Brian Solis is the Principal at Altimeter Group and author of, “What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences.” He is viewed as a stellar keynote speaker.
In this interview, Solis explains a new generation of consumerism and how he is reaching Generation Connected, or Gen C. He is working on ways to improve business performance engagement and relationships for a new generation of consumerism. Solis also breaks down how digital culture is changing the landscape of business, consumerism, and the workplace. Recently, Solis faked Tweets from notable celebrities in support of his book. He explains his thought-process.
Find out more about Brian Solis at www.briansolis.com.
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Start of Interview with Brian Solis
Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Brian Solis to the show. He’s the principle analysis at the Altimeter Group and author of “What’s the Future of Business?” Changing the way businesses created experiences. And he’s coming to us today from Redwood City, California. Brian how are you?
Brian Solis: Well I am doing well. Thank you very much for having me.
Jason Hartman: Well the pleasure is all minds. You’ve got a whole bunch of knowledge that I think our listeners will really enjoy hearing about today. But first of all I just want to talk about your speaking background. You are viewed as a stellar key note speaker. You know maybe share some of your secrets to speaking success if you would.
Brian Solis: You know to have secrets would mean that that’s absolutely an intentional strategy. The truth is that I get incredibly nervous every time I present. What I try to do though is really think about who I’m there to talk to, some of the challenges, the frustrations, the aspirations that they have. And do as much homework as I can to make sure that when I do present it’s not the same old stick that I take from event to event cause that I’m there to really be part of why they’re there. So that I guess would be the best secret that I have is that I’m genuinely showing up to be part of that event to help people better understand what they came there to learn. And then it’s not just about the presentation for the 15, 30, 60 minutes. It’s about being part of the event afterwards as well. So I try to stick around and meet as many people as I can and answer the questions that people are afraid to ask during the key note itself.
Jason Hartman: You know fantastic. So focusing now and you say you still get nervous and I guess that’s the same thing as getting excited right. At least the symptoms are similar right?
Brian Solis: There’s truth to that absolutely.
Jason Hartman: Yeah good stuff. Well your company studies, consumerism, disruptive technologies in business whether they be digital currencies, social media, anything that’s going on out there. And are we engaged in a new generation of consumerism? Twelve years ago, thirteen years all we heard about was the new economy. With all these new technologies are we really in a whole new generation of consumerism or has that been going on for say the last 12 years or so?
Brian Solis: Well consumerism is consistently evolved. It’s been going on. . .you know with every technology iteration there’s something that effects consumerism. The internet in ’95 for example. Web 2.0 in 2004 – 2005. Social media post 2005. The perseverance and now the on slot of smart phones, and Androids, and iOs and Blackberries. These things really start to change how consumers connect with one another, how they find information, how they share, how they discover, and you put everything together and you have this melting pot of just new decision making, new touch points, new ways to influence and to be influenced. And what happens is is that as consumers become more connected, the psychology of it is that they become more informed, they become more empowered as a result, and as they become more empowered they become more demanding in their expectations potentially escalate. Now all of this is happening, not overnight, it’s years in the making and it’s iterative right, it’s just constant. But what isn’t constant is how businesses are understanding the evolution of consumer behavior and how they’re adapting to it, you know where they’re putting their money, how their marketing, how they’re servicing, etc. And what is really important to understand is that there’s no going back.
Once consumerism start to evolve they don’t suddenly say you know what I like life better when I wasn’t so connected, or I wasn’t so popular in all of these social networks. It’s just it’s the time that this continues to evolve and the most important thing that I want to leave businesses with and even just consumers as they’re listening to this is that there is no one market anymore. There are groups of market segments and they’re defined by behaviors not necessarily demographics like reaching women who or 18 to 25 with this type of education, this type of income. What I’m looking at are you connected or are you not connected. Because the way that you behave when you’re connected is different that those who watch television, who have conversations in the real world. And these are things we have to pay attention to because it forces segmented approaches to reach, sell, service and cultivate relationships with the different types of customers that they have.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. So when you say people act differently when they’re connected and when they’re not connected can you elaborate on that just a little?
