ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Influential Personal Brand Podcast. This is the place where you’ll learn cutting edge personal brand strategies from today’s most recognizable influencers. We’re going to teach you how to build a rock-solid reputation and then how to turn that reputation into revenue.
[0:00:27.2] RV: I’m your lead host Rory Vaden. Co-founder of Brand Builders Group, Hall of Fame speaker and New York Times bestselling author of Take the Stairs.
There are certain people in my life that I just feel honored to be associated with, just lucky to know. Michael Hyatt is certainly one of those people. I happened to speak at an event on a cruise ship and he was trapped there with me for six days and he couldn’t get away and I managed to get to know him and build a little relationship several years ago and I certainly consider him a mentor. If you haven’t heard of him, I don’t really know how you could be in the personal branding space and not know who he is.
But he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson. He is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today bestselling author of several books, one of which was Platform which made a huge personal impact in me and my direction. He’s written several others, Living Forward, Your Best Year Ever, Free to Focus, most recently.
He is both a tremendous personal brand, but also a real leader. He scaled a company, a 250-million-dollar publishing company with 700 employees, that’s Thomas Nelson. The Michael Hyatt team, like their company, now is on the Inc. 5,000 list. He’s a real leader, real CEO, real businessman, also real family man, he’s been married for over 40 years to Gale who – she’s awesome so it’s understandable.
He’s got five amazing daughters, nine grandchildren and he volunteered to come help me out as a personal favor. It’s not easy to get his time these days, he’s so busy so Michael, thank you for the honor of being here, my friend.
[0:02:09.6] MH: Absolutely Rory, thank you for those kind words, amazing.
[0:02:13.2] RV: You know, if you say publishing, it’s hard to create a list of people that would be more experienced in all different angles than you and I think so many of the people watching, I mean, I think almost every one of our clients like a book enters into the conversation at some point and so my first question for you, I figured was an easy one. Can you just tell us the secret of writing a bestselling book?
[0:02:40.6] MH: Well, take about 80% luck, and you know, have the right idea at the right time. No, seriously, I think part of it can certainly enhance your chances of writing a bestselling book but I think the most important thing on writing a bestselling book or creating a platform or a brand that has significance in the world is having something important and helpful to say.
I think you know, Zig Ziglar said, you know, if you help enough people, then you can get what you want and I think it’s the same thing with writing a book. Just write the most helpful, useful book you can. Be authentic, be transparent, be encouraging and that’s basically all I’ve tried to do and I’ve tried to find a topic that was hot and something that I could with integrity speak out of my experience but that’s pretty much what I’ve done.
[0:03:28.0] RV: Talk to me a little bit about the – you have the platform, like that’s – a part of the factor here is you have like the integrity of the idea but then you have the size of the author’s platform. Which one matters more? Do they matter the same? Can you do it with – do you have to have both, one not the other? What’s the balance there between platform and you know, premise.
[0:03:50.5] MH: Yeah, the way I say it is that content is king but platform is queen. It really takes both of those together, you know, if you want to create a kingdom and rule well. The reason I wrote the book Platform initially was because for years, in the publishing business, I had bene on the publishing side of turning away authors with great ideas, sometimes even fully written manuscripts that were fantastic but because they didn’t have a platform, there was very little for us as a publishing company to leverage.
But, when an author came to us with a great idea, great content, and they had some platform, didn’t have to be best but they had to at least proof of concept that there was an audience that was buying into their content and their framework and to whatever it is that they were selling, that was something we could leverage and kind of take to the next level. I think they’re equally important
[0:04:43.2] RV: Do you think that traditional publishing like, you know, that’s kind of the question today is years ago, was like traditional publishing was the way to go and then self-publishing and now I feel like it kind of teeters kind of back and forth.
A lot of our clients ask this question. How do I know if I should use a traditional publisher, you know? Do I really need one? Should I self-publish? Like what’s your take on that in the current day era?
[0:05:05.3] MH: Well, my opinion has vacillated over the years. In the initial – I mean, I was in the publishing business for 35 years. Initially, there was only traditional publishing, then there was self-publishing or we, you know, call it in those days, vanity publishing, which is kind of pejorative but that’s how we looked at it and it wasn’t very well respected because the books looked terrible. They usually weren’t well written or well edited and you could just tell it’s a self-published book. All that changed, started changing about 10 years ago and so self-publishing got more sophisticated, there were these hybrid publishers that would help you do some of it.
