Jay Baer – Author of Hug Your Haters

Give form to your fears. Whenever you are scared to take the next step, or paralyzed by risk, grab some paper and write down EXACTLY what you frightens you. When you write them down, your fears become a lot less daunting.

Jay Baer has spent 23 years in digital marketing, consulting for more than 700 companies during that period, including 32 of the FORTUNE 500. His current firm – Convince & Convert – provides digital marketing advice and online customer service advice and counsel to some of the world’s most important brands like The United Nations, Allstate, Cisco, and Cabela’s.

His new book, Hug Your Haters, is the world’s first modern customer service manual, showing how companies large and small can benefit from the enormous increase in online complaints and customer feedback.

A fixture in social media, Jay is the most retweeted person in the world among digital marketers, and the second most retweeted person in the world among B2B marketers. He is also an active venture capitalist, and is an investor or advisor to 15 early stage technology and social media companies.

Where did the idea for Hug Your Haters, and the focus of your research come from?

In my consulting business I kept seeing massive confusion about the interaction between marketing and customer service, especially online. I hired Edison Research to help me explore this concept and we discovered that customer service is being disrupted in the same way – and for the same reasons – that marketing has been disrupted: mobile, social media, Millennials. Yet, there are about 500 books about marketing disruption. There is now exactly one book about customer service disruption: Hug Your Haters.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Now that the book is actually written and launched, I spend about 50% of my time preparing for or giving presentations, all around the world. The balance of my time is spent creating media (blog, podcast, videos); working with our clients in my consulting firm; and working with my team to keep them moving forward. I have trained myself to be exceptionally good at working in short bursts, in any location or circumstance. I also try to tackle things as soon as I get them, to prevent a back-log. I have an amazing team that helps me amplify my work, and we use a lot of tech tips and tricks to be even more efficient.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I delegate them! Seriously, I tend to come up with ideas for our company and our clients, and I sketch an outline of what I’m thinking, and my collaborators can interpret my ramblings and give them shape and form.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The explosion of audio and video as communication media. More than 20% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly now. As an author, that may not be great news. But as the owner of a podcast network, it is!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I never have more than 25 emails in my inbox, ever.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was the spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections for about 4 months. My job was to give tours of the juvenile prisons. The prison was okay, and a lot of the inmates were good kids caught up in bad situations. But I learned FAST that government was not the work culture for me. Too slow, and not enough entrepreneurial hustle. When there is a stampede to the elevator at exactly 5 pm, it’s not the place for me.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Not much. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate throughout my entrepreneurial career. I’ve made some dubious investments, though, and if I had to do it over, I’d say I should have taken the time to learn as much about those businesses as I’ve learned about my own.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Give form to your fears. Whenever you are scared to take the next step, or paralyzed by risk, grab some paper and write down EXACTLY what you frightens you. When you write them down, your fears become a lot less daunting.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Showing up every day and providing a ton of free, high-quality information that helps people build their business. My job is to make everyone successful. If I can do that, my success becomes a natural byproduct. Success is built on perspiration, not inspiration.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Related to the question above about ideas, I have been too quick – several times – to latch onto an idea and put a bunch of time and money into it without fully thinking through how it would fit into my existing businesses. I’ve had to shut down some projects as a result, which can be an expensive lesson. I think it’s the curse of people who are good at seeing market opportunities, but less good at focusing on the operational details of bringing them to fruition.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There are a TON of online courses out there now (I’m working on one too, about customer service). These courses are expensive, both in dollars and attention. But there is NO ratings and reviews system for them. If the course sucks, you’re just stuck. Someone needs to build Yelp for online courses. I was really close to doing this myself, but actually stopped myself because it doesn’t fit into my core business. (see, I’m learning!) But I really hope someone does this, and soon.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I pay $25/month for a mobile app called Pana that does all of my travel bookings. Hotels, flights, cars, restaurants. It’s a virtual assistant, in an app, for $25. A bargain at 10 times the price.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We have some 40 pieces of software that we use at Convince & Convert every day, and I’m an angel investor in 15 tech companies. So, this is an impossible question to answer completely. Some that I love include Buffer (the easiest social media software around); Lesson.ly (the easiest way to create online lessons and training); and LittleBird (which shows you who the influencers are in your category, and how to interact with them on Twitter).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Procrastinate on Purpose by my friend Rory Vaden. The best book on time management and prioritization ever written.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

This list would be 500+ if I wrote it out completely. So many people have helped me along the way, but I’ll mention just two because they were the FIRST two people with real online reputations to retweet my work, way back in 2008. First was Jason Falls, a brilliant digital marketing strategist. The second was Chris Brogan, an amazing small business consultant and author (@chrisbrogan).


Jay Baer on Twitter: @jaybaer