As consumers, some products have certain emotional relevance to us. A soda brand, for example, might evoke memories of our childhood. It is this emotional connection that keeps us hooked to certain brands. Alon Zaibert, a relationship-driven sales and customer success executive, is an expert at keeping customer loyalty by building emotional relevance. He joins Ben Baker on the episode to explain how you can hook your customers early in the process. Alon most recently worked for Travel Leaders Group as the Vice President of Sales for its corporate travel division. He now teaches people the power of emotional relevance through mentoring, motivational speaking, and corporate training.
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Getting Customer Loyalty Through Emotional Relevance With Alon Zaibert
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Every episode we bring a new guest on and this episode, I have Alon Zaibert. He’s another person I met through LinkedIn. You would think that everybody I meet is through LinkedIn. If you’re not on LinkedIn, or not doing business on LinkedIn, you got to get on LinkedIn and you got to learn how to do it right. Alon and I met and we started off this great conversation. He has something called emotional relevance that he got to talk to you about it. I love where he’s going with this. Alon, welcome to the show. Let’s get into this.
Thank you. Pleasure being here. I’ve listened to the show before. It’s funny, for us that have been working online as some of our day to day, we hear what’s going on these days with the virus and all like, “What do you mean you just recently joined LinkedIn?” This has been 45% of my life since it started. It’s the Facebook for business. Thank you for having me.
I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2005.
It’s the same thing with online. For a lot of people, online communication is new to them, but for me and many others that I know, I’ve been doing online sessions for years. I love meeting people, don’t get me wrong. I need a hug, but online is a big part of my life. It’s a bigger part. It’s an interesting shift.
It’s getting people to understand that technology is a tool, not a crutch. That’s what we need to be thinking of technology is. How does it make our lives better? If it’s not making our lives better, either we’re not using it right, or we’re using the wrong technology.
I will tell you something that I say in every opportunity I can. The best technology in the world, in my mind, is the technology you don’t know is there, just like a good referee on a basketball game. If you notice them, they didn’t do a good job. People need to realize when they are online, stop asking, “Can you see my screen?” Someone will tell you if they don’t see your screen, but when you ask that, you make it an issue. Ignore the technology. If you can get to a position where you ignore that technology, like you said, it’s an enabler. That’s the best thing. You focus on the content.
It’s funny because I’ve been asked to do a lot of virtual workshops and keynote addresses, everything online. I’ve probably been on 14 or 15 different technology platforms. What I’ve noticed is I have to go online a week ahead of time with all of these ones that I’ve never used before to make sure I’m comfortable with it, so it doesn’t become an issue when you’re live. It becomes a tool that becomes part of your right hand. It’s interesting that a lot of technology is set up in a way that it was assumptive for the person who programmed it, but not assumptive for anybody else.
Unfortunately, you’re right. Zoom has done a great job. You’ve seen me present on Remo, which I think has some quirks to go through, but the psychology of our behavior online, you can tell that they put a lot of effort in thinking through it. I’ll tell you something interesting, and we can use it as a segue to passion, which is emotional relevance. I have a blog called Two Weeks Notice. A Touch of Emotional Relevance Every Couple of Weeks. AlonZaibert.com is my website.The best technology in the world is the technology you don’t know is there. Click To Tweet
I wrote a post on my blog about the first line is the deepest. Along the lines of there’s no second chance for first impression. When you think about our behavior as human beings into our comfort zone, we’re used to something, and then when we need to go through something new, there’s an instinctive resentment. The biggest advantage of technology and anything is it makes it easy. We’ll talk about what I refer to as an emotional anchor. A lot of technology companies’ retail definitely has that in mind. Make sure that the first time we experience their service, technology, and product, there’s an emotional anchor. There’s no second chance for first impression, so they want to make sure it’s a positive one, of course, but it’s an emotional one as well. Let me give you an interesting example. Do you remember the first time you use Uber?
