Episode 165: Kristin Zhivago – Building Success on Kindness, Promises, and a Jerk-Free Culture

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In this engaging episode, guest Kristin Zhivago shares her deep insights into branding, marketing, and creating a customer-focused business strategy. The conversation unlocks the often-overlooked simplicity behind marketing and selling—fulfilling promises and satisfying customer desires.

Kristin emphasizes that branding should not be overcomplicated; it's fundamentally about making and keeping promises to customers. Drawing from her extensive experience, she elaborates on the significance of understanding customers' desires, concerns, and questions to streamline the buying process. Creating a ‘jerk-free' business and work environment is a central theme, as Kristin advocates for workplaces devoid of individuals who make things harder for others.

Key Takeaways:

  • Branding is about the promise made to customers, while the brand represents the promises kept.
  • Effective branding and marketing can be simplified to understanding and fulfilling customer desires.
  • Interviewing five to seven customers of a particular segment can lead to actionable insights for businesses.
  • A strategy to maintain a ‘jerk-free' business environment is critical for reducing stress and improving productivity.
  • Kristin prescribes empathy and love as guiding principles for entrepreneurship and interactions within businesses.

Kristin Zhivago

Kristin Zhivago, revenue coach.

Kristin Zhivago, revenue coach, has spent years helping hundreds of CEOs and entrepreneurs sell more by understanding what their customers want to buy and how they want to buy it. She is also a sales/marketing turnaround expert and management consultant.

She founded and runs Zhivago Partners, a digital marketing agency that provides the full spectrum of digital marketing services and produces highly qualified leads for clients. She is the author of the 5-star book, “Roadmap to Revenue: How to sell the way your customers want to buy.”


  • Introduction to Kristin Zhivago and the Power of Promises
    • The fundamental role of promises in branding and marketing
    • Kristin's background and unique approach to business success
  • Understanding Branding as Making and Keeping Promises
    • Branding beyond logos and slogans
    • The critical impact of promises on customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • The Simplicity of Marketing: Fulfilling Desires and Keeping Promises
    • Cutting through the complexity of marketing strategies
    • Case studies: Successful applications of Kristin's approach
  • Creating a Jerk-Free Business Culture
    • The importance and impact of removing negativity from the workplace
    • Strategies for cultivating a positive, supportive work environment
  • Leveraging Customer Insights for Business Strategy
    • The significance of interviewing customers to uncover true desires
    • Utilizing insights to align business offerings with consumer needs
  • Empathy and Love as Business Strategies
    • The transformative power of kindness in entrepreneurship
    • Kristin's personal experiences and lessons learned
  • Digital Marketing in a Human-Centric Approach
    • Adapting digital marketing strategies to meet human needs
    • Examples of successful, empathy-driven marketing campaigns
  • Overcoming Business Challenges with a Customer-Focused Approach
    • Addressing and learning from business and marketing failures
    • Real-life examples of turnaround success stories
  • The Future of Business: Kindness, Promises, and Digital Innovation
    • Predictions on evolving customer expectations and business strategies
    • The role of technology in supporting a jerk-free, promise-based business model
  • Conclusion: The Essence of Success in Business and Marketing
    • Recap of key insights and actionable advice for entrepreneurs
    • Kristin's closing thoughts on the power of love and kindness in business

Click to See Episode Chapters and Timestamp

0:00:00Kristin explains that a brand is the promise made and kept.
0:00:25Marketing doesn't have to be complicated, it's about making customers happy.
0:01:06Finding people with a desire for a product/service is the foundation of a business.
0:01:33Introduction of the guest, Kristen Schvago.
0:02:16Kristen's background in sales and marketing, and her transition to revenue coaching.
0:04:10Kristen's decision to start Chicago Partners, a digital agency.
0:06:38The challenges established companies face in understanding digital marketing.
0:08:20Kristen's inspiration from her autistic brother and her desire to help people.
0:09:55The importance of understanding customer desires, concerns, and questions.
0:13:03The example of Amazon's customer questions feature as a way to make buying easier.
0:13:52Convenience and importance of understanding customer types
0:14:14Different types of people to interview for high scrutiny products
0:15:23Importance of knowledge about clients' needs and desires
0:16:16Self-marketing and attracting clients through thought resonance
0:17:20Starting with the leadership when offering services
0:19:07Importance of working with clients who align with company culture
0:21:25Using the “jerk test” to assess potential clients
0:23:01Working with the person who has the power in the company
0:24:45Impact of customer interviews on identifying promises and changes
0:27:13Changing the perception of business as a helpful and world-changing endeavor
0:27:45Relationships are crucial in business.
0:28:27Building long-term relationships is key.
0:30:00Show business can be a challenging industry.
0:31:37Definition of a jerk: someone who makes things harder for others.
0:34:40Creating jerk-free work environments can make a difference.
0:35:04Advice for leaders: identify and address jerky behavior.
0:39:29The importance of working with non-jerks.
0:40:49Kristin's experience in digital marketing for various industries.
0:41:19Matt thanks Kristin for the conversation
0:41:25Kristin regrets voicemail and prefers immediate human interaction
0:42:03Matt shares frustration with automated phone systems and chat bots
0:43:15Kristin praises T Mobile for their prompt customer service
0:43:59Matt discusses the importance of listening to customers
0:45:00Matt questions the authenticity of chat bots
0:45:35Kristin criticizes the misuse of technology to distance companies from customers
0:46:11Matt shares a client's preference for direct communication
0:47:39Kristin shares her contact information and book recommendations
0:49:37Matt concludes the conversation and thanks Kristin
Matt Levenhagen
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