The Power of Purpose in Business

It was the spring of 2013 and my first full year as an entrepreneur. I had been introduced to S. Chris Edmonds by a mutual friend. I mentioned to Chris that I was working on launching my business as an author and speaker. He recommended that I speak to Mark Levy.  

Mark Levy leads a consulting practice called Levy Innovation focused on positioning. Described as the “horse whisperer” for writers, Levy had worked with prominent thought leaders such as Marshall Goldsmith, Simon Sinek, David Meerman Scott, and Cali Yost. I hired Mark to help me with my platform. Over six weeks, he coached me on creating marketplace differentiation, crafting an elevator pitch, mining my backstory, and developing a go-to-market strategy.

Mark is brilliant. He taught me about crafting a big idea and developing a backstory. We spent a considerable amount of time on not only the what and how, but also the why. To illustrate the importance of communicating my why, Mark shared a story about one of his clients. It was one I’d never forget.

The Power of Purpose

CalculatorThe client was a financial planner serving small business owners. Let’s call him Ed. Ed had shared with Mark that he recruited the majority of his new clients by speaking. He would give a 90 minute seminar on managing finances. At the end of the seminar, Ed would offer a free one hour consultation/assessment. If there was 40 people in the room, he’d typically have only two or three take him up on the offer. The need to grow his client base led him to Mark. Mark asked Ed why he chose to pursue a career in accounting. He shared that the inspiration began during his teenage years. His parents had passed away in a car accident and he was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather had worked at a local company for over 30 years. His grandmother was working as an office administrative assistant in a local school. Ed could remember sitting in his living room at age 14 like it was yesterday. His grandfather was next to him reading the newspaper. An advertisement caught his eye. The ad was for the sale of a local butcher shop. He approached his wife and expressed his desire to purchase the business. They both would quit and go into business for themselves. She was skeptical, but eventually agreed.

Ed watched his grandparents cash in their life savings to start the new business. The butcher shop didn’t make any money the first year, lost money in year two, and a little more in year three. By the end of the fifth year they had lost the remaining capital and were forced to close the business. Instead of enjoying their retirement, they went back to getting full-time jobs and both worked until they passed away. Ed shared that he went into accounting because he didn’t want to have other small business owners experience what had happened to his grandparents. Mark asked Ed to share this personal backstory during his next seminar. The results were staggering. Ed merely told his backstory on why he became a financial planner before starting his regular session. At the end he made his usual pitch. The difference was that 37 out of the 40 attendees took him up on the offer, many of whom became clients for Ed.

Arriving at the Ultimate Differentiator

I began writing back in 2008. For one year I blogged about 50 different topics in marketing. Searching for what I thought would be a game changer in business. The following year I would have a “moment of truth” in New York City that changed my life. I walked away from that experience believing the biggest myth in business was the idea of meeting customer expectations. Too much attention was being placed on acquisition. Going forward businesses  would need to find the little things to maximize the customer experience by putting customers first. Taking care of the customers they had, so those customers would bring them the (referred) customers they wanted.

I became a disciple of the late Ted Levitt. Levitt believed that business should put the customer at the center of everything they do. Levitt asserted that “The search for meaningful distinction is central to the marketing effort. If marketing is about anything, it is about achieving customer-getting distinction by differentiating what you do and how you operate. All else is derivative of that and only that.” I believed the focus of business should be on customers and not just chasing bottom line profits. Profit was the result, not the aim. Customer experience was to become the new marketing.

PurpleGoldfishAfter collecting over 1,000 examples and writing Purple Goldfish, my thinking was slightly altered. I found that the companies who did the little extras for customers, also applied the same principles for their employees. In fact, many of those successful companies seemed to place a greater emphasis on culture and putting their employees first. It led me to crowdsource another 1,000+ examples. These examples were focused on the little things for employees to help drive engagement and reinforce culture. The result was my second book, the Green Goldfish.

GreenGoldfishMy outlook after Green Goldfish was altered once again. I had previously held the view that you treat all of your customers and all of your employees the same. I came to realize that for most companies, 80% of profitability is created by just 20% of customers. In addition, 80% of the value that is created by a business, comes from just 20% of the employees. I realized that you don’t treat everyone the same, you treat everyone fairly. My third book in the original trilogy, the Golden Goldfish, focused on the little things you do for your “vital few” in business.

