Customer Equity Accelerator Podcast

Episode 24: Build a Business Like Amazon with Bryan Eisenberg

If you’ve ever wondered how to build a business like Bezos, so did Bryan Eisenberg. His deep look into the four pillars of Amazon’s success became the book Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It  and the focus on his business, Buyer Legends. In this episode, Bryan talks about an unshakeable focus on long-term customer value and demystifies the principles and practices of the world's most successful brands in delightfully clear terms.


See all Episodes  (and even subscribe to future ones!)


In the podcast, Bryan mentions:

Connect with Bryan via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Key Concepts:  Customer Lifetime Value, Marketing, Digital Data, Customer Centricity, Long-Term Customer Value, Amazon, Continuous Optimization, Culture of Innovation, Culture of Execution, Corporate Agility, Persuasion Architecture, Step Optimization

Who Should Listen:  CAOs, CCOs, CSOs, Digital Marketers, Business Analysts, C-suite professionals, Entrepreneurs, eCommerce, Data Scientists, Analysts, CMOs, Customer Insights Leaders, CX Analysts, Data Services Leaders, Data Insights Leaders, SVPs or VPs of Marketing or Digital Marketing, SVPs or VPs of Customer Success, Customer Advocates


Learn more about Quarterly Reviews


Show Transcript

Allison Hartsoe - 00:02 - This is the Customer Equity Accelerator, a weekly show for marketing executives who need to accelerate customer-centric thinking and digital maturity. I'm your host, Allison Hartsoe of Ambition Data. This show features innovative guests who share quick wins on how to improve your bottom line while creating happier, more valuable customers. Ready to accelerate? Let's go!

Welcome, everyone. Today's show is about building up a business like Amazon, and to help me discuss this topic is Bryan Eisenberg. Bryan is the author of the delightfully clear and compelling Be Like Amazon; Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It book and also a partner at Buyer Legends. Bryan, welcome to the show.

Bryan Eisenberg - 00:57 - I am very excited to be here.

Allison Hartsoe - 00:59 - Now. Bryan, I have actually admired the books that you and your brother have written since Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? Came out. God must be like a decade ago. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you were drawn to this particular focus on Amazon?

Bryan Eisenberg - 01:15 - Sure. I mean this. This goes way, way, way back. The first book that we ever wrote was in 2001. We wrote a book called Persuasive Online Copywriting and the reason I bring up that book, which is so interesting is if you look at all the other titles of my books, the one we'll have some interesting titles, but that one was purely boring, and people always ask me, so why is that title so different? And the reason was the first attempt that we did as a self-published book, and we realized that one of Amazon's limitations back then was that they were essentially just a fancy search engine. So we basically did search engine marketing for our book and said if anyone's looking for a book on online copywriting, even though my good friend at the time, Nick Osborne had written a book called net words. That persuasive online copywriting would come up more frequently because people would look for more generic terms the book.

Bryan Eisenberg - 02:06 - And so we had come up with that title and not, of course, started our fascination. Probably understand how Amazon works. By the way, that same year we also released the book of the car with my friend Jim, Novo, the marketer's common sense guys, the metrics. So here I am talking about copywriting and a human approach to conversion and then on the other side, looking at the metric side of it, and this is back in the days when we were still using log analyzers just to help people understand that their web data. Right, and to get them.

Allison Hartsoe - 02:33 - You just dated me by calling out log analyzers. That's where I started. Wow.

Bryan Eisenberg - 02:40 - I started before that I started with a server log dumped into excel

Allison Hartsoe - 02:45 - Ouch.

Bryan Eisenberg - 02:46 - So that was just a consequence of it. We went ahead, and that one was also a self-published book we had really started to get a fondness for. We're Amazon was going as a business, so in other words, weren't very fond of the business itself. Some of the things that they were doing. In other words, there are a handful of sites back in the early days when we were first consulting on SEO and conversion rate optimization, that we'd look at it and saying, okay, what are they doing? Pretty interesting, what are they testing this week? And Amazon was one of those that was pretty easy to spot things that they were changing fairly frequently compared to most. I know you know, my good friend Ronny Kohavi as well, and he was one of the first people to start the testing program at Amazon back in the early days, and it was 2004 that he did a presentation at. One of the key metrics on Amazon was one of the first ones that really gave us an insight into how they worked. And back then he talked about the 200 tests that they were doing on a monthly basis and as a conversion rate optimization specialists.

