Lessons from Fanocracy: How to Turn Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans

Insights from our Flip The Switch podcast:

David Meerman Scott joined the podcast this week to talk about his studies in fandom, Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans.

His latest book, a collaboration with his daughter, Reiko, was a deep exploration of why we love the things that we love and the science behind the emotional connections we feel to those fandoms. For David, his love was the Grateful Dead. For Reiko, it was Harry Potter.  

Both fandoms are immersive experiences. Diehard Harry Potter fans read the several-hundred-page books over and over, finding new, hidden connections throughout the series each time, analyze how closely the movies capture the details, and create countless costumes, merchandise, and especially, fan theories.  

For some fandoms like Harry Potter, they emerge and grow on their own accord. The Grateful Dead actively encouraged fans to be a part of their growth strategy.  They were the original “social network” according to Scott. 

Grateful Dead fans were invited to record concerts – even provided power strips to do so – and share their tapes and experience with friends.  Merchandise created in moderate quantities could even be sold in the parking lots – if that was your only way to get in, so be it!  

So how might sports organizations foster a more immersive experience with fans? The “creator culture” is adding to fan avidity levels. We discussed this at length in our previous conversation with Zoe Scaman, who’s leading Mark Cuban Experiments. And we built on that conversation with David Meerman Scott.

In previous years, you would probably classify “diehard fans” as those with season tickets for 25 years or who show up every game with their lucky overalls, game day chains, and their faces painted. You may think of your diehard fans or customers as those who have phony coach Twitter accounts or fans who generate knockoff merchandise with fellow fans, or fans who create podcasts to discuss teams or create highlight reels for former players in the professional ranks.

Those types of fans reach audiences outside of those who follow your social accounts. Maybe you don’t give them free rein to create merchandise as the Grateful Dead did.  But could you bring in a few influencers to collaborate on new merchandise and use them as the models for the finished products?  Could you create video content that fans get to release?

Relinquishing some of the control of your brand may be daunting. But when you have the opportunity to reach a wider audience than those currently following your channels or subscribing to your emails, is the risk worth the reward?  

It was for the Grateful Dead. It brought in fans like Scott who have been to 75 shows and keep going back for more.

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Future of Customer Experience w/ Steven Van Belleghem

Steven Van Bellegham is a best-selling author and an international keynote speaker, largely focused on the future customer experience. He’s given keynotes in over 40 countries, and he’s worked with some of the biggest companies in the world, from Google to Mercedes Benz.

Steven is the author of multiple international bestselling books including ‘The Conversation Manager’, ‘When Digital Becomes Human’, ‘Customers the Day after Tomorrow’, ‘The Offer You Can’t Refuse’ and a futuristic technology thriller called Eternal, which we discuss at the beginning of the episode.

To preview what this episode is about, I’m going to steal this from his website’s About page: “Steven believes in a bright future where companies play the long-term game with their customers. His passion is spreading ideas about the future of customer experience. Steven believes in the combination of common sense, new technologies, an empathic human touch, playing the long-term game and taking your social responsibility to win the hearts and business of customers over and over again.”  

If that’s up your alley, you’re gonna love this episode.

Show Notes

(5:30) Getting to know Steven Van Belleghem

(9:00) Reinventing a global business during the COVID-19 pandemic

(12:00) The balance of technology and in-person engagement on business

(17:45) How do you add value at the exact right moment without being intrusive?

(21:30) Taking a commodity and making it an ecosystem

(22:00) How subscription models change markets

(25:00) Building a sponsorship community with Club Brugge

(29:30) Creating ethical guidelines for dealing with emotions

(30:08) Your why should be where you are going, not where you’ve been

(38:15) Magical moments curated by Disney

(43:15) What would Joy do? (Lessons learned from Disney’s Inside Out)

(47:15) Setting policies that will serve the greatest number of fans

(52:30) The downsides of technology – removing the human element

(54:30) It’s not about knowing what customers want, but how they want it

Additional Resources
E-book “From CX to XC”

Where to Reach Steven:
Twitter: @StevenVBe
Youtube: Steven’s Channel

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47. Bringing the X-Factor to Guest and Employee Experience w/ Kami Testa

Today’s guest is Kami Testa, Guest Experience Program Director of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. Kevin Gober and Kami dive into how to drive change in your organization, the process of hiring a large team of employees all at once, training your staff, and how mindsets impact actions.

