Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Your Customers

The Transformational Consumer

It’s time to rethink what you sell. And your customers. Don’t forget to rethink your marketing, your competition. And, don’t forget your teams.

That’s the message from Tara-Nicholle Nelson, author of The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Customers by Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser. She is the founder of Transformational Consumer Insights and the former VP of Marketing for MyFitnessPal, where she led the team that grew the platform to over 100 million customers.


“The best..measure of innovation is change in human behavior.” -Stuart Butterfield


The Growing Demographic

What are Transformational Consumers? How is this changing company strategy?

Transformational Consumers are a massive and growing group of people who see all of life as a series of projects to change their own behavior for the healthier, wealthier and wiser. They know that this behavior change will be hard, but they believe with all their hearts that it’s possible, and they believe that they can change anything about their lives if they can master their own habits and behavior.

So they are constantly on the lookout for products, services and content they think might help. They are early adopters, and they tend to have great influence on the buying behavior of the people around them.

I like to joke that if you have ever been vegan and paleo at different times in your life, you’re probably a Transformational Consumer. Most entrepreneurs are Transformational Consumers. The head of product for Airbnb once told me that they see both their hosts and their guests as Transformational Consumers.

One important takeaway here is that this is not a niche: over 50% of US adult customers we surveyed said that they use digital or real world products several times a week, or more often, in an effort to reach their healthy, wealthy, wise goals.

The power of this framework is that it offers businesses a lens through which to more powerfully understand the real-world journeys their customers are taking as they aspire to live better lives. And that shows you how to increase customer engagement, brand love, loyalty and repeat business, as well as reach new audiences. Once you understand your real-life customers’ real-world journeys, that surfaces limitless opportunities to innovate new products, features, services and even marketing messages and content that remove resistance points and trigger progress along customers’ paths.


Rethink Your Customer

How do companies go about rethinking their customer?

Your customers are not just the people who currently buy your product or your current social media followers. I urge companies to shift to the point of view that their customers are all the people out there who are struggling with the high-level, human problems that the company exists to solve.

Go out into the real world, do customer research, watch how people operate in real life. You can even start this process by just doing some online listening on the blogs and social media sites (not your owned channels) that your audiences frequent online (reddit, etc.).

Your goal is to understand and, ideally, visually map out your customers’ real-world journeys of going from having the problem you exist to solve to no longer having that problem. You need to know what stages they go through along their journey, what gets them stuck and unstuck, where they go to do research when they need to know or find something and what words and phrases they naturally use as they try to reach their goals.



Remove Resistance

Tell us more about resistance. How do you remove it?

Think about it: Anytime you try to level-up your life, whether it’s trying to reach a weight loss goal, to work out more, or to start a side business or meditate every day, there’s a force that pops up in all of us that Steven Pressfield and Freud both call Resistance. It’s the same force that creates procrastination, causes us to get distracted or to sabotage ourselves. It’s generally the force that makes it really, really hard to make behavior changes stick.

In your customers’ journeys toward their healthy, wealthy and wise goals, Resistance includes any sort of quit point, obstacle, friction or common point of failure. These are the things that get people stuck. There are tons of spiritual, emotional, psychological and neurological root causes of Resistance, but suffice it to say that people often know what changes they need to make; they just find it very difficult to actually make them.
This creates a major opportunity for companies to win the love of the people they serve by focusing on removing Resistance.

You can remove Resistance from your customers’ journeys by creating features and products that take friction out of their path, by reducing the difficulty or cost or number of brain cycles they have to go through to create the habits or changes they want, or by inserting progress triggers into their real-world journey.

For example, at MyFitnessPal, we learned during customer research that one of the biggest obstacles (points of Resistance) that people experience along their journey from living an unhealthy life to living a healthy one is the cost of eating healthy food and the difficulty and time involved in cooking healthfully. So every team in the company explored how they might help remove those Resistance points. When it came to content, for example, we created all sorts of recipes and meal plans for feeding a family healthy, home-cooked food on the same budget we learned people were spending on a fast food family dinner ($20). We also created all sorts of video, recipe and meal-planning content to reduce the time and increase the ease and deliciousness of our customers’ home cooked meals.


“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.” -Jeff Bezos


Rethink the Competition

How and Why You Should Become a Mentor

The Power of Mentorship


Giving back.

There’s one aspect of servant leadership that is most important: helping people work on their lives, not just their jobs.

