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Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and we are honored and privileged to have you on our show today – our listeners. And I so much wish we could just be here in the same room but I love modern technology and that we can do this. And we have a really terrific guest with us today. He is the Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of “Rehumanize Your Business”, and host of the Customer Experience podcast. He has collected and told personal video success stories and hundreds of blog posts in dozens of webinars and stage presentations and in countless conversations – and I have been looking forward to this interview. Welcome, Ethan!
Ethan Beute: Thank you so much, Steve! I’m happy to be here. I loved Becoming Your Best and I’m looking forward to sharing with folks some of this practice and philosophy that we’ve been bringing to life over the past several years.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, this is going to be fun – I think something we can all apply one way or the other. So, Ethan, I know you’ve never had this question. How do you pronounce your last name? So, all of our listeners get it right.
Ethan Beute: Sure. It’s Beute as in Butte, Montana, but spelled differently. It’s B–E–U–T–E for folks who want to maybe connect on LinkedIn, Ethan Beute – and again, it’s pronounced like the geological phenomenon.
Steve Shallenberger: Right. Okay, that’s terrific. And before we get started today, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Ethan. Prior to joining BombBomb, he spent a dozen years leading marketing teams inside local television stations in Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Colorado Springs. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Michigan, and UCCS in communication psychology marketing. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and son; we’ve already – before we started today – had a lot of fun talking about Colorado Springs. Now, Ethan, I have read about your background, it’s so interesting. Tell us about yourself, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you. In other words, what’s your story, and how did you get to where you are today?
Ethan Beute: Sure! I guess I’ll start professionally where I am today, which is, I just hit my nine-year anniversary at BombBomb which is just incredible to me. It’s twice as long as I’ve been anywhere and three times longer than my average stay at any of the places I’ve been throughout my career. And the reason that I keep coming back – there are a few things in particular – one of the course is, any of us who provides or sells or supports a product or a service, when you’re consistently getting positive feedback from your customers about how something has changed their business or changed their life, or changed their outcome in a very positive way, it’s just rewarding and it reminds you why you show up with your best every day and it supports that perseverance that’s required to pioneer in the new spaces we’re doing. So that’s one. But then, at another even more basic and selfish level, it’s just fun and interesting and challenging work and it continues to evolve.
Ethan Beute: So, I never expected to be an executive in a software company. Again, nine years ago, before I joined the team, I was kind of wrapping up a dozen years in the one industry that I had worked in, in particular, and I was just kind of bored of it. And so, I just started doing project work with people that I knew to find out what I enjoyed, what would people pay me for, what skills have I built in television that would be transferable elsewhere. And so, making that discovery was really important for me. And of course, the relationships I had built allowed me to make that transition into doing something new and buying into the founders’ vision for it. When I joined the company, we were six people; now we’re about 150 team members. We had maybe 100 customers, half of whom probably weren’t even paying us anything; now we’re closing in on 60,000. And so, it’s just been this long, fun, interesting, challenging journey. And most of all, this alignment between our purpose as an organization, the values that we operate by, and the use of our product or service in its intended spirit, all have this really strong alignment, which makes it a joy to be a part of.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, great. That’s a good background. However, there’s more. And I loved reading Ethan’s background on being a bus driver.
Ethan Beute: Oh, yeah.
Steve Shallenberger: You’d better tell us about the bus driver and what you did. That was cool! And also, let’s just not forget this part for Steve’s benefit, and also all the listeners we have here today, tell us about BombBomb.
Ethan Beute: I will start with the bus I guess. And thank you for digging that one out, it was such a cool experience. A friend of mine and a longtime mentor and personal friend, who I interned for while I was still in my undergrad at Michigan, connected me with this Microsoft Rep – this is mid to late ‘90s – and she had this vision of taking a school bus retrofitting it into a 10-seat, mobile computer lab. Of course, this is pre-mobile internet, so we had giant servers in the back, they kind of gutted the whole bus, and turned it into this kind of Microsoft demo station. They wrapped the outside with colorful graphics. Some people told me it was like The Partridge Family bus. I am not young, but I am too young to know The Partridge Family very well. And I drove it to I think it was 24 or 25 cities through the central region of the US and Canada. So, Toronto and Ottawa, down to Detroit and Chicago, and Minneapolis and Cleveland, and Cincinnati and Columbus, and all the way down to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and everywhere in between. Louisville, Nashville, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis. I was in all these cities, basically driving this bus around, showing up wherever the local Microsoft rep wanted to demo software. So, I had all the Office products on there for adults, I had things like disk-based encyclopedias, some games for schools and museums, and I visited retailers like CompUSA and Best Buy. So, it was this blend of being a true bus driver. So, I had to get a commercial driver’s license, which was interesting and challenging to haul that thing around in cities I was unfamiliar with. There was no navigation at the time, I had to know where I was going and know where my turns were because my phone wouldn’t just spit it out at me. Just so many unique challenges there and connecting with so many different people at a young point in my career – I didn’t get paid anything really on the project – but I would not trade it for anything at all. It was just an absolute privilege and joy, and a unique and challenging opportunity.
