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Building Community with Marketing Communication


Building community requires mastering the art of marketing communication. The right brand strategy one can even launch a movement. It’s raising awareness so we can move together in the right direction. And I talk to my team about that too. “How do you create a movement?”  We talk about moonshots and abundance. And so when you’re thinking of like, “what would the moonshot look like?” And what would be the entry-level to the moonshot? And part of it is just having the conversation to know that’s something to think about.

In This Episode, Cheryl and Lee Discuss:

  • Build a community through marketing communication.
  • Connection with your community.
  • Education marketing, marketing communication, and taking time to lay the foundation and build before you launch.
  • Evolving your brand as the needs of your client base evolves.
  • The importance of marketing communication.

Key Takeaways:

  • Community involvement is a win-win when it comes to building a community
  • Make a plan!
  • Test the market; know what your customer really wants and that’s where building a community helps.
  • Educate yourself and ask for help where you need it.

People who are CEOs of the company speak for the avatar, but they’re not their ideal avatar. So they need to really know the voice of the Avatar and how to meet with them and how to really support them and how to have a community leader, you know, speak to them directly.Lee Richter

Connect with Lee Richter


Today on the Brandaide Podcast:

Lee Richter [0:02]

People who are CEOs of the company speak for the avatar, but they're not their ideal avatar. So they need to really know the voice of the avatar and how to meet with them and how to really support them and how to have a community leader speak to them directly.

Intro [0:21]

Welcome to Brandaide where we answer the question, what does it take to launch your own brand (R)evolution, create Evolution, and who are the people that help you foster Connection, Community, Contribution, and Currency for a Brand built to last? You will also meet brands changing the world and the lives of those they serve. Here's your host, Cheryl Hodgson.

Cheryl Hodgson [0:43]

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Brandaide Podcast. I'm Cheryl Hodgson, your host and today I have a guest that I'm very joyful and happy to introduce. Her name is Lee Richter, with Richter Communications and Design Group. Is that correct, Lee?

Lee Richter [0:59]

Awesome. Thank you, and thanks for having me.

Cheryl Hodgson [1:03]

Lee is one of the most interesting and talented women in business I've ever met in my life. And so you're going to be in for a treat today to hear Lee share some of her wisdom of how she has helped brands build their messaging, their marketing, and actually maybe even the story of the Pet Mayor, we might actually get into that. So welcome, Lee. It's so nice to have you here.

Lee Richter [1:30]

Thank you. And I love being here with you, Cheryl. Thank you.

Cheryl Hodgson [1:34]

So Lee, one of the stories that I love, I heard you on another podcast, which I think I mentioned and I've known you for several years now. But I just loved the story. And I'd love to share at least part of it because I thought it was such an amazing story of how you helped build the pet practice, the veterinary practice there in the East Bay.

Lee Richter [2:03]

In the East Bay on the west coast. In Montclair, which is the Oakland Hills and really right outside of San Francisco. About 10 or 11 miles outside of San Francisco. And it's a really great place here in the East Bay. My husband Gary and I, my husband Gary's a veterinarian. I have the marketing background and the PR, and the love of branding. And he is a veterinarian who loves medicine and animals. So we married our two skills, bought a veterinary hospital in 2001. And when we bought it, it had already been there for 40 years. And at that time, they had 3,500 current clients, meaning they saw 3,500 unique clients in a 12 month period. And so my husband and I bought it and we just put both of our business acumen with his medicine acumen, and built it into a little empire I guess you could say, and spun off several companies since then, in the animal related industry.

Cheryl Hodgson [3:03]

The thing that captured my imagination about the story, I had known that you had worked to build that practice and you actually sold the practice finally, didn't you?

Lee Richter [3:15]

We had the general practice for 18 years. We sold it last year. And we have a holistic practice for 12 years. We launched it in a unique location 10 years ago. Our 10 year anniversary on site for that will be this March.

Cheryl Hodgson [3:29]

And that's a matter of incredible timing, because people really want that type of care not only for themselves, but for their pets as well.

Lee Richter [3:39]

That's part of what motivated us is through better health care for ourselves, we realized we needed better health care for animals. We learned the Chinese medicine approach for that reason.

Cheryl Hodgson [3:49]

And one of the things that I've been playing with, I've had the pleasure to be in a Mastermind with Joel Bauer. And one of his little training things he teaches is about finding three words that help describe something that you might be teaching or the process to help people relate to an easier way. And I've been torn by the notion of which is one of the reasons why I started the Brandaide Podcast, which is what really is a brand anyway? You and I've talked about this in the past, and I'm bringing this up because it relates to your story. The words I've been playing with are Connection, Community, and Currency. And to me that really gets down to what building a brand is about in today's world is making a Connection, and then building some sort of Community. So and then that translates into Currency which can be monetary reward, but also Currency as in reputation. And in goodwill.