Why do you remember it? It’s because you clicked on it on a button on your phone and magically somebody with a car appeared a few minutes later, it showed you where it is. I did a survey online and it’s unbelievable. By far, about 90% of people remember the first time they used Uber because they made it very easy to use, but also emotional. When you go to a new technology, they got to make sure it’s easy. That’s the first thing. The guy who founded Zoom worked for Webex before. He said, “All the quirks and the issues that Webex had, and they didn’t know. They added them over time as patches. I took them and I said, ‘No, these are the main things that we need to do as human beings,’ and he created an online meeting environment.” That’s what Zoom is. It just works. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
The emotional piece, that’s a different topic. That’s why I brought Uber not Zoom, but ease of use is important. A bit about emotional anchor, which is probably one of the most important elements when creating emotional relevance. In essence, emotional relevance is the ability to take your customer, partner, or colleague through an emotional experience. When we go through an emotional experience, scientifically and psychologically, it’s engraved in our mind. We simply remember it. I can ask you to go back many years ago and think about things that happened in your life. Probably the biggest, most substantial example I can do is ask you, “Where were you when the Twin Towers got hit?”
I know exactly where I was. I know exactly what I was doing.
If I asked you to think for 30 seconds, close your eyes, I can guarantee you, you will know the details that will blow your mind off. Like the colors of the wall, or maybe even what you wore at that moment because you’ve gone through an emotional experience. If you learn how to take your customer, or if you can take your customer through an emotional experience, and set that emotional anchor through the first interaction of that communication cycle, sales cycle, whatever it is. The beauty is if you know how to trigger that emotional experience again, they relive that again. This is how their level of stickiness, or brand loyalty becomes much higher, and that’s what you want.
We communicate with our customers with our colleagues through many means of communication. Email, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, face to face, online. These are all channels of communication. Each time we talk to them, there’s a communication cycle there. If we can, and not every one of those, but every now and then throw a little emotional anchor, and then remind them about it, it’s just science. Think of it as a mathematical formula. Emotional could be laughter. It could be something a little scary, or frustrating. Whatever it is.
It can be the good or the bad.
It doesn’t have to be dramatic. I was on a call with this guy in Boston. Never mind the reason why we’re talking. Trying to sell service, it doesn’t matter, but at one point during the conversation, he said something along the lines of, “Where everybody knows your name.” Immediately, and this is a lot of training, and I’m doing it for a while so my antennas are up much higher than the average sales guy so I’m picking up things. After he said that, I paused for a second, I said, “I see what you did there.” He goes, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Boston. Everybody knows your name.” He goes, “What are you talking about?” I started singing, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.”
Cheers is a wonderful thing.
Cheers is in Boston. You know that, but I don’t know if everybody else knows that. As soon as I said that he’s like, “That’s right.” After that we said goodbye. It was a Friday and it’s amazing. Now even when I tell you, I remember it was a Friday. This is a long time ago. I remember it was a Friday, because, for me, I used to live in Boston. Cheers meant something to me, it doesn’t matter, but for me, it was the emotional relevance at that point. I sent them a follow-up email and said, “Thank you very much. Greetings from Atlanta. I hope you enjoyed the weekend in Boston where everybody knows your name.” Something like that. Kind of bring that back. If you think about it for a second, what I did is I thought how he is going to respond or react when he reads that. I also thought about how he’s going to feel when he reads that. In my mind, I’m picturing him going, “Huh.” That’s it. That’s all you need. That was a little trigger. He sent me an email back and he said, “By the way, I’m going to be in Atlanta in a month and a half and I’d love to see the city where everybody knows your name.” Now it’s become a little thing there.
Absolutely. It built a connection.
Correct. The connection is emotional because we laughed about it. I made this visual connection to him as well because he told me how we took his kid there to see Cheers and told them about the story and what have you, etc. It’s not dramatic. It’s not like the guy was crying over me and whatever, but psychologically, and scientifically, it’s proven that when you trigger those emotions over and over, the connection is much deeper. It’s more meaningful. What do we need it for? To be remembered and to add value. The essence of emotional relevance is to be remembered and to add value. When you do that, your sales closing rates, customer retention rate, and acceptance rates to jobs are proved to be increased, etc.
I would add that it also builds trust, and trust is a huge factor, but when we’re looking at emotional relevance and the anchors, I love the fact that it’s an anchor. It’s something that you can go back to and you guys may be talking about where everybody knows your name for the years to come. It will be something. It’ll be your own little thing that you guys could talk about, and have that thing that it brings it back to your initial conversation and be a genesis story for you guys of all the work that you’ve done from this point forward. Creating that loyalty with a customer base is internal, whether it’s employees, or whether it’s external customers, it’s getting people to understand that there is a reason for them to care about you. That’s got to be something that we should we should try to unplug.