Ethan Beute: As for BombBomb, again, we’re a software company, we’re all based here in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. Our goal is to get you to face to face with more people more often. We know that you are better in person, you are your own best sales asset, you are your own best differentiator, you matter – and so are the people that you’re connecting and communicating with. So when you can look them in the eye through the camera lens and just speak to one person or five people or 500 people or 5000 people in a recorded video message in place of what would otherwise be plain typed-out text, you’re putting yourself in a better position to communicate more clearly, connect with people more effectively, and ultimately get more yeses. So, we provide a toolset in Google Chrome, Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, Zendesk, on our own web app, mobile apps for iPhone and Android – we have this really rich set of environments in which you can easily and quickly record video messages and see who’s opening and playing them and people can reply back. They can reply back with their own video, etc. and they don’t need any special equipment to participate in your video messages. So, as we’ve all gone to Zoom and Skype and Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, to stay face to face with people, this gives you an opportunity to do it asynchronously, where you record messages when it’s convenient for you, and then you send yourself out and people open you up and experience you in person at a time that’s convenient for them. And then again, tracking closes that loop, so you can follow up more effectively.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, great. And that leads right into our discussion today, so thanks for that great background. And when we talk about video, in a business context, most people overlook an important video opportunity. So, what is the opportunity?
Ethan Beute: Yeah, I think most people when they think video in a business context, they think lights and scripts and editing and production, and drones and green screens, and really nice homepage videos, and really rich YouTube channels and deep libraries of content for a variety of purposes. And that’s awesome. If you are doing that, you should continue doing that. If you’ve just started, I encourage you to keep going. If you’re on the sidelines, that’s okay. And regardless of where you are, I have a different opportunity for you, and we call it ‘relationships through video’. And this is just casual, conversational, lightweight videos, again, not to go on the homepage of your website or to go into your YouTube channel, but instead, to replace what would otherwise be one or two or three paragraphs of plain typed-out the text, a faceless digital communication – it lacks empathy, it lacks tone, it lacks clarity, it lacks connection, it lacks you. And so, what we’ve been proposing for a decade now in our building and growing community around this philosophy and practice is to replace some – not all – of your plain, typed-out text with simple personal video messages. It’s more satisfying and more effective for us, and people feel as if they know us before they meet us. There are so many benefits to it that we will maybe get into, but I don’t want people, when they hear video to think “Ah, video is not for me.” or “I don’t have time or a budget for a video strategy.” This is an opportunity that you already have everything you need to get started, including a webcam in your laptop or a camera on your smartphone.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so Ethan, what’s the best way to get started with this relationship through video approach? How do you do it?
Ethan Beute: Yeah, I think a lot of people when they hear this, they turn their camera on and they say “I can’t do this, I’m uncomfortable, I don’t like the way I look, I don’t like the way I sound, I don’t know if I’m doing this right.”. Like, all these things that we tell ourselves, sometimes it’s conscious, but very often, they’re just feelings we have. And really what it is, is this kind of vulnerability, we feel uncomfortable, putting ourselves out there for judgment or rejection in an honest and transparent way. Because when you think about it, Steve, we’ve had so much control over ourselves in digital environments because we can choose what picture we want, we can correct the picture if we want to, we can copy and paste, we can move our sentences around, we can restate ourselves, we can punch in emojis, we have all of this control over all the communication that we’re doing in these convenient digital channels. But doing this style of video requires you to relinquish some of that control and just be who you are, which shouldn’t be as hard as it is. But again, humans in general fear judgment and rejection. And so, this idea of putting ourselves forth, just sitting in our home office with our webcam – somehow, we’re starting to do it more comfortably on Zoom, but this idea of recording it and sending it hangs a lot of people up.