Brian Solis: Absolutely. I mean I refer to the connected eco system as the eagle system where people are at the center of their own universe because these are people who are building networks on Facebook or Instagram, or twitter and what ends up happening is that this shift if psychology is that you literally are at the center of your universe because you have hundreds are thousands of people following you. You get caught up in sort of the interaction of sharing, hoping for reactions, trying to build that or grow that because it feeds you and not in an egotistical way, but a very interestingly maybe harmless narcissistic way, but what we’re learning though is that once you get a taste for it you start to crave it a bit more. And so as customers crave this attention as they sort of become the center of their ego system, they do expect businesses to pay attention to them. If they have a question they do want answers. You know we call it the lazy way, rather than go to Google and do the research yourself we’ll go to a social network and we’ll ask a question.
We’ll go a community and we’ll ask a question. Even though that answer might be there a thousand times over, we’ll just make the world come to us and so far it seems to be working.
Jason Hartman: Really interesting. Some people drive in a completely different fashion than they would act outside of a car. I think maybe there’s a little bit of that at play. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of mentality. How can we improve businesses performance and just encourage more relationships and connection in this new generation of consumerism?
Brian Solis: I think it starts with research and just a lot of conversation about big data and the power and the craziness and the chaos it represents to businesses. But you know it’s start of like saying how do you tune out the noise. Well, it takes selective hearing. And it starts with research and better understanding what the opportunities are, what this all means, how consumers and the changing and it affects you. I mean who even are your customers. So not only am I a digital analyst, but I’m also an aspiring digital anthropologist or sociologist. You know I’m studying community and culture, behavior within those communities, all specifically related to digital. And I do so because I need to understand disruptive technology impact on business and I also need to understand the impact on society and behavior so that I can figure out how to build business between the two. And more importantly I shouldn’t have to be the only one that does that right. I mean I do it because it’s how I make my living, but businesses it’s the only way in the form of digital 00:09:02 if you will that you start to understand the journey that your customer takes to get information or how they influence the decision making of others. And then you start to map this out and in the process you learn everything, where they’re hanging out, the information they find valuable, who they trust, who they don’t trust, how they consume information, how they feedback in your eco system. Just some fascinating things. And so I believe that this is where businesses need to start. They need to look at business intelligence, they need to look at social media, they need to look at customer service and bring all these things together and say look this is 2013 and we are at the crux of this intersection here between data science and digital social science. And we’ve got some things to figure out because as business leaders we’re reporting to shareholders, we’re reporting to stake holders, we’re trying to run a business. And the whole while we’re not using the technologies, we’re not gaining experiences that our customers are getting, and we might now start to make decisions that are working against us. And I think it all starts with getting information.
Jason Hartman: When you talk about this any particular types of businesses, certainly some of the renowned companies that we all know and deal with all the time. For example I love Amazon.com. It’s just such a great customer experience. Apple, all the obvious names. But give us some examples of some businesses that maybe are struggling or not doing this right. I mean how are they not using the data, how are they missing the mark. You don’t have to name names unless you want to. But you know maybe industries.
Brian Solis: Well I will say this that one of the reasons why you see Amazon or Zappos or Merchant America really succeed in this time is because they’re trying to succeed in this time. They recognize that there are differences in behavior between older customers and younger customers, between disconnected customers and connected customers. And they’re striving to invest in technologies, but more importantly philosophies that sort of embraces new customers. So for example Zappos employees a full time psychologist. You have Starbucks who just named their first chief digital officer to bring together all these experiences into one common experience that you want people to have. Merchant America who believes that if you start with service in mind you win by default because everybody else is just competing to stay in business. So it’s a philosophy, it’s a mentality; it’s a way of business. Where other businesses are failing is they just sort of get caught up in the management of the business right. They sort of forget why there were in business to begin with.
