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Transcript of How to Start Your Speaking Business

Transcript of How to Start Your Speaking Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Grant Baldwin. He’s the creator of the Speaker Lab and Speaker Lab Podcast, which I think I’m an alumnus stuff.

Grant Baldwin: You are. You are.

John Jantsch: I couldn’t remember what show was. And the online course Booked and Paid to Speak and then a new book we’re going to talk about today, The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid, and Building Your Platform. We’re going to talk about speaking today. Grant, thanks for joining me.

Grant Baldwin: John, thanks for letting me hang out with you. All right, I was pulling those up here you are on kind of a compilation episode, episode 100, but then had you on recently on episode 261. Yeah, you have certainly been a repeat guest on the Speaker Lab Podcast.

John Jantsch: Well, and of course I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I just couldn’t remember if you had more than one podcast. I wasn’t spacing it completely. But since we’re going to talk about speaking, I think it’s probably valid for me to ask you how did you become a speaker?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. If we go way back in time, in high school I was really involved in my local church and my youth pastor had a really big impact in my life. I was like, “I want to do that.” That seems really cool. He was a phenomenal speaker as well, so one of my favorite speakers. That’s kind of the path I was on. I eventually got a job as a youth pastor at a different church and that gave me a lot of at-bats. It gave me a lot of opportunities to speak on a weekly basis to high school and college students, and then from time to time we get to speak on the weekend and big church.

Grant Baldwin: Speaking is one of those things I just really enjoyed, just one of those things that came naturally to me, and felt like I was decent at it, and I wanted to do more of it and found myself in a spot where a lot of listeners may be or people that are somewhere spotted just saying like, “I want to do more, I don’t know what to do next.” And how do you find gigs, and who pays speakers, and what do they pay speakers to talk about, and how does this mysterious black box work?

Grant Baldwin: I stalked a bunch of other speakers, and I’m sure you’re amongst that list, and just try to figure out anything I possibly could. Started booking a few gigs here and there and eventually got to the point where I was doing a 60, 70 gigs a year myself and really enjoyed it. Then had a lot of people asking me like, “Hey, I want to be a speaker. How do I do that?” I felt like we have built really good systems and processes for how do you actually consistently find a book gigs without having the big platform or having a big name.

Grant Baldwin: I didn’t have any big following or anything. I didn’t have any crazy story. I hadn’t won any medal in the Olympics, or been cured of cancer, or landed the plane on the Hudson. Just I’m a white male from the Midwest and has had a pretty average life, so on paper there’s nothing that qualifies me to be a speaker. But we figured out what worked and how to find a book gigs. I started teaching that. That’s kind of the core of what we have inside the new book.

John Jantsch: Speaking is, maybe I’m in a little bubble here, but it’s a pretty hot topic amongst marketers. I mean, do you tell people everybody should be a speaker, everybody should learn to speak, should you just do it for money, are there other reasons to do it? I mean, let’s kind of start with who we’re talking to.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Nice thing about speaking, as you well know, John, there’s no right or wrong amount to speak. Both know speakers who do a hundred plus gigs a year. It’s basically 100% of their income and revenue and their whole business model. And that’s all they want to do. They don’t do want to do any consulting or coaching or anything else. I just want to speak. That’s fine. That’s largely what my career was early on. Then there’s other speakers who say, “You know what, I’ve got other things going, but I wouldn’t mind doing, I don’t know, five gigs a year, 10 gigs a year. But again, I’m just having trouble figuring out how to actually find those and how much do I charge, what do I speak about, how to put together a talk, how do I deliver?” You know, those type of pieces and questions. There’s really no right or wrong way.

Grant Baldwin: In addition, there are speakers who speak full time and they’re kind of a traditional gun for hire. You and I both done a lot of that. You come in, you speak, you collect your check, and that’s kind of the end of the transaction. That’s all that they you’re brought in for, and others to speak more for, let’s say, lead generation, for some type of coaching, or consulting, or marketing, or some type of service based business that they’re offering or operating on the back end. Yeah, it’s one of my favorite things about speaking is there’s, again, not a literally a no right or wrong way to do it, but there’s also just a lot of format that speaking can be valuable for any entrepreneur.

John Jantsch: If somebody comes to you and says, “I really want to get into this speaking business. I heard you teach people how to do it.” What’s the first thing you would tell them that they need to get figured out?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Inside the book, we walk through what we call the speaker success roadmap. It makes the acronyms speak, S-P-E-A-K. The first step is the most important step, the S, is select a problem to solve. Select a problem to solve. For a lot of people who are interested in speaking, John, you and I, we just enjoy speaking. Speaking is just fun, right? And so if we were given the choice of just like, well, who do you speak to? I don’t know. I speak to people. I speak to humans. I speak to everyone, right? Or when someone asks a speaker what’s the problem that you solve or what do you speak about?

Grant Baldwin: And when speakers say, “Well, what do you want me to speak about? I can speak about marketing, or sales, or advertising, or leadership, or consulting, or parenting, or sports.” It’s just like you may know something about all those things. You may be passionate about all those things, but you can’t try to run a business speaking on all of those things. The best speakers on the planet say, “No, no. I speak to one specific audience and I solve the one specific problem,” versus trying to be all things for all people. One of the things we talk about inside the book is that you want to be the steakhouse and not the buffet. The steak house, not the buffet.

Grant Baldwin: Meaning, John, if you and I were going to go, we’re looking for a good steak dinner, we could … Actually, you’re up in the Kansas City area. I ate at a good barbecue place up there. Is it Q something?

John Jantsch: Q39, yeah.

Grant Baldwin: Q39 okay. So if we’re looking for like a good steak, good barbecue, we could go to a buffet where steak or barbecue is like one of a hundred different things that they offer or we could go to Q39 where they do one thing, but they do one thing really, really, really well. Right? You don’t go there for tacos, you don’t go there for lasagna, you don’t go there for spaghetti. You go there because they do barbecue. They do steak. They do one thing really, really well. That’s the thing that you want to try doing as a speaker is not trying to be all things for all people, because probably whoever the executive chef is at Q39 or whatever your favorite restaurant is, they could probably cook any number of things.

Grant Baldwin: But they say, “No, no. I’m going to make a conscious decision that I’m going to focus on this. I serve this audience in this way. I create this one type of product for this one type of audience. I create this one type of meal for this one type of person.” There’s people who are like,” Oh, I’m vegetarian so I’m probably not going to go to the Q39,” and that’s okay. You don’t need to go there. Right? That’s what you want to try to do as a speaker is draw a line in the sand and say, “No, I solve this specific problem for this specific person,” versus trying to be all things for all people.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think frankly, that’s the message I give for marketing in general. I mean, people don’t want our products and services, they want the problem solved. The company that gets that and can communicate that is probably the one that’s going to stand out in a company.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Because it’s so much, I think, sometimes especially for speakers, I hear people who come to us and say, “Hey, I haven’t really spoke before but I’ve got a cool story. I was in a car accident, or I lost my job and now I’m successful, or fill in the blank thing that has happened.” I always try to politely say, “Listen, nobody cares.” Like, “The audience doesn’t care. You’re in the problem solving business. You have to bring some type of solution.” Your story, that’s great, but the audience is always wondering how does that relate to me? You overcame cancer, you climbed yourself out of a hole, you overcame this crazy thing. But what does that have to do with my life, right? So, you always, again, being very solution-minded, what is the problem that you solve?

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about style. Maybe this is kind of a personal bias on my part, but we’ve all seen speakers that, I mean, they go there, and they educate, and they get a point crystal clear, and they simplified things. Then we all know speakers who are all over the map, but gosh, dang, they’re funny and entertaining. Which one should we be?

Grant Baldwin: I don’t know that there’s necessarily a right or wrong, but I will say that when you’re creating a talk, you want to create it through the lens where the audience is always asking themselves two questions, so what and now what. So what and now what. Again, going back to what we just touched on, the audience is always wanting to know so what. That happened to you? That’s great. So what? What does that have to do with me? And now what? What am I supposed to do as a result of this? So if the audience is like, they laughed a lot, but then they leave and they didn’t do anything different, and there’s nothing that was impactful, and they’re kind of like … Again, I think speakers, audience members, we’ve all left talks where you’re like, “It was good, but I don’t know. What am I supposed to do now? Or what was the point of that?” You know? You always want to connect the dots of so what and now.

Grant Baldwin: I think humor can be very, very effective, but it also kind of depends on the context. You know, if you’re hired to more like an in depth training, technical type of talk, then humor can break it up a little bit, but you’re probably need to be a little bit err more on the education side. Versus again, there’s other times where they want more of a lighthearted motivational inspirational type message, and so you may be able to use more humor. Some of it just kind of depends on the context of which you are hired in the group that you’re speaking to.

John Jantsch: If you’re not Magic Johnson, for example, what would you advise somebody? I mean, what’s a way, or what’s the path, or the type of talk, or the type of groups to talk where people get paid the most?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, so there’s seven different speaking industries that we talk about inside the book. You have corporations, associations, faith-based in churches, non-profits, government and military, colleges and universities, and education, K through 12, so elementary, middle school, and high school. Now, they’re each going to have different fee levels and they’re also going to have different supply and demand. There’s absolutely going to be some, especially like corporations associations, where typically you can charge more than others.

Grant Baldwin: But a mistake that I see some speakers make is they look at it purely through that lens, and it’s absolutely a factor, but it’s not the only factor. If a speaker just says, “All right, I want to be a speaker. Where can I make the most that?” In the same way that if you know, a college student says, “All right, I’m picking out a career. Which career pays the best?” That’s a horrible approach. Versus saying like, “No, no, I’m really passionate about this. Now that I have determined that and I’ve determined there’s a problem here and I’m an audience I can speak to, let’s absolutely maximize that and figure out how can I generate the most bang for the buck?” But it has to be more than just here’s the industry that I can make more in, so I’m going to pursue that.

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John Jantsch: Let’s go back to the let’s call it free speaking for leads. What’s a way for somebody to maximize that? There are plenty of places you can go speak for free, so how do you make sure that, and again, not selling product from the stage or coming off salesy. I mean, how do you maximize that?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. I absolutely think there’s a misconception that speaking for free is a bad thing. And so, what I would say to that is that if you’re going to speak for free, you need to know why you’re doing it. As a speaker, you are providing something of value and so you need to receive something of value in exchange. Now, ideally that isn’t in the form of a check, but let’s talk about some of the other different ways that you can receive value otherwise. Right? You mentioned if you have some type of service, and so not even necessarily a pitch from stage or a sell from the stage type of thing, but I can think of certain events where … In fact, I had this past week, there was a friend of mine that had like a small little local mastermind.

Grant Baldwin: There was like a dozen people there. Is a small little thing. I went and did a little session on some of what we’re talking about here. The guy who’s putting it on, he bought a book for everyone there, so that generated a little bit of revenue. But then also, there were people there that have already reached out about working with us for coaching, or consulting, or something like that. It didn’t pitch anything. I didn’t do any sell from stage. Same with like this right now, you and I, there’s no financial transaction between us, but there’ll be people who will listen that will probably start following some of our stuff or maybe reach out about inquiring about working together in some capacity, right? There’s certain lead generation that can happen that may not have come actually from pitching or offering anything from stage. That’s one route.

Grant Baldwin: Another thing may be the way that you get better as a speaker is you speak. The way that you get better as a writer is that you write. The way you get better as there anything as you do the thing. But in order to become better as a speaker, you typically need audiences, right? One of the ways that you could use speaking for free is just to get the practice, just to get the at-bats. Because when you’re creating a talk, you’re creating an educated guess until you get up in front of an audience. I think this is funny, I think this will resonate, I think this will make sense, but I don’t really know until I get up and speak, so speaking for free, just for the practice can make sense.

Grant Baldwin: Speaking for free and certain industry events where, let’s say there’s other event planners that may be there who may be looking for speakers like you. I know that there’s events that I have done knowing that if I do a great job, and I know that there’s the right people in the audience, that this is probably going to lead to additional speaking engagements.

Grant Baldwin: Then one other one I would mention to you would be for travel. I’ll give you an example. There is a friend of mine who doesn’t do a lot of speaking, but he got invited to speak at something in Europe. He’s like, “How much do I charge? How do I figure this out?” We we’re kind of talking that through. They invited him to come speak over there and I think it was in Spain. They had a lower budget than what he would have liked. I said, “Let’s talk through how you can turn this into a European vacation.”

Grant Baldwin: And so, long story short, they paid him, but then also paid for his wife to come along, paid for her airfare, his airfare, covered several additional nights in hotel there in the area. He’s like, “All right, I was able to make a little bit financially, but I was also able to get a European vacation with my wife out of it.” Right? There’s something of value versus saying like, “Oh, they didn’t have enough, so, oh well I’m just going to go ahead and do it.” He received value in a couple of different ways there.

Grant Baldwin: I don’t think it’s black and white versus like you got to check or you didn’t get a check. Always look for ways that you can receive value beyond just the check itself.

John Jantsch: Yeah. When I was first getting started and I would do what I called speaking for leads, when somebody would ask me to speak at an event, I had a price. It was $2,500, let’s say. But because you’re a nonprofit agency, and I’m local, and I want to give back to the community, I’m going to discount it to zero, but here’s what I want in return. Quite often, that conversation went, “Well, I got the list at the end or I got to make like just a little pitch at the end to say, here’s what I do if you want to find out more.” I think that that sometimes people forget to negotiate, like as you said at the outset, because you are delivering value.

Grant Baldwin: Right? Right. No, absolutely. You have to kind of pick and choose when makes the most sense. I wouldn’t recommend like speaking for free, and they’re not going to cover any travel, and I just need to practice and I have to fly halfway across the country to do it. No, but if you have an opportunity there locally at a Toastmasters, or chamber of commerce, or rotary club, or something like that. I’m just like, “I’m just going to try and get an at-bat, then yeah, it may make sense for you to do that there locally.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk a little bit, and of course you have a whole section in the book that covers this, but let’s talk about the actual talk itself and what makes one talk better than another. Is there a formula? How do I know that I’ve got the message delivered? I mean, what’s the process for that?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, so again, it can be intimidating when you are staring at a blank screen going,” I have some idea of what the talk’s going to be around, but I don’t know. Where do I begin? Where do I go?” And there’s not just this end all be all one way to do a talk. It’s not like, “I have to have an intro, and then I have to have three points, then I have to have a conclusion.” You know? You can certainly do that, but there are a lot of ways to go about that. Again, one of the things that we touched on there is always thinking through the so what now what, but also really beginning with the end in mind. You don’t want to get to the end of a talk and again be a have the audience be like, “I don’t really understand what was the point of that or where it was going.”

Grant Baldwin: Think of it like a road trip or some type of travel experience. You want to pick everybody up at the same origination point and you want to drop everybody off at the same destination, right? So thinking through where do I want to take them and what is the best logical path to get them from point A to point B. So, by the end of this, am I trying to get them to think differently, or feel differently, or act differently? I would say within this, one of the simplest things that any speaker can do is to tell a lot of stories. Stories are incredibly powerful, incredibly relatable, memorable, impactful. One of the simplest things you can do that has a lot of impact is to tell a lot of stories.

John Jantsch: I remember when I first got started, I was guilty of trying to pack too much into my talks because I was afraid. An hour? How can I talk for a whole hour? I put everything I knew into a talk, and about 30 minutes into it, everybody was exhausted. You certainly do learn that over time, don’t you, that you’ve got to actually give the audience the chance to breathe?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to kind of have some ebb and flow to it, so think about if you’re watching a movie, or a Netflix series, or something, you may have some intense heavy drama scenes that I got to really lock in and pay attention here. But after that, I need a minute just to catch my breath and to slow down. That’s where humor can work really well to just kind of break things up.

Grant Baldwin: In the same way, like in a typical TV show where they’re going to do several minutes of something, and they may have some different scene changes, but then they’re going to go to commercial, and part of it is from a financial ads perspective, and part of it is just to give the audience a mental break. Like, “Ooh, that was heavier, that was intense.” Or that was, “I just got to process that.” Right? Just you just said something that was really good. Just let me chew on that for a second. So yeah, learning to kind of add that the ebb and flow to the talk.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about the performance part of it, so when you’re up there on stage delivering, I mean, there certainly are practices and techniques that help you get across a message, or let’s face it, make you less distracting while you’re delivering the message. How do you suggest that people get better at that? I’m not sure if you’d even use the word performance, but that’s what I would call it.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. One of the best things that any speaker can do at any level is to practice. The best speakers on the planet that you look up to, you admire, you respect, you think, “Oh, they just scribble down some ideas on a napkin, they hopped up there, and they just wing it, and it’s just perfect.” It’s like, “Nope. Doesn’t work like that.” They spent hours, and hours, and hours practicing, preparing, rehearsing, going over their talk time, and time, and time again. So by the time they get up there, it does look like it’s just off the cuff. It looks like it’s just natural. But it’s because of the amount of time that they spent behind the scenes. That’s something that you don’t have to have any special talent or ability, you just have to be willing to commit to practicing.

Grant Baldwin: A way to think about this is if you think back to middle school, or high school, or college, or university and you remember taking a test or a quiz of some kind. You could show up and just kind of like, “Ah, I didn’t really study. I’m just going to wing it and hope it all works out,” And typically it doesn’t. Versus I’m going to spend the time going over my notes and reviewing and practicing and preparing. And so when I show up, not only does it typically go better, but I just feel more comfortable. I feel more confident because I’ve done the work going into it, versus again, just getting up there and hoping it all magically works out.

John Jantsch: How about getting training? Obviously, this is a layup for you I’m about to serve up. I mean, because again, practice is great, but in some cases practice will only take you so far, right? I mean, if you don’t have proper form shooting free throws, it doesn’t matter how many thousands you shoot. How should somebody go about getting training, or looking for training, or again, is that something everybody should invest?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, so a big thing that what we do, our company’s called the Speaker Lab and everything we do is over, but the core of what we do is on the business side. Because to your point, if you’re a phenomenal speaker and yet nobody knows you exist, it’s really hard to build a business that way. Speaking is very much a momentum business. Your best product, your best marketing is a great talk. The best speakers on the planet and those that are booked a lot isn’t just because they’re great marketers and isn’t just because they pay attention to it, it’s because they do a great job on stage. There’s absolutely two sides of the equation. But again, if you’re the world’s greatest speaker and nobody knows you exist, you’re out of business, and so you have to be able to communicate clearly who it is that you serve, who it is that you help, what’s the problem that you solve for them, and have a plan to actively be able to find a booked gig.

Grant Baldwin: The problem that a lot of speakers have is like, “Okay, I know who I speak to. I know what the promise that I solve. I’ve got a website, maybe I have a demo video. And now I just sit back and I wait for the phone to ring. I wait for some things to fall in my lap or wait for an email or an inquiry to come in.” It just doesn’t work like that. You have to be proactive and continually work at it over time.

Grant Baldwin: John, you’ve been in the speaking industry for a long time. It is certainly easier for you to get gigs today than it was years ago, but my guess is it still requires effort, it still requires work, and if you turn off the work and effort, and eventually those leads and those calls on those bookings are going to dry up. You have to continually to beat that drum, but having a system in place of knowing what to do and how to consistently do it is what’s really important there.

John Jantsch: Let’s transition to all right, so we got our talk down. We’ve found somebody who wants to hire us. Once we get the gig, are there some things that that more professional speakers do to, again, make sure that they’re prepared, make sure that the whoever booked them is communicated with that maybe they follow up afterwards? I mean, what are some of the best practices for making sure that hiring you was a good experience as well?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, that’s a great question. Think about it like if we went to a restaurant, right? Let’s go back to like a Q39 or some nice restaurant. Part of what you’re paying for when you go to that restaurant is the food, right? Absolutely, the food may be the star of the show, but part of what you’re also paying for is just the experience. So if you go to a nice restaurant and the food’s amazing, but the service sucks, and everything is slow, and the atmosphere is kind of, “Eh,” and just shady, and it’s just like everything else about it just lacks, it’s the same thing as a speaker who shows up who is amazing on stage, but they drop the ball in every other area. Part of what an event planner is hiring you to do is to be great on stage, but part of what they’re hiring you to do is to be really good to work with.

