Ep 481: How to Know When You Should Write a Book | Bill Blankschaen Episode Recap

AJV (00:03):
I get asked all the time, when should I write a book or more often I get told I’m going to write a book. This is the year, this is the month, this is the time of my life that I am ready to write that book. And this little 10 minute video here is all about when do you know when it’s time for you to write that book? And here’s just a couple of things that I thought would be helpful and insightful is I process a conversation that I just had with a good friend, bill Blank Shane, who is the founder of a company called Story Builders, who works with aspiring authors to become the author that they want to be and produce a book that they are proud to call their own. And I think it was a really important conversation because there is no right time.
AJV (00:55):
There is no better time, there is no worse time when it comes to actually expressing your content. Now, yes, there are times in your life that it makes sense to dedicate time, energy, and effort to writing a book. And there are times in your life where maybe it doesn’t like, right? That has everything to do with capacity, that you have to give it the time it deserves. Because writing a book is like starting a business, and it requires that amount of time, energy, effort, and resources in order to do so. And I think before I even start on this and just realizing if you actually want people to read your book, writing the book is just step one. And after you write the book is when the additional work, most of the work actually begins writing the book is just step one to a mini step process to launch and get that book out into the stratosphere.
AJV (01:46):
So when is it time to write your book? Number one, I want you to remember that the book is the very last thing you do, not the first thing. It is the conclusion, not the hypothesis. So do not rush the process to actually organize and clarify your thoughts, your stories, your points, right? This is a body of work that is meant to represent something that you think is needed in the world to help a group of people, right? Your audience, your readers, with something that you know, that you are well positioned to help them with. And that does not come quickly, right? In fact, I had a guest on the influential personal brand podcast earlier this year, and her name is Maury. And she wrote a book about negotiations, and I asked her, I said, so how long did it take you to write this book?
AJV (02:42):
And she was like, you mean like putting words on the pages? Or How long did it take me to figure out this is the book I was meant to write? And I said, both. And she said 10 years, right? 10 years. It took me 10 years to figure out what I had to say on this topic, what I was meant to say on this topic. Now, the process of actually writing the book was probably a year to two years, right? Still a fair amount of time, but it was 10 years. Why? Because she was looking for a conclusion. She was looking for the facts, right? The end points the ends of the case studies, the ends of the stories, not ideas. She was looking for conclusions, not hypotheses. So the book is the last thing you do. Once you have cemented your ideas, your thought leadership, this is once you have come up with the stories and the points and the frameworks, this is the last thing, not the first thing.
AJV (03:37):
So don’t rush the process. There are plenty of ways to get content out into the world. You can blog, you can create video content, you can podcasts, you can host a podcast, you can guess on podcasts. You can do medium, you can put LinkedIn posts, like the list goes on and on and on. There are many ways for you to be testing and piloting your content before you go through the painstakingly expensive and time consuming process of writing a book. Okay? So that’s number one. Number two, you have to know the purpose and intent of your book before you begin, because that dictates how you write it, how you decide how to publish it, how you market it, how you sell it. Knowing how you want to use this book actually is the beginning of making a lot of decisions that will be very impactful for you, your brand and your business, right?
AJV (04:29):
Is this a traditionally published book because we just, we just added a whole bunch of time to the process between finding an agent, shopping a publisher, getting bids, writing the book, publishing the book, selling, marketing, the book, right? It just added a lot of time that you may not have been prepared for, right? Versus, hey, is this really more a statement of cementing my thoughts, ideas, frameworks for my business? So maybe traditional or hybrid is a better route? And then it’s like, okay, well if I actually want people to read it, like how am I gonna market it? Right? And all these different things matter. So knowing the purpose of the book, right? Is this your your life’s work? Or is this a, you know, a solidification of a set of ideas, but not your life’s work? Those things matter. Is this to support a business model or a coaching framework that’s more better to do in a self-publishing route? Or is this a a statement piece that you are using for credibility and notoriety and you’re going for, you know, a hybrid or a traditional knowing the purpose and the use of the book, not just the content within, but the purpose of it. Are you doing it to increase fees, expand your business? What are you doing it for? Matters a lot in how you write it, how you publish it, and who we are going to market and sell the book to. And then the last, but not the least is are you
AJV (05:56):
Willing to talk about this book for the next two years at minimum, nonstop ad nauseum, right? Are you in love with this topic enough that for the next two, or in some cases 10 or 20 or 50 years, are you willing to continue to talk about the stories and the points and the frameworks and the content for the next two 10 decades ahead of where you are? ’cause That’s what you need to be willing to do because in order to actually help people find the book or read the book, you have to talk about the book, speak about the book, interview about the book, go on podcasts, about the book. You have to post content and make videos and do all the things about the book, which means it needs to be content that is meaningful to you, that’s not going to drain you and be like, oh my gosh, I’m so tired of this.
AJV (06:53):
It should also be content that’s not extraordinarily trendy, right? And so this needs to be something that has some weight to it and that you can continue to talk about it. And I’ll give you two quick examples. My husband, Roy Vaden, his first book has now been out for almost 14 years. He still does the same keynote that he did 14 years ago when the book came out. Take the Stairs. The content of that keynote has not tra changed extraordinarily. So, I mean, he’s gotten better at delivering it. But the content there in and of itself is the contents of the book. And he still loves giving that keynote and telling those stories. In fact, he just released, I, I take the Stairs kids book called Be The Buffalo because it still resonates and it’s still meaningful and it’s still important. This was a piece of his life’s work.
AJV (07:44):
And it doesn’t matter that he printed that book, published it 14 years ago. It still as relevant today as it was then, if not even more so in our lives. And we find it so relevant. It’s like we, we want our kids to learn this. So we, we published be the Buffalo, which is a kid’s book. 14 years later, he is still doing the same talks, telling the same stories, sharing the same points on a piece of work that was done 14 years ago. So can you do that with this work? That’s how you know when you’re ready, right? And the sample the second example I was gonna give you was my husband’s second book Procrastinate on Purpose, which has now been out 10 years almost or even more so maybe 11 years. And it’s the same. It’s like he still gets comments on different frameworks in the book.
AJV (08:32):
And the Ted Talk is growing even though it’s now been out for 10 years plus. And it’s like he still gets booked to speak for that. He still loves talking about it. Why? Because it’s evergreen content, it’s life content, it’s not going away, it’s leadership, it’s productivity, it’s time management, it’s business. And he will be talking about these topics for the rest of his life. I guarantee you the fact that we’re now producing new versions of those works that is just proof. But over the course of time, it was started as a book and then it was a keynote. And now we have courses and there’s kids’ books now. Like it is content that continues to grow. Why? Because it is a part of who he is. And that is what you need to be considering when you go, am I ready to write this book?
AJV (09:20):
It should be work that you are still proud of and excited to talk about 10, 14 years later. And that you’re still adding to and adjusting and building things around because it’s evergreen. That’s how you know when you are ready to write the book, it’s the last thing you do. It’s not the first thing, it’s the conclusion, not the hypothesis. You know, the purpose and intent, the use of the book, and you’re gonna be willing to continue to talk about it for years and years to come. That’s how you know. So are you ready to write that book.

Ep 480: How to Become a Great Writer with Bill Blankschaen

AJV (00:02):
Hey, everybody, and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast, AJ Vaden here, and I’m so, so, so super excited to introduce you to a good friend today. But I’m equally as excited about this conversation. So before you decide whether or not this is the episode episode for you, let me tell you why you probably wanna stick around no matter where you’re at in terms of building your business and building your personal brand. Because today we’re gonna talk about the process of writing a book. And you might be in that process right now, or you dream of being in that process, or maybe you just left this process thinking, I’ll never do that again. And if you’re feeling that way, it’s probably because you went out of order. And today, we’re gonna just break it down into when should you start writing your book? What does it look like?
AJV (00:52):
How, how do you publish? What are the options for publishing? What makes a good writer? And how do you systematically do that? And if you know this about yourself and that you’re not a quote unquote good writer, which is your opinion only what are the other options out there for you, right? Because there are other options to help you get your message out into the world and your voice be heard. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today with my good friend, bill Blanken Shane from Story Builders. And so, before I formally pass it over to him to share all of his expertise and his knowledge, I’m gonna give you just a little bit of a formal bio because it’s worth it, right? So Bill is the founder and chief story architect of Story Builders, which is the coolest company that we get to be affiliated with as well at Brain Builders Group.
AJV (01:40):
And Bill is actually helping Rory and I architect our next book for Brand Builders Group. So I can speak personally when I talk about how awesome him and his team is, but he is a New York Times bestselling writer. They have worked with very well known people like the John Maxwell team, Kevin Haring, Lewis Howes, Michael Hyatt as well as us, and not as well known as those other peoples but entrepreneurs, corporate leaders influencers, consultants, political figures. The list goes on and on. And I share that because writing a book is not some for someone who just is a influencer. And if you can’t see me, I’m doing bunny quotes right now or just someone who is famous. It is for anyone who has a message that deserves to be heard. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about right now. So, bill, welcome to the show.
BB (02:33):
Well, thank you, aj. My goodness, I’m so excited to be here. You and Rory are some of my favorite people, and we’re talking about storytelling. I mean, what, what could be better than this? I’m excited to be here.
AJV (02:43):
Yes. Well, the first thing I want to talk about and help our audience get to know you a little bit is how’d you get into this? Like, how did you get into the business of writing books for other people and helping get their stories out there?
BB (02:57):
That’s a great question. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna go on the way back machine here to, to my early days even. You know, I think a lot of us have these dreams inside of us when we’re children and, and we kind of have a sense of what we really are good at and what we love to do. And then somewhere along the way, we, we kind of, kind of lose our focus. We find other dreams. We, we, we end up with what Steven Pressfield calls the, our shadow calling, right? We’re, we’re doing something that’s kind of similar, but not exactly what we’re really called to do. And I ended up in I’ve always had a love for storytelling, right? So I majored in English and history, right. Stories and how to tell them. But I ended up going into education and helping start a private school and leading that for a dozen years.
BB (03:37):
And what I was really doing was helping other people learn how to write well and learn how to tell stories well, and that’s really what that was about. And learning a lot about leadership along the way. But it wasn’t until probably about 13 years ago now that I just had this stirring with NI felt like there was more that I was supposed to be doing on a wider scale in and around telling stories. And so I stepped out from the school. We had six kids stepped out from the school, went a year with no income as we navigated that place. But I, I’ve never worked harder in my life than during that year, actually, when we were going through that. And really just becoming a student of story, a student of storytelling, a student of writing, of publishing, of this whole process that you mentioned.
BB (04:22):
And, and then navigating those, you know, turns over the years building what became story builders, really one relationship at a time is how it happened, right? And that’s something I know you and Rory talk about a lot, right? The power of your reputation, which is about your relationships that you have. And, and so that’s really how it came to be, just me following my passions and my skills and where those came together at a place where there was a need, where people who had great messages, great ideas, they just struggled to tell them. Well for a lot of reasons. And I found I could come alongside and really help them to do that in an exceptional way, build a team around it to really truly tell stories that make the world a better place.
AJV (05:03):
You know, I think one of the things that I’m so curious about always, because we have so many people who are in our community and who listen to this podcast that are trying to figure out that next thing they’re going to do. And what I always love asking people is, how’d you get that first client? Right? So you’re transitioning out of something seemingly different, although lots of connectedness, but how did you pick up that very first client that’s like, yeah, bill I know you’ve never done this before, but I’m gonna trust you to get this book out into the world.
BB (05:37):
Sure, sure. Well, I think one of the first ones that we had actually was John Maxwell and working with his company. And it was because of both my leadership experience and my deep knowledge of John’s content and my education background. So we were, what, we’ve created a lot of a content for John’s company ever since then, and it’s really around instructional design and so forth. So, in other words, I think I leaned into the strengths that I had to develop those and began to realize they could transfer into other areas. On the book front, there were someone I encountered in the ministry space where I had written my own book, and I realized, well, actually, I’m pretty good at doing that , and then encountered this person who had a need, wanting to get a message out. And I said, let me help you. Right? We got in, we figured we didn’t do it perfectly, but we did it. Well, he’s actually still using that book as part of his ministries activities and began to learn and grow. But it, it kind of began with that on, on both fronts kind of, right? What, what’s, what proven skills do I have that I can lean into? And then where’s the need? And, and just finding that and genuinely seeking to serve in that way.
AJV (06:51):
Hmm. I love that. ’cause I think at the end of the day, it’s using relationships, leaning into what you’re good at, leaning into what you’re passionate about, solving a problem other people have, it’s not rocket science. Yeah.
BB (07:03):
Right. And, and if, actually, if I can add, now that you add mentioned that, that reminds me, I, I can point back to one instance in particular when I was still running the school, that I can trace just about every connection I have today. Even my connection with you and Rory, I can connect back to this one project that I tackled on the side. I didn’t get paid a dime for it. It was a passion project. I had worked with a book in the school and developed curriculum around it and so forth. And I encountered the author and I pitched him on the idea, Hey I really believe in your message. I’d be willing to do this to help republish the book with this thing included and so forth. And really make it even even more useful just to be of help. And so, you know, I worked late at night, worked, put in all the extra hours, and, and again, I did it from a place of mission-driven perspective of, I’m not getting paid for this, I just love to do it. Mm-Hmm. . And that one interaction ended up being what really opened the floodgate to so many relationships, even though that wasn’t my intent, I was just trying to serve and be of help. But just simply being generous in that way contributed to so much of the opportunity.
AJV (08:13):
Actually. I’m really glad that came to mind because I think, like, the biggest thing that sticks out to me is what are you willing to do just to be of service? Mm. It doesn’t matter if you get paid, you’re just like, I can help. Yeah. How, and here’s how I can help knowing that. And it’s like give, to give mindset, right? Right. Versus a give to get. And I love that. And I think that’s very representative of what we’re trying to be about and getting these messages out into the world. And so, you guys have been doing this for a long time, and you’ve helped get a lot of books out there and a lot of messages into the pages of those books. And so I would love to hear it from you for all of these people out there, regardless if they’re in the process or dream of being in the process of writing a book one day, what would you say is a good overarching process of when is it time for you to write a book? Like, how do you know this is the year or this is the time? But then also, how do you know when it’s time to start thinking about the publishing options? ’cause We’re in a world today where you can self-publish, hybrid publish, traditionally publish, and how much writing needs to be done before you start thinking about that thing.
BB (09:27):
Sure. Big questions. big, but let, let’s dive in and unpack them. So the first question of how do you know when it’s time to write a book to, to me, that, that that’s a much larger life and business question, right? So you, in order to answer that question, you first of all have to have to have clarity on where you want your life to go. You have to have some clarity around your goals, what the, the plan is for your life, essentially. So if you find that you’re feeling, I’m really kind of scattered, I’m not very intentional, that’s probably not the time to write a book, because a book requires a lot of support and strategic planning around it to be successful, right? So I’ve encountered many authors who’ve come to me and said, oh, I’ve been wanting to write a book for years.
BB (10:11):
I think now’s the time. Let me do it. I’ve got like 30 days. I can just crank this out. , right? And I told, well, you, I, you know, you might wanna take a few steps back and get a little more thought around what you’re doing. Think strategically. You know, I remember there was a, a, unfortunately when I was living in Ohio, there was a school shooting in our town, and it was a small town America feel. And the town really responded in a way that I was proud to be part of the town and how they responded. And, and I thought about writing a book about that, about the experience and the lessons from that, that and I had a good friend in the publishing space who said who actually was in the publishing space, took a close look at the book proposal and said, you know, if you’re gonna write this book, you need to plan on talking about school shootings for the next two years.
BB (10:57):
That needs to be your focus. That needs to be what you talk about. So make sure that this is where your heart is, this is where your passion is. And frankly, it wasn’t. I, I wasn’t, that wasn’t my calling to be, like, my calling was the story. It wasn’t that topic as important as that topic is. And so I, I decided not to pursue it at that time. And I think that’s the kind of, you have to know where you want to go in order to know what that timing is. But then I think you need to look at, from a business perspective as well, this is one of the first questions I ask someone when we start talking about putting a book together is, is where do you wanna go with this? What, what are you trying to do? What, what’s the big picture that you’re trying to accomplish?
BB (11:35):
Paint that vision for me. And if they can, and it makes sense to, I see how the book fits in. I see it feeds into your business model. I see how it helps open these doors. That makes sense. Let’s keep talking. If not, my advice to them is, again, take a few steps back, get clarity on that strategically. Otherwise, you’re just gonna, you’re gonna jump, jump in, you’re gonna get a lot of activity, and you, the author and anybody helping you is gonna get frustrated because we don’t have a clear end in mind. Right? So that’s a little bit from a timing standpoint on the process standpoint. You know, one of, one of the things that we really love as story builders is when authors come to us, having gone through your captivating content session with brand builders, with the brand, DNA and so forth, because they come to us with great clarity already around the main pillars that they want to talk about.
BB (12:27):
Mm-Hmm. What their behaviors are, are what their stories are. They, they have a lot of clarity around that. So I think the first place you need to start is get clarity on what exactly do you wanna talk about? What, what is it? And, and what is the uniqueness of that? What really makes it, makes it special and different from everybody else. And, and it’s not that the topic you want to talk about has to be completely different. It, it’s that what is it about your story, your unique approach to that that gives it an angle that maybe not everybody has. No book is gonna resonate with everyone, right? You’re looking to write a message that will resonate with the people you really want to connect with, right? So getting clarity on that, I think is huge on the front end from that, then, okay.
AJV (13:11):
Before you go on. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Because I think this is important. Like, how many people would you say come to you without even really knowing what they want to write about?
BB (13:24):
Not as many as you might think. There have been some, I’ve had some, I’ve had somebody, you know, text me from the beach kind of, Hey, here’s what I’m thinking of writing. And from that text, we build a whole book around it. But, you know, a lot of people have some thing that they thought about writing about. Maybe they haven’t done the work to really clarify it though. Mm-Hmm. and get it in the clarity that it needs. Some do. Some come to us with very well thought out plans and strategy that we can add value to and help make better and improve. You know, but I think everybody has an idea that the, the challenge comes when people think they have a well thought idea, and they really just have a half baked idea. Right? They really haven’t thought it through.
BB (14:09):
And that’s okay, as long as you’re open to being teachable and open to in, you know, in, in input on that and shape it and really make it exceptional. That’s what we’re about, is if we’re gonna do a project, we’re gonna do it with excellence, or we’re not gonna do it at all. And so, you know, we’re not, we’re not, we’re not, we’re just not motivated by helping people crank out some word widgets, you know? We want it to be a meaningful message, something that can actually impact the world, make it a better place. So yeah. I, I short answer. I would say not too often, and when they do, it’s really about, you need to get clarity on what that is. Yeah.
AJV (14:45):
Okay. Now, one of the other things that I hear a lot from just people in the Brand Builders Group community, and just even just in the larger audience at hand of, there’s just so many different ways to publish these days, and some people are cranking out self-published book that they did write in a 30 day period, and boom, here it is. Even though that is more rare. But I would love to know when it comes to writing and the relationship to publishing, like what are those timelines? Sure. Like, how much of the book needs to be started completed before you think about publishing?
BB (15:22):
Sure. Well, let me, let me answer that by filling that gap between clarity and publishing. I think that’ll help fill in that timeline a little bit. Because yes, there are people out there who said, oh, I did my book in 30 days. And, and you, you usually can tell that it was done in 30 days, quite candidly. But even if you can’t, my response is, well, imagine how good it could have been if you had brought expertise to the table if you’d really thought, thought it through. Ideas need time to percolate, right? They need time to develop and grow to really be maximized and unique. So that process, and once you get clarity, you need to build a, a story structure, a for the book, a, a a framework for the book of, of what, as you guys use the term pillar points.
BB (16:09):
So what, what is that structure gonna be? And then, you know, we use what we call the storytelling structure method. It’s, it’s a five point process that that really walks people through. It’s just proven storytelling structure that has been used for millennia in the human race, right? Of, and we follow that five point process, both to build the book itself, the framework, and then each chapter, each component, we, we componentize it, essentially break it down into small pieces that you can then write. If, if the author’s writing themselves and we’re coaching them, we, we, they go through that process. If we’re doing the writing for and with them, we go through that process. And, and typically I think you know, a lot of authors make the mistake of thinking, I have to have the publisher nailed down before I can do anything. I have to have to begin with the end in mind.
BB (16:57):
And, and that’s good advice to begin with, the end in mind. But you can’t really decide your publishing path until you have a really good sense of where the book is going. Mm-Hmm. , is it gonna be worth reading? What, what, what’s it gonna, what’s gonna be the best publishing path? Right? So typically, you know, you can get started on the writing process and developing that. I always suggest working with someone to really make it sparkle, really make it awesome. You know, but I don’t, you know, about midway through that process is where you can turn and look at, all right, what are my best publishing paths? I’m about, you know, 30, 40%, 50% through the book. Let me start doing that. Maybe that’s a proposal to shop it to traditional publishers. Maybe that’s a hybrid imprint, like mission-driven press and, and, and things like that.
BB (17:43):
You know, maybe you’re going a different hybrid brow. It can, there, there’s all kinds of factors that affect all of those things, kind of what you’re doing, what you want to accomplish. But you need to know what the book is going to be. Otherwise you’re going to publishers and saying, Hey, I have a little bit of an idea. Do you buy it? Do you wanna be part of it? , you know, none of us would do that if someone came to us and said, Hey, I’ve got a car. I got the idea of a car. I’d like to sell it to you, you know, right now, and then I’ll put it together later. They need to know at least what, what, what, what’s the blueprint? How’s the book coming? Mm-Hmm. , is there actually gonna be a book? What’s the substantive, is it a fit for us? To give some, ’cause some of that kind of timing.
AJV (18:21):
You know, that’s interesting because being in this world for such a long time, you know, we have such a personal experience with, you know, we’ve done the traditional routes, right? We’re now hybrid publishers ourselves. And then we just have tons and tons of friends who’ve gone the, you know, self-publishing route. And what I have found is there’s no necessary right nor wrong. It has everything to do with what are you trying to accomplish with this book, right. With the purpose of it, in addition to getting the message out in the world. But Right. How you get that message out into the world means a lot in terms of someone actually reading the book, which is goal and intent. Usually. It’s like, I want someone to read the book. Sure. And one of the things that I had found, you know, when we went the traditional route and all, although, and this was almost 10 years ago when we shopped our last book to a traditional publisher, but it’s like, you gotta have at least a few sample chapters.
AJV (19:19):
We had to have all of the book outlined, all of the chapters had to have titles, and we didn’t have just one chapter. It was a few chapters. And so we’re talking 30, like what you said, 30% plus of the book was written. And, and the outline was complete for them to even acknowledge, like, this is something that represents us, something that we think most importantly will sell. Right? Which is what kept coming back to, it’s like, do we think the market will buy this? Right. And an idea wasn’t enough. But even in the hybrid publishing space now, I have people come to us at Mission-Driven Press saying, Hey I’m just trying to get failures of how I wanna publish this. I don’t have anything done yet. And I’m like, well then I don’t know if we’re a fit for you based on your timelines, our timelines, how long is it gonna take you to get the book done so that I can actually review it and decide if it’s a fit for us and vice versa.
AJV (20:14):
And it’s, you know, one of the prerequisites for us to even go, yeah, this looks like something that we’d wanna help get out there and I wanna see at least a few sample chapters. Sure. I wanna see the outline, the overview. Whereas, you know, in the self-publishing route, you don’t have that. Right. But at least with hybrid and traditional 30% minimum, I would say has been our experience so that people can go, do I think the market will buy this? Do do I think this is a, a big enough topic for the masses to be interested in? Is it something we wanna align ourselves with? Does it fit, you know, our published house or imprint or whatever? Would you say that’s similar to what you’ve seen?
BB (20:55):
Oh, a absolutely. ’cause We help people develop book proposals, like if they’re going their traditional route, they wanna shop that. We help people do that all the time. But, and that’s the same process, exactly what you said. It’s several chapters. It’s the framework. Usually it’s an annotated outline. It’s basically making the case for the book. It tells the publisher, you’ve done the thought work behind this. Right? and, and, and what was really popular actually for us, when people aren’t sure what publishing path they want to go yet that they don’t, they don’t have to figure that out to get started. Like, we can help them get clarity on that, begin building that actually drafting a manuscript, putting that, getting it to that place where they know they’re putting their best foot forward, their their best representation to publishers, whatever that might be.
BB (21:41):
Because you usually only get one shot at that, right? So if, if you’re pitching it to publishers or presenting it to someone, you, you don’t want to give them like your C level work. You want your A level work. Mm-Hmm. . You wanna bring your best to the game. And that’s where we really excel, is helping to shape that best into something that publishers then get excited about. And regardless, again, regardless of that publishing spectrum, where you are, where you end up on that publishing spectrum, there’s pros and cons to all of it. And we are, we’re like publishing ambivalent. We really passionately want what’s best for the author. We’re working with that. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. And so that’s where we try to work from to build out that story.
AJV (22:23):
Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great transition into talking about making sure that what you put forth is excellent and making sure it’s the best of what you have, not an idea of what might be the best of what you have. So Right, right. High level, what makes a great writer?
BB (22:40):
Hmm. Yeah. I think the first thing that makes a great is almost too, it sounds too simple, but if someone is actually gonna be a writer, they’ve gotta put their butt in the chair and do the work, right? They’ve gotta show up and write. And so a lot of people have this perception that they are a writer, or they could be a writer if they wanted to, they just never do it, right? and candidly, that was me for a long time. I, I talked about myself as being a writer when I was younger, and I always told her, oh, I’m a writer, but I wasn’t actually writing anything . And so a writer who’s not writing isn’t actually a writer, right? They could be, but they aren’t. And so actually doing the work, first of all, you have to do the work.
BB (23:30):
You have to actually do the writing. So just showing up every day. I think the second thing is to understand that writing is a process. And many people think that the first draft of what they do is writing, but it’s not, that’s just the beginning of the writing process, right? So good writing becomes great writing through editing. So simply putting something on a page that just gives you raw material to work with that you can then evaluate. You can edit, you can cut a lot of stuff. If you’re a good writer, a lot of what you write will get cut and left on the editing room floor, even though it’s really good, it just doesn’t fit. Mm-Hmm. . And so there, there, it’s that level of work of, I, I can often tell when a book has just been like, first run, maybe review it a little bit and I’m done.
BB (24:23):
It, it, it lacks depth. Often it lacks detail. It lacks clarity. It doesn’t get to the point in a powerful way. It kind of rambles a little bit here and there. You know, so thinking about that, a third thing I would say too is understand that writing is a unique medium. So speaker, for example, if you’re a speaker and you, you like to give keynote speech and maybe really good at that, but recognizing that giving a speech and putting words on a page are two different mediums for conveyance. Just like video is different than speaking, right? We, there are different mediums and you need to understand the nuances of them. So writing, for example, here’s the challenge of writing. You have to put words on a page and then put it out into the world. And then someone who you don’t even know has to open that page, read it, and understand what you intended to say, and have the same emotional impact that you intended to say as if they were in the room with you talking with you, .
BB (25:26):
But they’re not , right? And so you’re getting no feedback. You don’t know if we’re, have, we’re having this conversation, you know, you’re nodding, right? I fourth dynamic. And in writing, you don’t get any of that, right? So you have to, it’s one way communication that needs to feel like it’s two way mm-Hmm. . And so that, that takes a lot of editing and a lot of work, and a lot of being willing to, you know, that expression, kill your darlings, if you will, right? Being willing to let go of things that might be cluttering that process or getting in the way of a reader, or that feel clever to you. I know, you know, you guys talk about that a lot, right? That clear is better than clever, right? And so it’s that kind of idea of writing with clarity takes place there.
BB (26:15):
The the fourth thing I would add is that it takes time and effort to become a really good writer. And you have to become a writing. And a lot of people simply don’t have the time to do that, right? They’re, they’re professionals. They’re entrepreneurs, they’re speakers. They’re building their influential brand. They’ve got business going on. They don’t have time to do that. And that’s okay, right? This is what a lot of people don’t realize is you don’t actually have to become a writer to create a, an incredible book. You can partner with someone like me, like my team, who we, we do the work of becoming the writers and understanding your ideas to help turn them in to something that, that is really cool.
AJV (26:56):
I love that. And I wanna go back and touch on each of these points because I think there’s a lot of wisdom and depth into each of these. And then on that last one, I think it’s a grand a grand transition into, okay, well, if you know you’re not a writer Yeah. Tell me about that. What, what, what, how do we do that? But I wanna hop all the way back to that first thing you said, which is the first thing that takes to become a great writer is showing up. Mm-Hmm. Right? But in the feet. Right? And so what I’d love to hear is, do you have any tips or best practices of what’s the best way to actually get yourself to write the book? Is there like an ideal schedule or timeline? I have my own, you know, experiences of what I’ve seen happen in my house as well as with others. Sure. But like, what would you say would be a good schedule for writing?
BB (27:43):
Yeah. What I find is using something like our storytelling structure method that would help break it down, right? If you think, I gotta write this big book, so easy to stare at the screen and have no idea what to write next, but when you break it down into small enough parts, anything can be done If you break it down to small enough parts. And so breaking it down into, all right, I need this chunk. It’s, it’s, I don’t know, three or four or 5, 6, 7 paragraphs, maybe a page and a half. That’s all I need, right? That’s what I need to do today. Mm-Hmm. . And so having that kind of mindset I think helps considerably to get started. The other thing that I, I wanna really push back on is this myth, myth of writer’s block. Hmm. People talk about it as if it’s a real thing, .
BB (28:26):
And, and I just, I just don’t believe that’s true. Having written so much and, and all this, I, what I find is that writer’s block isn’t really a thing provided we are simply willing to do it messy, right? That’s something you guys talked about at brand builders also. Right? Just do it messy. And so when you have it broken down into small enough pieces, then it’s Right. All right, where does it feel right for me to begin? Where do I have clarity within this? Well, I have this one statement I wanna make. Start with that statement, and then give yourself, as a writer, the freedom to go wherever that takes you. And, you know, we, we think about creating and editing, we’re talking about two different sides of the brain. And so you have to give your creative side freedom to say, this is a creative session.
BB (29:16):
I’m not editing, I’m not perfecting, I’m not polishing. I’m just allowing myself to get out what’s in my heart and head and, and approach that session with that in mind of this. I, I’m, I’m, this is gonna be messy. It’s not gonna be perfect. It’s first draft, and that’s okay. There’ll be another time that I’ll come back and I’ll switch to the other side of my brain and do the editing and bring the critical eye and apply that. But for this session, it’s gonna be about creativity. I’m gonna have it, whatever, wherever I do have clarity, I’m gonna push forward. I’m gonna start putting words on a page. Even if they don’t even make a lot of sense to me, I’m just gonna do it. ’cause Motion creates momentum, right? So going through that process allows you to do that and not get hung up on this you know, idea of writer’s block. And then we grab that as an excuse, well, I can’t write because I have writer’s block, you know, air quotes. Right? Whatever that means. And I just, I’ve just found, put it on the page, be creative. Get in the right mindset and let it flow.
AJV (30:17):
I love that because I think that comes back to if you have a robust outline and you have clarity on what you’re writing about, right? There isn’t, well, I don’t know what to do today. I have writer’s block. It’s like, no, we’ve already done that work. Right? We know exactly what we’re writing about. We know the pillars, we know the points. We know the stories, right? So I hear what I hear you saying is that if people quote unquote struggle with writer’s block, it’s probably due to a lack of clarity of what they’re writing about. And they haven’t done the strategy work and the larger picture work in order to do the, Hey, I need to do this one chapter, or I need to, you know, do X, Y, and Z.
BB (30:55):
Exactly. And if, for instance, if we apply our storytelling structure method to a 12 chapter book, I can pretty much right now, without knowing anything about the book, know that you pretty much have at least 60 sub components that you need to build out. It’s actually a little more than that. And some of it can shift and change, and there’s nuance to all of it, but it’s pretty much what it is. And then once you know what those pieces are, you can schedule those. This is my creative time to work on that. It’s probably gonna take X amount of time. And then you get to know, give yourself the freedom if you’re doing the writing yourself, get yourself, give yourself the freedom to get to know how you work best, right? Yeah. There are no, no two writers are alike. You know, I think of famous writers who, you know, might be approached it one way, others approach another. No. Two writers are like, so don’t think that, oh, I have to be like Bill, or I have to be like Ernest Hemingway, or I have to be whoever. Right? no, you define your own style and what works best for you.
AJV (31:51):
Yeah. I love that. You know, and it’s interesting ’cause I’ve had the privilege to watch my husband go through the process of, of writing two books. And as we are heading into the process of writing our signature book for Brain Builders group, it’s been really interesting of going, how he does it and how I do could not be more completely different on this planet. Like, his whole thing is, I gotta block two weeks and I just gotta get it done, you know? And it’s like, Mm-Hmm. it just all has to happen at once, right? And he’s like, I need all 80 hours, nothing on the schedule. And it’s like, I couldn’t be more different. And I’m like, oh, that’s, that’s a luxury, but not all of us possess. And so if you’ve got all these other things, not that he has lots of extra time but it’s just, again, it’s finding, it’s like, Hey, I can break it down into chunks, and it doesn’t have to to happen in a certain timeframe. I just have to go, these are the chunks and this is where I fit it in. And it’ll get done when it gets done. But when it gets done, it’ll be right. Right,
BB (32:47):
Right, right. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. There, there’s no single right way to do it. It’s just, there there is wisdom and guidelines that can help you get there faster and better. I love that. That’s what it’s about.
AJV (32:58):
It’s flexible. Right. All right. Second thing. Yeah. And I loved what you said, and I just wanted to call back out. And this is something that we say a lot at Brain Builders Group. So no one take offense to this, but there are no great writers. Mm-Hmm. Only great editors. Mm-Hmm. Right. It’s like when we write Mm-Hmm. If you do it, you know, if you do it often and you do it well, it’s like you’re verbose , there’s too much. Yeah, sure, sure. And it’s all over the place. Sure. And that’s what a great editor does, is it makes it more succinct and clear. And that’s not necessarily the writer’s job. The writer’s job is to get it all out. Right. The editor’s job is to tighten it up, clean it up, and bring it together. And I think that’s just a great reminder to everyone. It’s like, you don’t have to be a great writer. You just need great editing. Mm-Hmm.
BB (33:44):
. Mm-Hmm. . Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And the writer and the editor can be the same person, provided they realize they need to switch the sides of their brain and their focus of what they’re doing. Right. Because I, I do both, but I, you have to approach it intentionally. I’m here to edit. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to write, I’m here to edit. Although I think you could, you could switch out that word writer and put a definition next to it and just put editor. Yeah. Right. ’cause That’s really what it is. You don’t get to greatness by accident. Mm-Hmm. . And I think there’s a lot of lessons for life in this as well. If we approach life like we do writing, the key to great writing is ruthless editing. Well, the key to great living is also ruthless editing.
BB (34:28):
Right. The ability to know, Hey, this is our objective. This is what I’m trying to accomplish. And so because of that, I’m gonna cut that out. I’m gonna cut that out. I’m cut that out so these things in my life can flourish. Right. And giving space for those ideas to take place and, and not trying to do so much that you know, I think of your, what the analogy you and Rory use about Sheehan’s wall, right? That in order to get out of obscurity and part become well known, you have to get focused and punched through that wall. I think it’s, I mean, it applies to larger vision of life, right? In order to live the life you truly want, I like to say live a story. We’re telling, like, you have to get clear on what you do want focus, so you can punch through that resistance and enjoy what you’re seeking on the other side.
AJV (35:13):
Yeah. So true. Okay. Third thing is just the process of getting words on a page. And so I was curious, I’ve just got two quick things here that I jotted down, is what’s your take on the trend of people just audio, they’re audio ing? Is that a thing? I’m making it a thing. Audio ing their book, right? Doing everything Voice Right. And then having it transcribed and edited from there. Sure, sure. And then also, what’s your take on using ai?
BB (35:42):
Oh, great question. Great question. Yeah. First of all, on the transcript side you know, we, we don’t do that. And again, it goes back to the medium conversation, right? A speaker is going to speak things one way, and and that’s fine in a conversation, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into the, into the written word. And so there are services out there that will say they actually tout the fact that, oh, you, you just answer these questions. We take your answers, we make sure they’re grammatically correct. And boom, you gotta book it’s magic. The, again, the problem is, first of all, it, it hasn’t gone through the filter of translating into that medium. Secondly the ideas, any one of us all by ourselves only has certain ideas and only has a certain perspective. And so when you bring in other voices into that process, who can bring fresh insights strategically raise the value of that perspective, and cause you to realize other things.
BB (36:41):
We have one gentleman incredible business consultant. We’ve written several books with him and what he has said, I come into a book project, I have a good idea of what I wanna say, but by the time I leave, that book has been improved so dramatically because of the ideas that we’ve developed through that process. I could never have gotten there on my own. I, and so that’s, that’s what we look for. That’s the value of what we do. You know, so this kind of outta the box plan if that’s a fit for you, great. We, our focus is more does it actually serve your audience or is it more about easy for you? And if you’re here to serve, then you gotta make sure that book is really strategically powerful. So that’s the one question on the AI front.
BB (37:28):
It, it, it is like, it’s not even the wild West yet. It’s, it’s even messier than the Wild West on the AI front of books and so forth. Obviously there’s a lot of legal stuff going on. One of the things that’s becoming evident is that if you create a book using ai, you actually don’t own the copyright on that book. You don’t own the content. So trying to build any intellectual property around that becomes really troublesome. ’cause This is one of the things we bring to the table, as you know, as well. We help people develop ways to monetize their ideas into digital courses, instructional design, workshops, trainings, all those kind of things. And if the ideas aren’t actually yours, then whatever you build is on really shaky ground from a legal perspective. The other problem is that, you know, you know, I think it was the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there’s nothing new under the sun .
BB (38:22):
What is new and different is your ability to bring unique perspective, your story, your, your unique approach to it that only you can bring. And AI doesn’t know that. And so it, it just spits out whatever other people have said. And, and it removes that uniqueness on the one hand. On the other hand what AI cannot do is it cannot make connections. It hasn’t already made that already haven’t been made. And this is the, the genius of the human mind is that we can put thoughts together that no one has ever put together before. Right? We, we can bring fresh ideas and insights into all that in a way that, you know, no machine ever will be able to do. Right? Mm-Hmm. , no matter what the limits of that are, whatever that looks like it simply won’t have the ability to pull all that together. So all that being said, I think AI has its place. It can be used to curate content, be used to pull research and so forth, where we’ve run into struggles with authors onis when they start relying on it to do the lifting for them. And then, you know, they end up just stuck in this mediocre place that nobody really wants to read.
AJV (39:31):
Yeah. And it’s interesting, I think most of us have encountered enough AI content at this point where it’s like, yeah, I think that’s ai Right? Versus right , I can tell. And I think it’ll continue to improve over the next, you know, months and years and we’ll see where it ends up. But I agree that there’s just some things that, you know, technology can never replace the human heart. And writing and storytelling, I believe are two of those categories. It’s right, the importance of the nuances of a story that really can only come from the human heart. So let’s talk, transition a little bit into then, what is it that you guys do to help humans bring humans into this place of becoming, you know, great writers and produce great writing? And so what is a ghost writer and what do they do?
BB (40:23):
Sure. Well, I, I usually don’t even use the term ghostwriter. I don’t mind it at all. I like to use the term collaborative writing. Mm. I like that. ’cause It’s really how I view it as really coming alongside. Yeah. An author not replacing them, not pretending that they did something they didn’t. But a lot of the big names and big books you see out there, not all of them by any means were written with collaborative writers or ghost writers, whatever the case may be. The key, I think a lot of people tend to, this is another reason why I use that name is people think of ghost writing as almost like it’s a fake writing. Mm-Hmm. And that’s not what the collaborative process is at all. In fact, it really relies on authenticity. You know, that the people I work with on books we, we go deep into, into content and our team goes deep with them to develop that content.
BB (41:13):
You know, so it is very much the author’s ideas. That’s another thing some people think is, well, it won’t actually be what I have to say. It won’t be my message. No, not if you have a good collaborative writer, it will be your method. We, we have a priority of preserving that and adding value to it, not not replacing it. Right? so we serve as that sounding board for ideas and value add for ideas. And we just go through that process. I mean, we, a lot of times the authors I work with, we become good friends ’cause we get to know each other really well. Our team becomes good friends and so forth. And we have a whole process laid out where we help people really turn their ideas into compelling books and compelling manuscripts that they can then decide what’s the best publishing path for me? What do I do with this now that I have a book I can be proud of? Right? So that, that’s really where, where the heart of that comes in. And that’s really where our passion is. ’cause You know, we’ve seen so many people who have ideas and they either take them half baked into the world and regret it, or they don’t take ’em at all. ’cause They’re afraid they don’t know how. And we believe the world needs to hear what these leaders need have to say.
AJV (42:19):
You know, it’s interesting ’cause I liken what you just said to something that I also experience when the red light on the camera goes on. Because we do so much video work. And what I’ve noticed that even with our team at Brand Builders Group, they will have the most amazing ideas and eloquent conversation and wisdom. And then I’m like, we gotta get that on camera. And we put the camera in front of them and that red light comes on. It’s like, . I’m like, what just happened? Like, like, just repeat what you just said. And they’re like, what did I say? Right? And what I have noticed, it’s because it’s in an interview conversation format. When people have to move into monologue mode, which is what happens when you are writing or you’re talking to yourself, so much of that disappears. And it’s like, wait, I don’t, what did you ask?
AJV (43:09):
What? I don’t know what I said. And it’s because what came to them was in the form of the question. And so what I see that you do so well is it’s helping the writer get into dialogue mode in conversation mode. Because you’re asking the questions that help them get to the root of the story or the point, or what they’re trying to share. Where when you’re just looking at a camera screen, it’s like what, what was that? Or, or you start questioning yourself like, wait, is this really good? And what you have an hour to write and you’re like, yeah, it’ll sucked. And it’s like, says who? And it’s because you don’t have that dialogue and conversation. And so to hear you use the term collaborative writing makes a lot of sense because it’s that dialogue. It’s that conversation that allows the author, the, the content creator to flow more naturally, which is how it would in real conversation versus putting words on a page or talking to a blank screen.
BB (44:06):
I completely agree. Again, pushing back against that myth that people think it, I I have to do it myself, or it’s not my ideas. Mm-Hmm. . Well, the reality is none of your ideas are truly your ideas in the first place. You’ve got the, the seeds of those from elsewhere anyway, right? . Totally. You’ve brawn those in and you’ve pulled them together in a unique way. And so this is what we do is really about, let’s be intentional about that. Let’s be intentional about for busy people who, frankly they don’t have time to become experts in writing. They don’t, they have other priorities and they should have other priorities. Frankly. They have, they do things that only they can do extremely well. And I was just talking to one of our mutual friends, right? Lewis Howes the other day about this idea is he’s a huge fan of, you know, delegating ruthlessly. Like whatever is not in your strength spot, find someone else who can do it better. Right? And hence our partnership. I know he partners with you guys for the same reason, right? So it’s, it’s that kind of idea that if, if this isn’t your thing, find somebody who can add value and collaborate with you to help, to help you be more creative. Yeah. Because you have those ideas. We can just help them get them out of you and share ’em with the world.
AJV (45:18):
And it doesn’t matter who you are and at what level. Everybody still needs coaching. Rightly, the best athlete in the world still have coaches, absolutely the best anything in the world Absolutely. Are seeking never and constant, yeah. Improvement. you know, so I think that’s back to the process. We all need to coach in something in our lives. And if you’re going through this process that’s a lot of what it is. It’s collaborative writing, body coaching questions and the, and, and making time and having accountability to the time, which we all need that too. So bill, if people wanna learn more about Story Builders, where should they go?
BB (46:05):
I would say the best. Sorry about that. My internet stuttered for a minute there, I think.
AJV (46:10):
Okay. I’m almost gonna start that little sentence over. So Bill, if people wanna learn more about Story Builders, where should they go?
BB (46:17):
We would love to connect with people who have a story that they, maybe they’re wondering, is my story worth telling , do I have a book? Do I need, do I even need help? We’re here to help you figure that out. So the best way to get in touch with us is to schedule a book, idea session with one of our story strategists, and we’ll get you answers to those questions. It’s free, no obligation session with them. Veteran Book, people who have worked on thousands of books, thousands of authors. We would love to help you figure that out. Go to my story builders.com/story. So my story builders.com/story. And you can easily right now schedule time on your calendar, put in a spot we want to come alongside and help you. If we can be a fit for you and help you, great. If not, we want to get out of your way so you can tell your story and live it out in the way that you feel called to do.
AJV (47:10):
Hmm. I love that y’all, my story builders.com/story. I will put that in the show notes, at least vet the idea of, is this the route for me? What is this idea I have? And have some conversation around what that looks like. Now, bill, people wanna connect with you personally. What’s the best platform for them to connect with you personally?
BB (47:31):
Best one is gonna be LinkedIn. We, we put a lot of focus in actually serving the clients and story partners as we call ’em, that we’re serving. But LinkedIn’s probably the best place. Just look me up, bill Blank Shane, or Story Builders, one of the two. And or, you know, schedule some time with our story strategist and say, Hey, I’d really like to talk to Bill. I’d, you know, got a project. I’d like to explore what it would look like to have him help me personally or anything like that. It’s fine, whatever that takes. And yeah, just, just reach out and we’re here.
AJV (48:00):
And I’ll put your LinkedIn link in the show notes as well. This was so helpful, so insightful, so many good nuggets. And for everyone else who is listening, stick around for the recap, which will be up next. And we will see you next time on the influential personal brand.

