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Podcast Pit Stop: Turning Customers into Fans with David Meerman Scott

Humanity and passion enhances the customer experience.

"We are drawn to people who are passionate about something." Joining us in episode 53 of Pit Stops to Podium and the first of our Month of HubSpot series is David Meerman Scott.

David is an internationally acclaimed strategist, whose books have become international best-sellers and a Wall Street Journal best-seller. Some of Scott’s favorites include 'New Rules of Marketing and PR, ‘Real-Time Marketing and PR’ and ‘Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers & Customers into Fans’. As a member of the HubSpot advisory board, David also advises other emerging companies looking to transform their industry as well as non-profit organizations such as The Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California Santa Cruz. 

If you want to learn how to turn your customers into RAVING fans while understanding how humanity can help you grow, buckle up and hold on tight for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. 🏎 🏁

Podcast Highlights  


  • Making business personal is essential because that is how we connect in human way.
  • Treating customers as human beings elevates the customer experience which keeps them coming back to your product/service.

Artificial Intelligence 

  • Technology and AI is valuable and important because it can complete manual processes while allowing humans to focus on what ONLY humans can do.
  • Example: - a tool that learns your target audience and repurposes long-form content such as video, audio and blogs into optimized social media captions.
  • AI may have the potential to be dangerous due to biases and social media algorithms. 


  • Passion is INFECTIOUS. 
  • Passion is really important to companies because the neuroscience of fandom tells us that human beings are drawn to those who are passionate about something. 
  • We want to experience passion and share that with other human beings.

Engaging with David




Full Transcript

Brendan: Hey everyone, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium. The RevPartners podcast. We talk to execs who've competed and won, taking their companies from high growth, to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today, David Meerman Scott for this version of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome David!

David: Hey Brendan great to be here, thanks for having me on!

Brendan: Absolutely Dave, well I'm excited about this episode in light of your experience but this may be a great opportunity just for our audience to understand, “who is David? So do you mind sharing a little about your background and how you got to be here today. 

David: Absolutely. So I started out after school on a bond trading desk on Wall Street. Hated it, was terrible at it, but what I loved was the information that the bond traders were using so I worked for 15 years in the corporate world for companies like Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters and then I left 20 years ago to go out on my own. I've written 13 books, three of them are international bestsellers. I'm probably best known for a book called ‘The New Rules of Marketing & PR’. I co-wrote ‘Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead' with HubSpot co-founder and executive chairman Brian Halligan. We became fast friends back in 2007 and I've been on the HubSpot advisory board since the very beginning in 2007 and i'm still on the HubSpot Advisory Board. So we have that connection that we're both very deep into the world of HubSpot.

Brendan: And Grateful Dead. I mean, I appreciate, I don't know if I would say I'm a deadhead but it's… 

David: Well have you been to 87 Grateful Dead concerts like I have? 

Brendan.Holy Moly. No I have not.

David: That's okay so I beat you on that one although Halligan has been to more Grateful Dead concerts than I have. Brian owns Jerry Garcia's wolf guitar, I own Bob Weir's no fun guitar so our Grateful Dead fandom runs pretty darn deep.

Brendan: I bet, I bet well that might kind of bleed into the next section of this podcast and so we'll get to the big idea in just a second but we do have a tradition here at the Pit Stops to Podium and that's to get to know our guests outside of work so Dave, what are what are three fun facts outside of going to 87 Grateful Dead concerts that that our audience should know about? 

David: So the book that I wrote most recently is a book called Fanocracy. I wrote it with my daughter Reiko and it was super cool to write a book with one's daughter. At the time we were writing, she was in medical school. She's now graduated from medical school and is doing her emergency department residency at Boston Medical Center so that's super cool. You see over my shoulders several of my passions we've talked about the Grateful Dead. I love surfing. I surf as much as I can, I'm not very good at it but it is hugely important in my life. This past week I was actually out I think four different days and two of the days the lifeguards called us in because of sharks and it's the first time in 30 years of surfing I've been pulled in because of shark sightings. So there you go I don't know what that's portraying for the future and I'm a huge passionate fan of the Apollo Lunar program and there's a Saturn V Rocket model over my shoulder. I actually have one of the world's best collections of artefacts of items that flew to the surface of the moon, were either used by the astronauts or in some way in the spacecraft. So I geek out pretty deep about the things that I get into surfing, music, live music and Apollo being three of them.