GoldenGoldfishI now believe there is an ultimate differentiator. While writing Golden Goldfish I was introduced to Chris Malone. Chris Malone co-authored The Human Brand with Susan T. Fiske. The book examines the concepts of warmth and competence in relation to business. As humans, our brains are hardwired to sense warmth and competence immediately. Warmth trumps competence. It starts inside your organization and radiates to your customer. If you want to win the hearts of employees and wallets of customers, you must go out of your way to put their interests ahead of yours. Malone and Fiske call this the principle of worthy intentions. These worthy intentions are typically linked to the purpose of your company. Purpose is now becoming the ultimate differentiator.

The book Red Goldfish, co-authored by Graeme Newell,  (launching 2/14/17) will explore how business is evolving, the importance of putting purpose first, how to define your purpose, the eight purpose archetypes, and how to create the little things that bring purpose to life.

Red Goldfish Book

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a slideshare presentation on the concept of a Red Goldfish:

Golden Goldfish – All Customer and Employees are not Created Equal

Here is a slideshare on the third book in the Goldfish Series, the Golden Goldfish: The book is based on the simple premise that all customers and employees are not created equal. For most businesses, 80% of profitability is driven by the top 20% of customers and employees. These are simply your “Vital Few.” The book focuses on nine different ways to do the “little extras” to promote customer advocacy and drive employee engagement with these key stakeholders.

Pareto’s 80/20 principle is brought to life by authors Yoon, Carlotti and Moore in a case study about Kraft Velveeta cheese. In 2012, sales of Velveeta cheese were on a downward trajectory. The brand managers were faced with a challenge. Should they focus on getting lapsed consumers to buy Velveeta again? Or should they work to get occasional purchasers to buy more frequently? Their research uncovered that the top 10% of Velveeta buyers account for over 50% of profit. Kraft decided to focused on this key segment of 2.4 million consumers. According to Greg Gallagher, Velveeta Marketing Director, “The previous thinking was that the quickest, easiest path to growth was to identify light users or lapsed users. But when we talked to superconsumers, we learned that in fact they wanted to use Velveeta more —they were starving for it.” Kraft went to work on creating brand extensions. Additional products that contained Velveeta. The results are anything but cheesy. New product spin-offs totaled over $100 million in additional sales.

GOLDEN GOLDFISH LESSON: Do more for your best ones. In the words of Yoon, Carlotti, and Moore, “Show the love to those that love you the most.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Speaking of a Golden and a Goldfish, here is a video of Rellie the Golden Retriever discovering a goldfish tank for the first time:

Breaking Down the Purpose of the Goldfish Series

Helping Companies Get Closer to the Hearts of Their Customers and Employees

Here is the purpose of the Goldfish Series of Books: Help companies get closer to the hearts of their customers and employees.

There are currently six Goldfish colors. Each represents a different focus:

Six Goldfish Books

Let’s look at each of the six colors individually.


Purple Goldfish was the first book in the Goldfish Series. It examines the little things that make a big difference in customer experience. Purple uncovers the key ingredients of creating signature added value. The book is based on over 1,000 examples from the Purple Goldfish Project, showcasing 12 different types of purple goldfish in the two main categories of value and maintenance. Little extras such as the importance of follow up and how to handle mistakes. There are two Purple Goldfish books. The original and a version focused on Hotels, Restaurants, and Airlines co-authored with Brooks Briz called, Purple Goldfish – Service Edition.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to improve the customer experience


Green Goldfish was the second book in the Goldfish Series. When writing Purple, it became evident that the companies that did the little extras for customers also applied the same concept for their employees. The book uncovers the fact that you can’t have happy enthused customers without happy engaged employees. Based on a collection of our 1,000 examples the Green Goldfish Project, Green shares 15 types of green goldfish. They are little extras for employees such as onboarding, team building, flexibility, recognition, pay it forward, and empowerment.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to improve the employee experience
Photo Credit: Alana Jane Gifts

Photo Credit: Alana Jane Gifts


Golden Goldfish finished the original trilogy of Goldfish books. It was based on the simple fact that eighty percent of  your profitability is driven through the Top 20 percent of customers and employees. These are your vital few. You don’t treat all customers and employees the same, you treat them all fairly. Golden shares nine different key drivers of overall performance from over 200 examples in the Golden Goldfish Project.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to improve the customer and employee experience for your top 20%


Blue Goldfish is the fourth book in the Goldfish series. According to a recent study, 76% of customers expect brands to understand their individual needs. Blue Goldfish makes the business case for leveraging technology, data, and analytics to create a competitive advantage and increased customer loyalty. It shares cutting edge examples and insights from over 300 examples from the Blue Goldfish Project.
TAKEAWAY: Actionable strategies to turn big data into useful data to improve the customer experience


Red Goldfish will be the fifth book in the Goldfish series. It reveals how purpose is changing the way we work and how customers choose business partners. By 2020, there will no longer be a distinction between for profit and non-profit companies. Businesses will either be seen as “for-purpose” or “not for purpose.” In the book Stan Phelps and Graeme Newell share lessons from the Red Goldfish Project. Cutting edge examples that reveal the five ways businesses can embrace purpose to drive employee engagement, fuel the bottom line, and make an impact on society.

