How to make customers think anything you want with Spencer Lum
Episode 57 on the Business Bites Podcast
The Gist Of This Episode: Quit throwing out content and hoping it sticks! Join Rachel and Spencer Lum as they discuss ways to create addictive content that creates relationships and ultimately sells (without selling!).
What you will learn:
How to get people to connect with you
The 3 P’s of creating addictive content
Why you should avoid information (value) overload
How to balance personal and professional in the content you provide
Rachel Brenke: Hey guys, Rachel Brenke here from the Business Bites Podcast. I am joined today with Spencer Lum. We are going to talk about how to make your customers think anything you want. Now don’t think that we’re going to get into hypnotism or any sorcery but we are going to learn some influence strategy since Spencer is the influence strategy guy behind the site ExtraBold. He believes that life is too short to not be bold when you can be extra bold.
Oddly he hates hyperbole, but he does like helping creative entrepreneurs figure out new ways to benevolently brainwash strangers … I love that … so that they love you and they buy your stuff. Most days he can be found at his desk hopped up on coffee, like me as well, and trying to figure out different ways to say the word authentic.
Rachel Brenke: Before we jump in I do want you guys to know that you can go to GoExtraBold.com and opt into his free course. It’s going to go through a lot of what we’re going to talk about today and even more, give you more tangible help to be able to make sure that things are going your way so that your customers, your audience, whoever you’re trying to reach loves you and buys into you and your product or service.
Spencer, let’s jump right in. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up becoming an entrepreneur yourself.
Spencer Lum: Oh yes. Well, I mean, if I had to tell the truth it’s because I had nothing else to do. I swear. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be an entrepreneur but then you get to this point where you’re out of college and you’re sitting around trying to figure out what to do with your life and you just have no ideas. The real reason I started a business had nothing to do with my hopes and dreams, which they were, it was just ’cause I had to make money. Basically. I had to survive.
I mean, you know, I jumped into it and I had this long period where I just suffered so much, because that’s what happens when you do things you don’t want to do.
Rachel Brenke: I’ve been there.
Spencer Lum: Yeah, right, I mean, I think, doesn’t everyone? I don’t know. I feel like it.
Rachel Brenke: My path was kind of the same. I went into the corporate world because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do even though I had already started being an entrepreneur and loved that more. I was trying to conform to the box that everyone else wanted. To be honest, at the time I was still in startup phase, needed the money, needed insurance, and all of that. I hated being in someone else’s box. I mean it literally was a box, it was a cubicle. The 9 to 5 and I hated all that, so I hear you. It’s what’s the point. So I was bold, like you say, extra bold, and quit and I’ve never gone back since.
Spencer Lum: Love that. Well here’s the, actually here’s my box. It just popped into my head. I had this one job and this is how my jobs would go. I was a designer at that time and I was getting $20 a pop to design these mass market templates. But the thing is these templates they took like four to eight hours at the time to create. So here I am and I’m thinking like “I’m an entrepreneur” and I’m making less than I would if I were flipping burgers at McDonald’s. I’m like “This sucks.” Anyway, I guess the big thing for me is like I just hopped from one thing to the next until finally I’m like, you know I’ve got so long to live and I’ve got to do something that I want to do.
I guess this is the backstory. This is how I really get started. This is why I focus so much on influence and why I believe it’s so important to make people think what you … Well, I mean, what they want to think, but also of course what you want them to think.
I had this webinar and I’m doing this webinar, and this is to kick off this big workshop because I decide I want to teach and I want to help people and I want to change things. I promoted the heck out of it. I mean everything, I texted friends, I sent messages, I ran, I did the Facebook ads thing. Anyway, the day comes and it’s time to launch the webinar and you know you click that mouse button and you see this little number in the corner and all the people are showing up, and people actually showed up. So, I’m like “Oh My God! They’re here! They’re here to listen to me.” Super excited. I’m thinking for a brief bit there I’m picturing this full workshop and kind of like my new career all set and I’m doing what I love, and you know like how in every webinar you get to that point where you’ve actually got to sell your product? Right.
Rachel Brenke: I think so.