Ep 461: What You Need To Start Building Your Speaking Business | Joe Heaps Episode Recap

AJV (00:02):
So speaker, you want to get booked on more stages. So I’m talking to you today that aspiring speaker, that early beginner speaker or even that moderately booked speaker who’s going, I want to make this part-time thing or this dream, my full-time gig. I wanna become a highly paid professional speaker. I wanna speak on stages. This is what I wanna do. This is my dream. How do I do that? All right. And so recently on the influential personal brand podcast, I interviewed Joe Heaps, who is the CMO, and he’s in charge of marketing and sales strategies for e speakers, which is an online speaker matching service with meeting planners. And so we had a conversation around some industry trends of like, what’s working to help get speakers booked in today’s market and today, I mean, 2024, and what do we need to know as speakers that will help us grow our speaking business?
AJV (01:00):
So I wanted to share some of those highlights from that interview and a more condensed recap version for you. So there’s just a few things I thought were really helpful that I wanna share with you to help you build that speaking business this year. So the first thing I thought this was really fascinating Joe mentioned, he goes the number one misstep that I see early beginner speakers make is they make all of their speaker press kits, even their demo videos all about their credentials versus what am I gonna do for you? Right? And I see this all the time too. In fact, I’ve made this mistake before where I start with the very first page of my speaker press Kitt is my bio, and it’s like, Hey, AJ Vaden is a entrepreneur, speaker, author, and it’s all about me.
AJV (01:48):
And it’s like, well, we can get to that, but what this meeting planner needs to know is right up front and that very first line, what are you gonna do for me? Right? So it’s what he calls the audience benefit statements. What are the payoffs? What are the takeaways that my audience is going to leave from your session, right? So you’ve gotta start with the audience in mind as well as the buyer in mind. In this case, the buyer is the meeting planner or the committee or whoever’s gonna book that speaker. But they need to know, it’s like, what are you gonna do for my audience? What are you gonna do for me? Not what are all of your credentials? And then I love what he said, he said. Then the, the second biggest mistake that I see that speakers make is that if they start with that, then there’s no transition.
AJV (02:32):
And they immediately go into, and I’m a, you know, New York Times bestselling author, podcast host, da da da, and there’s a complete disconnect between what were the benefit statements that we were just talking about and who I am as a speaker and as a person. He said, so as that transition happens from the audience benefit statements such as, you know, Hey, I am a engaging speaker who’s going to bring humor to the audience. So if you’re looking for entertainment value, dah, dah, dah, dah dah, then we need that transition statement to go, Hey, as a, you know, 20 year standup comedian, and use your bio as an actual part of the proof process to the benefit statements. Make sure that there is a natural transition of whatever you just said in the benefit statements about what they can expect from you as a speaker.
AJV (03:25):
What are the benefits that they’re gonna get from hiring you as a speaker, right? The takeaways, the what the audience is gonna leave with, make sure that’s the first thing that you talk about when you get to your bio. It’s not, hey and AJ is a, it’s like, no, we need to make sure that the very first things in our bio are giving the proof and the evidence from whatever we just said in the benefit statements of how our experience and our expertise gives us the right to talk about these things. And it’s the proof that I actually know what I’m talking about. Then you can add in all of those other credentializing things. And so the way to do that is just a very, very articulate way of going. We have to start with the audience in mind, the buyer in mind, IE the meeting planner, what do they wanna hear first?
AJV (04:16):
And then use our bio as a way to give proof to every statement that you just set. And that’s what they’re looking for on that very first page of a speaker press kit or the very first thing they see on the, about us on your website. But it’s like, Hey, it’s like, what are you gonna do for me? What’s the very first thing I wanna know? Is what kind of speaker are you and what are the benefits of your, your speech? Not the features. The features are all about you. The benefits are what are you gonna do for my audience? And I thought that was just a very good, simple way of thinking about it. Second thing and we talk about this all the time in different formats, but I loved his little take on demo videos. He said, honestly some, some meeting planners are gonna wanna see 30 minutes of stage footage, some 15 minute, you know, sizzle reel.
AJV (05:04):
You see those popular? He said, but I’ll tell you most often what most people are looking for is some sort of 32nd to two minutes that is so short, y’all 30 seconds, 30 seconds to two minute clips of you on stage. He goes, they’re not looking for testimonials in that two minutes. They’re not looking for where you’ve spoken, what media you’ve been on, there’s no voiceovers. It’s like, Nope, I need you right up front on stage doing the best thing that you do, right? So, and it needs to be on the content. And it’s like when you think about two minutes is not a lot of time, you can’t be fitting in all that other stuff in there. And there are so many different opinions on what makes a great demo video. Other people say it’s like, Hey, five minutes. And we do want that production value.
AJV (05:45):
We do want the credibility and the testimonials that Joe’s take on it. He goes, the very first thing they need to see is you on stage. And he goes, if you wanna add all that stuff after the fact, make sure it’s after the two minutes. But that first 30 seconds to two minutes needs to be you doing your thing with the best content you have. We need to see audience engagement, we need to see audience reactions, and we need to see you doing your craft. And that’s what we want those first two minutes. And then if you wanna extend it past that with testimonials and all the other stuff, that’s fine or make separate videos for that. But just give us two minutes of the best you’ve got on stage. And that’s what meeting planners wanna see. Thought that was super helpful and insightful.
AJV (06:29):
Last thing wanna share is just something about fees. ’cause That’s always coming up. And so I asked him, it’s like, what, what do you, what do you see as the best way to set fees? And there’s a couple of different things that he shared that I thought was really great. And he said, just remember if you’re a beginner, if you’re just starting out, just speak. If you get paid it’s bonus but speak because you wanna speak and you maybe get paid $50, $200, $500, he goes, just say yes. The more you speak, the more you speak, right? We say that all the time at Brand Builders Group, but if you wanna speak and you’re just starting out, you just say yes, you take the gig and then you take it again and then you take it again and you follow basic laws of supply and demand, and the lower the supply, the higher the demand, your fees go up.
AJV (07:16):
So as we’re talking about someone who is getting booked for speed getting booked for fees, and you are doing this, what are those early beginner set fees that you’re seeing most often on e speakers? And he said, what I would consider a beginner speaker who maybe doesn’t even have a demo video yet, but they have just some clips on stage. He said, maybe they’ve been doing this for a year or so. They’re not booked, but they’re getting booked. Sometimes he goes somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000 is where we see most people at a beginner level, regardless of what you set your fees at, I think that’s a, a probably an accurate picture of what it looks like as a beginner. He said, then we start seeing that supply and demand factor. The more you get booked, you know, the more demand you have, then those fees start rising up.
AJV (08:01):
He said, but I would say the average speaker on our site, which they’ve got more than 20,000 speakers, is between 70 $510,000. And those are people who’ve got systems in place. They’re doing this pretty frequently. This has become their full-time thing and those are their average fees. And he goes, and then what we’re seeing for us anyway is anyone above 10,000 is someone who is booked out, right? So they are rather booked out. They have had some sort of a content event. So their content has gone viral. They had a TED Talk, they had a bestselling book, they had some sort of what I would call life event. So they climbed Mount Everest or you know, they survived a plane crash where they have some unique life event, which is rare, or they’ve had some sort of content that has made them available to increase their fees to a certain level. And I just think following
AJV (08:54):
That as the basic guidelines, as you’re, as you’re setting out to build your speaking career and specifically over the next 12 months of just like, where am I at today and where do I wanna be of going? You just start speaking until you can get paid. And then the more you get paid, just know those beginner level fees. It’s very normal to start around $2,500. Even if you know you’re worth more than that you’ll get paid worth more than that. But the more you speak, the more you speak. So just a couple of insights around press Kids demo videos and fees as we set out into the year to help you build your speaking career. Hope that helps. If you wanna check out the full episode, it’s with Joe Heaps from e Speakers on the Influential Personal Brand podcast, and I’ll see you soon.

