Ryan Hanley on Customer Feedback Strategies

In this 15-Minute Strategy Podcast episode, we talk with Ryan Hanley from Hanley Media ryanhanley.com about how important paying attention to your customer feedback is to the success of your business.

Are you asking your customers the questions you should or simply making assumptions? Ryan Hanley shares why customer feedback is important. How to collect the feedback as a team.

As well as how to make sure you are paying attention to the right feedback to make the right decisions moving forward. 

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About the Expert

Ryan Handley

Ryan has particular expertise in B2B marketing strategies, executive branding and the use of video in driving organizational growth.

Ryan’s experience spans the spectrum of industries, from insurance to property managers to garbage collectors, as well as organization sizes and experience ranging from startups to SMBs to Fortune 500 companies.


Full Transcript

Dan Moyle 0:08
Ready to spend 15 minutes with the experts you admire need strategy sessions from thought leaders brought directly to your ears. Welcome to the sprocket talk 15 minute strategy podcast where every week George B Thomas uncovers the challenges that sales, marketing and service professionals face and of course the strategies to help them overcome their biggest hurdles. So sit back and set your sights on growth with these bite sized conversations filled with pure strategy gold. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 15 minute strategy pod

George Thomas 0:36
All right, sprockets. Here's we're back with another episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast and today we're diving into marketing and I love this concept of questions versus assumptions, but Ryan Hanley My goodness, can you please let anybody that doesn't know who you are, know who you are, what you do and where you do it.

Ryan Hanley 0:57
So it's fine over the last decade I've probably been like a million different things. And the one underlying piece to all of that has been a company that I've owned the entire time called handling media. I found this odd niche where I tend to be like an executive for hire like a project based executive where then cmo for a couple different companies, I've been the Chief Executive Officer for a company most recently until the founder was ready to be to kind of take the reins, so I kind of operated as a chief executive until he was ready, and then I handed that back. So I am the founder, I guess, chief strategist of handling media, which mostly does marketing, communication strategy, stuff like that. I also write and speak and all that kind of good fun stuff and jump on podcasts with cool dudes like yourself.

George Thomas 1:45
I love it, because as far as the listeners and viewers need to know you actually make two of my top 10 lists, top 10 list number one smart people on the planet. Top 10 list number two people with dope hairdos, I'm just gonna throw that out there. Your hair is always on point, my man. So that is not why the listeners are here, however. So let's go ahead and dive into this. Brian. It's interesting because when I think about marketing strategy, there's this dilemma. There's this thing that we do. And sometimes it may even go back to the chicken or the egg meaning is it audience? Or is it product or service first, like, you know, many of us go into this of like, Well, we've got a product or service now let's find the audience. But can you talk to us about questions and assumptions and this whole kind of ball of wax that we find ourselves in the marketing space?

Ryan Hanley 2:35
Yeah, I think there's I think there's two stages to this problem. The first and the most surface level issue is the idea that too many organizations just play follow the leader. They, you know, whatever the latest thing is on whatever marketing or leadership or business publication that they read is that comes through, they assume that's what they should be doing. And they either do it or don't. And either way, they complain that it doesn't work. And I think the solution to that problem is something is matching up what you believe in and why you created your product with what the individuals who actually use your product. Why And What I mean by that is, you've done something right, because people are purchasing your product or service. So you have done something right. So I don't so I think, too often this advice comes across as like, you know, don't be selfish or egotistical. Just create stuff that your audience wants. Well, no, I mean, you have to believe in what you're creating, and you have to want to create it and there's a reason that you created it in the first place. So so there's that but I think to optimize or or be more effective, there are always small course corrections, small adjustments that can be made, additional products, what have you, that can help you. Be more valuable, be be more a part of your customers lives be something they come back to or Over and over again. And to do that, you have to have to have to have to talk to them. You have to engage with them. You have to ask them questions, surveys, listen to what they're saying, Why? Watch, and engage in conversations around your product through your industry. And this can be everything from using listening tools to just searching hashtags, or branded hashtags or just branded mentions. This can be surveying your business that can be consistently asking for feedback. It can be giving your sales staff and your service staff a directive to listen to what they're saying and write those things down. There's many different ways to execute on this. But ultimately, I believe the course corrections that that really take us from a nice product that people occasionally buy to a consistent part of our clients lives is that you have to ask them what they have. want and then do the work of trying to deliver it to them.