TAKEAWAY: ​Actionable ways to leverage purpose for all stakeholders in the business


Pink Goldfish will be the sixth book in the Goldfish series. It is based on the simple concept that what makes us weak also makes us strong. Smart businesses don’t shy away from weakness, they double-down and amplify them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. The book by Evan Carroll and Dave Rendall will share lessons from the Pink Goldfish Project, showing business that what makes you weird is what also makes you wonderful.

TAKEAWAY: Actionable ways to differentiate yourself in business

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a video by Stan Phelps that describes some of the concepts around the Goldfish series:

A Spot-On Example Of Extending Advertising Into Customer Experience by Chick-fil-A

This story was originally published on Forbes:

This is the story of a renegade cow. Nearly two decades ago, paintbrush in mouth, a cow painted three words on a billboard… EAT MOR CHIKIN. It was an instant success.

Created by Dallas-based The Richards GroupEat Mor Chikin was introduced in 1995 as merely a three-dimensional outdoor advertising execution.  The campaign was so well received that The Richards Group and Chick-fil-A turned the billboard concept into an integrated campaign. Early extensions included  in-store point-of-purchase materials and a radio commercial. Two years later in 1997 the cows would make their TV debut. The following year an annual calendar was created. All mediums were leveraged. Rising to new heights in 2008, the cows covertly painted their first water tower. The Cows were not only popular, they were like-able. In 2011, their Facebook page was created and they now boast over 750,000 fans.

I’m a fan of the cows, yet I feel that traditional advertising (no matter how cute) tends to fall short because it only caters to the eyes and the ears. Great brands find ways to extend advertising to create experiences that reach their hearts of their customers. One extension of the Cows campaign creates an engaging experience. Enter Cow Appreciation Day every July. This year Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of the chain-wide event honoring their beloved Cows.


According to Chick-fil-A, more than 900,000 cow-dressed customers hoofed out to Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide for Cow Appreciation Day last year. The chain now boasts a fully dedicated website for the event and expects to host more than one million cow-clad guests. They’ve provided incentives for fans. Dress partially as a cow and you receive a free entree. Dress head to toe and you receive an entire free combo meal.

Chick-fil-A has a nicknames for customers who dress up. They are called “raving fans.” Of the seven to 10 million people eating at its restaurant each week, this is a rabid subset, about 10 to 15 percent of its total audience. They typically visit Chick-fil-A four or more times each month.Chick-fil-A also captures stories of customers on their website. This story called “Year of the Cows” comes from mskripsky:

For the past six years, my friends and I have celebrated Cow Appreciation Day at our local Chick-fil-A. Although we’ve been getting older through the years, it has never stopped us from having a memorable night. We gather at my house, dress up like a cow, take a ton of silly pictures and head to Chick-fil-A.

Each year we have about 10 friends or so line up in a conga line and chant “moo moo moo moo moo” as we enter the restaurant. Of course every employee and customer just stares at us, but it’s nice to see everyone smile and some even join in. The best part is seeing the store managers face gleaming and saying that was the highlight of his night.

This year will be our last year together, as all of us have gotten married are going to med school or are moving away. However, we are still hoping our legacy of Cow Appreciation Day will carry on.

I love how Chick-fil-A celebrates it customers and encourages them to be creative. Need help to create your own costume? No problem, Chick-fil-A provides a starter kit of ideas and resources.

Fun events at Chick-fil-A are a staple for the brand. Daddy-Daughter Date Nights are an annual event. Not to leave Mom’s out, just last year the restaurant created a medieval-themed event called Mother-Son Date Knight.“One of Chick-fil-A’s goals is to promote community connections and enrich the lives of everyone we come in contact with,” says Erik Amick, a Chick-fil-A franchise operator. Even infants are given consideration. This is perhaps my favorite little extra at my localChick-fil-A in Cary, NC. It’s tiny cups of Cheerios for customers in training.