Ep 460: Helping Speakers Get Booked On More Stages with Joe Heaps

AJV (00:02):
Hey everybody. AJ Vaden here. Welcome to the Influential Personal Brand. I am super excited for today’s interview because I love when I get to do interviews around very niche topics like we’re gonna do today. And today we’re gonna be talking about the world of speaking and most specifically how to get booked as a speaker. And I have invited a newer friend of mine, but a good friend of my husband and a lot of the team at Brain Builders Group, Joe Heaps. And I’ll tell you a little bit more about Joe in a second, but I wanted to let you guys know what this interview is about and why you should stick around. And just before I hit record, Joe and I were talking about how, you know, there’s so much stuff on the internet, on social media about what it means to be a speaker and how you get paid as a speaker and how you get booked as a speaker.
AJV (00:53):
And the truth is, I think there’s a lot of value in some stuff that’s out there, and there’s no value in other stuff that’s out there. And so we’ve been on this kind of mission to help get some industry leaders in the speaking industry on this podcast to help create some clarity and expectations around if you have a dream, if you have a passion of becoming a highly paid professional speaker who is booked on stages because you have a message that you just feel called to share, right? There are some things you need to know that will prepare you and equip you to do that successfully, where you can take this dream and turn it into a very lucrative business. But if you think it’s gonna happen overnight, and you think it’s gonna happen by, you know, just posting some social media content, well, that may be where you’re a little off schedule, right?
AJV (01:45):
And so today we’re gonna have just an honest conversation of helping you build that dream of building your speaking business. So if you’re an aspiring speaker or even a speaker who’s getting booked, that just goes, man, I wanna get booked more. I do want this to be my full thing full-time thing, then this is the interview for you. So stick around get your pen and paper, take notes, because this is gonna be jam packed with tons of industry insights that’s gonna help you succeed in that endeavor. Now let me introduce you to the gentleman who’s going to help share some of these industry secrets. ’cause It’s not gonna be me today. I’m just going to be asking some questions. And quite honestly, I have my pen and paper too. ’cause I’m super excited to learn what’s new, what’s changing, what’s evolving. Because as a speaker myself, I have no doubt that Joe’s gonna share some tips today that I can put into practice in my business.
AJV (02:39):
So Joe Heaps is the managing partner and also the CMO at E Speakers, which you’re gonna learn all about. He is and why I think this is so helpful. He’s the one who’s responsible for all the sales and marketing strategies, which, you know, surprise, right? , if you are a speaker, you are in sales and marketing, right? Right. It doesn’t matter how you get booked, but you are in sales and marketing. So to have Joe come and talk about that, I think is a really fundamentally important part of this conversation. He is in charge of helping drive the vision of e speakers but also helping the the speakers who are part of e speakers improve their business and get booked and build a lucrative business, right? And that’s why I wanted to have him on the show today. And so Joe, as a, a part of the industry, I’m so excited to have you on the show. I’m so excited to learn from you. So welcome.
JH (03:34):
Thank you. Appreciate the invite.
AJV (03:37):
Yeah. And you know, as we’re kind of getting started and helping everyone learn about you and e speakers and why I got started, I just wanna start with like a little bit of background knowledge of like, what is e speakers and how did that even come about? Like how did you get started with that? Like yeah, tell us what it is and then why, why did it get created?
JH (03:55):
Yeah, you bet. Well first of all, our e speaker’s mission statement is we truly believe that the right speaker in front of the right audience can make a lasting, it kind of creates a magic. And and that right speaker in front of the right audience leads to like long-term improvement in organizations and individuals. And so the, the idea that a speaker can go out and just speak to anybody is false. I mean, you can collect a check, but we really feel like there’s a magic when the right speaker gets in front of the right audience and that change is made. And that’s really what this is all about. And I know any speaker that’s out there has felt that, like, you felt like maybe you just checked the box, you gotta check and you walked away and it really, you, like, you did your job, but you didn’t really connect with anybody.
JH (04:42):
And I know that people have been in the audience and done the same, but that, that change is really what’s important. And it’s what keeps a speaker getting booked, quite honestly, is if people in the audience feel their authentic self and they, they really connect with their content and they feel like they’re making a change in their life. And so our mission is to help speakers get on more stages and to make that change more often. Mm-Hmm. How we started was 24 years ago by a speaker named Art Berg, who Rory is a good friend of, I don’t know, AJ if you met r art before, or not he hasn’t. But art was a speaker he’s a quadriplegic and spoke, you know, over a hundred times a year, traveled the world. And that, and that at the time was a pretty big challenge, kinda like a a unique situation because he was in a wheelchair and traveling the world and on his own without any help.
JH (05:47):
And that, that’s a lot of work for a quadriplegic. And now there’s, there’s several more you know, and, and they do great jobs. But the fact that Art did that was a major thing that he tackled in his life to show that, you know, that wasn’t gonna stop him from making a difference in the world. And so one of the things that art he was really big on technology and how it connected with people. And he had this vision that through technology, his job could get easier and he could make the meeting planners, the buyers, the people that hire speakers, their job easier. And so he created a, a software with my business partner, Dave. And they started off with that technology. And the technology was really an event management tool that he could track all of his events in, in the calendar and everything.
JH (06:45):
And that he kind of gave a backdoor for speaker bureaus, which are kind of the in-between people that that book speakers off also, they’re kind of an agency. And those speakers bureaus kind of had a backdoor into the calendar. And at the time the cloud wasn’t really even a thing. Nobody knew of the cloud, and this was kind of a cloud technology. And so it, it allows people from their offices to be able to connect with speakers and be able to book them. Because at the time, you know, cell phones were just barely coming into the picture. No, internet wasn’t even around in the beginning. And so, you know, it just, it just blossomed from there. And unfortunately a few years into the Endeavor, art passed away. And but, and that’s when I joined the team and, and you know, that’s what Speers that’s where we started.
JH (07:38):
And really art art’s vision really is what we use every day to kind of keep us moving forward is just that idea of making speakers more readily available to book and giving them the tools and, and the things they need to be able to, to get booked. And then making it easy for meeting planners to connect with them and, and their job. And especially in this day and age, it’s you know, you can search the internet for any type of speaker and find something, right? But again, is it the right person and are, is it making it easy on the buyer? So that’s kind of what we have an event management tool that we can talk more about if you’d like. Or we have also have an arm of our business that is all about promotion and marketing of a speaker and specifically to those meeting planners or those buyers. So that’s kind of
AJV (08:34):
What we do. You know, I, I love that. And I know I’ve heard, you know, so many different great things about e speakers through the years and, you know, we’ve known of you guys since we’ve been a part of the National Speakers Association, but I mean, it has to be at least 20 years that I’ve known about you guys. So what did you guys start in the nineties?
JH (08:53):
99. 9 99?
AJV (08:55):
Yeah. ’cause I know it’s like, even in the early years of us being a part of the National Speakers Association, I remember seeing e speakers and, you know, I spent some time on the websites, you know, kind of getting up to date on the all the news speakers that you guys are featuring. And I think that’s and I think talking about both of those would be really interesting in interesting for our conversation today. But one of the things that I would love to start with since you are, you know, a huge part of like the sales and marketing strategy I’d love to start there of just going, like, when you think of a speaker and what assets, what, what tools they need to get booked as a speaker, right? So when you’re thinking of like, what do meeting planners need to make quick decisions, and what does speakers need to have readily available to supply? Like, what would you say are the most important marketing assets that a speaker needs today?
JH (09:46):
Yeah. Well I think probably the thing that we see that peop, that speakers stumble on quite a bit is what we call our audience benefit statement. It is it’s front and center on a speaker’s profile and the audience benefit statement. We tend to see speakers and they don’t really have that defined in, we’ve actually gone through your course Brand Builders course ourselves. And, and and so I know you, you know a lot about this as well, but really talking about the benefits of hiring you rather than in marketing. Marketing 1 0 1 talks about features and benefits of a product. Doesn’t matter what product it is. A good product is marketed with benefits. Like, it’ll help you do this, you’ll feel better doing this. It’ll, you know, and, and we give lots of examples of companies that do that in their advertising.
JH (10:38):
But the benefits of hiring a speaker are way more powerful than the features. So we see speakers lead with things like, I’m a New York Times bestseller, I’ve written these books. I’ve, I’ve talked to these people, I’ve presented to these groups, I have these degrees. I went to this school. You know, and that, that’s, that’s really, really common. In fact, seasoned speakers still tend to kind of slide back into that because speakers are unique in regards to a product because you do talk about yourself a lot, and you’re building your own personal brand as you know, right? And so that’s one of the things that causes some pain for speakers is they’re wondering, why am I not getting booked? And it’s because they’re leading with the features of the product. They’re the product and they’re leading with the features rather than the benefits. And the benefits are things like, why would somebody hire you?
JH (11:31):
What do you, what benefit are you going to bring to that audience? And so you need to lead with things like when I come speak to your group, we’re gonna identify these key things and your audience will walk away knowing how to do this, this, and this. Right? And so that’s really kind of the idea of a benefit statement. Yeah. And, and there’s a lot of different examples. I mean, if, if, if people wanted, they could go to our directory at e speakers marketplace and, and go through and search on a topic. And you can see, in fact, if there are speakers listening, I’d encourage you to do that. Put your topic in and, and see the reco the results that come up. And you’ll see some really good ones. We’ve tried to really work with people on that audience benefit statement, but some of ’em come up and, you know, they’re, they’re just, like I was talking about, in fact, they lead with their name.
JH (12:18):
Like, you know, it would say, Rory Vaden is a New York Times bestseller and speaker and author and trainer. Well, we have like 20,000 speakers in our database. And same thing, most of ’em are trainers, authors, and speakers, right? And, and could be New York Times bestsellers. So you know, that that type of, just getting that outta the way and the process of working through that audience benefit statement really sets the stage for the benefits. And then you take those benefits of hiring you and they become, you know, bullet points in your bio and they can become even programs like your speeches, right? And so that’s really the probably the biggest thing that we see. The other thing in regards to just, I mean, that’s the marketing side. I know that’s what you ask about. But the other thing that we see is speakers tend to struggle with systems.
JH (13:08):
And that’s where our tool really shines, is that, you know, a good system means that you can be away from the system. And, and our, we live in ACI in a world now that everything is connected, everything ties together, whether it’s through I calendar, whatever. And you have all these different ways now, even since the pandemic, zoom is the new thing, and, and everybody, you can zoom from an airport if you needed to, right? And, and on the road. But speakers are super busy. And you know, having a good system that keeps them on track mm-hmm. Is, is really important. And that’s one of the things that Art started in the very beginning is, you know, being, having such a demanding schedule with over like, you know, 200 presentations a year or whatever. One staff member, he found the value of systems and the, the freedom a good system gives you to like chart this course of success.
JH (14:07):
And so really that’s, that’s kind of what he harnessed in our tools and, and we see as a real big value. And it’s still a big struggle for speakers, is is having a good system. Could they be away from their business for a week and everything continued to run? That’s good. And, you know, that’s, that’s really not just, I mean, of course we expect speakers to take a vacation, right? But not just vacation. It’s, it’s being booked three times or four times that week. And just the intricacies of going to Nashville, going to Dallas, going to Chicago, flying to LA and you know, just don’t have time to keep up with things. And so having a good system is super important. So, oh, well I, that I’m not sure if I answered your question, but No,
AJV (14:49):
I think I have some follow ups, but I think that that systems part of the conversation wasn’t even on my radar. And the truth is, is most speakers, at least when they start out, they are the sales department, marketing department, operations department, billing department. Right? Right. It’s like they’re all the departments. And I don’t think if a lot, I don’t think a lot of people realize, it’s like, no, being a speaker is being an entrepreneur. It is a business. Yeah. You gotta do all the same things that you would do as a small business owner. You, and if you don’t have a good system, all of a sudden it’s like, it’s not so fun anymore. Yeah. Now it’s, it’s a lot of work. And you’re working all the time, traveling all the time on stages all the time. And it’s like, oh, all right. This thing I thought I wanted to do, I don’t wanna do it anymore. Yeah.
JH (15:34):
Well, and if people, if speakers only, if all you had to do is say, Hey, you have an event this day, show up at this address and speak on this topic, and that’s all you had to do then I think things will be a lot easier. But the truth of it is, is that it is literally a business. Mm-Hmm. . And you have to do the sales and the marketing and the accounting and the business development and, you know, clean the toilets and, you know, all that stuff too. You know, I mean, you, you all, everything. And you know, I, if you have staff you know, that adds another element to it where the staff now need to be connected to you and have a system that are connected to you. And so it gives you a little bit more freedom. And really what we try to focus on is, is systems really give you the freedom to work on revenue generating activities. It doesn’t mean you’re just gonna go, you know, set up on the couch and drink diet Coke and eat cake or whatever you wanna do, watch a TV show or whatever to relax it. It means that you’re gonna go focus on things that now generate money, right. And being in the business instead of, you know, work on the business instead of in the business. Right. And so that’s really what a good system will set up for you.
AJV (16:50):
No, I love that. And, you know, often I refer to speakers as artists, right? And it’s like, the reason most people wanna be a speaker is because they have this message that they wanna share and speaking is a, a craft that they want to get better at. And, and it’s like, but then you get kind of stuck with all you’re doing is sending out emails and proposals and, and contracts and, and all of a sudden all the things that you wanna do, the things that you love to do, you don’t, you don’t really get to do those anymore. And having a good system gives you the freedom to work on the message, hone the craft and do the revenue generating activities, be excellent on stage and do the pre-event calls. So I love that you brought that up. That wasn’t even on my radar for our conversation, but it’s such an important part of where most people get into something and then all of a sudden they’re like, I’m exhausted, right?
AJV (17:42):
I’ve got major burnout, I don’t know if I can keep doing this. And it’s because you didn’t have a good system to start with. So I love that part of it. Right. And I love the, the benefit statements. ’cause You’re right, it’s like most speakers start with, here’s, here I am, right? Like, these are my credentials. So I love that benefit start statements piece. But then you also mentioned a few other things like program descriptions and all of that. And so do you find that it is still necessary that speakers have like a media kit or a press kit, a demo video? Like what’s most important, what’s least important? How long should they be? Like, what are those things look like today?
JH (18:18):
Yeah, no, those are good questions and yes, super relevant. All of that is still needed. I mean, and just to give the listeners a, a kind of a blast from the past, the way this used to happen, I’m answering your question, I promise. The, the way this used to happen was quite literally, if any of you were old enough to remember how you used to order things over the phone instead of online, you’d open the JCPenney catalog and you would find the number and call ’em and say, Hey, I want x, y, z number. Well, the same thing happened with speakers. Specifically bureaus would print this big, like catalog of speakers and they would ship that out to all the buyers, all the meeting planners. And then the same thing happened. They call and they look through and say, Hey, these are the speakers I want.
JH (19:06):
And so it, it changed from that to then speakers had like individual websites and then social media came into it. And then people were still mailing VHS tapes and then CDs and, you know, all of that. And that media kit has graduated into this digital media kit now. And so yes, it’s still valuable, but, but different. And, and one thing that I think speakers need to know is that just because you have a website and everything’s there doesn’t mean that that solves the, the doesn’t make it easy for a buyer to hire you. They have to go find your website, they have to navigate that. And you have to give them things easy at their fingertips. And I mean, I, I haven’t seen the numbers on this lately, but seems like before the pandemic MPI, which is meeting professionals international, they’re a big group of meeting planners.
JH (20:06):
And they had listed being a meeting planner was in like the top five most stressful jobs in the US. And I’m still, it’s, I’m sure it’s probably still up in the top. But they have a lot on their plate. And if you just say, yeah, go here and do this, then that’s, that’s not easy. And we’ve become a society where we want things instant. Like we go buy something online and you want to actually see if they have those red shoes in stock. And if they don’t, you’ll go somewhere else where you know, they have it in stock. ’cause You don’t wanna wait. Mm-Hmm. , right? And so that’s how a meeting planner literally feels they wanna buy people. And that’s where we’ve kind of evolved into actually having an end-to-end process of hiring a speaker online through our directories. They can inquire with them, they can engage with them through you know, direct message through our platform.
JH (21:00):
They can narrow it down to one of ’em, hire ’em and and sign the contract and pay ’em all through online. And all of that is generated or has come about because of the, the type of buying that people are doing online. Right. That’s a new, and anyway, so my point is, is that that digital kit is so important and yes, have it all on your website, but that’s one of the reasons that our, our profiles, our online profiles have done so well is something we launched about 10 years ago. And we had, we saw this need where speakers were sending their kits out to all the speakers bureaus and all their meeting planners. And it’s a huge cost number one, ’cause you got to, it’s a big box, you know, then you’re shipping that out and then they have to then go through that and digitize the video or then take the video and put it on the website.
JH (21:56):
And it’s a lot of work for all those people to do that. And we heard from the bureaus that they have rooms to just boxes full of VHS tapes or CDs, right? And, and meeting planners have the same thing. People just send meeting planners random boxes of stuff and just say, Hey, I’m a speaker on leadership, hire me. You know? And so they just had a hard time processing all that. So the, the digital media kit is effective in the, in the sense that it’s one thing that you can send them and it has everything in it, and it’s easy for them to like save in a folder and, and share with people and things like that. And that’s one of the things where the profile, our profiles have really shined is on the profile itself. We have all the different marketing materials that, that are, we’ve found that speakers or the buyers want to know, they don’t have to leave the profile at all.
JH (22:49):
They have their bio, they have all their topics, their fees, they have videos, they have marketing materials, they have all their programs, their calendar, if they do virtual work, all of that thing. All of that is on one profile. And it, what it creates is a an a a better experience for the buyer. And they have everything they need right on that one page to make the purchase decision. And yes, they could go to the speaker’s website, yes. They could be go to the speakers social media, yes, they could look at this PDF, but you know, ultimately, like having one place where all of that is, is together is, is still valuable. So, yes.
AJV (23:28):
Yeah. I love that. And I think one of the things you said that really stands out to me, and which I don’t think a lot of speakers are probably doing when they think about their demo videos or speaker press kits is, am I building this to appeal to the, the buyer, right? Am I building this to attract them, make it easy for them? ’cause I see a lot of Prescott that are like 12, 13, 14 pages and it’s like, takes me forever to go through it. And I’m supposed to be doing that for our clients, right? It’s like, that’s really long. Or demo videos that are 20, 30 minutes. And I’m like, I don’t have time to watch this. So I’m guessing a meeting planner doesn’t either. So for, when you’re thinking about making it easy for this buyer, right? The meeting planner to make decisions, is there like a special recipe of like how short it is this? Yeah. Tell us about that. Yeah,
JH (24:16):
There is, well, specifically with programs, so we, let’s just talk about that audience benefit statement that it’s kind of your lead in, right? It’s what’s your, the benefits of hiring you. And then as you take that, you go into your bio and your bio should always start with an extension of that audience benefit statement. ’cause You don’t want ’em to all, all of a sudden go to your bio and now all of a sudden you’re talking about being a New York Times bestseller and all this stuff. And you said, Hey, I thought you were a leadership expert that could change the culture of my organization. And now all of a sudden you’re talking about this. So it’s kind of the segue paragraph. That first paragraph is the segue paragraph that really ties in your audience benefit statement into, now this is all about me. So you have that, that segue paragraph that talks about the benefits still and explains them in more detail.
JH (25:06):
And then the rest of the bio is all about you as a speaker. Sure. Say all those things that we talked about. These are the things I’ve done, books I’ve written places, degrees I have, or what makes you be able to support that. You, you can change culture in an organization because you’ve done all these things. Right? And then the, the next extension of that is in the programs, your speeches. So when you outline your programs, you always lead with the benefit, right? So this is the benefit of hiring, this is why you want me to speak to your group on this program. And then the format of that is always great to identify who this is good for. This is great for senior leadership, middle management, you know, salespeople, whatever. And so you identify kind of who it’s for and then the last thing you look, make sure you always have in the program description.
JH (26:01):
You have the program description and then the takeaways. Mm-Hmm. . So what are the key takeaways to, for that program? What are people gonna walk away with knowing how to do or how to implement or whatever, right? So that’s kind of the structure of a program. And it’s usually, oh, I don’t know, four, five paragraphs kind of in, if you were to look at four or five paragraphs, four paragraphs, it’s about that length. And you know, it’s obviously not all paragraphs ’cause you have bullet points and thing takeaways and all that. But you know, it’s a, it’s a little bit, I don’t know the character count, but it’s usually shorter so they can process it. Mm-Hmm. . And and then I’ve seen speakers do a really good job of doing like a one page that’s just on that program. Mm-Hmm. . And so it’s a little bit more so if say, Hey, that’s really great, tell me more.
JH (26:50):
And they can send ’em this PDF that’s a one page about how to create culture in an organization and kind of more about what you present. So that’s kind of the general gist of kind of the content that you should have on your profile, you know, really driven by the benefits. And then you asked earlier about the video and we find effectively that somewhere around 30 to 40 minutes of video total is like probably the most valuable. But we, we prefer really small segments. Hmm. So I wouldn’t ever put a raw video up there. It’s like 30 minutes of you speaking. ’cause That’s just boring Right? and nobody’s gonna make it through that. I mean, we’re lucky if they make it through 30 seconds of it. Right. So really it’s the, we find that the key like clip is between 30 seconds and like two minutes at the most.
JH (27:49):
Wow. And so, and, and really we found more success with short little video clips. So let’s say you know, a AJ or aj your speaker, right? Mm-Hmm. you speak. So you may have a topic of branding or leadership or business. And so what you would have is of a clip of your video. And it, and a lot of people say, I don’t have any clips of me on the stage yet. I’m brand new. And the truth is that you don’t really have to have, I mean, ultimately yes, you have to have the best video is you on the stage engaging with the audience, delivering some kind of content. And somehow we’ve got into this weird video sizzle reel thing that there’s this voiceover and there’s testimonials in it. And there’s, you know, like all these words on the screen that people are reading, they’re like, hold on, I wanted to just see ’em in action.
JH (28:48):
Like, what’s all this stuff? And so if that’s not, if they don’t see you on the stage in the first 30 seconds of the video, they’re out. Right? So I’d always lead, and I don’t have any problem with voiceover videos, but, you know, if you want to take the first couple seconds and say, Hey, this is AJ Vaden leadership expert, and then show you on stage where you’re delivering content, that’s where the value comes. And that’s really what they want to see. They want to see you delivering your content, how you interact with the audience, if they’re engaged with you less about the content itself and more how you’re working with the audience. And then secondly comes the content, right? And so that’s where, if aj, you’re a, a branding expert, they want to see the content. This is, this is AJ speaking on branding, it’s the video name.
JH (29:37):
And the next video might be, you know, AJ speaking on corporate culture or whatever, right? And they expect when they, when they listen or watch that, they’re going to hear a segment of your speech that talks about branding, about corporate culture or whatever, right? It’s not just somewhere in that 30 minute video or 15 minute clip. It’s, it’s in that two minutes. And you can obviously go longer than a two minute clip. But we found that we, in our system, you can have six topics, up to six topics. And so that would give you six individual videos that would show you delivering your content and with those particular topics. And that’s a really great way to do it. And then of course, you can also add other videos that would be like a testimonial video. So if somebody was interested in hearing testimonials, not just reading them, you can, you can go in and add those testimonial videos and, and of, and if you wanted to outta a sizzle reel. But in our system, you can set a primary video that always shows up on your profile and that particular one I, I don’t like making it anything other than something that you’re right up on the stage in the very beginning to catch ’em. So
AJV (30:52):
I love that. That’s what we, I think that’s really insightful about Yeah, it’s great to have a sizzle and it’s great to have testimonials, but that needs to be ancillary to the main thing being the main thing, which is you on stage, which is what this meeting planner needs to see first. Right.
JH (31:07):
And the interesting thing is that we’ve seen speakers do this and they create these little clips and you can be, so if you don’t have stage video and you can be just like, AJ is right here to me in the Zoom window, and and you can just say, Hey, my name’s AJ and I, I’m a, I’m a expert on corporate culture and when I come speak to you, we identify this, this, and this, and you audience will walk away knowing how to do this, this, and this. I mean, it’s just simple as that. Hmm. And it can be a video just like we’re on right now. And you know, it, it works out great. And and it’s something that can be shared on your own social media and on your own website and meeting planner really like that. And it can be even a marketing, we have a couple speakers that just did some marketing emails out about being an expert in whatever it was that they were an expert and that video was part of that email that they put out. So anyway, it just, there’s a lot of value in like, really specifically saying what you do and how you solve problems. You
AJV (32:08):
Know, I love that for the, the brand new speakers who are just starting out where, you know, so much of it as you hear, it’s like, you’re not gonna get booked without a demo video. And it’s like, well, you’re saying yeah, you can. Yeah. So I think that’s a, a really one hope inspiring for everyone who’s just beginning. But for those people who are just starting out going like, Hey, I’ve got my message. I know what I’m doing. I just don’t have any stage footage yet. I haven’t had that opportunity to get it filmed on stage. You really think doing something like this that’s just articulating what you talk about, how you do it, what the benefits are. You think that meeting planners are booking speakers that way?
JH (32:44):
Yeah. Well, a hundred percent. I know they are.
AJV (32:46):
That’s awesome. Yeah. That’s, I think that’s really hope inspiring for everyone out there going eventually you need stage footage, but you don’t have to have it to give back.
JH (32:57):
Yeah. Well, and the crazy thing is, is we all know people that have big names, celebrity figures, Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, whoever, AJ Baden, , you know, all those people. And and the truth is, is that those kind of, we call ’em celebrity speakers in the sense that they don’t really have to work super hard for new leads coming in. They’re, they’re, they have to actually work hard on turning down leads ’cause they’re requested so much. Mm-Hmm. . And that is a, a situation we all wish we were in. Right? and, and in fact, I think we tried to book Simon Sinek one time and they said, yeah, he’s a year and a half out. His next availability is a year and a half out because he just doesn’t book himself. He doesn’t overbook himself. Mm-Hmm. . And and I mean, luckily for us the pandemic hit and we were the first people to book him for a virtual job and which was, which was great.
JH (33:55):
And and anyway, but that, so that’s how we got him to get booked. But you know, the, the, the point is, is that that if you’re not a celebrity figure, which the majority of us aren’t then how do you get jobs? And it, it takes, it, it really takes the doing all the time. I think, oh man, I, I don’t remember who it was. It might’ve been I don’t know. I was listening to David Goggins I think one time, and, you know, he said to Grove something, you really have to do it. You have to be in doing it. And it’s all about the doing. And I’ve always remembered that as just like, it, you, you can’t, there, you can’t just like all of a sudden say I’m a speaker one day and not do anything to like build your business.
JH (34:46):
Right. You has, you have to do it. And so when you’re small, it means doing everything. And when you’re larger, it means you know, making sure that other people are doing everything right and that everything’s still happening and all the boxes are checked. So that’s, that’s what we’ve seen as we work with speakers and we’ve actually seen, I have literally seen speakers come and I’ve talked to that haven’t had one speech. They not even call them. Supposed they’re just learning about speaking to now they’re charging $20,000 a speech and they’re booked over a hundred times a year. You know, so it’s, it, it, it, it happens, it does happen, but it just ha you have to, you have to go and get in and do it. And that’s what people, they have to roll up their sleeves and get to work and it just doesn’t happen automatically. So
AJV (35:41):
Yeah. It’s, but it’s back to, it’s treating, speaking like a business, right? It’s like Right. Say you’re a speaker doesn’t mean anything’s gonna happen. Right. But you gotta put yourself out there and do the right things to get yourself booked, so. Right. All right. So I’m watching the time, and I know we have this a little bit longer, so I’ve got a few other questions here. So one of the things that I think we hear all the time at Brand Builder’s Group is how, how do you know how to set your fees? And so any insights around, doesn’t matter if like this is your first engagement, you’re just starting out, or you’ve been doing this a while. Is there any sort of thoughts, insight, or is there some magical strategy of how speakers should be setting fees?
JH (36:23):
Well, I’ve always heard this philosophy, it, it’s whatever people would hire you for is what your fee is. Right? And so it’s a sup, it’s a supply and demand thing. But in general we encourage new speakers to just get out and get experience, speak for free, get low paying jobs. You can start with like, rotary clubs are a great way, chambers of commerce are a great way. Like you can, you can really get out and get paid $50, a hundred dollars a speech just giving speeches. You just, you can’t I don’t know. I had a, I was talking to a guy recently that was a CEO at a company and he was transitioning over into speaking and, you know, he makes a good amount of money as a CEO and then came into speaking and felt like, well, I’m not gonna go earn a thousand dollars.
JH (37:16):
You know, it’s like, well, you have to then build your brand. You have to, you know, like you have to give, there has to be some reason that they would hire you for more than a thousand dollars. And so we kind of helped him recreate his what he was doing in a different approach and, and added more value to it by his experience as a CEO. And, but if you’re just starting out, that is obviously gonna be a lower fee. And so you just keep pitching it. And I’ve, I’ve heard this question a ton is when do I know when I can raise my fee? Hmm. And so that really comes when you’re getting booked enough of that fee that you feel like if I raised it, I’d still get booked and everybody’s different. There’s no secret sauce on fees. Unfortunately in my, in, from my experience start low, like if you wanted to start, like low range is, you know, 500 to a thousand, that’s really low range.
JH (38:17):
In, in our database of our speakers, you know, like a lower range would be like 2,500 to 5,000. That would be a good place to start. So if you, if you’ve spoken a bunch maybe for low fees and you’re trying to set some type of fee, you know, 2,500 is a good fee that p somebody would pay to get you to, to book you. And then like the 2,500 to five is a general good range. If you’re a, you know, if you’re like five to 75 is another good range, but like right around 10 is a, is a fee range that you see most speakers kind of ride around. You know, they’re, they’re booking 80 times a year 80 dates, and they have a pretty good business. And anybody above that, they either have some content or experience, they landed a plane on the Hudson River, they wanna race, they sold this business for whatever.
JH (39:13):
They have some reason that’s taking their fee, you know, to a higher level and or their content is just so valuable, right. You’re a Simon Sinek and you know, people will come just because of your content. Yeah. And that, and that’s a whole different thing, right? You, you know, those, those, those people are 50 to a hundred thousand a speech or not, or more. Right? And so it really depends where you’re at. But that’s, that’s that’s in general I think kind of the fee ranges that we see. And I really would just start with people, things like chambers of commerce and, and rotary clubs and, you know, volunteering free stuff. Just get some experience underneath you. ’cause You don’t want to go get somebody to say, yeah, I’ll pay you for 5,000 and you don’t have the experience delivering that speech and you don’t do a great job. And they’re like, yeah, not so great. You want all of your speaking experience, your, all of your bookings to build upon each other so that you can get references. Because that’s super huge in, in speaking as you want to be able to have testimonials to say, yeah, they delivered a great speech. And those also help in raising your fee.
AJV (40:28):
Yeah, I think that’s really, I think that’s really wise. And it’s, I think it’s interesting to hear, it’s like most speakers are around that $10,000 range. It’s like, if you’ve been doing it for a while, would you say that’s the most crowded fee range where that’s like, where it’s like, man, is there the most competition in that fee range?
JH (40:47):
In which one?
AJV (40:48):
The 10,000?
JH (40:51):
I would probably say five to 10,000 is probably the range, but probably more so there’s probably more people in the 7,500 to 10. They’re the, they’re the speakers that have figured it out. They have system in some place. They have they have a good database of, of contacts. They’re, they’re getting leads off the web. You know, they’re, they’re, they’re kind of well-rounded mm-Hmm. you know, they’re, they’ve got some good testimonials under their belt. So yeah, I would say that, you know, 10,000 is a good range. It just depends honestly, where you’re coming from and what kind of value. I know the people, a lot of the people you work with are brand builders, have established businesses and bigger names possibly. And so yeah, I would start them at a higher range. And it just all depends on where you’re coming from and every speaker’s a little bit different.
AJV (41:49):
Yeah. And I think that’s really helpful of just going like, Hey, starter fees, you know, it could be as low as $500, but somewhere between 520 500 if you don’t have like, a lot of name recognition or credibility or, you know, books or content that’s gonna set a higher precedent. I think even having that idea for everyone who’s listening of going like, okay, like I thought my fee was gonna be 10,000 . It’s like, no, it’s probably a little bit lower than that. At least to get started and then follow like basic laws of supply and demand and Right. It’s like as you get booked more and there’s, you know, less supply and more demand, then you increase the fees. And, and I love that too. It’s like as you’re getting, you know, 10,000, 15,000 and over, it’s usually because whether you’re getting booked so much that you can do that, or there’s something else has happened, rather your content’s gone viral. There was a bestselling book, or, you know, you climbed my Everest, or you know, you did some sort of like, things Exactly that’s gonna like position you in the marketplace.
JH (42:48):
Some of it’s exposure too. I’ll give you an example. A local speaker here in Utah I had a youth group activity in my backyard and I had him come speak and it was, I don’t even remember what the topic was. It was just probably about achieving your very best or something to that effect. And he came and did it for free. ’cause He was looking for experience. Right. He was just transitioning into it. And that was probably eight years ago, and I just ran into him the other day and his fee is 50 grand. That’s awesome. And it’s all because of exposure. He got, he, I, I always thought he was great. He’s the same great guy now that he was then he has the same content, he’s better at it. Yeah. But he literally has the more exposure, he got more people like, wow, where’s this guy come from? And he just, it just, it just ballooned from there and got bigger and bigger and bigger. And now, you know, he’s 50 grand of speech and that’s amazing. Right. And that’s about eight years ago. Eight, eight years of work, and now he’s going from zero per speech to 50, and he’s still booked, you know, 80 to a hundred times a year. So
AJV (43:59):
That’s amazing. You know, but, but my favorite sayings is the more you speak, the more you speak. Yeah. Right. And it’s like, you just gotta get out there and as you’re, as you’re in, you know, a beginner mode doesn’t mean you’re a beginner in business, but a beginner in the speaking world, it’s like you just say yes. Right? You take the gig. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the Chamber of Commerce or, you know, the, you know, networking group in the back of Applebee’s. Like whatever. Right. You just say yes because you never know who’s in the audience. Right. And that’s always been our take. It’s like you just never know who might be there that can lead to the next event and who’s gonna be there that lead can lead to the next event. All right. So I’ve got two last questions for you.
AJV (44:40):
That was I think super insightful, especially for those in that beginner range and aspiring of going, like, what is a moderate price to start with? All right. So two last things. Who would you say is booking most speakers today? Or what topics are getting booked the most? Like, are there any industry trends of going like, Hey, like education is just like booking everything or ced, or are, or are there any topical trends that you’re seeing of going, Hey, doesn’t matter what, you know, year we’re in culture’s always gonna be top. Because I know for a long time there was like this huge rise in social media speakers but I’ve also seen that really go down. And then there was like, you know, diversity and inclusion speakers was really high, and then it’s kind of dropped off. So are you seeing any trends with like, industry bookings or topical bookings that we should know about? Yeah.
JH (45:36):
Yeah. Well, let me ask you this first. This is a roundabout answer. What percentage do you think a speaker hiring a speaker is in all the things that a buyer does a meeting planner does? What percentage do you think, where did that rank?
AJV (45:55):
Oh, maybe 5%.
JH (45:58):
What, okay. What, what priority do you think? Yeah. Oh no, 5%. Five percent’s good. I mean, that’s a good guess. The truth is, is that we did a recent poll with our database of meeting planners, and it’s 81% of event organizers said it’s in the top three things that they do. Wow. Is hiring a speaker. 81. 81% said that. And so the, the thing I want to bring up is that you know, speakers always, it’s, it’s a small thing. I mean, like booking an event or scheduling an event, you book the space. Mm-Hmm. , you have to do all the food and beverage. You have to worry about attendance and how to get attendees to the show and exhibitors and sponsors, I mean, all those are huge things. But it was interesting for us to find that the meeting planners still a priority in the, it’s in the top three things of an an event is what speakers they hire. And so just realize that what you’re doing makes a difference and you’re important. And even when they negotiate with you and all these things, like you’re, you’re an important factor in that, the success of that event. Now I forget the actual question you gave me. Sorry.
AJV (47:10):
Just like, as meeting planners or, and I think that’s fascinating. ’cause It’s like, I would’ve thought it probably would’ve been further down because it’s like, my gosh, there’s so many logistics to do these big events. Yeah, yeah. But it’s like, are there any trending topics?
JH (47:24):
Oh, right. That’s right. Yeah. So knowing that, that they’re, they are hiring speakers. I’m going right to our live statistics right now on e speakers. And the top topic that’s being searched right now in our database is inspirational. Hmm. Inspirational healthcare humor health and nutrition customer service, leadership. Those are some of the big ones. Women in business. Those are some kind of trending right now. I do know that corporate culture is huge. I mean, we, we get a lot of re inquiries about that changing the culture of, and it, and it has been since the pandemic because it’s unique environment, right. Culture is a big deal. And, and diversity, even though it has dropped off a little bit in regards to our focus of it, it’s still one of the top things that people get booked for.
JH (48:24):
Diversity and inclusion, equity inclusion, it’s all, it’s all super important. And, and anyway, so I, I actually was at a conference for speakers in Canada for the Canadian Speakers Association, like NSA in December. And there was a speaker that spoke about how we need to do better jobs as speakers of being diverse in our presentations. And this is, this is one of those things that you don’t really think about as a speaker. It’s like, I don’t speak on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I speak on these other things, but really you do, because we live in a world where there’s so much diversity in the audience that the things you say matter make a difference. Right. They do matter the way you address people. And I’ve even, I I, I took this to heart and because I say you guys and hey, you guys, and hope you guys are doing well and all of that.
JH (49:26):
And I, I know that’s changing now, right? But you can’t just say guys, and you can’t even even say men or women or ladies and gentlemen even. And it’s, it’s very specific. And so it, you wanna make a difference. As a speaker, I’d really dive into that and, and address how you actually present to your audience and what you can say and what you can’t say and, and make a difference that way. Even if you don’t speak on Mm-Hmm. , diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can do a better job speakers, we can do a better job at being more inclusive in our presentations. And I’ve, I’ve just been thinking about that a ton since she gave that presentation as it’s not one of the topics that’s getting booked a lot as recently, like it was maybe a year ago. But I think maybe forward thinking or looking forward that’s going to be a super important thing for speakers to address in their presentations. Mm.
AJV (50:28):
Yeah. I think that’s wise. ’cause They’re like, you know, I thought that was interesting and I had jotted this on when you said it, it’s like inspirational as a top trending topic. But it’s like the truth is any speaker could make their topic inspirational. Right? Right. And it’s like, same thing with, you know, diversity, equity, inclusion. It’s like you could integrate some component of that into pretty much anything that you talk about. Right? Same thing with culture, right? And it’s like, same thing with customer service or experience. It’s like if you just focus on like, Hey, these are things that are important out in the business world today. These are what people are looking for, and learn how to integrate that into your message without changing your topic, then it really does make it a more well diverse option right. Across the board.
JH (51:12):
Yeah. And, and one of the things that we’ve seen where speakers are more successful is where they actually have an outcome that comes from their, their topic, right? So you’re solving a problem, there’s an outcome to your topic. And if you don’t already have that, if you don’t know what your outcomes are, then I would highly recommend that you look at that because you’ve gotta know what, what is the outcome that this buyer wants me to deliver on? What problem do they have and what outcome am I delivering? What am I solving? What problem am I solving? And if you don’t know that, and just say, I’m a speaker on this and, you know, hire me to speak, you’ve gotta talk about, you know, solutions and problems and you know, outcomes. And we’ve seen a, the speakers that focus on an outcome driven content Mm-Hmm. , they seem to connect really tight with their, with their meeting planners and those audiences,
AJV (52:08):
I love that outcome because
JH (52:09):
They’re actually solving the real problem. Right? What’s that?
AJV (52:12):
That outcome driven content. Yeah.
JH (52:15):
Yeah. They’re really solving problems.
AJV (52:16):
Yeah. And that is the hard work of making sure you know, the problem that you’re solving and are you speaking to that. And I, that’s all back to honing that craft of practicing that. And it’s like, sometimes you only figure that out because you’ve done this speech a hundred times, right? And sometimes it’s a hundred times for free, right. But the point is, is you’re getting out there, like you said earlier, and it’s like you’re doing the work whether you’re paid or not, you’re out there doing the work. Joe, if people wanna learn more about e speakers, where’s the best place for them to go?
JH (52:49):
Well it’s pretty easy. E speakers.com and there’s some dropdowns there for speakers on how you can learn more. You know, we you know, if you, if you contact us and tell us that you listen to this podcast, we can give you a free base account because we’re partners with brand builders and, and love these guys and they do great work and and we’ve gone through it Ourself has been amazing and, and they’ve changed some of the things and the ways we do things even so. But anyway, yeah, east speakers.com is where they can go and get a free profile and get started. And if you’re brand new, that’s a great way to kind of put a stake in the sand and say, Hey, I’m in the speaking industry. And if you don’t have a system in place and you are a successful speaker and if seasoned and you don’t have systems in place, we have great solutions for that and tie into a lot of the CRMs and financial software. And so we have, we have 24 years of business behind us, under our belt and most of the new features and system, the features that we work with and the benefits that we’ve come from or we’ve I guess that we, the benefits that we provide are driven by our customers, our speaker customers. They say, Hey, look, this is what I need to run my business better. And so we provide solutions and and tools for them to be able to run their business with them. So
AJV (54:17):
I love that. And that’s so super generous. So if y’all didn’t hear that, go to e speakers.com, mention that you heard about e speakers from this influential personal brand podcast with Brand Builders Group, and they will let you set up with a free account. So cool. So generous. Joe, thank you so much for being on here. And for everyone else, stick around, listen to the recap episode and then join us again on another episode of the Influential Personal Brand. We’ll see you next time.

