John: Hi, I’m John McDougall, and welcome to the Authority Marketing Road Map. Today, my guest is Jim Poage, the author of Flair, co-authored with his daughter, Jennifer Poage. Jim has been consulting as JLP Performance Consulting for many years. Welcome, Jim.
Jim: Thank you John so much for having me here, and giving me an opportunity to talk about Flair, and how adding a little pizzazz to what you do, but making it sincere can help you along in your sales and career.
Inspiration for Flair
Jim: I have a technical background. I originally studied in College Electrical Engineering, and then did graduate work in Applied Math. I started eventually to work on integrating technology and humans in the workplace. I did that in sophisticated kind of things, like air traffic control, for example. When I started looking at the human side of it, it of course gets you into human behavior, motivation, and human factors. About 15 years ago, I started incorporating storytelling in presenting my work. Instead of just presenting the recommendations that I would come up with, or my analysis results, I would tell a story about how I would work and create value for the client.
I moved on to creating an experience for the client in presenting my results. In terms of presenting it, in the context of work they would do, they were using the results I did, or their customers were using them. I started to think about other ways I could add some flair into what I was doing. My daughter works in fashion design. After college, she went to the Parson’s School of Design in New York City. She’s worked a number of years for Reebok, in designing fashion for the sports teams, pro teams, and college teams, and fan gear that the teams would sell.
She’s currently in London, pursuing a degree in Fashion Design Management, at the London College of Fashion, which is why she is not here joining us today. We started talking together about this. She was coming at from a creative type doing fashion design, and they deal with that every day. I had come from technical work to considering the human side of work, and how can I energize people in how I construct my work. We explored, and thought we could write a book about this. Flair really has a much broader application than you might think of in such things as graphic design, how you lay out a webpage, or in fashion design that it really applies to lots of things. Everybody, in some way, is trying to sell.
You may be trying to convince clients or your colleagues to do something. In some way, we’re all selling today. If you energize people, they’re more likely to follow up with you.
Jim: Okay. Flair, you might say is pizzazz, or style. Anything that connotes that you’re trying to connect with people emotionally, and energize them. There’s a saying in marketing, that people buy on emotion and justify the buy decision rationally. Many people tend to forget that. If you’re giving a briefing in your work situation, or presenting work to colleagues, or a serious operation like the bank, you try to be serious and rational. But people want to have some kind of emotional connection with you, whether it’s trust or they enjoy dealing with your tellers, or with your loan officers.
Flair is about connecting emotionally. We like to use the word, effective flair, because it energizes people to act in some way that you desire. They’re going to follow up with you, remember you, buy something from you, etc. For some examples of flair, most people are familiar with the Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones. Many people have them, and they’re heavily advertised on TV, especially during sporting events and such. They came out in about 2004. Rather quickly, they became the hip, trendy way to listen to music if you wanted to listen to it on high-end headphones. One thing they did, is they took the bass part of the music spectrum and enhanced it, made it louder than the other spectrum. Pop and rock has always been about a driving dynamic bass beat and they took advantage of that in their headphones. Previous to that, all the high-end headphones had amplified all the notes equally across the music spectrum. Beats came out as being a way that was very energizing for listening to rock and pop. Instead of having headphones as had been around before, where they would be black and gray and a strap over your head, they used bright, shiny plastic in bright colors, so it became a fashion statement, as well as, instead of just a tacky thing you’d wear on your head. That’s an example of several ways of flair.
Jim: Yes. One of the things we like to talk about is the Apple iPod, their first consumer device. There had been mp3 players before that you could store music on and play them as a portable device, but they were bulky to use, as what Apple and Steve Jobs realized. Steve Jobs focused on what we call the essence of whatever you’re offering or your message. It wasn’t, “This is a device that play music”, it’s that, “The music listening experience is the essence of them.” Steve Jobs used to call the iPod a thousand songs in your pocket. Jennifer, my co-author and I, think that you could go more fundamental. In iPod’s essence is, the joy of music is always with you.
Jim: We make the point that you want your essence to be meaningful and joyful. Meaningful is sort of a rational argument. People want it and people want to play music, but the joyful side is that it was very easy to use, the iPod. You wanted to get the music out, and you could do it very easily. On the other side, example of a company that hasn’t seemed to understand flair is Microsoft. When the tablet computers were coming out, Microsoft came out with their Surface RT. It was their first combo tablet and laptop. They thought that this would have a good essence in that you combined two kinds of computer devices in one, but when you look at the way it was realized, the screen had all the electronics in it, so you could separate it from the keyboard and it would be a tablet. But since it was a rather powerful computer and with the size of a keyboard, it was large and bulky to use as a tablet, and the keyboard itself, to be very thin, had an awkward typing experience. It wasn’t too much better than typing on a table. It didn’t do very well at all in the market. It didn’t have any flair to it. It wasn’t easy to use, either as a tablet or a laptop. They later made it a powerful machine and it’s had some tractions now as a Surface Pro, as high-powered combo laptop and tablet.