Photo Credit: Stan Phelps

Does your brand create opportunities to connect with consumers? Are you creating a legacy experience like Cow Appreciation Day?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – The Phelps family got into the act this year. Jenn did an awesome job on the costumes:

jenn and james chickfila cow appreciation day

April Fools Day edition of the EXTRA EXTRA newsletter

Greetings on the first Tuesday of April. It’s April Fools Day everyone.
What’s the origin of this Day of Pranks? It’s unclear according to the Museum of Hoaxes, but its generally accepted that…
  1. the celebration is most likely a rite of spring
  2. it was well established by the mid-16th century
Over 500 years of pranks. I can’t decide my favorite of all-time. It’s probably a toss-up between the Taco Liberty Bell and the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest (see picture above). For the rest of the top 100 pranks click here.
As for my personal favorite, it’s a simple gag that involves an empty plastic water bottle. When no one is looking, simply slip the empty bottle behind the back of your neck with one hand. Complain of a kink in your neck. Take your other hand and grab your chin. Mimic cracking your neck while you squeeze the plastic water bottle. Need a tutorial? Here’s aYouTube video that demonstrates the prank.
Anyhow, happy spring…
Enjoy the Newsletter!

Future of Marketing: A Little Less Campaign and a Little More Action

This is taken from a post in It’s my first article as a contributor:

Each year the fall rolls around. Summer tans have faded. Marketing planning begins. Here’s the sequence: Agencies get briefed, ideas are presented, concepts get developed, creative gets shot, media gets bought, ads run, results get measured, and (maybe) awards get submitted. Celebratory dinner with the requisite toasts and back slapping. Fall rolls around again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is traditional marketing. A phenomenon that Seth Godin labels the TV-industrial complex. The only problem is that it doesn’t work as well as it used to. Or in some cases it doesn’t work at all.

Who’s to blame for the campaign based mentality? Is it the brand or is it the agency? Who is going to break the cycle of TITWWADI (This Is The Way We Always Do It)? When is this Einsteinian version of insanity going to stop? It’s hard to blame the agency. You can’t expect them to change if their entire business model is predicated on not doing so. Perhaps it’s up to brands to break the cycle.

Are there companies willing to change? Maybe the Price is right. In a recent Forbes interview the CMO of CVS Rob Price describes how they are making the shift:

“We’ve gone through a real transition. In the seven years I’ve been here, we’ve moved from being more of an Advertising and Promotions department to really being an Insights to Action function.. That changes your focus substantially. But of course we still do the advertising, marketing and promotional accountability, that’s our functional expertise… We’ve reduced degree of traditional advertising that we’ve done. Because we’ve found, and maybe it stems from our advertising roots. Advertising is about frequency and reach. Well, we have 35 million people coming into stores every week. Tens of millions with our mail-order pharmacy and  with our prescription benefit management. So if you monetized, if you put into traditional advertising terms, all of those are exposures or impressions. The media in our operating environment is thousands of stores, hundreds of thousands of people, serving millions of customers, creating billions of interactions. It’s very large numbers and we’ve decided to harness the energy of the marketing team in collaboration with IT, Store Operations and Digital.”

Read the full post (including lessons from Steinway and Elvis) by clicking here

This month I’ll be speaking in Sydney, Calgary, Greenville and Virginia Beach.
April 7 – Customer 360 Keynote (Sydney)
April 16 – Alberta Motor Association Keynote / Workshop (Calgary)
April 23 – East Carolina University Keynote (Greenville,NC)
April 29 – Liberty Tax Webinar (Virginia Beach)
I’m heading to OZ this week for the Customer360 Symposium. I’ll be giving the opening keynote on thePsychology of the Customer Journey. The event takes place just outside of Sydney in the majestic Hunter Valley.
We’re exactly one month away from the launch of the last book in the Goldfish trilogy:
On May 1st, What’s Your Golden Goldfish will examine the “little extras” for your Top 20% of customers and employees. The concept is based on Pareto’s Law. The law of “the vital few and the trivial many.”
In order to promote the launch of the new book, I’ve put together a special offer:
  • Buy 30 copies – You will receive a 30-minute presentation via Skype or Google Hangout.
  • Buy 50 copies – You will receive a one-hour webinar.
  • Buy 100 copies – You will receive a keynote or two-hour workshop. (travel not included)
  • Buy 200 copies – You will receive a keynote and a two-hour workshop. (domestic travel included)
The content for the webinar, keynote or workshop is optional. You can choose PURPLE

(cx/ differentiation / retention), GREEN (employee engagement / culture), or GOLD.
Let me know which option you are interested in. Call me at +1.919.360.4702 or e-mail me
Here’s an example of a recent keynote:
Speaking Demo - Stan Phelps


TODAY’S LAGNIAPPE (a little something extra thrown in for good measure)
Although I’m not a huge fan of campaigns, this may be one of the best integrated ones I’ve seen in awhile. It’s called, “Do It For Denmark” by Spies Travel.  Check out the two-minute video below or my full post on this clever effort:
Do It For Denmark!
Do It For Denmark!