Every lending business could use a superfan, but what really are they, and just how much can they really help? In this episode, David Lykken is joined by award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker Brittany Hodak. Here, Brittany shares what superfans are, how important they are to a business, and how to create them! Tune in to learn more about superfan customers and how to increase traction for your lending business!
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Creating Superfan Customers With Brittany Hodak
I’m so excited to have Brittany Hodak as my guest. She is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynote speeches across the globe to organizations such as American Express and even the United Nations. She has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katie Perry, and Dolly Parton, and you’ll read about that in this interview. She founded and scaled a startup company to eight figures before exiting, and she is the former Chief Experience Officer for Experience.com. We know them well and love that company. Her debut book, Creating Superfans, is what we’re going to be talking about. Brittany, it’s great to have you back.
Thank you. It’s so great to be back. I’m excited to be here.
We’re going to be talking about your new book, but I want to talk about your last episode with us. We had you on December 23rd, 2019. We were talking about the topic we’re going to be talking about again now, and that is Creating Superfans. You’ve got quite a background. Tell me a little bit about yourself and share that with our readers if you can. How’d you get to where you’re at?
I can’t believe it’s been a few years since we did this last time. In the last few years, because of COVID, I feel like time has bent in every direction. It feels like three months, but it also feels like 300 years. It’s such a weird thing, but I would’ve gotten it wrong if you’d asked me to guess how long it had been since we’ve done this.
I was shocked too. I couldn’t believe it, but so much has happened since then, which is probably the reason this topic is more relevant now than ever before. Tell our readers about your journey. I love your story of how you’ve gotten to where you’re at.
I grew up working in the entertainment industry, so I got my first job at a radio station when I was a teenager. I worked at record labels all through college. After school, I was in New York for several years, working for labels and big entertainment companies. When I was 27, I launched my own business called The Superfan Company. In that business, I was working with huge superstars. I was so lucky.
My first customer was Walmart. That allowed me to work alongside people like Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, and Dolly Parton, all of these huge celebrities and some of the biggest consumer packaged goods brands in the world. It was such a fun journey. I learned so much about customer experience and the business side of client relationships. I ran that business for a couple of years, and then by popular demand, I started speaking. I never dreamed of becoming a keynote speaker and author. It’s honestly something I never even thought about as a career path, but because of the success of the business and some big media appearances, including Shark Tank, I kept getting all of these requests to speak.
As I did it, I realized that I loved learning, researching, and going back to try to figure out what’s driving this consumer behavior, what are the psychographics that is causing some of these businesses to go viral and others to go away, and what is it about this human condition that makes us predisposed to connect more deeply to certain people, ideas, brands, or things.
After a couple of years of pulling double duty doing both things, I sold the majority of the equity of the company I had founded and started speaking and writing full-time. All these years later, I’m finally publishing my very first book called Creating Superfans. It’s all about the things that you can do, like an actual framework or step-by-step instructions that you can follow to turn your customers into lifelong advocates who come back again and tell their friends.
That is so good. I love the pictures you sent of you and your daughter dressed up for Halloween 2022, and you had the book. It was cute. You clearly have the ideas of an entrepreneur. You think like an entrepreneur and are always into connecting with people. I want to get into the whole superfan customer thing and how we create those. It is one of my first questions. What is a superfan customer, and why are they so important for any business, especially now? In the mortgage industry, we’re struggling to find our superfans. It feels like they all went away.
A superfan is a customer who creates more customers, someone who has such a great experience working with you that they’re going to come back and tell their friends. We know in the mortgage industry, something like 4 or 5 people don’t go back to the originator that they used last time when it’s time for a new loan. Part of the reason why is because most people who work in the mortgage industry spend a hugely disproportionate amount of time on what I call the during part of the customer experience.
In the book, I talk about the idea of before, during, and after. For a customer, your experience starts long before you first talk to somebody about your loan. Experience of looking for a loan begins when you first start to think about, “It’s time to sell my house. It’s time to buy my first house. It’s time to upgrade. I need a HELOC. I need to refi to build this pool and deck I’ve always wanted,” whatever it is. Your journey starts long before you ever talk to the person who’s ultimately going to be the partner that helps you on this journey. It doesn’t end when you close.