Ep 457: 3 Simple Steps to Getting More Referrals For Your Business | Barb Betts Episode Recap

AJV (00:02):
All right, today we are talking about referrals. And there are three things that I wanna talk about today when it comes to asking for and receiving referrals. Number one, if you wanna get referrals, the number one thing that you have to do is be utterly and undeniably convicted in what it is that you’re offering. Doesn’t matter what product service it is, you have to believe in it so much that it removes all fear, all hesitation, all anxiety. Anything that would prevent you from not telling people about what you do has got to be erased. And that really does come from believing to your core that what it is you’re doing, what it is you’re offering, what it is you’re selling, because that is part of it, is so helpful for the right person, right? For the intended person. You’ve got to be so convicted and believe in what you do so much that you can’t not tell people about it because you, you’ve seen it change lives.
AJV (01:06):
You’ve seen it spark growth, you’ve seen it cause revenue growth, you’ve seen it cause income, growth, whatever it is. But you have to start baseline level one, step one, with going, I believe in what I do so much that I will not, not ask for referrals. It’s like, I believe that for the intended person, right? Your avatar, that this is so helpful, this is so necessary that I will ask because I do believe that the number one reason that people don’t ask for referrals is because they’re afraid, right? I think the second reason is they don’t know how to ask, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but I do believe the first reason is like, people are like, oh, I just wasn’t top of mind. And I’m like, if you believe you have a life changing product or service, how is it not top of mind?
AJV (01:50):
If you believe that you’re the best provider in your industry, or the best provider in town, or the best provider, you know, how is it not top of mind? And so when people go, oh, I just forgot. And it’s like, you forgot that what you do can make a monumental difference in someone’s business or family or relationships, I don’t think so. And so I think a lot of that starts with getting back in touch with what you do, who you do it for, why you do it, and what are the, the, the payoffs of what you do. Like what does it do for people, right? So that’s foundation, that’s step one, because I know that if you don’t have that underlying conviction, the rest of this conversation is just words. It’s not gonna mean anything. And so it’s like, if you’re at that place where it’s like, I’m not asking because I’m not really in love with what I’m doing, it’s like the rest of this little clip is not for you, right?
AJV (02:41):
And it’s like, you gotta start with going like, no, I know that what I do means something. It matters to someone. And if you believe that, then the rest of these steps are really gonna help you. So that’s step one, an efforts and an effort to help you get more referrals and build a referral based business. You’ve got to believe, you’ve got to be convicted that what you do has the power to help someone else. Okay? That’s step one. Number two is you have to know who that intended, who is, right? And I think this is not a reason why people don’t ask, but it’s a reason why people don’t get right. It’s, you’re not clear on exactly who you want to be referred to. So that makes it difficult for you to ask clearly. And it makes it difficult for me on the other end, makes it difficult for me to give you anyone when you go, Hey, anyone who’s in business is a fit for what I do.
AJV (03:32):
I’m like, I don’t know. I know a lot of people in business, and so I don’t know how to narrow it down. Like my brain is going like, well, I know tons of people, right? But if you said, Hey, I work with high growth companies CEOs who are experiencing monumental growth. They’re in their first five years of business who are in this industry and this geographic area, I’m like, binging, binging, binging. It’s like, I’d rather know someone or I don’t, but I’m not left going, let me think about it. Which means I have no idea, and it’s not a priority for me. So it’s like you’ve got to be clear both demographically and psychographically of who it is that you want to be referred to. IE your ideal client, the person that you know, if you refer them to me, I’m going to blow their mind.
AJV (04:16):
I am going to make a difference. I am going to make sure that I take care of them. And they are going to be thanking you for this referral. So step one, you’ve gotta get convicted, right? That your product or service is going to matter to this intended person. The second thing is, you’ve gotta get crystal clear who is that person? What title do they hold or position? Is there an income specification, a GE geographic specification, an industry specification? What are their psychographic challenges? Like, are they high growth? Are they struggling? Is it life? Is it professional? Is it family? Like, whatever it is, is like you’ve got to be clear and you have to be able to articulate that in about a sentence, right? And so it’s like when you go, Hey, I am, I am trying to work with people who blink blank.
AJV (05:00):
I’ve gotta go, I know someone. Yeah, here, here’s who they are. You’ve gotta paint a mental picture for me. So it makes it easy for me to go, I know someone, right? And then that brings it to step three, which is how do you actually get that referral? How do you ask? And I just did this amazing podcast interview with Barb Betts, and I thought this was such a powerful, simple formula of how to ask. So it’s like, if you’re convicted right in what you’re doing and you know exactly who it’s gonna benefit, then step three is, well then how do you actually ask? Because I think that is one of the other fundamental problems of why people don’t ask, is they’re like, I just, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what’s right. I don’t know how to ask. And so this is a very simple formula shared by Barb Betts on the influential personal brand podcast, which is, first thing you wanna do is say, Hey, I was hoping to ask you for a favor, right? So that’s the first thing is ask for help is
AJV (05:56):
Go, Hey, I have a favor to ask, or, I was hoping to ask you of a favor, whatever, whatever verbiage sounds good for you. But it’s, I have a favor to ask. I am really trying to get introduced or connected to people who blank. And that’s where you fill in your avatar. So the key to the first part is I’m asking for a favor, right? I need help. Second part is I’m really trying to, or I want to be introduced to, or I’d like to be introduced to, again, pick your words, but it’s introduced or connected. You’re not saying, Hey, I’d like to get referred to, or I’m trying to do business with, or send me some referrals. Or I’m looking for clients who it’s like, no, I’m really trying to get introduced to, or connected to people who are, and then fill in the criteria of your avatar.
AJV (06:45):
Do you know anyone that would be a good fit for me to be introduced to? Right? So then you actually have to ask, right? You can’t just leave it hanging of, Hey I’m really looking to get introduced to people, so, you know, let me know. It’s like, no. It’s like, Hey, do you know anyone who fits that criteria? ’cause I would love to meet them, right? So let me ask you a favor, right? Ask for help can I be introduced to or connected to? And that’s where you fill in Step two, you fill in your avatar, your ideal criteria, and then you actually have to make the ask, do you know anyone who fits that criteria? Do you know anyone like that that I could be introduced to? Do you know anyone like that that you could introduce me to? Right? So that’s where you get to soften the language and make it yours.
AJV (07:28):
But those are three simple steps that are gonna allow you to have the tools to go out and ask for referrals. Now, a quick other thing that I wanna share before I wrap this up is if you’re really struggling with all of this and you’re going, ah, formulas don’t work for me, steps don’t work. All this stuff is great, but I don’t know, here’s the simplest thing of all. If you want to get a referral, all you have to do is give one, right? And I’m not telling you to give referrals so that you get them, right? This is not a give to get thing. It’s like there is a, but there is a natural law of reciprocity at play that when you give freely, people wanna return it freely. And so if you’re struggling with like this whole process of building a referral-based business, which is the best way to build a business, by the way, then start with going, who do I know that I can refer you to?
AJV (08:19):
And just proactively go, Hey, I was talking to a friend the other day and they said they were looking for X and I immediately thought of you. Would this be a good contact for you? Right? Or just facilitate introductions. And at some pe some point, some the people are gonna say, you know what? Thank you so much. Is there any way I can help you? Is there anyone you’re looking to meet? And that’s when you need to be ready. So if this whole idea of asking proactively just isn’t your thing, I would encourage you to work on that. But if you’re in that boat right now, then the best next thing that you can do is just go, Hey, how do I open up my, my I almost said Rolodex. We don’t have
AJV (08:55):
Rolodexes anymore. I actually have never had a Rolodex. I don’t know why I thought about that, but I’m gonna open up my contacts and go, who do I know that I can start referring people to? How do I start facilitating connections? ’cause If you do that enough, people are gonna do it back to you in return. So again, the best way to get a referral is to be proactive and giving a referral. So here we are in a new year. It is time to build your business. And the best way to do it is through building a referral-based relationship-based business. And that is how you do it. You learn the art of giving referrals and asking for referrals, and it’ll become a business that you love.

