October 17, 2013

Interviews: Thinker(s) in Residence: Brains on Fire

By: Sally Haldorson @ 4:22 AM – Filed under: Marketing & Sales

TiR-BoF ROBBIN PHILLIPS, GREG CORDELL, GENO CHURCH, and JOHN MOORE work together at the word of mouth marketing and identity company Brains on Fire. Along with others in the Brains on Fire tribe, they partner with some of the most fearless businesses and organizations on the planet to ignite movements through the contagious power of passionate people. Robbin is the courageous President of Brains on Fire and truly believes love is a circular transaction. Greg is the Chief Inspiration Officer, which means his job is to find inspiration where no one else is looking. Geno is the Word of Mouth Pathfinder, helping to find and nurture the passion conversation inside every business. John is the Chief of Wahoo, helping clients grow and fostering learners and leaders within the Brains on Fire tribe.

"We believe with all our hearts and souls, it is possible, absolutely possible, to fall madly and passionately in love with the people you serve."

The Brains on Fire folks have always been about getting people to talk. Their first book, the aptly-titled Brains on Fire, was about starting movements that help propel your company's story and services forward with word of mouth. Their current book, The Passion Conversation, is an extension of that same message, but the authors say, "we wanted to spend some time digging deeper." Their way of digging deeper? Writing a love story.

"The Passion Conversation is a story about being famous for the people who love you, for the way you love them."

Why we recommend The Passion Conversation: The Passion Conversation is a difficult book to get through: not because it is a challenging or disappointing read, but because it's hard not to put the book down every 3rd page to make a note about something you'd like to apply to your own company's marketing strategy, or even your interactions with the world. It's that effective and that relatable. Here's the premise: People only talk about things they feel strongly about. They talk about the negative, or the positive, but they never spread the word about things they don't care about. So, how do you get people talking? Passion.

"Products alone will neither spark nor sustain conversations. Nor will programs, campaigns, services, and so on. It has always taken and will always take people."

Throughout the book, the authors tell stories about companies (Anytime Fitness and DeVry University are two of the most recognizable) who traffic in love, or rather, who excite customers by being wholly invested in their customers' experience. Think about that: do you "passionately love" the people you serve? Sure, you may honestly 'love' when people find your product or service useful, and you likely 'love' the money that hits the bank when people pay for your service, or you honestly 'love' the positive feedback, but oftentimes its easier to complain about customers, or even covet them, than it is to love them. So what's the trick? The Brains on Fire folks say that the key word to creating loving relationships that benefit both parties is "partnership." The benefits are clear: "We fall in love with our customers as we catch their vision and gaze forward together." And, when you love them and they love you, "You talk about that person you love constantly", and that, the authors say, is the key to starting a movement that can sustain your company. The authors don't limit themselves to emotional language or trotting out thread-bare social media or networking tropes; instead, they offer the insight you need to begin to think differently about your conversations with customers. They answer the all-important question: "When does conversation become advocacy?" because most strategist struggle to understand that conversion. And small sections, called "Wise Words", feature advice from CEOs which lends a kind of practical knowledge to the theoretical. The authors also illustrate--quite literally, actually, as there is a strong visual component to their messaging--not only why and how we can spark word of mouth via our customers, but that the love needs to start within the company. "Before you can take your passion conversation outside of your organization, you have to make sure it's felt deeply and clearly inside its own walls." Make the company's success personal to your employees. Not with raises or gold watches necessarily, but "the way many organizations are structured can make it difficult to know when we've won or succeeded....An important indicator of strengthening culture and passionate bonds between people in an organization is what and how we celebrate." Let your people be involved in every step of decision making and discovery: they will thank you by becoming passionate ambassadors of the brand. The Passion Conversation is a must-read book that will get you tweaking your company's message so that you too are telling a love story. You just might get some love back.

“The passion conversation isn't about getting people to talk about YOU, the brand. It's about getting people to talk about themselves. Encourage others to talk about themselves, their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Create platforms, online and offline, for the people you serve to share their own stories. Give them opportunities to talk and be willing to listen.”


Check in with us tomorrow as we continue our Thinker in Residence series on Brains on Fire with a Q&A interview about word of mouth marketing and how passion is the key to everything.

About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.