Grant Baldwin: And by really good, I don’t mean you’re a prima donna, or you’re this diva, or you need the jar of red Skittles, or you need this European imported water at a certain temperature. I just mean that you make their life easy. You look at it from an event planners perspective, and as a speaker, you’re an important part, sure, but you are one of hundreds if not thousands of moving pieces that an event planner is trying to think through. The easier you can make their life, the easier you can make their job, the more you can just really stay out of their way, the more likely they’re going to want to be to work with you, to refer you, to recommend you to others.

Grant Baldwin: As a quick example, when I was doing 60, 70 gigs a year, one thing we were always really diligent about was asking for testimonials and recommendations from clients that we worked with. I had a lady at the time that was helping me, her name was Lisa. Basically, I would work to book the gig and I would pass the Baton to Lisa and she’d handle contracts, and logistics, and travel, and yada, yada, yada. We’d get these testimonials and recommendations after the events, like, “Grant did awesome from the stage, Grant was worked great to work with, but man, we loved Lisa and Lisa was so good, and Lisa took care of everything, yada, yada, yada.” List and I always kind of have this joke of like, “Hey, if you’re great interacting with them and working with them, I don’t even have to be that great on stage, because you’ve made their life easy.”

Grant Baldwin: And sure, of course I’m going to do my best on stage to deliver, but part of what they loved was working with Lisa and the customer and the client experience that made it great. Part of what goes into that is just simple things, like whenever they send you an email with a question, that they don’t have to follow up a few days later, or they send you the contract, that you get that right back to them, and whenever they say, “Hey, please be here at 8:00 AM for an AV tech walkthrough,” that you’re not showing up at 8:15 with your Starbucks. You know? That you do what you say you’re going to do, that you are on time, that you’re punctual, that you’re professional, and that you’re just a good person to work with. That makes such a huge difference.

John Jantsch: Yeah. It’s just not that hard to stand out, is it?

Grant Baldwin: It isn’t it.

John Jantsch: Grant, tell people where they can find out more about the Successful Speaker and the work you’re doing at the Speaker Lab.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Like I said, everything’s at We have a podcast by the same, like we mentioned, that you have been a guest on. The new book is called The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid, and Building Your Platform. Like we said, anybody who’s interested in speaking at any level, whether that be full time or you just want to do a couple of gigs here and there, would definitely encourage you to pick up the book. The book is on Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles, and wherever you buy your books. Yeah, go check it out. The Successful Speaker.

John Jantsch: Awesome, Grant. Thanks for stopping by and hopefully we’ll see you soon out there on the road.

Grant Baldwin: Thanks, John.

Transcript of Cultivating Compelling Communications for Your Business

Transcript of Cultivating Compelling Communications for Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Justin Brady. He’s a podcaster, writer, and communications leader. He’s also the founder of an emerging tech PR communications company called Cultivate Strategies. So, welcome to the show Justin.

Justin Brady: John, I’m happy to be here. This is exciting for me.

John Jantsch: Well, I enjoyed being on your show a few weeks ago, I think it was, as well.

Justin Brady: Yeah, we did a show trade. That was fun.

John Jantsch: Yeah. So, we were talking before I started here, I think I’m going to call this a smorgasbord show. We’re just going to talk about a number of PR-ish topics. And what’s funny, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and back in the days when I knew editors and I knew writers at publications and we pitched them stories, and in a lot of ways that was a lot of, for small business anyway, that was a lot of what PR was. It kind of changed. How would you describe sort of the quintessential PR practitioner today?

Justin Brady: The quintessential PR practitioner or the practice?

John Jantsch: Well, either way. I mean, how does the practitioner go about doing their practice effectively?

Justin Brady: Got it. I think the thing that’s most overlooked in that is, just, it’s pretty simple, match a great story to the perfect journalist. And really, I am not a traditional PR comms guy. I kind of fell into it accidentally. And what I noticed was, I mean, I have a lot of emerging tech clients. I started out in design, slowly moved over to PR and communications. But my journey into PR and comms was basically when I wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal kind of by accident. And I started to get to know the industry from that side and realized, people are doing this wrong. And because I started getting, when I wrote that article, as you know, you start getting thousands of pitches from journalists. And never in my life had I seen more tone deaf pitches and they would just blast 20 paragraphs of junk that wasn’t even relevant. So I think the most simple way to say this, the most quintessential PR pitching tool is know what your story is, and know where to pitch it, and know what time to pitch it and keep it short. It’s really not any more complex than that.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think a lot of people lose sight of that. People talk about getting mass pitches, and email and trying to look for clients, or even on LinkedIn and stuff. And I think that that’s how you have to kind of look at it. This is a one to one sales job kind of. And so, I got a pitch 10 minutes before I got on the call today from something completely irrelevant to my [crosstalk 00:03:31] … I don’t know what list you bought, but I shouldn’t have been on it.

Justin Brady: I can’t tell you how many more cannabis pitches I can take. I mean, anybody listening, please stop sending me cannabis pitches. That’s great and all, but I just, my email box is full of them. I can’t handle anymore.

John Jantsch: So, you kind of said it but I’m going to ask the question directly. You wrote an article for Wall Street Journal, but if I want to get covered in the Wall Street Journal, I’m an author, I have books come out, I’d love to have somebody review it at the Wall Street Journal, one of my books. How do I go about pitching the big boys?

Justin Brady: Yeah. It’s really relevance and timing. One of the biggest breakthroughs I had for a client was I was just kind of listening to their podcast. It’s actually Bloomberg, and I think they re-publish it as the Bloomberg P&L. But it’s Lisa Abramowicz and Paul Sweeney, and it used to be, oh boy, his name’s going to escape me. We’ll get back to it later. But, I wanted my client to be on their show really, really bad, and so all I did was just start listening to their show constantly, every little thing. And one time they made some off the hand comment, and I immediately emailed the show host and said, hey, I noticed you said this comment. Oh, it was about, what was it about? It was about the skilled trade workforce and no one’s figured that out yet, blah, blah, blah. Some comment to that. And I immediately emailed him, found his address was published online. Didn’t use a tool or anything to look that up. Just immediately emailed them and said, hey, regarding your comment today about, I want to introduce you to my client because here’s what they’re doing.

Justin Brady: It was maybe a one to two sentence pitch. And his immediate reply, and he’s like, great, let’s make this happen. That was it. So it really comes down to hyper-relevant perfect timing. And here’s the big thing everybody misses, the right person and making sure that you research them, you know who they are, it really comes down to be a human. Know the other human on the other side and pitch them what you think they would want. And if you’re sitting here thinking, well Justin, I don’t have what they want. Well then don’t pitch them. Do not under any circumstance pitch them if you have a story they don’t want to hear, because that’s never in a gajillion years going to work. So if you’ve written a book on brick-making and you can’t identify anyone in the entire world that wants to write a story on that, sorry. Your only option is to identify a journalist who will want to write on that story, and of course creating a compelling angle and a compelling story is part of that too.

John Jantsch: You made a comment that I want to reiterate, that because you had researched this person, because you had listened, and let’s face it, anything worth a mention on that show is worth putting some time in to get it.

Justin Brady: Heck yeah.

John Jantsch: And I think that’s true of everything. But because it was so relevant and because you listened, did your research, you were capable of writing a very short pitch. And I think that that’s another thing that people underestimate too. They think they want to tell the entire story because they haven’t done the research, they don’t know that that person just needs to know, hey, here’s something you’re looking for and I know it.

Justin Brady: Yeah. Yeah. I think there’s another aspect to that too though. I work with a lot of emerging tech companies, and so they have a lot of incredible things they’re up to. And for me it’s just a natural ability. I can see this great concept, I know how to pitch it and get people to listen. But when I talk to entrepreneurs who maybe can’t afford to work with me or they just have some questions, usually I give the metaphor the example, I should say, about pitching an apple. If you’re going to pitch this apple to a journalist, don’t tell them everything about the apple in a single email. Don’t say it’s red, and it has flesh inside, it has seeds. If you cut it this way and that it tastes really great. You can cut it into wedges. You can cook apple dumplings with it, you can reduce it and put it in a marinade. Don’t go on and on and on. First pitch the color of the skin, then pitch the flesh flavor, then pitch the shape, then pitch the fact that there are seeds in it, then pitch one cooking recipe. It’s like deconstructing this puzzle. Don’t pitch the puzzle, pitch the pieces.

John Jantsch: So, you told me a little bit about something that you pulled off, and you called it a major marketing event that you paid nothing for. You want to kind of unpack that for us?

Justin Brady: Oh, are you talking about the creativity summit? A creativity event?

John Jantsch: Yeah.

Justin Brady: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I live in Iowa, and at the time I was doing a design company, graphic design. I ended up being really slow at it. The only reason that I was any good for my clients is because I knew it was bad. And so I could just eventually hammer something, get it in the right shape and send it off to them. But one of the things I wanted to do was, well, I mean, who doesn’t want this? I wanted this massive event that I could put my name on, pitch myself to the entire region and do it for free. Who doesn’t want to do that? So I just [crosstalk 00:09:14] … Say again?

John Jantsch: I said, sounds good so far.

Justin Brady: Yeah, it sounds. So, I just put this harebrained idea together. I’m going to bring a speaker in, I’m going to call it the Iowa Creativity Summit. At the time, Iowa was very risk averse, insurance focus, Ag, banking, and I just didn’t see a lot of stuff like this. Iowan’s are pretty smart, they’re extremely intuitive. We’re used to having presidential candidates come to our state for crying out loud. But I wanted an event that would bring together creative ideas. So I invented, I mean, it’s the dumbest name ever, but the Iowa Creativity Summit. And I just thought previous podcast guest, Matthew May, this is before the podcast, but I thought, Matt will be a really good fit. So I asked Matt if he’d be willing to do it. He said, sure. And then I pitched the idea and the date to Drake University, a local university. If you watch the Democrat presidential debates, one of them was at Drake University.

Justin Brady: And they ended up saying, oh, we like this idea. Sure, we’ll partner with it, and we’ll give you use of our space for free and we’ll give you a reduced cost on catering, something like that I think. And once I had them, a respectable name, I started pitching it to … There were three of them. So some of these sponsors are going to blend in. There were sponsors some years that weren’t on other years. But, once I started pitching this idea, Wells Fargo, Principal Financial, Century Link, a bunch of others ended up saying, sure, what the heck. And they ended up throwing in the money. And so I had this event, I went and got a bunch of earned media for it in this state, got all over the place and I was the lead sponsor. And when it was all said and done, I think I actually did lose a little money on it. I think I lost $1, something like that.

Justin Brady: But I was the lead sponsor and my company name was alongside all these giant fortune 500 companies. And I brought in Matt, and people had a great time and I did not pay a single dime for it. But I got all that free earned media and got a lot of connections out of it. So, I didn’t keep great records from back then, that was a long time ago, but I think it was somewhere around 30 to $50,000 event that I didn’t pay a dime for.

John Jantsch: Wanted to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers. And this allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation email autoresponders that are ready to go. Great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships, they’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docu series, a lot of fun, quick lessons. Just head on over to BF, Beyond Black Friday.

John Jantsch: Let’s switch to social media. In the last, I don’t know, let’s say 8 to 10 years, it’s really changed the landscape. You mentioned earned media. It’s really changed the earned media landscape, I think. All of the publications now are doing podcasting or on all the social platforms. What role do you think that plays for somebody trying to get their name in front of people that cover their business, their industry, their town?

Justin Brady: Gosh, that’s a good question. Especially right now, I’m kind of wondering what the future of social media even is, because it’s just this, I mean, it’s this bizarre … To me. I’ve been on Twitter, and Facebook and LinkedIn forever, but it’s just this bizarre amorphous thing that kind of does what it wants when it wants. I see certain accounts grow completely overnight, other accounts that I follow that have amazing information they post all the time don’t seem to get anywhere. So it’s partially confusing. But I think the most standard use for this, or the most standard, I don’t know what the right word is here, John, but the most consistent thing is if you’re able to connect on a deep emotional level with people out there and you’re able to really find that niche, you seem to do quite well.

Justin Brady: And I think a lot of people are super scared to put their true self out there, because they think deep down inside I have these unique ideas and I don’t think there’s anybody like me anywhere. I think I’m kind of this lone crazy person. And so they don’t put those ideas out there in fear that they won’t be received. But in my opinion, the people who really do put the crazy ideas out there, the extreme ideas, those are the ones who really gather a following quickly. Because when it really comes down to it, your ideas probably aren’t as crazy as you think they are. It’s just that no one is repeating that out loud and people are waiting for someone else to say it first. So it seems like the people that are able to do that and be really, really bold, those are the ones that seem to drive followings. I was telling some young writers, it was a couple of weeks ago, if you post stuff, when you’re posting stuff, whether it be an article or something on social, if you’re not a little bit nervous posting that, something’s wrong.

John Jantsch: All right. I mentioned at the outset that I was on your podcast. Tell me what role the podcast plays in your business? And I think you’re like me, you’re a fan of podcasts. There’s lots of uses for it. I’d love to kind of get your take on what it’s meant for your business.

Justin Brady: For my business, it’s put me in touch with people, like yourself, John, that are absolutely incredible movers and shakers. And when I can tell people, well I know John Jantsch, I mean, come on, I look like a superstar, but it’s just for knowing you. But that is a big thing. Honestly, the podcast kind of started just for fun. I didn’t really have a strategy or purpose outside of, I had been writing frequently for the Washington Post, and I interviewed some absolute … John, because you’ve written all over the place too. When you call, say I’m writing an article for Ink, or I’m writing for Forbes, or I’m writing for the Wall Street Journal, or I’m writing for the Washington Post, people tend to respond to calls a little bit more quickly.

Justin Brady: And so, I ended up interviewing just some fantastic people. And as you also know, John, when you write these articles, they have to go through editors and editors snip things they don’t like, or that don’t work, or that are maybe a little off topic. And so, after that happened a few times I was like, gosh darn it. These were really good interviews, and the editor was right, they didn’t entirely fit what I was writing, but it’s a shame that that interview and that knowledge was just simply lost forever. So I reached back out to a bunch of these people and said, hey, I’m starting a podcast. You said some fantastic things and it’s a shame those didn’t get permanently documented. Do you mind coming back and saying that on my recording, on this podcast? That’s basically how it started. And, in that way I was able to capture all this data and capture all this information that normally I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture.

Justin Brady: It’s opened up connections. Fast forward to today, I’ve interviewed, Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, I’ve interviewed Blake Irving, the former CEO of GoDaddy. So it’s opened up connections, but it’s also opened up a never ending bottomless content stream that, I mean, people are hitting my website constantly and I’m getting inquiries all the time from people that there’s just no way without that kind of content strategy and without that kind of … Obviously later I leveraged it for marketing for my own brand. But without that, there is no way I’d be getting the clients and the inquiries I’m getting today. There’s just no way.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I was kind of the same way. I tell people all the time that I didn’t start my podcast so I’d have some big listenership, or sponsors, or anything like that. I really did it because it gave me a chance to talk to people I wanted to talk to. And as you said, even if they hadn’t heard of Duct Tape Marketing, and there’s something … I send all my emails out, and the subject line, interview request. And there’s just something about the call to be interviewed.

Justin Brady: Oh my goodness, you’re totally hitting on it. Can I interject something really quick to what you just said? So this is a dirty little tactic, and well, it’s not dirty, it’s honest, but this is a little tactic. I’ll give it to all your listeners for free. I don’t talk about this because I don’t want too many people replicating it and doing it all over the place, and I don’t want my competitive edge with a few of my clients lost. But I know the quality of person you are, John, therefore I know the quality of people that listen to this. One of the little tactics I’ve been doing for a few of my clients is, because one of them has a tighter budget, and so I was like, I want to generate a lot of really relevant content for these folks, but I have limited time, they have limited time. What we’ve been doing, and this lines up with what you just said, is they go to conferences all the time. That’s one of their sales strategies.

Justin Brady: So what I do as a freelancer, is I reach out to that conference or to a speaker at that conference and I say, hey, I’m a freelancer and I’m writing for this company. I just want to interview you and ask you a few questions. Is that okay? I would say about 20% of the time they respond favorably. So that’s why I ask three or four people at each conference. And when they respond favorably, I do a Q and A with them and I run it as a Q and A, so therefore all these movers and shakers in the industry that have massive social influence end up writing my content for me, or for my client rather, and then we just publish that out there and then they share it because it was an interview. It’s incredible what you just said. Interviews open doors.

John Jantsch: So, you had also mentioned that a part of this, I mean, content and SEO are pretty much codependent. So, what you just mentioned, how does that play into kind of figuring out the best way to write content if you’re going to hopefully land in the search engines?

Justin Brady: So, we went through this awkward phase of, and it’s a sad, awkward phase, where Google was figuring out how to do this right. And they’re still trying to figure it out. But we went through the sad phase where content was king, and when I mean content was king, I just mean lots of content was king. And so we just had garbage articles everywhere. If you’ve ever done a Google search for how to toast toast or something, it’s something that’s should be really simple. It should be like two sentences long, and you get to one of these posts that’s like, toast was invented in 1875. And you’re like, what the heck is all this crap? I just wanted to toast toast. So, this is why they do it though, because they need to hit these thresholds, and they need to hit a certain word count and they need to basically make the Google gods happy. And then you’ll see the same repeated words over and over again. And you’re like, was this guy an idiot or drunk when he was writing this?

Justin Brady: And so this is like, we went through this dark phase of just more crappy content actually did kind of help you, at least get in the search rankings. Those days are over. Google’s smart enough now where content is no longer king. It’s quality content is king. So, great. And that they’re looking at original images because they have that, if you’ve ever answered the Google survey, is this an image of a cinnamon roll or a dog? Google has intelligent systems now that can identify these photos. So any original photos, if you’re getting original quotes, original information, and Google can’t find this anywhere on the internet, it’s totally original, and if you’re writing a nut graph really well, if you’re teasing people enough to get them to read down the page, if you’re providing great content, if they’re sharing that content, all of these things now are starting to be rewarded.

Justin Brady: And I firmly believe, I can’t prove it, I don’t have any insider access, but I firmly believe that Google will start to reward shorter content in some capacity. Because you see some blogs that are ultra short, but the writer is a genius so they’re able to compact 2000 words into 200. So I firmly, I guess I should say I firmly hope, that extremely short content will also get rewarded. But I just tell my clients, my content strategy summed up is I’m going to turn you into a world-class magazine, and we’re going to write content that you would normally see in a world class magazine. And one client quit because I was actually telling their leadership team to go out and interview people in their space, and go out and find that content, do the research, and they just thought we’d be generating content effortlessly. I was like, no, you guys got to put the time in. They didn’t want to hear that.

John Jantsch: All right, Justin, speaking of time, we’ve come to the end of ours. Tell us where people can find out more about you and your work.

Justin Brady: Well, if my voice hasn’t turned you off or irritated you yet, please everybody go to You’ll see Mr. John Jantsch there. I have an interview with you, like you said, about a month ago, something like that. Or you can just Google me. But yeah, I would love everybody to subscribe to the Justin Brady show. It’s on every single podcast platform on your phone right now.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Justin, thanks for stopping by and spending some time with us, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road.

Justin Brady: John, thank you so much. This was a lot of fun.

Transcript of Changing Minds in Sales, Marketing, and Business

Transcript of Changing Minds in Sales, Marketing, and Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Zephyr CMS. It’s a modern cloud based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. You can find them at, more about this later in the show.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Jonah Berger. He’s a professor, professional professor I suppose at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and he’s an expert on things like word of mouth and viral marketing and social influence and he’s also the author of several books. We’re going to talk about his newest one, The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind. Welcome Jonah.

Jonah Berger: Thanks for having me back.

John Jantsch: So before we get into talking about the book, I do want to compliment you on the palette of colors on your covers. They’re all very neatly tied together. If we had them together right now, people would see yellow for the new book, kind of an aqua and then an orange and they all just really fit together as a set.

