Identifying Pain Points to Carve Out Your Niche: Ryan Mason

Identifying Pain Points to Carve Out Your Niche: Ryan Mason

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About Ryan Mason

Ryan Mason is the savvy Founder & CEO behind Luxe Brand, America’s leading luxury shoelace provider, of which has been featured on Good Morning America, NFL Network, Foot Locker stores, and on over 30 athletes and celebrities; and BizBuzz, providing integrated marketing automation software and services for over 250 small and medium-sized businesses.

In each of these roles, Ryan is known as a disruptive force with an eye for setting new standards of excellence, and he never shies away from the opportunity to tackle new and interesting challenges.

Ryan believes that people, process, and platform are the key elements to building a powerful business and he’s here to share the benefits of that approach with others.

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Head to Ryan’s website to buy his book, The Digital Playbook

This episode was also recorded in video format. To watch the conversation, tune in below:

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at survey tech startup Worthix, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.

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About Worthix

Worthix was born in the Experience where customers are the backbone, and customer-centricity is the soul of every company. Innovation is at our core, and we believe in welding technology to bring companies and customers together. Our purpose is to use cutting edge mathematical models and Artificial Intelligence to extract actionable, relevant, and easy-to-understand insight straight from your customers’ minds.

Transcript:

Mary Drumond: So we are back with one more episode of season seven of voices of customer experience. And today I am joined by a special guest who came to our Atlanta offices. Um, especially for this recording right here. Now I lied. He actually lives in Atlanta and I found this out on accident and invited him in.

So, Ryan, hi, how are you, Ryan Mason? 

Ryan Mason: I’m super, super excited to be here. Thank you so much. Um, I can’t wait. Can’t wait. Let’s do it.

Mary Drumond: Awesome. Okay. So let’s start out by, you and I had a conversation the other day where we kind of got to know each other, but our listeners did not participate in that conversation.

So why don’t you give them a quick, quick rundown of who you are, what your background is and the things that truly like motivate you. 

Ryan Mason: Sure. So my name is, Ryan  Mason. Again, I am the CEO and founder of two companies, the first company being Luxe brand, which is the leading branded provider of luxury level shoelaces in the U S so it’s really unique.

We make really cool luxury leather shoelaces, mostly made from Italian lambskin. We wanted to provide, you know, the, the consumer, basically an opportunity to express their sense of style and fashion through their shoelaces. So, um, like I said, that’s what we do. Now the second company is called Biz Buzz digital, and we provide a marketing automation software for small businesses.

So basically our customers can go in and handle their listings, their reputation, their social, their website, and also the advertising all from one platform. So now there’s literally about 15,000 different softwares that can help you do whatever you need to do in marketing, but they’re not integrated in most cases.

So we pull everything into one platform so that you can understand exactly what’s happening at every single stage of the funnel.

Mary Drumond: And of these two companies. Which one is your passion project?

Ryan Mason: You know, honestly, ooh, that’s a tough question. I get that asked, that is asked to me all the time. Um, you know, it started with Luxe brand because that was, you know, from my story, that was what literally got my start, got me started in business. And, you know, at the time I was a college student, um, who had literally just got off of a scholarship. So I dropped a full scholarship to pursue business. I didn’t know what it was going to be at the time, but I wanted to do something, you know, I just want it to grow in some form or fashion.

And after, you know, a couple of years I realized that business was all around me. I mean, literally. That’s honestly, it was, it wasn’t until after I started my first company, had some success there, and then transitioned into my second company and building that one. That’s when I really realized that, Oh my goodness, my dad, my uncle, my grandfather, and all five of his brothers, all own local businesses, which is kind of why we work with a lot of local businesses nowadays anyway. So it took a couple of years for me to really realize that, but, Oh my God, it’s been a journey and I’m enjoying every second of it.

Mary Drumond: So tell me a little bit about Luxe brands, how you came up with this idea, how you realized that the market even had this pain to begin with and how you are providing a solution.

I mean, you talked about, you know, um, high-end Italian, leather, et cetera, and ways for people to express themselves. Right. But how come, like is this, do you have a lot of competition, are a lot of people thinking about like, Oh, express yourself through your shoelaces?

Ryan Mason: Yeah. So there’s actually been quite a few that have popped up and focused on this niche, um, over the years.

But for me, this is, it’s a funny story. It was really an ends, uh, you know, a means to an end for me. Um, so I was going through a point in my life where here I am, um, being the son of a ex NFL football player who played running back and also a cousin of another ex NFL football player and a younger brother who was literally climbing the ranks of the- at the time I think he had just been named like number two in the country for his position. So there was  immense pressure for me to go on to college and performing and honestly, um, going into college to make a really long story short. I got to a point where about three years in, I realized that, man, things were just not lining up the way that I originally envisioned them to lineup.