Bryan Eisenberg - 03:43 - This was the focus of our agency that we started in '98. Then we stopped in about a decade ago. We'd just don't focus on that alone anymore. I realized that what was it that that helped them get to the 200 tests a month mark when most companies were barely getting three to five tests in a month. And I just wanted to understand it, and of course, we went in, we worked with clients like HP and Ge and NBC Universal, and in Google, I can go on and on and on. And then of course companies that nobody's heard of, small companies in their different niches, you know, vitamins and the companies that sell pick Vicksburg online, I mean really interesting. And it really started giving us some perspective. So even though we didn't really love Amazon as a business and thin a king about not being profitable and all, that, some thing, things you still here today, we knew that they were doing something different and I couldn't really understand it. And it was with talking with people who, uh, who had worked there, who had left the, or reading a ton. Basically, everything I could about what Jeff Bezos would share in his interviews and in shareholder letters.

Bryan Eisenberg - 04:45 - And I started realizing that maybe I had things backward and we have started on this concept of conversion optimization. And of course, it was customer-centric that really is sort of like the end of the flywheel for Amazon. It starts with the customer centricity, but it starts on the innovative side, and this is something that we learned while working with Google and we spent two years working with them, and one of the things that one of the people, we work very closely with their this most consultants never last one, three months at Google. He said the problem is they never learned how to operate on quicksand. That was his words, and it was really interesting for him to put that in. By a kind of imagine the level of innovation, we're seeing in the world today. We've never seen before. I mean, if you think about the industrial revolution, you think about any other of these revolutions. It was a gradual change that happened. I mean, of course, their big moment, but it was a gradual change, but the amount of change that we go through every year today is just monumental.

Bryan Eisenberg - 05:45 - How fast technologies is shifting, how fast our culture is shifting, and so it really presented us with, okay, well we were living on clicks, so it's not just about optimizing what we have because that just gives us a local maximum that we'll ever achieve. We're really got to find new ways to do this. And so we realized that back you mentioned with waiting for your cat to bark in 2006, we were like, you know, the limitation was that we were working off of the existing systems that were already flawed from the design point of view and we needed to come in to fix them. That's optimization. We said, well, what if we actually created and mapped out the whole system? And so that's where we came up with concept persuasion architecture. The problem was as we got the Google is live in a world with quicksand. Things change quickly and so taking six months to a year to plan out a customer journey, and customer experiences were just too much. And so they needed something more agile. And so as we kept studying them more and getting the little different nuances, we realized that there's this new operating system, but they're flown under this flywheel concept of this focus on customer centricity.

Bryan Eisenberg - 06:48 - Everything has to bring long, longterm customer value. Then we innovate on behalf of the customer. Then, of course, you have to have the agility, and this is one of the ones that we realized that a lot of organizations that we work with over the years struggled where we'd go ahead, and we'd give them something to test for something about an opportunity to correct or a new opportunity to make business, but they just couldn't find a way to execute on it. They didn't have the corporate agility to make a change or even the appetite to let change happen because change doesn't always happen overnight and those companies wouldn't necessarily get the same effects that we'd have with Amazon. And then, of course, comes to the optimization as-as this last wheel to the flywheel. And I think if you look at the history of Amazon over the last 20 years, we can definitely see that it's been a long-term view. This didn't happen overnight. Amazon didn't become Amazon overnight, and I like to remind people like, you know, Amazon with the startup wants to.

Allison Hartsoe - 07:39 - Isn't that the truth? Oh, let's talk a little bit about the book. I mean, I can see how you got to the reframing, the understanding of how Amazon does business, but what I particularly liked about the book was that it takes a different tack when it comes to delivering the value in the form of a business fable, and that's difficult to do I think because you're balancing the skepticism that people come in when they hear a story and the need to communicate some very persuasive concepts, but I think it's really executed well and I don't say that lightly because I personally hated the iceberg book that came out a couple of years ago and I know that is also another popular business fable, but this one really works, and I think one of the reasons that work is its kind of like the myth. It gives people an operating system to work from, so help people understand why should they care about how Amazon does business.

Allison Hartsoe - 08:40 - They're so big. They're so unattainable, and like you just said a minute ago, they were a startup once too. What is it that's the core nugget that helps people realize that even if they're eliminated, damn they can do it too.