Flair vs. Selling
Jim: First, let me say, I think we alluded to this before, and then in some way today we’re all selling. We may not be all selling products, like trying to sell a TV, but we’re trying to sell our ideas and our thoughts, whether it’s to colleagues or to managers, but also we have services that we’re trying to sell.
The flair within products is probably more understandable, like we’ve talked about the iPod. It’s very nice physical design, very good operationally. Whereas the Microsoft surfaces, they don’t look as cool and they don’t operate as well. Okay, if we get over to services, what we’re trying to do is engage customers to buy our service. You’d like to make their experience with your service enjoyable. You do want to address it rationally, that they’ll get something out of it that they want. But, you like them to also enjoy your service in some way, or at least and this is usually enough, your service [would] remove some problem they had. It cures a headache. In that sense, you’re making them feel better.
We talk about our Flair book, is about baking the marketing into the content of your offering. Now, whether that’s a product, or a service, [you’re] baking it into your content. Now, let’s just say for example, you’re a bank. The emotional connection with a bank could be [that] they trust you to treat them right and be ethical. Not like we had troubles with banks a few years ago, where they did things like, if you took money from your ATM, it wouldn’t tell you’re about to overdraw it. Would just give you the money and charge you $35. That’s not a very trustworthy kind of thing.
You need to be sure that the customer doesn’t feel they’re taken advantage of. That there’s this element of trust. When they go into your bank, is the interior inviting to them? Are the lines not excessively long when they deal with the tellers? Do they feel that that’s a pleasant experience? When they’re talking to loan officers, or doing some more business banking, is that all understandable?
We’re going to get into it in a minute. I know some of the techniques of doing flair. The storytelling, if you express your service in what you’re talking to a customer [about] and create an experience of what it’s like for them, when they use your service. Those are the kind of things we’re talking about.
Six Elements of Effective Flair
Jim: Yes. The book Jennifer and I wrote called Flair, and the subtitles [correlate with] designing your daily work, products and services to energize customers, colleagues, and audiences. The important thing about flair is to engage emotionally and energize people. If you energize people, they’re more likely to act [and to] follow up with you. Energy tends to overcome inhibitions they might have about acting, and help spread the word and message about what you’re offering. It helps move it and propel it around among others.
How Stories Play a Role
Jim: A story, we all like stories. We get caught up in stories. It’s a much easier way to listen to something. If you’re presenting a message, or facts about your service, [it’s more engaging to tell a story] instead of just listing the features of your service. If you present it as a story, it illustrates how it’s used. It’s a much more powerful way to do that. For example, I had a project as a consultant with NASA for an air traffic control research program they had, where they had a number of different projects. They wanted performance majors for this projects, which would tell them and their stakeholders like Airlines, the FAA, aircraft manufacturers, avionics manufacturers, what these projects would do to make air traffic control more efficient. How much time they would save, or how much fuel you could save, or how many planes you could land in a congested airport.
They had a list of these majors, but they just kind of listed them and have like basket-full. They weren’t sure how to use them and they weren’t doing a very good job connecting with their stakeholders. I said, “Well, you just have this basket of majors. You’re not using them to tell the story of your research program. Okay, your research program has high level goals of decreasing flight time for the airlines and travel time for passengers. For example, increasing predictability of when aircraft will land, which benefits, of course, airlines and passengers and fuel savings.
Instead of just having these majors, some of which are very specific kinds of things, like how many more planes will land at this particular runway at this airport. Let’s start with laying out your individual projects and majors for them. But then let’s group your projects around where they’re going to have impacts, like on the surfaces of the airport, in the terminal area where airplanes take off and land, where they travel between cities. Then roll that up to the overall benefits. Now we can see the role of each project. Previous to this, they would say, “Well we tell people about this project.” And they say, “Why are you doing that, it’s got a little benefit.” The reason you’re doing that project is that what’s necessary for the follow up project, which is going to have a big benefit. You need to tell the story of how the projects work and how they will create benefits for the stakeholders, instead of just listing the projects.
Jim: I come back to the bank if they’re talking about a loan or particularly maybe a complex business loan is, tell the story of the process the customer will go through to get the loan approved and the story of what the loan will do for them.