So I had to make a decision, I had to figure out, okay, well for one. If I’m going to talk about transitioning, which is leaving football and leaving a full scholarship that I busted my tail for, for the last, I mean the greater half of my life, I got to have a backup plan. I mean, my mom’s gonna look at me like I’m crazy.

And she did that, but, um, you know, the main thing was I needed to find something to do to convince them and others that I wasn’t going to be A. a failure and 2. that I wasn’t throwing my life away. Right. So that was, um, a lot of mental pressure for me. Oh my goodness. I mean, just a ton of mental pressure.

And, um, but basically I went home one Christmas break, um, and it was like in between that, you know, that, that season and we’re getting ready for spring training. So I went home for Christmas break and I had this idea. I said, well, I need to figure something out because I’m, I’m not happy. You know, I’m walking around here, like a sad puppy and I gotta, you know, figure out how can I do something that’s going to help me transition into my life and potentially put me in a position to do something that I may be doing for the rest of my life.

So, um, I went home and literally I saw this guy on Instagram and basically he would take apart shoes. So he would really recreate a shoe from scratch. And he would use all of these crazy exotic leathers, and he would start his prices out at about $1,500 a shoe. And he would be booked up within the first three to four months for the entire year.

I mean, he was cranking this stuff out and I was like, Oh my God, this is something I can do. You know, I like fashion. I like shoes. This is something I can get into. Well, basically I realized that after cutting up a bunch of shoes and literally having my parents walk by, like, what is this kid doing? My brother’s playing the game, looking at me like, okay, he’s maybe he’s bored.

And   I’m the older brother, right? So. After realizing and doing that, I realized that, you know, Hey, I, I need to kind of figure something else out because I don’t have the resources. I’m still in college, I’m broke. I can’t go and, you know, leave the state to do, to learn how to, you know, build shoes.

And I really just, I don’t have the time and that kind of commitment at that, at that point. So basically I thought about, I was like, well, what can I do to the shoe to change something that is, hasn’t been changed before? You know, we thought and that’s where laces came to mind. I thought laces, you know, they were always cotton, they look the same. People, there was a fad around the shoe industry. They would go get all of these shoes, the Jordan’s and stuff like that. And Nike’s, and, but they were always the same. They had nothing else. Other than to say, I got the same shoe as 15 of my other friends,

Mary Drumond: Unless you were a super celebrity and then you got a personalized shoe.

Ryan Mason: Exactly, exactly. That’s that’s exactly right. So, um, that’s where shoelaces kind of came into the mix was like, okay, this has the potential to increase the value of the shoe, but also this has a potential to, um, just basically give a person the sense of uniqueness that they need. It. So when I realized that I basically, I got to work, I, you know, I, I did my research.

I went to the leather shops. I learned how to cut leather. I learned how to build my first pair of laces. And, um, then I learned how unique it really was because I was trying to get help from so many people. And I mean, they,  sucked at it.  It was a process. Oh my goodness. It was a journey. But eventually we figured that out and, um, we just kept going and kept growing. And that was the reason that kinda just allowed me to build the confidence to go in, talk to others at the university, to get secondary opinions on how about lost my mind for trying to leave a scholarship to do something different?

And then that led to conversations with my father, which I was so scared and terrified to have. And I, man, it took me almost close to from, it took me about eight months to have that conversation.  I had to get so many opinions before then because I was like, there’s no way I’m going to bring up to my dad that I want to leave a scholarship.

So that’s how that kind of started. But, um, yeah, I mean, it’s a really funny story. A really funny thing is I remember when I first got back to school after I kind of had this idea, I invested about three or $400 in buying my first leather hide and making my first pair of laces and realizing that, okay, I can’t do this by myself.

I need help. Um, I went back to school and I literally got online. And for me, my biggest dream was to go on to the NFL and go to this big school. The Alabama’s, the Auburn’s of the world. And I’m at UNA, the university of North Alabama, a very small school in Florence, Alabama. And at first I was just like, I felt like I was deserving of more and better just because I had done so much work, but that happened to be the best thing that, that literally never happened for me.

The best thing that never happened was that I went to a small school. And I was able to get, you know, connect with those people, build relationships with really great people who I’m still connected to, to this day. And UNA’s has been amazing and I, and I love it, you know, so, um, but basically I contacted about seven people in that department and the college of business and they were random people.

I didn’t know who they were. I started at the top of the list from the dean  on down. And I went and met with this guy named Dr. Bora, who, I mean, he is, he never let me say no to myself in anything that I’ve done in my life. And I owe him so much. But basically from that, I told him my entire story for an hour and a half.