Jonah Berger: That’s my goal, [inaudible 00:01:16] you want to collect all three, you want to have them as a reference next to your desk.

John Jantsch: That’s awesome. So I have heard you called a world renowned expert on change and I just wonder what’s the training for that?

Jonah Berger: You know, I’ve spent over 20 years doing research on the science of change, whether we think about changes as persuasion, whether we think about change as social influence, everything from a PhD in marketing in this general area to hundreds of studies that we’ve conducted in the space. So I don’t know if world renowned is exactly right, but hopefully it’s at least close.

John Jantsch: So before we get into kind of the framework and what the book is really, kind of breaking the book down in chunks, what would be the scope of the application? I mean, people need to change bad habits. There needs to be culture change at large organizations. Are you prepared to say this kind of works regardless of the scope?

Jonah Berger: I would say it’s more focused on others than the self, though, certainly you can apply some of the ideas to the self. I think the quick story behind this book is I’m an academic, so I’ve taught at the Wharton School for 13 years now, a number of years ago, came out with this book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, had worked with companies before then, but, nowhere close to the scope of what happened afterwards. And so I’ve gotten the chance to work with large fortune five hundreds from the Googles and the Nike’s and the Apples to small startups and mid size companies and B2B and B2C, dry cleaners, everything, every business you can imagine. And I really learned a lot about what businesses are wrestling with. And I realized that everyone in some level had something they wanted to change.

Jonah Berger: So the sales people want to change client’s mind and marketing wants to change consumer behavior. Leaders want to transform organizations. Employees want to change their boss’s mind. Yet change is really hard. Whichever of those things we’re trying to change, we often have tried a number of times and we’ve often failed. And so what I started to wonder is could there be a better way? And so, in the last few years, both on the research front as well as on the consulting side, spent a lot of time trying to figure out, okay, could there be a better way to change minds and organizations, might there be a more effective approach? And if so, how can we codify that approach and how people apply it?

John Jantsch: Okay. So before we get into that approach, and I was going to say, I was basically going to ask you why is change so hard? You just kind of stole my thunder there and said change is hard.

Jonah Berger: Oh, sorry.

John Jantsch: No, but really, I’m sure in your research, a lot of what you discovered is why it’s so hard. What are some of the reasons that people resist change so much?

Jonah Berger: Yeah, I mean I think at its core, often when we try to change something, whether it’s a person’s mind, whether it’s organization, whenever it is, we default to some version of what I’ll call pushing. So we send more emails, we provide more information. We give more reasons. We think if we just explain why something is a good idea, why we want people to do something, they’ll come along and that intuition makes a lot of sense. Implicitly it comes from the physical world, right? When you have a chair, whether it’s at home or at your office and you want to move that chair, pushing that chair is a great way to go, right? Provide more compulsion, more pushing in one direction, why people should do something in particular and that chair will move in that direction. There’s only one problem. People aren’t like chairs.

Jonah Berger: When you push people, they don’t just go, they tend to push back. When you push them in one direction, they don’t just listen. They tend to think about all the reasons why what you’re suggesting is wrong and they tend to sometimes even go in the opposite direction. And so what I soon realized is that successful change agents don’t think about why someone might change but what they could do to get someone to change. They ask a very slightly but importantly different question, which is why hasn’t that person changed already? What are the barriers or the obstacles that are in their way and how can I mitigate them? I think a good analogy, if you think about getting in a car, so you’ve parked on an incline, you’re getting in your car, you stick your key in the ignition, you put your seatbelt in, you step your foot on the gas, you’re ready to go.

Jonah Berger: If the car doesn’t go, we often just think we need more gas, right? If I just press on that gas pedal a little more, the car will move. But sometimes we just need to depress that parking brake. Sometimes we just need to get rid of the stuff that’s in the way that’s preventing change from happening and mitigate it. And so that’s what the book is all about. It talks about the five key or common parking brakes or barriers, obstacles that prevent change. And how by mitigating those obstacles, removing those obstacles, we can make change more likely.

John Jantsch: So let’s talk about, and I do want you… You’ve even got a nice acronym, so we definitely want to unpack the framework, but there’s, again, I want to keep drilling on this where maybe people get it wrong. I know early in my career, I mean everybody sells. It doesn’t matter what your title is at some point you’re selling. And I remember I used to really make the mistake, took me a long time to learn this, I used to really make the mistake of saying, Oh, well this is their problem, clearly, and going and telling them what they were doing wrong. I learned pretty quickly, that was a great way to get a lot of resistance.

Jonah Berger: Yeah.

John Jantsch: Even if I was right.

Jonah Berger: Yes.

John Jantsch: In your research, is that one of the kind of common mistakes that, be they salespeople or anybody trying to change somebody’s mind makes?

Jonah Berger: Yeah, I think what you’re pointing out is to get someone to change, we really have to understand them and that’s often hard for us, even our personal lives, right? As you were talking, this happens in our personal lives all the time, right? We think we know what’s best for someone. We think we know why someone’s doing something. We make a suggestion, but we don’t actually understand the core, the core reason. I talk about this a lot is finding the root. So I think about this. I don’t have a large yard, but I have a large enough yard that I have to weed and often when we want to get rid of weeds, we do the same thing when we’re trying to sell, which is we just do the quickest approach, right? We just rip the top off that weed and we move on to the next one.

Jonah Berger: We want to convince 10 people, we want to as quickly as possible, convince the first and move on to the next. But the problem is if we don’t understand the core, that underlying issue, and if we don’t find the root cause of what the problem is, it’s going to be really hard to get that person to change or get rid of that weed. Weed is just going to grow back. And so we really have to spend more time getting outside of ourselves, understanding that person, where they are in that journey, whether it’s a customer journey, employee journey, whatever it might be, where they are in that decision making process, what stage they’re at, what the barriers are that are preventing them from doing what we want them to, and then figure out how to mitigate them. Someone said it very nicely, we need to stop selling and get people to buy in. And I think that’s a really nice way of articulating it. Right? Stop thinking about what we want. Think more about what they want and it’ll make it more likely that they can persuade themselves.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And on the flip side of that, I guess, where I’ve felt like I’ve had my most success in getting somebody to change is to actually get them to see how much it’s costing them, not to change.

Jonah Berger: Oh, yes.

John Jantsch: Or if we did achieve this result it would be worth like 10 times what the investment is and so I’d be silly not to change. I mean that, getting that kind of, I guess what you just called buy-in is really important, isn’t it?

Jonah Berger: Yeah. I mean one of the chapters talks about this idea of the endowment effect, which is basically we value things we’re doing already more than things we’re not, which is great for the status quo, right? We value the status quo highly. The project we’re doing, the client we’re using, the software we have already, we know it and even though it has problems, we like what we have already. The problem is we’ve got to get people to switch to something new and they think that sticking with the old thing is costless. People talk a lot about switching and costs, right? The time, money, effort or energy to get people to switch. When you buy a new phone, for example, it costs you money. You install a new software package it requires time and effort to get it to work without all the other systems.

Jonah Berger: As a leader you try to get people to be more innovative. Well that’s costly. They have to change their practices of what they’re doing, but it’s particularly challenging because they’re attached to that old way of doing things and they think the old way is fine. Essentially we think, okay, we just keep doing what we’re doing. It has no cost. But often the status quo is not as costless as it seems. And so what that chapter talks a lot about is how do we make people realize that doing nothing actually isn’t costless. There’s a cost to doing nothing and it’s more expensive as you articulated than people might actually think.

John Jantsch: Oh, often is, yeah. You know, today content is everything. So our websites are really content management systems, but they’ve got to work like one. Checkout Zephyr. It is a modern cloud-based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. It’s really easy to use. It’s very fast, won’t mess with your SEO. I mean, it really reduces the time and effort to launch your client’s websites, beautiful themes, just really fast, profitable way to go. They include an agency services to really kind of make them your plug and play dev shop, checkout that is

John Jantsch: So what role does choice play in getting people to change their mind? So in other words, give people 10 choices so that they can pick the one they want, because we all want options. I’ve learned at least over the years that actually causes paralysis.

Jonah Berger: Yeah. So the first chapter in the book, the first content chapter, the first letter in the framework, is an R for reactance. And I’ll briefly talk about reactance and then I’ll go to answer your question about choice. To understand why choice happens, it is important, we need to understand reactants. That’s basically what we talked about before where when we push people, people push back and in a sense people have an almost innate anti-persuasion radar, just like an antimissile defense system. When we detect incoming projectile, the boss is trying to convince us, a client’s trying to convince us, a salesperson is trying to convince us. Whenever we feel someone’s trying to convince us, we put our defenses up. We either ignore the message, we avoid listening to it in the first place or even worse, we counter argue, right?

Jonah Berger: People often talk about this, you pitch something, someone’s not just sitting there, they’re sitting there thinking about all the reasons why you’re wrong, why what you’re suggesting is a bad thing to do. And so whether we’re a boss and trying to get an organization to change, or get people to change or whether they’re a consultant or a sales person or a marketing person trying to get a client to change, we need to think about how we avoid that anti-persuasion radar. And in a sense, part of the problem is people like to feel like they have choice, freedom and autonomy. I like to feel like I’m the one driving what’s happening in my life. Why did I decide to take this particular job? Because I like this job. Why did I decide to buy this particular product or service? Because I felt it’s the best product or service.

Jonah Berger: But if someone else is also trying to convince me to do it, it’s not clear whether I did it because I like it, I’m in that driver’s seat or someone else likes it and they are in the driver’s seat. And so because of that, people push back. So one way to deal with that is to provide a choice but a certain type of choice. And that’s where I think it gets to your initial question. So think about a meeting, right? We’re trying to pitch somebody on something in particular. If we give them one option, they often sit there and think about all the reasons why that option is wrong. So if we’re a leader, for example, we’re trying to change organizational culture. We have an all hands meeting, we say, Hey guys, we need to do this. This is how we’re going to behave moving forward.

Jonah Berger: The challenge, everyone’s sitting there going, God, how are we going to implement this? Is it actually going to work? It’s going to be super expensive. How’s it going to affect my compensation? I was working with a midsize real estate firm, was dealing with the lack of this or changing the way they do business, but everyone’s worried about their compensation. So they’re sitting there going, what’s in it for me? And so rather than think about all the upsides of the change, I think about all the reasons why it doesn’t work. And so what smart leaders and smart catalysts do in this situation is they don’t just give people one option. They give people multiple. Rather than giving people one choice, they give them at least two. And what it does, it subtly shifts the role of the listener.

Jonah Berger: Because rather than sitting there thinking about all the reasons wrong with what’s being suggested, now they’re sitting there going, which of these two or three things do I like better? Which is the best for me? And because they’re focused on which is the best for them, they’re much more likely to go along at the end. It’s guided choice in a sense. And you’re very right, it’s not infinite choice. It’s not 50 options, it’s not 40 options, it’s not 30 options. It’s two, three, may be four, enough to give people freedom. It’s choice but with you choosing the choice set. You’re choosing a limited set, a guided set of choices among which people are choosing from. They get to feel they participated, they feel like they had some freedom and autonomy. But you’re shaping that journey along the way.

John Jantsch: So I should let you, at this point I bet you’ve mentioned several of the elements. I should kind of allow you to talk about the framework itself and how you would, as you mentioned, codify helping people make change.

Jonah Berger: Oh yeah, sure and we’re not going to have time to cover all five, so it’s no problem. But the book talks about the five main barriers or five main obstacles to change. Whether you’re trying to change minds, organizations or whatever it might be. The five fit into a framework. It’s reactance is the first one we talked a little bit about. Endowment is the second. Distance is the third. Uncertainty is the fourth. Corroborating evidence is the fifth. Take those five things together, they spell the word reduce, which exactly what good catalysts do, right? They don’t add temperature, they don’t add pressure, they don’t push harder, they don’t add more reasons. They’ve reduced the barriers or those obstacles to change. And so the book is all about what each of these obstacles is. What’s the science behind it, why is it such a prevalent obstacle, and then what are some ways that we can mitigate it.

John Jantsch: So we’ve talked, I feel like we’ve talked probably about reactance quite a bit. So you want to maybe just go down the chain and talk a little bit about endowment?

Jonah Berger: Sure, yeah. I’ll talk about whichever one seems the best fit, but happy to talk about endowment. The idea of endowment, and I alluded to this a little bit already, we tend to be very emotionally attached to the status quo, what we’re doing already. Homeowners for example, the longer they’ve lived in their home, the more they value it above market, right? Why? Because they can’t believe that no one would value it as much as they do because they’ve been doing it so long. But there’s lots of very nice experiments that show this in a variety of contexts. Compare something you don’t have already with something that you do have already, and we tend to value that thing we have already more. So if I give you a coffee mug, for example, and I say, Hey, so you don’t have that coffee mug yet, I asked you how much you’d be willing to pay to buy that coffee mug.

Jonah Berger: You assign a value to it. I ask a different set of people, okay, here is this coffee mug. It’s yours. How much would you pay to sell it? Now you think that the buyers and sellers would have the same valuation for that mug. It’s still the same mug, still holds coffee and tea looks exactly the same, but the people that already have it value it more, because for them it’s the status quo. It’s what they’re used to. They’re endowed with it already. And so as leaders, this is really hard because the stuff we’re already doing, people value it more. They know it, it feels safer. The new things feel risky and uncertain. And so it’s really hard to get people to budge off the old ones because they value what they’re doing already.

John Jantsch: What role does social proof play really in change? I see a lot of times people are more convinced by saying, Oh yeah, look at these other people are doing it. Okay, maybe that is a safe choice for me to make because… Is there an element of we don’t trust ourselves unless we get that kind of proof from other people?

Jonah Berger: Yes. Yes, and… I would say yes. We don’t trust ourselves. We also don’t trust the one person that’s trying to convince us. So imagine you walk into the office Monday morning or you’re talking to friend Monday morning and they go, Oh my God, I saw the most amazing television show this weekend. You’d absolutely love it. This is what it is. Okay. You have some information, you know that person likes that show, but you’re trying to figure out a couple things. One, you’re trying to figure out, does that mean the show is good, to say something about the show? Or does it say something about them? And second, what does their endorsement mean for whether I would like it? In some sense you’re looking for proof and there’s a translation problem, right? If one person likes something, it’s hard to know if it says about them or the thing itself. And so often we’re looking for multiple others to provide that source of proof.

John Jantsch: So how much, in your opinion, do these principles apply, say in copywriting? Obviously you’re not sitting across the desk, but you’re trying to make change. Is there sort of a path that you need to walk down or that you could potentially walk down say in a document?

Jonah Berger: Oh, certainly. I think a lot of the examples in the book are ones about people talking to others, but many are also about written language. Even something when we’re dealing with reactants, for example, asking questions rather than making statements, right? So as soon as we make statements, that radar goes up, right? People are counter-arguing with those statements. Instead, good change agents often ask questions. Think about in a health context, for example, rather than telling people, Hey, smoking is bad. Ask people a question. What’s the consequence of smoking for your health? Right? A great leader did this, this wasn’t in copywriting, but I was in a meeting, obviously leaders want to get their employees to work harder. Guy was trying, it was working. It wasn’t really working. When the boss says work harder, everyone says, ah, no thanks. So instead what he did in the meeting and said, Hey, what type of organization do we want to be?

Jonah Berger: Do we want to be a good organization or great organization? Now obviously we know how everyone answers that question. No one goes, we want to be an okay organization. Everybody goes, Oh, we want to be a great organization. And then he said, okay, well how do we become a great organization? And then what the room has is a conversation about how they get there. But because they’ve participated in that conversation, it’s much harder for them not to commit to the conclusion later on because that conclusion was something they reached on their own. Right? It’s they have stake, they have a stake in the outcome. They have skin in the game. And so in some sense they’re much more likely to go along with it. And so when you think about the same thing in copywriting, not using statements, but asking questions, giving people a chance to experience something themselves, not just providing information and reasons, but by reducing the barriers even in written form as well.

John Jantsch: Yeah, because it’s a bit of a journey, right? I mean you’re almost like going hurdle after hurdle, aren’t you?

Jonah Berger: Yeah. I think the customer journeys are really the important way to think about all this, right? What stage is someone in that journey? Why haven’t they moved to the next stage? Whether it’s a customer, an actual customer, or a customer in quotes, right? An employee can be a customer. They’re just a person who’s a part of a decision making process. Why haven’t they moved to the next stage of that journey? What’s stopping them and how can I mitigate that barrier?

Jonah Berger: I was working with a software firm a few years ago that helps companies find machine parts. So imagine you have a backhoe and it goes out. Something breaks. You got to find a machine part and they’ll help you find that faster and more cheaply. And they realized different customers had different issues, right? Some people didn’t realize they existed. That’s one issue. Other people realized they existed but didn’t think they had a problem. That’s the second issue. Other people realize they had a problem but didn’t realize that this thing would be a good solution or didn’t trust it. That’s a third issue. Other people trusted it, didn’t know if they could afford it. Other people knew they could afford it, but didn’t know how to integrate with the existing system. And so depending on where people are in that journey, we can write down that journey for anyone. What are those barriers, those roadblocks, those hurdles? How can we mitigate them and make it more frictionless to move to that conclusion?

John Jantsch: Well, I tell you the challenge in what I just heard you describing is, how do you get that story? How do you identify all of those challenges? I guess it’s just in objections that you’re getting maybe in sales presentations?

Jonah Berger: I think it’s some of that. I think it’s also collecting information. Even thinking about in sales presentation, asking more questions than just saying things. If you’re a leader of an organization, figuring out, well, how can I figure out what people need and what they’re not getting? Rather than sort of suggesting solutions, start with asking questions. Hey, we want to transform organizational culture, what are you guys worried about, about transforming our organizational culture? What do you think was good about the organization and what things do you think we could work on? Getting people’s buy in before making those decisions makes them much more likely to go along. And so some is, it requires a longer time, right? It certainly requires a bit more effort early on to collect that information, but it makes those transitions much more effective.

John Jantsch: Speaking with Jonah Berger, author of The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind. So Jonah, where can people find out more about your work and obviously the book itself?

Jonah Berger: Yeah, so the book is available wherever books are sold. So Amazon, Barnes and Noble, wherever you like, audio books as well. They can find me on my website. That’s just Jonah, J-O-N-A-H, Berger, And I’m also on LinkedIn as well as @j1berger on Twitter.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Jonah, thanks for stopping by yet again, and hopefully we will run into you soon someday out there on the road.

Jonah Berger: Thanks so much for having me.

Transcript of Creating Policy Changes to Benefit Small Businesses

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John Jantsch: Hey, marketing today has gotten harder. There’s so many new platforms. How do you reach the right audience? Fortunately, there’s a simple way. LinkedIn can help you speak with the right professionals at the right time.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Karen Kerrigan. She is the president and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. She also chairs the newly formed Small Business Round Table, a coalition of leading small business and entrepreneurship organizations. So Karen, thanks for joining me.

Karen Kerrigan: Oh, it’s great to be here. John, thank you for having me.

John Jantsch: And I assume you’re in chilly Washington DC today.

Karen Kerrigan: That’s right. Today it’s chilly. We’ve had no consistent temperature, sort of like the policy environment and economy in general. But we’re having a pretty good day today, pouring rain. But anyway, it’s busy though for sure.

John Jantsch: Are the cherry blossoms starting to peak out yet?

Karen Kerrigan: They’re starting to come out a little early, John, we’ve got… Actually at my home right outside of Washington in Northern Virginia, my front tree cherry blossom, they’re actually starting to bloom a little bit. So I think we could have an early year. We’ve had those before where actually the cherry blossoms came out and then we had a little snow on top of them. But they’re getting there. You can see the buds. And so the national park service, I’m sure it’s hard at work coming up with the exact date of those peak blooms so the tourists can all start coming in.

John Jantsch: So let’s start with describing kind of the primary charge of the SBE Council.

Karen Kerrigan: Sure. You bet John. So we, SBE Council, we are an advocacy, training, and research organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and protecting small business. We’ve been doing this for 25 years now and we have more than a hundred thousand members and small business supporters across the country and really do work on the policy and economic environment that’s going to help strengthen startup activity and small business growth.