Becoming a mentor is one way that professionals can give back.


“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” -Oprah


Patty Alper’s passion is mentoring. She is president of the Alper Portfolio Group, a marketing and consulting company, and is a board member of both the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and US2020, the White House initiative to build mentorship in STEM careers. Her new book, Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America, provides a compelling argument for starting mentor programs in organizations and communities around the world.


The Joy of Mentoring

Mentoring is your passion. What are a few lessons that you’ve learned from your work mentoring so many inner city high school students?

I’ve learned that the impact you can have on students can be even greater than you ever imagined. And it is wonderful. Consider this: so often these youth have absolutely no connection to successful, professional adults. When you mentor, you become their ambassador to a future world of commerce, which is often remote, complex, scary and seemingly unattainable.  I have found an intergenerational connection forms particularly when you share your own life trajectory.  And not the cocktail-party jargon about Mr. Success either, but more the vulnerable mishaps and the bumps and turns along the way.  When you piece together life’s uncertainties with strategies that turn out well, you offer kids a truly relatable journey. It’s as if you have said, subliminally, “If I can, YOU can.”

When you enter into mentorship, you do so blindly.  You enter without a return-on-investment in mind but simply a prospect for potential. This phenomenal exchange can result in an unanticipated “light bulb” moment.  What I’ve learned is that you might actually set a ripple in motion.  After 1500 student letters I’ve received over the course of 15 years of mentoring, I’m witness to a mentor’s impact that is unforeseen.  Students, who look like they are not even listening or engaged, write to proclaim gratitude for an obscure detail you thought went unnoticed. Indeed, some mentees have stayed in touch and are young adults now— in their thirties—who have become entrepreneurs, educators, fashionistas, or preachers. Interestingly, the highest compliment of all is that they, too, are paying it forward. What I’ve learned is that you cannot forecast the genuine awe that occurs when you help another and the crescendo of that ripple effect.


“Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.” -Lailah Gifty Akita


What are a few of the benefits of corporate mentoring with students?

The difficulty with answering this question is keeping it to a “few.” Starting with the mentor, the benefits include the connections and friendships you make. You meet incredible, knowledge-craving students who will cherish every day that you make time for them. Also, you get to know your fellow employees, from senior management to administration, in a wholly new, shared experience of giving back. These positive experiences are brought back to the workplace and ultimately impact the culture.

Indeed, one of the benefits of offering corporate mentorship is that millennials prefer to work for a company with a robust corporate social responsibility program.  Therefore, more qualified employees will seek jobs there. I believe they want to engage in good works activities that they might not be able to find or fund of their own volition. Employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to a company that isn’t solely profit driven but is a “company with a soul.”

Lastly, the employees find a unique way in which they can serve their company by sharing their professional knowledge as ambassadors in the community. Will those mentees go home and tell their parents about you and the company you work for? You bet. Will the school remember the corporation when it comes time to send their finest students for potential employment? Absolutely. And will an employee find like-minded people within the corporation who will all want to build on the mentoring connection you have? Almost immediately.


“Millennials prefer to work for a company with a robust corporate social responsibility program.” -Patty Alper


Watch Your Employees Benefit from Mentoring

You talk about the link between employee retention and mentoring. Would you share your perspective?

As Rick Luftglass, former director of The Pfizer Foundation’s education volunteer programs, said when I interviewed him for the book, “Employees want to be part of something that is bigger than a company.  The business culture is internally based, but the philanthropy is external. That volunteer ethos provides something more than a quarterly return on earnings…it stretches employees beyond their day-to-day job. “

Mentoring boosts employee retention in a myriad of ways. The employees who mentor become the public face of their company. They take pride in this important role of bridging corporate relationships within the communities where they reside. As well, they enjoy an enriched experience that is brought back to the business culture. A sense of gratitude and loyalty evolves toward the company that provided this opportunity. All of these factors lead to greater employee happiness, more significant social connections, and greater satisfaction with the company overall.


“Mentoring boosts employee retention.” -Patty Alper


Build a Successful Mentorship Program

Add Some Sparkle to Your Service

Drive Innovative Service


Providing incredible service.

You want to provide service that sparkles, service that stands out, service that inspires.

That’s core to Chip R. Bell’s mission. He helps organizations deliver not only “core service” but a service that is value-unique.

I recently spoke with him about his latest book, Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.


“Life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemist eyes to notice.” -Jacob Norby


Mirror Core Values

Why a kaleidoscope?