Or why they set out to do what they do. And they get caught up in management and they get caught up layers and then they get lost in sort of who they’re reporting to and why they’re reporting to them. And I don’t want to name names, but I’ll give you an example in terms of an industry, look at the automotive industry. You have companies that are really starting to get it. I mean you look at Detroit, they’re starting to come back around. And then you go to a dealership and you completely lose the experience in what the manufacturer had and then what they’re trying to sell you and then how they’re trying to service you. And so what you have is innovation on the product front and then a complete lack of innovation on the sales and service side. And that’s the last line right there. That’s the one where this is the whole purpose of my book is the future of business is dependent on shared experiences, because in a connected society people are gonna share their experiences not just during the sale or after the sale but throughout their entire life cycle. They’re gonna tweet it, they’re gonna blog it, they’re gonna YouTube it, they’re gonna put it on review sites, they’re gonna become experts, they’re gonna be part of communities. And if you think about it right this process is delete, it doesn’t evaporate. It stays there and it builds upon itself, and the next time that somebody’s thinking about purchasing a car they’re going to use a search box, not just in Google, but YouTube right because that gives them not websites, but videos. Short video answers to the questions that they’re asking. It’s easier to consume that way. Or review sites just give me the information that my peers have based on what I’m looking for statistically. And over time, and I’m talking in some cases it’s right now, and in other cases it’s 2 to 3 years it’s evolving. But what’s happening is that those shared experiences are becoming louder in the marketing that businesses are doing today. And that changes the entire game.
Jason Hartman: Yeah that does, it changes the playing field. And you know what it may be tough for businesses but I think it’s great for consumers. I mean we are really living in the age of the empowered consumer. Brian you know your example of the car dealership and the car manufacturer is really a perfect example because the product has gotten so much better over the last several years, and there’s so much innovation, I know especially with the connected cars that we’re right on the verge of seeing truly internet connected cars.
And that’s great but you know you go to the dealership and a lot of times you still have the sleazy salesman, the product is much more complex. Many times the sales person don’t know much about it. The consumer can get a lot more information on line than they can from the actual dealership. So that’s a perfect example. And having just returned from Necker island, Richard Branson’s Necker Island, hanging out with him a little bit there a couple of weeks ago. What an innovative guy making such great customer experiences and you know again high end experiences on his various Virgin Airline franchises if you will. And whether it would be Virgin America or Virgin Atlantic, etc. But also the experiences isn’t stuffy at all, it’s really fun and kind of innovative you know, even though it’s high end it’s not stuffy. And just yeah he obviously gets it and many of these other great companies that we mentioned really really get it. Is there any advice you have though for a person with a small business as to what they can do? The big companies they have huge budgets, they can hire the staff to do all the right things, you know any ways that a smaller business can catch on to some of these trends?
Brian Solis: Well you know I love the Richard Branson example because I think this is a time that he demonstrates which is all about being a leader. He has this quote I believe it’s something like a good leader doesn’t get stuck behind a desk. This is someone who is constantly trying to learn. This is someone who’s passionate about what they do. There is something sort of aspirational about what he’s trying to achieve and I think the best advice I would start with for small business owners, and look I’m a long term entrepreneur myself, I started a whole bunch of businesses in my career, is to remember why you started it in the first place. Because it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rigmarole of running a business. And so doing so sort of puts you in the position of being disruptive.
When you started your business you had all of the energy in the world, all of the passion in the world and you were disrupting potentially at that time, when you get caught up in running a business and you sort of become eligible or right or risk being disruptive, and that to me is where things start to get dangerous. It’s not just being right to be disruptive, but maybe you can borderline completion. Somebody else is going to figure out how to do something, for example reach a connected customer, reach a digital customer, market in an entirely new way, sell a service in an entirely new way and you’re going to realize wow was I asleep at the wheel.
And another quote that I would share is you know Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, he says that coffee is the product that they sell, but it’s not the business that they’re in. They’re in the experience business, they’re in the service business. . .
Jason Hartman: The third place business.
Brian Solis: Yeah exactly. So that to me is this idea of a small business owner is to realize that what you do very well, or what you’re trying to do very well, or what you build or what you sell that without understanding how to get it to the people that you do not reach today and it’s not going to be good enough. Just opening up your doors doesn’t work anymore. And this idea, as an author, people kind of give me a little bit of flack every now and then because I’m a digital analyst, yet I’m writing books.
Jason Hartman: Well your book is available as the Kindle version.
Brian Solis: There you go. I got to take you everywhere with me.
Jason Hartman: So don’t give him too much flack people, he’s got a Kindle book.