Bryan Eisenberg - 08:53 - Yeah, so I think there are a few things about the book with my brother and our mentoring coauthor Roy Williams. I think we really accomplished what we wanted. A book that was very accessible to any business owner and you know, those fables, they tend to do well the best selling business books of all time, full, somewhere between a third and fifth-grade reading level. Then we definitely aim to be there.

Allison Hartsoe - 09:14 - oh my gosh, that's great.

Bryan Eisenberg - 09:17 - You probably sort of studied this past week, that one in four Americans can't even name a book.

Allison Hartsoe - 09:22 - Oh, ouch. Okay. New topic.

Allison Hartsoe - 09:26 - Anyway, so we knew we needed to keep it simple. The other thing is these principles are great for Amazon, but I'm not Amazon, and we really want them to go out there and find examples of businesses that we're using the same operating system to be successful. To show that any size business can do it. Even a lemonade stand, and it's not just the fable, this banter that goes back and forth between the mentor and the main hero within the story, and we're trying to make sure that we're not just stating things in the story for the sake of thing. Then we're actually giving you references to a particular Ted talk or a particular thing that he just searched up on Google and tell you where he found it so that it really kind of crystallized that this fact and fiction worlds so that the book has that base to stand on.

Allison Hartsoe - 10:11 - I love modernization where he's, you know, hey, look it up on Google, and then I basically had the book next to me, and I'm like, oh, I could look it up on Google. It's almost like an interactive guide at that point.

Bryan Eisenberg - 10:22 - That's exactly as it's meant to be. This mentor through the process because it's not something that you're all of a sudden like, Oh if we do this, we're going to change our business. This is an up. But I would like to call this a, you know, faith-based initiatives. And I think this is what really differentiates Jeff Bezos from most other managers states why Warren Buffett calls him probably one of the best business people he's ever seen. The fact that the same operating system, the same four pillars have worked in the retail businesses work now in a software business. It has worked on AWS and has worked for the Washington Post, which he owns. It's worked for their media business, winning all kinds of awards for their television shows and movies. And it's this commitment to being earth's most customer-centric company and what that means for him. And there's a great quote that I love that he says, when things get complicated, we simplify by saying what's best for the customer, right? The customer-centric point of view. And then we take it as an article of faith and for the person who is so methodical and detail oriented to say takes us an article of faith. If we do that, it'll work out in the long term.

Allison Hartsoe - 11:26 - Keyword being in the long term. Because as we were talking a few minutes ago before we started the podcast, the whole aspect of Wall Street driving short-term, you know, show me your numbers, what are your number is, what's my quarterly result? That tends to work against the long-term view of businesses

Bryan Eisenberg - 11:44 - and it's definitely Wall Street, it's even its culture, and I like this is sort of like for my people, right when Amazon first started, they were taking on companies like Barnes & Noble and borders and of course several bookstores closed and there were problems with the book industry. I can; we can go on with that. The whole separate discussion, but they were able to basically destroyed up. Isn't 70% of all books today are sold through through Amazon, and if you haven't visited an Amazon bookstore third, I think a great new alternative. We're book sales should be going. A couple of years later, you're going on in, they're now becoming the everything store they're taking on every single category of business, and they're trying to compete with Walmart. Who said that point was the most data-centric organization in the world that like they could tell you that if we squeeze this toothpaste by a quarter inch, we can increase our sell-through by 13 units a month.

Allison Hartsoe - 12:33 - So before we get Walmart, hang on just a second. Let's make it really. There are four pillars that the story really stands on. Let's elucidate what those four pillars are.

Bryan Eisenberg - 12:44 - Sure. So it's customer centricity, then it's a culture of innovation, then it's corporate agility, and lastly, it's continuous optimization.

Allison Hartsoe - 12:56 - Yeah. Perfect. Okay. So now let's talk a little bit about Walmart and the fact that they were so data-driven. I mean that kind of blows my mind because we often think about Amazon as data-driven. With those four pillars in place. Where did Walmart start? How did they change? What happened?

Bryan Eisenberg - 13:14 - So here's the two key things. Walmart data has always been focused in on product skews and location data. I know if I have product x here, right, I'll sell more than if I product, why they're. That's what they were really good at doing for Walmart. Never knew. And this is what Jeff Bezos, I think fundamentally met by one and be Earth's most customer-centric company is that if you walk into Walmart or me walked into a Walmart, or you know John from down the block, look into Walmart, the people at Walmart have no idea which one of us is the most valuable customer. They have no clue. Don't know what sold that day. They know what inventory came in, what came out with, but they have no idea who or what because they never tied it to an individual identifier. And that is the fundamental thing. But I believe that Jeff Bezos understood about digital business and where business was headed was that we could tie every bit of information.