And after telling him that story, he said two things. Your idea is really cool. How serious are you about it? I said, I’m 120%. And he said, okay, great. We’ll work on it during the summer. The second thing he said was Ryan, it seems like you already have your answer. And I walked away pissed. I’m like, what do you mean I already have my answer? I came to you, you know, to, to pour my heart out into you for the last couple of years. And you didn’t tell me,   was. I crazy for thinking about leaving a scholarship or was I not crazy? So I went to one more person, completely got a completely unbiased opinion. He told me the exact same thing: Ryan, it seems like you already have your answer.

And at that moment I knew it was time for me to go and talk to my dad. And that’s kinda what happened. I talked to him, he said, he said something that I completely didn’t expect to happen. He said, Ryan, I support you a hundred percent. After that I went to my coaches, I let go of a full scholarship. And I got to work

Mary Drumond: From that moment on, when you knew that it’s what you wanted to do, run a business, um, start working with shoelaces in this case with, with Luxe brands, what was the first step? I mean, I imagine there was a lot of trial and error.

Ryan Mason: Oh yeah.

Mary Drumond:  But  what was it, when did you feel like you were on the right path and when did you actually start, um, reaping the fruit of your labor?

Ryan Mason: Yeah. Ooh, that’s a really good question.

Um, so I went through this period where, I was trying to break out of the norms, trying to break out of, you know, for me, um, it was go, you know, let’s go, go corporate, right? Let’s go corporate, get you some benefits. Um, you know, live life that way. And mainly it was just, just different people around me preaching that.

Um, my, my mother was one of them and I’m going to say this, you know, and I love my mother to death, but she was one of them. But because, and I didn’t realize this till later on in life, that she wanted me- she, she had lived through all of those ups and downs from my, her, her father, my grandfather. Her husband, my father, her brother, my uncle, you know, and the five brothers of my grandfather, her uncles, she had lived through all those ups and downs and she knew it was going to be a very challenging path.

So she wanted me to go and get some benefits and, and start with a solid foundation. Now I understand that. But for me in my mind, I was like, Nope, I even tried it with an internship and after that I was like, there’s no reason why I should be here. Um, because my heart is pulling me somewhere else. Um, but, to answer your question, the first sign that I really realized that, Hey, there’s potential here and I’m moving in the right path is when I basically got laces on a few celebrities. The first celebrity was Kevin Gates. Um, he wore, I have a picture of him having this, holding the shoe with the laces in them. And then immediately after that, uh, just I got to work.

I realized that, Hey, they like this, you know, so next thing you know, My shoelaces are being worn in a Superbowl by Devin McCourty. Um, next thing you know, they’re worn in both Superbowls, uh, two, two years in a row by the McCourty twins. And then I have about, you know, maybe about 30 to 40 athletes at the time, Antonio Brown who’s at the time was the number two receiver in the entire NFL.

Um, just a lot of people. So we’re getting traction. Uh, we got DJ Khaled, just several other people. And the real moment when I realized, okay, this is really real, is I woke up one morning and I checked my emails. And the first thing that I see is, um, Hey Ryan, um, this is Tory Johnson from good morning America.

It’s like, huh. So I literally immediately, I don’t know what to say. I’m just like in shock of course. And I’m just like, okay. Um, Hmm. Can we get on a call, like there’s gotta be a catch. I mean, what’s happening here. So we had a couple of laughing moments, but I literally, they’re telling me about what’s going to happen.

How, you know, they love the product, they found it and how they found it and everything like that. So I’m like, okay, cool. So, uh, what’s the catch? They, I mean, immediately bust out, laughing on the phone. There’s no catch line. We really love your product. We want it, we want it on the show. So I said, okay, cool. So in the midst of preparing for that, a couple of days after that, Footlocker, same thing, literally it’s it’s like clockwork, the same thing.

Hey Ryan, do you have a representation from Footlocker? Have you, do you have laces in stores? Of course not. Is this a trick question? Um, so from there, um, I realized like, Oh my goodness. There is riches in the niches. I mean, you got to just go and you got to persevere. And I think that is the story of the beginning of my journey is just perseverance and being able to understand you’re going to have failures, but successful people fail their way to the top.

Mary Drumond: So you’ve got a mark-, this marketing platform that you use now, but you also do a lot of speaking. You do consulting, you do, um, keynotes, um, and you wrote a book.

Ryan Mason: Yep.

Mary Drumond: Right?

Ryan Mason: Yep.

Mary Drumond: Um, I imagine that the, the gist of this content has to do with your entrepreneurial journey.

Ryan Mason:  Absolutely.

Mary Drumond: Um,  the mistakes that you made, I imagine. The successes.

And was there, at some point, that you realized that you had created a business model, a model that could be replicated?

Ryan Mason: Yes. Yes. So one of the biggest things that I’ve learned, um, especially from both companies that I’ve started, is that there’s three ingredients to building a powerful business and that’s people process and platform, the right people attract leads, um, close deals, job conversions, but they use a proven process.

