[PODCAST] Swimming against the current with Stan Phelps

Marketing consultant, Stan Phelps, has made it cool to be weird.  

With the release of his first book, “What's Your Purple Goldfish?” six years ago, Phelps kicked off his career as an author and a speaker, teaching businesses how to optimize customer experience by doing the little things that keep people coming back. Since then, he done has done over 300 events in 16 countries and is looking forward to the release of his eighth book.

However, it’s Phelps’ sixth book that will be the focus of AMA Nashville’s Power Lunch “Think Outside the Bowl – Amplifying Weirdness and Embracing Weakness to Stand Out in Business” on August 28. 

Phelps wrote “The Pink Goldfish” to help companies get “closer to the hearts” of customers and employees by positioning their brand and customer experience differently than their competition.



“It’s the idea that the little things can truly make the biggest difference. The quick path from me: I came from a marketing background, two decades working in marketing. Everything in marketing was about chasing the prospect, and I thought that was a little bit short-sighted,” he said. “I thought what smart brands did was they actually created a very well-differentiated experience that took care of the customers they had, as well as gave them a reason to be able to come back and tell their friends.”

The key? To lean into the “weird” and purposely avoid following the crowd, Phelps said. And he’s armed with plenty good examples.

While some fast food restaurants decided to go “healthy” and start serving water, fruit and salads, another embraced what they were about, he noted: Hardee’s invented the Thickburger and made it “fattier and nastier” than ever.

“They were at a crossroads, they were getting to a point where they were a jack-of-all-trades and they were starting to close stores and people didn’t really get what they stood for. So it really caused them to look inward and say ‘Is there something we can do that is really different?’” Phelps said.

So, the business decided to “go pro at being unhealthy.”

Meanwhile, Buckley’s cough syrup leaned into the bad taste of their medicine and increased sales by over 500% over competitors who tried to market their goods as tasing better.

When Chick-fil-A opened, most businesses were closed on Sunday, but as the 24/7 rush pushed their competitors to stay open all weekend, the restaurant is now distinctive because they didn’t change their hours, Phelps said.

“Part of it always starts with awareness. Part of that is going out and talking to customers, sometimes it’s taking a hard look in the mirror of what makes you different and unique in the marketplace. Then once you do that, you need to make sure that you take the next step of appreciating what makes you different and accepting it,” Phelps said. “Then, once you do that, you have to turn up the volume way up loud or sometimes it’s about not doing certain things to be able to stand out and not following what all the competition is doing. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning the volume down.”

Essentially, a business’s identity must reach beyond the customer’s transaction and into how it makes the customer feel.

“Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we do and the rules we create in business, that we start to lose the sense of seeing it from the customer’s point of view. When you have to walk through their shoes and experience what they experience and see it from their perspective, it changes the way you do business and how you think about that experience,” Phelps said.

Customers are looking for two things, Phelps said: First, they want warm, good intentions from who they’re doing business with. Then they look for competence, the assurance that they will get the expected value from a company’s product or service.

But the best businesses will go the extra mile, he notes, do the little things to create emotional value, taking the actions necessary to lean in and differentiate themselves from the competition.

“I think it’s always been incumbent upon business to try to be different, so that’s nothing that’s new. We live in a world that’s almost flat now. Your competition is not just down the block, it’s one click away,” Phelps said.

Stan will be the keynote speaker at AMA Nashville Power Lunch on August 28. Register now.

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