Spencer Lum: It was like the worst. I got to that and I realized I have no idea what to do. I start just, whatever pops into my head I just start tossing it out there. I am totally flustered and probably like bright red. I’m watching that number, all those people who had shown up, and it’s like dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping. It was horrible. Only one person stuck around. This is my favorite part because he stuck around and I’m thinking “Whoa, someone stuck around. This guy’s got to be really interested.” Basically he asks me, he’s like “Do you have any other freebies?” I wanted to cry. It was like the worst.
That was really my start. More than anything that was what made me decide I’ve got to figure out how to make business actually work, because I did not want to do that again. Although I have. I’ve had other, I’ve had plenty of flops like that in my life, but that was the first time I really started focusing on trying to understand how to … I mean I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all about getting people to buy, but when you run a business if you can’t build a relationship where you’re creating something that people want that they do buy, then nothing else happens.
Rachel Brenke: You know what? I think that’s the thing. When I say I want people to buy into something, it’s more about I want them to buy into me and what I have to offer and less about actually physically buying, ’cause I think that’s just a natural byproduct of having that relationship, of having the content and making that connection with the people that I want, to have them think about my product or services a certain way. But it’s more fundamental than that. It’s more of a familial and relational basis.
Spencer Lum: That is, yeah, that’s totally true. I actually just heard the other day … I think, who was it? It might have been [Angela Loria 00:07:12], I think she does books. She teaches people to create books. Anyway I saw this email … and I’m hoping I’m crediting this to the right person … but she, in this email she talked about the idea of selling the sizzle instead of the steak. I remember at one time, because I used to hate sales more than anything, I hated that phrase because I always felt like “but it’s the steak that matters.” But she makes the point in this email that if you don’t get people to be interested in you and to care about you, they will never, or be interested at all in something, the sizzle, then they’re never going to get the steak.
I totally agree with you. I think buying is about getting people into your universe so you can do something that’s meaningful for them, but first you have to get people in there. If you do and you do it right, they will buy you and then in turn they’ll buy your stuff.
Rachel Brenke: So your major strategic tip for getting people on this connection with you and getting to know the sizzle before they buy the steak is getting into or delivering addictive content. What is that and why is that important?
Spencer Lum: Yeah that’s a whole can of worms, so I’m going to try to compress it as best I can.
Rachel Brenke: Pop it open.
Spencer Lum: Yeah, I absolutely think you have to create addictive content. I mean one of the things out there is this idea that content is king. I do think value has its place. It’s not like I’m against it when people provide value, but it’s a really different thing to give people value with let’s say your content, with let’s say a blog post or whatever else, than it is to make people really want and crave your content. They’re totally different mechanisms, like literally.
There’s this little pea size part of your brain, it’s called the nucleus accumbens. It’s responsible for all desire. So whenever you get that crave-like feeling, like for snacks at midnight, or to buy at the end of a webinar, it’s the same thing. It’s that same spot. It’s getting flooded with dopamine.
Just creating value and giving out information does not make people want, so to create addictive content you really, it starts with creating things that people deeply desire. You have to kind of … so my idea of addictive content is a bunch of different things, but the first thing is you have to take people through something I call the three P’s, which is basically this process of pain, proof, and purpose. It’s creating this series of steps that takes people from one place to the next to the next that addresses all the things that they need to have addressed to feel connected with you, to trust you and to actually start to believe in you as you and for you as doing what you do. That’s kind of the first stage and the first layer.
The second part is really understanding all the different mechanisms involved that are going to make people want to keep reading your content and feel like, and create something that’s habit forming. I’ll give you a super simple, I don’t know I can give a bunch of them, but … like a super simple one is there’s this thing in psychology called a partial reinforcement schedule. What it is, is that if you, if someone gets a reward for something sometimes they become much more addicted to that particular thing than if they’re rewarded all the time. You can think of it like in dating, like when you play hard to get with someone.
Rachel Brenke: Ah, okay.
Spencer Lum: Right?. You know you give a little bit out and then that gets people really intrigued and it makes them want something. But if you keep saying yes to everything, you keep giving people exactly what they want all the time, after a while they start to take it for granted, just like with dating, right, so suddenly things loose that allure. They lose that attractiveness.
This is an actual thing. When people go through a partial reinforcement schedule where sometimes you’re rewarded but sometimes you’re not, it creates a much stronger bond than if you constantly give out … Let’s say if you’re creating content and you’re giving advice then it’s if you give value every single time then after a while people start to see the emails like “Oh it’s just going to be another one with value and whatever.” It’s a bizarre thing that if you give people exactly what they want they actually don’t form as strong a connection, but it’s just how people are.