Now you’ve got all kinds of options out there but I’ve kind of come full circle. Here’s my theory right now. If you want to write a book, just the credential yourself and there’s no better way to credential yourself or to get authority in a space than to write a book. I personally think, it’s more important than a PHD, it’s more important than tons of experience. If you have a published book, that, in this culture, that kind of says you’ve arrived and you’re an expert in your category. If that’s all you’re trying to do then I think self-publishing is fine.
It becomes kind of a glorified, very nice business card that could pave the way as you go out and try to do other things whether it’s booking speaking or writing additional books or whatever.
If on the other hand you want to take a run at the bestseller list, and if publishing books is not your primary thing, like let’s just say that you’re primarily a speaker or you’re a consultant or you got some other gig that’s the main thing, your main revenue model, then I would absolutely use a traditional publisher because self-publishing is a ton, and I mean a ton, of work.
Now, Michael Hyatt and Company today, we do one traditional publishing published book every year, so I write one book every year but then we also do a couple of self-published books just for our tribe. I can tell you from looking on the inside in, having to do it on myself, it’s a ton of work.
If I didn’t have the platform I do that I could sell to, man, it would be – I don’t know that it would be worth it.
[0:07:14.6] RV: That’s super insightful. On the business model question, that’s a good one, that’s another thing I wanted to ask you about is, of all my friends and colleagues, I think you’ve tried more business models than anyone. I think, you know, you’ve done live events, you’ve done speaking, you’ve done consulting, you’ve done coaching, you’ve had memberships, you’ve done video courses, you’ve done affiliate launches like you’ve done online summits like this.
Is there a favorite business model that you have or you know, I think a lot of people kind of, it’s like, “Oh masterminds is the thing,” or, “No, a membership is the thing.” Or, “Really, it should be video courses are where it’s at.” Can you just give us just maybe some of the highs and lows of each of those and maybe like the ones you like or maybe what were some of the most surprising things you learned from the various different business models that you’ve tried?
[0:08:06.5] MH: Well, you know, I never really thought of myself as having tried so many but you’re right. Frankly, a lot of them haven’t worked. So I’ve done stuff that’s worked and stuff that hasn’t worked but one of the things I’ve always tried to cultivate is sort of an experimental mindset. Whenever I approach anything, a business launch or whatever. I approach it as an experiment, you know, “Hey, let’s just try it and see if it works.”
One of my colossal failures is that after we launched Best Year Ever, Five Days to Your Best Year Ever, that was a huge success, we had like 35,000 people go through that course over five years and it was a big revenue engine for our company.
We said, “Hey, let’s create Best Year Ever for leaders.” Because we thought, leaders are going to eat this up. I literally recorded all the videos and they were killer, you know? I was even impressed with them. These were amazing. We built a beautiful sales page and so we got all the emails written, everything. We launched it and it was crickets, we literally on the first 24 hours after the launch, we had one order. I was pulling my hair out.
I said to my team, “What’s wrong with the tech? This has got to be a technological failure. There’s no way that we could just get one order. We could have come up with that if we had a strategy.” Sure enough, that was it, nobody wanted the course.
So we try stuff and the stuff that that works you hear about, the stuff that doesn’t work, you know, we don’t typically publicize that. You don’t hear about that, but I would say that one business model that I’ve had that I’ve believed in for a long time is multiple streams of income.
You know, whatever horse you’re on right now, eventually probably is going to – you’re going to reach a saturation point or you’re going to – you’re going to get all the low hanging fruit and then it’s going to get more expensive and more difficult and so we’ve just tried to be in a lot of different things, kind of all in the same vertical space now and the goal setting and productivity space. But part of the reason, I’m kid of rambling here, so stop me.
But one of the things we’ve realized is that kind of when the market’s zigging, we want to zag. We got into online courses I think pretty early, we certainly weren’t the first but we were among the first people that got in to online courses and that was huge. It was ginormous margins. Then all of a sudden, people started doing courses on courses. How to create courses and then everybody and their brother created online courses and the market was very dense, very saturated.