Brendan: Well at the time it's recording it was just shark week so I think your timing with surfing and sharks is…

David:  Yeah I don't know what's with that. Shark week is the only time that I've ever been yanked in by the lifeguards because of shark sightings so there you go I guess they got the week right.

Brendan: Yeah I think you're the only guest I've had so far that has props for every single fun fact so to your point… 

David: Yeah I'm talking to you from my home studio and I very much like to have stuff around me and  passion is super important.

Brendan: Well I think that's a good segway to the big idea and you talked about how you were an  advisor at HubSpot and one of the fun facts you talked about was a book you recently wrote with your daughter and so let's actually talk about that book there's a big idea there that I think is really relevant for our audience as they're moving from high growth to high scale and that's really around the customer experience and you have that concept called Fanocracy, really turning customers into fans. Before we kind of dive into that topic going deep like why is this a big idea? I mean people talk about customer experience but why does it matter that you create fans? This may seem intuitive but I think it's good for our audience to have that context.

David: Well it's interesting because  business traditionally has been transactional. Business has been about selling products to people and we in the business world have always tried to find new customers to replace the customers that either leave or if we're selling one-off like products like you know, you're selling cars or whatever it might be, you've got to continually sell more of them but the idea of building fans is a different way of doing business because when you're building fans you have repeat customers. People who come back to you again, and again, and again because they love what you do. You have people then who also will share the fact that they love what an organization is doing. One of my favorite examples and we wrote about it in the book is an automobile insurance company. Now here's the thing Brendan, do you love auto insurance?

Brendan: No. 

David: Nobody loves auto insurance! However, there's a company called Hagerty, they do insurance for classic cars and they've built millions of fans because they provide all kinds of incredible value above and beyond just insuring classic cars. They help you to provide valuations of how much classic cars are worth, they have a Youtube channel with over a million followers, they have Hagerty’s drivers club where they have 650,000 members who interact in the driver’s club, they go to hundreds of different classic auto shows and events around the country every year. They've not only become the largest classic car insurance company in the world, they just went public on the New York Stock Exchange and they are doing great so the idea of building fans can work even in a business that people hate like car insurance.

Brendan: Well I think a lot of the principles that you see even within like a B2C context are now transferring over to B2B and the raving fans concept, I mean HubSpot popularized that whole flywheel concept but I think there's…

David: Well and HubSpot themselves is a fabulous example. I mean they've got millions of people who subscribe to their blog and their youtube channels and are taking the courses on Hubspot Academy. They have many, many, many more fans and they have customers and that can only serve them well in the future. They are a classic example of a company that builds fans for example, I think we're both going to INBOUND in the next as we're recording this it's in the next couple of months we're both speaking. I'm doing a session there as I have every year since inbound started and there's 25,000 people who've come to the in person versions of INBOUND. Many of them are not HubSpot customers, they're fans of HubSpot that want to be there for that annual event. 

Brendan: Well let's let's dive in a little bit further so i think we understand kind of why it's important or the value it can create and in your book you really talk about the three components to that and there's the human element there's the AI element and there's the passion component so let's start when you talk about the human kind of role and responsibility within this context of Fanocracy. What do you mean by that and what's the application?

David: Sure of course there's many more ideas in the book besides these three but these are the ones that I think we want to dig into in our short time together today. So, making business personal is so, so, so important because as I said earlier, the idea that business is simply transactional is fine if you're just selling product and that's all you're doing but if you want to grow fans, if you want to create an organization that has customers that come back again, and again, and again and want to share with other people the idea of building a human organization, one that has humans in it that treats people with respect, that doesn't lie that doesn't put people on hold when you call the 800-number, claiming that they have greater than expected call volume which is total BS or, that don't respond when they you send an email into customer support. That kind of organization is not being human and that is a problem for all kinds of businesses. The difference between an organization that's human, treating customers with respect, being there when a customer needs you is that those customers then begin to enjoy that interaction and they actually become fans and it works with a B2C company it works with a B2B company. I mentioned Hagerty Insurance they do have a B2C where I can buy insurance but a lot of their business is done B2B through insurance agents so it works both ways whether you're selling to businesses or you're selling to consumers.

Brendan: And I think the way you described is interesting because oftentimes, or at least maybe it's my own bias, but when I hear turning customers into fans naturally I think that's a CS function so Customer Service/Customer Support depending on what industry you're part of. But I think the way you're describing is it's across the entire journey from, you know, lead to prospect to customers, so really the human element is in  all phases.