Ethan Beute: So, what I encourage you to do before maybe sending to your prospects or your customers or your strategic partners, that you start with people you know well and who know you well. Reach out with simple messages like ‘Thank you’ or ‘Good job’ or ‘Congratulations’ or ‘I’ve been thinking about you’. Or, as you’re scrolling a LinkedIn feed or a Facebook feed or something and you see some news about a friend, you may still give the like in the comment but maybe follow up with a personal video where you’re just like, “Hey, I just noticed that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Just wanted to let you know I’m encouraging you, I’m excited for you. And if I can be of help reach out, let me know.”. This is kind of a little bit like a personal handwritten note. And so, by starting in this way, some of that discomfort will go away a little more quickly because you’re dealing with people you know, so the fear of judgment and rejection is lower. And this is a deep, deep human fear, by the way, you probably aren’t thinking about these things consciously. But it’s the same thing we experience anytime we’re doing something new at all, whether it’s skiing for the first time or trying to play musical instruments for the first time. With all these things we are like “Ah, am I really a trumpet player? I don’t know. I need to get a little practice.” It’s the same thing with video at some level, although you have a lot more transferable skills already into communicating through video than you do to picking up say a trumpet.
Ethan Beute: So, start with people you know, and who know you – easy messages that you’re sincere about, that you have sincerity, gratitude, enthusiasm. Like these things that are just so much better expressed in a video. And you’re going to get, if you send five or ten of these types of videos, A, it’s not going to take you very long, B, people are going to be excited to see you, C, they’re going to tell you how much they were pleased to see you, how much your message meant: “Man, you turned my day around”, or even “You turned my week around”, or “I really needed to hear that”, or “Thank you so much”, or something that we never hear when we type emails and send them. “I loved your email” – you’ll get that back as well when you make it more personal with a video. So that’s what I encourage people to do to get started, to start with simple messages of gratitude and enthusiasm to people close to you. And then, as you get comfortable, then you can start reaching out to more people and more use cases and opportunities are going to reveal themselves to you.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so that’s great advice. And it sounds like what you’re saying Ethan, is you don’t have to be perfect. As a matter of fact, just maybe the strength is just being yourself, and that’s good.
Ethan Beute: That’s exactly right. If you and I – and I’ve already done it, I know I have, I’m not sure exactly when but I know I’ve done it in this conversation already – where I’ve said ‘umm’ or I’ve paused or I’ve had to restate myself. And that’s exactly what happens. If you and I were to sit down over coffee or lunch, I would look away, gather my thought, and come back to it. I would say something and then I would back up like three words and restate myself, I would add in fillers like ‘umm’ – and I just said ‘like’, unnecessarily. This is just who we are. And we can work together better if we want to. But the idea of continuing to cloak ourselves in digital anonymity is just a really, really sad state of affairs. I understand why we’ve moved to all of this digital communication – LinkedIn messages, emails, text messages, Slack messages, all of this – it’s super convenient, it’s dramatically improved productivity. But what’s been lost, especially over the past decade or two, especially as we’ve seen the rise in powerful and inexpensive automation tools is that it’s all lacking this human touch. It’s lacking – we stripped the messenger out of the message – and it’s dehumanizing both to you as an operator inside a business and it’s also a bit dehumanizing to your recipients, in that they’re not getting the best we have to offer, they’re not getting the real Ethan experience, or Steve experience, or Jennifer experience. We have so much opportunity to restore a personal and human touch even while staying in these digital channels. And so, we need to look for those opportunities to do it in the imperfection itself. A, is what makes us uncomfortable, but B, simultaneously also opens us up and makes us available for true human connection, that honesty and vulnerability, and imperfection that allow people to connect to us and relate to us.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, I love it. And then, now all of a sudden, your book ‘Rehumanize Your Business’ starts to make more sense.
Ethan Beute: It made a lot of sense to me. I was just pleased I took the time to organize those thoughts and bring them to the market. It’s been a joy.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, great. Now, when might people use this style of video?