You got it. You and I didn’t prepare for the session, so I’m shocked that you got it. Unbelievable. You can tell I get excited about it because you can tell when people get it. On the front page of my website, I wrote there that essentially, what we offer is trust, and trust is based on emotions and relevancy. Now it’s over time, but I guarantee you one thing. If this guy that I spoke to from Boston, let’s say in two months he is traveling for work. He’s getting to the hotel, and it’s late at night. He just finished dinner with his customers and he’s taking a shower. Getting in bed and flicking through the channels, and all of a sudden, an episode of Cheers is starting and the theme song comes up. Who do you think he’s going to think about? He’s going to think about me because that’s what I want.
I want my customers to think about me and not the competition. People ask me, “What’s the secret sauce here?” “What’s the elements?” “What is the recipe?” In my trainings and speaking engagements, I speak about three main elements for creating the DNA of emotional relevance. The first one is to stand out. The underlying is to be remembered and to add value. The first of the three elements is to stand out. What does it mean to stand out, to be a little different? Whoever is reading here, and they sell a service or product, it doesn’t matter. How many times have you gotten into a situation where you know that you made it to the best and final? It’s you and maybe 1 or 2 more companies. You know that the buyer is looking at the three proposals after they checked out 3, 4, or 17 more. It doesn’t really matter. It all looks the same. Maybe different colors. Maybe different logos and it all looks the same. The pricing is very close, but if you stood out on this document, or when you met them, I dare you. I want to push you to do something a little different. Just a little different. It’s okay.
Here’s a quick story. I was presenting in Houston. Years ago, I was doing work for this media company and we had to pitch to executives in the retail world. The executives of Starbucks, Target, Neiman Marcus, CVS, and DSW was there. We had to pitch them on our offering whatever it is. They were sitting in a conference room. Back to back fifteen-minute pitches from different companies to offer them their offering. We were presenting right after lunch. They’ve gone that morning through at least 10 or 12 pitches. Now everybody went to lunch. We got a few minutes to set the room before everybody came back into the room. As they start coming back, I was embellishing the first two that came in. You introduce yourself and you do the dance. Here’s a card and, “Yes, I’m Alon,” and who you are with, etc. As they’re gathering, I got a little friendly with one. This is all 47 seconds in the making. I said something to that person a little bit out loud. I said, “This room is dark. It’s cold. You’ve probably been cooped in here the whole day. Why don’t we take it outside?” The guy looked up and he said, “Can we? I’d love to. It’s a beautiful day out.” That’s all I needed.
I said it loud enough and some other person heard it. You could say they picked up their head, looked immediately and in their eyes said, “Can we?” I said, “Screw it. Let’s do it. Let’s go.” They didn’t know that I paid somebody $10 to set up this beautiful round table outside under a huge tree, so we have shade. You got to do the basic sales things. We went outside. I couldn’t present outside. There was no projector or anything. It turned out to be a conversation. You have to know your stuff and what you’re talking about. Let me tell you something, the following year, I got an email from one of the organizers who said, “We finished the show this year and we missed you. People still talk about your meeting under the tree.”There is no second chance for first impressions. Take your customers through an emotional experience at the first interaction. Click To Tweet
Stand out. There are many ways to do it. More subtle, less subtle. I’m nothing but subtle, but you know what I mean. The second one is to make an impact. I want to mention that it works, but it cuts both ways. If you make a negative impact, you’ll push away your customer the same distance from your brand, as if you get a positive impact on how close are you get them. The problem is you’re going to have to work twice as hard to get back that distance.
The problem is when people are emotionally tied to your brand, they’re going to tell everybody. When people are negatively attached to your brand, you’ve done something to tick them off in one way, shape, or form, they’re going to tell everybody too. I’m a have a big believer of you need to take that risk and you need to differentiate yourself and you need to sit there and say, “Who are my customers?” and treat them like gold. If the company just sits there and ignore their people, they get people talking about them negatively. That’s how they create the emotional relevance that’s in the negative matter. That causes people to talk negatively about them forever.