We said, “We think that people are desperate for live experiences that even though they’ve got all this virtual capability, people want to be face to face and have real human encounters.” So we started our live events and that went crazy. Then we created our paper planners, the Full Focus Planner. That thing is –
[0:10:59.1] RV: I forgot about that one, I didn’t mention. There was that one and then also, you had the book, like the box, you were shipping boxes for a while.
[0:11:06.2] MH: Yeah. The planner business is actually our biggest business, that’s like, you know, almost an eight figure business now, all by itself. And the cool thing about that is it doesn’t really depend so much on my brand so it’s kind of got some autonomy and independence but again, you know, everybody was saying – in fact, people still say to me on Facebook, they say “Hey, we’ve got digital cast management, we got digital counters, why do we need a paper planner?”
As it turns out, people are very distracted in the digital environment, the thing that paper planner does is give them focus. Again,just kind of multiple streams of income and how can we best serve our audience? What does our audience need and how can we best serve them?
[0:11:48.2] RV: Year, I love that experimental approach and you certainly have to be like willing to lose some money here and there in the spirit of learning it out, lose some hours.
[0:12:00.5] MH: I’ll tell you the other thing too, you have to be willing to kill stuff when it needs to die. I mean, in my view, everything has a season but I’ll tell you a funny story. We had all these brands, you know, Best Year Ever, Free to Focus, Full Focus Planner, Leaderbox, all this stuff. Last December, we’re all sitting in a strategic planning and we brought in outside consultant.
He asked us this question that ultimately rocked our world. He said, could you explain to me the customer journey? Where do people start with you and then what’s the first step? Where do they go from there and how they go all the way through your product suite?
We kind of all looked at each other and we said, “We don’t know. We don’t have a clue. Here’s some ways you can get into it but we don’t really know.” We went through an unbelievable 24 hour periods where we killed or sunsetted Best Year Ever and Free to Focus and said, “They’re too confusing,” and so we mapped out a customer journey but we had to be willing to – it’s kind of like cleaning your closet. If you want new clothes, sometimes the first thing you have to do is get rid of the old clothes.
We had to clear out the old to make room for the new and that I think as a business owner, a lot of times it takes courage because those were – represented multimillion dollar businesses but we also realized that we couldn’t go to the next level unless we’re willing to kind of retire those and make room for the new things.
[0:13:24.2] RV: Yeah, it’s like killing the sacred cows kind of a thing. That’s not easy, especially like you have so much invested into those to just kind of go, “Okay, we’re done with that, we’re going to move on.” Like, not an easy decision I can imagine.
[0:13:39.0] MH: It’s not and it’s – I think one of the values of having a team is you know having other smart people in the room and people with wisdom that can kind of check and keep me from doing frankly as a business owner, something impulsive, but we can kind of check one another and ask if that’s the course in that kind of scenario play it and make sure it’s going to work.
[0:14:00.7] RV: All right, I apologize for bouncing around on all these different topics, although I’m not really sorry –
[0:14:06.8] MH: Sorry, not sorry.
[0:14:08.3] RV: One of the other things I wanted to ask you about is paid traffic versus organic traffic. You have built a huge platform and your community is so loyal. How much – should it be all organic? Is a real audience won that is built organic, you know? Is it paid, just like, “Hey, you got to pay the money to get in front of eye balls.” What’s the balance of paid versus organic?
[0:14:33.5] MH: If you had asked me about when Platform came out in 2012, if you’d asked me that question then, I would say, “I never pay for traffic.” Everything I had up until that point was organic. I built it from 2004 when I started to blog and I had about 100,000 unique visitors at that time on my blog and I thought, “You know, that’s enough,” you know?
It had a mailing list of about the same size of about 100,000, I thought that’s enough. Frankly, it would have been but in today’s environment, particularly when social media is really restricting the access that you get to for free, I don’t think it could be done without paid. Having said that, I think you got to have a very clear model of what you’re buying when you’re paying for traffic because I ultimately want to get them to the same place that I’m going to get organic traffic to and that is that I want it to be self-perpetuating, ongoing traffic that I can retain because they get exposed to the content and then they’re locked in because they enjoyed the content and feel like it’s helpful.