Bryan Eisenberg - 14:14 - Every website you visit, every affiliate site, everything you share, everything you purchase, everything you browse, everything you read, everything you watch on the Kindle, everything you highlight. I can get a sense from all of this data about who you are and how to serve you better. And I can tell you to originally in email and then eventually as soon as the mobile app is taking off, they started connecting it to mobile phone numbers and then unifying those two, and the experience was seamless of course both those channels, because it was all one system, it wasn't a one silo versus another silo. And you know, Amazon has their own legacy. Little things are going on too. Especially as a self-publisher. I can tell you it's way different to publish as a physical book publisher, the publisher Kindle, then audible. That all is a mess, right? But from the customer side, it's a clear experience.

Allison Hartsoe - 15:04 - It wasn't, you know, I mean Walmart obviously grew quickly because they cared about the customer and it seemed like they if we go back maybe 50 years, you can't get business growth and less. The customer is willing to give it to you. What happened to that company?

Bryan Eisenberg - 15:22 - Well, yeah, it shocked me. I was recently at a fairly large, fairly sophisticated retail conference, you know, giving the keynote and I'd asked the room how many people in the room had read Sam Walton's Made In America. And I got to tell you, only one hand went up and it kind of freaked me out. Coming back to this book issue, Sam Walton was probably one of the largest trailblazers of retail out there, period. I mean, he really is very few people who had as much impact on retail as he did in his book. He talks about; we'll call the ten commandments, commit to your business, know what it was every day. Low prices are what they were always after. They're always trying to find ways to bring value to their customers. One of their other ones, and I think this is. We're part of what's changed. Sam used to walk into all the stores, used to have the greeters, used to have a pulse of what was going on in the stores and they used policies of share your profits with your associates and treated them like your partners.

Bryan Eisenberg - 16:17 - And we know over the news over the last number of years that probably hasn't been the same. Energizer colleagues communicate everything you possibly can to your partner's. Celebrate your success, listening to everyone in your company, exceed your customer's expectations. I don't think they've been doing a ton of that lately. Control your expenses better than your competition. I admit they are probably doing great at that still. And then the last one is the one that I think really concerns me, which was blazing your own path and I think it hasn't been until they finally did the aqua hire a jet that they really started focusing in on trying to be innovative, and even now I'm worried because I still see some of that struggle. I mean, the perfect example just announced this past week that they released this brilliant part in the wrapper that or Sam's clubs where you could scan the products as you were shopping and then basically just check out. There was no wait on the line anymore. Right. The stomach would just double check, make sure you had everything and you'd walk out, and they just canceled that program and I'm like, Eh. I mean, I mean I.

Bryan Eisenberg - 17:18 - I mean they rolled it out there. They made a big deal about it at shop talk a few months ago and now it's already, it's already shelled. And I'm like, well, that's not viewing things long term, and from Amazon languages, it's the right thing to do for the customer. Even if there's not a lot of customers using it, those customers that do you should still support it. What were they doing to encourage others to use it where they are standing in long lines telling people, hey, if you download the APP now and you could start counting, you can be out of here before lunch. I don't know the answer to all those things, but just the fact that they feel comfortable enough to cancel it just after a few months and not give that long-term commitment to their customers and to the projects makes it really hard to appreciate any innovation in your company. And I think this is part of what we've seen happen with Google as well with some of the great projects they'd come up with or alphabet right. And then shelf and people hate about it. So it's one of the reasons why all my photos, they're backed up on Amazon prime photos because I paid for part of my prime membership.

Bryan Eisenberg - 18:17 - And I know they're not getting rid of it because it's a big piece of value for them. It's not like tomorrow they're going to decide, oh well, you know, you've got to move everything out of here. Sorry,

Allison Hartsoe - 18:26 - I so agree with you because I have had that conversation with myself several times of whether it was the old homepage thing they had, but you can customize your start page or whether it was some other product. It's like, Oh, you know, I really liked this product and then Oh, a couple of years later it's gone, and I keep telling myself, oh, that won't happen again. I can get a dependence on this particular thing. But you know, it's just happened recently with Google drive changing to file stream. Now you got to change things over into that system. So I hear you on those longterm challenges. But let's, let's, um, talk about maybe there's a story that you know, instead of the big guys who have kind of lost their way. Let's talk about a company that is pulling it together. Do you have some examples of companies, whether they're large or small, of the ones that have kind of taken this operating system and put it to use?