Karen Kerrigan: So a lot is focused on policy both at the federal as well as at the state level. And we do a lot of international stuff as well. And then we work with partners, whether they are other associations or corporate partners or government on a variety of educational initiatives as well. But we’re here to support small businesses, to give them an environment in a climate where they can compete and grow and also encourage individuals to pursue the path of entrepreneurship. And obviously having a good economy most of the time, I mean obviously there’s been great businesses that started during depressions, but just having the good policy pieces in place and the ecosystem in place really does encourage people to take that risk of starting a business and there’s a lot of policy things that we’re working on that involve that.

John Jantsch: Well, so that is, I’m thinking through as a listener here, that sounds great at the global level and I know that I benefit from all of that as a business owner, but what do you tell that local business owner, entrepreneur that says, okay, well what’s in that for me? Like how does that directly benefit me?

Karen Kerrigan: Well, I guess you could drill it down to specific policies, right? So if you look at, for example, the latest Square/Gallup Survey that came out a couple of weeks ago and it asks small business owners what their biggest concerns are. It was what we hear a lot taxes, regulation, healthcare, tariffs, things like that. So on a very personal level with small business owners looking at their pain points, like, a complex tax system or higher taxes or affordable health coverage or a regulatory environment that might be too burdensome. We just work on the many pieces of that to push through reforms, to push through legislation, to push through regulatory changes that are going to lessen the burdens directly on small businesses. Whether that’d be the tax or the regulatory burden and do things that are going to create generally a better environment, business environment, so that consumers are spending, businesses are investing.

Karen Kerrigan: So it involves a lot of things because there’s a lot of different government agencies in Washington, whether it’s the Department of Labor or the EPA, the IRS. Look at… We do so much with the Federal Communications Commission because access to broadband is still a big concern and quality broadband for many business owners and entrepreneurs. And we think that’s really critical that everyone have good access to broadband. So they have the opportunity to start businesses or even quality broadband so they can take advantage of all the new tools in the platform based economy to help them better grow their businesses and compete their businesses. So it involves just, if someone thinks about their business and what their pain points are and maybe how government gets in the way, or maybe makes those things a little bit more burdensome and painful. We’re working on all those pieces to improve or to lift those burdens. So does that answer your question a little bit more? I know we could dig down into deeper issues like healthcare or anything else.

John Jantsch: I want to go there for one moment. Because that’s certainly the topic that… I mean you watched all of the political conversation, it seems like forever, it’s not just now. Healthcare gets batted around by every side as the big issue. And I think it’s probably one of the biggest questions for certainly employers in the small business space. Where do you see the future of that? Because it feels, when you listen to people talk about healthcare and in this country it feels a little bit unstable.

Karen Kerrigan: It does, because it’s almost like you have, well the government’s going to run it or it’s not, you know? It’s Medicare for all or… Well it is a little bit unstable but as we’ve worked on this issue for the past three or four years, even with the Obama administration as we have on a number of issues, making some good headway on a range of things. We do see light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the initiatives that we’ve worked on which has come to fruition include things like allowing for association health plans or for businesses to pool as part of an association or altogether where they can leverage their numbers to negotiate for more choices and more affordable prices in healthcare. And so we’re beginning to see more and more association health plans come to life.

Karen Kerrigan: I saw for example, the National Association of Manufacturers just started a big association health plan. You’ve got the restaurateurs who are starting them, you have many state based associations who are beginning to start these association health plan. So we help push that regulatory change forward over the last couple of years. But then once it gets enacted, John, these things, there’s lag time, right? And until like the regulation becomes final and then sort of the market responds to that. So that’s one area where we do see some improvement where there was some extra taxes as part of the affordable healthcare act. Some people call it Obamacare. We had a really good success last year where we’re able to, as part of the year end package that passed both Houses of Congress and signed by the president. We’re able to repeal the health insurance tax, which was a tax on insurance companies, but really it directly hits small businesses.

Karen Kerrigan: It was targeted towards small group market and so that’s been lifted and we should see some relief for small business owners over the next year or so. A lot of little things like that that are taking place. Short term plans, which are not for everyone, but we believe that transitional plans in the marketplace. If you’re currently work for a business, either a big business or another business and want to start your own business and you want to have some type of health coverage, making these short term limited duration plans, these transition plans a little bit more practical really helps that person to take a risk and say, look, I’ve got something, I’m ready to jump out in the marketplace. Because actually not having healthcare is a big reason why a lot of people don’t start businesses. But it could, as you know John, you’re right.

Karen Kerrigan: I mean, like you said, it looks like we’re a little bit of turmoil. It depends on the election and what happens in 2020 because most of the candidates, the democratic candidates, have some form of Medicare for all or something like that, or Medicare for some, as I call it. And that will mean more government control of the health care. And from our perspective that is served in many instances to drive costs higher. But there have been some gains made, there’s more to come. There’s definitely more that needs to be done. But there’s a host of things that have been done that were just, the market really has to start embracing these and there’ll be more access to this type of plans by small businesses once we see the associated health plans go full board.

Karen Kerrigan: But the other piece of that, John, I don’t need to belabor this, but is that some of the States are actually suing the government on association health plans for example, and saying, well, the Trump administration exceeded its statutory boundaries. It doesn’t have the right to do this. So when there is a lawsuit involved, that sort of stops some of these things from actually reaching the market. But your observation is absolutely correct in terms of there is turmoil. And I think we’ll continue to see that if we do have some big election changes in 2020.

John Jantsch: Did you know there are over 62 million decision makers on LinkedIn? Yeah. And even small and medium sized businesses are making the most out of LinkedIn ads. They’re using LinkedIn to get their voices heard and their messages to resonate with the audience. And it’s not just about awareness either. LinkedIn ads are driving traffic and engagement. If you want to check it out, try for yourself. LinkedIn is offering a free $100 LinkedIn ad credit to launch your first campaign. Simply visit D-U-C-T-T-A-P-E that’s So there’s some terms and conditions that may apply, but I urge you to go check it out for yourself.

John Jantsch: So move on. Let’s move on to another topic.

Karen Kerrigan: Yeah.

John Jantsch: We as a society, country, move more and more to knowledge and digital workers, one of the real challenges I’m seeing with a lot of businesses that still need skilled labor, they’re really having trouble finding it. The remodeling contractor is having trouble finding carpenters because people aren’t going to school to be carpenters anymore. How would you suggest, I mean, I assume we’re still going to need remodeling contractors for a while. What are you hearing or what initiatives are you working on really to try to kind of keep those types of industries and those types of training programs afloat?

Karen Kerrigan: You’re right. John, we hear this from every single one of our members and when I travel the country, their biggest challenge or their pain point is, I talked about taxes, regulation, healthcare, but that was more involved with like sort of on the government side. But in terms of the operation of their business it’s their number one issue. It’s finding and keeping the employees that they need to operate their businesses. And many of them are missing out on growth opportunities because they just can’t find the people, the skilled employees or even the employees to work in their businesses. And that’s across all industries. It’s one of these issues, I think, that really is… there are no short term solutions to it. But I think a lot of what the Congress on a bipartisan basis has done to work together along with the administration. I think are really making a difference or will make a difference and have in terms of expanding and modernizing a lot of the apprenticeship programs to include more high tech to include more of the workers that are going to be needed to build out 5G, the 5G infrastructure in this country.

Karen Kerrigan: We anticipate 120,000 more workers are going to be needed, skilled workers, to build out 5G which is incredibly important to small business and to our competitiveness to have that next generation of mobile networks. The other pieces is modernizing some of the laws. For example involving grants, Pell grants and student loans is student loans have primarily been given to students who are going to four year universities. Well why can’t we change that where students can use those type of resources or those funds to do some type of training program, apprentices training program to pursue the training that they need to go into a skills trade. I think the big piece also is it’s culturally it’s just the value of all work. And that starts a lot as I meet with small business owners throughout the country and we’re in some of these small towns a lot is, well gee, the parents are saying, well you have to go to college or you don’t need… you shouldn’t be working in this manufacturing plant, it’s harbor.

Karen Kerrigan: It’s like they’re, in terms of this type of work, I mean it’s good paying work. It’s sort of like what the child’s passion is or what they want to do. The parents, what they want the kids to do shouldn’t replace that. So I think it’s really this whole value of all type of work in this country and look at the wages are getting there. I mean they’re becoming very competitive for all this type of work. And then of course immigration. We’re big supporters, we’re a pro-immigration organization. We do believe that there does need to be immigration reform as some of the programs, the H1B visas and all of that. But we also support increased immigration into the country because if you’re going to have a growing economy and if we’re going to have increased jobs, we need more people to come into the country who can fill those jobs. So we’re fully supportive of that and we continue to push more immigration as a solution to our workforce shortages.

John Jantsch: Are there any policies or regulations that you’re working on right now that are kind of hot for you because you feel like they’re really holding small businesses back?

Karen Kerrigan: Well, yeah, there’s a number of them I think on the… Well, one big piece that we work on in terms of encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses to scale is access to capital. And it’s one of our core issues that we’ve been working on. We, unfortunately there was a huge bill jobs act 3.0 that passed the house in the last Congress. Only four people voted against it. And it was a package of about 30 bills that would improve a lot of the securities laws to make them more modern and it would improve capital markets, capital formation and that didn’t go anywhere in the Senate unfortunately. So we’re working from scratch and we are building support both at the FCC and also in both houses on making some more improvement to debt inequity based crowd funding because we led the charge on making debt inequity based crowdfunding legal.

Karen Kerrigan: It took four years John, to get those regulations implemented. It was crazy, but now we’re starting to see some legs and some momentum around crowd funding, about 2000 startups or small businesses have used title three crowd funding, which is allowing ordinary investors to invest in the businesses that they believe in on regulated platforms. And this is a good thing, but it’s still a little bit too regulatory, still looks too costly. We want to increase the amount of money that can be raised from one million to 10 million because the average seed round for a startup is about 2.5 million. So that is something we’re working on in terms of taking this proven model, there’s been no fraud and saying, gee, we’ve got to make this better and we need to make it better for more businesses and more practical for more businesses to use.

Karen Kerrigan: So that’s both a regulatory and a legislative thing. We also are working on with the National Labor Relations Board on what’s called the Joint Employer Rule, which sort of makes a very restrictive around the definition of an employee and whether they’re an independent contractor and the relationship between the franchise and the franchisee and it’s really hurting entrepreneurship and new franchise development and basically lot of compliance burden involved with that. So the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board should be coming out with a new rule on that. And we’re working on that. And then there’s a lot of regulatory things the Trump administration is doing and that’s where the action is going to be, John, because we do see this stalemate between the House and the Senate this year and there are some regulatory improvements that the administration is working on in terms of the National Environmental Policy Act that would modernize that and make it easier for projects to be improved.

Karen Kerrigan: This is really important to building out our nation’s infrastructure and getting some of these stalled infrastructure projects going. That’s a big initiative of ours. And we’re also working on, well there’s a whole host of things that I would encourage people to visit to sort of take a look at our agenda. But we’re also very much involved with getting… we’re moving barriers to 5G deployment so that we can get this next generation of mobile networks up and going. So we have faster speeds, more wireless service choices, more affordable speeds. It’s going to be really transformative for small businesses and entrepreneurs to have 5G to allow them to use augmented reality and virtual reality. To have customers to be able to actually try on clothes in the comfort of their own home or actually engaged with their products and services so that they can make that sale right away.

Karen Kerrigan: So that is another thing that we think, gee, we can work on without sort of having this partisan divide between the House and the Senate where there’s actually bipartisan support to move forward. And then trade is another thing. There’s going to be agreements with the UK and India and the EU and John, it’s mostly small businesses that are engaged in global markets and more access they have to global markets and the barriers get taken down. Then they could grow more, invest more and instead of to do what they do best for our economy. So that’s just a little snapshot I’m going on and on like a Washington person would do on the floor of the House or the Senate. My apologies.

John Jantsch: Well that’s all right. We covered a lot of ground there. So Karen, we have run out of time. Tell people where they can find out more about the SBE Council.

Karen Kerrigan: Yes. You bet, John. So, and you can follow us on Twitter @SBEcouncil, LinkedIn SBEcouncil, the same thing for Facebook as well, SBE Council. Please follow us on our website SBE Council. You could sign up our E news for free to keep you updated on all the things that we’re working on that impact your business, small business and entrepreneurship in general.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well thanks Karen for stopping by and hopefully we’ll see ya next time I’m in Washington.

Karen Kerrigan: You bet, John. Hope to see you as well.

Transcript of Great Experiences Make for Loyal Customers

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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Micah Solomon. He’s the bestselling author and one of America’s most popular keynote speakers on building bottom line growth through customer service. And we’re going to talk about his newest book, Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away), the simple playbook for delivering the ultimate customer service experience. So Micah, welcome back.

Micah Solomon: Oh, it’s great to be here, John.

John Jantsch: I can hear some people snickering saying, “Really, will they go away? Is that’s all it takes is ignoring them and they’ll go away?” But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, is it?

Micah Solomon: Well, I got that reaction once or twice and yeah, it can feel like that at the end of a long day, can’t it?

John Jantsch: It can sometimes, but again, we need those customers. Customers are King. Why is it that this is the part that is so hard for people to get right.

Micah Solomon: I think that by any objective standard customer service has improved over the years, but the thing is our customer expectations have skyrocketed as well. It’s not good enough to just do an okay job. And there’s so much value in doing a fantastic job because we’re no longer in the mad men era where Don Draper and Peggy Olson could convince you that Lucky Strikes were good for your throat, we’re not in that era anymore. We’re still interested in marketing, but only if it’s consonant with our experience as customers and the experience that our friends and the people we listen to online are having.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think the hard part about it is, I mean, really at the end of the day, businesses love their customers. They want to treat them well. They don’t want to provide bad service. But I think people underestimate just how hard it actually is to do it elegantly.

Micah Solomon: That’s exactly right. And I like to say I might… You’re interested how I’m a keynote speaker, I’m also a consultant. In fact, Ink crowned me the other day, Ink Magazine, as the world’s number one customer service turnaround expert. And then, which was so sweet and then he admitted I’m also the only one he’s ever met. But what I do is I walk into companies and I mystery shop them and see how they’re doing. And then I work with them to transform their customer experience, and what I find is most of the companies that hire me are already doing pretty well. They already understand the value of stuff, but they want to reach that exceptional level that you’re talking about. And it is hard. It is really hard. There’s many aspects to it.

John Jantsch: Yeah, that’s an interesting point because I know over the years a lot of the companies that have hired me to do marketing consulting are ones that kind of outwardly look like they’re doing all right. But it’s-

Micah Solomon: Yeah, exactly.

John Jantsch: … it’s the mentality of, but I want to invest in this that I think is really what you’re experiencing probably as well, isn’t it?

Micah Solomon: Yes. That sounds right.

John Jantsch: The kind of phrase or buzzword out there now is to be a customer first company. How do you take that beyond just the-

Micah Solomon: Smiling harder?

John Jantsch: … Team meeting?

Micah Solomon: Customer first, it’s a little bit of a misnomer, at least when I’m talking about it. I would say arguably employees should be first because they’re going to be delivering the service. But what we’re talking about with customer first, if we’re talking about the right way, is to take the customer’s perspective. I call this Micah’s Red Bench Principle, and it’s that the customers really only care about themselves. They care about their kids for sure and their spouse and their dog and so forth, but they don’t care about us as much as we wish they would. We need… Sadly, it’s true. So we need to see things from their perspective and understand they’re not really interested in our organizational chart, they’re not interested in any of that. If you can frame things in your mind and in your processes and in your attitude from a customer’s perspective, you’re going to do a lot better.

John Jantsch: All right, so that leads us right to how do you get in their head? I mean, how do you get that perspective?

Micah Solomon: Well that is an excellent question. You hire someone like me and I mean, there’s many different ways to do it, but you can hire someone like me to be your customer and see how it goes. And I can learn a lot. You could do this yourself as well. I would check all these things that you think are running fine and probably aren’t like… John, you’re like me, so you probably check this. But most companies never check their web forums to see if anyone actually answers those inquiries, the answers usually never. You check all those things. You make sure that it’s working the way a customer would want it to. On the website, you may want to hire a user experience person because that stuff’s really important too.

John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah. Our customers get to publish now. How has that dynamic changed not only customer service but certainly the need to be intentional about it?

Micah Solomon: I think of customer service as the new marketing and if you do a great job, if you provide a good customer experience and a warm customer service, then people are going to talk about you and they’ll also talk about you if you’re efficient and you’re in the right location and all that. But one thing they love to talk about is how they’ve been treated, so it’s extremely valuable. It’s also, I mean it’s arguably free. The staffing right, and so forth is not actually free but you do what you’re supposed to be doing and you get this free marketing as well, and of course it can go the other direction as well.

John Jantsch: Who in your mind, and I know you profile some bigger companies in particular that are household names in the book, but who do you think’s getting it right? That’s part A, and then maybe talk about a not so well known company that you think has gotten it right and that that’s made a difference.

Micah Solomon: The companies I cover in my book, Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away) range from ones that we all think about, Nordstrom’s, Zappos, we spent some time with both of them, USAA, which is huge in insurance and financial services and a lot of other stuff. Virgin Hotels, which actually will eventually be an enormous chain, but right now is only just a couple of hotels, we spent some time with them. Safelite Auto Glass, which if you think about it, they come into your life probably on a challenging day. I mean, best case is a rock hit your window and you need a new windshield. Worst case, someone actually intentionally broke your window because they broke into your car and replacing the windshield is only one of your problems. They come into your life on a bad day and they don’t only strive to make things okay, they strive to delight you. I spent some time with Safelite Auto Glass.

Micah Solomon: Some companies that I can see, John, neither of us need this but Drybar, which is for women and maybe men who are in hairbands, they’re the people who have done so well by offering a blow out and styling, we spent a bunch of time with them. MOD Pizza, which is growing like gangbusters and a voice over IP company named Nextiva. All of those, I would say are doing a spectacular job in very different industries.

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John Jantsch: Tell me a little bit about Safelite? Because I had one of those experiences where I had to replace my windshield. And I will tell you that I think the entire experience, I wouldn’t… I’d love for you to talk about the delight part, but I will just tell you from a get the job done part, it was delightful. I scheduled, they came out at the scheduled time, they replaced it, everything went great. I mean, from my standpoint it was so convenient, I was able to schedule the entire thing online, pay for it online. The person came out, I didn’t even know they were there and it was done. I mean, from that standpoint it was as frictionless as possible, but what did you find that they do that you feel is over and above that?

Micah Solomon: That’s a lot of it. And to pull that off is harder than I would imagine. They have to have the part ready, they have to marry the part to the work order. And then they’ve worked really hard on the scheduling part. They first did something that was too restrictive where they told you exactly when the driver was show up, but what they found was that the drivers out in the field wanted a little more control over it because maybe another job is going a little longer, they involve the drivers in that. They’ve done some things for people who are really worried about personal safety. You now get a little photo of the person, a little bio and so forth. I guess someone shows up, they’re a totally different person, you could head it off at the pass. The delight part. I think it’s most of those things that you talked about the frictionless, but it’s also the customer service training that they’ve gone into to make sure that they are treating you well on a personal and personable level.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about silos inside of organizations.

Micah Solomon: Oh, no.

John Jantsch: A lot of organizations have marketing and sales and service, as separate arms of the organization. Maybe you’ve not encountered any of these, but I’m told they exist still today. When it comes to the idea of customer service, or a perspective about this customer first thinking, what role do marketing and sales play in that? Again, I know that’s a really loaded and big question, but I guess in some ways, another way I could ask that is as how do you get every marketing, sales and service kind of all on the same page?

Micah Solomon: Well this is really important and many people have studied this. You don’t want the salesperson who over sells beyond what the customer support team can really bring to life. Marketing, you don’t want to over sell your product and then have it be beyond what your company can provide either. That’s very important. And then having the salespeople really know the product, really know the team that’s supporting the product. I think all of that’s extremely important. Now, John, you live way out in the country, so doesn’t it potentially get a little bit sick when people talk about silos and it’s entirely a metaphor at this point?