After you close, I’m not talking about that like a 30-year traditional loan. I’m talking about all of the things that happen to a customer. What happens after you close a loan? First, you start to get all of that spammy predatory mail that is confusing because it’s all designed to make you think that somebody has your information. Maybe then you get the paperwork in the mail that your loan has been sold to another company, and you’re like, “What does this mean? Did I do something wrong? Is the person who did my loan still involved? Maybe this is fraudulent like those other 52 things I’ve gotten in the mail in the past few weeks.”
If you don’t have somebody who’s still walking alongside you saying, “Remember I told you this is what it means. This is what it means for you. This is all totally normal. This is part of the process,” if you don’t have someone who’s still right there engaged with you, then you’re going to feel abandoned. You’re going to be like, “Why don’t I roll the dice next time? There’s no way I’m going to have an experience that’s more confusing than the one last time. I might as well pick any random person who promises me what a consumer thinks are the most important thing,” which is the lowest rate, because they don’t know any better.
The during part of the transaction, from the first time you communicate with somebody, whether that’s over the phone, text, or email through closing, that should only be 60% of your consideration because you are losing so many potential clients on that front end before you even know they exist. They’re hearing your name, landing on something, or looking you up because you left them a voicemail because you’re 1 of 17 people who bid on that lead. They’re like, “No, there’s not anything that stands out about this person.” You’ve got to try to win them before you even know who they are in some cases. You’ve got to remind your customers that you’re a trusted partner who still wants to be part of their financial journey long after that loan closes.You've got to try to win your customers before you even know who they are in some cases. Click To Tweet
There are many questions that come out of just that first statement that you’re making. Let’s go to this. How can mortgage professionals remain top of mind with their customers that they’ve already done business with after they’ve finished that initial journey? Weave that into what you were talking about the journey starts well before that. We want to get into that relationship as quickly as we can for the new customers that are coming down the line.
For existing customers, I always say to think about your own life. Think about yourself as a customer and the service professionals who you deal with. There are some who you only think of when you need that thing. You’re like, “The toilet’s broken. Call the plumber.” There are others who you become almost friends with because your story becomes connected to theirs. Their thing is relevant to your thing. You’ve got to become an expert and a helpful partner more than mortgages. The thing is, you’ve already got things in your life that you’re uniquely positioned to help other people with.
That is such a good point.
I’m not asking you to do anything new. I’m asking you to think about the gifts and the strengths that you have through a new lens. Maybe you love to bake. Guess what? A lot of your customers would love someone to help them become better bakers. Maybe you love to garden, guess what? All of those homes you sold, a whole bunch of them come with front yards that people would love to add some curve appeal. Maybe you’re the person who always knows when there’s like a new show coming to town and all of the hot music before anybody else. Maybe you are so tapped into all of the things that kids love to do, and you are the person that if you’ve got a family, we’ve got to stay connected because I’m going to make sure you never miss a fair, parade, or a little arts and crafts festival.
The interests that you have are going to resonate with a certain subset of your customers. Not everyone, and that’s totally fine. For the ones that do connect with you on that level, you now have this built-in way to continue to be relevant in their lives because everyone’s busy. Everyone has a zillion things going on. When you can say, “I’m going to do this thing that’s going to continue to make your experience in this new home even better because I’m going to keep you tapped into things that matter, whether they matter within the community or within your own home.” that’s an ongoing value add. That gives someone a reason to stay engaged with you beyond the closing table.
You’re talking a little bit about an experience. It’s about the experience we create with our customers. Sadly, the experience hasn’t been overly positive, at least for many at this point. What can mortgage professionals do to create an intentional experience, exceed expectations, and then do so in other ways? Are there other ways? Talk about that.
There are other ways, and I love that you used the word intentional because we are living in an experience economy now. I talk about this in the book. It is not a question of whether or not there will be an experience for your customer. There is. The question is, is it going to be an intentional one that you’ve thoughtfully designed and curated through those touchpoints that matter the most, or is it going to be like a haphazard one? It might be amazing sometimes and not so great sometimes every now and then because balls get dropped, or things fall through the cracks or whatever, and it’s not so great.