Bryan Eisenberg - 19:18 - Oh yeah. I mean there's so many, and I think my favorite example, this is one from the book. Ken Goodrich owns an HVAC company called Goettl. You actually bought that company years later after he was already in the business who became available and he wanted to buy it because he grew up with his dad repairing those machines and there's a whole long story behind Ken and growing up in the business and holding the flashlight for his father and part of their marketing is giving away flashlights and there are some funny stories with that too, but I won't get into those, but one of the things that can grew up learning about the HVAC business that his dad was a stickler for was that you never left any screw loose in any part of the machine, at any vibration in the unit or in the shroud. It's his belief is that in the longterm it creates damage to the unit, and so talk about being customer-centric and innovative right at the first part, the pillar-like, okay, if you had some come look at your HVAC unit, would you know whether they changed all the screws or not?

Allison Hartsoe - 20:17 - No.

Bryan Eisenberg - 20:17 - Most likely not, right? I mean we're no experts. We screwed it looks pretty much the same. So what Ken did is he basically had his screws made bright red, and you think about that now, the action that his technicians take, the change, the screws, anybody, whether you're an expert or not, can tell whether the screws had been changed because if they're not bright red, they haven't been changed.

Allison Hartsoe - 20:46 - So they're essentially protecting the customer in advance.

Bryan Eisenberg - 20:50 - Correct. And they were educating them that way and letting them know that this is really important to them. Right. Actions demonstrate beliefs, not words. Right? And so it is a great way to be incredibly customer-centric. It's an innovation that cost. I don't know what it is. $100, right? I mean it's, you know, it's a fraction of a cent more maybe per red screw and chrome screw, or I mean it just, it can't even amount to much. It's a great system for making his team agile because they don't have to wonder which screwed that I changed or not changed. If it's not bright red, they didn't change it, right. If it were a previous customer and beaten up a little bit, they know they might change it, so it's great for their systems as well. And so I love it because it shows that innovation doesn't have to be this big tech innovation. It could be as simple as the changing the color of the screw.

Allison Hartsoe - 21:40 - But you know what's also important in that is a concept that you hit on in the book is that when you make a change like red screws, the more pillars it hits, the better the quality of the change. Because in that particular example, it's not just customer-centric, it's innovative, and it's also agile in a sense. So all of those pieces are coming together to support that decision, which ultimately creates long-term benefit for the company.

Bryan Eisenberg - 22:09 - 100 percent.

Allison Hartsoe - 22:10 - Tell us another story.

Bryan Eisenberg - 22:12 - Wow. I mean we have everything from jewelers who have done it. And two other of my favorite stories. One of them, because again, I like really picking very sexy businesses. If we're going to talk about tech like Amazon, I think we really should talk, you know, really sexy. So how about junk collection?

Allison Hartsoe - 22:29 - Sexy?

Bryan Eisenberg - 22:31 - Yeah, I'd been raised. That ultimately is I'm going to come up and pick up your dirty soil mattress. That's, that's a. that's a fun, sexy business. How could you not be innovative at that? I'd like to know Brian Scudamore, the founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? The company that'll do posts to half a billion dollars in sales probably this coming year. The extremely fast growing company based out of Vancouver and he literally started out of a pickup truck with the words got junk and if you watch their commercials and this is all part of their communication. Basically you point at it, and they make it disappear. It's like magic. And they create remarkable experiences for picking up your junk and then literally just coming to your house, and you tell them what you pointed out, what do you want, move and it's gone and they took care of the process of recycling, what needs to be recycled and repurposed and what can be repurposed and getting rid of whatever it is and they've done a number of things are really remarkable.

Bryan Eisenberg - 23:33 - But one of my favorites and this is something that everybody can go ahead and kind of check on their own. If they do a quick google search for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? And fast company and search the term huddle. They have these daily meetings. Part of what keeps them agile, where everybody in the company and across the globe joins and if by virtual meeting if they have to and they all share everything from the metrics. So nothing is hidden to the challenges to broken systems. And this short little meeting is very upbeat, very open. People get to engage with one another. And as I always like to say, one of the easiest ways to tell whether a company is struggling with agility is just looked at the number of emails or that somebody's getting cc'd or bcc'd on.