We think of a kaleidoscope as a creator of colorful images—like great service.  But, the images are created by the way jewels are mirrored.  Innovative service that is profoundly remarkable has character—core values reflected or mirrored in its delivery.  The images produced may change, but the jewels never change.  We do not open up a kaleidoscope and put in more gems or jewels. 


“Try to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud.” -Maya Angelou


Give us an example of “innovative service that sparkles”?

It is the diner waitress who places a bouquet of flowers on your table and tells you they were sent to her the day before by her husband for their anniversary, “…and, I just wanted to share them with you.”  It is a service tech in an auto dealership who programs in the radio stations into a customer’s new car from her trade-in and just lets the customer discover it.  It is the flight attendant on a flight who writes you a personal handwritten note thanking you for your loyalty.


“Customer loyalty comes from making the experience unique and special.” -Chip Bell


Leadership Values to Create Powerful Service

What are some of the leadership values that are essential to creating an authentic, powerful service experience?

First, it is leaders creating a clear, compelling purpose, vision or mission—in terms that both instruct and inspire.  Second, it is leaders who demonstrate (by their actions) that they have complete trust in their employees.  Third, it is leaders who treat employees with the same care and attention they expect those employees to demonstrate to customers.   Finally, it is leaders who constantly look for ways to more effectively resource their front line (support, training, authority, guidance, etc.).


What makes a customer loyal?

Loyalty comes from many practices.  It starts with a demonstration of respect and gratitude.  Customers have many options; we should thank them for choosing us. It is about promise keeping—always being worthy of the customer’s trust.  It includes looking for ways to involve customers—people care when they share.  It also involves helping customers get smarter.  And, loyalty can also come from making the experience unique and special.


“Loyalty starts with a demonstration of respect and gratitude.” -Chip Bell


What are some of the ways the best organizations stand out and sparkle? 

The best organizations decorate as many customers’ experiences as they can.  Making experiences special signals you care.   They care about long term relationships far more than short-term transactions.  They are community-centered and work to be great citizens in the space where they do business.  They promote growth—for associates and customers.  And, they go out of their way to celebrate greatness (and goodness).


“Neglect is more dangerous than strife; apathy costlier than error.” -Chip Bell


Inspire a Culture of Service

The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

Mind the Gap


What type of leader are you?

Are you a leader who has had some success but now feel stuck?

What’s your leadership gap?


Understanding yourself is the beginning of influence. You must understand you before you can possibly understand others and how to influence them.

If you’re a leader of leaders, you want to understand your team, how they interpret the world, their unique way of leading. A powerful team is made up of a diverse group of leadership styles.

Lolly Daskal’s new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, introduces her system to help executives discover their own leadership style and how to leverage their strengths. If you’re a leader who has reached a point where you’re confused why your success is stalled, this is for you. If you’re wondering what’s stopping your upward climb, this is for you. If you want to take your career up a notch, this is for you.

Lolly is not only a personal friend of mine, but she has racked up numerous awards and accolades ranging from Inc’s Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts to Huffington Post saying she is the most inspiring leader in the world. She’s coached some of the world’s most prominent leaders for years.


“A leader must always set the standard of what they want to see in others.” -Lolly Daskal


Stand Out Leadership Qualities

You’ve worked with many leaders all over the globe. What are some of the qualities that you notice that makes a leader stand out?

For over three decades, I have worked as a leadership coach and business consultant around the world, spanning 14 countries and hundreds of companies. Many years ago when I first started, I found an interesting pattern that was showing up within everyone I was working with, even across cultures. Over time I distilled that pattern into seven archetypes, each archetype with its own quality that sets it apart.

First, there’s the leader I call the Rebel, who leads with confidence and wants to make an impact in the world. And Rebels do start revolutions—but not through revolts and uprisings. Rebels are the quiet warriors who embark on quests to achieve remarkable things. They overcome formidable obstacles to save the project, the team, or the company. They ask, “How can I push the envelope?”

Rebels need confidence to succeed—not the kind of confidence that means standing in front of the mirror and saying, “I’m the best and the brightest,” but knowing your capabilities and competencies, knowing what you are good at, and what skills you have mastered. Confidence is simply knowing what you’re able to do. So the more skill and talent you have, the more competent—and ultimately confident—you feel.