Lee Richter [4:56]

And even energy is a currency there's all different forms of currency. And that's one of the beautiful things Joe Polish talks about and Dan Sullivan talks about is energy as a currency and resources in many different ways that we bring value to the table.

Cheryl Hodgson [5:09]

Exactly. And that's what you did with your veterinary practice and why it became so successful. I know it wasn't an overnight success, there was some hard work, but I love the marketing thing you came up with, which really built Community and Connection with your patients, which was the Pet Mayor. Could you share about that?

Lee Richter [5:33]

About 15 years ago, it was a stroke of luck. What happened as a PR marketing person is, I joined the board of directors of our town and I volunteered to help them with the PR and marketing because I would bring ideas to the whole village, not just our business, but there's 95 businesses in Montclair, so I'm like, "how do I bring good stuff, not just a Montclair Vet Hospital but to the whole village?" So I joined the board and I was on the board for 14 years. And in around year two or three, we were approached by a radio station, and it's called Hometown The Bone. 107 The Bone. And what they were doing was saying that their different DJs lived in different parts of the Bay Area, and they wanted to do a hometown show from their hometown, and one of the DJs was from Montclair. So they came to me and they said, "Can we do a live show from Montclair and have our DJ there and let's figure out something that would be fun." And so that is how the Pet Mayor was born. Because in our town, we had a little guy named Percy the pug, who we all said was the most amazing pug we'd ever met. And we wanted to highlight him and his commitment to the community and to bringing goodwill. So we're like, "let's have a Pet Mayor contest and anyone can join in and we can highlight Percy the pug that way and so that's how it was born was by helping the radio station. That in turn inspired us to do it over and over again for nearly 15 years already.

Cheryl Hodgson [6:55]

And Percy the pug was actually the first Pet Mayor.

Lee Richter [7:00]

He was the first Pet Mayor and the second. Because in the second year, someone came in at the last minute and donated like $3,000 to get them over the end to make sure that they won. So he had a whole fan base that then contributed to his success. So he was a good representative.

Cheryl Hodgson [7:16]

So this was a contest.

Lee Richter [7:20]

It was a contest. And every donation went to Pets and Wildlife in Need. And each donation, it was $1 a vote, but you could vote as many times as you want, and clearly be involved as much as you want. Over the years, the Pet Mayor's led our parades, the Halloween parade, basically the Pet Mayor would sit in the front seat of a convertible and lead the parade. Whoever its owner was or the business that represented it would be included. And it just was joyful and fun. You know, but it was a way for us to get out in the community. The number one reason why we did this is, for six weeks we were part of the farmers' market, which was another endeavor that we did. We were like, "what if we set up a booth at the farmers market, people can come out to meet the pet contestants for Pet Mayor, they could talk about what they were standing for and whatever they wanted to do with the community." But also we'd have the veterinarians there that the community could just connect with, like you said earlier, connection matters more than anything. And what we do is we created a place where the community and the veterinarians can just come and have a conversation, could meet, and then talk about their love of pets and how to help through the Pet Mayor. So it was a win-win all the way around.

Cheryl Hodgson [8:30]

Did you see over time that that really impacted the business from a monetary...

Lee Richter [8:38]

Absolutely! It really did in so many ways. Goodwill internally, goodwill externally. Internally, our team felt really good to be part of something that was bigger than just day to day activities. This year, we were helping pets and wildlife in need. We had a long standing relationship with Lindsay Wildlife Museum, so people dropped off pets in need, we would take care of them and then that data would be transferred to Lindsay Wildlife. So we created that community. And it was a way for the team to feel really special about what they were doing. It was really a lot of goodwill in the community. It was really needed. And even though there was a cost that was attached to it, now we were raising funds to offset the cost, and we could do more of it. So the doctors were happy about it because they could also be great doctors and come in, a lot of them would come in on their day off and volunteer to do a special surgery or something needed, just so they can help that pet or wildlife need, but they would do it not based on money, they would do it based on goodwill, helping their skills be better, teaching the team something, and just doing the right thing. So it was a winner all the way around.