Making Products and Services More Entertaining
Jim: Entertaining. First, if it’s easy to understand and easy to use. It’s entertaining in the sense that it’s not a negative experience. You want it to be a pleasant experience and people come in to a bank for the loan and they say, “Oh my God, they’re going to hand me all these forms and I’m going to have to fill these out and I won’t know what some the things I should put down on these forms are.” You want to make that a very easy experience and the forms more self-explanatory, first of all. Then, you use a little bit of welcoming, like you and I. You introduced yourself and me and I thanked you for being on the air, so we established a rapport between us, but that goes over to the audience who’s listening to this. Take some time if you’re a bank to talk and get to know the customers. What their business is in, if have they had problems with loans before, what they would like to see [as far as] an easy experience for that [goes]. Some ways, particularly if you’re giving presentations or briefings to clients, is of course you can use some humor. It needs to be relevant to your particular product. I listen to satellite radio to one of the comedy channels and I’ve collected some comedy routines off that that I’ve adapted into my work. I give credit to the comedian, but then I adapt it into my work. One comedian has a five-minute University because he says, “At 10 years after you get out of college, all you’ll remember is five minutes’ worth of what you’ve learned.” When I summarize my briefings I say I’m going to give you a five-minute University course on what I talked about.
Jim: Use props, I have little thinker dolls put out by a company called Unemployed Philosophers Guild. They do dolls of famous characters like Socrates, they have Darwin, Shakespeare and such, and I’ll use those as props in a talk. If I’m talking to you about using care in your writing, I’ll hold up the Shakespeare doll. If I’m talking about entertaining, I’ll hold up the Charlie Chaplin doll. They’ll tend to more remember what I’m talking about, because they’ll connect it with something visual.
Jim: Okay, I think that’s one of the most important ones that can be very powerful. People tend to understand storytelling and being entertaining. If you have a product, you’d like to make the experience of using the product very pleasant and very easy. That’s what Apple is very good at, the experience of using of it.
Jim: Yes, and any appliance in your house or your car or such, the experience of it. I like to tell people I bought an Acura TSX, because of the turn signal. When I first drove it out of the parking lot on the demo tour with the salesman, I clicked on the turn signal to turn right out of the dealer parking lot. I was so impressed by the feel of it and the sound the ticker made. It wasn’t at all the harsh ticking noise of other cars.
John: The subtleties and again Steve Jobs was just a master of them — some people would even say being a little overbearing on his staff to get things just right — because he knew that those fine details of the total experience made a bigger difference than you might think. Like you said, you bought a car based on just the sound of the turn signal.
Jim: Okay, in terms of services, there’s a couple aspects there. One is when they’re engaging with you in the service using the service that it’s a pleasant experience. We talked about a bit then with banks, getting a loan very easy. Car dealerships still have a problem with the experience in the car dealership, in the buying experience and all. There could be a lot of improvement in that. The other part of the experience is when you’re giving a talk or writing a paper, create an experience for the reader or the listener of what it will be like for them if they use what you’re offering. In my work, I worked with the team and we developed a computer based tool for the FAA to use when analyzing the performance of air traffic control equipment in the sense of how often was it failing [and] how much maintenance did it need. When we put together the prototype of that, I thought, “Well most people would get up there and list the features of this that can do analysis.” But I said, “I’m going to do an analysis ahead of time of a piece of equipment I know they’ve had problems with and then I’m going to present what this tool can do by showing them how I analyzed this piece of equipment.”
I started out by analyzing how often they were having failures with it and was it a particular model type or the generic kind of equipment. I showed them the results of this and then I showed them results of analyzing the causes of the failures. Then I showed them the results where we would analyze the location of this equipment, because FAA has equipment all over the country. It turns out they were having problems mainly in one region of the country. That helps you narrow down. Maybe it’s the weather causing problems or maybe the training of the maintenance technicians and such. I created an experience for the FAA if they were using this tool to do actual maintenance analysis. They were very pleased with the prototype and continued funding with the project. When you’re presenting some ideas to somebody, present them in a way where you’re creating an experience for them using it.
Flair and Sincerity
Jim: You want your flair to be sincere to the offering. An example, I’m sure we’ve all come across, is you go to restaurants nowadays and they’ll ask you several times while you’re there, how is everything. One time my family and I were exiting and paying the bill at the cashier at a restaurant in Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. The cashier who turned out to be the manager of the restaurant asked how was everything and I mentioned, “Well, the meatloaf was cold in the center, it hadn’t been warmed up enough.” Instead of saying, “Oh, thank you for giving me that, we’ll be more careful next time.” He actually got angry at me. He obviously just said that as a [rhetorical] thing. “How was everything?” and I’m supposed to say “fine.” He became angry with me. What really stunned me is the customer behind me became irritated at me and when he paid the bill, he said, “Everything was fine.” It’s not sincere if you’re not writing to follow-up.