Ep 456: Building Your Referral Based Business with Barb Betts

AJV (00:02):
Hey everybody and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand Podcast. So excited today to have a good friend, Barb Betts on the show. And before we get started, and before I introduce her like I always do, I wanna let you know why you should stick around for this episode and also if you should stick around if it’s for you. But today is one of those episodes where it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are in your personal brain journey, what your business is, if you’re a beginner, if you’re advanced, it does not matter. This is an episode for you. This is universal. It is applicable to every single human because we’re gonna be talking about the power of relationships. And if you do relationships well, how you can use those to grow your business through. My favorite thing in the world, referrals. And it doesn’t matter.
AJV (00:50):
I don’t care what business you’re in most business today, regardless of what you hear out there online is not because somebody found you on a Google search. It’s not because they heard you on a podcast or on Instagram. Most business still today, yes, in 2024 is still done by referral. It’s because someone said, I know who you should meet. I know who you should go to. And that is because you have a great reputation. ’cause You have a great business. And also mostly because you told people about what you do. And please tell your friends, right? Those are referrals. That is the power of it. But referrals only happen when you have great relationships. And so if you wanna grow your business without having to spend paid traffic, money, or advertising, and you wanna have some good freeway of growing your business, then today, right now, this is the episode that you want to listen to.
AJV (01:41):
So now let me introduce you to one of my favorite people. And I love when I get to interview people who are not only do I love and know personally, but who I got to meet through Brand Builders Group, because that gives me this inside track of knowing what their business is all about, what their content is all about. And in fact, I was so excited about what Barb is doing, that I actually had her come and do her referral training to our entire strategist team at Brand Builders Group. So after that happened, I was like, yep, gotta have her on the podcast. This was so good. It was so helpful, it was so actionable. And that’s why she is here on the show today. So Barb is a sought after keynote speaker. She is also a, a tenured and seasoned real estate expert.
AJV (02:27):
She is the CEO of re collective. It’s a boutique brokerage in Southern California, although I am trying to recruit her to Nashville, Tennessee. So we’ll see how well that goes . But she has been speaking on stages all over the country. You’ve got Woman Up, you’ve got the National Association of Realtors, you’ve got the Inman Connect, you’ve got Ram Builders Groups speaker there. But I think what I love most about her is that she actually does what she teaches. She is a practitioner of this art, of building relationships, not to get referrals, but building relationships. And as a byproduct of that, getting referrals. And that’s why I wanted to have her on the show today. So, Barb, welcome.
BB (03:08):
Oh my gosh, aj, thank you so much. I, I can’t tell you how much that introduction means to me. And I agree a thousand percent with every single thing you said. I love it when I’m actually talking to someone who gets it, and I don’t have to convince them to understand why they should listen to this message. So I’m so excited to have this conversation today.
AJV (03:27):
Yeah. You know, I think one of the things that I notice all the time even internally at Brand Builders Group, but also through a long time of doing sales training in my former life, is like everyone knows that getting referrals is a powerful part of your business. But yet there’s this hesitation, there’s this reluctance sometimes for people to do the hard work of asking for referral. And somehow we convince ourselves that meeting strangers on the street or on the internet is somehow easier or better than actually getting referrals from clients, friends, family, or whoever. And so I’d really love to talk to you about, like, as we kind of get started, is a a little bit about the mindset around, even if we know that getting and asking for referrals is one of the fastest ways to grow our business, why don’t people do it? Like, what’s the hangup here?
BB (04:19):
Yeah. Well, I love that. And it is, it is a thousand percent true. And I, you know, I’m in the middle of writing my first book, which I’m very excited about. And as I’m talking to these publishers, I’m telling them like, you know, every single business book out there, every single business book I’ve read, no matter what strategy hack, no matter what system they’re teaching somewhere in the book, it is bound to say at the end of a chapter. But you know what, it’s actually all about relationships. But no one actually tells you how to do it, right? Like, they all know that’s the foundation of every successful business, but very few know how to focus it and make it a priority and and really leverage those relationships. So to your question, what I would say is the issue is that people look at, well, if I’m going to leverage a relationship or ask for a referral from a friend or family member, I’m crossing that line.
BB (05:15):
I’m being salesy. I don’t wanna be pushy. And what I always say is, you will never be a pushy salesman if you’re making it about them. Number one, pushy salespeople make that about themselves. And the reason you are not comfortable asking for that referral, the reason you are not comfortable asking your friends and family is because you haven’t been given permission to do so by yourself. You haven’t built that relationship to a point where you have absolute permission to ask that referral. That’s really what it comes down to. Once you have that permission, once you’ve built up enough in that trust department with that person, you will have no problem calling up AJ and saying, Hey friend, I need your help. Can you do me a favor? And then it just becomes this natural byproduct. ’cause You know, you’ve built that relationship, a real relationship to the level where you get comfortable asking,
AJV (06:13):
Okay, so I love this. So I think this is really important ’cause I think a lot of people talk about building relationships in business, but no one really says, well, what do you mean by that? Like, what is a real relationship? And how do you know when you’ve crossed that threshold of now I have permission to go and ask for help, ask for referrals? Is it like a timeframe? Is it like, is there like some like checklist we can do here? like tell us what, what, what is that?
BB (06:40):
Oh my gosh, that’s so great. So first it starts with the foundation of what I describe as real relationships equal referrals, right? You’ve gotta have real relationships. What does real mean? Well, real is relatable. You engage, you are authentic and you listen. That’s how you build a real relationship. You’re relatable, you engage, you’re authentic, and you listen. And when you do that with enough people over time, you start developing those real relationships. I want you to think about any relationship you have right now, whether it be a friend, whether it be a family member, whether it be your best clients. You probably can go through that framework and go, wow, I’ve done all these things. I am authentic with them. I do engage with them, I do listen. And then it comes down to when you, when you talk about when are you ready to ask for that referral?
BB (07:31):
I like to te teach a simple framework that talks about how you have to make deposits before you make withdrawals. So I talked about that trust account. Right now, there’s no scientific formula, there’s no check the box, but it’s a feeling that you just know. It’s that feeling when you open up your phone and you’re not afraid to text AJ and check in on her and ask her for something or ask her for help, where you’re not afraid to pick up the phone and make that call to that person. And how you do that is you focus on making deposits. And once you’ve made enough deposits, it’s just like a good old bank account friend. You can’t go to the ATM if there’s no balance there to withdraw any money. And so that’s, it’s the same way with relationships. If you have not built up a balance in that, that relationship account, you can’t take any withdrawals.
BB (08:14):
You don’t have permission to ask. And it’s, it’s the, it’s the self-awareness we all need. I do it too, in my career that I came from, before I developed my keynote speaking career and my all my passions to do this, I would open up my phone to text a client and I would look and the last time I text them was a year ago. Hmm. So even if I wanted to ask that client to help me out with something I didn’t have permission to, and I knew it, versus my best clients who I engage with all the time, who I am there for them all the time, I have no problem. Again, calling up AJ and saying, Hey friend, I need your help. Can you help me with something? So really comes down to real relationships and building up that trust account.
AJV (08:58):
Okay. So this is a great topic ’cause I hear this all the time. It’s like, well how many people can you honestly do that with? You know? And it’s like, I even think about myself. It’s like, yeah, it’s like most of the people that I would probably go to to ask for referrals, I’m like, eh, it might have, it might be a minute since I’ve actually last engaged. You know? And so I think a lot of that is like, what are some tips of going like, Hey, here’s how you set up. Like these are the relationships you invest this amount of time in. Not, and again, not to get referrals, but it’s like, hey, these are vested relationships that I’m in gonna be intentional about. And what, how often should we be engaging and what does that look like? And, and then honestly just some ideas around efficiencies of going, when there’s so many things vying for our attention, how do we kind of put some blinders on and go, this is what I’m gonna do with this group of people.
BB (09:48):
I love everything you said. And it does come down to having a system, which is why I built the RELATE framework. And the relate framework starts with the relationship foundation, the relational mindset. It goes into establishing trust, leveraging your network, authentically engaging, taking thoughtful action, and then executing effective systems. That framework is the system. Now, we clearly in this short time in a podcast do not have time to go through the system, but I wanna focus on that LI wanna focus on how you leverage your network. Mm-Hmm. , right? Everyone has a network. You also can connect your network to be a database. A database in my world is a list of relationships. It’s not a mailing list friend. It’s people that you go down that list and you look at them. And if you ran into them in the grocery store, you might recognize who they are.
BB (10:36):
So these are not just a bunch of information you’ve compiled over time inside that network, you have a bunch of people. And you’re absolutely right aj. We cannot focus on all the people the same way. We can’t stay in contact with all the people in the same way. And I have lots of strategies where you can stay in consistent contact for those, if you will lower level people in your database. ’cause What I teach is a ranking system. I teach you to rank your database, rank your relationships, just like we rank restaurants on Yelp and open table and do reviews. And it’s a simple five star system. Hmm. So once you develop that five star system and once you rank those relationships, then I teach a frequency formula for staying in contact with them. Because let’s face it, if I am one of your best clients, you should be in touch with me frequently.
BB (11:26):
If I’m one of your best relationships, you should be in touch with me frequently. And so when I teach the five star system, I teach also a simple frequency formula of five star people. Those are your advocates. Those are your walking talking billboards. You are in touch with them at least once a month. And please understand, these are not five minute phone calls. These are not long drawn out messages. These are simply aj Hey, thinking about you today, how are you and Rory doing? I saw you went on a Disney cruise. How was it? Looks like it was a blast send. That is a connection. Point four star people. These are your raving fans. These are the people that really love you, but they’re just not quite those, you know, referring type people that are constantly sharing you everywhere. Those people you’re in touch with every 60 days, three stars.
BB (12:17):
These are the people that you’re connected to. Those people you’re in touch with every 90 days. Two stars and one star is, two stars are your acquaintances. Every 120 days. And then one star. You can’t have a mailing list. You can have a bunch of information you’ve collected over time from potential clients and customers, but you don’t really know who they are. Mm-Hmm. Those people. That’s your mailing list. That’s your drip campaign or whatever other kind of marketing campaigns. So if you follow that and those advocates, those people that are most likely to refer you if they’re hearing from you 12 times a year in an authentic way where you’re looking to connect and deepen the relationship and you’re making it all about them, I promise you, when it comes time and you need something, you’re gonna be comfortable asking.
AJV (13:03):
Yeah. I love that. And I, you know, it’s interesting because I read somewhere that you, you had mentioned it’s like most people aren’t comfortable asking for referrals ’cause they’re not comfortable with themselves.
BB (13:16):
AJV (13:17):
So, well, and I do think that’s true and a lot of, like, as I think through some of the people that I’m like, if you just asked for referrals, your business would be so much, you know, better in terms of how you feel about how things are going. It wouldn’t be so stressful. So what do you mean by that? It’s like when you think about if you’ve got a reluctance to ask someone for help, right? And in this instance for a referral, then there’s probably a disconnect with yourself. Like, can you walk us through that a little bit?
BB (13:41):
Yeah. It’s the r it’s the relational foundation and the, and the foundation of that is that you cannot have an authentic relationship with anyone else before you have an authentic relationship with yourself. And the reason I say that is because you have to know who you are. You have to know the value you bring to the table. You have to be confident in what you are delivering is something that people need. When people say, I don’t wanna ask my friends and family for a referral, I always turn it around on them in this way, let’s say you are an insurance agent and you don’t tell your friends and family that you need them to connect you to people who need honest advice, good, good plans, not gonna rip them off all the things. And then their friend goes and gets insurance from someone else and gets mistreated, isn’t well taken care of.
BB (14:36):
God forbid the accident happens and they don’t have the coverage they need that’s on you because you weren’t confident enough to ask the friend or family member to en you know, engage with you to deliver that referral so that you could take care of that person. So it all comes down to the confidence within ourselves and, and how we show up. And honestly, aj, most people are taught to show up as a salesperson. Hmm. They’re not taught to show up as who they are, which is why I love the work Brand Builders group does because it teaches people to understand who they are, to understand that they are their marketing department. It is your personal brand is the marketing of the future. And so you can’t have that be a strong marketing department if you don’t love who you are. Hmm. So it all starts with building that authentic relationship with yourself before you can start developing with others. It’s why the first chapter in the book is all about, we gotta shore up our house first, which is us before we can put any kind of system to work.
AJV (15:36):
Yeah. You know, that’s so true. And I can think of so many instances in my life where people have asked me for referrals, and it comes from a genuine place of I know I’m gonna do a fantastic job for them. Like, if, if you refer them to me, I will take care of them. Right. And it gives me a lot of confidence because, you know, the truth is, is people are asking for stuff all the time. Mm-Hmm. . Like, I actually, I’m on a listserv with my EO group, the Entrepreneurs Organization, where basically the entire listserv, does anyone know anyone who does blank? Does it, can anyone refer me someone who blank? It’s like the whole thing that we use it for, it’s like, because why we don’t want to trust a strange company that we found on a Google search. It’s like, no, I wanna know that you use them. And it’s like when you do a really great job, it’s easier for you. Well, and I guess too, it’s like when you believe that you’re gonna do a great job, right? Mm-Hmm. . And perhaps if you, if you’re listening and you’re feeling like, man, I I do not feel comfortable asking for referrals, then maybe you should ask yourself, do you feel comfortable in the service that you’re delivering? Do you feel like it’s a five star experience with what you’re delivering?
BB (16:45):
I could not agree with you more. It all starts with us. It all starts with what we’re doing, how we’re doing it. Loving yourself, knowing that you are really good at what you do, and that you’re gonna take really good care of people because that’s who you are. And then the rest just kind of falls into place from there. But we gotta fix who we are first. I went through a very, how I kind of stumbled honestly across this is I went through a very authentic journey with my hair. Go follow me on social media. You’ll see all about it. And the next thing I heard from everybody was, Barb, you’re so much more confident now all my friends, you’re so much more confident now. And I’m like, I didn’t just put this hair on my head and become confident overnight that person was in me, that I had to learn to love that person. I had to let my own walls down. And you know what? I am more confident calling people now. I am more confident walking into appointments. I am more confident on this podcast as a result. But it’s because I fixed my relationship with myself first. That frankly, I didn’t even know I had a problem with until I discovered it through this authenticity journey, which is why I’m so passionate about authenticity and showing up real.
AJV (17:47):
No, I love that. And I think that is for mo for the, for the most cases. And I bet for the majority of people, the reason you don’t ask for referrals is probably one of two reasons. One, you don’t, you’re not completely convicted and what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, right. Because if you were truly convicted then you would be like, I can’t not. Yeah. I can’t not. Yeah. And there’s so many examples. But you gotta do that deep work. And sometimes until you do the deep work, you’re like, oh wait, what I do is awesome. Yeah. What I do is amazing. And I think a lot of people don’t give themselves enough opportunity to go, no, I do a great job. I do a better job than most. And that means something.
BB (18:30):
Yeah. I, you know, it’s interesting you say that because when I think back to my sales career, there’s so many times early in my career where I’m like, I should be helping more people. I’m really good at what I do. Why am I not helping more people? And I realize it’s ’cause I’m not asking for business. You know, people aren’t lying awake at night deciding and wondering how I’m doing in my business. You think they are, but they’re not. And most people want to help you. That’s why I love in my dialogues, I teach, can you do me a favor? I don’t know anyone who would call me that. I have a real relationship with always that foundation where if they say, Hey Barb, can you do me a favor? Then I’m not gonna be like, absolutely. What do you need? How can I help
AJV (19:13):
Ask? That’s so true. So I think that is like, that’s probably half of the people and then I think the other half of the people genuinely just don’t know how to ask. Yeah. Can we talk about that for second? We absolutely can talk about that. Let’s say you’re that person who goes, I know I deliver a bombshell product or service. I feel great about it. But I don’t really know how to ask. So I don’t, it’s like I want to, but what do I do? What do I say?
BB (19:40):
Well, let’s start with one foundational principle that we haven’t talked about yet. When you are asking someone for business, you are not selling to them. You are selling through them.
AJV (19:51):
Mm. That’s good. Like
BB (19:52):
One thing I wanna talk about, because that’s another reason people are like, well Myer, whoever it is, I don’t want to sell to them. I don’t wanna be a salesperson. You’re not, you know where I came from? I came from the real estate world. I have plenty of friends, family, and clients who are never going to sell their home because they love the home they live in. I’m not calling them to get them to sell their home. I’m selling through them to leverage their network. So when you’re reaching out to that person, it’s, Hey friend, hey aj, whoever it is, and you use those magic words. Can you do me a favor? When you say, can you do me a favor? You instantly have their attention. You instantly have their wanting to help. Then you say something to the effect of, can you do me a favor?
BB (20:36):
You know, and tell them something about what’s going on in your world. Like tell them why you need their help. Tell them you have a great new product you need to roll out. Tell them that the industry is in need of this. And then say something to the effect of when you come across. Because then you’re not making it like, I need that referral right now because Right. How have you ever been in front of a financial advisor that are famous for this, where you sit in front of them and they have a piece of paper and at the end of the appointment they slide it over and say, can you give me three names and phone numbers of people that could use my services? ? No. I don’t even know who the heck you are yet. I’m not giving you three people. Right? That’s being a pushy salesperson.
BB (21:14):
Let’s not do that. But when you say, can you do me a favor? When you come across, insert what you want, you have to be specific about what you want. You can’t just say someone who needs insurance. You’ve got to be specific about what you want. When you come across someone who has a business and doesn’t understand how powerful their personal brand might be, who wants to leverage who they are, who wants to find out all the goodness about them, then I would love you. And then here’s the magic words. Don’t use the word referral. I have seen this time and time again where you say, I need a referral. And no one even knows what it means. How to do it. Like, do they have to be qualified? Do they have to be ready to go? Do they have to be ready to buy?
BB (21:57):
No. I just want you to introduce or connect me to them. Don’t say both words and pick one. I use them interchangeably. But the nice thing about saying, Hey aj, when you come across someone who needs blank, would you do me a favor and introduce us? And then give them a mechanism in a text message, in an email. Give them the way you want them to do it. And guess what? When you teach them how to refer you and you make it easy on them, they’re more willing to do it. And nine outta 10 times they’ll say something like, oh my gosh, I was just talking to a friend at work the other day about this. And all of a sudden you’re getting a referral instantaneously. Which is fantastic, but not always. And sometimes it comes down the road, but using the words, can you do me a favor? And using the magic words, introduce or connect me, have transformed so many businesses of business owners that I’ve worked with.
AJV (22:48):
. I love that. It’s so funny because after you did the training with our team, like half of our team was like, I love that we shouldn’t say the word referral anymore. and I, it really resonated with them.
BB (23:00):
I always like to be clear, a referral is when I teach and train, I use the referral. Every other word. A referral is what you want for sure. Internally, it’s
AJV (23:09):
Not what you ask for is
BB (23:10):
What you ask for. And can you use the word referral? Absolutely. There’s something now if you’re talking to another business owner, they’re gonna know exactly what to do. But when you’re talking to this everyday person in the street, they’re like, how do I do it? When do I do it? And the other thing is, some industries are very locked tight in their rules and regulations. Mm-Hmm. . And the word referral comes with a, what are you gonna do for me? Because it’s all over your doctor’s office. Everywhere you go, give us a referral, you get a hundred dollars off your next service. Some businesses can’t do that. So sometimes using a different word is very helpful in the outcome you receive.
AJV (23:41):
So do you think it’s best to get quality referrals? Do you think it’s best to do it like on a phone call in person? Do you think it’s okay to do it in a text, an email? Like what are some of the mediums that’s most successful?
BB (23:56):
Love that. It goes back to my philosophy of any way that someone can respond to you. Hmm.
AJV (24:01):
That’s good. Meaning.
BB (24:02):
So I call, so when I’m teaching people how to do their activities and how to do their, you know, connection, strategy and their frequency formula, I always say outgoing connections. You’ve got to use your telephone for what it’s meant to be. Outgoing messages. Like you initiate the phone call, you initiate the text message. But here’s the other great part. We have so many other ways in today’s day and age. We have Facebook messaging, we have Instagram messaging, we have video chats, BombBomb, like there’s a million different ways you can do it as long as they have a way to respond to you. So for instance, I’m a big personal note gal. I believe in handwritten notes. I believe in the power of them. It’s another strategy I teach where I teach take thoughtful action. But they can’t, I don’t ask for a referral in a note.
BB (24:46):
Mm-Hmm. they can’t, what are they gonna do? You know, open their mail, set it down and think I need to text her back. No, that’s not a way for them to engage back with you. So I believe you can do it all different ways. I don’t believe it has to be on the phone. I am, I believe that in today’s day and age, sometimes calling people is an interruption and you need permission to call somebody. Like they know you’re gonna call them so that they’re prepared for the phone call and can have a great conversation with you. So really it’s any way that they can respond back to you.
AJV (25:14):
I think that’s so good. And I think that’s true. It’s like if you call someone and you catch ’em completely off guard and they’re like, whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not ready for this. But I think again, all of that is just having a plan and a system which just takes some thought and some intentionality. Well,
BB (25:28):
It’s having a real relationship. ’cause You know them. So I always use the example of my best friend in the world as a kindergarten teacher. So if I’m doing my lead generation calls, if I’m doing my connection plan at Tuesday at 10:00 AM and I call her, she’s gonna answer the phone ’cause I’m her best friend and she’s gonna be like, are you okay? Because she would know that, why would I call and bug her Tuesday at 10:00 AM Mm-Hmm. . But a text message is not intrusive. She can answer that when she has time.
AJV (25:52):
That’s good. I think a lot of that she’s get, again, back to when you know someone, you know their communication habits and preferences and you know what works. Yeah. But I think that comes back to that real relationship of referrals aren’t technically from strangers, they’re from people, you know. So then here that leads to another question then. So if you don’t know someone exceptionally well that they’re a client or they’re a friend or a family member, like how do you go about generating, you know, potential referrals from those people? It’s like, do you have to be BFF with these people? Like do you have to be clients with them? So what’s kind of the dividing line there?
BB (26:32):
The dividing line is that that’s why you apply the connection strategy. When you apply the connection strategy. When you are being in consistent contact with them. You don’t ask them at that nine the first time you message them. You don’t ask them for a referral. You’re just simply trying to make their day. I have a mindset of your outgoing connection plan when you are doing your, if you will, see, to me, lead generation is not just asking for business. You’re gonna ask for business when the time comes and the time’s. Right? Mm-Hmm. . But there’s another strategy I teach. When you’re not comfortable with someone, you simply just check in on them. You do exactly what I said. Hey aj, you know, saw you went on vacation. How was it? You’re gonna likely respond back even if we don’t have a deep rooted relationship. You know who I am.
BB (27:10):
So you’re gonna respond back and be like, oh my god, Barb, it was so great. The kids had such a great time. And then you might say something like, Hey, how are you? Like, I always teach people, sometimes we are not taking the opportunity to ask when they’ve given us permission to mm-hmm. , right? The second someone says, how are you? They just don’t, they don’t just wanna know how your vacation was. They wanna know how you are. And this is your opportunity to ask for that business or to tell them what’s going on in your business to remind them what you do to remind them what’s going on in your industry. So you do not have to have that deep rooted relationship. Sometimes you’re given permission to now if you’re not, and if they just respond back and say, oh my God, it was great.
BB (27:49):
Thanks for checking in. Hope you guys are doing well. Great. You log that. I’m a big tracker of activity. I’m a big believer of you cannot measure what you do not track, which is what I teach in the effective systems category. You’ve gotta track what you do. And so you’re gonna track that as a connection. Great. You made a connection to aj. Then 90 days later, if you use a good CRM like I teach you to 90 days later it’s gonna pop back up and tell you guess what time to connect with AJ again. You’re gonna connect with AJ again and before you know it, you’re gonna start showing up in their life so that you get that permission to ask for the business. But layered in throughout that entire process and throughout your entire database is a concept of you’ve got to be marketing to them.
BB (28:31):
There is still good old fashioned marketing. You’ve gotta have valuable marketing in front of them that positions you as the best in your industry. Because I believe that people do not do business with you till they know you like you and trust you. Everyone knows that. But what people don’t understand is there’s a gap between like and trust. Just because someone knows you and likes you, they don’t necessarily trust you as a professional till you give them a reason to. So layering And it’s like, it’s like a layering plan. It’s like a farmer. They don’t just, you know, water and get, you know, crops. They have to fertile this. They have to create the soil, they have to aerate it, they have to lay the seeds, they Right. It’s a layering effect. Yeah. So this system, relationship marketing does not work overnight. It, that’s number one does not work overnight. But what I can promise you is you start doing this now and you do this enough over time, you will get to the point where you have to do nothing else. Which is when you know you’ve really made it. It’s when your business feels good, you love doing it. You love who you’re doing it with. And so you can get to that point with, with, if you will, I wouldn’t say strangers, but people that don’t know you as well as you might know your other people. Yeah.
AJV (29:41):
And I love that. And I think one of the things that I kinda wanna circle back to, ’cause so much of what you’re talking about is as the person who is trying to generate business, you really have to know exactly who you wanna be introduced to. Yes. You have to know who you wanna be referred to. Like everything you just said, it’s like you can get to the point where you love what you do all day, every day. And you love who you do it with. Well, you know what, you get to create that. Yeah. Like if you’re getting referrals from people that you’re like, man, I just want 10 more people like you or 20 more people like you. It’s like they likely know them. Yeah. So it’s like, but we gotta know exactly who it is that we’re looking for. And I don’t think most of us spend, spend near enough time going, these are the demographics and psychographics of my ideal client. This is who it’s easy for me to serve, it’s natural for me to serve. It doesn’t even feel like work. But then I think the other part is, I think often many of us have so much scarcity mindset that we take any lead, any referral off the street. Yeah. And then we’re miserable. Yeah. And we have built a business full of people that we’re like, man, I I I don’t love this. Yes.
BB (30:44):
Well, I always say when those people come up in your database and you like want to avoid them like the plague, they’re not a relationship. You need to move them down in your database. But you are so correct. You have to know exactly who you are talking to and exactly what you want and what you said about I just want 10 more of you. I use that all the time. I always say, you know what, good people, no good people. Mm-Hmm. . And you guys were incredible. This is what I usually do at like the closing or the you got the contract signed or they bought the service and just say, listen, it has been such a pleasure getting you to this point. I really love people like you. Like you guys light up my business. So I need you to do me a favor.
BB (31:26):
Can you duplicate yourself? Who else do you know that’s just like you? And I promise you that works. ’cause They do know good people just like them. And then they also know that the other people that they’re not gonna refer you to because they’re not nice humans. Right. And so I think knowing who you are, and that’s why I love the work that Brand Builders group does, is that it really does help you niche down to who that ideal client avatar is. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t serve people on the peripheral. It doesn’t mean that they, if they fit a little bit outside of the demographic that they’re not still gonna be great clients. But it does help you get laser focused in who you’re looking for and asking for. For sure.
AJV (32:05):
Well, and for the person who’s being asked, when you’re clear, it makes it so much easier for me to go, I know exactly someone that you need to meet. I know exactly who you need to talk to. I just, like, as you were talking, I was thinking about two recent experiences that I had in different, you know, business, you know, kind of association groups. And both of them happened probably within a few weeks of each other. And this one woman was doing like a general ask in like a, a group setting for referrals. And her business was hyp hypnotic weight loss. And she was talking about how it’s like, this could work with anyone who has had problems of, you know, historical problems, of trying all these different fad diets and they just don’t work. And she was like, so anyone that you know who was looking to lose weight, I would love, I would love to hear from you.
AJV (32:58):
And I thought to myself, I know like a thousand people who’d like to lose weight, but it’s like, I don’t know anyone that would probably be like hypnosis. I wanna try that . Right? And so I was like, I mean I probably do, let me think about it because my mind was going like, do I know anyone that if I referred them to a hypnotic weight loss clinic, but they think I’ve lost my mind? Then a few weeks later, it was in another like, business group setting and this woman stood up and she does I think it was like some sort of like emotional therapy around healing let’s be emotions then headed into weight loss. And she was talking, and I like, literally as she was talking, she was like, this is the person that I was born to serve. It is the woman who is most likely a mother.
AJV (33:47):
She has most likely put herself second for far too long. She is working and she is pulled in many directions. She has gone up and down with her weight for her entire life. This is someone who has struggled with it since childhood. She went on and on and on. And literally as she was talking, I was like, I know two people you have to meet. Like I have two people that I need them to meet you. And it was like Ashley was talking, it was like, I almost got emotional of going like, if you could genuinely help this person, I know it would be life changing for so many people in our lives. And the first one I was going, I mean maybe, but I don’t know. And this, and it was like, they were very similar conversations and they were both kind of non-traditional methods. But the second one, she was so clear on her and she, the way she described the person, it was like she was describing this person I know in my life. And I was like, how do I get them in touch with you? Like, what do I do?
BB (34:45):
She painted the picture in your brain. She painted the picture of someone that you know, and that you are absolutely crap. You have to be specific. You cannot be general. Because generality is going to get you nowhere because I’m not gonna be able to think of that person. I hate the word anyone. . Anyone. Anyone, anyone. So like this guy walking down the street in front of my house right now, like, you want me to go out, see if he needs a personal brand. ,
AJV (35:11):
Maybe, maybe. I don’t even
BB (35:13):
Know if he has a business. Right? Like yeah. It, it definitely being specific. And then again, this is all about planting the seed. This is all about, you know, the person may not know someone right now, but you’ve now planted that who in their brain so that when they do come across that person, they’re gonna be like aj. The number one thing that, again, the valuable marketing, developing the trust, everything else that I teach gets you to, is top of mind awareness. Yeah. You wanna be the first person they think of in the category you serve. If you can get to that point with enough people, you, I promise you will have more business than you know what to do with and when you can figure out, and this is a whole nother conversation for another day, but when you can figure out who those referring type people are, like barbettes, when you get enough of me in the world who’s a natural born referer and connector
AJV (36:00):
Promoter. Promoter, yeah. You need promoters. Listen,
BB (36:04):
I just have to know who you want and I will connect you with more people than you probably not can handle. ’cause We all want more business, but you’re gonna have a very successful, thriving business. And it gets down to my number one outcome I love to create for people. I always say that salespeople, people in sales, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner, or just on a sales team, most people love what they do. They love serving the client they love providing the value and transforming someone’s life. I don’t know any salesperson that doesn’t love the product or the service they sell. Mm. Most salespeople hate how they have to do it. Mm. They hate the generating of the leads the way they think they have to do it. And when you start learning to love building relationships and having all of this communication and conversations and everything that I’ve talked about and you love what you do, then you have a business that you wake up to every day and you are ready to serve, you’re ready to go. You live a better life. It’s just a better way to do business. It’s a better way to live your life.
AJV (37:07):
I love that. You know, and one of the things that you said certainly earlier that you just made me think of is knowing how to ask of the medium. Like as you were just talking, it’s like I was literally putting myself in the shoes of how often I get asked for stuff. Like, Hey, do you know anyone who you know builds websites can do blah, blah, blah? You know, all the time. Right. And I, one, I’m a promoter as well. I love to refer good talent because I know it’s really hard to find really great talent. And you know, it’s like made me think about this story I just shared about like these two, you know, totally similar but polar opposite examples and the first one. So they were just like, yep, you just give me names, emails, and phone numbers. And I was like, probably not doing that.
AJV (37:51):
But the second one when she was like, Hey, and I, I literally approached her and said, I do know someone how, how do I connect you? And she goes, actually, it’s never good to just connect someone that you think needs to lose weight. And I was like, that’s great idea. Don’t, I should not do that. So what, what do you do here? And she goes, I have a great strategy. Just tell me who they are. I will connect them on Facebook. I will tell them how much you were talking about them today and say, I was so impressed with the way that AJ talked about you. I looked you up on Facebook and wanted to connect. I’m like, I am. It’s brilliant. And it made me think about when you really know what you do, love what you do, you’re convicted in what you do and you know who you’re meant to serve. It’s like you also know how to approach the person. And it took so much pressure off of me. All I had to do is give the name and say Yep, that’s the person on Facebook that that’s them. Yeah. And she said, I got it from here. I’ll let you know. Yeah. And I’m like, could not be easier in the world. And that’s, I think a part of it. You’ve gotta make it easy for me to give you a referral.
BB (38:52):
Yeah. It’s, it’s so, you’re so true. That’s why I love the introductions and I teach in my world, I teach people just, you know, introduce us in a group text message and I’ll take it from there. Right. It very simple. I’ll take it from there. Just open up your phone and say, Hey aj, hey Barb, you guys need to know each other. This is who AJ is, this is who Barb is. I’ll let you two take it from here and let me do my work from there. It’s my job to then take it from there. It’s not send ’em to a website, have ’em fill out a form, have ’em take a questionnaire and then blah, blah blah, blah, blah. No, it’s as simple as find the mechanism to make the introduction. And if it is something as simple, ’cause you know, weight loss I would agree is something very personal.
AJV (39:30):
BB (39:30):
It’s kind of like me texting AJ going, aj you know what? You really could lose some weight and I’ve got the person for you. I know that sounds awful . Like, don’t do that. Right.
AJV (39:40):
But I love that. It’s like, you know, it’s like it made it so easy and simple and I’m like, well that’s all I have to do. I probably could think of some more people. Right. And it’s like a lot of that is the easier it is that you make it, the easier it is for me to just go ahead and take action. Yeah. Right. And so I know that we’re almost outta time here, but there’s like two other quick things that I wanna talk about because I do think this plays a huge role and a lot of like how we just functioned today. And you mentioned it earlier when you said like, you know, Facebook and, you know, different social media. So how, how does social media play a role in the building, maintaining of relationships, but referrals? Like how does that all work together? What do you see?
BB (40:21):
Social media is the biggest gift given to anyone in sales in modern times. You’re just not using it effectively. Hmm.
AJV (40:27):
Love that.
BB (40:27):
First thing I recommend is you go through your list of relationships and you make sure you are connected to and following and friending every single person in your ecosystem. And then you start paying attention and then you start having conversations. I I, when I teach social media, I in the authentically engaged section of Relate, I always tell people there’s two ways to do social media. One is of course posting and posting reels and things like that. And that’s great to find people you don’t, stories is where you wanna live. For the people that you do know. Stories is the most effective way that I know that you can broadcast to your entire list of relationships in one conversation and stories, if they’re done correctly, start conversations. And I can’t tell you how many conversations, outgoing connections, dms I have done through stories. It is powerful because it’s the best way to stay in touch on, stay in touch with someone in their life.
BB (41:26):
‘Cause They’re sharing it and someone can stay in touch with you in your life and know what you’re doing on a daily basis. I always say the simple strategy of document your day, what do you do from morning to night? Four or five stories. It will start conversations you never could have imagined. So social media is a gift. It’s a gift if it’s used effectively. And it has to be a system. It has to be something you do consistently. Nothing that I have said is going to work if you do it one time. People are like, well, I did the referral thing, I did the introduction thing, I asked and I got nothing. I’m like, oh great. You did it one time. Yeah. I called them once a year. I haven’t called them in 13 months and they still haven’t given me a referral. I don’t understand why doesn’t work like that. .
AJV (42:10):
Well, and I love that too. It’s like, and I think there’s so much of this is such a mentality shift, right? It’s a mentality shift of do you believe that your product or service actually helps other people? And if you do, then it is a requirement of you to tell people about it. Right? It it like, and it’s like, I I think that’s a mentality shift. I think what you just said is a mentality shift of like, social media is a gift. I cannot tell you how many people I hear on a daily basis. Like, social media’s the devil, it’s the devil . I’m like, why do you say that? I’m like, and they’re, I’m like, devil,
BB (42:45):
Because how you’re using it, it’s,
AJV (42:46):
Yeah. And I love that. It’s like if you treat it like a business tool, then it will help your business. Right? And it’s like, if you’re only following a bunch of like horrible newsfeed, well then it probably does feel like the devil, right? It’s, but it’s like all about how you use it. And I love that this approach of like, it’s a gift. It’s a way to maintain relationships, stay in touch with people, start conversations. So I, I would love to hear from you like what are some effective things to be posting in this relationship maintenance kind of realm?
BB (43:19):
Yeah. Well, I always say back to what you were saying, people are telling you everything you need to know online. The question is, are you listening? Mm. Are you going to social media to listen and engage? Are you going just to social media to promote yourself?
AJV (43:33):
Love it. There’s
BB (43:34):
A huge difference there. So what can you post? Well, you need to make sure, and, and you’re gonna love this because this is all goes down to your personal brand. Social media needs to be 90% about you as a human who happens to do blank. Mm-Hmm. and 10% actual selling. Like 10% the content about what you actually do. If you make 90% of a about who you are as you go throughout your day. Which is why I love stories so much. Because in stories you should be working typically Monday through Friday, let’s just call it nine to five. That is not unusual for you to be doing your craft and talking about what you’re doing nine to five. So you can throw up, if you will, everything that you’re doing in your day and in your business because people expect you to be at work.
BB (44:23):
Yeah. And then when you get into the evening and the morning time, it’s a little bit more of your personal life. And when you start showing off what you’re doing in a thoughtful way, that’s when people start to get obsessed with what you do. And they learn very clearly what you do. And then if you a adopt a real strategy, and there’s plenty of really great social media experts out there and gurus that teach this, but if you adopt a real strategy where you’re actually creating content for your ideal client, now you’ve got this whole mechanism to generate other leads. ’cause I am not saying that relationship based marketing is the only way to do business and that you should drop everything else that you’re doing. I’m saying that you should get to the point where you don’t have to do mm-Hmm.
AJV (45:01):
a traditional, that’s good.
BB (45:02):
But everything in business works if you do it consistently. You just have to do it consistently. So if you do a real strategy to start attracting some other business, some if you will, cold, not really cold, but people you don’t know, strangers, to your point now you’ve got this really healthy balance of focusing on relationships and driving some attention to. ’cause If I promise you, if you jump into the reals world and you know who your ideal client is and you position it correctly, I’m seeing some significant growth in businesses using reels and social media and combining it with talking to the people that you already know.
AJV (45:38):
I love that. And I think, again, everyone who’s listening, it’s like if you, if you’re one of those people that’s like, oh, I hate social media, it’s like shift your mindset around though this is a business tool. So treat it like one. All right, last question and the, the last couple of minutes we have here, and I think this is I think this will be applicable to a lot of people, and I, and I hope that this is helpful, but one of the things that I hear a lot is, well, my business is new, so I don’t have any clients to ask for referrals from. So what do I do then? So what is your advice to the person who’s in a new endeavor? They maybe don’t have any clients yet, and they’re going, yeah, I’d love to have a referral based business. But they’re, I don’t have any of that tangible proof yet. I don’t have any longstanding clients. What’s your advice to them?
BB (46:30):
You absolutely do have a database. ’cause You have a list of relationships. I don’t want you in any way, shape or form to think anything I said is just for past clients. It’s for your list of relationships. It’s for the people who already know you and like you. So that’s the first thing you’re gonna do. You’re gonna create a database of people that know you and like you, I always tell new business owners, the best way to do this is think about your getting married or think about your daughters having a baby or whatever it may be, or your holiday card list. Like who would you send an important thing in your life to? That is your database. That is,
AJV (47:05):
That’s good. I love that holiday list tip. It’s like they’re on your Christmas card list and you’re on, they’re on your database. They,
BB (47:12):
You, you have, I hope you’re not sending Christmas cards to random strangers. That would be weird. So you have a list of relationships, start there. That’s a
AJV (47:20):
Great place to start.
BB (47:21):
And what I want you to do is simply rank those relationships by level of relationship even though that you have not done business with them. Just who do you know the best in your life Down to who’s like, eh, that’s my husband’s colleague at work, their family. Mm-Hmm. . And we met them at the barbecue three years ago. Okay. Rank them. And then you’ve got to do something in that gap. When I talked about the know, like, and the gap before, trust, trust, I want you to think of in two categories. I want you to think of it as personal credibility, show up on time, honest, trustworthy, and then professional competence. Good at what you do. You need to create a valuable marketing plan to start getting in front of people so that they learn that you, your new business, your new endeavor, you do know what you are doing.
BB (48:08):
Mm. But I promise you, the foundation of people that already know you and like you and love you as a human or loved you in your past life are gonna be the first people to trust you if you give them a reason to. But you have to start giving them a reason to. And you also need to call those people, those five star people and just be honest with them. Be honest with them. Hey, I need your help. You know, I’ve started this new business. This is who my ideal client is. When you come across someone, can you introduce, start asking the question. You’ll be amazed if they loved you for who you are. They’re gonna love you for what you do now. And some businesses that might take more time, don’t get me wrong. Some businesses you just became, you know got your series seven and you’re gonna be a financial advisor. Well, yeah, before I refer you, someone with a million dollar portfolio, that might take a little bit more time. Yeah. But if you start laying the foundation now, you will reap the reward in the end. But you’ve gotta start with that list of people that already know you and like you. And then remember what I talked about? The gap. That gap you’ve gotta close into trust.
AJV (49:09):
Yeah. This is so good. This is so helpful. And if you’ve been a hermit for the last three years, it’s time to come out of your shell. . Time to pick up the phone, get back out in public, right? Yes. It’s time to put on. You cannot
BB (49:21):
Be a secret salesperson. , you could not be a undercover agent. That does not work.
AJV (49:27):
I love this. Barb, if people wanna connect with you where should they go? And I know that you have this awesome lead magnet. We’ll talk about it in a second. And if you guys are like a lead magnet, it’s like, yeah, if you guys want to get some really awesome free stuff, you can sign up for that. It’s a free lead magnet. But before we talk about that, if people just wanna like, follow you, get to know you, like, where should they go?
BB (49:49):
Instagram’s my jam. I love Instagram. I’m on Instagram every day in the story. So just my name at Barb Betts, also Facebook, of course, LinkedIn. I’m on all the platforms underneath my name. I love new conversations. I love talking to new people. So as they say, I know this is, I gotta figure aj, we, we together need to figure out another way to say, slide into my dms. Like I cannot stand that, but I totally appear in my dms, surprise me in my dms. Oh, wow.
AJV (50:20):
Yes. That’s awesome.
BB (50:22):
But yeah,
AJV (50:24):
Well, I would second like, follow on Instagram. What’s your Instagram handle
BB (50:27):
At Barb Betts?
AJV (50:29):
At Barb Betts. And we’ll put that in the show notes. I follow you on Insta, so I, I would highly recommend it. And then as I mentioned, there’s also this awesome free resource that Barb has made available. And if you go to barb betts.com/authenticity you can sign up for this free, awesome resource. So, Barb, tell us what it is.
BB (50:51):
Yeah. So it starts with back to that first pillar of the foundation, of the framework, the relational mindset. And it starts with, you can’t have an authentic relationship with anyone else. So you have ’em with yourself. So it’s my authenticity blueprint that will get you on your way to building that authentic relationship with yourself and goes through my framework on how to do that. So you can start showing up as the real you and start impressing and infecting everyone with all your goodness so that they’re compelled to work with you.
AJV (51:16):
Love that. So go to bar beds.com/authenticity. This has been a fantastic conversation. All of you should have a little bit of a new renewed enthusiasm for getting out there and getting referrals. And a stick around for the recap episode. We’ll talk more about it there. And we will catch you next time on the influential Personal brand. We’ll see you later.