George Thomas 5:03
And I love this idea of being sticky in their lives. I want to dive a little bit deeper into that as we go I will let the viewers and listeners know the whole Follow the Leader thing if you have not listened to episode one where Mark Schaefer unpacked the only we mindset and mentality and literally, like if you're going to listen to hundreds of episodes on a strategy podcast, the fact that you should have your own strategy and not be following the leader. Go back and listen that episode. But Ryan, today I want to talk about marketing. I want to talk about being sticky. I want to talk about these conversations, and really strategy things that people can do to move forward with this. What are some ways that you've seen marketing and if you want to go out into sales and service that's totally cool. But let's start with marketing. What's a way that you've seen that they can develop great questions, great conversations and to get them into the places where they need to be those magical things. Places of discovery and understanding to iterate and make their products or services better.

Ryan Hanley 6:05
So the first thing I would say is, don't worry about being great. Because if you wait until you have great questions you most likely will never launch. So just start asking questions. And then I actually read the feedback. I probably shouldn't have to say that, but I feel like I do. And you'll see from the depth of the answers, the questions that lend value to you, and the questions that don't, I will say, if you google asking better questions, and Tim Ferriss, he's a couple really good resources about how to ask better questions of people. And not that any of those roles directly apply to say marketing feedback, but it does get you in the mindset and it's it's just a resource that's helped me sometimes when I you know, when I'm thinking about how to ask better questions, I'll go back and I don't know the exactly, I usually just google better questions and Tim Ferriss and that's how I find it. But the idea is just start asking those questions and see what happens. Actually, what spurs people the ones that you know kind of donor, you just get shallow answers, toss those out, either replace them or don't, sometimes less is more. And just figure out where you're getting the most value at. Once you get that, that's when you start testing. So for those who are unaware of my career, which I don't expect many of you to be, I've worked in both the insurance industry and the fitness industry on both as a CMO and a chief executive officer, and most recently was the fitness industry. And in that space, one of the things that we did was we strategically took ideas or feedback that we got, and we would implement them in real time into our gyms but only a gym or a few gyms, and we would get feedback from our customers. So we would literally take product, put it out on the shelves, we would take different pricing structures, put it and put them into place in these kind of test facilities or test you know, kind of test environments. Even They're real. I mean, these were real customers coming into real studios. And we would, I would literally in some cases just sit on a bench in the in the area where people would come in and like register for class and stuff and just listen to their feedback. This is a little too sweet. I really don't like the flavor of this because we add our own some of our own supplements, or Geez, you know, this material in the shirts doesn't really work from here, man, I love these tank tops. I wish you guys would do more colors. I would just literally sit in the room and listen to the real clients engaging with our product, and then take those notes back. And then I'd have a couple other my staff doing that at other gyms as well. And we would all combine those notes and then the next launch of apparel launch or the next supplement launch that we would do, we would make sure that we were that we were wrapping some of that into our product release. And that's how we would iterate. We were putting knew we were going to do a new apparel launch either way, but we were able to increase The just the pure brand quality the connection to the brand, and improve ultimately, our revenue per client by doing this, so even though I was just there for a little over nine months, it costs called 10 months. And we were able to take in those 10 months by implementing some of these strategies. Were the tape our average revenue per client from $105 a month to over $112 a month, which is, you know, spread out over thousands of clients is a substantial revenue increase in our in a relatively short period of time.