Rachel Brenke: It’s counterintuitive. I mean it just kind of makes my heart go “Oh my gosh, I never want somebody to get an email and not feel like they’ve received something of value out of it.”
Spencer Lum: Yeah, you know that’s what I thought. My solution for that was to recognize that there are a lot of different types of value. I mean there’s entertainment value. There’s sharing something about, just helping people pass time in their life value. There’s actual actionable strategic value for their business. So what I find is that a lot of times I feel like I have to give people something super valuable, then I realize that I’m creating this pressure on myself to only give this one type of … like how do I show them a tip that they can use right now, and you know, there are all these other things, like how many times do you … Well, I don’t know, I always use cat videos but I’m going to be honest, I actually don’t really watch cat videos, but I mean why do people watch cat videos. They’re not watching it for value exactly, but it’s a different sort of value. They’re watching it to pass some time. They’re watching it to be amused. I try to make sure when I create content that I kind of … I mean part of it is really I am trying to attack value from many, many different angles so that it’s not always just this one thing.
But I know exactly what you mean. It’s like you feel like you don’t … I mean you don’t want to send out SPAM of course, but I think also kind of like you totally said it just right, people buy you. If they love you, like people get to this stage where they become part of … When someone is in the cult of Rachel they’re not always just looking for action tips or whatever. I mean they are sitting around and they want to know about your life and your opinion. I think sometimes for us when we deliver that type of content it feels like “I don’t know if that’s actually that valuable,” but part of your audience actually really … That’s what they actually want and that’s what helps them get through their days and get excited and say “Oh she had a great story and I can use that.”
Rachel Brenke: You know what’s funny is I kind of came into this on the back end. I didn’t really think of it in the terms that you’ve outlined it here, which makes total sense. I was looking at it, ’cause my subject matter, and I’m sure there’s some that are listening they may have a product or service or subject matter that’s not necessarily sexy or fun. Let’s just be real, the legal stuff is not something someone would be like “Oh I would love to learn today! Let me see all the ways I could potentially use this” right? What I was finding was that people were hearing the information but it wasn’t overload. When I would go and give speaking engagements it would be an overload, because I’ve always had this fear, just like with the email fear, I’ve always wanted to give as much content and feed them and educate them, ’cause I never want there to be criticisms to say “Oh I didn’t learn anything.” That was one of the points.
Then the other thing that I realize though was the people were not … I mean they can only take in so much. They weren’t really connecting with the content until they needed to consume it. For me it was hard to create addictive content by putting, like you said, 100 percent value into it and always barraging them with legal information without including kind of a brain break so to speak. In this brain break they also got to know who I am as the person behind the emails. It just kind of came out of this need for people to get to know me and we could have a little bit more fun, and then they would start listening to the legal stuff. So I didn’t even realize I was using this whole psychological, which is like an official psychological thing here, I was just really doing it out of survival and then noticing that audiences were more relaxed. They were consuming the information better.
I still have to remind myself, even over a decade into doing this, that it’s not always about the education. There is the big relational aspect when I’m educating others.
Spencer Lum: Yes. I feel like your description is just perfect. I mean it’s that brain break. I think it’s so important. Especially, like you said, they can only absorb so much. Usually when you’re helping people in any subject the amount of stuff in your head is … there’s like so much to it that it’s like people, they just can’t drink that much from the fire hydrant.
Rachel Brenke: Yes. That’s a perfect mental image for it.
Spencer Lum: Yeah. Absolutely.
Rachel Brenke: How would you balance this then? Because that’s another … It’s funny ’cause I did this in my own business. I was getting really relational, like I just explained, ’cause I was trying to get people to consume the information ’cause its important information that you need to know, but then I had like one person make a criticism about how I was too personal on my social media and I wasn’t professional and branded enough. I let that push the pendulum in the opposite direction to where I became so educational focused, and I’ve had to work really hard to come back and bring the relational real Rachel back into things. So what is the balance?
I mean it’s not, you can’t do all or nothing, but I also want to make sure that when people see my feed they still see it as professional, and yet I still want to share about my home life and my family and my athletic endeavors. I mean what would your recommendation be so that they can still be enough of a taste and a brain break but not so much that they’re polarized away from?