Okay. A process is a repeatable, um, flow of checklists or tasks that can be. Repeated or replicated. Okay. And they also use platform to do it at scale. So the whole scope of everything that I’m doing is that I’m educating people. I’m training people. I’m teaching people and also I’m building people. Okay.

And basically we’re given the process, which is step by step. This is what we do. This is how we’re going to give you results. And that’s the digital playbook. You know, so gone are  the days where we hold all of our information so tight, nobody else also knows because it’s 2020, and we have to be willing to share with people and be transparent with people about what we’re doing and what we’re building and how we achieve results and success for our clients.

So that’s the process piece. And then the platform is our software. How we use this software to be efficient and do it at scale. So that’s how all of this connects together. And all of that is basically in the book. So it’s called the digital playbook. And basically what I wanted to do with that book was take all the things that I’ve learned from not only building my companies, but also our clients.

And all the knowledge and information that I’ve gotten from my mentors and I have been able to leverage and obtain. And now I want to give that because I know that I wished that I had a book or a process that I can follow when building my first couple companies.

Mary Drumond: Yeah maybe one of the trickiest parts of starting up a new business is that trial and error stage, where you have to make all those mistakes before you can get the model down.

But, you never really know which mistake could actually run you out of business. So there’s constantly that risk, right? You’re like, no, you know, you’ve got to keep failing because, you know, once you fail, you know that you’re increasing your success rate, et cetera. Right. How do you know you’re not making that fatal mistake for your business?

Ryan Mason: Yeah, that’s a good point, you know, and I think too, like for me, it’s all, it’s a mind set shift, you know, for me too, it’s like, you know, okay. Yeah. Even if you do make a drastic mistake and you run out of business, like, think about all the knowledge you’ve gained. Think about that. I mean, I can guarantee you, those, if you look at history, those CEOs have, who have failed in their business and who are building really freaking big businesses now, they have all failed. They’ve all literally went out of business before.

Mary Drumond: I mean, if we talk about Steve jobs, right? He was like the pinnacle of, uh, you know, startup success, et cetera.

Ryan Mason: Right.

Mary Drumond: He was kicked out of his own freaking company.

Ryan Mason: Yeah. We don’t, people don’t realize that, but also, too, people got to talk about the failures, you know. Because honestly, we got to realize that that is how we learn. You know, that is how we, that’s the best way to actually achieve success is to learn from your own mistakes.

Mary Drumond: Do you think there was a moment, because is it natural for humans to be so resistant to failure? Or do you think that this is something that at some point was culturally ingrained into our mentalities, that you can’t fail?

Ryan Mason: I think it’s a little bit of both. Um, social media is one of those things, you know, let’s be honest, social media is, and not just social media, but also it happens in person as well.

But a lot of times we look at others and this is what I dealt with when I was getting started, I was scared of failure. I was scared to be, scared to death to be like labeled as, Oh, the guy who, who flunked out of school or lost a full scholarship. And that wasn’t even the case because I was literally opting out myself.

Right. But I was sitting here, I’m like, Oh, they’re going to label me. They’re going to label me. But you know why that was, it’s because I’m looking at and comparing myself to so many other peoples’ situations. And it’s not my situation. Right. I’m literally looking at other peoples’ highlight reels instead of understanding the entire film.

Mary Drumond: That’s exactly it. I couldn’t have said it better. That’s exactly it. When we see,  when we notice an individual, um, you know, someone who is, uh, looked up to, or a role model it’s because that person has finally achieved that success, but we don’t have a clear vision of the road that it took to get to that success.

And it’s funny because even though a lot of these people are more than humble enough to say no, this, this was a really hard journey. We tend to ignore this. We’re like, yeah, sure. Blah, blah, whatever, you’re successful. Uh, you know, um, because I think maybe we want to create some sort of romantic ideal in our mind. Kind of like, um, you know, how people dream about winning the lottery.

Ryan Mason: Yeah.

Mary Drumond: They’re like low effort, high reward. It’s like, that’s not a thing.

Ryan Mason: It’s not.

Mary Drumond:  You know? Yeah. So like, as humans, we’re conditioned to, to even fantasize about low effort, high reward, right. And, and that’s, you know, like I tell my kids this all the time and the people who work over here with me, there, there are no free lunches. There’s no free ride. You have to work for everything that you accomplish. Right.

But let me switch gears really quick and talk about your road of entrepreneurship and try to put on the the, the, the colored lenses of the customer’s point of view. Because after all, this is a customer experience podcast, right?

So in your life, in your experience, building the companies that you have built, how much has the customer factored in to your success formula? Um, how, how much have you learned about the true value and what, what sort of message would you give people who are starting a path in entrepreneurship, um, of how they should treat the customer?

