Usher, tattoos, taxis – three top tips to keep clients wanting more

By being in the mosh pit at rock concerts, I am a better, more ‘in demand’ and vibrant client adviser. Sounds weird? Maybe- but it’s true. Here’s why.

Pink’s was bouncy, young, optimistic, inspiring. Kings of Leon grungy, alcohol-fuelled and smelling of vomit. I saw stuff at Usher I am still trying to process (but pretty good humoured and clean)! Leonard Cohen? Well- the crowd was so old we were all seated! But there was a vibe of thoughtfulness and gratitude there that I had never felt before. Point is- I learnt an enormous amount at every one of those events.

Here’s the rub. We have to work hard every day to ‘feed our minds’, and keep connected to the real world around us- the audiences and sub-cultures our clients or organisations are selling products to. Here are my three top tips to do just that.

First, do this simple test @the_brand_guy asked me once. Is this you?  Do you…. Live in a reasonably ‘nice’ suburb, travel to work every day basically using the same mode of transport, listen to the same couple of radio stations, read the same magazines every week, watch the same TV shows, check out a small group of websites regularly, eat at a favourite handful of restaurants, order the same dishes often, mix with the same group most of the time….? Sound familiar? Yes? No?

Clients and internal stakeholders expect us to ‘know stuff’… about what’s happening today, and what’s coming around the corner: to be ‘in the groove’, connected to trends, events, the vibe. They want to know our ideas are built on genuine insights.

Leading predictable, narrow lives, living in our comfort zones and seeking the familiar is an easy trap to fall in to. Big mistake if you want to keep and grow clients, and keep your careers vibrant.  Here are three ways I stay connected:

  1. I read stuff am not interested in: A Tom Peters idea. Read magazines on topics you have NO interest in. The last time I flew I bought ‘Tattoos R Us’, ‘Weddings Weekly’ and ‘Kite Flyers Monthly’ (not the real names- but you get the idea). All topics I’m currently not interested in. I then read them with a passion, underlining stuff, tearing stuff out, noting people to follow on Twitter etc. Do this and within a month you will have used knowledge learnt from those magazines in highly value-adding ways with clients. Give it a go! It really works.
  2. I get in to the ‘mosh pit’, often: Whether a rock concert or movie festival, a parade or local market. Turn up! Look at who is there…what they are wearing, their mobile devices, how they use them, their make-up, hair styles, jewellery, what they are drinking, talking about, how they interact. Think of your clients. Where is the lesson? Where’s the magic? The idea? Jonathan Pease (@jonathanpease) at Tongue does this when he travels- soaks up sights and sounds and culture and takes the valuable lessons for great ideas for clients and products.
  3. I talk to taxi drivers: I learnt this from the unique and amazing Rose Herceg. Talk to cabbies. Ask them what’s happening… how is business, what are their passengers talking about, what do they think about politician x, what are they listening to? What’s their story, when did they come here, what is their life like, what do they like about the city/country, not like? Dig deep. Be empathetic. Listen intently. Be genuinely interested. Suck it in.

Order dishes at restaurants you would normally never order.  Ask colleagues what they are reading and why? Go into stores you have no reason to. Walk down a new street. Go watch a sports game of a sport you don’t know well. You get the picture. Oh, and READ NEWSPAPERS- on-line or off.

As Woody Allen said: “80 percent to the key to success is just turning up.” TURN UP to staying connected and staying current. Make it a priority every day.
It makes you a more valuable contributor.

>View a video of Chris retelling this post

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19 Responses to Usher, tattoos, taxis – three top tips to keep clients wanting more

  1. Alan Bowman August 24, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    This actually makes a ton of sense…….you have really Wrestled a Possum with this topic. It is so true what you are saying. Luckiliy I get out and travel with my job and this is where you really do see trends current and emerging. Soak up as much as you can!

    • Chris Savage August 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks Alan. Travel is such a great way to keep current and find ideas. How about traveling to Crows Nest and buying me breakfast?