Spencer Lum: Right, right. I mean I alternate. I very, literally, alternate. I have like multiple types of content. You have the big actionable tips that are really the same type of material that I would deliver if I were teaching something in a course. Those are like much fewer and farther between. Not only are they fewer and farther between but they just take a lot too. They take a lot of mental energy for people to read. I know that people are there and they need it, it is super high value, but the funny thing is I think a lot of times the most educational content people need to be in a certain place to consume it and be ready for it and be interested in it.
So those are kind of like the ones I drip out. They will show up, depending upon how frequently I email, if I’m in a period where I’m connecting with people a lot through my newsletter or my blog they might show up once every month, once every two months. Then you have the daily content. Really I am trying to kind of … Like usually my … I don’t have like a secret, like a super secret formula but I will say that I try to always kind of give a tiny bit of insight but usually the insight isn’t, a lot of time it’s in the mindset issues. I would say it’s about one to three. I try to make one out of every three emails a little bit more actionable and a little bit more specific to whatever it is I’m talking about. Then two of them are much more about my life and more kind of a life lesson sort of thing.
Again, I figure, like what was it? Was it Ann Landers and Dear Abby and all of those? I mean every day they gave out advice, but how much of that advice do you actually, was useful to anyone other than as entertainment, right. So, I try to make sure that in a sense that everything involves a little bit of my life, as much as I can. Because I really, the thing that really surprised me was the first time I did a big push on a product that actually worked, unlike that webinar I talked about, the thing that really surprised me was that during that period I was trying some stuff out and for months on end I had delivered actually, I thought it was nine, there’s no education at all. There was literally almost no educations, it was all stories. I would never tell anyone to do this.
In fact, that’s not what I do now when I’m gearing up to go and launch something, but it just happened that was how I did it and what really shocked me was that people, they just had so much trust in me that they, I mean, they still bought. It was actually, it was successful. I got, you know, I sold a lot. It went well. The percentages were all good. I had done, I mean, if someone were coming to me to look at it now I’d say it was a pretty bad job leading up to it.
But anyway, I guess my message here is that I find if you keep people interested and you keep them motivated, I mean how much of life is, and how much of this the advice most people read, I would ask, is really for information versus how much is it to kind of feel positive about your business, to have hope that you can solve things, to get motivated and every other part of it. I would say like two, about two-thirds of my content is really more on the motivational side and to keep people interested and to keep them just thinking about stuff but not necessarily solve a particular problem. About one-third is where it’s a little bit more pointed and I’m trying to work through something that deals with a specific business thing.
Rachel Brenke: I like that because I think sometimes we fall into this formula of, what is it the 80/20? You should be sharing like 80 percent about non-sales stuff and only sell like 20 percent of the time. But I like your method a lot better because I want people to connect with me, so I still want to be injecting myself in it ’cause I feel like this 80/20 has been taken to be … I feel like so many people enact it in their businesses now and it’s not how it was truly intended when it was initially taught. I don’t know if I’m making sense with that.
Spencer Lum: Yeah, I totally … It’s one of those things where it goes around so much that people just kind of do it instead of looking at the original idea, right. Yeah, I totally feel that way. One of the, also one thing just popped in my head. I think this was from Seth Godin. He was making the point that … I mean I feel if you have a good relationship with people, I mean, you sell as much as you need to sell. Some people sell all the time, some people don’t. I mean, I’m for whatever works. If it works for someone, it works.
Seth Godin made the point that any time Steve Jobs was anywhere he was almost always selling something. Whether he was giving a keynote or talking about a new OS, he’s always pitching something, but people loved him for it because they felt so connected to his vision and to him. It was just kind of like they handed over their trust and because of that they were actually dying for him to sell stuff. So I feel like kind of like …
Rachel Brenke: -were dying to buy stuff.
Spencer Lum: Right. Yes. Exactly. I mean who doesn’t like to buy? Buying’s fun. Makes your problems go away.