When you design an intentional experience for your customers and say, “Here are the repeatable steps every single customer goes through. Here are the touchpoints that are going to happen again and again. These seventeen things are always going to happen,” ask yourself which of those matters the most and what you can do to elevate those ordinary interactions into memorable experiences.
Can you give us some examples of people doing this successfully that you have studied or looked at and go, “That is well done?”
One example I love that I talk about in the book comes from LEGOLAND. Have you ever been to the LEGOLAND Hotel in Florida?
I took my first trip there in the summer of 2022. My kids were 2 and 4 at the time. We stayed at the LEGOLAND Hotel. We went to the theme parks. One of my kids’ favorite things about the hotel was an elevator that was like a disco dance party. You opened this little elevator, and there were floor-to-ceiling decals of Lego people, disco balls, and lights, and as soon as you closed the door, it would play Bee Gees or ABBA. It’s so much fun. We were at that resort for four days. It wasn’t until the 3rd or 4th day that I realized that was the slowest elevator I had ever been on in my life.
It was because it was such an amazing experience.
Exactly. I’ve heard two verses of Staying Alive, and we’re not on the fifth floor yet. It was a small elevator, so you would have to wait because it was one family at a time because even fitting four people with a couple of bags in there was totally maxed out. I thought, “This is so brilliant. I’ve been on this elevator like 3 or 4 times a day for the past 3 days, and it never occurred to me how slow it is because it’s an experience.”
In the mortgage industry, there are a lot of slow elevators and a lot of things you don’t have ultimate control over. You might not be able to make that elevator go faster, but what you can do is make it more enjoyable and make the ride better. You can turn it into a disco dance party. Looking at your customer’s experience, not passing the blame, and saying, “That’s all underwriting. I can’t do anything about that. I’m going to have to wait for that to come back. That’s beyond my control.” Nothing about your customer’s experience is beyond your control.Nothing about your customer's experience is beyond your control. Click To Tweet
That is so important to realize. To sit and chew on that and think about the experience we create, it’s our responsibility. The customer shows up to do what they want to do. In your case, go to LEGOLAND. If you’re sitting and dealing with some processes, a slow elevator you’re not in control of, let’s make it a positive experience as possible. This business is all about referrals. It should be. We do a terrible job of the mortgage industry in the referral side of our business, as you pointed out. What can mortgage professionals do to increase the number of referrals they receive? Give us an example if you can think of one, someone that’s doing this much better than others.
I’ve worked with several huge brands over the years, including several large charities. I had the privilege of working with Feeding America for several years. When I first started working with Feeding America, one of the directors of the charity said, “Do you know the number one reason people donate?” I said, “Maybe they dealt with food insecurity when they were young.” She said, “No.” I said, “Maybe because they’ve seen firsthand the impact of a food pantry or kitchen in their community that matters,” and she said, “No. Try again.”
I was totally stumped. I was like, “I don’t know. What’s the number one reason?” She said, “We always ask people why they donate. Without fail, overwhelmingly, the number one reason people donate is because they were asked.” They’re like, “I gave because someone asked me. I got something in the mail, somebody called me. There was an email.” People who’ve never worked in sales jobs have no idea how important referrals are.
A lot of times, people are afraid to ask for referrals, or they’re like, “Why would I need to? This customer knows that I want referrals.” They may not. Sometimes it’s that simple. We all have a million things going on. We’re so busy. The number one thing to do to make sure you get referrals is to ask for them. Make sure your customers know why they’re important and start planning those seeds early in the process.
There will be times while you’re working with that customer when you can say, “Thanks so much for having all your financial stuff together. You made things so much easier for me. I appreciate it. I love working with customers like you. If you’ve got friends who are thinking about moving to a new place or looking for a mortgage, I would love introductions because it would be fantastic to work with more people like you.” Plant those seeds so that when you’re asking for that referral or review at the end of the process, it’s not like coming out of nowhere.
There’s so much in that that I want to talk about, but I want to get to your book quickly. Why is it that you wrote this book? You’ve been talking about superfans. You talked about it a few years ago in my show. It’s been something that’s been top of mind for you and on your heart. Let’s get into the reason why you wrote the book.
I wrote the book because I wanted to help people. That’s the simple as it gets.