Ethan Beute: Yeah. So, when you think about as you’re listening to this show, okay, this is interesting – because if you’re still with us, I assume you think it’s interesting as a listener – when you think about the entire customer lifecycle, like, how is your business shaped, how are you generating opportunities? Is it inbound or outbound? What does the process that looks like for them to learn more about you and your business and you to do some discovery, perhaps diagnosis and prescription so you can match them up with the right product or service and draw out the potential future together? To put together a sensible proposal, to get in front of all the other decision-makers that may be involved in the process, to onboard people into your product or service, to make sure that they’re getting the value that was promised. And to ultimately create that positive growth loop where we don’t just create a transaction, we create a customer and we don’t just create a customer, we create a customer for life. Like this long-term customer relationship where not only do they continue to renew their subscription or continue to stay with you and repurchase. But they might also be expanding that commitment, they might be bringing other people to you, they might be writing positive online reviews and testimonials. They might be providing case studies or customer referrals or these types of things – and so, it serves as a customer reference even. So, when we think about all the messages that we’re sending across that lifecycle, we’re clicking ‘send’ or machines are shooting out messages on our behalf at all of these various moments where people need some level of communication.
Ethan Beute: And so, we need to look at that and diagnose it and say, Okay, where could I stand to add any one of these three things: personal connection – again, this idea that people feel like they know me before they meet me or they feel connected to the brand in a truly personal or human way, that there’s a face to go with the logo, there’s a face to go with the email signature – where do we want to add some human connection, for all the benefits that it provides? Where do we want to manage emotion and tone? When we think about good news, encouragement, congratulating people on milestones, thanking them for their commitments – these types of things, these positive emotions – and when we think about negative ones – because all of us are imperfect, I think we should all accept that – sometimes we need to apologize, or we need to break bad news to people. And doing these things that have an especially strong positive or negative charge to them is so much better done with eye contact, and with our full expression of our face, and our voice and our nonverbal communication, etc., that these messages are better communicated with video. So, anytime we want to do that, that’s a chance to change up that touchpoint, and instead of just two paragraphs of text, it’s maybe two lines of text along with a short video message.
Ethan Beute: And then the last thing is detail or complexity. Anywhere people are confused or frustrated, anywhere there’s friction in a process – onboarding is a great place, explaining proposals or contracts, pre-commitment is a great place to add this. Maybe doing some of the education early on as the customer is trying to figure out if you have a solution to their problem and if you’re the right fit. Being able to screen share, for example, a screen share video where you show a report, or a contract or a proposal or a back end set of analytics, or a sales presentation. There are so many things you can do by recording yourself or yourself on your screen, to break down detail or complexity into layperson’s terms and to make sure that it’s easy for people to take the next step forward.
Ethan Beute: And so, last point here, not only do you have opportunities across the entire customer lifecycle, you have opportunities just like those across the entire employee lifecycle. So, if it’s important to you to recruit, and interview and select and hire and onboard, and grow and develop, invest in employees, being more personal and more human through a video message serves you across that lifecycle as well. So, you can create that positive growth loop for employees where they continue to learn and grow, develop, get promotions, recruit other people into the organization, write positive reviews at Glassdoor, or wherever else you’re getting employee reviews. You can do this internally and externally throughout your entire business ecosystem. And almost any message you’re sending today, anytime you click send, is a chance, potentially, to add a video to communicate more clearly and connect with people more effectively.
Steve Shallenberger: Fantastic! That was great! We provide a written transcript of this podcast today – I can’t wait to go back to this one in detail.
Ethan Beute: Super! That’s awesome!
Steve Shallenberger: So many ideas! I’m going to put you on the spot, Ethan. How many video clips do you do in a week, or a day, or a month or during the year?
Ethan Beute: Yeah, good question. So, my account right now – I’ve sent videos out of a variety of accounts at BombBomb because I was the only marketing person for several years – but in my personal account, I’ve sent about 10,800 videos – that’s in about nine years. So, let’s just say that’s 1100 videos a year on average. That’s like three videos a day or something if I’m doing the math right. And that’s on a seven-day average, I guess, and assuming I work all 52 weeks of the year – which I don’t. So, I guess I probably send an average of about four videos a day. And we have people on our team that are averaging 17 or 18 videos a day. Those are some of our customer care people. A lot of our salespeople are averaging 7-10 videos a day, in part because we can use our service to sell our service. But the average salesperson doing any average product – I don’t mean average in a derogatory way at all, I just mean, the average across all the different types of salespeople, and across all the different types of products and services that they represent – I think you could easily find 4-8 times a day that it would be more effective for you to communicate in this way. And so, it’s not about sheer volume, but it’s about making this mindset shift to say “Would this message be better if I sent it in a video? Would I get a better outcome? Would I save me and the person I’m communicating with some time if I just explained it by talking?”. When you shift that mindset and you get into this habit of being able to quickly and easily record videos, the opportunities open themselves up. And so I don’t send videos for videos’ sake. I send videos because it’s going to be easier, faster, better for me, and/or the 1 or 10 or 100 people I’m communicating with.
