What I Learned – Playing Putt-Putt with Chad Marshall

(This post is part of the continuing series called, “What I Learned.” In this series, I keep track of things that sparked my brain during different events and experiences.)

I’ve long said that the Seattle Sounders do more smart things for their fans and supporters than any team I’ve ever run across. Last week, they held a small event, hosting a pub night at a local bar near the stadium. The bar features a 9 hole indoor putt-pitt course, and as luck would have it, I got to play mini-golf with Sounders CB Chad Marshall and LM Aaron Kovar.

Both guys were great. Marshall was drinking a beer, and talking about golf and his 2 year old kid. Kovar is a friendly kid who looks like a guy you’d sit next to on a bus, going to his job at Amazon.
Of course, I didn’t think of anything really good to ask them until I was already home, but I did learn one thing. We talked a little about language barriers and how the team deals with that in training. Marshall admitted it’s a real problem for teams. Each team has interpreters on staff to translate what the coaches are saying in terms of strategy and game plans. But on the field for example, some players only speak Spanish, one only speaks French, and some – including the Goalkeeper – only speak English. So when a team is defending free kicks, basically the only words they can say to each other are “left, right, and back.”
My takeaway – whenever you see a goal scored from a free kick, especially if someone lost their mark, there was probably some sort of miscommunication between guys who speak different languages. I can only imagine what it must be like in Eurpoean leagues.

What I Learned – Chris Isaak at Chateau Ste Michelle

(This post is part of the “What I Learned” Series, in which I share things I picked up during different events and experiences.)

It seems like Chris Isaak has been around since I first learned to turn on a radio. He has a song that any casual music fan would recognize no matter where it was playing, a few that casual music fans would recognize. But if you are like me, you’d be hard-pressed to name 5 Chris Isaak songs if your life depended on it.

Chris Isaak also plays at Chateau Ste Michelle every year. It’s a beautiful place to see a show, but what could get 5,000 people to plunk down $50 every year for the same show, to see a show they’ve probably seen before?

Isaak split up his show by engaging in long conversations with his audience. He comes out in crazy sequins on his coat. He introduces his bandmates, sharing how they’ve been together for 32 years. He tells stories that seem like they are coming off the cuff, not some sort of pre-rehearsed monologue. By starting the show with an attitude of, “Let’s all have a good time together tonight,” he forms a bond with both the entire audience, and the each individual member of it.

Now I suspect that you have to do this if you are going to spend the better part of 32 years playing in front of crowds. You’d probably go crazy if you just trotted out on stage, played your songs, and then headed to the bus for the next city. But his interaction seems genuine, and in return he gets fans to return every year.

What I learned – The keys here are engagement, authenticity, and consistency. Isaak is a 32 year old brand that doesn’t have a ton of new products to offer up from year to year. But by making a true connection with the audience, and giving them a a personal experience, they are active customers. Plus, by distributing his product in the right venue every year, Chateau Ste Michelle, he gives his customers a way to consume the product that adds to the experience. Customers know exactly where to look for the date he’ll be coming to town. He’s not jumping from place to place and making customers do the hard work.

The result – a guy who has a few songs you’ve heard any more that you may not have, delivers a great show that leaves you satisfied and happy.