David: Yeah I think it really is. I think it encompasses every aspect of an organization on what happens when you reach out to the customer services department. How do they send you a bill? Is it easy to pay the bill? You know if you want to go… Recently a company that I do business with I wanted to go from monthly billing to annual building and it was ridiculously difficult to make that transition I was like gosh that should be a touch of a button you know just because they have my credit card number they know my account they have everything they need to know and I just wanted to not have to pay them every month, just pay them once a year. I didn't even need a discount. I just wanted to pay them once a year. It was super difficult to do and took like an hour of my time. I’m now fighting one of my health care providers for you know something really simple. I went for an eye exam. I needed a referral from my primary care physician so it was covered by insurance. I've spent two hours on the phone with people trying to deal with this. These organizations, the eye doctor my primary care, and the health insurance, all three of them are failing on this idea of treating people as humans because I'm simply a number to all of them.

Brendan: Yeah and that's um, you know let's talk about the flip side of that because we just described it as a number. So there's a human element, there's also the role that technology can play to help orchestrate this process so how do you find that balance? Or maybe there's not amazing attention but just be curious to hear how you think about technology and AI specifically within this concept?

David: Well obviously technology is super important and can be super valuable. I mean here we are we've been talking about HubSpot and you know, we're both involved in the HubSpot ecosystem and they've managed to apply technology to marketing in a fabulous way so technology is amazing and AI can also be amazing and I'll give you an example of an aspect of AI that I think is amazing. I happen to be both an investor and a customer of a company called Lately and what Lately does is they allow customers like me to take long form text or video content so for example, a blog post or a chapter of a book or a video of a speech for example, drop it into the lately AI engine and then it will produce multiple it could be 10 it could be 20 it could be 30 short form social media posts. I did it today when I wrote a blog post I dropped the URL of my blog post into the lately AI engine and within just a few seconds it created a dozen tweets for me. I just go in and edit them, make sure they're cool, push the button to then schedule them one per week for the next dozen weeks. That's amazing that saves a crazy amount of time number one, but it also creates tweets I never would have thought of from the long form so there's great aspects of AI but I also think AI can be dangerous. It can be dangerous because the AI algorithms are tuned to look for things that are already happening so there can be biases that are put in brought into AI that can be biased against people who don't fit a norm you know if you go into a stock photo site and you search for CEO you get a lot of white older men with grey hair you know and you don't get any young women or any black women I mean, it can be very, very biased because of the way things are tagged and the way the AI works. So the other thing is um that I think that many of the social media algorithms, especially the facebook algorithm, is dangerous for humanity and dangerous to society. I actually think the facebook algorithm is among the most dangerous technologies ever invented, let me repeat, that the facebook algorithm is one of the most dangerous technologies ever invented because it's tuned to reward anger here's why: because facebook's AI engineers have understood that when people are angry they tend to be on facebook longer and when they're on facebook longer they can facebook can can sell more ads against those eyeballs that are on there longer and so, for that reason, people get sucked into conspiracy theories. They get sucked into the, in this country at least the United States, the red team versus the blue team and this is very very dangerous for society. The algorithms themselves are causing, I believe many of the problems that we have in our political world it's causing problems around people believing that vaccines are not effective versus other people who believe that vaccines are effective and that kind of thing becomes really really polarizing so AI has some amazing benefits I described one but AI has some incredible dangers that I think we need to address as a society. 

Brendan: Yeah that the algorithm, I mean you're describing the whole confirmation bias concept of within the dangers of it to your point… 

David: But yeah for people who are susceptible and who get sucked into that you know I think that the facebook algorithm is something that should be held accountable for the events of January 6th for example and you don't see Facebook on trial during the senate and the house hearings. 

Brendan: Yeah I mean, going back to I think the role that AI plays to your earlier point I mean it, really becomes what are those manual processes that we can automate that allow humans to actually focus on the things that only humans can do.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely right you said that in a very very succinct and powerful way yes.

Brendan: Well let's let's move into the last part kind of the book ends I think are around the human element and so we talked about the role of kind of having a human approach as it relates to engaging with customers regardless of where they're in the journey we talked about how AI can actually help orchestrate some of that but let's let's finish with the concept of passion. So how does passion play into this idea of turning customers into fans?