Ryan Mason: For one,  the customer is everything. The customer’s- you have no business, if you have no customer. So it’s important to understand the way they, they, that they think what makes them tick. What makes them decide to convert? What makes them, you know, give reviews and give testimonies, or, you know, whether that’s good or bad, it’s really important to understand that.

So something that I always talk about is the customer journey, you know, um, I think it’s really important, especially when you’re getting started and building a business, um, you have to make sure that you do your research and once you build an MVP, so that’s a minimum viable product or anything, whether that’s physical or software or whatever, right.

You have to go out. And you have to do research on the customer. You have to figure out what they like, what they don’t like, what’s going to make them purchase, how much they will purchase. And then also what experience they’re looking for. Okay. So the customer journey, it kind of goes like this it’s super simple, right?

You have, and you can think about this in a way where it’s just pretty much the typical things that the customer goes through before they decide to do business with you and after. Okay. So first you have interest and awareness. All right. So usually, um, basically back in the day, this was something like maybe a, um, a billboard. You know, maybe an ad in the phone book or something weird like that

Mary Drumond: Have you ever seen a phone books, Ryan? Let’s be honest.

Ryan Mason: I mean, the funny thing though is, you know, those things are some of them, in most cases, they’re not all the way gone away completely. All right. They’re just being supplemented by stuff like digital stimulus. Okay. So now you got, I mean, loyalty programs, you got advertising, PPC, all of that type of stuff.

Um, but usually once they get some type of interest, the next thing that happens is they’re going to pull out their phone. All right. And they’re going to literally do their research on you. So now that we have so much access to so much information, all on our phones and we have this access 24 /7 people are now literally making decisions and formulating opinions about companies as soon as they do the research.

Mary Drumond: Yeah. It’s a, the age of the empowered customer.

Ryan Mason:  Exactly, exactly. So the next thing that happens is, you know, they’re doing their research. So in a lot of cases, they they’ll go to Google. But that’s not what they do all the time. Every single time. There’s other things. GPS,  you have different apps, you have different search engines, you know, and they’re going to go and they’re going to research you.

So what happens next is basically they’re going to make sure, after they find you, they’re going to make sure that they, um, do their research and more. So they’re going to look at their, your reviews. They’re going to see what other people have to say about you. I got a question for you. So think about this. All right. When’s the last time you shopped on Amazon?

Mary Drumond: Like five minutes before you walked in.

Ryan Mason: So, and I’m pretty sure that you look at reviews.

Mary Drumond:  I did not.

Ryan Mason: Oh, Ooh. So did you have a recommendation?

Mary Drumond: I don’t, I don’t count. I did have a recommendation. I’ll get to that in a second, but I don’t count for most of these things because since this is my market, I’m like, I am absolutely going to shield myself from these biases, but I did have a recommendation. I read one of those, okay so it was a Halloween costume. This episode is being recorded one week before Halloween. Um, so I was looking at a Halloween costume and, you know, I was online searching for, you know, 20 best, uh, Halloween costume ideas for 2020. Um, and there was a link there directly to Amazon. So yeah. So it’s that social proof factor going on, for sure.

Ryan Mason: This is, yeah, exactly. That’s a good point, right? Because you know, it’s not just those are views that people are giving. But it’s also just anything that you can see related to that business. That’ll help you formulate the opinion. All right. And that’s the zero moment of truth. And if you don’t believe me, look it up on Google.

So, so here’s the thing, right. Um, you know, basically the next thing is, you know, you really have to think about that customer because word of mouth, which has been  offline for so long, it’s online. And it’s, it’s literally online. You gotta think about this. If you go to a meeting or not even a meeting, an event, and there’s a hundred people in that room, and basically all of those people formulate an opinion of the speaker, right?

You may have, you know, 10, 15 people go express their opinion online, you know, or word of mouth. I mean, with, amongst their friends. But if someone sees that same video in a five, you know, let’s say 500, 1500, 2000 people see that video and they go comment and they go review and they go talk about it. That’s word of mouth too.

 It’s just online.  And that’s where people are making decisions. Over 90% of people are making decisions online. So after that usually is when they get to the point of conversion and that’s the point where they actually say, okay, well, I’m going to exchange money for your product or service.

Okay. So obviously there, you’ve got, you know, your website, you got different apps where people can actually convert on. Um, and then after that, it’s the stage of advocacy. Okay. So that is where you want to make sure that people, uh, either love the experience, all right, and they actually express that they love the experience.

All right. Because that is when they’re going to literally tell their friends and family. And as we know, in most cases, they’re going to say if it was a bad experience, they’re going to let the world know that, especially for restaurants. Oh my God. Talk about that all the time. They’re going to let everyone know because they’re so excited to share bad information.

So you want to make sure that you’re nurturing them through that stage as well. So that’s the customer journey.