Ep 449: Celebrate, Save or Cancel: When To Retain and When To Let Go | Shana Lynn Episode Recap

AJV (00:02):
Do you have a membership or a community in which retention is a key driver in your business? If you do, this is a I would say a training, a conversation, a recording some tips, whatever you wanna call it. But this is some information, some education that I think will be vitally important to you. So I have a great friend who has a, a community and retention business, and I just had the opportunity to have her on the influential personal brand podcast. And the conversation veered intentionally or unintentionally, I’m not sure, to this conversation of cancellations and retention when it comes to communities and memberships. Now, this applies to any sort of customer, but this is a, a specific conversation for memberships and communities that you must listen to. So here are a couple of things that I think stood out about this idea of cancellations and reputation.
AJV (01:08):
So first and foremost, if someone requests to cancel their program with you, you have likely already lost them. And I know that there are lots of companies out there who require, who mandate a call to cancel. In fact, I was sharing this on the podcast. I am trying to not cancel, but downgrade a service that we subscribe to. I can’t do it. It’s, it’s actually not possible online. You have to email in which the email says, we’ll get back to you in four to five days. Or you have to call a, you know, one 800 number between the hours of nine and four. And it’s like, I, I don’t have time to do that. That’s why, that’s why I’m on this online thing and you’re gonna get back to me in four to five days. Like, that’s insanity. We think that’s helpful. We think that’s a retention effort.
AJV (02:00):
What that is, is that’s a customer satisfaction issue. Just because someone wants to cancel doesn’t mean they’re not willing to refer your business or come back at a later time. And I’m not saying that we should just let everyone cancel. That’s not what I’m saying. But what I am saying is that there’s an opportunity to go if someone is trying to cancel. There has likely been something or a series of some things that have, could have been fixed and prevented. And if it got all the way to, they wanna cancel, the save percentage is probably going to be low because the work should have already been done. The work the preventative measures or us catching it, that should have happened prior to this cancellation request. And at this point, they don’t really wanna have to talk to someone and explain themselves and do whatever else is what we think being helpful in an effort to save can also just be a really big fat annoyance.
AJV (02:59):
And what was a great relationship is now tarnished by a poor ending. So let’s talk about some things when it comes to cancellation. Number one, if you start with the beginning in mind, IE onboarding and what it’s like to be onboarded into your company or to your service or products, that changes everything. And people need to know what they’re buying. So step one this is, I think this is really good, is don’t assume people know what they bought. You have to tell them and then remind them. So don’t think that people know exactly what they bought. They don’t often, or they only know a piece of it. So we have to remind them of what they bought. That’s our job. That’s a part of our onboarding and our communication and our marketing. But that’s the first thing, is they have to know what I’m buying into.
AJV (03:50):
And they should know upfront, if and when this is no longer working for me, what do I do about that? Ideally, they’re reaching out to you in a proactive effort of how do I fix this? How do I change this? Not how do I cancel this? But we need to make that clear upfront, but not just upfront. It needs to be clear throughout the process. So a part of onboarding is helped to ensure that one, they know what they bought. The second piece of onboarding is knowing that you can help them. They need that reminder and that confidence of you’re in the right place that we can help. We have the expertise, the content, the information, the support to help you. The third thing is they need to know that they can do it. That other people have come before them and have done this and that they can do it too.
AJV (04:38):
And then last but not least, they need to know what is the next best step? Or what is the next right step for me in this process for me in this journey? Like, what do I need to do next? And I can think of so many tangible examples of this in so many different ways. So we subscribe to a bookkeeping service for Brain Builder’s group, and I’m constantly sending messages saying, can you just please tell me what is the next thing for me to do here? It’s like, I will send a notice or a letter that I got and they’re like, oh, well, you know, that needs to be, you know, updated in the, you know, portal. And I’m like, what portal? ? Like where your portal, the state portal. Like, can you please just tell me what to do? Like I need clarity.
AJV (05:27):
I need to know my best next step. I can think of other little things of like, and this is, I’m trying to make this applicable to any business, like doctor’s office, right? My six year old got bit by, apparently there’s a bug called a kissing bug that is attracted to your mouth. And he was playing in the leaves and got bit, and the stinger was lodge in his lip, the entire left side of his face, swed up, swelled up, up, swelled up. I’m gonna go with that one. And it was like his mouth was so swollen that he is like, he could hardly talk. And I’m like, on the phone with a doctor and they’re like, yeah, we just want you to wait. I’m like, no, I don’t. I don’t wanna wait. Like I need you to tell me what to do.
AJV (06:11):
And he was like, well, just give him some Benadryl. How often, like, this is serious. Like, I want to bring him in. I want that stinger out. And it’s like, finally I’m like, okay, I need you to give me a plan right now before I go to the ER because I’m that mom. And he was like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Give him a Benadryl every five to six hours and put an ice pack on it until the swelling goes down. Thank you. I need to know the best next step. Our customers, our members, our community needs that too. Not just on day one, but on day 30, day 60, day 90. They need it continuously, right? So those things are important. And if we start the membership off correctly, then it’s a higher likelihood for success in the middle, which means we have a higher likelihood of retaining them at the end.
AJV (06:57):
And so those are things that are really important. Now, in the event that someone does say, Hey, I wanna cancel. How should we handle that? How should we treat that? And this is what blew my mind with this conversation with Shannon. And she goes, I want you to think about it in three different ways and and approach this and address it in three different ways. One, you have to make it easy to cancel. You have to make it accessible for your community, for your clients to cancel. But that doesn’t mean you have to give it up on a silver plate either. It’s people need to take responsibility if the program isn’t working for them as much as you need to take responsibility. So think about cancellations in three different ways. Number one it’s a celebration. Meaning you’re canceling because you got every single thing that you needed from this program and that you’re leaving on a victorious high note of, I might come back one day, but even if I don’t, I’ll be sending tons of other people your way.
AJV (07:53):
‘Cause This was a success, this was a victory, and congratulations. We wanna stay in touch. We wish you the best. So the first type of cancel is somebody who’s like, I got everything I needed for now. I might be back one day, but I have to cancel for now. That’s great celebratory, right? That doesn’t mean they won’t still send you business, refer you, recommend you. That’s a win. That’s a win. Two the person who’s going, I’m just not using the program. I’ve given up on myself. I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if it’s for me. That’s the person that we wanna talk about saving. All right? That’s the person who’s going. Like, it’s not that the program isn’t working, it’s not that you don’t like the program, it’s that you have lost confidence in yourself. You have not made it a priority.
AJV (08:39):
You have not scheduled a time, and perhaps you’ve gotten lost, confused, demotivated, or you’re just feeling insecure about what to do, how to do it, and if you can do it, those are the people that we want to encourage to get on a phone call. Those are the people that we wanna go, Hey, like, we can help. Let’s help you get reengaged. Let’s get on a phone call. And let’s get a plan together. Let me reinvigorate you, reinspire you and reinstill a solid plan that you can follow from this day moving forward. That category of people is who you wanna have phone calls with. And then there’s a third category of person who goes, this is not a fit anymore. I’m not using it. Don’t like it, don’t want it. I just don’t want this anymore. And it doesn’t have to be negative.
AJV (09:26):
It’s like, Hey, I have had a life event that is precluding me from participating at this time. I cannot do it. Or, you know, I I’m cha I’ve changed my mind. Like, I don’t want this anymore. And I think there’s a, a fine line between, hey, you made a commitment and you signed an agreement and I don’t wanna do this anymore. Versus I don’t wanna do this anymore because there’s been, you know, a co-occurring trigger or an event in my life that is causing some distance between my ability to do this. And we need to be able to discern that where people are owning their own commitments and accountability. But what we’re also going like, like it tarnishes the community to have people in it that don’t wanna be there, don’t like it, and aren’t happy. It also ruins our opportunity to ever be a place for them to come back to or to tell other people about it.
AJV (10:20):
And I do believe in personal accountability and personal commitment. And if I sign an agreement and give you my word, I’m gonna fulfill it. And at the same time, there is a time and a place where I’m going, this is not what I thought it was. . I thought I was buying this. That’s not this and it’s not working for me and I’m not happy here and I don’t wanna stay begrudgingly, but if you can let me go now there is a time and an opportunity for me to come back or send people that is a fit for them. But there is a, there is a category of people where it’s not ideal to force them to have a call with you. And it’s not that you just, like anyone who wants to cancel, just click here. But it’s like, no, we need to know why.
AJV (11:01):
But we also need to make it as easy to cancel as it was to sign up, right? So there’s these different categories of people who are requesting to cancel that you really need to think about in order to go, how do I utilize the resources on my team, right? How do we utilize the energy of our team? But to do the same thing for your community and for the person who is considering to leave or is ready to leave. And those are very different categories, but to go back to keeping the beginning in mind of if you start right, the likelihood of success is higher and the higher the successes are, the more likely you are to retain them. So is it a person who you are trying to celebrate save or do they need to cancel? And as you look at your retention strategy and your
AJV (11:52):
Cancellation process, consider these things when looking at your ability to create a culture of a community who wants to be there, a team who loves what they do and loves talking to your community, but also members of your community who will tell others about you even when they’re not there. And how they leave is a part of that. If they leave on a high note, that’s what they remember. If they leave on a low note, that’s what they remember. So make sure that when they leave, they leave on a high note.

Ep 448: Retain Your Customers With the Beginning In Mind with Shana Lynn

Hey everybody, and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast. This is AJ here, and I am so excited to introduce you guys to a new friend that I have. And, but before I introduce her, I want to remind everyone who this episode was curated for and why you should stick around. I think it’s always important for you to know as you’re listening what you’re getting into and who this was really designed for. So today we’re gonna be talking about community and retention. So in other words, this is for you. It doesn’t matter who you are. It does not matter if you have a coaching program or a speaking business or a membership, or you are a professional services provider that has, you know, a, a book of business. Doesn’t matter if you are a product company, you have clients, you have customers, and I bet you would like to keep ’em.

I bet you would like them to stick around and buy more and not leave and go to your competitors. So when you think about community, uh, yeah, there’s online communities, there’s offline communities, but we all have a community. It’s just are we treating them like a community? So today is one of those rare episodes that it does not matter what you do, what industry you’re in. I really believe this is for you, although we may talk about it more specifically in some areas over the course of the interview, but it’s for you. So stick around. Now, let’s introduce you to our awesome guest today. Uh, Shannon Lynn, I am so excited to have you on the show today. Uh, and just for those of you, uh, who don’t know, uh, you’ve got somebody who has over 10 years of retention and community expertise. She’s a podcast host, she is a speaker, she’s a consultant.

Uh, and I would also say she is someone who has built amazing communities with retention, not only for her and her own business, but for a lot of really well-known personal brands. And I’ll let her share those with you if she feels comfortable, um, or keep it secret. But this is someone who is not speaking from, oh, this is what you should do. No. It’s like, no, this is what we are doing and this is what is working. So, Shanna, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me, friend. I’m excited to be here. I am so excited to be here and to help our audience get to know you. I would just love for them to say like, get a, get a quick high level overview of like what have the last 10 years looked like for you as you’ve been in this business, and then this industry of figuring out keys to building a community that stays in retaining and retention. Like, I would just love to know one, how did you get into it and then what, what has it looked like over the last 10 years to get you to, to where you are today?

That’s such a great question. You know, it started actually when I was in college. I was a part of this honors program and you had to do a senior thesis for undergrad. And I had this amazing professor and she handed me this advertising age magazine that was talking about social media and online marketing back in 2007. I was like, oh, this is really fascinating. And so I actually did my thesis and wrote a paper on online marketing in virtual reality communities back in the day. It was second life. There was no metaverse or anything like that. And that ended up in the paper, which got me on stages around the country to speak about it. And then I ended up with a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. And we took that medical center to be the very first medical center that has social media policy.

We launched online communities for their cancer center, life flight, all sorts of communities for them. And then it wasn’t long after that that I was supported by my wonderful chief marketing officer and um, you know, really just had peace from God himself to go out and adventure and start my own consultancy. And that was in 2012 when I became a full-time consultant and I started working with businesses, really traditional businesses to take what they were doing offline with their brand and bring it online and merge those two communities and create consistency. And so that led into managing a lot of online communities as we built them and then ultimately starting my own online community. And then this, uh, guy in the industry, a lot of people know Stu McLaren, who is a, um, membership expert, kind of tapped me on the shoulder and he said, Hey, we’d really like to have a strategic mind to come help us be our director of community and take our community to the next level.

So I worked with him for a few years and started teaching in-person workshops and got to train community teams and leaders for some of the best memberships in the space. And going back, you know, I look at all that and I’m like, wow, it’s this combination of, um, online marketing, which I believe a lot of what we do after the sale is actually just marketing as well and community building, but my own internal desire because as a kid I went through a lot of tragedy and I didn’t have a community. My mom didn’t have a community around us. We really didn’t have community when we needed it. And so I truly believe that when people have a place, a community where they are fully known, that they show up more fully in the world and it’s just, it’s something that we all have a core need for. And so it’s developed into really teaching business owners to create those spaces for people so that we get the best of people and people have that place where they can show up fully as themselves.

Oh, I love that so much, uh, so much. And I think that’s even grown in its, its need since, uh, the pandemic of people just naturally being isolated. And I don’t think people have really acclimated back to real relationships, real community. And I think that’s why one of it’s, it’s not the only reason, it’s one of the big reasons I really wanted to have you on the show. It’s let’s stop treating people like customers and start treating them like people and Exactly. Uh, like does and and realizing like you have community all around you. Do you see it? Right? Are you treating it like it?

Yeah, and I think the thing that I love about merging retention and community is that when we build really strong retention systems, because I know people hear community and they think really fluffy and they think Facebook group, which is not what we’re talking about by any means. But then I usually come in with systems and data and they’re like, whoa, wait a second. Like, I thought you were a community person, but having strong retention systems in your business, which are those systems that um, are everything after the sale, how do we help people actually get a result? How do we help people actually make progress and how do we keep them on that customer journey with us beyond the initial sale? All of those systems, they shouldn’t be automating things to alienate people. They should actually be creating space for human to human connection. And so when we’re all afraid of AI and everything that’s gonna happen, I actually embrace it. I think it’s wonderful because there’s lots of things that it can do to create space for us to do the unscalable activities that really make a difference.

Yeah. So let’s talk about those. Uh, I wanna talk about like what are the unscalable activities that sometimes don’t get the necessary time, love and attention that are needed that actually build community and retention? So what would you say are some of those things?

Yeah, so back in the day it was always handwritten notes. That’s what I wanted to do. I loved it. I wrote handwritten notes to everybody and I still do, you know, um, send a lot of them. If you’ve been in my world, you probably have received one of those . But now there’s ways to kind of give that personal touch faster, but still in a way that is scalable. So we, uh, recommend a lot of video messaging. There’s different tools that you can use, like Bon Juro for example, is one of those. Video Ask is another one where we can send personalized video messages to people just really short at different touchpoints in the journey. Now when we can, we do actually want to customize those. We want to say, hi Sally, I’m so excited I see that you just joined x, y, Z program and you have this challenge.

I can’t wait to support you in that. It can be that simple. But even when we can’t personalize everyone, we can still send a video message at a mass scale that feels more personal and more connected and opens up dialogue with those that are willing to enter into it. So that’s like a simple example of how to do that. Another example is, we’ve talked about your program before. So inside of your brand builders group, you have these mentors, these coaches that are supporting people at a much smaller scale. Now people love group programs and creating, creating them because they think, oh, I’m just gonna continue to scale it and my profit margins are just gonna continue to increase. But what they don’t realize is that as the program grows, it gets harder and harder to get people results. Mm-Hmm, if you’re only focused on systems and automations.

And so when you take, um, that scale and then you can leverage team members like coaches or mentors that can come in and create an intimate environment within a larger scale environment can create more customized really di guidance and direction, it’s not customizing the content, it’s just guiding them to the next best action step for them. That’s one way that you can really scale that kind of connection, scale, that kind of intimacy. And then one other way that I recommend a lot is with Zoom calls. Everybody’s familiar with doing Zoom calls now. And if you aren’t doing, you know, onboarding or welcome calls for new customers or um, new cohorts of people coming into your program, it’s something that I highly recommend. But Zoom actually has a feature called breakouts where we get to break them out into smaller groups so that they get to connect more with each other. ’cause it’s not always just about connecting more with us.

Hmm, that’s good. Especially when you have tons of people coming on of there is a limit to how much you can just do when it comes to one-on-one welcome and one-on-one onboarding without needing more human capital to constantly do that. Which again, it’s hard because like you need constantly, every new member actually does create, or every new customer creates the need for another, you know, employee. But doing them in, uh, breakouts, I have never thought about that. So like that’s really important because then it’s not so reliant on you and the company, but it’s now it’s building community within the community.