Jim: I used to say that if you’re giving a briefing or a talk and you wear a red suit, that’s flair, but it’s not sincere. I subscribe to the Financial Times newspaper and they have a weekly magazine. In one issue of the magazine had a picture of somebody in a red suit on the cover and I says “Oh, what’s this? I’ve been telling a red suit is not sincere.” It turned out he was the head of Ferrari and the Ferrari sports cars. He was surrounded by red Ferrari cars. Ferrari signature is their red sports cars, so it was sincere. People tend to say, “Well, we’re sincere.” But just check all the points that you are sincere, all the parts of your offering.
Jim: Well that’s a bit like sincerity is. Everybody likes to think, “Well, we’re excellent.” It’s really, again, they’re checking that all parts of your offering have excellence. Someone we both know, Kim Lizotte, went to a talk one time and he said that the talk was great, the speaker was dynamic and the content was very interesting and useful. The speaker had a DVD available for sale of another talk he’d given. Kim bought this DVD and when he was watching it, he was really turned off because it was very boring, the speakers droned on and on, the topic was uninteresting, the speaker was standing in front of a blank blue background. Kim turned the DVD off before he finished the talk and he says still to this day, even though the talk itself was memorable, he has a negative view of that person. Because they didn’t carry the excellence of the talk over into an excellence of what they had on their DVD. My message there is to look over everything, all the parts, pay attention to all the little details.
Energize and Energize to Act
Jim: Yes, that’s what flair is all about. Is connecting emotionally with people as well as rationally so that you energize them. If people are energized, they’re more likely to act. I think we said before, energy overcomes inhibitions people have to do something.
Jim: It helps them spread the message and tell other people about it. Some products which just have really good energy for people is, of course, Apple, as we’ve talked about before. I don’t know if you or your audience have spent much time on the West Coast, but there’s a burger chain they called In and Out Burger. I grew up in California in Pasadena where they were founded and they just have a very excellent product. It’s just burgers and fries and shakes, but it’s so good that it energizes people. When they opened their first In and Out Burger in Texas, people lined up at 4:00 PM the day before to get a burger.
Jim: Yes. What I’ve been consulting on is integrating technology and workers in the work place. Not just on using smartphones or tablets, but more complicated things on the workplace is as some cases safety is an issue. Such as in medicine or in transportation and other cases, you just want people to work more efficiently. That’s what got me into the other parts of the connecting with people in the flair and emotion.
Now I also deal with, how do you put sincere effective flair into your services or products and how you present those kinds of products and services.
Jim: Yes, I have a website with a very simple title. It’s just http://www.jimpoage.com/. You’ll find information in there about me, you’ll find information about our book Flair and about my consulting. I’m starting to blog now, and so you’ll see different information there about pieces of flair I’ve observed or some tips on doing flair. Our book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers. I’ve seen it in some Barnes & Noble stores and a few other bookstores. I just like to finish up by reminding people that in some ways, whatever we do, we’re all trying to influence people or sell to people in some sense and that if you connect emotionally with them, you’ll energize them about it and adding a bit of flair. It may sound a bit frivolous, but it’s very serious and if you look at Apple, if you look at target with their flash designer sales that they have and some of the new restaurants today that use different kinds of plates for the food service. It helps provide a more energizing and more engaging experience.
Jim: It is practical, right, and in our book we talk about four basic steps of understanding a meaningful and joyful essence of your offering. Then, how to create flair that reinforces that. Then we have how to validate that your flair is effective, that you’re not going to irritate people by asking how is everything, and if they have a complaint, you don’t know what to with it.
One important thing is to iterate among all these steps while you’re doing it and then we talk about the six building blocks of flair. We have lots of examples in the book. We did interviews with people. When we did the interviews, they would start to explain what they do and we would ask them, “Well, could you take us through a specific project or something you design so our examples have the specificity so you can see how it’s done.”
Jim: Right. If I had a concluding message, as I’ve said, realize that you want to engage people emotionally and try it out. If you do something and it doesn’t work, people are not going to remember, just go on to the next thing. Try something else, don’t be afraid to try it and have some fun. Fun for you and it will be fun for you when you see your customers responding with a smile on their face.
John: Yes, absolutely. Make sure to check Jim out at jimpoage.com. Check out Flair on Amazon and other places. I hope you enjoyed today’s discussion, check out authoritymarketing.com for more interviews and information on Authority Marketing. Subscribe and review our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. I’m John McDougall, see you next time on the Authority Marketing Roadmap.