I want to disagree on one thing you said, which is people tell everybody if they’re emotionally connected and if they’re not, or if they’re emotionally negatively impacted. There’s research that shows that people that are unhappy with your service or felt that they got screwed with your service, etc., anything negative will talk much more than the positive. It’s much harder to get somebody who had a great or good experience to talk, versus somebody who’s frustrated. That’s why you work that much harder if somebody gets negatively impacted by what you said. We talked about making an impact.
A former customer of mine from New York who I’m working with for a while. I’ve been selling him some software solutions and they acquired a new customer that actually doubled their business overnight. You can imagine the operational backend challenges that they’ve had. Back then, when I was selling that software, that software was helping them in the back-end operation. We created a good relationship from the get-go and I helped them in the project management site as well, and then one Saturday, I get an email from him on around 11:00 AM. In the email, I realized that he and the CTO are in the office in New York, Midtown Manhattan. I’m in Atlanta.
At 12:15, 1 hour and 15 minutes later, there was a knock on the door in their office, and a pizza delivery guy was there with a nice little note from me personally wishing them that they don’t have to stay for that much longer, enjoy the pizza, and I’m thinking of them. I get the chills now just remembering it. If I called this guy who’s become a friend of mine over the years, and I tell him that story, it touched them so much that it made an impact. On the flip side, as we talked about the negative one, be careful. I got an email confirmation from shoes I bought my son online from Adidas and the confirmation was awesome. All my son wants to know after I booked it is one thing.
When are they showing up?
Exactly. The email was this big picture of a calendar of when it’s arriving. Also suggesting to send me updates via text, or via Facebook Messenger. Great. Touching all the channels. Two-way channels. Awesome. One thing they missed is the ad that came with the email, which was an ad for a sports bra, with a woman standing there wearing a sports bra. This is where they lost me, of course. This is where it’s like, “Are you kidding me?”
Was this an email or was this a link to a website so that they didn’t have any control over the ad?
It was an email.
They had absolutely the wrong image in with email.
We talked about standing out and making an impact. The third one is to get personal. Unfortunately, in our modern world and specifically in the US, people tend to get less and less personal. As a naive, optimistic guy, I want to believe that this pandemic, one of the good things that will come out of this pandemic is that we will tend to be more personal. It puts us all together. There’s a one big global sense of we’re all in it together. You look online, people now have a higher tendency to share emotions.
I’m hoping a couple of years down the road, it’s the same.
I hope it stays and if nothing else, at least so people don’t look at me as weird as they do when I, God forbid, hug somebody, or God forbid tell you at the end of our first conversation, “Ben, as one adult male to another adult male, I like you. I’d like to be your friend.” It’s so weird because people look at you, “Are they sharing emotions?” There’s a research that shows that the US society is one of the most touch phobic societies in the world. Unfortunately, there’s a direct correlation from that to the level of violence, depression, and suicide level in the society.
Personal space and other things and people are touchy, but here’s the amazing thing. Us as human beings, that DNA, we all need to be hugged and touched, whether you like it or not. We need it. DNA evolution, we need to feel hugged. Even if not physically hug. We need to feel hugged. This is a big element when I work with customers. Even if you send an email, there are elements and emotional relevance that you can make them feel hugged. Virtually hugged. When I talk about get personal, here’s a great example. Do you remember that Coca-Cola campaign where they put names on the bottles?
Do you remember the first time you went to a store and you looked for your name?
I couldn’t find it.
That you couldn’t find it, that’s a risk they took.Customer trust is based on emotional connection and relevance. Click To Tweet
Absolutely, but it’s amazing because there are friends of mine, that all had their names on their Coke bottles, and I didn’t. I’m a Coke fan and I’ll continue to be a Coke fan, but there are millions and millions of names out there and different spellings. For the people that they hit, they hit an emotional tone. I will guarantee you there wasn’t an Alon in a bottle. Even in Israel, I would be surprised if they had an Alon bottle.
I’ll tell you that my story with Coke, but I want the readers to think for a second where and when were you when you went to look for the Coke bottle? How did you feel when you found the bottle with your name? What did you do? How did you feel when you did it? I’ll bet you something. The psychological impact on you not finding your name actually got the back of your mind to say, “Crap I want to be part of it, so I’m going to keep looking.” How many refrigerators did you look at? How many grocery stores when you saw names, other names and you said, “Hold on, maybe I’ll find it, maybe it’s here?” How many?
