At this point, it’s not exactly news that there’s a ton of noise and disruption out there in the world. We have more opportunities to reach larger audiences than ever before, but, of course, so does anyone else. So, how do we really stand out? How do we connect? How do we engage in ways that are truly meaningful and that go beyond metrics and analytics and likes?

In other words, how do companies make engagement and connection human in a digital world? In The Seventh Level, author Amanda Slavin breaks all of these questions down in ways that you can actually put into practice, in your business and in your life with customers and employees alike.

As Amanda explains, you might even apply some of these ideas to better your relationship with your spouse–and Amanda knows what she’s talking about. Not only is she the founder and CEO of the award-winning brand consulting firm, CatalystCreativ, but she has also worked with companies like Coca-Cola, Google, and HubSpot, helping them bring good into the world and connecting with others through that. She’s spoken at South by Southwest and TED and been featured in the likes of the Wall Street JournalTime and Fast Company. Today, Amanda talks to us about The Seventh Level, about what connection and engagement really mean today, and how we can begin to look at and put them into practice in new ways.

Nikki Van Noy: Amanda, let’s start by giving listeners an idea of your background.

Amanda Slavin: Sure. I don’t know how far you want to go–when I was three? I talked a little bit about that actually in the book, about, literally, when I was three. I have–I think it is relevant for the sake of this conversation–but I’ve always been really passionate about bringing people together and building community, and so I’ve been doing that since I was three. I brought all my stuffed animals around and sang for friends every single day on a green hippo piano. And so that’s my background. And then I’d do the same thing in my first-grade classroom, where I facilitated snack exchange.

I think I talk about what snacks I exchanged in the book. I think it was like Doritos for Dunkaroos. I really wanted everyone to feel included, and to feel like they were an active participant in whatever I was building and creating. Whether it was a stuffed animal or a person, and then that led me to become a teacher.

I have a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, and while I was teaching, I wrote my thesis all around engagement, because I was very passionate about what it looked like for people to be deeply connected to what they were learning and be active participants within that learning environment.

Then I went into hospitality and nightlife, and after I always say that it’s not that different because getting the attention of six-year-olds is the same thing as getting the attention of drunk bankers. What I would say when I would go for interviews from education to hospitality is, if I could sell math to a six-year-old, I’m pretty sure I could sell anything to anyone.

So, it wasn’t that much of a jump, but I ended up in hospitality and then, after hospitality, I ended up meeting my business partner, who was the CEO of Zappos. I was producing a bunch of different experiences, and it led me to meeting him, and my intention was to design a company where I can really do both, you know–use my understanding of engagement, my understanding of education, of connecting with people, but also my love for bringing people together, whether that was through experiences, or through marketing, or through branding.

My company formed with this intention, CatalystCreativ, to catalyze passive consumers into active participants in their own life, and in the choices they make through my understanding of engagement. That’s my weird hybrid past, but it all kind of makes sense looking back.

Nikki Van Noy: It does. I’m always fascinated when I talk to people like you, where there’s that common thread that weaves throughout all these disparate experiences. I think you kind of just answered this looking back but I am curious if you were always aware that engaging, and connecting with others was important to you, or was that just kind of how you were and you didn’t consciously realize that for a while?

Amanda Slavin: I definitely always knew because it was something that was also a distraction for me until I realized how to be able to utilize it in a way that was productive. So, when I was in high school, I was on the phone literally seven hours a day. There was no social media, thank goodness, because I don’t know what I would have done. I had a phone with the cord, that’s how old I am.

I would sit and I would just call friends and then when they would hang up, I would call other friends and I would truly be on the phone for seven hours a day. I mean, when I was a little kid, I talked so much and talked so fast without breathing that I had to go to speech lessons to learn how to breathe.