Kami’s unique background with the Walt Disney Company has helped her bring fresh insights to the NBA’s Phoenix franchises. Before the NBA and WNBA, Kami held a wide array of roles with different parts of the Walt Disney Company. She’s spent time as a Facilitator for Disney Institute; a Training Manager for Disney Cruise Line; she’s been a Traditions facilitator (training Cast Members on their first day at Disney); she’s worked in premium sales for Adventures by Disney (the company’s travel planning agency); and more.

Show Notes

(7:00) Kami Testa Intro and Background

(9:30) Parallels of Guest Experience and Employee Experience – The Disney “Chain of Excellence”

(14:30) Lessons from the Phoenix Suns’ Virtual Hiring Fair

(16:00) Hiring for Attitude vs. Aptitude

(17:30) Shaking Up the Interview Process

(18:30) Training the Hiring Managers – Getting Your Staff on Board to Your Vision 

(20:40) Disney Insights – Skills-Based Recruitment is Fatally Flawed

(22:00) Challenges of Virtual Training / On-boarding

(27:00) Discovering Talent – Outlining Opportunities for Growth for Part-Time Staff

(30:00) Cultural Overall of Changing the Phoenix Suns’ Game Day Staff Uniforms 

(34:30) How to Change Your Staff’s Perspective Beyond “Job Description” 

(39:00) The Suns’ Vision for the Future

(46:00) How to Formulate a Culture Committee

(49:30) Tools for Balancing Your Team’s Mental Health

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The Customer Experience Playbook w/ Jonathan Daniels

Jonathan Daniels, Co-Founder and Director of CX Brussels, joins us on today’s episode as we go over the various steps of the “ICON Process” from his book The Customer Experience Playbook. Consisting of Initiate, Co-Create, Operationalize, and Nourish, David and Jonathan breakdown a customer experience transformation to its core and show how these fundamental CX steps can be leveraged as a growth strategy for your business.

Time Stamps:

(4:45) Who is Jonathan and CX Brussels?

(7:47) Trends in CX conversations outside of the U.S.

(12:15) Digital transformations and the transitions in between

(16:10) The Customer Experience Playbook – ICON Process


(19:50) Keys of a governance structure for customer centricity

(22:48) Power of the voice of the customer and ROI

(26:45) The importance of detailed goals to become customer-centric


(30:37) Focusing on co-creation after measurement of CX growth

(33:33) Incorporating employees in co-creation is necessary


(36:40) Making sure to operationalize and add standards


(39:52) Reinvesting and implementing changes and improvements to your CX transformation

(42:19) The toughest aspect of the ICON process

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

The Customer Experience Playbook by Jonathan Daniels

CX Centric –

CX Conversations –

Where To Reach the Guest:

LinkedIn – Jonathan Daniels

Twitter – @mrdansoultions

Email –

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41. The Power of Service and Reinvention w/ Brandon Steiner

This episode is a little bit of a throwback. It’s a conversation from the end of July, but we’re airing it now, 3-4 months later. It still holds up tremendously well, as our guest’s message on service and reinvention is timeless.

Our guest today is Brandon Steiner and he’s been in the sports marketing business longer than I’ve been alive. Literally. Brandon was the founder and former CEO of Steiner Sports, which is now owned by Fanatics.  Steiner Sports started out as an effort to pair up athletes with businesses, trying to attract customers; classic sports marketing.

Before long though, the company got into what Brandon is primarily known for, memorabilia. In 2005, Brandon partnered with the Yankees to create Yankees-Steiner collectibles, where Brandon had the rights to license and market a wide variety of game-used items from bats to baseballs, you name it.

From there, he built similar deals with national brands, like the Cowboys, Notre Dame, Madison Square Garden, and many more iconic sports brands. He built a memorabilia empire, creating relationships with thousands of athletes and helping fans get their hands on exclusive items and experiences. Steiner Sports is now owned by Fanatics and Brandon is on a new journey.

Brandon is currently the founder and CEO of CollectibleXchange and The Steiner Agency. We’re going to talk about both of those ventures, among other things. We take a couple of minutes to get going, but pretty quickly we jump into a ton of different topics.

The biggest themes of the episode really revolve around entrepreneurship and how sports and entertainment organizations can ultimately become more entrepreneurial, which is incredibly important right now in this time of the pandemic where everybody’s reinventing. And innovation is key. Brandon is in his sixties now, and starting a second career.

Brandon stresses that it’s never too late for an organization or an individual to learn new skills and start new journeys. We talk about lessons learned from his parents, and we dive into customer service lessons that he’s picked up from serving millions and millions of customers over the years.

Brandon Steiner’s Content:
Brandon Steiner’s Books
Podcast and Blog

Contact Brandon
Brandon’s LinkedIn
Brandon’s Twitter

Brandon’s Companies:
The Steiner Agency

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