Brian Solis: Well the idea is that I blog, I have presences on all the networks, but it’s about trying to reach people that you don’t. And that’s how you spread your word, that’s how you expand your business opportunities, that’s how you sort of create this inbound marketing. You have to constantly try and keep reaching out to the people that you don’t, and once you have a community you also have to invest in keeping that community incredibly happy and fulfilled, so I sort of believe that retention, customer retention is the new acquisition, but the truth is that both have to happen at the same time. But let me tell you something, this is not a plug for a book, this is me showing you that I walk the walk and talk the talk. You know it is writing this new book, What’s the Future Business, I could have just written and published it like I have done 5 other times. But I looked at the business book market and I started to realize that even my own book they look the same as everyone’s. Everything in a business book the same shape, you open them same paper, almost the same font. Of course the covers change and the words change. . .
Jason Hartman: So you’re a square this time right?
Brian Solis: Yeah. That’s for a particular reason. I decided to say look if I’m gonna write about the future of shared experiences and just the experiences in general then I’m gonna make one. And I went out and I studied U.S. and how connected customers and how people who lived the digital lifestyle are reading. Tablets, smartphones, blogs, websites, Pinterest, kind of getting an idea of the way that they consume. Shorter bursts of text, highly rich visualizations, more color, thicker paper, glossy, it’s literally like a copy paper, but like an art book. It’s like balance, text, art and I even put a visual navigator for each section of the book so you literally feel like you’re inside an analog app. I decided to risk everything to redesign what a business book could be as a demonstration of if I could rethink what a book would feel like and look like, imagine what you could do if you thought about the connected customer for your business.
Jason Hartman: Yeah that’s a great point. I want to make sure that I tied in what my very casual remark as you were talking on the last point. The Starbucks third place, just make sure everybody caught that. You got your home, you got your office, and the experience Starbucks creates and really the business they’re in is that third place to go, which is the coffee shop. So I wanted to make sure people kind of thought that.
But yeah your book looks great, it’s an awesome looking book. And it does have a digital addition to it as we mentioned, so that’s great. And you know I had Ken Blanchard on the show Brian and he really did that too back in the late 70’s before we had all this technology. But The One Minute Manager, he made it small, short, the shape was different, same idea, the same thing that you’ve done with your book. So that’s fantastic that you thought in a new direction there.
Speaking of the book and before you go I just got two more questions for you. How and why did you do fake tweets from notable celebrities in support of your book? Tell us about that.
Brian Solis: Oh yeah well the irony is that I do have a good handful of celebrity friends who did say nice things and I realized that when I did it people weren’t going to get the joke because there was this assumption that it was real. So I had to go and explain the point I was actually trying to make. It’s a service called “Let me Tweet That for You”. It’s very controversial, and I wanted to write a post that demonstrates. . .Every now and then I try to raise awareness around things. I don’t take a position saying they get that off the internet, but what I try to do is show people that there are incredible risks for not doing your homework and things that you need to do to just sort of protect yourself. So I use that service as a way to create all of these tweets. We don’t really publish them on twitter though. It’s a service that makes it look like they were published by whoever you want. There’s a whole bevy of celebrities, politicians that you can choose from, and then you type in what you want and you can make it look like that tweet came from that. You can even add retweet numbers, or favorite numbers to make it look a bit more legitimate. What I did is I just stream captured them. I made everybody say something wonderful about the book and sending congratulations about the book, just as a way to get people to read it you know like it’s hook, and get everybody to say wow look at all these people that are coming out in support of Brian’s book. And then I dropped the bomb on them saying by the way this is not real and this why you need to pay attention because this is a service that anyone can fake a tweet from you and it would look real. And it will caused a big flurry rift. But the site is still up and people can still fake tweet and there are many. . .there are fake Wikipedia generators as well. And this is the society we live in is that we just have to be careful, but more importantly we have to look at. . . You know you sort of earn this reputation on the web as you deserve and it takes work. And I think tools like this are very dangerous even though they’re kind of flannel a lot of people thought that there was no harm in it. But I just wanted to get the conversation going because I’m a big believer in not just studying how this impacts, but also trying to do my part as maybe a role model or as a teacher to show what could go wrong cause right now the web is sort of operating on this mantra that everything’s going great until it isn’t and that’s no way to live.