Mary Drumond: Yeah. I have a question for you.

Ryan Mason: Sure.

Mary Drumond: I haven’t spoken about this yet. So you’re my first guest that I’m going to bring this up. So if it doesn’t make any sense, just ignore it and we’ll cut it   in post production.

So here’s, here’s my train of thought. Okay. For the longest time we’ve been discussing the importance of word of mouth and the slippery slope that is reviews and the internet and the empowered customer. Right? What we’ve seen a really recent, um, event, which is the rise of the shaming of the Karens of the world.

Okay. Where I think that everything in the world, and I don’t know why humans are like this, we’re so cyclical about our behavior. We, we create a really, really bad habit and that generates, um, anger and then transformation. And then with time that transformation also becomes a bad thing and we gradually steer to the polar opposite again, and we just keep going from opposite to opposite.

And we never settle in some commonality in the middle, in this massive gray zone. We’re always at extremes. Right? So for a really long time, companies treated their customers like garbage and customers couldn’t do anything about it. And then one day somebody complained and this became a movement. And eventually companies realized that if your customers talk bad about you, this is going to result in a negative impact for your business.

So companies started catering directly towards keeping their customer satisfied, and then you get that customer is always right mentality. Which then, uh, permeates into corporate culture and companies start doing everything they can to keep customers happy because they understand that a returning customer is cheaper than getting a new one because that cost per acquisition is so freaking high.

Right. And so companies do anything to keep customers happy until one day people turn around and they’re like, Dude. Why is it okay for you to walk into an establishment and tell off some poor person working on the counter because you feel entitled to it with your customer privilege and, and society as a whole realizes that that’s so douchey. And people don’t want that anymore. I also feel like, of course this is generating extreme reactions and now people are beginning to feel so intimidated about possibly being labeled a Karen, that they’re no longer complaining. Yeah.

Like I see a lot of memes on the internet where people are like, Oh my God, this food is horrible. Server walks by. Is everything okay? Oh, it’s delicious. It’s wonderful. I’m not going to be the one to complain. Right. So then the person is having a bad experience, but they will not talk about it. They will not mention it. They will never bring it up. They’ll leave and never come back. Therefore never giving the company a chance to realize their mistake.

Do you feel like we are walking towards an era where we’re back to that other extreme where customers never give feedback because people are afraid of being labeled.

Ryan Mason: I think we possibly are. I think, you know, I don’t think it will be as bad, but I think what’s happening is, it’s definitely gonna reverse or go back.

And I think what’ll happen from there is we’re going to end up back to where, it is literally going to be like a ping pong table. Right. Um, but I do 100% agree that that is happening. Um, and it’s going to be interesting, um, how to really figure out, you know, how to understand that customer in new ways. You get what I’m saying, because there are several things that you can really pick up on.

And a lot of those things you have to be like, you know, either you have to have the right data in place, um, or the right personable experiences who can, who can understand and see, because some things, it may be facial reactions, you know, in person, it may be, you know, the way that their body demeanor is.

Um, but. I think this is going to develop, um, a need for companies to be smarter and learn how to understand their customer even more.

Mary Drumond: So it’s about developing the right channels to allow customers to give feedback, maybe not in a public setting.  So it could maybe be positive when you think about it. I mean, I think that there, everything is positive about showing people that you’re not allowed to be disrespectful to folks just because you’re in a position of privilege, regardless of what that privilege is. Um, but then again, that crucial face-to-face touch point that companies have with their consumers, whether it’s in the brick, brick and mortar, or whether it’s the online reviews, because, um, the masses, aren’t only revolting against the in-person Karen, they’re doing it with online Karen as well.

So when you get a really douchey review, people are no longer even paying that much attention to it because it’s like, why are you calling this person out and trying to ruin their business?  I think that, that the market has had- well, like we’re getting the awareness that, Hey, that tactic is old. We know it now.

Like we’ve heard of people who have, um, gotten upset at somebody and just posted a whole bunch of bad reviews at an establishment

Ryan Mason:  And gotten their friends to do it, too.

Mary Drumond: Yeah. And literally drove somebody out of business because of a personal vendetta, with reviews. And that, you think that the age of Yelp is maybe coming to an end?

Ryan Mason: It’s getting there. It’s definitely getting there. Um, Yeah, I think, you know, cause it, like, I tell people like your, your physical landscape is just as important as your digital landscape. So, you know, yes, there are instances online that are happening. Um, and you can clearly tell when someone goes and leaves a really nasty review and a lot of times, cause I deal with reviews all the, all the time, but a lot of times you can read it and you can see that they hadn’t even had an experience with ’em, right? I mean, it’s completely made up.

Mary Drumond: Yeah, but maybe you, as the business owner can tell. But somebody who’s just navigating-

Ryan Mason: Right. I think we’re getting there to where people are starting to tell the difference as well.