I have always known this at the forefront. This is who I am. I think maybe meeting Tony was a catalyst for me to understand that I could leverage this gift. I always say we don’t necessarily know that our gifts are our gifts because they come so naturally to us. I think when I realized that I could actually leverage my gift for my actual life’s purpose, and my business and, the way that I operate as an adult, as opposed to just having it be this thing that was a part of me. That was the realization. So, while it was always something that I knew was kind of my driving force, I never really knew how to use it until probably the past seven years.

Nikki Van Noy: So, no more green hippo pianos in the mix to bring people together?

Amanda Slavin: When we first started Catalyst, Tony had moved Zappos to downtown Vegas, and he had put 350 million dollars of his own money that he had gotten from the Amazon acquisition of Zappos into rebuilding downtown, and we would design these experiences. Really, that was kind of how CatalystCreativ started. We would design these experiences called Catalyst Weekend Creative Week, where we would bring people from all over the world to come to downtown Vegas and come give inspiring talks and workshops, and a part of those experiences were the zaniest, weirdest things.

Downtown Vegas is a very weird, interesting city. From Tony’s vision, there was a praying mantis that spits out fire, and there was this geodesic dome. We would have the opening session in a room in Tony’s apartment with this plant wall and we would all have these desks that were moveable. It was really very similar to my experiences with my green hippo piano. It was on a bigger scale with different animals from Burning Man that Tony got and planted in the middle of the city. I feel like it was this, again, this through-line came to life and that was a big thing when I was doing these experiences twice and every month for two and a half years. It felt very natural for me and that was because it was what I’ve always been doing. It was just now in a more professional manner.

CatalystCreativ

Nikki Van Noy: If you break down what you do in CatalystCreativ on a day-to-day basis, what kind of services do you offer clients? What does that look like?

Amanda Slavin: CatalystCreativ has been around for seven years and we have always used my understanding of engagement as our secret sauce in being able to then determine what creative services we should be actually doing for clients.

When I wrote my thesis on engagement during my master’s year, I ended up realizing that I could use that understanding of engagement in hospitality and marketing. I helped build a multimillion-dollar restaurant brand in New York and all over the country, and then I realized that I can use that for good and in a more intentional way if you will. And so, with CatalystCreativ, I realized that by understanding how to meaningfully connect with customers–whether that was internal customers, employees or external customers–you could really think differently about the way that you’re communicating to those individuals and inspire them to change their behavior around something. It wasn’t just, “Purchase this product”. It was, “Think different about why you’re purchasing this product and what it could mean for you and for the world”.

What CatalystCreativ does from a service perspective, we do experiential, we’ve done large multi-thousand person events, we’ve done small intimate dinners and launch parties, we’ve done a Beauty Bus trailer that we drove all over the country and to Canada.

We’ve done lots of different experiences and then we also do branding design–full identity work–websites, style guides, logos and then we also do marketing. Strategic marketing, digital marketing, overall, “What does it look like to market your company to the world?”

Again, it’s always been that seventh level engagement framework that I wrote my thesis on, that has been that secret sauce, guiding that process to be able to then develop the “creative” for all of those services. That’s been an important distinction rather than being an agency that does traditional services. We think about those services in a different way.

The Seventh Level

Nikki Van Noy: Let’s break down what seventh level is for listeners.

Amanda Slavin: The seventh level is an engagement framework and the way that I think of engagement is not necessarily likes, followers, or productivity. I think of it as a meaningful connection between human beings. I think of it as the bedrock of connection. As we have been inundated with messages and with marketing and with social media and bombarded by constant distractions and constant things that are trying to take our attention, it’s harder and harder to engage with each other and I think even with ourselves at times.

I started with business because, to me, we’re spending so much of our time at our jobs, and our jobs are no longer just jobs, they’re following us home, and we’re constantly thinking about work and life combined. I wanted to start within the business setting, but, thinking about the business setting, I wanted to be able to create a roadmap in a step-by-step process to connect with your internal customers, which are your employees and then your external customers, which are your audience, in this step-by-step way.