“Confidence is simply knowing what you’re able to do.” -Lolly Daskal


Second is the Explorer, who leads with intuition. Explorers always want to try something new. They enjoy navigating through uncharted waters with innovation and creativity, using their intuition to test the boundaries and limits of what is known. They reject the status quo and doing things the way they’ve always been done. They ask, “What can I discover?”

Explorers listen to their inner voice and their gut, and use their inner knowledge to make decisions. Instead of relying only on rational thought, they balance their thinking with intuition. They think well on their feet and are decisive.

Third is the Truth Teller, who leads with candor. Truth tellers believe they owe it to those around them to always be open and honest, even when their candor makes people uncomfortable. Even so, their honesty isn’t cruel but comes from a sincere desire to help and serve. They view speaking up as a duty. Truth tellers ask, “Where should I speak up?”

Fourth is the Hero, who leads with courage. Heroes are the ones who don’t hesitate to act while others stand on the sidelines trying to figure out what’s going on. Heroes are willing to put their entire vision and mission at risk for a shot at greatness. Heroes act in spite of fear and overwhelming opposition. They ask, “Where is courage needed?”

Fifth is the Inventor, who leads with integrity. Inventors are constantly working to improve processes and products and to perfect their craft. They are experimenters who make many small bets and are willing to fail in pursuit of big wins. they ask, “How can we make this better?”

Inventors seek quality and excellence, always grounded in integrity. They don’t compromise on what they want to achieve, and they give it their best. They’re never satisfied with the status quo but always aspire to a higher standard of excellence.


“Inventors seek quality and excellence, always grounded in integrity.” -Lolly Daskal


Sixth is the Navigator, who leads with trustworthiness. Navigators know where they need to go, and they inspire others to trust and follow them. Navigators give trust as well as they receive it, keeping things simple and understandable as they masterfully steer their organization and the people within it. Navigators ask, “How can we get to where we need to go?”

The seventh and final leader is the Knight, who leads with loyalty. Knights are primarily associated with chivalry and protection; they’re willing to go to battle to defend their beliefs and are devoted to the ideal of service. Knights display fierce loyalty and partnership with others while protecting people and bringing them together.

Knights believe leadership is based on loyalty—reliable and dependable and dedicated. Knights will stand beside you and will serve you, before they serve themselves.


What makes a leader successful over the long haul?

Most leaders believe that to be successful they need to know all the elements of how, what, when, and where. But I’ve found that the game changer comes when a leader knows who they are—because getting the foundational element of the who prepares you for the how, what, when, and where—and even the why. As we know, the first step to successful leadership is taking responsibility for ourselves.


“Everyone has the power to inspire and serve the world.” -Lolly Daskal


Facing Your Leadership Gap

Eventually, you say, leaders likely face a leadership gap where they are stuck and their success wanes. Tell us more.

Most successful individuals have a certain set of skills that got them to the top of their game. But there comes a time that those same skill sets stop working, and you have to learn to pivot to keep succeeding. Most of us rely on what we know and expect it to be sustainable, but if we are not changing, evolving and growing, we are not going to remain successful leaders.

Within the seven archetypes, this principle is expressed as shadows or gaps that exist within each:

The Rebel who needs to be confident has a gap of feeling like an Imposter, paralyzed by self-doubt. This gap often takes the form of negative internal messages: You are not smart enough, good enough, bright enough to make a big impact. You didn’t go to good schools or get the right education. People are judging you.  

The Explorer, who is all about using intuition, has a gap of being the Exploiter, who manipulates. Exploration means letting go of control, and those who struggle with turning loose often try to find their way by manipulating and exploiting others.

The Truth Teller has the gap of becoming the Deceiver, who creates suspicion. This one is easy to spot. It’s the leader who withholds information, the boss who tells half-truths, the manager who doesn’t address concerns. When people don’t know what they need to know, rumors and speculation run wild, creating a culture of suspicion and paranoia.

The courageous Hero has the gap of becoming the passive Bystander—someone who does and says nothing regardless of what they see or hear. Driven by fear, the Bystander plays small and stays stuck where they are.

The Inventor, who is all about integrity, has the gap of being the corrupt Destroyer who is focused on doing things cheaper and faster. The Destroyer’s lack of integrity permits quick fixes, cutting corners and compromising quality and standards.

The Navigator, who focuses on giving and earning trust, has the gap of coming across as the arrogant Fixer. The Fixer tells people what to do instead of navigating with them and is so aggressive that people dismiss them as arrogant by nature. Fixers see the needs of others as more important than their own, and they move from wanting to help to needing to help. They primarily want to be needed.