Honestly, for me, not that many because I sat there and said, “Okay, fine. I got a name that they didn’t pick, that’s fine,” but I get what you’re saying. I understand what you’re saying. Maybe I’m the wrong person for this, but I looked at it, I sat there and I realized that I saw the people that that went off. Every single time they went into a Coke freezer, they grabbed the Coke that had their name on it. I get what you’re saying. As a marketing tactic, you’re going to emotionally attach yourself to the people that said, “Here’s the first 1,000, 500 names or whatever, that we’re going to be able to successfully get.” If you spell your name as Brrandeee, you’re not going to find your name on that list. What is the connotation going to be for you if you sit there and say, “How come they don’t have a bottle with my name on it?”
I didn’t come up with anything, I just coined the term emotional relevance. The retail world, they have been at it and they’ve been getting us through it for years. Coke knows how to do their stuff.
They are very good at it.
AT&T years ago started selling their personalized monthly bills with a little animated movie clip that says, “Ben, here is your bill.” They want you to feel a little bit more, “This is okay. It’s not that bad actually. It’s mine. It’s not just another customer number.” Make it personal. They know it.
If you go on the Nike website, I believe you still can, you can create your own custom sneakers. Think about that. You can create your own custom sneakers that are just made for you. Your size, your colors, your fabric, within certain parameters, but those things are available. When we make things personal for people, there is that emotional attachment. There is that emotional relevance. There is that anchor. Absolutely.
It’s the same thing with Starbucks when you wait for your coffee. I was in a Starbucks store three months BC, Before Corona, in California. A busy Starbucks store. I’m standing there at the edge after I put my order in. I’m standing there with about 7, 8 other people waiting for their coffee. All of a sudden, that cute girl behind the counter, “Alon, your coffee’s ready.” Whatever it is that I ordered. It doesn’t matter. It’s a little bit of a rush. She knows my name. She knows who I am. She knows my coffee. By the way, looking around on the other seven people, I’m like, “Losers.”
“I’ve got mine. You’re still waiting for yours.”
Exactly. There are elements just like Coke with the name. There are elements of gamification. It’s all there. Whatever service you’re offering, not just products, even if it’s software, when you communicate, when you send an RFP response, I challenge you. Be personable. Make the impact. Even speak about your emotions. Yes, in your RFP response, it will make you a little different. You got to be subtle sometimes. You got to know the rules of the game.
You have to know your audience.
It’s okay. Don’t go overboard, but it’s okay to make a difference. I wish corporate America will be much more open to that. Eventually, it comes down to trust. It’s the human nature. I’d make a business relationship with somebody that I trust, that I feel something about. I am very lucky. I have planted so many emotional anchors. I get, on a weekly basis, notes from people that read my blog and said, “Ten years ago, you and I did this.” Sometimes it’s not even my anchors. There are anchors that are being dropped without us knowing sometimes. What I do is I take that methodology and work with business people, salespeople, customer success people, and executive business owners, how to control that methodology to be able to trigger that. You can tell I’m super passionate about it and I hope people will be more open to it.
Let’s leave it there. I want to ask you one last question before I let you go. When you get off the stage or leave a meeting, you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
Genuine. You brought tears to my eyes because I pictured myself getting off stage and it’s an interesting feeling. I want to know that people are happy with or the feedback from what I said that makes sense. I wear my heart on my sleeve. What you see is what you get with me. Genuine is what came to mind, which is my form of virtual hug.
We all need more virtual hugs. We all need to be genuine. We all need to be authentically us. I can’t be Alon, and Alon can’t be me, but you know what? Be ourselves and be the best version of you that you can be. I love that. Alon, thank you very much for being on the show. You dropped gold. You’ve made my audience better and you made me better. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Ben. I appreciate it more than you know it.
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About Alon Zaibert
Alon is a relationship-driven sales and customer success executive who has been taking advantage of his energetic personality and interpersonal psychology throughout his career. Along with a track record of bottom-line results and management experience Alon has been able to achieve the reputation of an impactful and motivational leader.
In his most recent corporate role Alon worked for Travel Leaders Group (TLG), a $20 Billion organization, as the Vice President of Sales for TLG’s corporate travel division (TLC).
Alon’s true passion is to give through mentoring, motivational speaking engagement and coaching
around utilizing the power of Emotional Relevance throughout different means of communication.
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