So, the seventh level is actually defined as literate thinking, and it’s when your personal values and beliefs align with the message. So, it’s what we’re always striving for as companies and as brands and as human beings, is to personally connect with a message, a person, a concept. To derive meaning from that. We don’t really know where to begin because, you know, we kind of think that, a cute tag line or a mission statement on our website or a great branding campaign is going to achieve that, but that’s not what it’s about, it’s much deeper than that.

The seventh level, the framework itself, is this formula that allows for every single person to be able to think about, “How can I take this passive consumer and whatever that may look like and really activate them into this active participant, this brand loyalist, this brand advocate, this extremely passionate employee to help me build my business so it’s not just all on my shoulders?” It’s a step-by-step framework, roadmap, formula to help people meaningfully connect with other people in their life that they want to be able to connect with.

Nikki Van Noy: I’d love it if you could paint a picture for me about what this looks like in practice. Whether it’s a company you’ve worked with or a company that you feel like is aspirational either way.

Amanda Slavin: Yup, I can certainly go through each and every single level but you know, I think to start with the seventh level is probably the easiest. The way the framework works is that you start with your own seventh level statement, because, before you can connect with someone else, you have to think about what your personal values and beliefs are. I always talk about the companies that have the strongest seventh level statements, which I think a lot of marketers use as examples, but when you think of Apple, the seventh level statement would be this idea of, “Think Different”, and when you think of Nike, it would be, “Just Do It”. I use Harley Davidson as an example often because, when you Google Image, “Harley Davidson”, you see millions of people with tattoos of Harley Davidson on their bodies. It’s this branded stamp of a logo–people are branding themselves with a brand.

It’s because of their seventh level statement–what they stand for, not just what they sell, which is essentially, freedom, non-conformity, et cetera. As you start to think about it, every single individual and every single company has that seventh level statement–their personal values and beliefs, their guiding force, that kind of North Star, that helps them connect with others.

Once they know that, it’s really somewhat difficult for people that don’t necessarily know marketing, or don’t know the first step in that connection process. So, the actual framework from One through Seven has these seven distinct levels of engagement. Each level, you can identify an action per level of what it looks like for a customer at that level.

And then, the whole entire point of the framework is to think about, “Okay, how do I bring them to the next level?”

Levels

Nikki Van Noy: Let’s go through each of the seven levels because I feel like that will allow people to figure out where they are on that spectrum.

Amanda Slavin: We split up the levels, the seven levels, into three distinct buckets, and we used HubSpot, which is this inbound marketing tools flywheel, as a way to be able to separate these into buckets. I will talk about the buckets and how the levels fall into these buckets.

The first three levels of the seven distinct levels of engagement is around attracting a customer and earning that customer’s trust. When you think about a customer, there’s this “level one”, which is disengagement, and most people think that disengagement is the opposite of engagement, but it’s actually the first level of engagement.

Disengagement is defined as avoiding or idle from a task at hand. We all know these customers–I talk about an action being that someone sees an Instagram ad and might scroll past it. Or maybe you’re running late to a meeting and someone asks you for a donation on the street and you walk right by them, even though you feel horrible. There’s a lot of different actions associated with each of the levels, and the whole point of the framework is to define the level, but then determine your own actions.

In the book, we actually have case studies. We do a whole case study of what it looks like for employees with the levels, and then we do a whole case study around a fake company and how the levels relate to that company but again.

Then, there are questions and goals per level. Once you identify the action, you say, “Okay, someone scrolled past my Instagram ad, what are questions that could guide me to determine how I can increase engagement with this customer?” So, the whole point is, again, “How can I get better at connecting with my customer?”

So then, questions could be–and I don’t need to go through this for each level–but questions could be, “Who is my customer? Have I built personas for that customer? Does my customer use Instagram?” And with employees, again another action is going to be, “My employee doesn’t actually open my emails or respond to my emails.” A question could be, “Do they even use emails?”

Have you asked them their best form of communication? Have you set goals around communication with that employee? Questions and then goals.