David: So passion is infectious. And this concept of passion was the most surprising thing that my daughter Reiko and I discovered when we dug into the research that we did around fandom and our book Fanocracy was really the first time that someone had really dug in deep into the neuroscience aspects of fandom. Why we become and how we become fans of a product, or a service, or an idea, or a company, or a person, and this idea of passion becomes really important to fandom. It becomes important to fandom for companies as well as individuals because we're drawn to people who are passionate about something and it does relate as you rightly said back to the initial initial idea we discussed briefly about humanity but you know that's one reason why I've got these things over my shoulder. The things I'm passionate about are all live music but especially The Grateful Dead, surfing, the Apollo lLunar Program, so I've got these things in my home studio here. And this idea of this passion has become so important for the organizations that deploy it in an interesting way and i want to give you two quick examples. So the first example is a dentist. His name is Dr. John Marashi he's based in Southern California and I speak at the Tony Robbins Business Mastery events every six months or so and I have done this for eight years now. And Dr. Marashi was at one of the business mastery events a couple years ago and he came up to me afterwards he goes, “David I understand this idea of building fans but I'm a dentist what are you talking about building fans? People hate dentists.”. And I said, “Well Dr. Marashi, what do you love to do?”. And he says “I love to skateboard.”. And I said , “Why don't you talk about skateboarding?”. So, he actually ran with this idea and in his office he now has skateboards on his walls much like I’ve got things that I love in my studio here. He sometimes will skateboard from one examination room to another, on his website he's got pictures of him skateboarding. He started an instagram and and many of those images are related to dentistry but many of them are related to skateboarding; him skateboarding, and videos, and photos and he's now got I think, I forget the exact number something like 30,000 followers on instagram and he told me he contacted me about a year later and said, “David putting this idea of skateboarding out there makes me stand out from the other ten thousand dentists in Southern California.”, and he grew his business by over twenty percent last year that he can tie directly to sharing his passion for skateboarding. So that was my first example, second example is my daughter Reiko, who I mentioned is an emergency room resident Boston Medical Center and she actually started her residency at the very beginning of the pandemic in June of 2020 and she describes going in to see patients and she's covered head to toe in PPE - personal protective equipment she's got she's got a mask several masks in fact she has a shield she has something covering her head her hair and she's got um surgical sort of gowns and gloves she's basically looks like an alien coming into to help someone who's scared because they're in the emergency room. And she said, “daddy the best thing that I did was I put the images of the things I love as part of what I was wearing.”. So sometimes she would wear her outer mask would be um a Boston Bruins mask or she would have an LGBTQ flag pin on her clothing and sometimes she and others would wear sweatshirts over the top of their other gear of the sports teams that they love and she said the difference in the patients they would smile and all of a sudden they can the patient can relate to the passion that people have that those doctors and nurses and other professionals have and it was transformational in their health care actually because the people treating them were not robots they were human beings and I think all businesses can learn from that. You know, and I look at people's Linkedin’s frequently just to see what they're doing and the vast majority of people's Linkedin oh this is where ‘I'm a professional I have only my professional life on linkedin no one hears my my Facebook and this is where I have fun and I hang out with my college friends’. I think that there should not be a demarcation. Show us on Linkedin who you are as a person, that passion will come through and be infectious.  

Brendan: Yeah I love that, I think there's there definitely is a demarcation and it reminds me of one of the things that we talk about our company and what we have like our new, we're going to call them employees, become our RPers but when we have a new our RPer come on board like the first thing we talk about is like as we think about our culture and environment that you find RP so compelling that you invite others to experience it because that's what happens, to your point about passion, it's like if it's infectious and and then you want others to experience that if you're enjoying it whether that's your peers to come to our company or you're talking about on Linkedin and it's attracting you know companies to come work with us so I really I’m a believer and passion that's something that we talk about a lot within kind of the four walls at RP so well, hey Dave this has been a great opportunity just to understand only the importance of you know  turning customers into fans but ultimately the application the how to do it. So talking about how to be human, to leverage technology and then to bring passion behind it to create that experience so as we wrap up David, what's a practical next step that our audience can take to either learn more or engage with you going forward? 

David: Well thanks for having me on Brendan. I really appreciate it. If you're interested in more about Fanocracy, has a ton of information on most of the social networks I am dmscott - d-m-s-c-o-t-t, and I look forward to you sharing your passion because it truly is infectious. So get out there and show us who you are, what you love in your personal life not just who you are as a business person.  

Brendan: You are more than what you do. We are human beings not human doers as we like to say. 

David: 100 percent. 

Brendan: Well David thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you next month at inbound.

David: My pleasure, hoping to see you there!

Brendan: Alright, see ya.

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