Cheryl Hodgson [9:41]

I keep going back to my words, which started out as three by the way, but one of my guests on the podcast a couple weeks ago said "you need to change one of the words," and I couldn't get rid of one of them, so I added in a fourth which is Contribution. And so, you know, in terms of brands that people ultimately connect with, whether it's as an individual or as someone in a product is, there has to be a sense of contribution. And that ties back, I think what you were just saying about your employees and the staff, they felt they were more invested because they were doing something that was making a contribution,

Lee Richter [10:20]

contribution of positive impacts. But also, they receive something out of it too, because not only did, their heart would feel good. They would connect with people differently. But at the end of the day, they felt like what they did really mattered. It really made a difference.

Cheryl Hodgson [10:35]

Yeah. And I think that's a huge problem for anybody building a brand is the company culture. And it's obviously much more difficult when you have 30,000 employees and an airline, but I mean, even a smaller business. If people don't feel that sense of purpose. It's not just about money.

Lee Richter [10:55]

That's very true. And that's one of the things in the last 10 years as the millennials have started coming into our workforce. Everyone was talking about, they have to be tied into something bigger and better and more valuable. And what I realized is, first of all, we're all millennials, we're in the millennial era together. So if we are, and we're thinking the same way of "how can we be even better? And how can we make an even better impact?" Then it engages them. So I noticed it with my holistic team. Some of them wanted to do things on the weekends to help clients even for free just because it makes them feel so good. And have to see, what's the best way to handle those things, where they're feeling good and doing a great thing, but also that makes sense for us and for the clients and for the business in general. I see a little guest there.

Cheryl Hodgson [11:41]

I have my own little Pet Mayor who's decided to make a brief appearance on the show.

Lee Richter [11:49]

And bringing lots of love and kisses, which is why I love this.

Cheryl Hodgson [11:53]

We invited her to be a special guest and I've elected her as my Pet Mayor of my household. Or she's elected herself. This is Minnie.

Lee Richter [12:00]

Minnie is in charge for sure. Minnie is the mayor.

Cheryl Hodgson [12:05]

Okay Minnie, thanks for joining us. Goodbye now wave to everybody.

Lee Richter [12:09]

Minnie is the perfect contender for Mayor. And by the way, our other titles, just for fun, so you can hear, we would have more than 20 candidates come in. So we would have a primary than the top 20 candidates would go and they would make it to the finals. And in the finals, the top eight would get titles and it was like the Pet Mayor, the Vice Mayor, the Bark Ranger, the Secretary of Steak, the Cat Attorney General, had a lot of fun with it. We had a pony win one time, on the staff, we had chicken win one time. We had whoever was in the top eight that won would get the titles and the posters and they'd be crowned in front of the community and it was so much fun. I love it and we look forward to doing it again.

Cheryl Hodgson [13:00]

Also what's really remarkable if I understood correctly, wasn't this idea picked up and adopted by other communities?

Lee Richter [13:08]

Oh, yeah, other communities, people from Alaska called me, people from different states call me and say, "can we use it in our community?" and we let them have the process. And the things we learned. We used to do 12 weeks of Pet Mayor, we narrowed it down to eight weeks, and then six weeks, because sometimes we got a little busy at work. And we're like, "we still have to do our jobs." But we always want to make sure that we connect with the community and have this special thing. And also, I need to make sure the team can come out. We usually did that on Sundays when we're closed, which meant the team was giving up a Sunday, my husband was giving up a Sunday, but they loved it and they love meeting the community. So we learned a lot along the way.

Cheryl Hodgson [13:45]

Going back to the holistic clinic, how does that differ as a brand and what you're providing to the community from a regular veterinary practice?

Lee Richter [14:00]

That's a really good question because initially, we didn't really see it as separate and we really don't now. But if you look at medicine, there are many choices in medicine, but general practice might be this many. And then holistic is a whole nother additional modalities and things to go to. So if we're looking at the whole health of a pet or a person, we're going to look at what are the best modalities to keep them where they are right now and improving. How do we create longevity in their life and comfort in their life and health in their life and wellness in their life? So what we do for animals is really parallel to what we do for people. Sometimes we're even more generous with animals because we can be, we live under different laws and systems. FDA approvals are different. State laws are different. So it just depends but a lot of times I tell people, "the gateway to better human health is through animal health" because I'll have a client come in, maybe their dog was diagnosed with cancer or some sort of ailment, we will do a modality for them maybe hyperbaric oxygen or stem cell therapy or a combination of things, herbal medicine, and they'll make it through the other side, and they'll be better. And the doctor that they originally went to will be surprised at how they improved through this cancer diagnosis. And then that same client gets something similar, they go to the doctor, their doctor doesn't give them the same choices, but then they went and investigated it. And guess what, now they're on the other side of cancer too. So this client that I'm thinking of in particular needed an HVOT series, but because of her dog getting an HVOT series, she learned to ask for it for herself. And from that she's now on the other side of her diagnosis. So it allows people to learn more about how to take great care of their pets, and then apply it to themselves.

Cheryl Hodgson [15:51]

I want to back up a minute because you've had a fascinating background. You started out in the corporate world in the financial services with Merrill Lynch correct?

Lee Richter [15:59]

Yes, I started with them in 1984. And I was in the financial industry. I was a Series Seven licensed stock broker and worked in the financial industry all the way till 1998. So for 14 years, I got a financial education and experience and contacts actually, really great mentors along the way too.

Cheryl Hodgson [16:18]

What was your transition out of that corporate world, which I'm sure and especially dealing with financial things, and products and services into being the marketing aficionado that you are today?

Lee Richter [16:36]

I don't think anyone's ever specifically asked me that question before. On camera or in front of me. What happened was my husband finished veterinary school. While he was in vet school, I actually went back and got another degree in journalism, PR and marketing. The reason I did was, while I was in finance, I learned one of my favorite things, was creating educational seminars and workshops and teaching people how to invest. I would teach women entrepreneurs, I would teach women professors. I would teach groups of professors. And I realized how much I love that. So while my husband was in vet school at University of Florida, and they were known for their marketing and PR and journalism. And so I decided while I was there, why not get another degree and learn the proper way of doing PR and marketing and journalism so that I knew I was doing it the right way, not just guessing. And so actually getting a journalism degree was very, very powerful in my career. Not only did I become a better writer, but my husband did as well as my editor. And now he's writing and publishing more than me, he's published books, he's published all kinds of things. And I could see the learning that I had in school come through and his writing. So it was really good timing as a partnership that we went back and while he was doing medicine, I was doing marketing. And now it works beautifully, because he could stay in his lane. And I could stay in mind but both of us add so much value to our businesses and what we're growing in our little empire of the world.

Cheryl Hodgson [18:00]

What is some of the greatest, I'd say challenges you see, because you work for other clients as well...

Lee Richter [18:12]

Other clients, yes, but most of them now, I will say in the beginning of my career, one of my first clients was Merrill Lynch, another one of my first clients was Autodesk. So I had some big corporate clients that helped me get started in my firm with my PR marketing company. And I did a lot in the E-learning forum. So I worked with Stanford Research Institute, an E-learning forum, I was part of that. And I brought that education into E learning and online learning. And then what happened is, as I had my own business, I started bringing up more and more to my own companies. And so we have an education company called My Pet Thrives. We have the Event Planners Association. These are things that I've learned in internet marketing that I brought to verticals to help elevate them and co-elevate with them. What I've done is I've mixed the business acumen with the financial, with the PR, and marketing, because what I learned is no matter what the businesses, the marketing is the driver. It really is and so even in the veterinary hospital, you can be a great veterinarian. But if people don't know about you, and they don't know how to visit your hospital, you're just going to be a quiet secret. So the marketing is how you connect with your ideal clients. And so I learned whether it's in my PR and marketing company, as an agency, or whether it's in the veterinary hospitals, or helping other clients with their businesses, it's really applying the same science and just learning those industries and elevating together.

Cheryl Hodgson [19:30]

One of the things that I find remarkable about you and also everyone I've met in the internet marketing world and that's sort of a broad term these days, but you come from more of a traditional background, I would say because of your Merrill Lynch background. I guess there's two questions here, one, how did you first get into the whole world of learning Internet Marketing and some of the people we've met mutually and know the same people, and then how has that impacted your deliverables to your clients?

Lee Richter [20:13]

In 1998, I became one of the co-leads on the Autodesk projects for E-learning. And so by doing that, I was invited to Stanford Research Institute's E-learning forum at Stanford. So going in there representing my clients, I had like five or six clients in the room. Some of those companies have been bought out by other companies. But Autodesk is still around and they did online learning for engineers and architects and bridge makers. And so I worked on that project. Then I had another project that was online learning for college students, another one that was for high school students. One of the companies was called So because I was representing those companies in the PR and marketing world, I was in the room at Stanford learning how to build online communities. And it was beautiful because one of the things I learned at that time was the best mix. is for every five times that you have a touch point with a learner, whether it's a student in high school or college, for every five touch points, if four online and one is in person, that's the most impactful. So I started taking that method out into the world to the different verticals and being "Okay, let's do trainings, four online, one in person, and see how we can build this community." And then I started bringing in to the vet hospitals. And I was watching Pet MD, we were internally helping with the launch of Pet MD tack then, I was watching that and thinking, "How do I apply that to the veterinary industry?" And so that's how it blossomed into doing it inside of my brands. And then once I did it inside of my brands, it was easier to help other people with their brands. I have a couple of membership communities because of it. People come for mastery, but they stay for the community. And so it's just like you said before, it's back into the collaboration, the connection, the community, the creation, it's all these magical seeds that work together. And then the cash comes eventually because you create an opportunity for you and your partners to have income streams and support the community. So just as a fun model, I love it.

Cheryl Hodgson [22:12]

The community part is something that, I have a couple of little monitors from my own experience. One is like I was the Lone Ranger, I played the role of the Lone Ranger. And I didn't do it intentionally, but that's the label I have for it now. I think it was Mary Morrissey, who talked about the Lone Ranger syndrome. Somehow along the way, I heard her say that.

Lee Richter [22:33]

A lot of entrepreneurs and professionals and here you were an attorney, and other people are, even people who do acupuncture, they might have an office where they're the only one in it. And so it happens a lot where entrepreneurs can be that Lone Ranger I understand that.

Cheryl Hodgson [22:47]

It took me a long time to realize that mine came from just an adaptive mechanism from when I was a child when my dad got sick and he had a very serious injury. He had a brain aneurysm and I was eight years old and he was a wonderful man but obviously it impacted our household and my childhood in a lot of ways. So my way of coping was, "I'll make straight A's, I'll be the perfect kid." I kind of adopted this thing. "Well, I don't need any help. I can do it on my own.". And that was great when I was younger because I had a lot of drive and ambition to get to a certain point. But then, as I got older, it became counterproductive, because none of us can succeed without a community.

Lee Richter [23:32]

It's true. I love Dan Sullivan. I love working with him. I'm in his, it was Game Changer, now it's his highest level mastermind. And he's just amazing. And that's one of the things he says is, "we need a community, we need other people." The more we co-elevate together, the more fun it is. And it doesn't have to be money focused. It has to be like impact focused. Like we started our conversation is "how do we make the best positive impact?"

Cheryl Hodgson [23:59]

I think the community comes from shared values and some sort of shared interest.

Lee Richter [24:09]

We're so focused on shared learning, and looking for those learning opportunities. Not only for us, for internal growth and for learning, but also for our clients. And so it's that one little flagpole that we're all rallied around. It's amazing how many ideas are bubbling up.

Cheryl Hodgson [24:24]

Maybe you could share a little bit more about that. Because if we're talking to someone who's building a brand, number one, when do they need to start thinking about a brand? And how does the learning aspect you're talking about fit into the community and the connection we're talking about?

Lee Richter [24:40]

That's smart, because I actually start every brand with a three-year runway. So I will come up with the branding ideas, the URL, set up all the infrastructure, the S-corp, or LLC or even C-Corp, sometimes. I'll do all of that and get myself a three year runway to actually build the business up to something. There's people I know that at year three, they're already doing $60 million or more in business, so not everyone takes this method. But in my companies, I give myself a little bit of runway, and then I build into it. So I have one company I launched two years ago, that is already a seven-figure company. But what happened was, I already set the infrastructure up for it. So that even though we're really in our second year of business, full-fledged business, we had two years before that, that we set everything up. And we have a little bit of history, we had a little bit of growth. And then we hit the ground running a year ago, and now we're in our second year starting our third year. So we're way ahead of schedule for that company. But it's an online education company called My Pet Thrives. And in that is a community to help people understand what their choices are in holistic medicine. It was not set up to be a money maker, it was set up to serve a community and bring a community together, and then give opportunities for experts to share their information and that created an opportunity for income streams. So we didn't go out there in the beginning saying we wanted to make an ROI from day one. What we said is, "we want to build a community," we actually had over 3000 members in the community before we offered anything for them to consume other than free content we gave them. So it didn't take long to ramp up. Because there's a big community that wants to take care of their pets and already supports us. But now we're creating return on investment and looking at ROI for the future. So we gave ourselves a little runway, so it wasn't always feeling like we're late or rushed or hurried. We were just letting it genuinely blossom and grow together and feel good. The team felt really good about it. We were hitting our milestones and having fun, but we weren't freaked out or having big hard deadlines. We just gradually grew into it.

Cheryl Hodgson [26:48]

But you did have a plan. One of the things that I've talked to myself about sometimes, but also with my own clients, sometimes it's easier to see for other people than it is for yourself in building a business, but you don't have to know everything because as the saying goes, life is what happens after you make a plan.

hter [27:10]

And having an alternate plan and alternate ideas that can fall back on as needed.

Cheryl Hodgson [27:20]

But at least having a vision and a direction you're headed in.

Lee Richter [27:27]

By the way in December, we just did our third annual plan for this company, My Pet Thrives, and we looked at the year before and the year before that, and we're really on the same plan. It hasn't even changed that much. We're like, "well, we're pretty much still doing what we intended to do." The numbers have shifted a little, a couple more ideas came into it, but it wasn't anything dramatic changing. It's just a consistent speed ahead kind of thing.

Cheryl Hodgson [27:53]

Is My Pet Thrives something that is marketed to the public or people who are more interested in...

Lee Richter [28:01]

No, it's marketed to the public. What is we launched a product a year ago, just over a year ago called Nutrithrive, and that is a product to help pets with their health care. And it's a supplement to put on their food, it gives them all these different vitamins and nutrients and different things. There's 40 ingredients for them. And so when we launched that, what we realized is the community absolutely loves it. We so many, many thousands of them last year, into the millions actually, we've produced more than a million of them in the last 12 months. And so what's happened is, the community we wanted to support them as well with ideas, not just the one thing around nutrition, but what else can you do to add a really healthy lifestyle? And what we thought is, "why don't we launch a free site so that we can just share it with anybody whether they bought the product or not?" because we want all pets to be healthy and if they start with good habits and their person who loves them has good habits for them, they'll thrive more. So that's how it all started. And originally we did think we were going to launch a paid membership site because we learned that when people pay, they pay attention. But what I realized is I didn't want that to be a guardrail for some people to not be able to get the information. So we decided to make it free up front. And then we'll have mastery classes in there. And we'll keep offering experts coming in. And we'll just create other parts to it, the mastery parts, as we go along.

Cheryl Hodgson [29:21]

So now you bring in experts to share information with the public, right?

Lee Richter [29:26]

Yeah, it could be other veterinarians, we have veterinarians on deck. We're doing a couple filming days coming up where veterinarians are coming in and sharing, sometimes it's the nurses, sharing things that they learned or the physical therapy people that they've learned, that can be helpful for people. Like, don't let your dog like Minnie, who's very small, if Minnie jumps up and down from the bed 20 times a day, and if you look at the bed is four times her height, then think of yourself jumping four times your height 20 times a day and you're like, "Hmm, maybe I won't do that over time. Maybe I'll put some steps there." So what we'll do is raise awareness on "what would happen if you did that every single day for the next 20 years or even 10 years? What if you did that every day for the next 10 years?" You would feel it in your body! Well, I wonder why they get arthritis when they're 10 years older, their back starts hurting them. Because of all those times they did it. So if we raise awareness early on, when they're a puppy, put steps in teach, them to go up and down the steps, that will save their back later from that 10 times jumping off the bed every day.

Cheryl Hodgson [30:26]

That's a wonderful description, because what I hear for me, and that's part of what I'm doing with the podcast, I was trying to come up with, "what is really my message and who's my target?" and it's going to evolve probably, as I've heard one person say, based on what the audience really wants to hear over time. But I got to thinking about the other thing about brands that really succeed and breakthrough and connect with people in a big way, and I don't mean it has to be like a worldwide global brand. I mean even within their market, it can be a niche market, is in some way, they're creating a Revolution and an Evolution. An Evolution and moving forward. So just what we're talking about, you or your husband have created an Evolution in petcare. A conversation that wasn't existing before.

Lee Richter [31:55]

And you actually even said "a movement", but it really is a movement. It's raising awareness so we can move together in the right direction. And I talked to my team about that too. "How do you create a movement?" We talk about moonshots and abundance. And so when you're thinking of like, "what would the moonshot look like?" And what would be the entry level to the moonshot? And part of it is just having the conversation to know that's something to think about.

Cheryl Hodgson [31:54]

Revolution may not be for me. I was debating where the word Revolution is, that can be loaded, but a revolution can be a positive thing too.

Lee Richter [32:07]

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. That's why they have disruptors in different industries. And some people don't want to be the disruptor and the first one there because it is kind of lonely. And there are arrows that can be found in your back. I'm in a place where it's a $70 billion plus industry in the US, and there's multi billion dollar players in there. And so they want to own the field in a lot of these discussions and these things, so I have to be very careful what I bring to the table and what I do and make sure it's in collaboration and not in competition.

Cheryl Hodgson [32:39]

So if you had some advice for an aspiring brand owner, and I use that term kind of broadly, but someone who is really trying to build a business and find out how to get their voice and their message and their product or their service out there. What would be some advice based on all your wisdom and years of experience that you would share?

Lee Richter [33:04]

Well, the first thing you mentioned earlier is "make a plan". Really know your customer. Know how you want to serve them. What's the language they use? Where do they hang out? What podcasts do they listen to? What magazines do they read? What TV shows do they watch? Really get to know your avatar. Sometimes you are, but a lot of times you are not your avatar. And people who are CEOs of the company speak for the avatar, but they're not their ideal avatar. So they need to really know the voice of the avatar and how to meet with them and how to really support them and how to have a community leader speak to them directly. Really know that. And then create your plan around how you want to bring a product to the market or a service to the market, how to reach that audience, how to get feedback from them, how to get testimonials, how to get them as paying clients, and then keep them happy. That's the number one thing. I love it that my average clients come 2.5 to 10 times per year to see us. At the general practice it might only be once a year, but at the holistic practice that's continuing, if they come once per quarter, it's really beautiful. It's the same for us. It's like getting a tune up each season. Well, I want to train my clients to do the same thing, really be tuned into your pet's health and wellbeing every season because it changes. Their skin changes, their hair changes, their nutrition, their exercise, everything changes. So if we're working with them in partnership, we'll keep them healthier. So I think just knowing what your audience needs and talking to them in the rhythm that they need it and bringing them products and services that will enhance their experience.

Cheryl Hodgson [34:42]

What is the number one mistake you've seen young businesses make when you've started working with them? Have you seen any pitfalls of something you would say has been a challenge?

Lee Richter [34:57]

They need to know what their customer really wants. Because sometimes people have a great idea and they come up with this whole product and they didn't test the market and then the customer doesn't really want that, or there's something else similar, or somebody else already came out with something better. Really knowing what your customer wants, and fulfilling that.

Cheryl Hodgson [35:16]

Also we kind of talked about this with the Lone Ranger syndrome, but knowing when to ask for help, or who to ask for help from.

Lee Richter [35:26]

Knowing the Who, that is one of our biggest educations that we're learning in the past 12 months is, "Who is going to help us with that?" is basically the first question I asked them almost everything we do, knowing the right Who is really very valuable.

Cheryl Hodgson [35:40]

From my own experience, there was so much I didn't know. I didn't know anything. As someone said to me many years ago, the biggest challenge of being a lawyer is it can narrow one to a point. If you're within a specialty. And yet, I always craved and wanted to know more about marketing, but it was so foreign to me.

Lee Richter [36:06]

It is to almost everything. I do a Mentor Monday with the San Francisco Business Times in San Francisco, and we do it one or two times a year and, like literally 700 people will come out for mentoring. And I will see across all different disciplines, whether they went through engineering, medicine, dental, it doesn't matter. Almost every one of them, they're like, "the one thing I didn't get was marketing." "The one thing I didn't get was marketing." So my mind will be really long with people who want mentoring. And they'll be attorneys. A lot of them are attorneys, actually, they're like, "I didn't really learn marketing and I need to understand it." So that is one of the things that really crosses almost every single industry. So I do agree with you, one piece of advice to give students going into school is make sure they get marketing classes, and then also really just Google "marketing books" and see what is interesting to you and start self-educating. "What does it take to reach my ideal client?"

Cheryl Hodgson [37:00]

That's great advice. One of the things I've really latched on to just myself recently is building a StoryBrand. Have you?

Lee Richter [37:09]

Yes. I've known StoryBrand for many years, and I actually do a StoryBrand on every brand we work on.

Cheryl Hodgson [37:14]

Oh, is that right?

Lee Richter [37:15]

I actually was looking at two of ours that we wrote maybe three years ago, just a couple days ago, we were in the office, and we pulled out what we wrote three years ago to compare to how we feel about it today.

Cheryl Hodgson [37:25]

Well, I'm just totally enamored with that process

Lee Richter [37:29]

It's beautiful, because really, it is being a guide. So here's somebody and their expertise. And there's a client who really has a challenge. And if you can show up in your expertise and be the guide and guide them through it, with a three-part plan and make it really simple. And "here's what happens if you do it, here's what happens if you don't." Showing that contrast, "Wait, when we do it, look at all the great things that can happen. And if we don't do it, look at what we can lose or market share we lose or opportunities we missed." So if you show that contrast, and it's big enough, and it's really worth your time, so I think it's a brilliant way. And that's a great book to put on everyone's reading list is StoryBrand, because it's a great way to see what is the right next action to take?

Cheryl Hodgson [38:13]

And it's simplifying your message. I've been in the perpetual process of rebuilding the Brandaide website for several years now, and it's still not there. But that was an aha moment for me. When, what I heard was, "you just simplify what's on the website, and that should be like one sentence," which is, "yeah, here's what I do. We help people do ABC" and speak directly to your target customer. And then anything else doesn't matter because that person who hits your page will either connect with that, or they won't.

Lee Richter [38:54]

They self-select in or out.
n [38:56]

We overly complicate. I want to thank you so much, but before we go, I always have a question: "what is on your bucket list for either this year or sometime in the future that you haven't done that you aspire or dream about?"

Lee Richter [39:17]

Just simple things. January 1, I sat down and put which adventures did I want this year and three months in Maui is part of it because I just want to be able to be there and be in the Maui spirit and I go every single year, I've gone for 22 years, and last year I think I went six weeks or eight weeks and this year I want to go a full 12 weeks. My husband's kind of tricky to figure it all out so we can be there as much together and, and our daughter of course who's gone every single year since she was born and she's 15 now.

Cheryl Hodgson [39:47]

Do you have a favorite spot on Maui?

Lee Richter [39:48]

We have a place in Kapalua I love. I love it, love it, love it. And she's been taking golf lessons there for about eight or nine years. And it's just so fun to be there. But my adventures include, I'm working on getting to Portugal, I've been wanting to go for years. I have a couple of reasons why I want to go this year and I haven't been there yet. And I'm wondering why. So I want to go there. And Croatia.

Cheryl Hodgson [40:14]

That's my list too!

Lee Richter [40:17]

I've been invited there many, many times. And MindValley had some events there I wanted to go to and I've missed it. I'm like, "Okay, I'm gonna get there. I'm gonna get there." I've been close. In Venice and different parts of Italy. I've been right there. So I'd love to see if I can make that happen. My daughter's birthday though. She's gonna turn 16 this summer, and I promised to take her to France. And we've learned when going to France, hit Iceland on the way back. So I'd like to get that in as well. We're working on making that happen. It all involves travel and adventures. Really that's my bucket list is more fun traveling and being adventuresome.

Cheryl Hodgson [40:50]

Awesome. And then is there something that most people wouldn't know about you? That would be surprising?

Lee Richter [40:54]

You know I'm addicted to animals. I have two dogs and a cat and I'm just madly, madly in love with them. And I created a TED talk called Pets are Influencers Too, because they have such great ways of influencing our life to be so much better when we pay attention. In my calling, my husband and I have been together, we met in the Bahamas in 1988 on spring break, and I'm just so lucky and fortunate that I picked the right mate that helps me have a better life. And by him loving animals, he allows me to have a way for me to care for them as well and make a big, big impact. So that lights me up. Our daughter, Abby is the center of our universe and lights up my life every day and she's my guide. The ironic thing is not always is our guide someone older than us, and has been there, sometimes it's just someone to pay attention to because they're enlightened and they have something to share and when I think about it, my best guide on the planet is my daughter Abby. She points me in the right way.

Cheryl Hodgson [41:54]

That's beautiful. I haven't met her yet, but I've certainly seen some of her accomplishments. She's been very successful in her own right.

Lee Richter [42:11]

She inspires me. She's already done two TEDx talks and I'm like, "wait a second if you've done two, I'd better start getting something done." So she inspires me for sure.

Awesome. Last but not least, is there something you would like to share with the audience? At your website, or we could post a link if there's a free gift you'd like to offer the audience?

Lee Richter [42:20]

Yeah, I'd be happy to and you can put it in the show notes I've learned. Oh easy. I do have a Go Ask Lee website, I do have some gifts there I asked my team to put together so we'll share that link with you to put in the show notes. But I believe it's

Cheryl Hodgson [42:41]


Lee Richter [42:43] I have different things, and I figured based on our conversation today, we would know exactly what to put in there that would be fun for your audience. One of the things I love to share is just checklists and things that help me run my business and do things. So I'll look for some good things to put in there for you and your beautiful audience.

Cheryl Hodgson [43:01]

Well, thank you, Lee. I'm so grateful that you made time from your busy schedule to join us today. And I look forward to the pleasure of having you back again soon for your next great accomplishment. To hear about your next great adventure, including perhaps your trip to Portugal.

Lee Richter [43:16]

So yes, I look forward to it. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Cheryl Hodgson [43:20]

Bye everyone!

Lee Richter is an award-winning business innovator and visionary recognized by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the top 100 Women Business Leaders from 2013-2019. Lee is a business strategy genius. As the CEO of Richter communications, she is passionate about designing and launching marketing campaigns and products that represent her mission and values. Her business acumen and talent has generated results nationally and internationally for clients including Bank of America, Merryl Lynch, Autodesk, Stanford Research Institute,, The Pet Concierge, Del Webb, and many others.

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