Goals would be–determine my actual personas of my customers, test out messaging on three different platforms to see what works best. Again, the whole thing is as we think about connection with our customers, we so often simplify and say, “Oh, we want to engage them, we want to connect with them, we want to sell them something.” This takes this nuanced approach to the importance of being able to recognize the step-by-step process to connect with your customers in this deep way.

That’s level one. I’m not going to go in-depth with all of the other levels, but I will say, for the first three levels–level one is disengagement, level two is unsystematic engagement, which is when employees or customers are confused by the messaging. There are tons of actions associated with that within the book and the sample case studies as well. Then level three is frustrate engagement–when you want to engage with something, but you’re actually distracted.

So, one, two and three are all around earning trust and attracting your customer. Making sure that you know who you’re talking to, what you’re actually saying to them, limiting the distractions, and creating a customer journey for them to meaningfully connect with you. Once you’ve got them to that place, you can start to interact with them in a deeper way.

That’s level four and five–the engage bucket, this idea of interacting. Four is structured dependent engagement–it’s instruction-based engagement. That’s when you ask for something and someone does it. Such as, like below, or comment below. In this case, it’s really being able to build off of that relationship. Once you know who you’re talking to, how you’re talking to them, and you’re limiting distractions, you could start to build off of that relationship.

Then level five, similar to four, is building that stepping-stone towards those higher levels. Five is self-regulated interest–when you’re piquing someone’s interest or getting them excited. This is a lot about influencers, sweepstakes, it’s kind of, “What’s in it for the customer? What’s in it for the employee?”

Many people are like, “Oh my god, this is so many steps.” It’s really not because you’re already doing all of this to build a relationship with someone and sometimes, someone will come in at two, and sometimes someone will come in at five, and sometimes someone will come in at one. Sometimes, they’ll fall lower, but the point of it is, you’re already doing all of this, but there’s no real way for you to see how it fits together. There is this discombobulated way of connecting with everyone in our lives. This is more like a flashlight showing you the way to go.

The top two levels, which are around delighting your customer, are the most important. Six is critical engagement, when you’re inspiring someone to set goals in their life, to make a difference in their life in some way. Whether that is kind of purchasing your product because it’s going to make a difference in their life or thinking about themselves within your company differently to set goals. All with the intention to bring that employee, bring that customer, to the seventh level, which is literate thinking–when personal values and beliefs align, and they become a brand advocate for you.

The way to look at it is really to think about from your company, “Where are the people that I’m connecting with, what are the actions associated with those individuals, where do they fall within this roadmap, and then how do I continue to increase engagement?” Once they’re at that seventh level, “How do I keep them there?” Because those are the most important customers, to me, your most engaged customers.

The way I define it, it is actually helping you grow your business as supposed to constantly thinking about creating new customers. Once you get them through this process, you can continually walk them up so that they stay engaged and there’s not a bigger drop-off.

Eliminate Distraction

Nikki Van Noy: Perfect. With this, let’s talk about some things that companies are doing now that aren’t allowing them to live up to the full potential of their brand. What I’m especially interested in is this idea of so much noise, which I think we’re all very familiar with both personally and professionally, and how looking at branding through this seventh level, lifts you up out of that noise so that people are actually able to connect with you.

Amanda Slavin: This is a big thing that I talk a lot about because I think what ends up happening with companies is they think they have to change to be trendy or to be relevant, and the whole point is for you to start with your own seventh level statement and use that as the lens by which you connect with others.

You’re not changing who you are in this process, you’re using who you are to be able to ensure that you know the right person, and you’re using that seventh level to connect with them and the messages that you’re creating for them.

I think when it comes to noise, a lot of companies first and foremost change their identity to reflect, again, who they think they need to connect with and that’s already something that is going to limit them from connecting, because people see right through it, but I also think we’re settling for the noise.