Steve Shallenberger: What’s the average length of one of your video clips?
Ethan Beute: That’s a great question! I usually encourage people to keep them under a minute but it really depends on what you’re doing. I think if you’re doing follow-up on new opportunities, let’s say, whether you’re actively outbounding, or whether you’re responding to inbound inquiries and opportunities, you’re maybe nurturing some responsive and nonresponsive leads or prospects or opportunities – whatever language you choose to use there – you want to keep those under a minute. That said, if you have someone who is deep and they’re about to make a commitment to bring 30 people on to your service or something like that, or purchase your course, or whatever you’re doing. When they’re at that point of commitment, but they have two more questions, and they send you an email it’s like, “Hey, Steve, you know, I’m looking at getting all 30 of my team members on board. And we just had a great meeting about it, we’re excited about, but we have these two questions.”. Obviously, the best-case scenario is you jump on a video call or something. You do it live in person.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, right.
Ethan Beute: But of course, you need to coordinate schedules and all of that. The convenience here of responding to that gentleman or gentlewoman with a video message to answer those questions specifically – it might take you four minutes to do it, and that’s perfectly fine. It might take you three minutes and 10 seconds, or six minutes and 12 seconds. But this idea that it’s just for them, and you’re specifically answering their questions is really valuable. And now, you’re giving that person a piece of information that they can forward to everyone else and they can all experience you in person and get these answers to important questions in your tone, in your voice, with your excitement, with everything that you bring to it as the representative of this opportunity, you get to carry the message forward. And it’s going to save you some time. And they feel – this is something I hear all the time, “Thank you so much for taking the time to make that video for me.”. Now, I might have sent in a six-minute video answering two questions, it might have actually taken me 18 or 20 minutes to type that email. Now, none of us keeps track of how much time we spend typing emails, but it’s generally more than we think. And we’re generally less effective at communicating in typed-out messages than we think. – There’s some of that research in Rehumanize. And so, people will thank you for the amount of time that you took when, in fact, you probably saved yourself a lot of time and a lot of effort and you’re more effective in the end.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, I did a little math and doing the thousand video clips at one minute per clip – I know it’s going to vary – is 16 hours a year. That’s not very much to really move the bar up, on your communication and your effectiveness. So yeah, this has been a lot of fun! Time is smoking, and we are done with this interview. Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today, Ethan?
Ethan Beute: I know it’s easier than you think, and it’s more important than you think. All any of us wants as a human being is to be seen and heard and understood and appreciated as the unique individual that we are. So even if you’re in a fast-growing, scaling company, you need to find the time to reach out in a personal and human way to the people who matter most to you and the people who matter most to your success. You’re surrounded by these people and taking 42 seconds out of your day to say thank you, good job, congratulations or I’ve been thinking about you, allows the people around you to feel valued as human beings and that is fundamental to our true success.
Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful. So how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Ethan Beute: Again, my name is Ethan Beute the last name is B-E-U-T-E, you can connect with me on pretty much any social network. But LinkedIn is the best place. You can reach out to me directly Ethan, email@example.com. And you can learn more about us at bombbomb.com or you can learn about Rehumanize Your Business by searching in on Amazon or checking out bombbomb.com/book.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, thank you, Ethan, for being part of this show today. This has been so fun! I appreciate the stimulating ideas, and thank you for pushing us and helping us see things from a completely different point of view that I think can be transformational.
Ethan Beute: Thank you so much! I really appreciate what you stand for, and it’s a privilege to spend some time with you.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, thanks! And to all of our listeners, you’re amazing. We hope that you got an idea or two from today’s podcast. We appreciate the influence that you are in so many lives, and your dedication and effort to become your best. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!
Steve Shallenberger: At the beginning of this podcast, I mentioned that you can now order your 2021 Planners – you’re going to love them. They’re 100% guaranteed, and you can order those from becomingyourbest.com hit the planner icon for the 20% discount. It’ll take your right to the page, and you can order. Alright, have a great day!