Yeah. And that’s what makes community really sticky, right? It’s the, there’s the connection to you, which is often what builds the trust that gets them in. Then there’s the connection to your team which expands. It’s you passing that torch of influence to your team members and then there’s the, the connection to each other. And that’s actually what keeps people around because as your community grows, their connection with you is gonna feel, it’s gonna feel not as powerful, but hold on. Okay, we can edit that out, that as your community grows, it’s gonna feel not as powerful, not as close that connection with you. And so it’s really important that they’re expanding their connection to others within the communities that they remain sticky.

I love that so much. And that should be a relief to everyone who is listening of going, it doesn’t have to be all you, right? It’s like you, you’re building a community that should build community and then it’s, it takes the pressure off, right? It’s like, ’cause I, I, I believe, at least for all of the businesses that I know, it’s like no one wants it to be just about them. It’s like they want it to go beyond just my face, my name. But the only way you can do that is if you have systems and processes and people, right? You have to have a community that can do that without you. Um, and I love that so much, that whole group onboarding concept. I literally just wrote it down, I was like, note for team note for BPG , um, this is a, a really important thing because you still wanna have those human touchpoints. And so you said two things I think are really important that I’d like to go back and touch on really quickly for everyone. Where do you see the need for that human outreach? That human connection as you look at the lifecycle of a person, you know, I’ll just call ’em a customer. Like where, where do you actually need that human time versus automation?

Yeah, it, I think a lot of people immediately think about things like losing a customer cancellation process. Uhhuh, that’s where we wanna try and get ’em on a call and save ’em. And at that point you’ve already lost them. You know, if you’ve ever tried to do those cancellation calls, which you know, I’m not against offering them, but if you’ve ever tried to do them, your recovery rate probably isn’t that great . And so my encouragement is that we go way back in that member journey or that customer buyer journey. And the first 45 days is absolutely the most essential time for anybody in your community. I’ve worked with a lot of large scale memberships and when we look at their cohort retention, which isn’t their overall month to month retention, but it’s um, of a particular cohort, how, what percentage of those people are we keeping into month two, into month three into month four?

What that identifies for us are our drop off points. And for 90% of communities, it’s in that first month, that’s where you lose people. Yeah. So crazy, isn’t it? And it’s the easiest thing to really systemize is the onboarding. And so, um, we do recommend to have things like action plan calls, which are those group calls where you walk them through maybe three key steps that then they go into breakout groups to work on. We also recommend, you know, having those personalized video messages. There’s um, a community leader that I work with that has 14,000 members. She has scaled her team in order to do small groups of four, four members and one coach on an onboarding call. And they get, I think four offerings of those in their first 90 days of, of membership. So that those first 45 days are really important because people have bought into whatever you have sold them.

And then immediately they have buyer’s remorse. They’re distracted by whatever the latest Netflix series is. And so our job of selling actually doesn’t stop. It only increases because now we’re actually hitting their pocketbook. So all of the things that we had them buy into before, we need to be res solidifying for them. And now they also need to feel acclimated to this culture. Hopefully we have a strong culture in our community. So we have to really get into, there’s four pillars of community that I teach to build on. And the first one is cause. So we really have to solidify why are you here? And not just why is this community exists, but why is this important for you? And then building the culture, which are the beliefs, the behaviors and boundaries that help you fit within this community. And when people have those, they feel like I know how to show up and they’re more likely to engage.

So if we can really make sure that we’re focused on those first 45 days, that is the most important thing to focus on. And then our next goal is how do we identify people who are no longer engaging with us? How do we identify people who maybe bought our book and never took the next step to do our mini course or whatever that next step is? How do we identify people who maybe participated in the first couple calls but we haven’t seen ’em in 30 days? And then that is the other place where human connection can really be valuable because um, anything automated is just easy for them to ignore at that point.

I mean, my mind is reeling already with ideas of programs that I pay to be a part of our program of going, oh, I see how that was really helpful, or, I see how that was really annoying, even though I know what they’re trying to do. And I think one of those things that you said is if somebody is requesting a cancellation, trying to get them on a call, it’s like you’ve already lost them and the save ratio is gonna be relatively low. So I have two questions. One around onboarding and one around this cancellation process. So I’m gonna start with the cancellation first. ’cause I feel like people struggle with that and they’re like, Nope, I’m gonna make ’em good on calling me and I’m gonna turn ’em around. Um, so in the, I guess like instead of me asking, I’m just like, what would you see is successful when it comes to once someone to cancel, what is the best opportunity to go? How can we turn this around without forcing or mandating a call and any insights for anyone listening? Like, hey, well what do I do when someone says, Hey, I wanna cancel ’cause I don’t want ’em to cancel. What do I, yeah.

So a lot of this comes down to your cancellation process and um, for some of my clients, they use my recommended cancellation process, which can make it hard to track saves. And here’s why. Because we treat the cancellation page like a sales page and we have a cancel video. So when they request to cancel or when they are, you know, looking into canceling, they’re gonna be taken to a page that has a video on it. And that page is going to be really getting them to think introspectively about why they’re leaving. And we say a few things. One is like, hey, if you’ve made the progress that you’ve came to make and, and you’re leaving, you’re graduating, that’s amazing. We wanna celebrate you graduating and we can’t wait for you to share your story with us. Your testimony with us when you, you know, submit the form below, but hey, if you’re leaving because you have stopped participating, you’ve given up on yourself, I just wanna give you permission to come back.

Now you can click the button on this page and you can schedule a quick start call and we will get right back in it with you and find the best place for you to get started. You know, or if you’re leaving, ’cause this isn’t a fit for you, maybe you’re not interested in doing X, Y, Z anymore. So we kind of walk through like the different reasons that we know people typically leave, starting with the celebratory one, right? And then the, oh, I’ve given up on myself one, and then the, no, this just really isn’t a fit for me anymore. So we resell them essentially on the value by relating to where they might be in the journey. And then when they go to cancel now legally, because of all the way all the states and things like that are done, I’m not a lawyer.

This is not legal advice. However, I’ve done a lot of research on this . So, and I’ve worked with a lot of lawyers on this. Um, we can’t require anything other than their email address to cancel. It has to be an easy way for them to cancel. But we can ask for it. So we can have two buttons on a page. One that says click here to cancel and the, or proceed with cancellation. And the other one that says, you know, schedule a call with a team member, schedule my quickstart call or access the quickstart guide if maybe you’re somebody who doesn’t have the capacity for calls and that’s the like re onboarding of an existing member. If you have a member that got stuck, they fell off the wagon a bit, how can we quickly get them an, uh, a quick win right in the next 10 days?

And so when they click that form that all they have to do is enter their email address, but we ask them some other questions as well to get some insight. And we also offer them a call, Hey, if you would like to share more about your experience or if you’d just like to get some additional support to see if maybe this could be a fit for you, then you can schedule a call with a team member. Very few people actually schedule them. And those that get on those calls are usually people who are they, they’re leaving because of self-doubt and they kind of come on the call with that kind of mindset and you are able to recover them. Yeah,

I think that’s really good because I think for anyone who would request a call, they’re going, man, it’s not that I really wanna cancel, it’s, I’m not using it. I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth. I’m not sure what to do. I’m not confident that I can do.

Ep 445: What To Know If You Want To Be a Highly Paid Professional Speaker | Shawn Hanks Episode Recap

AJV (00:03):
You need three things to become a highly paid professional speaker. And we’re gonna talk about each of those three things right now. First and foremost, you need amazing content and an amazing speech. That’s the barrier to entry. It is no longer about just having great assets and a great sizzle and you know, we assume that because you’re well known or that you know it’s a hot topic, that you’re going to be good. Now it’s like we need proof that you have amazing content and that you’re an amazing speaker and some of the assets we’re gonna talk about that will help support that. But we live in a day and age that people can go online, on YouTube, on Instagram, on TikTok, just go to Google and find clips of you speaking. They better be good. And the content needs to beuh powerful and engaging and innovative and original.
AJV (00:56):
So let’s just stop with that. You have to have amazing content. It needs to be clear and it needs to be actionable. And you’ve gotta be great on stage just because you have great content. Making videos behind a camera like this doesn’t always mean you’re a great presenter on stage. That’s an art, that’s a craft, and it needs to be honed. So let’s just start with this, that you must have amazing content and you must be a great presenter on stage. Those are two things that are a given in order to become a highly paid professional speaker. Now, assuming that you have those two things, ’cause you’ve been working on your content for years, and that you have been honing this craft and you’ve been speaking, which you don’t become a great speaker the first time you speak FYI that is something that happens over the course of time.
AJV (01:41):
So speak as much as you can. Speak for free, speak for money, just speak, speak for speak. For groups of three, speak for groups of 3000. You need the practice. You need to figure out what what parts of your story do people remember? What makes them laugh, what makes them think? Where do you need pauses? Where do you need a little bit more humor? Where do you need a little bit more seriousness? Where do you need slides? That only comes with practice. And so the more you do it, the better you get always. Now, second to that the prerequisite is you got to have an amazing speech and you have to have amazing content. There are some other things that help you enhance your ability to become a highly paid professional speaker. First of all, you have to know, categorically speaking, what topics are evergreen topics that are naturally going to allow you to increase your fees over the course of time. And what I mean by evergreen topics is it does not matter what market we’re in, what economy we’re in, what company it is, what industry it is, that there are some categories that are always going to be requested when someone is looking for a speaker. Some of those,
Speaker 2 (02:58):
This is not all of them, but some of those categories that are evergreen that also allow for highly paid speak speeches would be leadership. There is always going to be a need in associations, education, government, corporations, for there to be a discussion around how do you become a better leader of people. Now, within that category of leadership, there’s communication, there’s management, there’s all other types of things, but just think about leadership is a category. Another one would be culture. No matter what culture is always gonna be a part of a conversation. Teamwork. How do we work with others as leaders, but also as employees? That’s top down, bottom up. But teamwork would be another one. So if you think about like large, widespread, categorically speaking, those are three categories. And like I said, they’re not the only ones, but those are three categories that are always going to be requested that allow for your fees to grow without you ever leaving that category.
Speaker 2 (04:04):
If you think of some of the most high pay professional speakers out there like the, the Mel Robbins of the world, it’s like there are components of what she is talking about where it is, you know, overcoming, you know, fear, right? But a little bit of that is overcoming fear to do something right, to be a leader, to make the sale, to ask for the thing. You’ve got people like Tony Robbins, right? And his is about empowerment. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a leader or a frontline employee, but there are some general conversation topics that are always going to allow for you to grow within that vertical and increase your fees. There are other evergreen categories of speeches that will always be needed and requested, but doesn’t allow for the same fee intensity for it to grow as exponential.
Speaker 2 (05:01):
And I’ll give you a quick example. Can you tell me 10 different social media speakers who have fees of $40,000 a keynote, maybe likely not. That is a, a topic that is considered, you know, important, but it’s probably more considered of like a 5,000, $10,000 speaker, not a $40,000 speaker on social media versus I could list you 30, $40,000 speakers right now in leadership. Tons of them. Now, it’s not saying that the content for social media isn’t important, it’s just that it doesn’t allow for that same fee exponential increase as some of these other categories. So social media that would be an example. But other evergreen categories that are important, that are always going to be important would be sales
Speaker 3 (05:57):
Customer experience what we used to refer to as customer service, branding, marketing. Now again these are high level categories and those are evergreen categories, but don’t allow for the same fee growth as maybe a leadership, a culture a teamwork type of topic. So the first thing you wanna look at is how does my content that I believe in that is unique and niche to me, fit within one of these categories that are gonna allow me to have fee increases over time? And whatever it is, it’s like, how do I weave in components of culture, leadership, and teamwork into what I’m doing so that I fit within that request as those are always going to be highly requested topics for events. Doesn’t matter what the event is. So how can what you do also weave in some of those elements so that you fit into those categories outside of that video is the silver bullet.
Speaker 3 (06:56):
You have to have amazing video, a demo video. So I’m gonna just talk about some of the key bullet points of what you need here. One you’ve got to have a five to seven minute speaker demo video. If you’ve got some, something really original, something unique, maybe 10 minutes, but five to seven is the sweet spot that event planners are looking for today. It needs to be short and punchy. You cannot have a one camera shoot, right? So you’re looking for a two or three camera shoot minimum to get the different angles. What angles do you need? You need closeups on your intimate stories. You need wide screen so you can see the power of the stage. You have to have audience shots. People need to see audience reactions in your footage. If you are telling a joke and no one is laughing and there’s no footage of the laughing, how are we supposed to know if it’s funny?
Speaker 3 (07:48):
Maybe we didn’t think it was funny until that the, we like, oh, okay, the audience loved that meeting. Planners need to know the audience loved that. How do they know that? You show the audience in your footage. Audio quality is key. You’ve got to be clear and concise. Same thing with video quality. You won’t, you don’t want shaky footage, blurry footage, those you can’t use that. You can’t use that. You need to have three to four different speeches in your demo video. It cannot be you on one stage in one outfit. So you need at least three to four different stages with you in at least three to four different outfits. So don’t wear the same outfit on every stage. And then you’ve got to answer the question, why are you the expert that I should spend money on to bring to our event?
Speaker 3 (08:31):
And that needs to be answered in the first 15 to 20 seconds. That’s that I need that credible validation that I know what I’m talking about and I’m worth the investment that I’m asking for. Then needs to immediately jump to stage footage. So that’s the video. A speaker press kit. Here’s some of the key things that you need in a speaker press kit. A great headshot, a high rise headshot that really shows you today, not 10 years ago, not five years ago today. Make sure it’s eye catching, original, really enhances who you are and make sure it’s high res your bio. This is your unique positioning. Again, you’ve got to say, why am I the expert? Why am I different? Why should you hire me? And that needs to be in your, your speaker bio. Then you need your keynote description. Think about it like this.
Speaker 3 (09:24):
What you’re trying to describe in this keynote description is what are people buying when they buy this program, when they pay you whatever, you know, $15,000, what they’re paying for is what you have written on that page in your video. It’s this is what you’re buying, right? And then it’s how are you going to deliver that? Some of that is just bullet point takeaways, right? It’s like, here’s what the program is about. Here’s what your audience is going to leave with. And that’s, they’re people are making a 15 to $50,000 decision on a five minute video and a one page description. Think about that. It needs to sell and it needs to be really well positioned. It needs to reach the heart and the core of who this is for, what it is for and how we’re going to achieve it. Right? That is your keynote description.
Speaker 3 (10:16):
Then you need reviews or testimonials. If you can organize them by industry. So if you are being submitted to speak at an insurance association, make sure you have lots of insurance testimonials. If it’s a, a real estate right event, make sure you’ve got real estate testimonials. So try to customize and, and organize those by industry if you can. But what’s most important is we need to know these are real people. So what’s their headshot? What’s their name? What was their position and what did they say? AJ was the best speaker, not as impactful. AJ was the best speaker we have hired in the last 10 years. I have never had so many people request that we bring her back as I have had with this event. Right? That’s the type of thing that you’re looking for. So be really intentional about what you’re trying to get across with your reviews and testimonials. And the last thing I would say when it comes to becoming a highly paid professional speaker is at the end of the day, you have to be so good at what you do, your craft, that other speakers are willing to tell meeting planners and bureaus about you. So be so good at what you do, that other people tell others about what you do. And that is how you become a highly paid professional speaker.