John Jantsch: That is a good point. I grew up on a farm, so we put grain in those silos.

Micah Solomon: Totally.

John Jantsch: All right, let’s talk about generations. I have four millennial aged children and their buying habits or the way that they consider who they’re going to buy from, who they’re going to stay with are substantially different than mine, I think. Or at least a different setup. I wouldn’t say there’s… We have the same values and connection with companies. But I think that, for example, if they go on a website, it doesn’t work the way they think it’s supposed to work, that’s the end of the story. Whereas I might go, ah, this is clunky, but they’re a good brand. I like them and I might fight through. From a service standpoint, how do you work with companies that A, have multi-generational employees maybe or B, certainly customers?

Micah Solomon: I tend to focus on the customer side. And what I would say is that all of us are becoming millennials. If a business can delight John’s kids, are they girls? Are they?

John Jantsch: Yes. All four girls.

Micah Solomon: Four girls and two of them are millennials, that’s awesome. My feeling is if you can delight the millennials, then pretty soon you’ll delight their older brothers and sisters and then you’ll delight John as well. I was talking with Herve Humler, who’s one of the actual founders of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and he said that’s how we do it. If a millennial is asking for something, we’ll figure that mom and dad are going to ask for it pretty soon. And I think that’s very important. There’s even a group on Facebook called My Life’s Officially Over, My Parents have Joined Facebook.

Micah Solomon: What do millennials want? They want it to work. They expect it to work. I mean, I think of millennials as technologically savvy is sort of true, but what they really are is what you said John, they’re technologically intolerant. When I describe having a 1984 Mac, yeah, I talked to millennials, they’re like, “Oh, that’s really cool.” And then I say, “Well yes and no. Can you believe that to install Microsoft Word, I had to switch in these floppy disks for five hours?” And they’re like, “No, that computer is dead to me. I like the old rainbow logo, but that’s about it.” They’re technologically intolerant, but I think that really keeps us on our toes. They’re also very interested in what is perhaps incorrectly called authenticity, but they’re okay with businesses with a little bit more of the warts showing because it’s more personable and they are good with what I call an eye level or peer on peer style of service.

Micah Solomon: They don’t want you putting on airs like we see in Buckingham Palace and all those historical shows with the one arm behind the back and stuff. It’s more like… And I was interviewing millennial traveler for one of my books and she said, “What’s comfortable for me is someone who’s serving me, but we are on a level, I understand that next week if I was short on money, maybe I’ll be working as a barista. That’s the style of service that’s most comfortable for them.”

John Jantsch: Couple of great points there. All right, let’s talk about hiring for customer service. I think that some of the best customer service people are just born that way, and you may dispute that. But I mean, how do you keep a… If as your company grows and you’ve built this brand on people love us, we serve them well how do you keep that culture alive with the fact that you have to get bodies in seats, in some cases.

Micah Solomon: Sometimes the reason, and I can speak from experience, having literally started in my basement, sometimes the owner is so great about customer service and not totally because it’s their personality. But because you have a proverbial loaded gun to your head, I mean, because we know the value of every customer. You need to get this across that every individual customer is irreplaceable. I would actually argue that customers in the plural sort of doesn’t exist, that our only customer is the one that’s in front of you right now. Born that way is a very important point. If you can hire for traits, it’s ideal. Now, if you’re in a very technical field, Google, you also have to hire for technical aptitude and maybe even in technical training, but for customer facing positions, if you can hire for traits you’ll do best. Do you have a second for me to tell you the traits you want?

John Jantsch: Yes, I do. I’d love it.

Micah Solomon: All right, so I’m going to give you a rule of thumb. I will, however, say it’s better to go in with one of these great companies like Gallup that has a more involved methodology. But a lot of people aren’t going to do that, so I’ve got a rule of actually all five fingers. Here’s how to remember it. Picture the superstore, Petco. All right? And then outside of Petco, put a big wet dog. All right, so John, what is the superstore?

John Jantsch: Petco.

Micah Solomon: Right. And is the dog dry or is it wet?

John Jantsch: It is wet and in fact it’s getting ready to shake.

Micah Solomon: All right, so you have this big wet… So the reason you want to remember this is because my five traits that make you really good at customer service, spelled wetco, W-E-T-C-O. It’s silly but it works. W is warmth, this just means they like other people. E is empathy, this means they can sort of, well not sort of, they can actually sense what another person’s thinking without them saying it. T is teamwork, this is a willingness to involve your entire team to find a solution for the customer. C is conscientiousness, this means detail orientedness and O is optimism. Specifically, it’s what Marty Seligman calls an optimistic, explanatory style. If you get someone with an pessimistic explanatory style customers they can have a bad day and they can bite your head off and you have to be like, “Oh my goodness, I must’ve done something horribly wrong.” You’re going to call in sick for the rest of the day. Go home, never come back to work. Understandable but not ideal.

Micah Solomon: What you want is someone who will say, “Oh, well that was a challenging conversation. I hope she feels better tomorrow.” Maybe I could have done better. I’m going to talk it over with my manager, but I’m also going to dust myself off, go back to work. Warmth, empathy, teamwork, conscientiousness and optimism. Those are the traits to hire for. However, most of us have already hired, however we’ve hired. And so we’ve got these people, well, what can we do? Well, some of these things can be trained for, there’s a kind of empathy that can’t be trained for, that’s called dispositional empathy. And that’s just the born that way part. But there’s another kind, which is called situational empathy. And this can absolutely be trained for.

Micah Solomon: For instance, in health care, sometimes I consult with hospitals. One of the issues they have is that those nice, hopefully nice people on the phone doing the scheduling, they’re generally in a different building from where the patients are. They don’t encounter a patient all day and almost none of them has ever been an inpatient in a hospital. You have these two barriers to the dispositional empathy that they need. What do you do? Well, you realize it’s a problem, or as we call in the biz, a challenge and then you get working on it. You simulate clinical moments. One thing I’ve always suggested for nurses, and none of them have ever taken me up on this, but with nurses, I say, “Hey, you want to know how long it seems between when that buzzer’s pressed and when you show up? How about this? Drink four liters of water.” No one has taken me up on it. But you get the idea, right?

John Jantsch: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. I thought you were going to suggest that they were going to inoculate them with some infectious disease or something so that they would all have to spend two weeks in a hospital or something.

Micah Solomon: Oh gosh, no. But there are things like that you can do if you want to think about your customers who have disabilities, there are these heavy boots that you can wear to give you a feeling. And so yes, so some of that, but mostly it’s going to be role-plays and video and in person training.

John Jantsch: Speaking with Micah Solomon, his latest book is Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away). Micah, tell us where people can find out more about you, your work and your books.

Micah Solomon: Come to my website if you don’t mind, you’re going to have to be masterful at spelling biblical names. It’s which is M-I-C-A-H at M-I-C-A-H-S-O-L-O-M-O-N. There’s no a and or if that’s just too much for you. Here is my favorite. John, this is very Abby Hoffman, I have a URL just for the book and it is

John Jantsch: Oh, that’s awesome. Well, Micah, thanks for dropping by and next time you talk to Ira, tell him you were on a show that’s more popular… Probably not more popular, somebody thought was more influential than him. Hopefully we’ll run into you soon next time I’m out there on the road.

Micah Solomon: Thanks for everything John.

Transcript of Embracing Individuality to Grow Your Community

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John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Zephyr CMS. It’s a modern cloud based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. You can find them at, more about this later in the show.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Bryan Wish. He’s the founder of BW Missions, and organization that helps clients globally build communities and develop their voices. So Brian, thanks for joining us.

Bryan Wish: Well John, thanks for having me. It’s been a long time in the making and it’s been great following your work over the last couple of years.

John Jantsch: So I’m very intrigued by what you’re doing with BW Missions. But before we really get into that, I guess I’d love to hear, I think a lot of people like to hear entrepreneur’s journey story. How did you get to here? What led you to here? Why did you decide to do what you’re doing?

Bryan Wish: Yeah, John, that’s a good question. I think understanding the roots of how someone came to be is very smart, very important. So I’ll take you back to my earliest memories as a kid. For me, I think I was the person who, I don’t think I was born an entrepreneur or born actually going out on my own to do this life. I think what happened for me is the more I tried to fit into very specific boxes, sports teams, colleges, programs or groups, the more I didn’t fit in and the more I was forced to stand out, whether I wasn’t good enough to make the cut line, whether I was bullied by the group cool kids. It was always the things I tried to fit into that said, okay, you’re a little different and you’re not meant to be here.

Bryan Wish: So when I got to college, I took all that weight and chip on my shoulder mentality and I said, I’m just going to figure out who I am. I’m going to go balls to the wall and I’m going to just do a bunch of things. The more I started applying myself to different groups, picking initiatives, starting things on my own with organizations, the more I started to realize, you know what, I can do anything I set my mind to. And it was this completely new perspective. It was the most liberating perspective for me as an individual where I started building confidence for the first time in my life. And from there I look at that as this pathfinding journey of self discovery, of who am I, and where do I fit in in the world. And as soon as I started taking charge and ownership of my own life, I started finding the people who are more like me.

Bryan Wish: Then I started getting involved in some very incredible projects with different brands where I led sports programs for the Hawks and the Braves. And then I started a digital media platform after college where I spent my entire savings and went bankrupt on it. But it’s okay, it was the most fulfilling thing ever. And then I spent two years really learning the craft and digital media with Allen Gannett, I built a global communities of investment fund for a year and a half, and kind of took all this experience in the last four or five years, and I said, I know two things, I love building and sharing voices. I love building communities. How do I do that for a group of people who’s already standing out with their own voice, or has a message. I’ve really doubled down on the same things I’ve been passionate about my whole life and things that have led me find my own path.

John Jantsch: So the word mission is actually in the name of your business. So help me and listeners understand why that’s part of the name of your company.

Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely, John, it’s a good question. So I think to be a fulfilled entrepreneur or someone who is aligned with the money they’re making and the way they’re making money, I think they really need to connect to what they’re doing. And so I’ve always looked at how we take on clients. If we’re pushing their message forward, if we’re building a community around their message and what they want to be known for, what’s the impact on other people if we do that really well? And how does our work with them scale to help other people in a very mission driven way?

Bryan Wish: So working with various clients who are doing really good work and have strong messages, I look at us, the more we amplify their voice and touch lives of other people, the more we transcend our own impact as a company. So it’s very in line with doing positive work, not just taking a six figure contract from our brand. I think that’s why we’ve really identified working with individuals in building those brands out because it’s a much more fulfilling and connective experience.

John Jantsch: So when, especially with the folks you’re mentioning, I’ve often said that I think entrepreneurship is one of the greatest self development programs ever created. You either you either evolve or you get run over and you go back and get a job somewhere. So how do you relate that idea of constantly working on yourself as actually personal branding?

Bryan Wish: Yeah, I think, hmm. So, let me start a little outwards and I’ll come back into the question. So one of the points I reached out to you on, I think six months ago, was when a client and very close mentor, in a way, actually their coach now, Mark Green, said, “You should check out John’s stuff.” And I said, “Oh, I’m already familiar with John’s stuff, but he’s great and I’m glad you were able to connect in San Diego or in California for an event.” And Mark always says, which I really love, he says, “To scale your business professionally, you have to scale yourself personally faster.” And he says that much more eloquently and punchier as he always does. So I think we get to a point in the business as we grow, if we haven’t developed personally at the level that can support that growth professionally, and we don’t have the right foundation for our own lives, we’re going to fall on our feet professionally. And I learned that actually the hard way with the first company. And so with this company now, at BW Missions, I have had to put very hard and clear boundaries and pieces in place from a foundational level to support the growth of the company, which has happened fast. So it’s for soft development to happen on a personal level to sustain the growth of the business professionally.

John Jantsch: So give us a little bit of a roadmap of how you actually work with people. What’s unique about your approach, and not just the mission driven component, but how does that actually play out from a tactical standpoint?

Bryan Wish: Yeah, that’s a good question. So typically somebody approaches us who wants to be known for a particular topic, that might be focused on productivity, that might be leadership in business coaching, that might be mindset, that could be e-sports and gaming. But they have something they want to say so they reach out to us. If we start working together, what that looks like is we do self-discovery work as part of the onboarding session. We have an a very intricate and deep onboarding process where we really get to know everything about them, from their childhood roots to who they are now and where they’re trying to go in their future. And we do a full process where we get all that information, and that’s ongoing throughout the entire process. That never stops. Then we start figuring out, okay, who is this person trying to connect to?

Bryan Wish: What does that person look like? How do we get in front of them? And why would their work be valuable to the people that we want to build that around? And then we take the channels in front of us, we take some of their vision for their own brand and we kind of put all the pieces together, developing regular posting, building out different digital assets, whatever it might be. It’s almost like a dressed up idea inspired marketing agency. But I think what we’re selling is pathfinding. We’re going to build them the best strategy and plan forward for them and we’re going to do it in an extremely tailor made way.

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John Jantsch: So obviously with all of the things online, the Facebook advertising, webinars, all the stuff that people are doing to kind of get that message out. I think people are getting really tired of the fact that people are just blasting stuff out because they can, showing up everywhere. I think we’re all exhausted really from what just feels very spammy. It started I supposed with email, but now it’s everywhere, because marketers always ruin everything.

John Jantsch: So, how do you bring … Ultimately what you’re saying is the best marketing is relationship building. I think we’ve all … But people have sort of bastardized what relationship building is even today. So how do we stay authentic? How do we just say, “Hey, here’s me. Take it or leave it,” but at the same time, realize that if we don’t get ourselves in front of enough people, we’re not going to be able to have the impact we want.

Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. So let me answer this, before I talk about relationships in a way of self discovery. I shared an article this morning and there’s a graph in the article and it said, the better we know who we are as individuals, the deeper that we can connect with the people around us. And I think it’s a really powerful way to look at relationship building, because we need to know first like who we are so when we talk to people who like us or understand us, we know how to connect back to them, and as they’ve done that work themselves too, the connectivity of the relationship is going to be even stronger. With that said, when of understand that, you can be a little more vulnerable in those conversations, and being able to be vulnerable in a way that is tactful and not in your face, like, here’s my sob story, you can really build a emotional connection with someone and that will drive a longterm relationship.

Bryan Wish: Now to go back to, okay, how do we show up online, John, there is a lot of spam out there. There’s a ton of noise and it seems like everyone is doing it. The approach that we take with clients, that I take with my own branding or try to take is I really focus on the pillars of the storytelling aspect of really sharing a message that, yes, I might be able to promote something, but how do I 90% of the time share a story that’s going to be insightful to my audience, that might be able to get across a couple of different messages, that really encapsulate who I am as a person. And if that speaks for my business too, I think that means you’re doing it right because you don’t have to hardcore promote what you’re doing for people that want to work with you. I think those are the best, just show up authentically online as you would in person. I think that’s a really hard skill to master, and I think so few people understand, but I think what people do need to understand is it starts with understanding who you are within first so you can connect with people deeply and you then you can show up online and stand out with things that you really care about.

John Jantsch: So with all the various forms and platforms, I think that’s the thing a lot of people struggle with, is that are there very specific forms of content, very specific places in which that context for that content can happen that is more effective. If you’re that professional who is trying to create a personal brand, is there a roadmap to say, well, here’s how I’m going to get my message and my story in front of the right people?

Bryan Wish: Yeah, that’s a good question, John. I think it really comes down to the person that you’re talking to or who wants to build a brand. If it’s a 14 year old who is an epic scooter rider, they’re probably … Not that they’re thinking about their personal brand, but okay, probably tik-tok is going to be great for them. Because it’s going to entertain a bunch of teenagers across the world and why not. I like to think about, okay, what is the person trying to do? What message are they trying to tell and what platform best supports that message? To go a little deeper, I was speaking of the email founder of a certain company a year ago and we had a really big conversation around email. It’s the only place you can own your own distribution. So yes, there’s certain platforms business, if you’re a business CEO, you’re probably going to be on LinkedIn, you probably should have Twitter. But at the end of the day, if you’re trying to stand out and have a personal brand or if you’re on an author, I think having email distribution lists that you own and can build upon is the best long term strategy using these platforms as vehicles to continue to build that audience and make sure you have a centralized tone to bring everyone back to, which I know you understand in your work.

John Jantsch: A lot of authors have over the years taken the extension of their books and turned them into courses and things of that nature. I’m seeing a tremendous amount of burnout on things like that, because the Udemy’s of the world that you can go find out any course for $19. So how do particularly authors or personal brands, what’s the best way that you’ve seen for them to extend their work? It used to be just one-on-one. You’d write a book and then you’d create a course and then you’d do consulting. It was like the ladder was very natural. I think that that ladder has gotten very disrupted. So how does that model work today?

Bryan Wish: Sure. So yes, I do think courses are still relevant. I think you can go to Udemy to get your course out there. I think it, what kind of brand that you’re trying to build? How are you architecting the brand? Are you building a quality brand from the start? Because if you are, do you really need to go to a platform like Udemy is just providing an audience for you?

John Jantsch: I guess what I was saying is that it’s gotten harder just to build the $900 course because the $19 course seem to offer the same thing.

Bryan Wish: Totally. So I think again though it comes down to if you’re architecting a brand that’s perceived in a very high way, if you’re an author, you might be able to get away not going on Udemy and also offering an $800 course. Is that the right thing to do? It depends. What’s the value being given? Is there a model though where they can go on Udemy and maybe create a shorter course that can take you to a bigger course? I’ve seen that be done multiple times and then just to build on this concept, the digital is a great way to do it, but the way I’m seeing a lot of … Where we’re even transitioning as a company and evolving is, okay, the digital is great. How do we create a whole speaking side to the business? Because it’s one thing to have an in person message. How do we build a product line around being able to get people voices in front of real audiences in real time.

Bryan Wish: And I think that creates even deeper connection. So creating vehicles that extend the message for authors or CEOs to share something, it doesn’t always have to be to make money through a course or from book sales or consulting. I think there’s a whole speaking model and then there’s a whole content partnership model as well that are [inaudible 00:16:23] that can be done very tastefully. So it just depends on what are the end goals of the person and what fits to them as a brand.

John Jantsch: So give us your, if somebody came to you who feels like, hey, I want to take it up a notch and I just want you to tell me what would it be one thing I could do to actually do a better job of relationship building? I know that’s hard question.

Bryan Wish: No, I think that’s great. I would say go deeper with the ones right in front of you that you really value already. Because I think that we’re very lucky in this world to have very close relationships and if we have three, four or five really good relationships instead of just trying to add to the stockpile, why don’t you just go even deeper on the ones that are right in front of you? Because if you do, and that works really well, I’m sure they know other people just like you, and their friends become your friends and your network multiplies over and over again with people who are just like you. So your trial evolves and compounds because you’ve actually taken the time to invest really hard and in ones that feel just right to you, or that feel more like 100% as opposed to 70%.

John Jantsch: Awesome. So Brian, tell people where they can find out more about you and the work you’re doing at BW Missions.

Bryan Wish: Yes, absolutely. You can find me, my email is Bryan, B-R-Y-A-N, My website is and you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter and Instagram, but I think email, LinkedIn would be the best.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, thanks for taking time today, Bryan, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon someday out there on the road.

Bryan Wish: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to see what you do next.

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John Jantsch: Want to quickly send amazing looking emails to your prospects and customers in just minutes? AWeber is the market leader in making email marketing powerfully simple for a small business. Visit for a 30-day free trial.

John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Lance Cummins. He is the president of Nectafy, a company billed as a growth content company. We’re going to talk about his entrepreneurial journey, how his company runs, and maybe what else he’s up to on the side. So Lance, thanks for joining me.

Lance Cummins: Thanks so much, John. I appreciate it.

John Jantsch: So let’s start off with your story. How did you kind of get to this place where you are the president of the company and doing other entrepreneurial things?