Allison Hartsoe - 24:22 - I love that metric.

Bryan Eisenberg - 24:24 - Yeah. I mean companies that give their employees the autonomy to work, just have conversations, get things done, and we have the data everywhere today. We know when something's not working, it's not hard to tell if you have the right metrics in place, what's the worst that could happen? And we share a couple of those worst stories in the book as well as an example of a guy who asked whether he can redecorate what are the bathrooms and end that you alert. I mean you've got to read about not giving away all the stories, but when you give people autonomy to do the right thing for the customer, yes, sometimes there's going to be a risk. You know, Amazon had their failure with their phone. They tried to push the envelope too much and then of course they have things like Prime, which now has 100 million members that started as one of their traditional six-page customer centric memos that work backwards told we could talk a little bit about later or the echo device going everywhere with hundreds of thousands of skills now. So same thing, right? The beauty of a business like 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Is that they're very customer-centric.

Bryan Eisenberg - 25:24 - They make it very easy for people to point out what they want to be removed and it gets, they get rid of it. They're always trying to find ways to make it easier for people to engage with that experience and they find ways to keep agile with these huddles and other myths in their business.

Allison Hartsoe - 25:39 - Yep. Hitting all the pillars. Yeah. That's fantastic.

Bryan Eisenberg - 25:42 - And then lastly, that broken systems is all about identifying where the opportunities for optimization.

Allison Hartsoe - 25:48 - Yes, yes, yes.

Bryan Eisenberg - 25:50 - And it's not just hidden within someone's group or department. It's something that's. Basically, those are ideas that can come from boardroom to stockroom.

Allison Hartsoe - 25:59 - Yeah, that's perfect. And you know, transparency really is the key. And I see that as a huge difference between the older style of corporate activity. It's not just that they're not transparent, but there's a sense that you don't have the privilege or the right to see that information, that there's some reason

Bryan Eisenberg - 26:18 - why you need to know.

Allison Hartsoe - 26:20 - Yeah, yeah.

Bryan Eisenberg - 26:21 - Need to know that we're only going to let you have this much of the information because you don't need to know everything else

Allison Hartsoe - 26:26 - exactly that we want to believe that everything is perfect and we're just going to tell you the company line, and you're just going to go and put your widget in the box, and that's your job. Today's companies, I think one of the reasons why they can be leaner is because they're transparent and people have an understanding of the mechanics of the business. And that's really the heart of customer centricity. When you get to the math behind it, is it. It inherently gets to how does the business operate and then how can we improve.

Bryan Eisenberg - 26:54 - Exactly.

Allison Hartsoe - 26:55 - Right. Okay. Well, this is fantastic, and I know there are many more examples in the story, which of course we won't give away, but let's say that I'm all excited. I've got my lemonade stand. I'm going to go out to the corner and put my shingle out. What should I do first? How can I put this into action?

Bryan Eisenberg - 27:12 - So I'm going to give you one of the stories that don't exist in the book, and I think it's a great example of how I would approach this. My friend owned a mini donut factory in camp before it exits called mini donut factory. A tremendous amount of great reviews. He's expanded out to multiple shops, businesses doing great. And how did he start? Well, I'm very much the way, as I mentioned earlier, this backward working method that the Amazon focus on or as we talk about in our book, basically reverse chronology. What would you do if you were opening up a business or if you're covering business and you wanted to make sure that every interaction with the customer ended in a five star review and so when Patrick went ahead and started thinking about donuts, he was like, well first the donut would have to be hot and fresh, and people would have to basically get it on the spot because if they're sitting doesn't it gets stale. Just don't taste the same. That's pretty easy.

Bryan Eisenberg - 28:08 - And he said, okay, we've now got these nice hot doughnuts. How else do we make sure that the customer besides obviously tasting good because it's hot and for us that's critical, and you have a good recipe for the dough because like, okay, they've got to look beautiful and why is that so important? Well, especially for something like food, we know that people share these things on Instagram and on Facebook and on Google maps and Yelp and so his focus was to make sure that every doughnut that came out of the kitchen hand to customer look absolutely beautiful, like perfectly decorated. So came up with all these interesting combinations and came up with the different colors and this net, right? So everyone's going to look absolutely gorgeous. So now he's got his plan. He knows where he's going to end that for a customer to get me a five-star review first, take a look at the donut that they just go out and be like, wow, that's amazing. Going to snap a picture of it. Then they're going to put one in their mouth and say, wow, that tastes amazingly.