Ep 444: What You Should Know About Working with Speaker Bureaus with Shawn Hanks

AJV (00:00):
Hey everybody, and welcome to the influential personal brand, AJ Vaden here. Have a long time friend who is on the show today, Shawn Hanks. I’m going to formally introduce him in just a sec, but I want you to know who this episode is for and why you should stick around and listen to it. Number one, this is for anyone who is on the path to desiring to become a highly paid professional speaker. That’s who this episode is really built for. If you want to speak occasionally, probably not the episode for you. This is built for the person who goes, I have a message to share, and I have a passion for sharing it on stages all over the world. I want this to be the primary part of my business, and I wanna be a highly paid professional speaker.
AJV (00:53):
If that’s you, this is an episode you cannot absolutely do not want to miss. Now, what are we gonna talk about? We’re gonna talk about what it takes to become a highly paid professional speaker, and most importantly, how do you get on all those stages that you so desire to be on? ’cause There’s lots of different ways to do it. And working with a bureau is one of those, which we’re gonna talk a lot about today. It’s not the only one, but it is one that definitely helps pave the path. But in order to do that, there’s some things you gotta do before you get on those stages. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the CEO of Premier Speakers Bureau. Shawn has been in the Speakers Bureau world for almost 20 years, if not over 20 years. He was also the most recent past president of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus, which is just a real fancy word of saying he knows a lot about this industry. , he knows a lot about this. But I also love the fun facts. I love that you’re an avid sports fan. But I gotta know, like, who, who’s your NFL team? Like who’s your favorite team?
SH (02:02):
Dallas Cowboys. Oh, Dallas, Tyler and I went to a game last week. We watched them beat the Rams. Hey, it’s, it’s fun. Cowboys are great until they’re not, and it just breaks my heart every year.
AJV (02:13):
Oh, I love that . Also Shawn lives here in Nashville as Roy and I do. So it’s also great to also get to have fellow Nashvillians on the show. And I gotta tell you this before we get started speaking of football, like my two little ones, I have a four year old and a six year old, both boys. And just this year they have discovered a deep passion for football. And it’s like, we love football, but we,
SH (02:36):
That’s fun.
AJV (02:37):
We don’t have a deep passion for it. But my four year old got himself a pair of football gloves, like, you know, like I love
SH (02:47):
It. ,
AJV (02:48):
SH (02:48):
Yeah, probably receiver G gloves. Yeah,
AJV (02:50):
Receiver G gloves. There you go. That’s what they called. I don’t even know. But he sleeps in them.
SH (02:55):
Love it.
AJV (02:56):
He wears them to basketball practice. He wears them to school. He wears them everywhere his goes. I’m like, you’re gonna have the softest, most moisturized hand I’ve ever seen this light of day. They’re obsessed with football and they, they don’t care what the teams are, only what the mascots are. So our house love it. Designated as fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins. So
SH (03:20):
Yeah, they’re two great teams. Eki.
AJV (03:29):
So funny. Alright, well now we gotta talk business. We gotta talk business. So Shawn, help everyone get to know just a little bit about you and premier speakers. Like for those who are listening, who are going what, what’s a bureau? What do those people do? What is a bureau? What is Premier? And how did you get into this industry and how have you stayed in it for so long? Yeah.
SH (03:53):
Well, thank you aj. It’s great. Always fun to see you and your energy comes through the screen. I love that. Bureau is, if you don’t know what a speaker’s bureau is, join the crowd. I didn’t know what a speaker’s bureau was in October of 2000, 23 years ago. Let’s not do the math. I didn’t know what a speaker’s bureau was. That’s an old dusty term. That essentially means we do speaker representation, right? We are the organizations that especially larger conferences, corporate groups come to a speakers bureau to say, Hey, I need to have four slots and these are the types of content I want to fill. This is what I do want. This is what I don’t want. Premier in particular, and you mentioned IASB, which is a great organization, international Association of Speakers Bureaus. I am plugged into that group.
SH (04:39):
So I, I probably know more about speakers bureaus than I should except for doing market competitor research. But we, it’s a small industry. There’s about 120 speakers bureaus. Most of those are very small. You know, one, two person shops that really started doing event management and then event production and then slid into the speakers bureau world. ’cause They really enjoyed being the liaison with the speakers. But, and they’re probably four to five that are significant in size and, you know, would, would own a significant part of the industry. PSB in particular, we, last year we worked with about 2000 events. We have nine agents on our team. They are siloed. So we have one agent who only handles healthcare, right? So when a healthcare client calls or a hospital he can speak with, you know, he, he understands their pain points, he understands their jargon.
SH (05:34):
So we, we have been intentional at Premier. We’ll celebrate 30 years next year. Congrat of building congrat. Thank you. Thank you. Building what we call sectors. So we have one agent that only handles education. We do a lot of work in the K through 12 arena. And if you call from a school district or any kind of education group, you’re always end up talking to Carl because he understands what your pain points are. He understands that in particular, you always pay net 30. Most groups don’t do that. All those little intricacies that, that you can really glean from working with the same types of clients over and over again. Expertise, ultimately. But our job most people assume our job is to just book speakers. And that is the end product. I always say our, we are in consultancy more than anything else.
SH (06:18):
And really risk mitigation. When, when a large corporation calls us or a large association and says, Hey, this is the type of speaker we’re looking for, or often it’s, here are the three types of speakers who want, we need a headliner. Who’s going to capture attention? We’re willing to spend X number of dollars, then we think this is going to be a hot topic. Let’s call it ai. I mean, that’s a hot topic for today. We need someone on the stage who can cover that content. And then we want someone who can do this and, and check these certain boxes. They, and they most often call us with very specific criteria of these are the things they don’t, most often don’t have a name. They’re not calling to say, we want AJ on this date. Right? they’re calling us and the consultancy is really what we’re selling.
SH (07:01):
We’re risk mitigation. They may book four speakers this year. We worked with, we booked 2000 events last year. So they understand we aren’t going to book a speaker for them and with them. Who isn’t going to be literally world class. I mean, just show up, crush it, be amazing, you on stage. So there’s no risk in, I’ll say that ideally there’s no risk in working with a bureau because we’re bringing them the cream of the crop. And we’ve done all of the hard work of selecting from the, the thousand speaker submissions that we’ve seen in the last year. We have found, gleaned the, the 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 that we know are going to be amazing. And that ultimately that’s what a speaker’s bureau is. We’re we are here to service our end clients when we say clients. And that’s the term of art in our industry.
SH (07:50):
We are talking specifically premier speakers bureau. We are talking about an event planner. Mm-Hmm. who has a problem to solve. And we are in the problem solving business. Our solution happens to be amazing speakers that they say, we need to communicate a message this year for this thing. We say we know the person to do that. Now, typically, they don’t want a proposal with one person. They, they require of us a proposal with four or five, six suggestions. And we can dig into that a little bit. ’cause That’s a very different buying process than if they go directly to a speaker’s website, right? That’s a step prior to what most speakers experience when they’re working directly with a client. But our job at that point make great suggestions. The client, they end up in a boardroom somewhere with a search committee or, or you know, a team who’s playing at a conference.
SH (08:40):
They select from that list and probably come back to us. So we massage that ultimately, but at the end of the day, it turns into, is the speaker available on this date? Yes. We go to contract with the end client, go to contract with the speaker. We have nine of those agents. We have five people on our event logistics team. They grab the event, they do all of the event logistics in turn, I’m sorry, they do all the speakers event logistics, airfare, car service, all of the details to get the speaker from home to the event and back. And then we have a full accounting team. We collect all the funds, guarantee all the payment to the speaker. So the, there’s very little risk for the speaker. We do work on a commission structure, so they’re paying for those services. But, but ultimately solving the problem of what content do you need on the stage Event planner, that’s where it starts.
AJV (09:29):
Yeah. So I, I love that you said that ’cause I haven’t heard that. So clearly stated, it’s like we’re risk mitigation for our clients. Mm-Hmm. , we’re the first round filter of all of the speakers out there who fit X criteria of going, Hey, we’re gonna filter these. We’re gonna, you know, mitigate any risk. So someone doesn’t get on stage and say something crazy or this isn’t very good because at the end of the day, that makes the meeting planner look bad and makes the company look bad. But then also that’s a lot of wasted time because these events are very expensive to put on and they’re paying high dollar for these people. Now, what would you say is the benefit of a speaker working with you as a, a bureau?
SH (10:14):
Assuming the speaker is with the, the right bureau. And when I say right, every, every company ha ends up with a clientele that looks like them as a company, right? And whether that’s intentional or unintentional premier has been blessed with a lot of organic growth over the years. But much of that is the, the, the speakers that we select to represent, attract a certain type of clientele, right? So then we go find speakers who are attractive to that type of clientele that that grows. So our client base somewhat intentional, somewhat just by the nature of how business works, we over time end up with a certain type of clientele. And then we are looking for speakers to service the, those groups of, of clients. So it, there is a step there of, I have seen many times, and we’ve been guilty of it, we say, Hey, we, this, this speaker is very interesting.
SH (11:03):
We think it could be a good fit, but we end up misaligned ’cause we don’t have the right clientele to select them. But when there’s a great marriage there a speaker working with a bureau the opportunity there is Speaker X. If you get in front of 10 event planners, and I say in front of, if you’re email, if, if you have contact with 10 event planners and two or three of them book you, right? Let’s say you have 30% close rate, well, we can put you in front of a hundred event planners or a thousand, 10,000 is a big number. But so it at that, it’s just the, the scale of opportunity. Even if that close rate goes down, you still have massive opportunity. There are assumptions with alignment there, obviously, but when it works well, it really, it it’s a scale that most speakers are not able to build on their own or choose not to.
SH (11:56):
I mean, ultimately, I mentioned all of our staff with 24 people on our team, it, for a speaker to go hire someone, okay, I want you on the phone all day, every day talking about me to clients. I need someone to run a business. I need, you know, maybe ACOO so like manage all of this and I need someone, an account like it’s staffing up becomes a significant amount of overhead bureaus. We do sell services and provide services to speakers. But that it eliminates for most speakers the requirement of having a full back office.
AJV (12:27):
Yeah. That, you know, what I’ve always said is just being honest, we’ve always had a love hate relationship with bureaus. Yep. ’cause We are salespeople. It’s like we’ve always found ourselves. It’s like we’re great at pitching ourselves and getting ourselves on stages until you run into a slew of clients that are like, oh, we love you would love to book you. Let me contact my bureau. . Yeah.
SH (12:50):
AJV (12:51):
You need to contact the bureau. I’m talking to you right now. Yeah. And it’s like, but I think that’s one of the benefits for speakers is just understanding there is a whole world of clients who will not book you without going through their bureau because of that risk mitigation process.
SH (13:06):
AJV (13:07):
Right. It’s that they wanna know that you’ve gone through the ringer with the bureau too before they put you on their stage. And I would say that’s, I think that’s, it’s a huge benefit of just going, if you have a great relationship with the bureau, one access is a big deal. Like, you’re gonna get access to people who would never book you direct. They’re just not gonna do it. It’s not what they do. Right. But then two, it’s like if you don’t have relationships with bureaus, even if you’re not exclusive you’re gonna be competing with ’em. Right. Right. That’s true. And those have, that’s that established relationships where even if they like you, they know these other people really well. And so there’s pros and cons to all the things, but I think a lot of people who want to be highly paid professional speakers, they want to do it now .
AJV (13:57):
And there’s a process of how do you raise your fees and how do you get to become that person who is booked on stages where people are calling you, or bureaus are calling you versus you calling them. So I’d love to hear from your perspective of, you know, booking 2000 events last year is insanity. Right? That’s so many. That’s so, I mean, that’s what, four a day for three and a half a day. It’s a time. But also being in the industry for so long, like what are people looking for? And so I wanna talk about this in three different ways. Sure. What are they looking for in terms of the content? Like what’s trending, what’s hot, what’s, and I think there’s just evergreen. Like people are always gonna want leadership. They’re always gonna want culture. There’s always, there’s always some of those things, right? But then there’s new topics like ai, right? Yeah. So I’d love to talk about content. The second is, what are the assets that a speaker needs in order to get booked, right? So we need demo video, but any footage isn’t good footage, right? So like, what type of
SH (15:01):
AJV (15:02):
And then also like a speaker press kit or a website. Like what, what’s the formula of this is the set of assets you need if you’re really going after this. And then the last thing is, what does it take to work with a bureau? Sure. Because I think that’s important. So let’s start with content. Like, just thinking of, you know, some people have great ideas, but are people gonna pay 10, 20, 30, $40,000 for an hour? Right?
SH (15:29):
Yeah. And that’s a great question. You, you, you described it perfectly, aj. There are certain elements of content that will never grow old. Leadership is one of them. Teamwork your right culture and how we see that play out in the market is often a client will call and say, Hey, we need a speaker who I mentioned AI earlier, as we sit here in November of 2023, that’s a hot topic. It, it may not be two years from now, but it is today. And I’ll come back to that in a second. But often they’ll say, Hey, even if you’re an AI speaker, we want you to, to hit on ai. We want you to be the expert. Ideally, you’ve written a book on it. You, you’ve been on tv and they’ve put your name aj a expert in ai, right? But the reality is they also want you to hit on some of those evergreen topics.
SH (16:19):
So event planners will say like, oh, we want that AI speaker to be great. Can they also hit on leadership? And, and so there is kind of this combination of your content. But that isn’t, say you do want to be known for something. Now what that thing is, social media eight, 10 years ago was the thing. And I remember so many speakers saying, I have to overnight reinvent myself as a social media speaker. The problem with that is, the next day, you know, you have, let’s make up a number a thousand speakers who overnight became experts on social media. So there immediately becomes a glut in the market. But there was opportunity there. The problem is, if you’re chasing content in that way, it is really hard to read what’s in the future, right? Like to guess. Okay, where’s it gonna be in a year?
SH (17:08):
I’ve always encouraged speakers, yes, be smart, leadership, teamwork, culture. There’s some content that will never grow old. The thing that you’re gonna care about in three to five years. ’cause We’re talking about what you guys do at brand builders. Like, figure out what you were great at and like, you own it, but you gotta live it, right? So if you’re picking something because you want, you hope, it’ll just capture the market. My my argument is you’re going to hate that content in six months. ’cause You’re, you’re trying to fall in love with something that you don’t love, right? . So, but everyone, if, if you’re, if you’re watching this and you’re passionate and you answered the question that, that you, you tossed out on the very front end or definition of this is what this conversation, this is who this conversation is for. If you’re in that small segment of people, you know the thing that you’re passionate about, Mm-Hmm.
SH (17:58):
And make that your own. Now be smart, obviously. It, it, DEI was a very hot conversation topic and keynote topic two years ago last year. But we’ve seen a number of DEI speakers, DEI speakers start to see their business slow. Because a a lot of companies will say, we had that content last year and they haven’t devalued it, but they can’t do that content every single year. So they, the, the rally the market, there’s less opportunity for that specific content. So you mentioned culture that is an, an evergreen topic, very clever gifted DEI speakers will, will pivot. And they don’t change their content significantly, but you rebrand it instead of DEI, it’s culture. And those are the same things, but how you brand it matters matters in the market over time. So that’s a long answer to what is the hot content out there.
SH (18:53):
You define three that will never go away. And you as a speaker have to lean into those and be able to answer the question, Hey, is there some leadership content in everything you do? Yes. You have to be able to honestly answer that with a yes. And then frame your content. You know, again, if it was DEI last year, you read the room and say, Hey, the opportunities are lessening for that content. Okay, I’m gonna reframe it as culture. The same with social media. You know, like I said, 10 years ago, overnight we had a thousand experts, but today we haven’t been asked about a social media speaker in probably five years. So you have to know that content has faded. And I will say there are, and you guys probably unpack this a bit with brand builders, there’s certain content that is viewed, no one sits down and defines this, I don’t think in a spreadsheet.
SH (19:45):
Leadership content, you can be a $40,000 leadership speaker. You will never find, well take that back. It would be very difficult to find a $40,000 social media speaker. Mm-Hmm. event planners think, oh, that’s like $7,500 content. So there are, there are kinda levels in, in the market’s mind. No one chooses it intentionally. It’s just kind of what the market does with the content. If you’re heavy on entertainment, you don’t, unless you’re a celebrity the market doesn’t pay heavily for entertainment. If you wanna do magic, they use that as a vehicle, as part of a keynote. Yeah. And this sounds like such splitting hairs. You can be a $20,000 magician who uses that as a vehicle to teach great content. Mm-Hmm. , if you do magic and also having to speak, they may pay you $7,500 for that. Whereas flip the description of it, you may get 20 for it. So some of that, and you, you figure out what those levers are over time. But being intentional about how you frame it, making certain there is a market for the thing that you’re doing is, is important.
AJV (20:57):
I think that’s so, so important. As you were talking, I was thinking about speakers like Eric Wall, right?
SH (21:05):
Amazing. Yeah.
AJV (21:06):
Yeah. He’s an artist and does his artistry, but it’s woven into a more articulate message with content. Mm-Hmm. . You know, there’s so many others that I could, I think could think of right now, but there’s one I’m thinking of, it’ll come to me in just a second. Dan Thurman.
SH (21:25):
Yes, he’s amazing. He’s terrific gymnast
AJV (21:27):
Balance and productivity and making it all come together. But yeah, he does acrobats and it’s like, that’s entertainment, but the content is just as good,
SH (21:37):
Right? Yes. Versus if you ask the person when they walked out of that, you know, there’s a thousand people in a conference room in Vegas, Hey, what did Dan Thurman do? They would probably, they would tell you some cool stuff. He can do things that I could never do physically on a stage. But that’s only to capture your attention. It’s kind of the concede or the trick and the thing to teach you something. If you’re leaning on the thing to be the thing, then, then you’re a gymnast. That’s right. If you’re just using that to communicate an idea, Uhhuh then you’re, you’re a true artist. I mean, you, you’ve, you’ve hacked the, that’s the professional part of professional speaking. You’ve found a way to capture people’s attention but then ultimately teach them amazing content that’s, that it has to be the end result.
AJV (22:22):
That’s so that’s such the key part of it in that entertainment aspect. It’s like you’re only using it to catch their attention, to deliver the great message. Now, we talked about a co ’cause I thought that’s really fascinating. Something that you said, it’s like categorically speaking, there is a, you know, perceived price value on certain categories of confidence. Mm-Hmm. . And like, I know that inherently, but it’s good to articulate, like Yeah, like, you’re not gonna find many 40,000 bucks social media speakers. Right? There
SH (22:56):
You go.
AJV (22:56):
That’s true. That’s very true. And so I, I would love to talk about, did I miss any, ’cause we said leadership, we said kind of culture we said teamwork, I threw in sales, but I don’t know, I believe that’s evergreen. Like, everyone’s looking at how do we keep revenues top line high, bottom line high. Are there any other categories that you’re like, yeah, these are evergreen. People are always gonna be asking for these types of speakers?
SH (23:22):
Yeah, I, that’s a great question. I, those, those you just described, and sales is definitely one. And I, I, I would pause for a second to describe the, the types of the buyers that are coming to speakers bureaus most often. Are you, you touched on this earlier, are larger corporations associations. Yeah. There’s a, I think the last number was like 26,000 associations out there. Not, no, not all of them can afford a $40,000 speaker, but they are all required by charter to do a conference. So, right. They’re all doing a conference on some level. So those are the types of clients who are most often working with, with speakers bureaus. So we, we do our, our data points are within a certain type of buyer. There are certainly other buyers out there who, that we don’t, we don’t bump into. But th those that you hit on are, are, are those described really well?
SH (24:14):
And, and sales is corporations will do a sales training or they’ll, you know, they’ll bring in their sales leaders. Associations don’t lean heavily into sales because unless there are a specific type of association, big picture sales would be probably a, a, AB option for them. And there are a lot of options beneath that. But leadership, teamwork, culture, those things that especially in the association world, the only thing these people have in common, the 5,000 people in the Vegas Orlando Ballroom, is that they’re all in one industry together. Mm-Hmm. beyond. And they’re all, but some may run a company, some may work at a company, some people may, you know, they may pick up the trash to the company. So the, the event planners are looking for content that can resonate with the CEO, the person who answers the phone. People in sales, people in logistics associations have to bring in broad content because of the types of attendees that are in the room.
AJV (25:11):
What about customer experience?
SH (25:15):
Yes. That is content that we, that we would book from time to time. That is not I wouldn’t say that would be a content where this is a home run every single time. And customer experience, customer service, those would almost be interchangeable. I do, I like customer experience is a better, it’s better terminology today. Customer service was definitely at five to 10 years ago or some amount of time ago, I would say. That does, if that is your only content, you are bumping up against a, a ceiling on some level. Now what that number is, is a guess, right? But you, you, you won’t find many customer experience $50,000 speakers, but you can find quite a few at 15, right? Or 12 five.
AJV (26:00):
So, fascinating. I love this conversation. Last question because I’m like, whatcha gonna think of, what about like marketing or branding? Mm-Hmm.
SH (26:08):
market, I would, branding is definitely the, the terminology would want to use in the corporate event space rather than marketing. Yes, that is, that’s great content. And I’d probably align that or put that in a similar plateau with customer experience. That is content that event planners will pay for wouldn’t be the top echelon type of, of fee structure. But with the caveat, again, if that’s something you’re passionate about, you can make that you, you can build an amazing career as a customer experience or marketing or branding speaker. Don’t, don’t let anything, don’t let me suggesting there are limits to it. Make you go, oh, do I wanna invest my time in this? If that’s something you’re passionate about and you have the, the, the silver bullet idea that you’ve seen work and you’ve led a team and it works and you taught it to other teams and it works. There’s always value in that thing and every market has a cap. But it, yeah, that’s, that’s the question I would ask. And the answer would be, yeah, that’s probably a 15 to $20,000 keynote somewhere in that range.
AJV (27:17):
No, I think it’s really good because it’s, again, back is like, I’m just kind of like listing these out, like these, these higher level evergreen topic categories, leadership, culture, teamwork and you can differentiate and position within those high level categories that really at the end of the day, it’s like you’re wanna your fees to grow. It’s like, it’s gonna have to reach things on that more general widespread nature of leadership. Sure. But then, yeah, you can have an amazing career in the sales, branding, marketing, customer experience space, but there’s, there’s gonna be a ceiling at some point. Unless you can figure out how do we weave that into one of these more overarching categories, something
SH (27:56):
AJV (27:57):
Or culture leadership. But I think that’s really important because sometimes just knowing that helps a lot of like how you position and if you don’t know those nuances of the industry, you’re stuck before you even get started. Because that’s right, it’s nuanced. And I think that’s really important. So I love that in terms of like content, just categorically speaking. And I think that’s really, really important. Now, let’s talk about assets, right? Mm-Hmm. . So let’s assume you are like, let’s just, right. Barrier to entry. Like you know, you have to have a, a great speech, you have to be a great presenter. So let’s just pretend, but everyone is listening. Yeah. You have great content and you’re great on stage, right? Mm-Hmm. . So like, if you’re listening and you’re going, oh, I’m not sure, then you’re not ready for this conversation. That’s right. Like, we need to go back and go, let’s ensure that your content is tight and your presentation skills are tight. Right? let’s ensure that first, but let’s assume we got that covered. Mm-Hmm. . What are the assets when it comes to websites, demo videos press kits? Like what is really being used? What is necessary, what’s essential?
SH (29:02):
Yeah. Great. Great question. And the s starkest thing you’ll hear me say today, AJ, hopefully is when, when speakers say to me, man, every time I walk off stage, you know, like they tell me I’m the best speaker ever, or I crushed it. I always, hopefully I don’t always say it, but I do think, yeah, congratulations. Like that’s what a professional speaker should do. Like, if you’re a professional speaker, you should never say, yeah, I laid an egg today. I mean, it’s gonna happen, but killing it on stage is the barrier to entry to be a professional speaker. You said that, well, I’m being redundant, but that is, that is the expectation. If you’re being paid $15,000, that that’s a significant amount of money. But also if a company is putting their 500 employees in a room for sitting idle, idle by product productivity standards for an hour, the cost to the company is literally probably another 15.
SH (29:55):
And depending on the size, could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for that hour. So be amazing that we said that be amazing. Assets are the thing that the, I I, I try to frame it this way, instead of just thinking them as marketing, you get to answer questions that you will never get asked because they’re gonna make a decision about you without asking you certain questions. Mm-Hmm. . And it also allows you to put yourself in that conference room that I described earlier where, you know, they, they order pizza and they throw five speakers on a screen and look at them and compare them and know that you’re very rarely being considered in a vacuum. So it’s not just Speaker X, do we like them or not? It is most often Speaker XI like that they did this, but I’ll poke fun of myself.
SH (30:45):
We’ve had three middle aged white guys in a row the last three years. Ah, we don’t wanna do a fourth thing. Like they really do have to nuance and start to compare and contrast. Well, this speaker is 10% funnier. I mean, that they make up, they have to measure things. And the first part of the job is to eliminate options, right? So they’re looking for things to go, okay, well this speaker says they’re the most amazing branding speaker ever, but their video looks like it was shot 10 years ago. Like that, of course. I mean, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t buy a, you know, if, if your person you’re buying a car from drives a, a horrible car and knows nothing about cars, and you go, I probably don’t know what they’re talking about. So if, if you, if you have an expertise, obviously you gotta crush it in that expertise.
SH (31:27):
But headshot I’ll come back to video. ’cause I video’s the, the silver bullet in, in the speaking world. I’m convinced of that a professional headshot. And, and I always suggest to speakers or lean into, it’s easy if you come out of the corporate world or you’ve had success, you built a company and sold it, you’ve always been branded as a certain thing in that space, in the speaking space, what you’re selling is, I can get on your stage and communicate an idea maybe better than anyone else for 60 minutes or 50 minutes, whatever it is. So you have to change your mindset from I built this company, that’s who I am. It being very biographically focused. Think about the event planner who’s sitting in their cubicle considering four other speakers. They’re, they’re looking for something a little bit different in that biography.
SH (32:20):
It’s not just essentially a, your Wikipedia page, right? It, it really is like, how are you bringing your expertise to my room of 500 people who may or may not want to be there and moving the needle for our company? Still not sure about this. Oh, sorry, Siri just heard me. But the, the, so keynote description, so headshot, no brainer, 300 DPI, great high resolution, spend money on that. If you, if it’s a friend with an iPhone that’s not gonna cut it. I mean, you spend money on it. Selfies, brand build southeast, yeah. Selfie aj, you and call aj. She can help you out. I’m sure they can. Brand builders can assist with that. Oh, it’s so funny. The keynote descriptions are something to, to, to harken back to. We were talking about it earlier, own a certain piece of content. But a keynote description is ultimately your describing what your brand is, and one or two words, colon, you know, here, here’s a short description of how I’m gonna move the needle for your team.
SH (33:22):
And then a, a description of what they are buying. I mean, all they’re buying a product. We’re buying, we’re paying you money to, for 60 minutes to come communicate an idea. This keynote description describes how you are going to, what that thing is and how you’re going to do it. The title describes what it is. The keynote description describes how you’re going to do it. Don’t be afraid to have two or three versions of, it’s almost disingenuous to say, okay, sales colon, whatever that thing is, and this is for, you know, it companies and then the same thing. But for healthcare companies, that doesn’t scare off buyers. They want, if they’re a healthcare company and you, you have a keynote description describing your content in their space, that’s a good thing. They, that tells them, you know, enough about the healthcare industry that you have content, that you’ve taken your content and specifically built it for their audience.
SH (34:23):
Right? That’s a, so don’t be afraid to have two or three keynotes that look similar, but are targeted towards different types of organizations. So keynote descriptions are important. Reviews are are crucial because, and I I jokingly say this, often it, you know, if you, if you have a, I’m gonna use Magic Johnson. If you know Magic Johnson and he says, I AJ’s my buddy, she’s the best speaker I’ve ever met, you’re gonna love her. That’s awesome. At a dinner party. And that would impress me. I’m a huge basketball fan. Event planners in the moment that they are buying are not impressed by big names. Remember, risk mitigation, the most valuable thing from a review point of view in that buying moment is someone like me in my chair took, used you as a speaker and you crushed it and they wrote a review saying, Hey, I brought speaker X in.
SH (35:22):
They crushed it on stage. Yeah, they move an needle. These metrics, whatever that is, so big names are great. I would drop one or two on my website. Way more importantly are is event planner. Stacy from Prudential is very valuable when Steve at Allstate is considering you, right? Because these are lateral competitors and they’re saying, we tried it, it worked. So they’re gonna try it. Also video, we touched on it a little bit. I can’t tell you how often I’ll get a video because I’ve got so many friends and buddies that are in the speaking world. They’ll text me a video, Hey, here’s 60. You know, here’s a a clip. Man, this, this joke I told, or this story I told crushed, right? I watched the video. No, it doesn’t because they are remembering. And I, it breaks my heart. I I hate to say no, it doesn’t.
SH (36:13):
But they are remembering the audience reaction. You know, aj, you’ve been on a ton of stages. You, you have a joke or you have a story that you know always works, right? You remember it. But if, if you don’t have video of the audience reaction, so I, as a viewer sitting at my desk watching a video, if I can’t see the audience react, then you just get whatever you get from me and I’m probably distracted. So audience reaction is one element that speakers very well paid professional speakers forget to include that in their preview videos. Mm-Hmm. . And then when we consumers see it, we go, no, that joke wasn’t nearly as funny as you thought it was because in my cubicle it’s not funny. It’s probably funny when a thousand people are slapping their knees. So I would say video it’s a, a constant discussion in the market.
SH (37:05):
What’s the best length of a video? Yeah, probably five to seven minutes. If you’ve got a couple of really killer clips that push it to 10, just know that most event planners are considering, you won’t watch 10 minutes, but they’ll skip through a video. But it needs to punch and it needs to, if you’ve got two or three stories that are your fastballs, include those in there. And I would say one little hack that I always suggest to speakers is, your video is never a finished product. If you know you’re gonna tell that story often on stages Mm-Hmm. , if you tell it in Tulsa and it crushes, get that video and replace that story in your current preview video. So don’t ever think of your video as being finished. Oh, I’m gonna do a new video next year. You should do a new video next year. But while you’re waiting for that, go ahead and keep refreshing those different clips as you’re crushing it on stages around the world for now. And then always be thinking, what’s my next video going to be?
AJV (38:06):
Yeah. So I’ve got a question for you specific to this video thing, which is how much of the video should be you on stages? Because a lot of the videos I see today are more like sizzle commercials and they have mm-Hmm, b-roll footage, or they’re storytelling components. And should there be testimonials in the video? Should there be client logos? Like if you were just like high level, it’s like, if it’s five minutes, I wanna see this many minutes of you just on stage. Yep. The rest of it save it for something else.
SH (38:38):
Right? That, that is a great question because it’s a moment in time question. A few years ago, a couple of speakers realized like, everyone’s videos look the same. And this is generalities, but pretty close. A few years ago it was pre covid, so we’ll call it five years ago, some speakers said everyone’s videos look the same. And they started to do some videos and I can mention names and we’ll talk about ’em offline. I loved it. They kind of reinvented the, the sizzle reel or the preview video world. And it became the videos that we’ve all seen now and been a part of probably helping make, which is you follow them to the stage and they’re standing and they look at the camera and say like, this is gonna be great. And you watch them walk on stage and crush it. That total overnight it elevated the, the, the expectation from the viewer side of the videos because it used to be, okay, I’m probably gonna do some talking head to introduce myself.
SH (39:32):
Here’s three clips of me on CNN and Fox News, like, you know, quick Clips. And then here’s three clips of me speaking. Now we kind of have almost movie production quality videos, right? I I think the market has adjusted to that, where a large number of speakers have that more kind of movie production. So it, it’s like the rubber band thing. I think it will stretch and pull back and event planners, they do, they’re a cynical bunch because we make them a cynical bunch because I always say hyperbole is the, the natural language of our industry. Like everything is the best ever. Every speaker’s the best ever. Like, so they, they could,
AJV (40:10):
Everyone’s an expert. Everyone,
SH (40:12):
Everyone’s an expert. , wor words might have less value and hand up. Like we’re all guilty of that, right? But I, there probably will be a, a bit of a return to, Hey, I don’t want it to be a hyped video for you. Like, I, I need content. I’m making a decision on can you do the thing I want you to do. So as a long way to say, I, I don’t know that that will ever go away because production, the production value expectation has increased. Mm-Hmm. , if it’s shot from a shaky camera or one camera from the back of the room, that’s not gonna cut it for you. If you expect to grow your career you, you do have to invest in an additional camera audience reaction shots that I mentioned earlier. But does it have to be Jerry Bruckheimer, you know, type of camera work?
SH (41:04):
No. but I, I would say if I had $10,000 to invest in my video tomorrow and I was a speaker, I would lean heavily into production. And then do put you, you want to answer the question, why are you an expert? Why should I give you 60 minutes of my people’s time? You wanna answer that in the first few seconds. So if you’re on CNN and they have, they’re holding your book up and it says you’re an expert, definitely include that. But you wanna answer that question in 10, 15 seconds and then get to you on stage speaking and not to dig in to be boring with it. But a couple of basic items are you want more than one camera. You want one more than one scene. So if it’s you wearing the same dress or the same suit in all three clips, the question, you’re, they will, the event planner will never say, have you done this a lot?
SH (41:59):
Right? But you’re, you’re implying to them, I’ve only done it once ’cause all three clips look the same. So that’s why if you’re watching a great speaker’s reel, you’ll notice that they jump around and show themselves sometimes even during the same story. Here’s me on stage at this conference and here’s me on stage. Part of that is just communicating. I do this all the time and I’m amazing at this and here’s a couple of different versions of me doing it. It helps the flow of the video video. So you, you want multiple locations. You want multiple, you know, attire, changes to communicate. This is something I do regularly and I’m great at it.
AJV (42:39):
Hmm. Those are so good. And, you know, to, it’s easy to make long videos. It’s hard to make short ones. And so making sure that’s just a, a key part of that. And I love like just all the s assets that you talk about, like, I think people forget of like how important it is. Like I say this all the time, it’s like, I love your headshot. Who is that ? Who is that? Who is that? It’s like, I wanna be able to write,
SH (43:05):
It’s you in college, .
AJV (43:07):
Well, I be able to recognize you when I go find you online. And I’m like, wait, is this the same person? I don’t know. Did I, did I type the name in wrong? . so I think those things really do matter. And it shows that there’s care and attention to detail. So I know that we’re, we are already over time, but there’s one last question because I think this is really important and you can answer this as succinctly as you can or you want to, but we talked about content, categorically speaking assets again, barrier to entries, you’ve gotta be phenomenal both content and on stage. But at the end of the day, what does it take for someone to be a great candidate to work with a speaker’s bureau like Premier? Like what are you guys looking for?
SH (43:50):
Yep. Great quality, professional speakers. The stuff that we, we’ve touched on multiple times. The two most frequent ways. I get that question a lot. I have a lot of friends who are speakers. Honestly, I have a lot of friends who are speakers that we don’t represent because we aren’t the best home for them. But the two best ways to connect with Premier Speakers Bureau or any speakers bureau at this point is referral from one of their key speakers. We have out of those 2000 events last year, we probably booked about 600, 650 speakers. So a lot of those speakers we booked a couple of times. Mm-Hmm, , there were probably 20 speakers that we booked many, many times. We have a couple speakers that we booked 70 and 80 times in that one year, right? So when, when one of those speakers texts me and says, Hey, this, I’ve gotten to know this person, or I saw this person speak, they are amazing.
SH (44:43):
That moves the needle for me because I know what their litmus test for great is. And so that’s a great way to open a door. The last two speakers that we have, premier has signed exclusively, and we could unpack that another time. Which means all of their business comes to Premier, have been started as referrals from other people that are trusted speakers of ours. So that, that’s a, it’s proven to be the case. The other way is to take business away from a speaker’s bureau. So we, we have that core client base that I told you that, that most often we know like they’re gonna come back to us ’cause we serve them really well. We take great care of them, we answer the phone the first time it rings. We are good at best when we talk to them and they say, Hey, actually, you know, thanks, I’ll talk to you in a month and we’ll do business together, but my CEO saw this person speak and told me to go book them, and I did that that, that happens once.
SH (45:39):
Okay? That’s how life works. And CEOs say, go book a speaker and then they know it’s risky, but the CEO told ’em to do it. When that happens three or four times, that alerts us to that speaker is a, is attractive to the types of clients that we work with, right? So that quite often we will start a conversation with them. And many times over the last 23 years, that has ended up in a very strategic long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. But it started with them proving themselves by the way they proved it was they took business away from us, meaning clients that we value said, yeah, that’s somebody that we’re interested in. Most often, those two things connect up. Yeah. And the speaker we trust says, this person’s great. And we go, yeah, we’ve, we’ve heard that from clients too. At that point, it’s, it’s almost a no-brainer, but that, I wish that the easy answer was press this button and this thing will happen.
SH (46:35):
All of those things are nuanced and they all come down to relationships. Being great on stage is a starting point. Event planners will, being in love with how you do your business, if you’re a great speaker and are pain to work with, you won’t, you won’t make it, you won’t make it. You have to approach your business as Aer with a servant heart. Like I am coming to, to offer something to the people in this room, starting with that poor event planner, Stacy, who’s probably a mom of two kids and has three other jobs and is rolling the dice on this event. And if something goes wrong, she takes all the blame. She’s your first customer, right? Make her life amazing. Take great care of her. You’re gonna be amazing on stage. But if you do that a hundred times, the universe will love you. The market will love you. There’s no easy answers, there’s no easy fixes. It is just hard work, aj you know this, you and Rory did this. It’s hard work. You build a thing over time, and if you do it the right way, you look back in 10, 20 years and say, I’m proud of the things that I built.
AJV (47:41):
Amen. Preach it. I love that. And like, the underlying message that I hope everyone heard is like a part of the path of working with bureaus is that you actually already have to be on stages, right? Yes. Their job is to get you on the first stage or the 10th stage. Their job is to discover you after you’ve already been doing this long enough and good enough that other people are willing to tell other people about you. Which means that it starts with you, it starts with you
SH (48:13):
Perfectly said,
AJV (48:14):
Perfectly said, and you’ve gotta be the one to get on stages. And I, and it’s like back to everything in life. It’s a trusted source, referring someone is how business is still done. Regardless of how many things have gone online and how business has evolved, that has never changed, which is the power of a trusted referral. Mm-Hmm. And this is no different here, Shawn. Perfect. Thank you so much. You’re the best. This is so you and this is gonna be just so rich for everyone who takes the time to listen to it. And for those of you who are listening, if you guys wanna connect with Shawn, it’s Shawn Hanks. You can find him on LinkedIn. But if you wanna learn more about Shawn and his role and everyone else at Premier Speakers, just go to premier speakers.com and again, premier speakers.com. I’ll put all that in the show notes and if you wanna catch the recap episode of this then stay tuned. And if not, we’ll catch you next time on the influential Personal brand. We’ll see you later.
SH (49:17):
Thank you.