Lance Cummins: You’re going to love this. I’m going to give you the full story but super quick. So back in 1996 I wanted to start my own business and I asked my mom, “Hey, what businesses could I do from home?” And she’s like, “Well, this web design thing is actually pretty interesting. Have you thought about that?” And I was like, “Well, okay.” I bought a book called Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours, and I didn’t realize that that meant like 24 days of one-hour sessions maybe. I spent like 24 hours and built a website and said, “I’m open for business. Let’s do this.”

Lance Cummins: That business lasted exactly two years because I had no idea how to run a business, but it got my interest in all things web, so learned a ton. I was actually building like ASP custom shopping carts, all this crazy stuff that I don’t even know how to do now. I’ve forgotten everything. It was a lot of fun.

Lance Cummins: I got a real job. Well, I got somebody else paying me, at least, for a little while. This is where my story gets crazy. So I actually got involved being a music pastor at a church in Georgia. I then moved my family to Kansas to be a music guy out there. We did that for six years, and then we decided we would move to Boston because … This is where my marketer brain kicked in. I was like, “There are not a lot of the type of church that we are at out there in Boston. Let’s go out there and start one.”

Lance Cummins: So I literally moved my family, my three kids and my wife and I, to Boston. We didn’t know anybody. I didn’t do like the … I don’t know if you know anything about how people normally start churches, but they raise all this money and do all this crazy stuff. I didn’t do any of that. I was just like, “Let’s see what happens. This is going to be a great adventure.” So we moved out there and I expected to find a job. I was just going to get hired somewhere. Well, I didn’t really think about it. Your resume looks a little odd when you’ve been in church work for like 12 years, so nobody hired me, and I thought, “Oh, I guess I need to start my own business again.”

Lance Cummins: So I, man, I just quickly brushed up on what I remembered. I did a ton of crash course learning, started building websites, and then I realized, there’s this moment when you build a website after you have the design usually, you say to the client, “Hey, can you just send over the copy for the website?” And then there’s this big panic moment because they don’t know what to write, and so I started doing that, and that’s when I realized there was a big opportunity in content, all that good stuff. So that was 2010.

John Jantsch: Awesome. So I built maybe a dozen websites in FrontPage.

Lance Cummins: Okay. Yeah.

John Jantsch: Microsoft builder that … One of the early ones on there, and it just, it scares me to think about that now.

Lance Cummins: That was pretty sweet. Like that was the first time you could use templates because otherwise you were coding in straight up HTML in text editor.

John Jantsch: So I got to know, what’s in the name? What’s up with Nectafy?

Lance Cummins: All right. So, in full disclosure, you mentioned about your name, Duct Tape Marketing, when you and I were offline a second ago. So I actually named my company … You’re going to laugh at me now … Nearly Freelance, because you know, my name’s Lance. Yeah, there’s too many things going on there. And after two years I’m like, “I need something different. I’m tired of people calling me freelance, almost free, completely free.” So we lived in Boston. I love the Boston accent. It’s still one of my favorite things about Boston, and my neighbor Kyle, he’d come over, and he had the strongest Boston accent. And so I loved that, and then I loved the concept in nature, this whole thing with how nectar works is really crazy to me because basically plants are producing stuff that all the little bugs and the bees love, right? They fly in and grab it, and meanwhile pick up whatever pollen the flower has and spread it. And so this is about necta. Yeah, [inaudible 00:05:27] little Boston accent. Nectafy. I don’t know. It’s lame.

John Jantsch: Well, it’s one of those things that is meant to be memorable, but I’m sure I’m not the first person that’s asked you, “What’s with the name?” All right. You are billed as a growth content company. I know this is going to sound like a stupid question, but how would you define what content is today for marketers?

Lance Cummins: Yeah. So I mean, content, as far as I can tell, for marketers, is literally anything that you put out that’s I think particularly designed to educate, entertain, inspire, not necessarily directly sell. That’s what differentiates us from just advertising. What do you think?

John Jantsch: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s the thing. I think it’s a fine line. I almost have come to say any way in which you communicate is some form of content. Video, email, audio, even sales copy that is meant to sell. I mean, in a lot of ways, I think that collectively is content. Well, let me ask you this. In the time that you’ve had your company, how do you feel like it’s … How has the role of content changed in your view?

Lance Cummins: I think content has gone through some interesting developments, let’s say. So you know, 10 … What was it, 10, 12 years ago, HubSpot really kind of popularized this inbound marketing thing, which it wasn’t new, it’s just they put a term around it, and that was sort of the wave that we started to ride. But we realized pretty quickly that what happened is there was a lot of emphasis on the tactics of inbound marketing, and a failure to recognize that without genuine human quality to what you write and a connection, it’s just crap. I mean, it doesn’t matter if you get somebody to the site. If what they read isn’t something that makes them really be glad they found that, it’s a waste.

Lance Cummins: And so to me that’s one of the big iterations that’s happened with content is that it went from this game where you play and you try to beat Google and trick them to get somebody to your site, and you forget like this is a human on the other end reading this. This is so strange that you would game somebody to become a client.

Lance Cummins: So, for us, the evolution is content now, a computer can generate most of the content that inbound marketers used to just regurgitate constantly, and so this is about, how do we as humans tell a human story? How do we explain something so that … The litmus test for us is if your ideal customer, we call them personas like other geeky marketers, is if when they see that piece of content, they’re glad they found it. Simple test. For us, that’s how it’s changed.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think that in the early days it was sort of novel that people had content, and obviously like you said, the search engines didn’t have as much content to chew through so they would surface your content. It was actually a pretty easy game in some ways, and I think that, even on the recipient side, the behavior of consuming content was in its early stages, and so the expectation wasn’t there. People weren’t deluged with it, and so I think what’s happened now is, because it’s become an absolute significant part of the buyer’s journey … I mean, people aren’t buying today without content and without a journey that’s led by that content, that, as you just said, the bar is just so significantly higher than it was. I think you can say that for all the tactics. I mean, email marketing used to be really easy. A lot of people in the early days of social media, it was pretty much an easy game to try to attract people. So, I think the role has changed as much as anything because of the expectation of the buyer, I think.

Lance Cummins: That’s a really good point. Yeah. The thing too that we’ve seen is when people … Because they’re better at it, because customers are better at it, they can identify when it’s poorly done a lot more quickly. Right?

John Jantsch: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that’s the … not that there’s strict divisions for generations, but you look at millennials particularly as a buying group, and because I happen to be a parent of several, I know this behavior quite well. They’ll go to a website and they’ll bounce off of that in a couple of seconds if it doesn’t act like they think it should act, and I think that’s what marketers are up against, whether they know it or not.

Lance Cummins: John, that’s actually how I selected my accounting software back when I started my company, which is pathetic. That’s a terrible reason to choose accounting software. I got to the website and I went, “Yeah, I like this. I’m going to use their software.”

John Jantsch: I’m going to guess it’s FreshBooks.

Lance Cummins: I actually use Xero out of New Zealand.

John Jantsch: Oh, Xero? Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

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John Jantsch: We just talked about what content is, the role of content, how it’s changed. You defined something called growth content as being kind of different than maybe the inbound marketing approach. So you want to elaborate on that?

Lance Cummins: Yeah, absolutely. So it was sort of a response to what we were seeing. We were using the phrase inbound marketing an awful lot, and because HubSpot’s fantastic at recruiting people and recruiting companies in all walks of life, suddenly there’s all these people talking about inbound marketing this and inbound marketing that, and it’s like, “Oh, boy, this is all messed up.” And so we really thought like, “Let’s just think about what we’re really, really good at, what we think really makes a difference in the marketplace, and then let’s figure out what identifies that.”

Lance Cummins: So for us, we decided to call it growth content because it is content specifically designed to grow organic traffic. So we, for instance, don’t necessarily write … We don’t write like narrative pieces on a website. We don’t write just great stories, even though perhaps for some brands that would be a worthwhile effort. That’s just not what we do. So really, it’s like old-school SEO, although we never use those letters ever. I’ll have to go wash my mouth out with soap after this interview. Old-school SEO with really genuine, high quality content that’s created with subject matter expert interviews, but everything is around growth. So like when we’re creating the calendars, this is designed for growth. If it’s not designed for growth, we’re not going to do it. That’s where we kind of married those two words together.

John Jantsch: Well, where’s the separation between growth and just awareness? Is awareness just a step? I mean, because again, a lot of times the first thing we have to do is let somebody know we’re out there or that we understand what their problem is. Is that growth or is that before growth?

Lance Cummins: Yeah, that’s a great question. So for us, to geek out a little bit about the buyer journey, right? That top of the funnel is an awareness stage. So for us, that content is vital, and it probably just serves an awareness function, but awareness is the leading indicator of growth, so we definitely write stuff around that.

John Jantsch: There are many types of content that people can consume, and maybe in some cases their preferred method to consume content. I know when my books come out, for whatever reason, the audio book is a few weeks later or a few months later, and I always hear from people. It’s like, “I only listen to audio books. When’s it coming out?” Are there forms of content that you would say today people need to be doing more of, like audio or video for example?

Lance Cummins: Yeah. So it really depends on your audience, right? Like you kind of alluded to that a minute ago. For our clients, they’re all what we call brainiac B2B clients, which basically means they have a complex product or service. Their persona may or may not be technical. So each one of those, first of all, we just look at like, how do they consume stuff? Right? For a lot of people, ironically, in 2020, it’s still written, which just feels very arcane, but still effective. For younger demographics, you’re getting into video, explanation of what’s even on the page. Like let’s just watch this video instead of reading the two paragraphs, which blows my mind because I’m not that demographic. Then there’s the thing coming that I think is really cool and it’s kind of the marriage of several of these ideas, and basically it’s like the revival of radio, much like we’re doing here with podcasts, right? Is audio content on your website, basically audio content on demand for every type of article that you can do. So I’m familiar with companies that are spinning up content that then you can add it into custom podcast playlists to listen to on the ride home and to work and so forth. Like that’s really a really cool idea and another way to get your content in front of people that I think really marries pretty well with where things are headed.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I’ve been such a proponent of the audio content. In fact, I wrote my obligatory trends for every year post, and I put audio content on there as a trend. That sounds sort of absurd. I’ve been podcasting since 2005, how’s that a trend? But I think what you just mentioned is people, like a lot of things, they saw it as a podcast, as like, that was a thing, but a podcast is nothing more than audio content. I think now people are just finding ways to distribute audio content, and to me, the beauty of it is the portability, like you just mentioned. For me, videos, I can’t sit still in front of a monitor and watch something for 20, 30, 40 minutes, but I could put it in my head and go walk for 20 or 40 minutes, and I think that that’s what … to me, that’s one of the great appeals of audio content.

Lance Cummins: Yeah, I love that. I think it’s also interesting, a friend of mine pointed out that audio content, especially in mass distribution, so like think Kmart Bluelight Special, “Attention, shoppers,” basically that audio content is really coming back into effectiveness because everybody’s face is buried in their own device. The only way to get their attention in mass would be through sound, and I think that’s a pretty interesting assessment.

John Jantsch: So you have a little side hustle that, if people were … This is just an audio-only podcast, as listeners know, but I do record with video too, and Lance has a nice little background behind him because we’re all on these video chats in these interviews and things like Zoom and Skype and different platforms. So you want to talk a little bit about that idea?

Lance Cummins: Sure. So when we started Nectafy, we hired remote team members, and that wasn’t necessarily on purpose that I set out to build a remote company, but that’s what we have, and we love it, and so we also use Zoom for everything, for video calls with all of our clients. I use it for all my sales stuff, marketing stuff. And I realized, “Man, we got to do something about how we present ourselves as a team. Like I just want to present a professional look. It doesn’t have to be formal or scary or anything. It just needs to be consistent.”

Lance Cummins: So I started like, I bought some pipe and drape, I did the video backgrounds you can use for video, photography. I bought all this stuff and sent it to my team, and they would use it for a little bit and then stop using it because they go, “Man, this is just super inconvenient. It doesn’t fit in my room. This is bigger than my room,” all this great stuff.

Lance Cummins: So I’m like, “Okay, there has to be something.” I couldn’t find anything, so I said, “DIY guy, I’m going to figure out a way to build this myself,” and came up with some ideas, and then I realized, “Oh, my, this is something that people could actually use because it’s tailored for remote workers doing video stuff. It’s just the right size, no bigger, fold it down.” So we started a company called Anyvoo. It doesn’t mean anything. My daughter helped me name it. And so the whole idea is that these are portable backdrops that are branded, can break down into a … it ends up being in a 6 x 6 x 26 inch long thing, portable. We’re actually in prototype phase right now. We’re shipping them that … They don’t break down all the way. They’re still kind of a little bit bigger, but we’re getting a lot of great feedback right now. You can go look at and kind of see what we’re doing. If you’re interested in participating in that, you can just fill out the contact form or send me an email.

Lance Cummins: My kids and I are doing this, so this is part of what makes it fun. In fact, my daughter, we’re actually at Anyvoo right now. I zoomed out so you could see the edge of the drop and all this. My daughter’s back there helping me sew. My son helps assemble these things. We’re learning about business together, so it’s been a lot of fun.

John Jantsch: Yeah, that is awesome. It kind of reminds me of the old projector screen that you’d bring in and kind of pop up, kind of the school size, not the giant thing. All right, so Lance, tell people how they can find out more about Nectafy and then obviously Anyvoo as well. And I hope you have your kids designing that website for Anyvoo too.

Lance Cummins: That’s right. We’ve got something up there going. So is our growth content company. That’s if you’re a brainiac B2B company, you sell a complex product or service, and you’re trying to actually grow your leads and traffic with really high quality content in pretty complex areas. That’s is if you’re a remote worker and you want to really present yourself professionally on video, get one of these drops. We’re in prototype phase, so if you mention this and you send me an email,, I’ll send you a coupon code so you can get it really cheap since it’s in prototype phase, and give me some feedback. We’d love to build one for you.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Lance, thanks for coming, sharing your journey and about your various ventures, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road.

Lance Cummins: Thanks so much, John. I really appreciate it. It’s been fun talking with you.

Transcript of Creating Online Courses That Work for Your Students and Your Business

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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Justin Ferriman. He is the co-founder of a learning management software called LearnDash, which is a WordPress plugin that we’ve used and continue to use on a number of our courses. I thought it would be great to talk about the state of online learning. Justin, thanks for joining me.

Justin Ferriman: Thanks so much for having me here, John. I’ve been a fan of yours for quite some time.

John Jantsch: Well, thank you. Let me just ask you the big global question. Where are we and I know you’ve been in this space for a while and I know you study it. Is it waning? Is it growing? Is it changing? How would you describe what’s going on in terms of online learning?

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, certainly. Well, it’s growing. I think most people can probably see that just as they go on the internet and everybody’s offering a course, be it a formal institution, now they’re getting towards online courses as a offering for students and also entrepreneurs and folks like yourself who have online courses. The industry as a whole is growing. It is getting a little bit more challenging now in different ways and more so for keeping somebody’s attention, keeping a learner’s attention and keeping them engaged and interested. Gone are the days where you could just kind of put up a video on a webpage and think that that would get the job done. It used to, but not so much anymore.

John Jantsch: Yeah, no, I certainly remember that. But now you see so many people rushing online to produce courses and every consultant is teaching people to create courses. Now you have, as you said, I mean you’ve got the Udemys and the LinkedIn Learning platforms that are, in some ways, I think democratizing course production and creation and consumption because it’s gotten sort of so darn inexpensive as well. The 799 course better be pretty darn unique and pretty full of some stuff. Let me ask you first where do you see most people? I hate to start on a negative, but let’s clear this part up. Where do you see most people getting it wrong?

Justin Ferriman: I think, maybe I’ll make an analogy. It would be the better thing to do for this question, and remember a number of years ago where everybody was getting this advice that they should create an ebook or have an ebook on their site and have a download. That used to be enough to differentiate. You could have an ebook. People would go, Oh wow, that’s really cool. They would download it or purchase it. Then everybody had an ebook. You kind of alluded to the fact that there’s all these different places to have courses. LinkedIn, Udemy and all that. Everybody’s got a course. So, how are you going to differentiate it? I think that if somebody’s selling a course, I’m going to speak from strictly someone that wants to monetize their knowledge. If they’re selling a course, the biggest mistake I see is they think that just creating a course and putting a price on it is going to be enough now. Creating the course is important to put your energy there, but you should also have as much energy, maybe even more going into the differentiation and knowing your market and how you’re going to stand out and what’s your message and how is it more laser-focused than something broad, broad on a certain topic like marketing. Okay. So that’s not going to cut it anymore.

John Jantsch: I’ve produced courses for years, as soon as it was something that was doable. As soon as some of the first membership plugins came along. What always frustrated me was people would start with good intentions and they would never take action on the stuff that they’d learned. I’d follow up with people, “Hey, okay, you went through this, you consumed this, what have you done?” Maybe this is just the human condition that we can’t solve. But you know, why don’t people take action on the stuff they learn sometimes?

Justin Ferriman: Yeah. I wish I had an answer for that. But you’re not wrong. What you observed just for your own courses is actually what plagues the online learning industry in general. I think I’ve heard, there are some studies that have been done with formal education like universities and their completion rates are abysmal when you compare online students to the ones that show up that go to class and have to be there in person. So, that is a trend that we see. I think to counteract that, that’s when you see features like gamification and the points in the badges. Just trying to keep people entertained to some degree. Those touch points, the fact that you are reaching out directly with folks is huge because that probably did keep people invested longer than if you just set up something and set it and forget it and then don’t ever follow up.

John Jantsch: How important do you think that, just on that point, a hybrid course. So in other words the training’s there, but it comes with a coach or it comes with an instructor who is going to contextualize it, maybe personalize it and maybe give you feedback. Is that an element that you think is where we have to go now to kind of stand out a little bit?

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. I think people are seeing that now that they can put out the content, but if you have that, it’s a blended learning approach, right? You have some interaction, be it with a webinar or even it can be like a forum or a Facebook group. Those are huge, now. Facebook groups are kind of that attempting to close the loop between the material, getting the material and then seeing that other people are doing it is kind of social proof, but then also having other people to talk to about it, about implementing the material. That’s that last part that everybody drops off or traditionally they have. That blended learning approach, you’re seeing folks now have conferences attached to their courses maybe once a year, be it online or in person. I think those are the courses that are most successful. I know that you are friends with Troy Dean and he’s got very successful courses because he does do that. He’s very in touch with as learners and his user base and he’s constantly interacting with them, not just giving them course material.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think a lot of course creators and instructors have learned that it’s gotten harder to sell courses just blank to people. I think a lot of purchasers have bought, they bought 10 courses they did nothing with, so I’m not going to give the 399 for another course that’s just going to sit there on my hard drive. I think that that idea of, okay, I might pay more for this, but I know I’ll at least get some results if it has that blended learning idea.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, you’re right I think, and you know this better than anybody, but when you’re selling somebody a course, you’re not selling them the material of the course. You’re selling them the results of whatever that course is teaching. If somebody is looking to buy the course and they see that there’s these actual touch points with the instructor or with coaches or what have you, then they’re going to feel like the result that you are selling them, they’re going to feel like, okay, I can obtain that because I have this extra help. It’s not all on me.

John Jantsch: I know that I’ve seen either you personally or certainly from LearnDash, this concept of story boarding a course almost like you would do an ad back in the day or a video. But you’re talking about actually story boarding the entire flow of the course. I think a lot of people probably do just jump in and go, okay, what’s the lesson one going to be? Maybe unpack that idea, that practice of story boarding a whole course. Explain that if you would.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of funny you bring that up. Actually that whole concept and my allegiance to that concept comes from my life prior to LearnDash, I was in e-learning consultant setting up these programs for a big name companies, Fortune 500s, the US government, et cetera. There was no way that they would let us just start creating courses without story boarding them and getting them approved. This was actually a good exercise because before we got into the tech, which I think is what people make the mistake as they get the tech, because it’s the shiny bells and whistles and it’s really exciting and fun. But before you even get to that, you can open up a Word document. We did it in Microsoft Word or sometimes PowerPoint and we would just start mapping out the structure of the course, the sections, the lessons, how are we going to splice those lessons up.