George Thomas 9:38
And I love that success story. And I also love kind of this picture that we're painting right now. It's, it's literally asked the question, iterate on the item of the question, test the iteration, and then listen again to what's happening during that and so that kind of four steps in there that you could rinse and repeat over and over on different things, but there's some Interesting in kind of that section that I want to pull out and dive a little bit deeper, and that is you kind of in where it's coming from to is I did an episode with Doug Davidoff and he talked about this myth or maybe it's reality of Tiger Woods in his hat having four dash seven. And the idea of throwing anything below a four away and throwing anything above a seven away and then making your, your choices, your decisions off of that four to seven range. You talk about getting this feedback. How do you know Ryan went to kind of like, well, that's just a super ultra fan. They love us because we were like, you know, spandex and like t shirts or something I don't know, you know, or it's man. It's just somebody that got super ticked off, because maybe it's not working for them. Like in your mind when you're asking these questions. How do you apply a filter?

Ryan Hanley 10:49
Yeah, so there's this philosophy of asking questions, listening. This has to be a lifestyle, not a campaign, and that's the only way that you figure out what the edges are so on, there's something to be said for the edges too. So So I have a thought I'm gonna circle back to that in a second. So please let me forget it. But when you make listening and asking for feedback, a lifestyle or a business philosophy, you, um, you, you start to intuitively understand where the edges are. And statistically, when you look at the feedback it especially when you're asking actual questions, or you're doing like, a net promoter score, which I'm a huge fan of, and I think it works better in certain environments and other but but I do think net promoter score in the philosophy around it is very, very telling when you are consistently getting feedback. And it's not just like, hey, let's do a survey and then you don't do another survey for eight months, right? When it becomes part of your business. You really get both a very tangible kind of systematic feel for what the edges are. And you get that that qualitative, just I've heard this enough times I've seen this enough times. I Read that enough times that I know, this is a super fan who would literally buy any product we have and does. And though we love that person, that's not something we want to build our next strategy around, okay, so you can so by by making it consistent, you learn where those edges are. Because for every single business, it's going to be different. There's no like, Oh, you know, three standard deviations off. I just I don't think that anything, anything in a business that is truly trying to grow and has anything other than the most outlier homogenous audience could could ever kind of come up with that calculation. Um, that being said, certainly back to what I wanted to do think there's a lot of value on the edges. And, ah, it's very easy to take those edge cases chop them off and go there, the edge cases we're not going to worry about them. I feel like that's a mistake. Because for every single other a buyer in the middle, there's one buyer on the edge who's going to buy 10 things. And what you don't want is that person who though they're less frequent in terms of there's not as many of them on they are also the ones who literally bleed your brand who tell their your story at every cocktail party at every school kids function at every, you know, soccer game at the hairdresser, you know, and that person needs to have a home. And if you just so you almost want whether it's a separate campaign, or a loyalty system, or just random acts of awesomeness where you just see somebody and you're like here, I'm going to give you an extra tub of protein because you're just amazing, or I'm going to help you. You know, let me buy your next cup of coffee because you're because I just appreciate how much you know whatever it is Let's take the other side of that equation though. So now let's take that person who's just consistently pissed off, they just always are having a bad day, they're always got some complaint that they want to lodge with you. But they still show up. It says some, now they're, they're a pain in the rear end, there's no doubt about it. And you're going to have moments where you just don't want to deal with them. And I also completely understand that. And if you're not, if you don't contain or haven't developed the right level of empathy to deal with that person, then maybe this is a job well passed off to someone else in the organization. However, I do think that person needs to be addressed. They wouldn't keep showing up if they didn't enjoy the product, or what they're doing is saying, I am most likely some sort of vocal minority that does have a group of people who listen to what I want, what I say. And if you can start to address their issues in a reasonable way in a way that at least makes them feel heard. Even if you don't actually change. Then what you could do is take that the tractor, who continues to show up and possibly move them into the middle, or even do a full flip job and turn them into someone who is a strong proponent who may say, you know what, there's this one policy they have that I just consistently disagree with, but every other aspect of their business is great. And I understand why they do the thing I disagree with. And I think too often, specifically, the detractor the vocal minority detractors, we tend to just kind of want to put up blinders or whatever. And I feel like that's a huge mistake, because they're giving you insight into your business there. They can't be the only one who feels that way. They're just the only one who's willing to talk about it. And listening to them is just as important.