So, you know, I was telling you before we came on that last year, we spent about a million two on Facebook ads and believe me, we watched the return on investment like that, I wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if I wasn’t getting a huge return on that investment but it’s totally worth it. You just got to be smart about it.
[0:16:02.0] RV: Yeah, I feel like more and more, it’s like – it’s not necessarily the person with the best content that wins, but it’s the one with the most sophisticated systems of knowing what dollars they’re spending, what audiences they’re going after, what’s the lifetime, what are the conversions, the lifetime value of that customer. It’s interesting, one of my favorite interview questions I used to ask people was what is something you’ve changed your mind on recently and it seems like both this and the traditional self-publishing, it seems like you kind of have teetered a little bit so that’s interesting to see that perspective.
[0:16:36.1] MH: Yeah, I really believe in paid advertising now and just you know, to quickly kind of outline our strategy, I’m happy to share it. Typically, we run ads for free opt ins. You know, it’s usually an assessment or an ebook or a summit like this. Assessments have been very good for us because people seem to have unbelievable curiosity to find out more about themselves. It’s their favorite topic, right? We offer a lot of assessments and in those assessments, we typically try to convert them after the assessment to a webinar and a webinar is where I can begin to have a relationship with somebody but they get to kind of sample the brew. So for an hour on my webinars, I typically give them a good solid content and then I pivot. And it depends on the product. We are either pivoting trying to close to a discovery call like our high end coaching programs or actually trying to sell the product.
So we have done both of those very successfully. So that is how we think of paid advertising. We want to slowly escalate it where people get more involved with this after they tried that free thing and had a good experience.
[0:17:39.3] RV: Yeah and what would you consider, like on that kind of a thing, that kind of webinar, if it was a free call, what kind of percentages would somebody roughly estimate to go – if I am doing a good – if I have a great webinar and a good clear process for inviting a free call like 10%, 5%, 20%?
[0:17:59.9] MH: Yeah, I would say for us it usually runs – 10% would be on the low side especially for a free call but up to 35 sometimes 50%, but we usually offer something that we call a discovery call but people are wise to that. You know people don’t want to just call to get sold. So there has to be the promise of something else. So typically for us, I could tell you on our high end program business accelerator, which is like a coaching program, we do a discovery call there. But we invite them to take an assessment there.
We don’t usually use an assessment to get those people into the webinar but we use something called the Business Health Assessment. So we invite them to take the Business Health Assessment, get on the discovery call, and we will identify for them the three top priorities that as a business they need to focus on if they want to scale as rapidly as possible.
[0:18:48.4] RV: Got you, okay and then, you know if you are doing like a course, a thousand, two thousand dollars is more like if you can get five or 10% out of it then that’s pretty fine.
[0:18:56.4] MH: Yeah, totally.
[0:18:56.9] RV: Yeah, so on that note, again, this is like a bunch of pepper questions, automated webinars versus live webinars, is there a dramatic difference always to sometimes one you’d prefer more than the other?
[0:19:11.7] MH: I have done them both. I have to say that live webinars for us are always more effective and you know the biggest challenge today because there has been a proliferation of webinars too is to get for people to show up because the replays don’t convert like the live thing does even if it is on automated webinar. When they show up, they are much more likely to buy than if they’re just going to watch the replay. They have good intentions I mean I do it all the time myself.
You know to get somebody’s information, I sign up and then I get busy and I never go watch them. Yeah, I say you have to do both but I feel strongly about what am I about to say. I think you’ve got to be honest. I don’t think you have to trumpet the fact that it is an automated webinar, that it is not live, but I think you’ve got to be very careful with your language so that you don’t misrepresent it as live
And I remember several years ago, I stumbled upon some webinar software. I can mention the name but I won’t but that basically simulates a live webinar including feeding fake questions into the chat and to me that just lacks integrity and even if people don’t quite know what is going on they know something is off.
[0:20:23.5] RV: Yeah, I appreciate you saying that I agree a 100%. Do you think that a live webinar is going to covert twice as good as a recorded version of it or is it even less than that?
[0:20:35.3] MH: You know I don’t track that data in my role like I used to but all I can say is that I know it records – that it does better but here is the thing, there is no reason why you can’t do both. So do the live webinar and record it. Again, be careful with your language so that you are not implying that it is live. So when it is in the automated format, you don’t want to give the wrong impression but yeah, I mean that is what we do.