Justin Ferriman: We call them topics and then checkpoint quizzes and quizzes and assignments if that was relevant and you just start. You don’t have to fill that slide with exactly what you’re going to teach. But you just start going through what you want to cover and making sure that these key points of whatever your topic is, are getting addressed. Then it helps you create a flow, whatever’s in your head. Sometimes it just makes more sense because you’re seeing the final product. But when you actually say, “Okay, we’re going to spend five minutes on this particular topic. Oh shoot, I don’t have five minutes of material.” Then you start thinking more through it. I think that’s a lost art to some degree because like I said, when you’re going looking at software, what are you going to use? Whether it’s LearnDash or something else and you’ll see it being demoed and you’re super excited because you’re like, wow that looks really cool. I can have that right away. People want to jump right in and start tinkering. The story boarding kind of gets put on the wayside. I’m a fan of it. You should take the time to map out your journey for your students.

John Jantsch: Well and I think that going back to sort of traditional academic principles, it also to me starts kind of with what do I want the learner to achieve here? Not like, what am I going to teach? It’s like what are they going to be able to do because of this? I think sometimes if you start there, you might actually create something that’s more useful.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah. You can even start your lesson by saying, “At the end of this lesson you are going to be able to …” That’s a good way to start things out. Now you have to fulfill that promise. As you create your content, you go back to that statement. Am I fulfilling that promise statement at the beginning of the lesson?

John Jantsch: I want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers and it allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation email autoresponders that are ready to go, great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships? They’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s beyond Black Friday. It’s a docuseries, a lot of fun, quick lessons. Just head on over to, beyond black Friday.

John Jantsch: You mentioned a couple but are there some tried and true practices? The bad thing about this is as the space evolves the tried and true practices stop working too. But are there some tried and true practices for creating more engagement as a general rule? These are kind of like table stakes now.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, there’s some things that you can definitely do and that can be as simple as, I know a lot of people think engagement, like gamification, which definitely is one. For those that are listening that don’t know what gamification is, it’s when you’re completing different tasks, be it a lesson in a course, maybe you get a badge or some points. Those can be exchanged later on or maybe they’re put on your profile. But before you do any of that, some simple engagement things can just be content variation with the delivery. A lot of times people, if they’re in the videos and do video after video after video after video, I mean at some point you’ve got to stimulate a different part of the brain, break it up with a quiz. Maybe you just have some text now. Maybe you’ve got some kind of drag and drop exercise. Maybe an exercise that people step away and they have to upload something and then go post in a forum. Get people engaging more with the content, with different parts of their brain than just watching, because they’re going to forget most things anyway.

John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right. I mean there are definitely, I’ve seen the course where somebody is able to do three hours of material at one time and break it up into five minute videos. They’ve got a giant program.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, that’s true.

John Jantsch: Do you think that that everyone needs, and again, that’s really broad. Should most companies be thinking about courses even if they don’t think of themselves as a training company? I guess what I’m saying is, the traditional sense is that I sell a course because it’s part of my coaching program or you know, whatever. But like, would a remodeling contractor benefit from a training program for employees?

Justin Ferriman: Yes. The short answer to that is yes. I think if you’re selling courses, I mean you can sell courses or you can give them away for free as like a lead gen. I’ll give you an example of somebody that was in a completely unrelated field that I was talking to him. I went to go get a new suit and this place, they did do some custom suits and they had some suits there. I’m talking to the owner and he was telling me about his business, very successful guy, really likable. He asked me what I did and I explained, “I own a software company that makes it easy to create and sell online courses.” He started asking about it and I was like, “You should create a course. like how to pick the right suit for you. It’s a free course. People can register, you get their email, you get their contact information, now you can market to them, but you’re giving them something of value.”

Justin Ferriman: Now there is a company or a business that probably wouldn’t think about courses, but he latched onto that idea and I should probably follow up, see if he, he’s probably a busy guy. I don’t know if he did it, but that would be an example of what a course would be good for a B to C that maybe isn’t traditionally with courses. Now, to your point with courses and training and onboarding, every company should do it with online courses because employees can go back and reference that material. In fact, we have a lot of use cases of people using LearnDash that it doesn’t seem as cool. They’re not selling all these courses, but they trained their entire staff, new employees, existing employees with these online courses. That’s an asset for them.

John Jantsch: Yeah. As I hear you talk about that, anybody who sells, particularly sells a high end product or service, there needs to be education. The more that you can, I’ll go back to my remodeling contractor, the more that you can teach somebody, here’s all the things that go into actually remodeling a kitchen. Here’s how to consider what appliances to pick out. I mean, I think that would be a great course for somebody that’s selling $50,000 kitchens.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, absolutely. Even to the point of, I think, not necessarily selling it. You’re an expertise in remodeling kitchens or whatever. You create the best course on that and you just give it away. Then somebody is going to take the course and there might be a small percentage of say, “Okay, I can do this now with this material.” But there’s probably going to be a large people that would be like, “Can I just hire you to do it?” Then there you go because you just proving you are an expert because you have the best course on it.

John Jantsch: Yeah. Yeah. I think that it does, that’s another element of it. It raises the bar because everybody else in the industry has got the schlocky websites still and now you’re basically training people. It kind of raises your brand I think. All right. We do have to eventually talk about the technology. Walk us through, what does somebody need to be thinking about? Obviously they need to have a website or someplace that there is the home for it. But what are all the moving parts in making a learning management system and signing people up and giving them access? What are all the moving parts?

Justin Ferriman: The LMS space or learning management system is enormous and there’s so many options out there. Naturally, I’m partial towards WordPress because it’s open source and allows you to kind of customize a learning program with LearnDash kind of at the helm. Then you can add to it based on what your unique needs are. But without making it like a pitch or anything for LearnDash, let’s just look at it from a high level. What are some things you should consider when choosing an LMS from the tech standpoint? One would be try to avoid lock-in, vendor lock-in. LMSs, by their nature can be very sticky. Meaning once you’re in, sometimes you’re in there for a long time and that’s even true from a LearnDash standpoint though, much, much less than if you’re with a hosted platform.

Justin Ferriman: That would be number one is getting something that is going to allow you to easily kind of move that content somewhere else if you want to. Secondly, I would say try to find something that branches, out has an API. Maybe Zapier. I mean if they have Zapier, great, then you’re not going to be stuck with whatever internal tool that they use. Now I’ll give an example because this is something that I think we all as people wish there was that all in one product. I mean that’s something we’ve been selling to ourselves since the 50s with the blenders and everything. We wish that was out there. It doesn’t exist for a reason. What happens, I’ve seen this in LMS space, I’ve seen it in other tech stacks as well, is somebody chooses an LMS because like, “Oh, they can do the lessons and the courses and the quizzes. Okay great. But they can also do my email and my touchpoints and my forums and my …”

Justin Ferriman: Then it just, it piles on and on. It sounds good on the surface, but if that company’s focusing on all those very unique disciplines, it’s not going to turn out too well. I would say at a high level, try to avoid any kind of lock in whatever tool you’re using and then make sure it’s flexible. Rather than the API talk, is it flexible? Can you use other tools as you grow? Because here’s one thing I do know for certain, if you have a course or you have a learning program, and you can probably attest to this, it looks different. It will look different a year from now than it does today because your learners are going to have more demands. You’re going to want to meet those demands and you want to offer more things. If you’re stuck, pigeonholed, you can’t do that. Your business, your learning program, cannot not grow and therefore your business can’t.

John Jantsch: Tell us about where people can find out about LearnDash and feel free to kind of talk about why you think you’ve hit on a unique space or unique place in the LMS space.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah, certainly. is the best place to go. We have a great demo site, so I would just say go to the demo site. One of the courses on there, it’s free to take, just sign up. It walks through how to set up like a LearnDash course, your first course. We call it the bootcamp. It’s the same training materials that are actually in the software, so when you get it and install it, you’d have access to that. But it’s kind of a cool way to see behind the scenes and see if it’s something that registers or clicks with you. The reason I think that LearnDash is gaining popularity and is still around after all these years actually is just the fact that WordPress is growing as well. I mean, what is it, 33% now of all websites are on WordPress. It’s open source, which means pretty much any developer can help you out if you get to a point where you feel like you need a developer.

Justin Ferriman: But besides that, there’s all the plugins and the themes and that whole ecosystem where you can tinker and get exactly what you need. It kind of hearkens back to the whole reason that LearnDash started is I was doing some research for my consulting engagement that I had on an LMS and I was going through the usual players. I just kind of wondered if there was an open source one besides Moodle, which people that are out there that happen to know Moodle, it’s a bear. There wasn’t anything on WordPress at the time, which is what prompted, this was back in 2012. This is what prompted the whole project. I think we’re seeing that people want that flexibility for learning programs that grow. There’s no more of these big behemoth LMSs that cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. I mean, they still are there, believe me, but they’re not needed. If you’re looking for something that’s flexible, pretty easy to just jump right in, it has a community behind it, has been here for a long time and has big names trusting it in the WordPress space, then LearnDash is the go to.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I think that idea of, of having the extendability, I mean, even within the LearnDash environment, there are people that are building extensions of LearnDash.

Justin Ferriman: Yeah. It’s pretty funny how that works. I think some of the coolest things I’ve seen are folks that are creating just full blown mobile apps off of LearnDash. I mean, that’s pretty incredible.

John Jantsch: Yeah, that is. I’ll have to look into that myself. That sounds interesting. Awesome. Well, Justin, thanks so much for stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and talking a little bit about online learning and LearnDash and hopefully we’ll run into you soon someday out there on the road.

Justin Ferriman: Oh, thanks so much, John. It was a pleasure.

Transcript of Focusing on Gratitude to Build Relationships

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John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Zephyr CMS. It’s a modern cloud based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. You can find them at, more about this later in the show.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Chris Schembra. He is a keynote speaker, Broadway producer, sought-after dinner host, an entrepreneurial advisor whose passion lies in facilitating profound human connection in a deeply disconnected world. So Chris, thanks for joining me.

Chris Schembra: John, I’ve been a big fan of yours for so many years, and you bring such great value to the world through your books and podcasts and teaching. So it’s an honor to be here.

John Jantsch: Well, thank you. I do believe that we have a first on Duct Tape Marketing. I’ve never had a sought-after dinner host, I’m certain of it.

Chris Schembra: Well, you know, you’d go back to the Latin origination of the word “company” to begin with, and it’s “companis.” ‘Com’ means together and ‘panis’ means bread. So the ancient folks somehow got it right, that if you want to do good business together, you should probably break bread around the dinner table.

John Jantsch: Yeah. So many people may not be familiar with your story, which is obviously a huge part of this book we’re going to talk about, Gratitude and Pasta. But maybe start by telling us a little bit about 7:47 and how that was formed and what it is you’re doing there. And really your journey to this point, I guess.

Chris Schembra: My journey, the story for this talk starts in July of 2015. At the time, to set the scene, I was a Broadway producer. I had the jail, rehab, suicide, depression on the resume. We were achieving great things, but somehow one day I woke up and realized theater is not. It was July of 2015. We had just come back from Italy after producing a Broadway play over there. And when we got back to New York, I realized I essentially felt four things. Lonely, unfulfilled, disconnected, insecure. Theater was great, but it wasn’t it. So in that dark period of time, I found myself just fiddling with food in my kitchen and accidentally created a pasta sauce recipe and figured I should probably feed it to people to see if it’s even good or not, and we started hosting dinners.

Chris Schembra: And week after week after week, 18 folks would come to our home and we’d cook them some pasta sauce. We’d delegate some specific tasks. We’d empower them to work together, to serve each other, to create the meal, and a ritual began. And what we observed was by getting people to work together, by creating that safe space, by creating the intention of this connection and energy and all that kind of soft stuff, you’d actually set the stage to have some pretty neat conversations. And at every dinner we would ask the same question. “If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don’t give enough credit or thanks to, who would that be?” And we saw people’s stories come alive.

Chris Schembra: So eventually we realized we were damn good at doing that, and so we built an entire company around the idea of producing dinners and helping people build a community. We have a simple metric for success at every dinner. If less than six people cry, we considered it a failed night. And that’s our goal.

John Jantsch: So how intentional was this? You know, obviously with the lens of hindsight, you can look back and say, “We did this and we did that.” But I mean, how much of it did you just stumble onto? Or why did you even give it so much intention?

Chris Schembra: So for the first half a year, from July of 2015 we just started kind of hosting dinners and no real intention other than I was lonely because I’d just broken up with a girlfriend. My boss, who’s kind of like a partner, he had just gotten married, so all of a sudden, I was pretty much alone. And so it just started as a way to help myself, and then I actually realized it started helping others. And so the only real intention started when I finally left the theater job just to say, “What should I do next?” And the first thing that popped up was the dinner table. So we said, “All right, might as well give this a shot. I don’t know what the shot is, but let’s just keep doing dinners.”

John Jantsch: And you did these for a while. Was there a point where stuff started happening, benefits started accruing for you that you started saying, “Hey, this is not just making me not lonely. This is actually producing opportunity?”

Chris Schembra: Well, I think the first thing to not brush over is that it actually saved my life. My greatest childhood insecurity is that I’m always the last one called to the party. My invite is always somehow lost in the mail. It’s pretty much guaranteed. I’m always being forgotten about. So we orchestrated or architected an experience in which we could create the party and the people could come to us, and that single-handedly saved my life. But then we started realizing that we were, God, we were being… Neat people were coming to the dinner table that we would have never thought we would ever meet. We set a pretty specific and intentional rule. The first time you come, you come alone. The second time you come, you bring your friend. After that, you’re eligible to nominate someone.

Chris Schembra: And so a lot of what I learned from your book, The Referral Engine, we put into the dinner table where, yeah, if you’re inviting someone back for a great experience, they’re going to think about who’s the best person in their life that they can invite. So a network was just growing exponentially.

John Jantsch: Yeah. You, didn’t want to bring a dud, right?

Chris Schembra: No. So we were meeting the best people in people’s lives. If they had one invitation to send out, that was going to a superstud.

John Jantsch: Yeah. So gratitude in general, which really these dinners were based on, is really a hot topic, and certainly in business circles. I mean, you know, obviously it’s always had a place on the yoga blog or something. But now you’re seeing it in Forbes and Inc. And I mean, why do you think that that is?

Chris Schembra: I think people are starving for connection now more than ever before, right? We live in a world where 51% of the American workforce reports being lonely in a consistent basis. That’s unfortunately equivalent to the reduction of lifespan of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, seven years off your life. So loneliness and disconnection is quantifiably a multi-trillion dollar health crisis. And luckily, PWC proved that for every dollar you spend on employee emotional wellbeing yields $2 and 30 cents back in productivity. So people realize that we’ve gone too digital, too disconnected, too gobbling up for new clients and all that kind of new stuff, but now we got to go a little bit self, back, we’ve got a self-correct a little bit.

Chris Schembra: So gratitude is important because it’s a subset of emotional intelligence, and emotional intelligence has been proven that top performers have high EQ. You could have good IQ and you could have good technical skills, but none of it compares to the earning ability of having good emotional intelligence.

John Jantsch: So I want to get into the book and structure of these dinners and really the whole purpose of this is. But I’m curious, I want to back up a little bit. When you would ask people, “If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don’t give enough credit or thanks to, who would it be,” who do they thank?

Chris Schembra: 25.68% of people give credit and thanks to their mothers. A lot of people give credit and thanks to their fathers, to their grandparents, to strangers, to friends. What we, hear our stories… So if you dissect the question, the gratitude question, we’re not asking you around the dinner table, we’re not asking you what’s your biggest fear? What’s your biggest failure? What’s your greatest regret? What are your 2020 goal? Those are what we call stump questions. You know, screw them. We ask this question to get people to think outside themselves to something from their past that helped them get to where they are today. And by asking them, “Who do you not thank,” you’re actually eliciting feelings of regret and shame. “Why haven’t I thanked my dog? Why haven’t I thanked my third grade teacher?”

Chris Schembra: So you hear a lot of stories of people, personal liberation, people overcoming fear, people looking at relationships in a whole new way. Someone will give credit and thanks to their mother where their mother was a bitch growing up. Their mother literally did not help them growing up. But that relationship and the pressure between those two individuals, that gave them the chip on the shoulder to want to succeed. Right? It’s all these kind of different things.

John Jantsch: So you eventually, or over time, perfected your recipe for this and I’m sure it started adding things and even rules, if you will. And so you outline it in the book as almost like a three-act play. I’m borrowing from your theater background, I’m assuming. So can you… Because ultimately, what you’re doing in this book is saying people ought to be doing this, right?

Chris Schembra: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Jantsch: So can you construct the acts, I guess?

Chris Schembra: Yeah, of course.

John Jantsch: High level version of the acts.

Chris Schembra: Of course. So the thought leadership piece is, if you’re sitting there and relationships is your wellbeing, relationships is your entire life and you’re just bored of the old networking and the old going to conferences and the chicken dinners and all that kind of stuff, let’s do something different. Invite people to your home, get them to cook together, create a safe space for connection, ask some crazy questions, and you’re going to end up knowing more about them and creating more lasting loyalty than you ever have before in your life. So we think of this experience literally as a three-act play, as John said.

Chris Schembra: The first act is just thinking about who you want to invite, why they’re important for your life, where are you going to do it, et cetera. Your work begins the moment they receive the invitation, because it’s very important to keep iterating, reminder emails and details of what they can expect from the experience, so that by the time they arrive, you’ve already done the foreplay. You’ve already done… They come with a bottle of wine in hand prepared to connect, and they’re going to arrive at 6:30 PM sharp. Long gone are the days when you tell people they can arrive when they want and leave when they want. No, you show up at 6:30 PM sharp or you don’t get fed.

Chris Schembra: So act two, you know, act one is the arrivals and the cocktail hour and everybody’s just casually mingling and connecting and all that stuff. Act two begins with the delegated tasks and shared activities. These are actually very orchestrated, very detail-oriented. They get people working together to serve each other, which allows you to sit down and really create a connected experience. And act three begins at a very specific point in the evening. Once you’ve done the work, then you can bring in gratitude. So you ask this gratitude question and that really sets the scene for people to go around answering it popcorn style as a big group format. And that really, really creates some amazing emotion. As we said before, if less than six people cry, we consider it a failed night. It’s all because of that gratitude.

John Jantsch: And the book, by the way, has very detailed, not only what to do, but why it’s important to do it, which I think a lot of people sometimes need. Because I think there’s a background behind, like you just mentioned, the show up at 6:30 sharp. I mean, there’s a very [inaudible 00:14:20] intentional, what you’re trying to create with doing that. So, get the book if you want to know the why behind some of this.

John Jantsch: You know, today content is everything. So our websites are really content management systems, but they’ve got to work like one. Check out Zephyr. It is a modern cloud-based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. It’s really easy to use. It’s very fast, won’t mess with your SEO. I mean, it really reduces the time and effort to launch your client’s websites. Beautiful themes, just really fast, profitable way to go. They include an agency services to really make a them your plug and play dev shop. Check out That is Z-E-P-H-Y-R

John Jantsch: Is it your opinion that everybody should be doing this?

Chris Schembra: No, I don’t think… I think that there is well… I’m going to put pressure on it. I think that you can really screw up a lot of your relationships if you do something like this with the wrong intention. If you look at this as a tool to calculate conversion and ROI and greater referrals and than, you shouldn’t. If that’s how you look at life, you shouldn’t look at this like that. You shouldn’t even touch this dinner. This dinner is built for the people who genuinely want to help the people in their life transform. When you can have 18 of your closest friends or colleagues or partners or clients, whatever, come together, put their phones down, don’t worry about what you do, but just come to connect. If you do that with this intention, the rest will follow. So it’s got to be giving first, and then comes the referrals.

Chris Schembra: So it’s not for the people, it’s not for the sharks that are takers. It’s not for the people who just want to walk around saying, “What do you do and how can you help me?” I think networking means the people that you meet have something to give you. Connecting means the people you meet, you have something to give them.