Bryan Eisenberg - 29:07 - That's gonna make them want to go review it. And if you go ahead, you go on Google, and you do a search for many donut factories in Tampa, you're going to find those pictures. You're gonna. See those reviews, and you're like, wow. So you start there, you start with where you want to end, and you work backward. He said, okay, well how do we get there? How do I get it to that? What do I need to customers be able to order their donuts and for us to make them fast enough so that there's not a ridiculous line either? And sometimes there is, but how do we make it manageable? How do we create the systems in place to decorate it quickly? How do I train people to do? Then you just work backward from each step. And so he's created obviously a donut that's very customer-centric, right? It's beautiful, it tastes great. People will like to share about it. It's remarkable. It's innovative. He's always trying new recipes and new designs and stuff like that. And so he's trying to find new ways to find new boxes or new ingredients that can enhance things. And then he had to be agile to do this. He's gone catered events and stuff like that.

Bryan Eisenberg - 30:05 - He's had to create a very agile system to be able to knock out these donuts if basically in real time. Right. And then lastly, he said optimize. He had a vision for what he wanted it to look like from the get-go. But you can't always get everything perfect from the get-go. Like one of the things he knew he wanted was boxes that were the exact size to make it really fit perfectly for the six donuts, 12 donuts, and he had settled for the boxes that he could buy off the shelf when he first started, but as he started getting more scale and more business, he was able to go ahead and get custom printed boxes. Right? I mean I remember visiting him in Tampa, and we were talking about the buckets specifically, so this is important for people to say, this is probably one thing that we had the hardest thing about when we first started. We were trying to sign everything to be absolutely perfect, and then we realized when you design everything with the goal of being perfect but not realizing for the sake of agility, that not everything has to be perfect. Sometimes you have to do with what you can, but know where the opportunities lie to keep improving it. It changed the whole nature of how we execute on this customer centricity and optimization focus.

Allison Hartsoe - 31:17 - Well, and what you're really saying behind that too is when you say to know where the opportunities lie, I think it's really where the customer becomes the central focus or the compass for how you find what the right valuation is a forthright improvement is

Bryan Eisenberg - 31:34 - and we often find that you know, there are millions of great ideas within that company. Right? It's rarely that they lacked great ideas. It's that they struggle with just getting things done and you know, you as we spoke earlier is the old Kodak example, right? You know, if they invented the digital camera and the 1970s, but they were unable to execute, and I find that this is one of the biggest struggles. Having worked with a ton of startups and companies that were venture back and wanted to grow and advising them and we've seen that the biggest difference between those that succeed and those that don't are the ones that continue to have a culture of execution. As you start going through the scaling up the process and come right back to the operating system area. A lot of the venture capital world still believed in the old style of management that colors and all of that from 30, 40 years ago, and I think what Jeff Bezos has hit on is how he's developed the world's oldest startup, right?

Bryan Eisenberg - 32:38 - All these independently functioning units that can communicate with each other that are no larger than the size to slice of pizza can feed and his method of making everybody sit down at a meeting and share this written narrative where we call our buyer legend, right? That is well researched, well documented. It's like if a comma is missing, what else hasn't been thought out, but it allows everybody from this backward working phase to really understand and get on the same page with everybody on the team and of the organization, and that is what has enabled them to. If you think about it, it's the lowest fidelity prototype that you can create. It just was written as a story, and that's really what we've been focused on over the last few years, is how to help organizations learn how to create those narratives.

Bryan Eisenberg - 33:33 - How to create the stories and create that culture that is operating with the growth fly wheel the way Amazon has because the more traditional sense of management slows you down and today's day and age, it's not the big fish that are reading the small fish. It's the fast fish that are eating the big fish.

Allison Hartsoe - 33:52 - That's so true. That's actually the way we segment our customer base is by fast and slow and not by the size of the company. So funny. Good. Well Bryan, if people want to get in touch with you, how should they reach you?

Bryan Eisenberg - 34:05 - Sure. Very easy to find me online. Of course, you can find it at I'm on Linkedin; I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter. You know, I speak some conferences every year, and we're always happy to answer questions and talk to people. Whatever challenges they're facing in this very quick sand like the world, right we're living in

Allison Hartsoe - 34:24 - It is such an apt analogy, and it's very true. It's almost like you're in those video games where you have to go fast across the pitfall area, and you have to move.