  2. haydn August 24, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Great read Chris! Am a big fan of stepping outside of your comfort zone, trying something new, pushing your social boundaries… also doesn’t hurt to look up every now and then. When was the last time we all walked down the street and looked above eye level! Interesting…

    Love your work.

    • Chris Savage August 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      Thanks Haydn- appreciate the feedback. Chris

  3. jo sellars August 24, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Chris,I love this article its so true.
    I reckon as a creative, it’s my job to be able to tap in to as many different mindsets as possible. I should be able to communicate on any subject to any audience.
    I really believe the best way to do that is not through studying facts, research and data, but through experience. I always try to get a taste of what my likely target audience is doing, via reading their mags, participating in blogs, catching public transport, watching TV, shopping at their stores, participating in their games… I was lucky enough to do the Hyper Island masterclass this year, and it was great, I learned a lot. But I have to confess, I learned more about social media (twitter particularly) and the digital world by hooking up with a bunch of dudes at a Kid Cudi concert in New York. In between the drinking and smoking and air punching, they told us about all this digital stuff they were using at the time. Turned out 2 of them had exhibited their apps at SXSW…it meant so much more coming from the source/audience than being taught in a conference room. “Living it” to understand it is the key.
    Jo S

    • Chris Savage August 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

      Jo- I am so pleased it resonated and love the story you tell. It makes it so much more relevant for me to hear these stories. Thanks for sharing. Chris

  4. Sandy Oldham August 24, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    I’ll look out for you in the moshpit Chris! Insightful & valuable as always.

    • Chris Savage August 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

      Thanks Sandy. Appreciate it. Chris

  5. Carl Sherriff August 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Ok, ok, you’ve convinced me. It’s been a long time coming, but I AM going to order the duck tongues at Golden Century.

    • Chris Savage August 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

      Go Carl!!!

  6. Marion McDonald August 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Chris, I just changed my salad order at Pret today after reading your blog!
    Quite seriously, I have this need to move countries every few years for a different perspective. I’m up to 9 international moves in 16 years. A new language to learn, culture to adapt to, new ways to get things done, local changes to your leadership style and new social circles. OK, leaving the country is not for everyone but your point is well made. If you’ve lived in the same street for 20 years, you MUST find out what life is like on the other side of the fence and not just by reading about it.
    Can you post some pics from the next mosh pit?

    • Chris Savage August 25, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks Marion! Moving countries is radical but you’re right- forces you to keep learning and on your toes! Yes will send pix from the mosh pit but you will be shocked at how well I fit in… Well, at the Leonard Cohen concert at least! Chris

  7. Victoria Tulloch August 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    really great stuff as always, thank you. Has given me a great germ of an idea for an internal program we’re about to get up and running. So it’s already worked! Thank you.

    • Chris Savage August 25, 2011 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks Victoria. Tell me please how your internal program goes once it is up and running. Thanks! Chris

  8. Stuart Harvey August 25, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Good read Chris,

    It makes a lot of sense. I love going to concerts/gigs and always love just watching and listening to the varied range of people there, your eyes really do get opened!
    There is so much out there if only we look and listen.

    • Chris Savage August 25, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks Stuart. You’re right. Listen with your eyes! Chris

  9. Kate Lightfoot August 26, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Great timing, Chris.

    This morning, I went to a cafe I hadn’t been to before and spent my time at breakfast listening to a couple of tradies at the next table talk about their work. I was fascinated by the way they were putting sentences together and what was important to them in a work sense. It’s been far too long since I’ve listened to the way people from a completely different demographic talk.

    And now you’ve reminded me why it’s so important.

    Back to the mosh pits for me.

    • Chris Savage August 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      Thanks so much Kate. Great anecdote and validation. Thanks! Chris

  10. Adrianne March 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    This is sooooo true Chris. I went to an amazing experience over the weekend which was incredibly unique. A Canadian baroque chamber orchestra which combined period music with history and astronomy at the aptly named “Angel Place”. I learned so much in such a unique way and loved it. And it was surprising who was there on a Saturday afternoon! The age range was enormous! Certainly got me out of my staid point of view for a time … but now you’ve reminded me to stretch my comfort zone much further … tattoos r us sounds interesting!

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