John Jantsch: In the course of doing this I’m sure you’ve experienced a little of everything. I mean, have you experienced some cases where people just weren’t a fit? They weren’t there for the right reason. They didn’t understand it. They were awkward. They were uncomfortable. I’m sure you’ve seen everything.

Chris Schembra: So there are times, now that it’s become a business, there are times when I get to bring people, but the majority of the times are when our clients bring their people. So our clients are pulling together 18 partners or investors, et cetera. And so I can’t always control who walks through that door. Someone could walk through that door after having the worst day in their life. But that’s why we’re such sticklers for people following this model, this system, because it really, if you do it right, it really takes the ego out and it levels the playing field and it allows even the worst chips on the block to come have a connected experience. So we used to focus on curation. Now we just focus in on the experience.

John Jantsch: You mentioned a couple of times, and I know in the book you have even diagrams of seating charts and things of that nature. You’ve mentioned like 18 people. That’s a lot of people that have in one place. That’s a lot of people to feed. That’s a lot of people to seat. In your estimation, is that the number it takes or could you do a dinner for eight kind of thing?

Chris Schembra: You could definitely do any interpretation of this book that you want. And it’s a great question. We found that the size of 18, there is a great power in that community. So you’re a person, you’re sitting at the dinner table with 17 other strangers, and then this short little guy from South Carolina asks you a question about gratitude. Well, if there were only four people in that group and you’ve just already met everybody and you work together, it might be too small of a group for you to be as vulnerable as you want to be. And so when it’s 18, as opposed to 12, as opposed to 24, when it’s 18 is just perfect that you probably haven’t met the people across the table, but it’s small enough that you can share what you want to share and they’re going to listen.

Chris Schembra: And so if you had 24, it’s just a little too big. If you had 24 people, you can’t spend two to three minutes per person going around the table answering that question. So it’s just that perfect number.

John Jantsch: So where are you going with all this?

Chris Schembra: So ultimately over the course of the next 20 years, our goal is to continue diving into the space that taking care of your emotional wellbeing, taking care of the relationships in your life by bringing emotion into those relationships will ultimately be good for personal and professional development. So over the next couple of years, we’re just focusing in on creating experiences. We’re known for our 18 person dinners. We’re known for our 800 person dinners. We’re known for going in and giving keynotes, et cetera. So this year the book comes out, and that’s the first type of product. Within the next two to three years we’ll come out with online courses helping really teach these principles and letting people be part of an online community to mastermind together. Over the next five to 10 years, we’ll come out with executive coaching to really be able to treat these founders on a personal one on one level. But so yeah, it just slowly continues as a little coaching and training company that is focused in on helping create connection, because that’s what’s missing, I think the most in this world.

John Jantsch: I thought for sure it was going to be gluten-free pasta was going to be first.

Chris Schembra: You know what? But the interesting thing is, John, when we have people come to the dinner table who come in saying, “I never eat gluten. I hate gluten,” but they’re not celiac. They just dislike gluten. But when they have fresh homemade pasta, it does more for their heart to indulge and connect than the negative it does for the belly to eat gluten.

John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah, totally. I was just throwing that out randomly anyway. I’m not a gluten hater. So, Chris, where can people find out more? I know there’s a website to Gratitude and Pasta, but where would you invite people to come and find out more?

Chris Schembra: Yeah, is the main link, and through there you’ll get to learn a lot about the book and all the press that’s come out. And Forbes Magazine, as of the day that we’re recording this podcast, has just named that as the number two book of 2020 to spark human connection. So you can go purchase it on Amazon and write in with any thoughts, questions, or concerns.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, thanks. It was great to catch up with you again, Chris, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon some day out there on the road.

Chris Schembra: I appreciate it, John. Thanks for having us.

Transcript of Storytelling Around Disruption and Innovation

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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Michael Margolis. He is the CEO and founder of Storied, a strategic messaging firm specializing in the story of innovation and disruption. He’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Story 10X: Turn The Impossible Into The Inevitable. So Michael, thanks for joining me.

Michael Margolis: John, thank you. It’s an absolute thrill for us to connect today.

John Jantsch: So when did the Story come into your life? I mean, we all have stories, childhood stories, but when did you start realizing it was a tool that you could or should use?

Michael Margolis: Yeah, what a great question. So for me, like it is for many of us, I came to Story and my sense of this path out of huge failure and disappointment.

John Jantsch: Which is a story by itself, right?

Michael Margolis: It always is, right? And it was … And for me specifically, it was at the age of 23 after my first career, I’d been a social entrepreneur. So I came of age at the birth of the internet economy and co-founded a nonprofit, had very quick fast success working on poverty, race, the digital divide, complicated stuff, right? It’s not like selling cupcakes. And despite all the quick success that we had within a couple of years, it all fell apart.

Michael Margolis: And I remember sitting there after it all kind of crumbled and there was this sense, John, that something like was missing from the conversation. Like I knew it intuitively, but I didn’t have the language for it, specifically how to tell the story of innovation, because when you’re dealing with innovation, in this case, this was social innovation, like culture change, much less business innovation. But when you’re dealing with innovation, by definition, you’re overstepping, doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. It’s heretical, it’s taboo, it’s off limits, it gets lost in translation. And it was really that struggle and frustration that set me off on the journey that’s been now 20 years of mapping and decoding and developing narrative frameworks that we deliver and teach inside some of the biggest companies in the world today.

John Jantsch: So storytelling, books about storytelling, are quite hot right now. So in your estimation, what does Story 10X kind of offer that maybe carves out its unique spot in the storytelling realm?

Michael Margolis: Yeah, absolutely. So what people have described it as is actually the world’s first book on storytelling for disruptive innovation. So one of the things that we often forget is that when it comes to storytelling, which is universal. I’m a cultural anthropologist by training. I’m fascinated with the universality of story and its use across time and history. But storytelling is contextual to the format or the medium.

Michael Margolis: So for instance, if you are writing a screenplay that’s for a film, that’s a very different format in which you’re going to construct and tell a story than a thousand page novel. Well equally, there’s a completely different context, not just for applying storytelling to business, but applying storytelling to innovation and disruption in the context of business. Because it’s, if you think in the traditional storytelling terms, John, when someone sits down to watch a movie or read a book, in a certain way, there’s a contract with your audience, which is they’ve agreed to suspend disbelief to go on a journey with you.

Michael Margolis: And now we live in an age of Netflix and like ADD attention span, so that that window is shorter and shorter before you go, “Ah, I’m going to go watch something else.” Or, “Ah, I don’t like this book.” But nonetheless, your audience is willing to suspend disbelief to go on a journey. Now when you walk into an executive board room or you’re leading a town hall with 5 thousand employees, or you’re in front of investors, pitching them on your next series of funding, I promise you, nobody’s giving you that benefit of suspending disbelief.

John Jantsch: I suspect the opposite’s true, right? You have to wade through the I don’t believe you.

Michael Margolis: Yeah, and that’s the paradox. So what are we taught to do, John, is we’re taught to lead with data and conclusions. But if you lead with data, the story is dead on arrival. So that’s the paradox, because we often forget our audience doesn’t have context, they don’t see the big picture. And they also don’t have emotional self identification. So instead you’re presenting the data that doesn’t mean anything to them. And what you’ll usually hear back in response is, “Well, how’d you come up with that data?” Right? Or, “I don’t know if I agree with that conclusion.”

Michael Margolis: So this is what we describe in the book. It’s actually a three-step narrative framework, which helps people to understand that people have to see it and they have to feel it before they can believe it. So data is a critical part of the story, but it’s the third step in the sequence. And when you actually address getting people to sort of see it, capture their imagination and see the possibilities and get people to empathize and emotionally identify or relate, then they’re going to be begging you for the data that supports what you’re selling. But that one shift makes all the difference.

John Jantsch: It’s almost kind of like they have to be bought in, they have to realize the problem, and then it’s like, “Okay, well then tell me how this is going to work for me.” I mean-

Michael Margolis: Exact … Well, yeah, and to your point about the problem, how often are you in front of an audience that you don’t have shared problem definition? Or how often is that audience complicit if not responsible for that problem? So of course, where you go presenting the problem, they’re going to get defensive.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I mean think about how many products have gone out there and failed because they were solving a problem the audience didn’t know they had. And I think that that’s … But that’s, it’s not necessarily a big leap, but it takes some skills sometimes because of just what you said. I’ve gone out on stages before and said, “Well, you need to do this and you need to do that.” And you can immediately see the arms cross. It’s like, “You don’t know my business. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Michael Margolis: That’s exactly it. And we don’t see, we have this blind spot. So people like you, people like me, and many of your listeners, those of us who are the innovators, the change agents, those who carry the torch where we’re like, “I see the future, I see where things are going, I know what we can do.” We get so passionate and enamored with the new story that we forget that the moment you present the new story, anybody that lives in the old story is likely to feel wrong, bad, judged, stupid, or defensive. And then we’re like, “But what’s wrong with people Why don’t they see what I see?”

Michael Margolis: And like the old saying, John, we teach what we need to learn most. So a lot of this storytelling stuff for me was I’ve always been someone with a strong point of view and sort of get ahead of my own britches sometimes. And I used to struggle when I was younger of like, “What’s wrong with people? Why don’t they see what I see?” And that frustration of feeling like I’m hitting my head against the wall. And I started to realize, “Oh, well there were actually ways I could adjust how I frame and convey my ideas to create more of a receptive feel to make it more relatable and accessible.” Because disruption, innovation tends to trigger fear. It’s the unknown, it’s the unfamiliar for folks. So it’s been a humble learning process for my own.

John Jantsch: So you have an entire section of the book on this framework called the undeniable story. So you started to allude to it and I think I interrupted you. Do you want to kind of say like, here’s part one, here’s part two, here’s part three?

Michael Margolis: Yeah, for sure. So, as you said, undeniable story. So the very premise of this is how do you talk about the future in a way that’s difficult, if not impossible to reject? Because remember, the biggest thing we’re up against? Disbelief. So how do I talk about this way? And again, we do a lot of work in Silicon Valley. We work with heads of product and heads of design at places like Facebook and Google and Hulu and Tesla and the like. And then we also work with a lot of Fortune 500s that are trying to be like Silicon Valley and lead digital transformation and all of this kind of change. So leaders are often having to present this vision about where we’re going and what’s next. And inevitably, they’re up against the VP of no. And so from that perspective, how do you, again, get people to see it and feel it before they believe it?

Michael Margolis: So those are the three steps. Step number one, see it, is actually all about naming the change. So this is actually the most critical step of the three, John, where we often take for granted that people can locate themself in our story. And that also that we’re giving them directionality. See, story is like a GPS. So it’s a location device. Like where are we? And story’s also a transportation vehicle. It takes us places. And the question is where is it taking us and do we want to go there? So part of what we have to do when getting people to see it is we have to frame a context that people can see and that speaks to how the world is changing. So this is one of the storytelling hacks that we figured out here, which is when the world changes, you have to change your story to reflect that new world. It’s a way to externalize the change or the conflict so that you don’t put people on the defensive, but that did something wrong.

John Jantsch: Is there simple way for you to give an example of that?

Michael Margolis: Yeah, for sure. So it’s everything, like inside big companies, it’s things like predictive analytics, and/or things like AI, automation, like pick any of them that are these big trends, and then help people understand, “What can we do now that we couldn’t three or five years ago?” Because of the forcing functions of technology, economics, culture changes, there are all these forces of change that are creating new opportunities and possibilities. And we take it for granted, but like the things that we can do.

Michael Margolis: I was just on a call earlier today with one of our clients that is a Fortune 100 in the insurance and financial services space. I was speaking with their chief digital officer. And one of the things they were pointing out is, “Look, you know, we pay out $40 billion in claims every single year.” So when someone, someone dies early and unexpectedly, or there’s a car accident, or property damage, so on and so on. Well, what if actually through our predictive analytics, we now actually have the ability to identify signals and indicators that we could do, for instance, monthly screenings in different ways that actually would help to identify breast cancer earlier in the lives of of a middle aged woman for instance?

Michael Margolis: Now that’s something that’s completely outside the traditional remit of this company, but they’re realizing as an insurance company it’s like, “Okay, how can we get further ahead in the curve of that customer experience based on the commitment we have to our customers, but let’s actually like create the interventions earlier on.” So that’s the kind of example and obviously this guy is a real visionary inside his company and he has to then be able to convey, communicate this within a broader enterprise that’s going through transformation. Does that help?

John Jantsch: Yeah, it does. I was afraid you were going to say that they had with AI and predictive analytics, they were going to be able to tell who was going to die. So I’m glad you didn’t go there.

Michael Margolis: Sadly, I have a feeling they can figure that out too.

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John Jantsch: Let’s talk about personal stories. So obviously a product needs a story and you need to ways to simplify concepts and information. But does everybody need their own personal story? I mean obviously speakers are very well trained to go out on stage and some sort of connection device. I mean, but is that become sort of standard fare now for anybody that, whether whatever you’re doing, whatever your career is, you should have your story?

Michael Margolis: Yeah, well the answer is yes, absolutely. And it plays out. Sort of, let me give two quick examples. The real simple one for everybody listening is before any business meeting you’ve been Googled. Which means that people are experiencing your story online before they experience you in real life. So let that sink in for a moment cause that’s an existential, “Oh fuck,” for just about every single one of us, right? Because it’s like, “Oh God, does this website make me look fat?” It brings up every insecurity and inadequacy, and we all have it in some form or another.

Michael Margolis: But your LinkedIn profile, your about page. I mean John, you and I have so many mutual friends in common, but as we were introduced, I’m sure before our call today, you Googled, right? Like you followed up on some of the other things that, I forget who introduced us, but it was a wonderful friend. But in follow up to that, it’s like you follow the breadcrumbs. We all do.

Michael Margolis: And so that’s the first place. And we actually even created an online course for this called The New About Me. It’s our bestselling online course, which is like how do you talk about yourself online without sounding like a wanker? And like writing that about page using storytelling principles. So that’s a basic, everybody has to do it. And even if you are working inside a company, your own personal brand, it shows up in many different ways as you’re building your reputation and your expertise and so on.

Michael Margolis: So that’s the basics. We spend a lot of time working with senior leaders inside companies. And so for instance, we just three weeks ago were with another Fortune 500 client. And we did a leadership summit for the CEO and their top 200 leaders. They were presenting their vision and strategy for the year, big transformation they’re leading. Every single one of those 200 leaders, SVP and above, over the next month were all going to lead town halls for all of their direct reports down the line.

Michael Margolis: And so our session was all about how do you personalize and humanize the larger company vision? And we often forget it’s tough because many of us, I know you’re very passionate about servant leadership. So many of us who have this servant leadership mindset, we go, “But it’s not about me. I’m here to serve others.” And so part of what we point out in support though is you can’t separate the message from the messenger and that by helping people understand your own personal backstory or why do you care about this vision? What is it about this new go-to-market or the three pillars of transformation that somehow connect to what you’ve gone through before in your life or how you’ve had to lead a transformation somewhere else.

Michael Margolis: People need that personalized emotional connection. And we had leaders share. We had one leader share story about how their first job was delivering cakes in like a delivery truck and like all of the comedy of errors that would happen and trying to balance like five layer cakes and making sure that they didn’t show up turned upside down. Or another one of the senior leaders told this story about her first job working at a dry cleaners and the things she learned there about customer service that were these humble lessons that inform how she applies the work today. So you’d be amazed at how these little personal vignettes will go to humanize you as a senior leader and help people connect with that.

John Jantsch: Okay. You ready for the tricky question?

Michael Margolis: Oh yeah. I love tricky questions.

John Jantsch: How much of your story has to be true?

Michael Margolis: Great question. I’m a big believer … I live in Los Angeles, so there’s the old Hollywood adage, based on a true story.

John Jantsch: Yeah.

Michael Margolis: So, what I often-

John Jantsch: They really play around with that one too. Sometimes it’s like based on some things that could have been true.

Michael Margolis: Well, so I’m a big believer first and foremost of truth with a capital T. So truth with a capital T is you better really be speaking to something that is fundamentally true about yourself, about life in the world. And then it’s understanding, just like a good Hollywood screenwriter, is that if you’re taking a book like Lord of the Rings and you’re adapting it for the screen, you have to make choices that are going to serve your audience.

Michael Margolis: Sometimes you have to simplify the story. Sometimes you make slight zhushes because it’s just not going to translate otherwise effectively. So I do think sometimes, there is a little creative flourish and sometimes you’re editing, but you have to always ask yourself, “The choices that I’m making, am I doing it in service to my audience or am I doing it in service to my ego validation? Or am I doing it in service to somehow fundamentally deceiving and misleading people on something of material fact that somehow negates or warps?” Would they feel truly betrayed if they found out about the adjustments that you’ve made. So that’s the subjective line that I counsel clients around.

John Jantsch: So people have used story to manipulate. The classic sort of, the one that I see that if I get a pitch from somebody that starts with how he or she lost everything and they did this and did that and now they’ve overcome and they’re doing whatever. The essence of that pitch is, “You’re broke too. And like I used to be, and now you can be rich like I am.” And the essence of that pitch really rubs me the wrong way. How do you see that being an issue of … And I’m not saying all of those are trying to manipulate people, but there certainly is a manipulative aspect to that.

Michael Margolis: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’m trying to think what’s a simple way to answer that. Because we could spend the next hour unpacking that, John. But so here’s what I think. I think that we are increasingly living in an age where our audience is getting smarter and smarter, is getting more and more discerning about whether I can believe this story or not. It’s because we’re asked to process and analyze.

John Jantsch: I’m sorry.

Michael Margolis: Yeah, go ahead.

John Jantsch: I’m sorry, I hate to interrupt you, but I should have interjected a political joke right there. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Michael Margolis: Oh, we could.

John Jantsch: About our audience believing the truth and getting smarter. But I digress.

Michael Margolis: Well, no, no, no. Look, well and I our political environment right now is a great morality tale around manipulation of story and truthiness and post-fact era and all this other kind of garbage. I still fundamentally believe at the end of the day that because of the age of transparency that we’re in, that at the end of the day, the half life of a lie is shorter and shorter and shorter. The truth comes out and we do pay attention to the clues and markers of, “Do I trust this? Do I believe in this? And most importantly, how does this story make me feel?”

Michael Margolis: And we’re more and more skeptical of stories that make us feel like crap. This is a big part of the premise of the book Story 10X, which is something that Jonah Sachs, another colleague of mine in the world of storytelling wrote the book Story Wars. He talks about this, that for the modern marketing from the 1950s to the last about 10 years ago was this era of inadequacy marketing of basically selling and preying on our fears and insecurities. And I think we’re becoming more and more resistant to those kinds of messages.

Michael Margolis: So if we feel something is heavy-handed, we have a sense of it, people are going to react. I think those strategies are less and less effective in this era where we’re looking for authenticity, where we’re looking for … We’re trying to figure out who can we trust and what can we believe? So there’s no simple, clean answer to it, John, other than I think that that character matters.

Michael Margolis: I think that natural authority comes from being able to talk about, “Here’s what I know or here’s what my gift is. And you know what? Here’s where I’m a work in progress. Here’s the stuff I’ve struggled with too.” And the key to it is to make the journey be an open loop. Basically you’re inviting people to join you in the unfolding journey as opposed to back to data and conclusions, the end, the story is over. I’ve wrapped it up in a pretty little bow. And so that shift in mindset I think is the paradigm shift for all of us to think about because you have to invite people into a story where there’s more chapters to be written, if that makes sense.

John Jantsch: Yep. Yep, yep, yep. Absolutely. Become a part of the story. So Michael, thanks for dropping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast to talk about Story 10X. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Michael Margolis: Yeah, absolutely. So you can find Story 10X on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all your local booksellers. You can also go to our website,, that’s And if you go to /Story 10X, you can actually download the first 70 pages of the book. And feel free to reach out to me through social media. I’m especially active on LinkedIn. You can find me there, Michael Margolis.

John Jantsch: All right. Thanks, Michael. Hopefully we’ll run into you soon one day out there on the road.

Michael Margolis: I would love it. Thanks, John. Really appreciate it.