Level four, as I mentioned, is structured dependent engagement and that’s instruction-based engagement. That’s instruction-based engagement as I was saying before, comment below, like this post, et cetera. So often, from a marketing perspective, we have considered that success when it comes to engagement. We’ve let the tools tell us what engagement looks like, and these are any social media tool you can look up, “How do you define engagement?” This is the way they’re defining it but in reality, that’s still three steps away from the top.

We are settling for these ‘vanity metrics’, that we’ve been told to work, without the context of how they fit into our larger engagement goals. That’s one thing is that, again, we’re kind of settling for the noise and we’re saying, “That’s enough.”

Then, when it comes to employees, level four is really micromanaging. Again, “Do this, do that.” Bu employees are looking for so much more from their businesses.  Employees are now customers because they can communicate and share on behalf of the organization.

They have their own audiences, so why are we settling for these lower levels? I think the two lessons to really learn from being able to strive towards the seventh level is one–start with your own seventh level statement and stay aligned with that statement throughout this entire process, don’t change who you are to fit what you think other people want from you, stay true to who you are and communicate that to the people that will understand and connect with that message. The second is, don’t settle for the noise as being success.

Recognize that in order to be able to cut through that clutter, you need to be able to determine your own engagement goals and then leverage that level four, to be part of a bigger plan as opposed to just, again, hiring companies to get you likes, to get you followers, to get you comments. Anytime someone says, “I want Instagram followers”, I will say, “Why?”  Or, “I want to talk to millennials.” Why? You know it is not necessarily just what is on-trend. It is what is best for you and the identity of your own organization. So those would be my two points to make when it comes to cutting through the clutter.

Nikki Van Noy: What I keep thinking as you’re talking is that it sounds to me like this is getting back to an idea of humanity where, yes, digital tools may help you. They may offer a medium for reaching out to people, but it doesn’t stop there. It is about using that as a mode to reach out and really capture another human because they are like-minded.

Amanda Slavin: That is exactly right. We say that we have forgotten that likes and comments and followers and data, which are not the enemy, data is amazing and really helps inform one, two and three as a part of the process. It helps you determine who your customer is, what messages are resonating with them, and how are you limiting distractions for them. You are using that data and insights from your overall marketing, whether that is serving your customers or looking at your website analytics. Or even with employees, being able to have feedback loops. It is important to use data as a way to inform those next steps as part of the process but, we have forgotten that those are all real human beings. A like is not just a like. It is a person that decided to like that post, so what are you going to do with that?

As I was writing the book, we talked about When Harry met Sally–my company does all the time within the lens of seventh level. I broke out When Harry met Sally in the book, and actually broke out their whole relationship from being disengaged in the beginning of the movie to all the way to the end of the movie reaching the seventh level with each other, and the point of that was to show that this can be really used in any aspect of your life.

That is what we do. We take things from business and we apply them to the rest of our life. We do bring our work home with us without even really meaning to. If we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, we are spending so much time with the people that we are working with.

So, when you start to think about these levels, you start thinking differently. I just worked with a woman who I did a full-day workshop with her around the seventh level. After, she said she started to call her husband out for being frustrated-engaged, which is wanting to engage but distracted.

I do the same thing, you know. When he’s on his cellphone, it distracts me, and then it keeps me from really being able to connect with him. By using this terminology and these words, it takes the personal, emotional defensiveness out of it. It takes the personal attack out of it. It is not like, “You are doing this wrong!” It is just, “We’re at a level three right now, and I want us to get a little bit higher, so can you get off your phone?” And when they get off their phone, you have brought them to level four because it is instruction based.

I think that by reading this book, even though you can use it in your business, which I would hope would be the intention, I think that it will actually help across the board with every aspect of your human relationships because you will start to think about it.

The Internal Customer

Nikki Van Noy: So one thing that you have brought up pretty much with each level, but that we haven’t really dug into yet is that this is internal as well as it is external. I think from a business perspective we can all see the value in reaching the seventh level. Let’s talk about the value of reaching the seventh level internally though. How have you and companies shifted and transformed by hitting that seventh level internally?