George Thomas 15:39
Yeah, Ryan, I'm glad you dove in there. There's a couple of things where my mind went during that section one, I almost Well, not almost, I rethought my own process of maybe it's like, instead of the fringes going away. Now it's just three different buckets and you can literally do the fringe of the fringe. So you could like like super, super, super negative, negative, negative and then you're doing piece but also, as you started to talk about the the negatives that Debbie downers, if you will, I started to think about our friend, Jay bear, hug your haters that mentality, if people haven't read that book, definitely read that book, get it on audio, whatever you got to do. Because you're right. It's like one interaction and all sudden, they could be like your most loyal super fan and think you're the dopest dude on the planet, which is crazy. But there are some nuggets in there. The other piece of this, though, that you said something in that last section, too, like you've heard it, you've seen it like you've read it. And I'm curious when you have this strategy of listening, of getting feedback of really paying attention to the micro conversations that you can be involved in? Is there some way for you to store this information for you easily to see where data is repeating itself to make those actionable decisions or steps in your business? Have you used tools in the past or maybe talk us through that a little bit?

Ryan Hanley 16:59
Yes. There's a lot of different tools that do. Net Promoter Score I view the one that I use specifically for the insurance industry was rocker referrals just because it was built specifically for that industry. In. In the fitness space, there was another Net Promoter Score tool, which I'm actually forgetting, which was specifically built for fitness clients, I think there's a lot of tools that you can use for that particular piece of feedback. Um, in terms of client feedback, you know, we used Geez, I can't remember, I think we just use Google Sheets, which are Google surveys, which just pumps it out to a Google Sheet. And then we would just keep a collection of folders and we would mark down you know, everyone kind of go through it on their own. So our process was for surveys was, say everyone on the team who was going to review the survey, so there's three or four of us, we would all individually take time with the survey results and and jot down notes thoughts, you know, Tammy Sue said this here, I thought that was really interesting. I saw it repeated five times, you know, so we would all have our collection of notes. And then we would schedule like, almost a morning to go through it, we would it would be, you know, to me, client or customer feedback is one of the more important meetings that you can actually have. And I'm a firm opponent to two meetings in general, I try to minimize them as much as possible. And in any place that I that I have a leadership role, but this one was, I would be willing to spend a couple hours on this and we would literally go through and almost, you know, depending on the vibe, I mean, if you have 10s of thousands or hundred thousand, this becomes impossible. But you know, in most cases for mid or small sized business, you'll have a couple hundred surveys and some you can just kind of fly through and others you want to read and if you have a couple people doing this, then everyone's going to pull out something slightly different and what becomes really interesting in the moments where we would spend the most time discussing are not the places we were all in agreement. Like next time we need to have a red shirt because everyone likes a red version of our logo, right? That's like checkbox. Okay, move on. It would be wearing George, you would see something. And I would see a piece of feedback in different ways, right where we would read the same survey. But somehow you were taking something different for me. And that's where I'm in. Specifically, I'm talking to people in leadership positions. Now, that's where you really have to dive in. because it not only shows some some interesting feedback, but what it also shows is that here's an individual or a group of individuals in your organization who see things differently than you who see or seeing the same, you know what I mean? So like, in our minds, I think a lot of times leaders think everyone sees what I see. And though logically, when I say that everyone's going to identify when you're operating day to day, that is how most leaders operate on consciously day to day is that everyone is seeing the world or they are seeing it, and I think it's a good opportunity to dig in and say, Okay, why did you see it that why are you reading that out of this and why is your your suggestion to me what it is because I'm actually seeing this thing over here. And then I think it's also creates a good opportunity to allow your, your team members to actually run with an idea because you know, hey they're saying we're we're hearing is maybe we there's some opportunity here to build out this whole new program and and then you can, you know, give people projects and there's a lot more I mean, I don't want to take up too much time with that. But the idea is where, where someone where you're reading the same thing as a team member, and they're taking something different from you. There's a lot of opportunity there and a lot of different ways. If you can remove and this is this Georgia is the biggest piece of the whole puzzle here. You have to remove your ego from this process. When you are doing client customer feedback. You have to remove your ego because you're going to get high highs and low lows and everything in between and people who don't understand things that you think you've explained 100 times, and they're going to question the price You're going to go the price