Mary Drumond: I think in general, since I talk to people about this a lot, because this is a topic that interests me, I found that people are losing faith in reviews.

And I, you know, there are several attributions for this. One could be the digital Karen. Another thing can be, uh, a couple months ago, maybe last year, there was that case where Sunday Riley was actually, um, convicted of having her team flood sephora.com with fake reviews on Sunday Riley cosmetics, and nothing really happened.

There were no, no real consequences. It was like, you have to apologize and little tiny slap on the wrist. Never do that again. But the truth is that there are no laws that are, um, that keep companies from posting fake reviews about themselves. So, um, not only that, I think that, um, online shoppers or even people on the internet looking for reviews are coming to terms with the fact that if that poster has a different demographic or different likes or dislikes or different standards really, that review is entirely shot. Like personal experience, I went to Italy a couple years ago and you know, I decided to check TripAdvisor. The worst decision ever. Because I think that a lot of the reviews that I had read were from maybe people who were backpacking or people who were staying at hostels and they had a different experience, they had a different expectation of experience than I did.

So I was looking for something to relax on vacation, you know, with my husband, et cetera. And I ended up going to a place that really wasn’t my style of hotel based on TripAdvisor reviews. Right. Never use TripAdvisor for that again, but, and I bet that there are a lot of people in my situation, right?

Ryan Mason: Yeah. I think that’s a good point. I mean, I think it’s going to cut- even in the review setting, it’s going to cause those companies, those review companies, um, Like Google, Yelp and different things like that, to evolve the way that they take reviews. I mean, because like you just said, you had a different expectation than the average person, right.

And that needs to be expressed, that needs to be maybe a category or, or some type of switch that you can press or some button that you can press so that you can leave it based off that expectation. Um, so that is that I, I think that is what we’re, we’re, we’re heading towards. Um, you know, one of the things that I like to do as well, you know, is, is video.

Um, that is the way of tomorrow. And I talk about that in my book, basically creating one minute videos, but the big thing here is a lot of times you can’t fake a video. People will-

Mary Drumond: It’s harder at least.

Ryan Mason:  It’s really hard.

Mary Drumond: You can craft a review or a comment.

Ryan Mason:  Right. You can, you can sit there and think about it all day, go to sleep and come back and write the rest of it, right.

Mary Drumond: Or even edit it after.

Ryan Mason: Right. But giving a really genuine video testimonial is way more difficult to conduct and also potentially way more powerful.

Mary Drumond: Yeah. I think, I believe that video is kind of where the market is headed. And this is why this, uh, this season of the podcast is done through video because we’re trying to meet our customers or our listeners halfway. And people are demanding more video content, maybe because it is a way to show a little bit more authenticity, as long as we don’t have deep fakes.

Ryan Mason: Yeah. Right. So, but no, that’s, that’s the way of tomorrow because I mean, we talk about it all the time. Um, even video ads, um, what has really helped me is just pulling out my phone and literally like right now, I’m promoting this book. I got about 1500 contacts and I’m literally sitting there sending messages to all of these contacts who I’ve talked to over the years. And, um, in most cases we are on good, good terms, but I mean, it’s so natural because all I’m doing is look,  pulling up my phone and I’m saying, Hey guys,  Ryan Mason, I know we haven’t spoken in a while, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve been working really hard for the last six months on my first book, the digital playbook. And in this book, I’m going to show all the secrets that I have used to win business, with good morning, America, NFL network, foot locker stores, Adidas, Yahoo, finance, uh, Fox news, and so much more.

And I wanted to, um, because of our relationship, give you a special discount for the pre-sales. So I’ll be on the lookout because I’ll be sending you a message, um, within the next week with all the details. And I promise you, this is my best work to date, so swipe up, right. Or something like that. But you see, I mean, it’s so natural.

I mean, it’s not-

Mary Drumond: And it’s authentic too, isn’t it?

Ryan Mason:  It’s not staged. They feel like it’s it’s for them. It is for them. But, um.

Mary Drumond: But that’s definitely something that I agree wholeheartedly with. Uh, the market is craving authentic experiences. Right. And maybe that is why people are craving video because it’s more authentic.

Ryan Mason: Yeah, experience is everything, too.

Mary Drumond: It’s easier to spot a poser, right?

Ryan Mason:  Now, there are some people who are really good at-   you know, we do have actors that are not on the big screen.

Mary Drumond: Right. Of course. But it’s, it’s more difficult.

Ryan Mason: Absolutely.

Mary Drumond: And it’s, at least people like to believe that they can spot authenticity better if it’s visual. Right?

Ryan Mason: Right. That’s so true. That’s so true.

Mary Drumond: Now tell me this because, wow, we’ve been talking for a while. Time just flew right past us.