Rachel Brenke: Sure. Absolutely. I mean you never know though, I mean, so and that’s the thing is that I feel like some people listening may be going “Okay, all right addictive content. I need to get out these ratios that Spencer has outlined, but I don’t even know where to begin on picking to fill these different areas. I mean I’ve got the sales portion down. I know the product that I’m selling but I don’t know this other relational brain break stuff.” What would be a few tips that they could jot down or get their brain going to figure out a couple of pieces of content that are non-sales right now?
Spencer Lum: I mean the super easy one, and I know so many people say it, but I’m going to say it anyway because I don’t think enough people do it.
Rachel Brenke: Yeah, say it.
Spencer Lum: Stories. Stories, stories, stories. I mean really how much of here … Okay, I’ll actually give a story. Last week I’m sitting around in the hospital and so I’m in the hospital because I’ve got this gallbladder problem. I have no idea what it is. I think I’m dying. I’m literally, I had a recording of my last message for my family just in case I didn’t make it through. I mean I don’t … It was horrible. Anyway, that really sucked, but there I am coming out of it, the gallbladder, the pain, it’s starting to go away, and I’m sitting at the hospital.
Because I was rushed over to the emergency room I had no, my phone’s dead. I’ve got nothing to read. I’ve got nothing to look at. Nothing to entertain myself, so I’m just sitting there. The pain’s finally, like I said, it’s almost gone. I’m just sitting there. I actually felt so much relief. I’m not talking about relief from the pain or relief because I didn’t die. I felt so much relief because there was nothing I could possibly do. I had no pressure to work. I had no pressure to send out an email or get anything done because it just wasn’t possible.
I didn’t even have pressure to try to entertain myself by reading because it wasn’t possible. So I just sat there. I felt so peaceful for that hour. My point is as soon as that happened I started thinking about “Oh my God I need to go bone up on my time management.” I mean, you know, I’ve taken all sorts of courses and whatever else on time management, but as soon as I saw that I realized how much I had slipped and how much I’d fallen into the habit of having that like, I don’t know that monkey mind thing where it’s just jumping around all over the place and you’re constantly feeling like you have to do stuff and you’re not protecting your time and taking care of it.
Anyway, point being that I mean, everything that happens to you, you take a trip to the hospital, if I were selling a productivity course or I were to write an email about productivity, which you can almost any audience, like you can write an email about productivity to almost any audience in the world for … Well, I mean not for every form of product out there, but there are a lot of audiences who are happy to hear insights or even recognize things about time management because almost everyone deals with it. So, like you sit around, you go to the hospital, and its like … I mean, I’ve got about like three or four other stories I could pull out of my trip to the emergency room, but that’s one of them, and like the story writes itself. I don’t have to say anything. I just have to share that and talk about the fact that we are all so busy and we all lose sight of what’s important in the real life. It’s not just like kind of … and it’s just kind of being able to enjoy your actual time and do stuff.
If you share that story and you do it right, what people feel is the sense of ah, yes I have that, and yes I do need to pause and I do need to look at my life. They feel so thankful to have that little, it’s kind of like they go through it and they get to have kind of the same realization that I did. There’s no such thing as anything that happens to anyone where they can’t take that point, that thing that happens and connect it to some sort of message.
I could sit around and just as easily … Here’s another story, I could take the hospital trip and say $7,000 deductible, thank God I actually had work and I put in the time to make sure I built a meaningful job for myself so that I would have an income so that I could cover the $7,000 and this is great if you, let’s say you sit around and you want people to, you want to motivate people to start working and start investing in their business. Maybe you have an audience who is resistant to great marketing advice and you want to get them motivated and feel like hey I need to do some marketing.
I mean stories, I feel like, even though, again I know everyone says stories, but I feel like people don’t really mind these type … They think like nothing happens to them and you can’t have nothing happen to you. Something happens to you every single day. I can promise that almost every single one of them connects to some sort of message that anyone’s audience will find meaningful. You just have to look at it, think about it and figure out okay what are they interested in hearing about.
That’s the first place I’d say to look, is just like start writing that stuff down. Start looking at what happens. We all have these tiny little micro epiphanies and a lot of times we think they’re not important enough and no one cares about them, but actually they are and people would love to hear about them as long as you tell it in a way that’s personal.
Rachel Brenke: Hey you know what’s so good about the technology age that we’re in now is that people want to hear this sort of stuff. I mean, look at the onslaught of reality TV. People want to know about personal lives. They also love seeing it connected to business. That’s one of the big ways that I connect business strategy and legal protection stuff to my audience.