George Thomas 21:00
has been the price for 1000, you know, for 10 years why is you know, why are we still talking about this, you have to remove your ego and take these things in for what they are data points. And, and if you're able to do that, I think that's where the magic starts to happen. I love that removing your ego, which by the way is just a good strategy in life in most places. I'm just gonna throw that out there being able to lead with empathy and understanding and like my father used to say walk a mile in their moccasins, meaning you're listening to this as the mindset of the consumer as the human who is actually willing to give you nuggets of gold to help you make yourself better versus getting all defensive. I love that. There's another piece that I want to unpack in this, Ryan, as we kind of close this episode out when you were talking, I started to think about everybody has the same vision. That's because people can align the vectors and if you align the vectors in the same direction now you have velocity as far as your your business. So we've got vision vectors of velocity. And I love that you'd like you're looking for those places where you imagine if you're in like a pool of water, and it's shallow, shallow, shallow, yep, same page, same page, same page. And all sudden, somebody falls down in a big deep hole, oh crap, vectors not aligned, We're sinking, we're slowing down, we don't have the velocity. And that being the place in which you find those golden nuggets where your team should all dive in, and this is where I want to unpack because I think a lot of companies, Ryan, and maybe even me before this interview to be completely transparent with the listeners. Think of this as a one on sport, right? It's like I should always be listening to the customers. But you said something that tickled my ear, and that is the team and I would get together. And so I'm like, holy crap. Like should companies literally have a team of people who it is their job or part of their job to come together and find these misaligned vectors, these potholes of like, you know, misdirection, if you will. So that's what I want you to unpack talk about an individual's role in this versus an individual and a team role in this. And kind of where your mind goes, when I asked that question.