Ryan Mason: Oh let’s keep going.

Mary Drumond: Where do you see your businesses going and how do you see yourself? Now here’s the cool part of the question. Okay. How do you see yourself molding and reshaping your businesses as you progress into the future to attend the future expectations of your customers?

Ryan Mason: That’s a good question. Yeah. So I think for me, of course, I definitely want to build a really big business, but the reason why I want to do that, hence the why, um, I want to give exact on direct examples of how to build a company, build a culture, build a foundation and inspire others. More importantly, the future business leaders of tomorrow.

So I think if I stay true to my why, and why I’m doing this, why I’m in this and I continue to love the journey as I do now, then all the other challenges that come up, it’s going to be the perfect reason for me to go back, look at that why and say, okay, Ryan, although the market is shifting, although the customer habits are changing, we can figure this out. Right. We can figure out ways to be on the cutting edge. We can figure out how to adapt to those new customer habits. So just to give you an example, um, like right now, COVID, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we were just talking about, it’s literally starting in November and we’re coming up on November.

Right. It’s crazy. Just to even think about it. But the thing is we knew that most of our local businesses are going to be struggling. They’re going to be struggling to keep their doors open. This is our customer, right? And we needed to figure out ways to help them keep the doors open. So we released an express toolkit, which is basically free products that they can use to help them get online very quickly, a one-click website, where they can get online if they weren’t already online, and shop and start to sell their products online as well. So, and also maybe, you know, to do eco-, like, for example, let’s say if they were a restaurant and I needed to do curbside pickup, well, we want, we needed to be at the forefront of that because we know that our customers we’re going to deal with that.

So, um, honestly, one of the big things, I want to go back to people, process and platform, because that’s going to be something that I deal with and I implement in every single product, every single stage of my businesses. People, process and platform. No matter what it is, no matter if you’re doing marketing, no matter if you’re doing, you know, sales, there’s the same thing.

Right. Um, here’s what I like to think. Take about that. Now you, it’s important to have nimble people, nimble processes and nimble platforms. All right. And what I mean by that is every stage of the funnel. If it’s, if it’s the foundation to sit and solid  enough, you should be able to change and adapt. It’s hard to change and adapt with efficiency if you don’t have a solid foundation. Because I’ve been there before, running around and trying to build a business, like a chicken with my head cut off. And when something like this hits you in the face in the,   amongst you running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you don’t recover a lot of times.

So, um, no matter what I do and when I’m growing, um, I want to make sure that I incorporate the nimbleness, um, the creativity, the ability to actually move with the current changes. So with that being said, um, some of the next milestones for me, uh, for, for Luxe brand is I want to actually get another national placement.

Of course, um, personally, Um, so my, the whole goal of the why behind getting the national placement is because honestly I want to do it and I want to bring awareness to a certain illness or social cause. One of the things that’s important to me is breast cancer. My grandmother passed of breast cancer, and I know that it affects so many women in this world.

And I want to bring awareness to it because not only that, but other causes as well, just because, I mean, I can’t fathom what those people go through. You know, so the next piece of that personally, I would love to get on good morning America personally. That’s a longer term vision, but it’s going to happen, you know, cause I’m gonna claim it.

Um, for Biz Buzz I really want to be able to impact over a hundred thousand businesses, um, with whether that’s processes or platforms. Um, so that’s the vision, but it all comes back to my why.

Mary Drumond: That’s awesome. Great. Well, you know, it’s great to have a fellow Atlanta, um, business person here today with us and thank you so much for coming out.

It’s been great to listen to your journey and I’m sure that this will help inspire other people who are thinking of starting their own business or thinking of kicking it off and they want to do so. They want to start with the right foot. They want to start off keeping the customer as their North star.

So it was great having you on, great explaining these concepts that you’ve built and the experience that you’ve gathered over the year. Let us know when your book is coming out and how, how can people buy it?

Ryan Mason: Actually, um, by the time this podcast is released, it’s going to be out, right? So, um, you can actually go to our website and scroll down.

So my website is Ryan D mason.com, which is my personal site. Scroll down to about half the page and you’ll see a section that talks about the digital playbook and there’ll be a picture of the book. You can buy your copy there. Okay. I encourage you, go get it soon because, um, it’s going to be releasing for only 99 cents.

So if you catch it in time, that’s the pre-sale discount that you guys get. Um, but yeah, RyanD mason.com is where you can go. If you want to go to Luxe Brand spring and go to, it’s Luxe brand L U X E hyphen brand.com to shop there. And of course, last thing  Biz Buzz bizbuzzdigital.com.  

Mary Drumond: Awesome. Thanks so much, Ryan. It’s great having you.

Ryan Mason: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

Mary Drumond: Great. Awesome.

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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.

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