Bryan Eisenberg - 34:35 - Talk about bringing us back now. That was a. yeah, that was a reference. I haven't heard of many, many, many years.

Allison Hartsoe - 34:41 - Mine too. Mine too. Okay, well, I'm going to attempt to summarize our conversation a little bit and feel free to jump in if I've missed something, but first we talked about why should I think that I can build a business is as great as Amazon and it's really about what all businesses have been built on traditionally, which is longterm customer-centric thinking. Ultimately the customer gives your business permission to be in business by doing transactions with you, so naturally thinking about them long-term and operating in a customer-focused fashion is the way to navigate from short-term penny-pinching decisions that might not be as customer friendly. Second, we hit on the unified principles which have four pillars, so there are four principles, but they work together, so the better the decision, the more pieces you're hitting on. And those four principles were customer centricity, continuous optimization, the culture of innovation and corporate agility.

Allison Hartsoe - 35:46 - And I know you go a lot into the examples about those in the book, but we talked particularly on our call about Walmart and kind of how they lost their way with the product skew and location data. What I thought was interesting about that comment was that so many organizations do this, they take product-centric thinking and call it customer-centric because the customer buys the product, but really how you frame that data is really important. And when they framed their data around product skis and locations, they weren't thinking about who their most valuable customers were and what they were thinking 0about. Right, exactly. And then we talked about the HVAC example, and I love the red screws, and that's just such a simple and elegant way to combine the principals, whether it's customer-centric because they're helping the customer know that you have to have the screws changed. It's also innovative because it tells them whether the screws have been changed and it's agile. All of this comes together under the core principles all for acting together.

Allison Hartsoe - 36:48 - But what you said in this section was that actions demonstrate beliefs, not words which you just alluded to at the very end when you said startups, when-when they continue to have a culture of execution. I just wanted to underscore that five times on my paper here because coming from a startup background; it really is the differentiator. It's not who your investors are. It's the fact that you continue to execute on the right things, the customer-centric things. As we saw in the donut example and as we saw in the got junk example too. So finally at the end, we talked about what you should do next, and obviously, we went into the donut example and the startups, but I have to say what you should really do next is by the book. It's such a quick read. I read it on the flight home after we connected in Austin and it's just got so many good nuggets.

Allison Hartsoe - 37:45 - It's one of those pieces that you pick up, and you underline, and you dog-ear, and you say, again and again, you know, oh, I've got to go back here for some inspiration. And I think of myself as more or less an expert in this space, and I learned things in this book. So this was really well done. Well written piece. I thank you, Bryan, for putting it out there.

Bryan Eisenberg - 38:04 - You're welcome. It's also available in audio for those who don't even feel like they have to time to read it, either they can listen to it in one and a half or two speed.

Allison Hartsoe - 38:11 - Excellent. Excellent. Now we will be putting everything we discussed today in the links, the transcripts for the podcast link to Bryan's book. We'll link to Sam Walton's book. We'll link to Bryan's company, Buyer Legends, which is an excellent firm. And anything else that we've covered. I think there was another example about one 800 got junk in the huddles, which I thought was particularly so. As always, everything will be in Bryan, thank you again for joining us today.

Bryan Eisenberg - 38:44 - It was really an honor to be here.

Allison Hartsoe - 38:46 - Remember everyone, when you use your data effectively, you can build customer equity. It is not magic. It's just a very specific journey that you can follow to get results. Thank you for joining today's show. This is Allison. Just a few things before you head out. Every Friday I put together a short bulleted list of three to five things I've seen that represent customer equity signal, not noise, and believe me, there's a lot of noise out there. I actually call this email the signal things I include could be smart tools. I've run across articles, I've shared cool statistics or people and companies I think are doing amazing work, building customer equity. If you'd like to receive this nugget of goodness each week, you can sign up at, and you'll get the very next one. I hope you enjoy The Signal. See you next week on the Customer Equity Accelerator.

Ep. 25 | Transformation of Marketing Around CLV with Peggy Winton Episode 23: Customer Centricity Conference Recap with Allison Hartsoe
Powered by

Listen to the Customer Equity Accelerator Podcast


Available on itunes  




Listen on Google Play Music

We'd love to give you a snapshot of your data using up to 10,000 rows of information.

Schedule A Time