Amanda Slavin: I think that the most important customer we have is our internal customer, which are our employees. If our employees aren’t behind what we’re up to, then we can’t really expect anyone externally to connect with us. They are our first touchpoint and the way that we are talking to the world. So, when it comes to the seventh level, internally, I use the Fortune 100 as an example, and I talk about Salesforce in the book, as well as Wegmans and the quotes that come out of why people work at those companies.

They say things like Salesforce is an environment of learning, or Wegmans is this family environment that is constantly bringing people together. You know, they are not saying that there is great health care and benefits, which are part of the foundation of a job, which is actually level five–what is in it for them. But it is not why they are staying there, why are they getting the best places to work. So, in order to reach those higher levels with their employees and turn your company into something that stands for more than just a service and–I don’t want to go too far in either direction–for example, four, “Do what I ask you.” And five, “What’s in it for me?”, are a part of a work environment.

Also, one, two and three, if you don’t know one, if you are disengaged, or if you don’t know what your actual job is on systematic engage, or if you are distracted all the time and can’t get your work done, you are probably not going to be an environment that is even allowing for six and seven, where you can set goals, you are inspired to make a difference in your life, or where your personal values and beliefs align with the company.

I gave a talk and I said, “What do you want from work?” and people say things like, “learning”, and, “growth”, and, “connection”, and, “love.” I said, “Oh my god, this is so much that we are expecting from our workplace. Who is getting this?” And no one raised their hand.

So there is one side of the equation, where it is like, “We need to stand for something”, or, “We need to believe in something”, and, “We need to be something”, but they might actually forget that there are all of these levels underneath, because they don’t know that the levels exist. They just have heard that or read a marketing book and they say, “We need to start there.”

First, you do start with what you stand for, but then, you walk through this framework to have people understand how that fits into the infrastructure of an actual company. How you move and work forward, and then, how you get things done, and then how you communicate those values internally, and how you use those values to measure against what success looks like, and how you let people come to the table and share their insights and their goals–I could go on and on about this.

I read a little bit about it in the book, but I didn’t want to write too much about it. It is a whole separate topic, but my company has done something called self-organization for the past six years. Rather than a bureaucracy or a hierarchy, it’s self-organized. I would say it is almost like bees or ants, where they are all doing their own roles, but they know there is a higher purpose. That is one way where I have seen more freedom and flexibility for the individuals than the organization, to make changes for themselves and for the company.

Identify your own seventh level statement, think about how that is a part of every single step of the process, and strive for higher levels with your individual team. I think also as CEO’s and as leaders, it would be a lot less lonely because so often it falls on the CEO to make all of the decisions and to determine the best next steps, but there are so many people in the organization that are impacted by that and can’t actually give their feedback.

So, by striving for these higher levels we create environments and, feedback loops for people to be able to feel, and also actually share what they feel would better the organization. It is not so limited to just the executive at the top making the decisions.

Maintaining

Nikki Van Noy: That makes a lot of sense. It is interesting that you brought that up because my next question for you was going to be, as a founder or CEO at CatalystCreativ, do you find once you reach that seventh level, that there is a momentum behind it that makes it easy to continue along that trajectory, or are you constantly recalibrating and moving between different buckets?

Amanda Slavin: I wish that it was just like, “Okay, now we’re here, so, we’re good.” But I think that is not the way human beings work, especially from an internal customer and an external customer–how many choices people have, and how often those choices are being presented to them. I think we have to work harder for garnering people’s attention and keeping that attention. So, once people are at the seventh level, the work is easier because you are not constantly churning new level ones all the way to the seventh level, and then doing so over and over again.

Once that you are at the seventh level, it is easier to keep them there, but it is really important to think about how you are keeping them there. I say sometimes when you get married, you stop trying. I’m wearing sweatpants around the house, not wearing makeup, and you just take the person for granted. You’re like, “Oh well, you are married to me.”