And a lot of times what we’ll do is that when we begin – like any kind of launch that we do, we’ll do live webinars for a week and I will typically do five, one day after another and – but we will also, and this is a good dress rehearsal for me, we’ll do the recorded one first and the great thing about that is putting in the recorded one in the can and having it almost perfect is then if there is a technical glitch in one of the live webinars, we’ve got that one that we can just shove in and run in its place and that’s happened to us before.
[0:21:31.9] RV: Oh wow that is interesting. Usually I only hear about the opposite like run it live several times and then take that but that is cool plus you get to have the practice run through with that like all of the live jitters and stuff. Okay, next one: email frequency. Too much versus too little. How much is too much and how little is too little? Is like the people that want to hear from you are going to stay tuned and you send them as much as you can? Do you have a thought on that? Has it changed over the years? I am very, very curious.
[0:22:08.0] MH: Let me just say I have overdone it. You know I have mailed way too much and of course, all the experts and I am not one, but all the experts would tell you that you can’t mail too much and the more you mail, the more people will buy, but I think at some point if you are not adding value I just think you got to listen to your audience and you’re going to get complacent. I mean if you mail it once a week there are going to be some people in your audience are going to think it’s too much, right?
[0:22:36.0] RV: That is a really good perspective. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you send like you are going to get complaints.
[0:22:42.0] MH: That is right but there is a point in which you reach critical mass where you are getting complaints from longtime customers and they saying, “Look, I love your stuff. I bought everything but you are killing me, you know, dial it back.” So I just subscribed to an email list about two weeks ago. The guy was literally mailing twice a day. Twice and sometimes three times a day and I just said, “Look, I love you but I don’t even see my kids three times a day” you know? So I don’t want to hear from you –
[0:23:10.8] RV: I’m sorry about all of those emails Michael. I didn’t realize there were three coming to you every day.
[0:23:18.1] MH: I just think if there is one guy that I never get tired of hearing from and maybe it is just me but it is Jeff Walker. Now Jeff mails a lot but he is so good with his copy that I almost always read them and I have never been tempted to unsubscribe but he is like the one exemption that probably proves the rule. You know unless you are super ninja copywriter, just be very careful
And I think one of the things that we’ve moved to in our business now is that we are sending out an email that has content that only appears in the newsletter but it is content driven not marketing driven and we feel like if we are adding value and I talk about this actually in my book Platform, I call it the 20 to one rule, which is pretty funny in retrospect because what I said is you got to make 20 deposits before you could make a withdrawal. Well today, I would probably say it is more like three to one. If you could make three deposits before you make an ask that is probably a good ratio but the point is you got to make more deposits than withdrawals otherwise, you over draw the account, does that make sense?
[0:24:21.8] RV: Yeah that is like the jab-jab-jab right hook, right? I guess that is like three to one but really it sounds like the rule is just listen to your audience and just respect the audience, listen, take their feedback. I mean that is another good one. That wasn’t on my list here to ask you but just like writing your own copy versus having someone else write your copy. When do you make that transition? How do you do that?
[0:24:48.6] MH: I think as a business owner or as a brand builder, you got to ask yourself what is the best and highest use of you? And so at the very beginning I did everything. You know, I wrote the sales pages, I edited the podcast, I posted it. I created all the content for the courses, everything, but at some point, I say, “Okay, what is the best and highest use of me?”
And in Free to Focus I talk about this being your desires on activities and the things that you are passionate about, things that you are particularly good at. So I don’t write any email copy. In fact this might be shocking but I don’t even review it today. What we have done is we trained a small group of writers to write in my voice, to kind of deconstruct how I speak. We literally have a written style guide on this, how I speak, things that I typically say, things I would never say, just the elements and style with regard to my voice and so yeah, where I spend my time these days is I am writing, every morning creating new content.
That is best and highest use of me. So at least for an hour a day I am writing 500 to 750 words a day and that becomes the pantry from which my team draws for all kinds of stuff, whether it be products or books or whatever.
[0:26:05.0] RV: How much do you read?
[0:26:07.0] MH: Less than I used to but still a fair amount. I read probably two or three books a month. The reason that I read less than I used to is because I listen to so many podcasts today and I find that unfortunately, this is the dirty little secret of publishing is that so many books should have been an essay and in order to give it enough bulk to be able to sell at retail they fill it up with a lot of filler.