Jason Hartman: Yeah that’s a very good point, it’s good that you exposed that and first used it as sort of your April Fool’s joke if you will and then kind of exposed it and came clean with it, that’s a great tactic. Last thing before you go. The disruptive technologies that are out there now that businesses need to deal with and consumers need to deal currencies, mobile platforms, all of these different things. Just take one or all of those and just touch on them real quickly if you would before you go.
Brian Solis: Yeah absolutely. In fact in the book I have a visualization, which I should kind of shout out to my friends at Mechanism, the agency that did the Beyonce Pepsi Super bowl commercial, just a brilliant group of guys and we worked together on the book. And in there we created this thing called the wheel of distraction. And it was to show that at the hub of all of this disruptive technology that’s going on that you have real time, you know real time web mobile, and you have social. So it sort of creates this golden triangle of the wheel of disruption at the center. But around it you have big data, you have apps, you have cloud computing, you have game imputation, you have the future digital currencies, you have syndicated commerce, you have social B2B, you have SRM, SCRM, meaning like the whole business apps to start to get around the customer so it’s not just one partner that owns the relationship. You have the collaborative economy for things like air BNB, you have things like Uber, just real maintenance. . .
Jason Hartman: I love Uber by the way, I’ve been using that lately it’s great. It’s awesome. Good stuff. And what do you think the future of bitcoin is, I just got to ask you that it’s so in the news right now.
Brian Solis: Yeah well bitcoin is to me the demonstration that a new type of currency model may be needed for the future of just the world in general. Cause you have sort of the collapse of the Euro happening, people predict the same could happen to the dollar, the value of gold and silver just doesn’t make sense anymore in modern society. And these are things that I’m not taking sides on, but I’m just saying that things like bitcoin are gaining traction because if you represent a promising alternative to future currencies and that’s why people are sort of experimenting with it and watching it, and some are just jumping in to buy and sell on it because they can make money from it right now.
Jason Hartman: Good Stuff. Well your website is BrianSolis.com. Of course the book is available on Amazon and I assume of all the other appropriate places as long they’re still around and still in business. I’m talking about traditional bookstores there. Hopefully they will manage their business models as things are changing they got a big challenge ahead of them. But Brian anything else you’d like to say in closing or any other resources you’d like to share?
Brian Solis: One of thing that I learned as I was writing my book was that I had learned that as an analyst I used to talk like an analyst. Even more of an academic approach. And this book that I wrote this time I decided to take a more human approach to realize that people who read it aren’t just employees or professionals, or managers, or boxers, or leaders, or entrepreneurs, whatever, they’re human beings. And one of the big leaps for me is that I wanted to change how I write and present information, not just from the design of the book but just even how I talk. And I bring in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s journey where I talk about it in two ways. One as a customer who’s on this journey and the challenges that they face and the way that they change their journey. But at the end I say that the real hero in this journey is you. You as an individual trying to get smarter, you as an individual trying to find new ways to do things. And what I really want to leave people is read the book, whether you go to my blog, or whether you watch my videos on YouTube there’s one consistent thing there and that is I listen to all of the challenges that people have, I work with businesses and I know some of the challenges that they’re facing and they’re over coming it. And I’m trying to translate it in a way to help people not just get information, but my call to you is to realize that people aren’t sitting by waiting to change, people have to force change, people have to fight for change and that needs to be you. I think that in order to get the impact in business we can’t fight the technology, we can’t face technology’s changing, we just got almost like a lawyer, show with evidence how things are changing and what we can do about it and that’s gonna have to fall on someone and I hope it falls on you. So we have to be part champion, part politician, and part lawyer, but somebody’s got to show the right way to go and I think that’s you. So that’s the last that I wanted to leave, because I think a lot of people are looking for examples of how other businesses are doing it, they’re asking for case studies, they’re looking for best practices. But look this is a blank slate. This is all new stuff and someone’s got to be painting the canvas that people will want to follow and that’s got to be you.
Jason Hartman: Well fantastic. Very very good advice. Brian Solis, thank you for joining us today. The website again BrianSolis.com. And keep up the good work. Very interesting.
Brian Solis: Thank you.
Narrator: This show is produced by The Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively. (Image: Flickr | Brian Caldwell)
Transcribed by Ralph
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