I really had to change my perspective around that too because I think, “No, I want to appreciate this person, and respect the time we have together, and not take the fact that we are together a lot for granted. At level three, we are always together but not together.” No, I would like to have higher levels of engagement with this person. So once people are at the 7th level, it is really important to build programs to set them up for success and to stay connected with you.

Whether that is a loyalty program–and it is not just a loyalty program where you are giving them discounts or you are giving them financial incentives, which could fall under level five, “What is in it for them.” It is emotional incentives. It is showing them that they’re really a hero, that they are a part of your story, that they are seen, that they are heard, that you care about them. And that is the same thing again for your employees. When an employee shows that they are at the seventh level, what are you doing to show them that you care?

That could be featuring them or acknowledging them or publicly communicating about them on your social media and saying, “I couldn’t have done this without this person.” You know, for us at Catalyst, we try–I even use “we” sometimes when I am on stage or even when I am talking about “I”. It is sometimes very odd. I have to go back to “I” because we always say “we” because we try really hard to ensure that we are acknowledging every single person that is a part of the equation and how they’ve helped us get to where we are going to go.

I really try hard not to say, ever, “my employees”, because I don’t believe that is the way I even think about these individuals. They are my colleagues and they are my partners, and they are helping to build the business. So, any type of, “my”, I don’t own them. If anything, I would work for the rest of the company, not the other way around. I think it is just a matter of recognizing that the person who has reached the seventh level with you is worthy, really worthy of your time and of your effort and of your energy and not taking them for granted.

Yes, they will absolutely fall to lower levels and it is easier to get them back up, but you do have to put the time into that. You can’t just let them do whatever and be like, “Thank so much, you love us but whatever.”

Nikki Van Noy: Great, and my last question for you. I don’t know how easy this is to answer because there are seven levels here, but I am wondering if there are any particular stumbling blocks that you find are quite common for most companies, when it comes to obtaining the seventh level, but easy to overcome or to notice and begin to address that listeners can start to think about.

Amanda Slavin: Absolutely. I always say level three, frustrated engagement, is the biggest pitfall for everyone because distractions are everywhere, and it is difficult to limit distractions everywhere and anywhere because people are distracted all the time. I say with level three, the most important thing to do is to not create more distractions. What I mean by that from a marketing perspective is, as you are thinking about marketing to your customers, they are going to be online. If you are doing any type of paid ad to them, again, one and two, if they’re not the right person, and you are not communicating in the right way, it is going to be difficult for them to want to continue to connect with them. So being able to really identify and assess how you are limiting distractions, how are you targeting them so specifically, and having that message resonate with them based on what you stand for, what you believe in, is imperative.

Then, once you get that attention, once you get them on your website, once you get them in your store, not creating more distractions for them. So, making sure your website is optimized and that once they shop with something in their cart, it is easy for them to actually check out, that there is not a pop-up that is going to distract them from what you actually want them to do. It is creating that proper user journey, that customer journey for them to convert to these higher levels.

That is from a marketing perspective. From an employee perspective, I love Slack. We use it. We are a fully remote team, and there are ten of us all over the country, and it is great for certain tasks. It is a task-oriented platform that allows for you to message each other and get things done, but when you have to dive deep on individual work, it is extremely important that we respect each other boundaries and teach people how to set those boundaries.

That has been really important to me because, especially in a remote work environment, and I think in any environment, you just don’t know what someone else is dealing with, what they are experiencing. So, if you are a leader, or in a position of power, you can just keep asking for more and more and more, and the person might keep saying yes and yes, because they don’t know how to respond. So, I would teach your team and yourself how to create proper boundaries and communicate those boundaries.

Then for us, we all share our calendars, and different team members put blocks on the calendars and they will shut up their Slack notifications, and they will tell the team, “I am not available from this time to this time for Slack, because I actually have to get work done.” But, if not you’re messaging all day long, you’re emailing all day long.

I think limiting distractions would be my biggest suggestion because even when someone is at the seventh level, you can create a distraction.