Finally, the loyal Knight has the gap of becoming the self-serving Mercenary. Without the understanding that leadership is about serving others, they can’t engender loyalty from those they lead. Leadership grounded in self-absorption or self-obsession can never succeed.


Leverage Your Gaps

Is there a way to avoid or move quickly past a gap?

It’s important to learn how to leverage your gaps:

For instance, if your leadership style is in line with the confident Rebel, you need to learn to leverage the Imposter within you. There are several things you can do to leverage this particular gap when you begin to lose confidence in yourself.


“Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own improvement.” -Lolly Daskal


First, you need to stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own improvement and leadership development.

Second, to avoid focusing on your failures rather than your successes, make a list of your accomplishments and place your wins in plain sight so you are reminded of them regularly.

And finally, remind yourself that perfection is unattainable and aiming for it sets you up for continual frustration and disappointment.

When you’re aware of your gaps, you know what messages to counter them with. Rebels can remind themselves that, even if they feel like an imposter, they should never underestimate themselves or their capabilities.


7 Archetypes

Practice Intelligent Restraint to Drive Your Growth

Pacing for Growth

Chances are that you’re driven. You have goals, and you’re actively working on them. When you get to work, you’re off and running.

I know this because most people reading this blog are here for success tips to become better leaders and more successful. If you were lazy and drifting without goals, you probably wouldn’t be visiting.

As you push through obstacles, you likely don’t think much about the word “restraint.” In fact, if you do, you may think that the only thing that matters is removing all restraints so you can get to your destination. Fast.


“Never let others define what success means for you.” -Alison Eyring


That’s why I was drawn to the work of Dr. Alison Eyring. Her book, Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success, is about the balance between speed and restraint. I asked her to share some of these principles with us so we could learn from her research into what she calls “intelligent restraint.” Alison Eyring is the founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, and she has advised some of the world’s most innovative companies on leadership and growth.


Solve Your Growth Challenge

How has competing in long-distance runs and triathlons impacted your approach to business?

Like all business leaders, I struggle to drive my business to perform today, as I also lead transformation for the future – all without damaging the business or my team. It’s so much easier to focus on just one of those things, but we have to do all three for long-term success.  My experience training for endurance races led me to discover a growth philosophy I call “Intelligent Restraint” that helps solve this growth challenge.


Can you tell us more about “Intelligent Restraint”?

Intelligent Restraint is a growth mindset that helps you build the right capabilities for growth at the right pace. Sometimes it means going slower, and other times it means going faster.

When you are training for an endurance race, you have to push yourself to go as far and as fast as you can but then no further so that you don’t get hurt or burned out.  In my book, I describe practical ways leaders can apply this growth mindset. For example, you can define and measure “maximum capacity” of the business and then create a plan to bridge the gap between current levels of performance and “maximum capacity.”

Another way leaders can put this way of thinking to work is by practicing what I call “Rules of Intelligent Restraint.” Like rules of restraint in endurance training, these rules help leaders drive growth in a way that conserves energy and can be sustained. My favorite rule is “routines beat strengths.”


“Routines beat strengths.” -Alison Eyring


Alison's 8 Insights from Endurance Training

  1. Always train for the right race.
  2. Don’t let any mountain defeat you.
  3. Be good enough when good is enough.
  4. Find many ways to maintain your own energy.
  5. Don’t spend your life doing only what you do well.
  6. Never let others define what success means for you.
  7. Be courageous and be humble; persevere and be willing to stop.
  8. Never be intimidated by anyone who looks stronger and faster than you.


Train for the Right Race

How do leaders find the right balance between the sprint and the marathon?

You can’t sprint and run long distance unless you’ve trained properly. A midfielder in soccer, for example, will sprint the entire game AND also run several miles. They’ve trained for this. On the other hand, if you ask a world class sprinter to run a marathon tomorrow, they might possibly complete a half marathon but they’ll be in tremendous pain.

As leaders, we need to train our business and our people for the right race. We all want to succeed over the long-term as a business, but there is seldom a long-term unless we can deliver in the short-term and have enough energy to keep going. Leaders who can practice the rules of Intelligent Restraint and manage energy strategically can achieve this.


“Focus overrules vision.” -Alison Eyring


Focus Overrules Vision