And, and they've remained closed on Sundays ever since. And think about it. You know, I always joke you, what's the one thing I always think about every Sunday? is the fact that I can't get Chick-fil-A.

Umar Hameed 22:43
Yes, you know, it kind of reminds me that at least from my worldview, for any company, or maybe every human being this three things that we have to do. One is to be relevant to our audience. So we always have to put our finger on the pulse of what they want, what they need, so we don't lose touch. The second part is integrity. Know the values we stand for. And it sounds like this quirkiness you're talking about this weirdness is one of those things that would be a value for a company, and they just being true to it. So being an integrity. And the third thing is focus, to just make sure you continually do what you're supposed to be doing in the way that you want. And it sounds like some of what you're talking about, is companies being authentic.

Stan Phelps 23:27
Yeah, absolutely. It's, you know, so many times, we look at what, what makes us different. And let's say for example, maybe you're a small business, or a lot of times I think the mistake that small businesses do when they go out to the marketplace, they try to project themselves as bigger than who they are.

Umar Hameed 23:50

Stan Phelps 23:52
And a lot of people see straight through that. But the idea is that every weakness has corresponding strength. So the fact that you're small, means that you can be much more responsive, you can be much more agile, you can personalize the experience, you can be more nimble and move quicker, then then your bigger competitors.

Umar Hameed 24:16
So Stan, what do you think that? Because what you're saying sounds like common sense. And I'll give you a good example, Sam Walton of Walmart fame, when he was asked, you know, when you go into a new town, that you're destroying local businesses, and he said, Look, all they have to do is this, we cannot provide the level of customer service that people want, because we're much bigger, that if you want to defeat us, what you need to do is to double down on your customer service, and help your clients out at a higher level, which I think was exactly what you're talking about. But a lot of people opted to kind of match them on price, and they got destroyed. What do you think gets people to be myopic and not look the right thin?

Stan Phelps 25:00
Sometimes we think we can do everything. And that right? We think we can be, you know, if the customer wants has seven things that they value, that we need to be great in all seven of those things. And instead of being a 10, in one or two of those things, because we focus on them all, we end up becoming a five, or a six, or a seven, on all of those things that are important. I think, what, what the gradient bunnies do. And Southwest Airlines is always an example that I use. They understand what's important to the customers, they understand, especially the number one and number two things. And they are great at those things. Those are non starters. And what they do is they look at the things that maybe are six, seven, and eight down the list of what their customers value. And they are unapologetically awful at those things. Because even to try to be a three or four or five and those things, is going to take away time and resources against the things that you really want to stand out the things that really matter to your customers. And so I'll give you an example Umar of a company, you know, we talk about the dynamics of Walmart, and target.

Umar Hameed 25:27

Stan Phelps 25:31
Or if you're, if you're fancy tarjay, right.? So Walmart, you're never going to get great service at Walmart, because that's the way that they are allowed to be able to offer the lowest prices available. Right? If they started to add more staff, and and give you a higher level of service, well, that's you've got to fund that from somewhere, that would increase their prices, and it wouldn't work for them. Well, target goes, you know, we're not going to compete on price, we're actually going to spend a lot of time on design and sourcing the right product. And and making sure it's it's fitting the the customer and we're actually going to have people in the aisles, and we're going to we're going to put a focus on people being helpful. But you're not going to get the lowest price. Well think about what Kmart did a number of years ago, they actually tried to put their foot in both the Walmart camp and the target camp, they started saying we're gonna do the style route. And we're also going to be the low price route. And the thing is, you can't be the best of both worlds. You got to choose your world, and you got to own it.

Umar Hameed 27:55
So as we're talking about, you know what to do in retail, the guy that was doing the apple retail experience left Apple, and I think he invested in was it? JC Penney?

Stan Phelps 28:06
Yeah, Ron Johnson went to JC Penney. Yep.

Umar Hameed 28:09
What do you think went wrong there? Because they went awfully wrong.

Stan Phelps 28:14
You know, it is, it is, you know, the bigger the ship, the harder it is to turn the ship. And the harder it is when you have a lot of institutional knowledge. You, You have people's perception of a brand. It is very difficult to turn the ship, is it impossible? No, it just takes time. And when you're a public company, and you're judged on a quarterly basis, and not a five to seven year time frame, then it it's almost like trying to get the camel through the eye of the needle to do it in a in a short term. And unfortunately, I think he gave it a good go. But it's hard. It's just hard to change. I think it's much, much easier if you were starting from the from the ground up.

Umar Hameed 29:19
So Stan, before we part company. What are three pieces of advice you could give the smaller company that's trying to find its footing when they're trying to figure out, you know what to focus on and how to be relevant to their customers, any words of wisdom?

Stan Phelps 29:34
One, I would do this, I think, you know that Jack Welch said this, he said, going forth, there's only two forms of competitive advantage. He said, one, it's learning about your customers faster than your competition. And then too, and that's not enough just to learn, then you've got to actually action it. And so it's taking those insights and putting them into action. Faster than your competition can. So here's the first thing I would recommend is talk to the customers that you serve. Ask them, hey, they have a choice. What makes you different in their eyes? Why do they choose to do business with you? Because many times we can't see what makes us unique. Umar, we can't see the label when we're sitting inside the jar. That's a great,

Umar Hameed 30:27

Stan Phelps 30:27
Southern proverb. So first thing, Hey, get with your customers understand what makes you different, here's the second thing I'd recommend is don't fight it. If they're telling you, your axe, own it, accept it, embrace it. And then third, focus on just a couple of things that you can do. You really can be only known for one or two things. The advice that I would give was would be this amplify. That's the fourth a within our kind of how to framework once you've, once you've been aware, once you've accepted once you've aligned everyone on your team around it, man, you've got to turn up the volume. If you want to stand out in business, and you've got it, you've got to you've just got to double and triple down on it.

Umar Hameed 31:24
Brilliant, sustained when you come to Baltimore, what should people expect to walk away with?

Stan Phelps 31:29
They're going to walk away with seven different ways that they can stand out in a crowded marketplace. And then we're going to arm them with the four steps that they need to do to be able to literally go in the next day and think how are we going to put this into effect.

Umar Hameed 31:49
Brilliant. Stan, thanks so much for sitting down with me. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Umar Hameed 31:53
Thanks for having me looking forward to it MA Baltimore.

Umar Hameed 32:01
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there that's going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro-linguistic programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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