I always say that if you bought a ticket to your favorite news festival like six years in a row and then you get an email that says, “Buy a ticket,” you say, “What? I have been buying this. I am obsessed with you. I share you on social media. Like, how can you not know me?” So, I think it is again, making sure that you’re limiting distractions to the best of your ability, knowing that sometimes things might get missed, but then you can really catch them.

If you are being more intentional with those distractions, at least you are creating that proper user journey for someone that once they have connected with you, to increase that engagement with you and get them closer to the seventh level.

Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean that is the big thing today, distraction, just across the board, it seems like.

Amanda Slavin: Yes, absolutely. I think the other thing to think about with this is I always say, if there are three very quick lessons to remember is one–engagement is not binary. It is not just disengagement or engagement. Disengagement is level one, so it is not the situation where you are hopeless, and it is also not so black and white. It is more nuanced, and then really, again, my next lesson would be to strive for the seventh level.

Even if you are not going to get to the seventh level with everyone, when you strive towards the seventh level, you are going to get higher than you would if you didn’t know it existed. You are going to be settling for these lower levels without even realizing there is more. You think you’re at the summit but you’re really at the base camp. There is so much more that we can get out of ourselves and out of people. If we strive towards greatness, then we’ll land somewhere a little bit closer.

Nikki Van Noy:  I feel like that is just great advice in general in life.

Amanda Slavin: I guess this is an emotional driver in a lot of ways. I was a teacher, so I very much care about the emotions behind why we do things and the psychology behind why we do things. When you actually put these numbers to it, it makes it less personal–where anyone can wrap their head around it. So as opposed to me saying, “You need to strive for connection with someone”, people would ask, “What does connection mean?”

I say, “You need to engage with your customers.” They say, “What does engagement mean?” I say, “Well, this is what I mean by engagement, and this is what you need to strive for, and this is how you can get there, and here is your itinerary for your trip. This is how you know that you are actually going in the right direction. Here is your map.”

I used to travel without Google Maps and it was a mess. So now, here is your map to get to where you want to go, and it is easier to wrap your head around it.

Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, perfect. You and I are from the same generation. We have all the same cultural references, the Google Maps, the corded phones, Harry met Sally. I get it all.

Amanda Slavin: Yes, I love that. I ask people if they’ve watched When Harry met Sally when I give talks and when no one raises their hand I am like, “Okay, I am in an audience of people that don’t know or have a clue of me.” It is very disturbing.

Nikki Van Noy: Totally. I am right there with you. I am glad you are bringing it into the world for people who may have missed out.

Amanda Slavin: Yes, it is their thirtieth year anniversary apparently, which I didn’t know. So, there you go

Nikki Van Noy: That is what I refer to as scary math right there.

Amanda Slavin: A hundred percent. Thirty years, terrifying.

Nikki Van Noy: Totally. All right, Amanda. Is there anything we haven’t gotten to that you want to be sure you share with listeners?

Amanda Slavin: I think the main thing to share with listeners is that the book is very applicable, and it is meant for you to apply to your organization. The case studies throughout the book and in the back are really useful and insightful because you can wrap your head around how it all fits together.

As you are reading the book to think about a problem you are looking to solve, and maybe starting small.

For example, maybe you are launching a new product, or maybe you are deploying a new infrastructure within your business, or maybe you are wanting to do a cool marketing campaign and you need to market something to your audience. Maybe you are starting a company. Start with an actual problem, and then go through the processes with that, because you can really apply this. The whole point of this is to create one definition of engagement so that our HR teams, and your creative teams, and your event teams, and your marketing teams – everyone can talk in the same way.

I think starting with an actual problem and then going through the process is extremely beneficial, and then using those case studies to help to apply it. My biggest hope is that people can apply this to their own companies. Again, as the teacher in me, that I would teach someone something that they could use to think differently about the way that they are doing business.

Nikki Van Noy: Great. Amanda thank you so much.

Amanda Slavin: Thank you.