Anyone who gets to know you knows that’s what you’re about. You’re so passionate about people. You enjoy people. When I saw you at the Total Expert, which I was happy to have them as one of my sponsors at their user conference in Nashville, you radiate. You had a posse around you. You have people that are drawn to you. You are resonating and creating a powerful experience with people. A lot of people struggle with that, so it’s a great why. Tell us a little bit about the book. When we read that, what can we anticipate? What’s the experience you’ve intentionally created for us as we read your book?
Thank you for using the word experience and for saying so many kind things. I wanted to write a book that didn’t feel like a business book. Part of the reason it took me so long to write this book is because I wanted to make it special. I didn’t want to throw a book together and put it out to have a book. I love books. This is something that I wanted to get right. I wanted to do justice to readers because a book is an investment. It’s an investment of time and money. I wanted somebody to feel like the time they spent with me in a book was well worth it.A book is an investment. It's an investment of time and money. Click To Tweet
Some of the fun things that I did with this book was print the whole thing in color. It’s not a black-and-white business book. It’s beautiful and fun to read. Every chapter title and all of the major headings are songs. There are more than 100 song references throughout the book, which makes it fun to read. There are a lot of stories from pop culture. It is very much a business book. It’s about customer experience. It’s designed to help bring customer-centricity more to the forefront and give a shared language to people.
If you have a team you oversee and want to introduce shared language and metrics that you can use for everyone to get on the same page, the book does all of that. It does it in a way that’s fun and accessible so that whether somebody has been in business for 50 years or 15 minutes, they can pick it up and say, “Here are some things that we can change to be more customer-centric and create more of these superfan customers.”
It’s being published and released now. Congratulations.
You can order it now. It is available everywhere books are sold, including bookstores. If anybody out there is reading this and they’re near Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or maybe their favorite little indie local bookstore, take a peek. Look for the blue book with pink stars.
I love it. It’s going to leap off the shelf at you because it’s so fun and it’s a great experience. You wrote every word in this yourself. You didn’t hire a writer. I thought that was impressive because I’m writing a book now, and I’ve been looking at a blank page and staring, but you did that. Any tips on writing a book that someone’s thinking, “I want to write a book?” What would you say is the key thing to doing so successfully?
Part of why it took so long for me to write this book is because I was probably overly critical of myself. I made it take too long. The book is about 60,000 words, and I wrote close to 150,000 words for this book. There’s a lot that didn’t make it in the book. Bf that, there are a lot of bonus resources and things. Throughout the book, there’s a URL that I direct people to over and over again to get some of the extra resources that didn’t quite make it into the book but are hopefully helpful.
Before you sit down to write your book, think about who it’s for and what you want them to get out of it, and use that as your North Star. There are going to be things that I had to cut that I would’ve loved to have had in there, like cute stories about my kids or things that were important to me personally. When I came back to it and said, “Is this going to help my reader make more money and create more superfans?” If the answer wasn’t like an obvious slam dunk yes, then I took it out. Again, I want it to be a thoughtful and respectful curator of the time our reader is giving me to spend with this book.
There are some principles in that that we can apply to everything we do. It should not be about us. It should be about the person that we’re working with, and that’s our customer. It’s good stuff. I can’t wait to get my copy of the book. It’s ordered, and it will be here. I’m going to dive into it, and we get to have you back. Thank you so much. Brittany, if anyone reading this wants you to come and speak to their organization or talk with you, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
Thank you, David, for asking. My email is [email protected]. You can come to the website and send me a message. I would love to talk about creating superfans.
That’s excellent. I encourage you to do that. Have her come and speak. I listened to her speak at a HousingWire event. It was so good. That is why I had her come to the show a few years ago. It’s so good to have you back, Brittany. I can’t wait to read the book and have you back and talk to you more about it. Let’s bring some of your success stories to the show next time. Let’s get some folks to join you that have been impacted by your book. That would be a good next one.
I love that. I’m in.
Thank you so much for being here.
- Brittany Hodak
- Creating Superfans
- Episode – Past Episode
- Total Expert
- [email protected]
About Britanny Hodak
Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting, and she is the former Chief Experience Officer of Experience.com. Her debut book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores on January 10, 2023.