Ryan Hanley 23:11
Yeah, it's a task force, it's not a team. And the defining difference between those is that it's no one's job. Maybe you have someone you know, if your company is big enough, and you're getting enough feedback, then maybe it is maybe the administration of customer feedback is a role in the company. But this the individuals who are taking it all in and and marinating it and, and, and coming up with the derivative ideas out of it, that is a task force. So those are individuals who have other roles in the company. And you're trying to plug people in sometimes different people from from different, you know, marketing, sales, support. People from in the gym, people from leadership positions, people from your call, center, whatever depending on what your company looks like. You're want to play In a group of different and dynamic viewpoints, so that because everyone's going to see it slightly different, you know, someone in customer service when they see feedback about questioning how much something cost they're going to go at everyone does that that's the nature human beings, someone in sales is going to go, we're valuable. What is, you know, this is our value? How dare they question some, you know, someone in leadership has been around for a million years me just brush it off, you know, I mean, and the idea being, everyone's gonna, if you can pull in a taskforce of individuals and get different dynamic perspectives from different parts of the company, different layers in the hierarchy, you're going to get more value out of that. And now the important role is whoever is leading that task force again. You have to take your ego away and you have to be very careful with how you run that. So though, a hierarchy I'm a firm believer in hierarchical or organization not flat organizations, I think that flat. I think a flat structure doesn't work outside of a small team that we don't have to get into that now. But I do believe in hierarchies and organizations not ridiculous authoritarian hierarchies, but people need to know how to get stuff done. When you're in a task force like this, you very much want to remove that and create more of a flat structure with someone making just making sure you get through the feedback because you want everyone to feel comfortable sharing what they saw and what they did. And you would set something you know everyone aligned and vectors vectors create velocity. I agree with that. I think your major to use your terminology your major vectors need to be pointing in the same direction, but you do not want Kool Aid drinkers and you don't want too many Kool Aid drinkers. Right? I I want in the organization's I run. I seek out the troublemakers and the rebels and the mouthy. You know People who are going to backtalk you and push the boundaries now they have to adhere to company policy and be reasonably respectful and actually do their work. But but you want I want people who have other parts of their personality or their interests pointing in directions that aren't the same as us. Because now I take a lot of my inspiration from a musical standpoint from either classical or hardcore 90s gangster rap. Right? But I had a guy the other day, or I should say, today, that's such a terrible way to say the guy in my last company that worked for me, was 22 years old, and was a brass musician. He played tuba and trombone and like, he's kind of he's a really funny kid, but like 22 years old, so he's literally 17 years younger than me. And when I said can you play the trumpet? He said, he looked at me with this like, look of disgust and he can go I can play anything brass period was his response. Now I think someone else might have taken offense to that. And then like, you know, don't you understand that I'm your boss, I thought it was I thought it was hilarious. And it also showed me that this kid was willing, like he was willing to stand behind the things that he felt very confident in. So then what I took from that, as a leader was okay, he's gonna get inspiration from the fact that he plays in a brass band that he can play multiple instruments, that he understands melody and flow and rhythm in ways that I don't understand in any regard. And I need to figure out how to use those. And I think and just bring it back to our idea of, of how we look at a client feedback and audience and customer feedback is I don't chop the arrows that point in the opposite direction. Now, that doesn't mean every wild idea needs to be we need to run down every wild idea. We just don't want to dismiss them at face value that takes practice it takes it takes commitment to the process and you don't want to just fly through this. And if you can, as much as possible, try not to assume you know what the answer is before you walk in the room, you'll have a lot more success. None of these things are easy. I don't say these, as any of what I've described today is easy. But from the work that I've done, specifically in executive roles over the last seven years, that's this is this is what I found to be very, very useful.

George Thomas 28:22
And Ryan, this is very useful for sure if people want to ask you questions about this feedback or collecting it, or assessing it, where do you want to send them?

Ryan Hanley 28:31
Yeah, so if you're interested in my work, you can go to Ryan Hanley comm if you want to email me, I'm just Ryan at Ryan hanley.com. That's my direct email Feel free to use that and if you like social media, I'd say the best way to get at me today is probably Twitter. Ryan Hanley underscore Colm but I got I got verified bro and now you can't change now you're stuck. Yeah, one verified like you can't. You can't change your name. So now I got this terrible Twitter handle for the rest of my life but I I guess the vanity of having the check is worth not changing them. I shouldn't say forever because I could change it. But my own ego and vanity won't let me but that's probably the best place to get at me and happy to answer any questions, whatever people have about this topic and just appreciate being on the show, man. This is great stuff.

George Thomas 29:20
Yeah, absolutely. Folks, I hope that you rewind and listen to this several times. There's so many nuggets. The thing I will give you as we exit on to the rest of your day is remember to ask questions, stop making assumptions, and leave your ego at the door and we'll see you on the next episode.

Dan Moyle 29:36
Did you enjoy this episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast, we'd love to know. leave a rating and written review wherever you listen to your favorite shows and keep that learning going by visiting sprocket talk comm sign up for your free membership and in that membership area, you can find bundled episodes where we combine like strategies to help you grow better make the world better and share this episode with your friends and co workers who may be battling this same obstacle you can always reach out to George Thomas on Twitter with questions or guest suggestions or just to talk about your favorite Marvel superhero. I go out into the world and leverage this strategy for your success. And we'll see you on the next episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast.