Building Better Customers with Sunny Hunt of Hunt Interaction
We’ve been told forever that ‘the customer is always right’. I’ve often felt less than loyal to that particular chunk of wisdom. Sometimes it seems that certain customers can be more trouble that they’re worth. I can hear the overly-optimistic among you saying ‘I can turn anyone into a customer’, but at what cost?
Sunny Hunt recognizes that not everyone is an ideal fit for the role of customer, and through her business Hunt Interaction, Sunny helps organizations determine who the best customers are and how best to reach, connect with and satisfy them. We interviewed Sunny and spoke about how she was inspired to start the business, why she loves the work she does and what the future might hold for her and the company.
Tell us about Hunt Interaction. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
I founded Hunt Interaction in 2012 as a marketing strategy and customer experience consultancy that helps our clients Build Better Customers. What does that mean? Every business has a right kind of customer and a wrong kind of customer. The right kind of customer recognizes value in the products and services you sell, buys from you, buys again, and tells their friends and family about your business. The wrong kind of customer only buys when you offer a discount, harasses your customer service teams, and trashes you on social media and to anyone who’ll listen.
We help our clients segment their existing customers, find the right kind of customers, reverse-engineer how they got these customers, and help them acquire more customers who buy their products and services. It’s a complicated and technical process that’s produced pretty astounding results for our customers.
In as much as we advise our clients to find the right kind of customer, we do the same with our clients. We’re small by design and work with a few, select clients at a time – this helps us provide the level of service and attention we want to be known for. Every client is not an ideal client.
How did you decide to start your own marketing company?
I’ve been in marketing for about 20 years in various capacities. I’ve worked for small boutique ad agencies, as the assistant to the assistant coffee-maker at larger agencies, and worked for larger companies “in-house”, eventually working my way up to Director and VP roles.
When I was little I used to watch TV shows that featured funny or creative commercials and I decided I wanted to be involved with the creation of content that made people smile and laugh. Either that, or I wanted to be a Veterinarian (what 10 year old girl doesn’t want to be a Vet and help animals?).
In High School I decided that chemistry wasn’t my “thing” (it was boring, didn’t light my fire, and I was more interested in helping a classmate give himself a tattoo with a safety pin and shaved graphite from a pencil) and gravitated towards advertising and marketing.
During my early years (when I wasn’t fetching coffee), I was drawn to the human interaction part of marketing. How did people respond? Did the campaign work? Why didn’t it work? What was the missing piece? This coupled with the rise of e-commerce and the fact you could measure EVERYTHING! Wow! Data models and math suddenly became very interesting to me and I wanted to measure everything. I wanted to make websites better, increase conversion rates and found myself acting as an advocate for customers. I was driven (and still am) by three driving questions: 1) How does this product solve a problem customers have? 2) How can we *show* them how this solves their problem? 3) How can we make the process of purchasing, and purchasing again, easier for customers?
You might’ve just covered most of this, but they say to be successful you have to be passionate; why do you love this work?
One of my key phrases I say a lot when I run into a bad online customer experience is, “What do I have to do to give you my money?” It’s a killer phrase. Literally. If your customers are saying this to you, you’re missing out on converting a ton of customers. This single phrase drives me every day to help create better experiences for my clients’ customers.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
It hasn’t been smooth sailing. I always envisioned myself being the “boss” one day. I just never thought it would be because I started my own company.
I was raised by a single mother who was working full time and putting herself through college. I didn’t have easy access to mentors, networking resources, or even “how to” advice – I didn’t even know how to ask for these things or that they were available to me. I figured it out on my own (which I don’t advise, it’s definitely the slow path). I clawed my way up the corporate food chain with performance reviews that continually told me I was being “too aggressive”, “too assertive”, “pushing too hard” and/or “trying to get too much accomplished” and for me to focus on softening my personality, even going so far as to suggest I amp up my snarky self-depricating humor with my staff, while still driving to exceed increasing revenue goals (how’s that for a contradiction?). I had enough, quit my J-O-B and decided to hang my shingle, be a better class of marketer, and not compromise who I am or what I want from my career.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
Life in my company has been pretty tame. I work hard to bring in quality clients who are sane and not batshit crazy. “Life is too short to work with assholes,” is a company motto when it comes to signing clients.
I worked for a company some years ago where a director in the Marketing department was accused of stealing nearly $750k from the company. The FBI was called in, all of her staff had to hire attorneys, there were tears, hand wringing, antidepressants, etc. It was a real shit show. Luckily, I didn’t work on her team and watched from the sidelines.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I try to take time off to do something non-brain related. I’m a knowledge worker, which means I spend a good portion of my day glued to a chair exercising my brain. Taking time off is essential, I have to reset, I have to think about something other than my clients and helping them make their businesses better. For me, this means working with my hands or doing something physical; gardening, hiking, refinishing old furniture. Learning how to paddleboard is on the list for the summer. When I’m doing something physical, it lets my brain rest. Honestly? My biggest breakthroughs for my clients have come in flashes while I’m working with my hands.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media is very important to my business. Making it work is always a challenge but dedicating time to choosing the right channels (Facebook isn’t particularly a good channel for my business) and engaging in a way that brings value to your network. Social isn’t always about me; in fact, I engage more with other people than I do posting my own self-promotional stuff. That’s the “social” in social media, and it’s easy to forget to do because it takes time and effort and sometimes a sense of empathy which is quickly becoming a lost art in our society.
Why did you choose a cloud based accounting system for your business?
I chose FreshBooks because I’m frequently on the go, in client meetings, or even traveling. Time tracking, expense reporting, and even invoice creation and delivery from my phone isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have. Bonus? My accountant can log in to my account and get all the data, reports and receipts he needs without me lifting a finger.
How did you find Freshbooks and why did you decide to try them out?
I’ve used FreshBooks for about 3 years now. I was looking online for accounting software and found options that were big, clunky and not intuitive at all. I didn’t have time learn a new piece of software (that may have required an accounting degree). I need to run my business and generate revenue. I found FreshBooks, took it for a quick test drive and was hooked.
What does this enable you to do as a small business owner?
Running a small business means you have to be on top of your game and super nimble. I can’t be productive and take care of my clients if I have to dedicate hours and hours entering data, recording receipts, and maintaining my accounting software. FreshBooks lets me run my business the way I need to.
How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
I relocated to Bluffton, South Carolina from Salt Lake City, Utah this year. It’s been exciting and stressful to say the least. In both Salt Lake City and Bluffton, I’m involved with local business organizations and offer time and resources to members of these organizations. Even though time is my most limited resource, it’s important to get involved with local organizations for professional and personal reasons. You live in the community and everyone wants to see the community they live in, thrive and grow. It’s important to invest your time to help other businesses and business owners.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
I recently signed a couple of exciting clients who have HUGE potential for growth over the short and long-term and I’m excited to help them boost their revenue and increase customer retention. Sadly, I’m under NDA and can’t say who they are. For my business, it’s not about the amount of money that comes through the door, it’s about how we make the money, treating our clients with respect, acting in their best interests (even when it conflicts with our own), and working with them to help their businesses grow and thrive.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
1) You’re not an expert. You may think you’re an expert at whatever you’re doing, but you’ll quickly discover there’s a ton you don’t know and need to learn quick. Get to it.
2) Hire an accountant and attorney before you hire anyone else. They’ll save your bacon.
3) Roll up your sleeves. As a business owner, you have to be willing to do the dirty work (the stuff you didn’t have to do in the past or the stuff you don’t want to do). Get over it.
4) Outsource things you’re not good at or don’t have time for. I have as assistant who helps me with administrative tasks, client coordination, and reporting for my clients – all things I just don’t have time to do.