But even more so, look at the history of how advertising has gone. 15-20 years ago you would turn on the TV and you would see, okay this paper towel is better than that paper towel, or this diaper holds more than that diaper, right. That was like basically it. Well, now fast forward to now, advertisers know you have to tell a story, so you see all these major advertisers using stories about baby’s first steps, and growing up and going to the Olympics, and doing all this. All that really has absolutely nothing, honestly, to do with how much the diaper can hold, but because it’s connecting and telling a story its then putting the product or them in the path of the person that will potentially consume or buy in to them.
Spencer Lum: Yeah, I think you know the thing is, really to me, at the end of the day, like what are you trying to do with your audience. To me, I mean many things obviously, but to me you’re trying to create some form of a belief. You do that through your relationship and everything else you talk about. The thing about greater purpose is, if you just like spit it out there no one’s going to sit around, if you say my purpose is to … I don’t know whatever, change people’s lives, no one’s going to sit around and say “Oh my God I have to read everything Spencer says if he’s got a purpose like that.”
Rachel Brenke: Ah, Spencer’s at his purpose again.
Spencer Lum: Yeah, exactly, yes. Exactly right. But when you tell stories it gets around that and it actually makes people connected and they really start to understand what you’re about. At the end of the day, I guess, here’s the thing, I think what people are really looking for more than anything is some form of, like I said, there’s motivation, there’s hope, but also some form of like self-fulfillment and feeling good about their lives and feeling good about themselves. I guess that’s the thing, is value on its own, I think it’s an important part of content when you use it, like when you … For example, if you’re delivering a webinar and there’s no value there, I think you wind up with a lot of skeptical people who aren’t going to want to buy what you have, right.
Rachel Brenke: Or you can be like me who’s so fearful of someone feeling that way I go in the complete opposite direction, shove so much into it, overload people, they all shut down and then it’s really no good for anybody.
Spencer Lum: Totally. I’ve done that too. I have most certainly done it. I feel like this idea it’s important to know if you create content where your end goal is to help people feel the sense of fulfillment and feel good about their lives, they’ll read everything you write. They will follow everything you do. Because there’s nothing that, I mean if you get that, I mean what higher level relationship can you really have, right. So it’s not that there’s any one thing, and that’s what’s always tricky about going into addictive content, it’s not like there’s like this one magic bullet other than kind of understanding that there’s kind of an overall strategy and an art and principles that you apply. If you do what will start to happen is you’ll go from this person who either always gives value, or this person who’s always the opposite of giving value is always pitching without giving any value, and you go from … you know some people’s business models are that, and what happens is people get burned out super super fast.
But, you go from that to creating this relationship where it is about you and you giving this thing to the person where they feel good about themselves and there’s … people will keep coming back over and over for that and they’ll just never get tired of it.
Rachel Brenke: I love it. Well, I have changes to make now and I’m actually even more excited to go check out your course. I’m going to take it as well. At GoExtraBold.com because this is honestly I’m getting transparent here, this has been something I’ve struggled with for years. I used to just chock it up to “Oh it’s just your subject matter. No one likes the law” and I figured but I’m still doing a disservice to my, to the consumers that need what I have to sell, what I have to give, what the knowledge that they need. I know there’s probably a lot of you that you have gone into business because you’re a solution for a problem that you have seen existing. So bridging the gap can sometimes sound very difficult. Just know you’re not alone, I’m there too. We have Spencer’s awesome strategy and all of his great information to help us.
Spencer, thank you so much for coming on today. You guys can find show notes at RachelBrenke.com/epi57. Don’t forget also to go over to GoExtraBold.com grab that course so you guys can continue working on creating addictive content. I would love to hear about it. We also have a Facebook group called The Business Bites. Pop into there and let us know how it’s going once you’ve put into place everything that Spencer has taught you guys. Have a good one.
Spencer Lum is the influence strategy guy behind ExtraBold, and he thinks that life is too short to be bold, when you can be extra bold. Oddly, he hates hyperbole, but he does like helping creative entrepreneurs figure out new ways to benevolently brainwash strangers so they love you and buy your stuff. Most days, he can be found at his desk, hopped up on coffee, trying to figure out different ways to say the word “authentic.”