And so the thing that I like about podcasts, not all podcasts, like some of the most popular podcast make me crazy because they take forever to get to the point. They just talk and talk and talk and they ramble and there is no takeaway but having said that, I generally can get out of a podcast content that really rocks my world much faster than I can most books. There is definitely some exemptions to that.
[0:27:00.2] RV: Okay, I know we are running up on our time here. I got one more question but before I do that, where should people go if they are not yet following you? If they want to follow you, htey want to catch up with Michael Hyatt and see how you’re doing, what you are doing in like the new era of the Michael Hyatt personal brand?
[0:27:18.6] MH: Yeah, well you can find everything at michaelhyatt.com. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, you will find all of our other brands. So there is everything from our store there to the Full Focus Planner to the Business Accelerator Program, Leader Books which is our monthly book club for leaders. All of this stuff has links there and I would encourage people to listen to the podcast. That is still the thing that I think is the best effort that we make.
And in terms of branding and in terms of reach, I just think there is no return like what you get on the podcast and our podcast I do with my oldest daughter, Megan Hyatt-Miller who is our COO of our company and it is called Lead to Win. That is on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts but you can find the links on michaelhyatt.com.
[0:28:00.4] RV: Okay, so last one for you Michael. As you said, this is maybe going back to some of your earlier days certainly as a publisher, you had to turn down a lot of authors, you turned down a lot of dreamers. In recent years, it’s been more like you have been coaching them. And you have seen people trying to struggle and trying to battle the fight and then you comment to where today, it is like there is so much noise. There is a lot of competition in webinars and podcast and books and everything.
I think that there is a part of this these days that is just dealing with heartbreak and just dealing with some of that setback. What would be your advice is there is somebody out there that is just feeling like, “Oh my gosh, you know I can’t get a publisher. I can’t get an agent. No one is listening to my podcast. No one is reading my articles. No one is opening my emails.” What would you say to that person?
[0:28:50.5] MH: Congratulations, you’re normal. You know, I really think and I think this is important for people to hear. I think that’s in a way, God’s way of testing us to see if we are really committed to this thing that we said we are committed to. So my first book was rejected by 29 publishers before the 30th one said yes. I was ready to throw in the towel by my agent wouldn’t let me. My book Living Forward, which is about four books back was rejected by about the same number of publishers.
I already had a New York Times bestseller. I already had a huge platform and that book, nobody believed in it. Everybody rejected it. And now it’s gone on to sell about almost 200,000 copies. But nobody wanted to touch it for reasons I still don’t understand. I get that that gets discouraging and I almost gave up there too. I thought, “Geez, maybe there is a better use of my time, maybe God, the universe, whatever is trying to say something to me this isn’t the right timing or its the wrong message.”
And I think it is one of the most important books I have ever written, I am glad I persevered it. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Gail cheering me on I think I would have given up but I think that’s normal. And I think – I have bad days every week where I want to quit, you know? And for some reason, I just keep chugging along and trying to believe the best of what is happening but it is just normal. Rejection, the world doesn’t owe me a living and the marketplace doesn’t owe me anything.
And so it is up to me to create enough value that people can see it and want to participate in it. So I think the best advice I’ve ever gotten, the thing that I try to practice when I get discouraged is forget about the platform, forget about trying to write a bestseller, forget about trying to be famous. How can I help my clients? What are their needs? How can I encourage them? How can I be useful to them? And if you do that consistently enough I really think it would come back.
[0:30:50.8] RV: Amen. There you have words of wisdom from one of the most experienced people in several different aspects and components of the space. Michael, thank you so much for making time for all of us and for putting out as much amazing content as you do. I mean, your team is amazing, your family. We love you, we believe in you and we are honored to know you.
[0:31:13.4] MH: Thanks Rory, I appreciate you and AJ too.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:31:15.8] RV: That’s all we’ve got for this episode of the Influential Personal Brand Podcast but here is some great news, one of the most valuable things you can do to help us and other new potential listeners to find our show is for you to both rate this show and leave a review. So as a special bonus for you, if you leave us a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen, take a screenshot of your review and email it to [email protected]