The Art of Breaking Out with Craig McBreen

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My guest today, Brett Henley and I start off the show by talking about a new creative mecca that goes by the name of Nashville, TN. I'm really curious about its creative, tech, and food culture, and why so many people I talk to lately seem to be moving there. And Brett has quite a bit to say about this grand old city everyone is moving to.

Brett's story

Here we discuss Brett's own story, what he was like as an introverted kid fully immersed in geek culture, and his honest account of his meandering, sometimes painful, journey.

Brett has a background in digital strategy, so I naturally ask him about that fun world, what led him there, and how he ended up in the creative space. So we talk about his start in digital media around 2006, how he spent a fairly long time in the agency world, which slowly, but surely led to where he is today. This leads to a discussion of the portfolio life and why this is such a great time for those renaissance men and woman with a variety of skills to break out in their own way.

Hey Instigator and Brett's consulting process

We then take a deep dive into branding, including Brett's methodology for bringing a brand to life. We talk about what Brett is doing today, including his property, Hey Instigator. How his new work is centered on creative entrepreneurship and "combining creative services and a gentle kick in the ass." And, based on that statement, I ask him to run through a typical client call and how he addresses a client's biggest challenges. He often starts the process by taking a journalistic approach that is both personal and painfully honest. Brett works with clients to help them articulate their brand by going beyond standard branding "best practices." His approach is not just about their skills, but their personality and how that impacts their business. 

The entrepreneurial struggle and how to be profitably creative.

A recurring theme in this show is the entrepreneurial struggle and one of my favorite topics—combining self-awareness and creativity. So, we talk through this topic and why many in the online realm think there's a magic solution to help them rise from obscurity to notoriety. And why many get stuck playing this comparison game.

The clear problem is that "success" is so subjective, so there is obviously no boiler plate solution. Not to mention, building a successful online platform is really hard, and it's not always about hustling more than the other guy… it's more about finding your unique place and doing things that fit with your style, your temperament, your level of creativity, and built around those you truly want to work with. This leads to a discussion of Maisy Smiths "Rocking the Small Corners" post, and the idea of changing the world in your own little way.

We even discuss social media, but the focus of this show is about what is means to be a creative entrepreneur in this day and age… How does self-awareness fit it? What about visibility vs. simply loving the craft? How does one go from bootstrap to sustainable? And how do we squash those built-in notions that somehow if we are not "making it"—living up to entrepreneurial standard ad hustling at all costs—we are not worth it?

And I ask him at the very end: What does "showing up" mean to you? I love his answer and think the entire interview is well worth the listen, ESPECIALLY if you are a struggling creative entrepreneur.

Questions I ask:

  • How did you find your way into digital strategy?
  • What are your clients' biggest challenges? What is a typical coaching call like?
  • What are habits that keep you on track?
  • What is your Why? What lights you up?
  • What was the major reason for shutting down your podcast?
  • How does one go from bootstrap to sustainable?
  • Can success and self worth fit together?

What you will learn:

  • The painful process of fleshing out a brand that truly represents you. (The best branding processes often have an element of pain.)
  • Why his branding process is like creative therapy.
  • You don't need a massive platform to be successful :)
  • Your body of work is a lifetime process (a marathon).
  • The myth of the overnight sensation.

Links mentioned in the show:

Maisy smith: Rocking the small corners.
Danielle Laport
AJ Leon and Misfit Inc. (Hey dude, we mentioned you… email him or Melissa).
Portfolio life podcast Jeff Goins
Unmistakable Creative podcast Srinivas Rao
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
Brett Henley on Twitter
Bretthenley.com
Hey Instigator Brett's Business

Direct download: Episode_45-_Brett_HenleyPeople_Purpose_and_Profit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:04pm PDT

I've been wanting to speak to my guest, John Jantsch, for a long time. This is because I've been working with small businesses for most of my career. And small business marketing is John's sweet spot.

We start the conversation talking about the new hipster haven—Kansas City, MO. Yep, you heard me right.  So of course, we get to talking about John's home town of KC, what's great about the city, and other creative havens popping up around the U.S.

Then we get into John Jantsch's own story.

How he found his way into the marketing world and marketing strategy for small business. We quickly learn that John was and is unemployable—he started setting his own course 28 years ago, mainly working with small businesses. Around 2000 he realized he needed to create a systematic approach to small business marketing done right. And this "system approach" is what really led to the Duct Tape brand. Most small businesses struggle with marketing. They need a simple, effective, and affordable approach like Duct Tape Marketing. So we discuss the genesis of his business and how it has evolved over the years.

Then we dive into building a personal brand as an ultimate source of power.

For me, any branding exercise is about taking ideas (sometimes a mishmash of stuff) and distilling those ideas down to something that effectively communicates to the right people. So, we take a deep dive into John's process of building the kind of brand authority that can attract new business and create more opportunities by speaking to the right people. John says effectively building a rock-solid personal brand all starts with a point of view.

[bctt tweet=""Building personal brand authority is perhaps the most important element of marketing today." "]

We also talk about the importance of the initial brand steps. This is usually called positioning—boiling a company's essence down to a paragraph, maybe even a sentence, or dare I say, one word. We talk about this and John's one word—practical. So we discuss the practical approach of the Duct Tape Marketing system and  how John has expanded on this word in his own branding.

More on personal branding done right and making it online.

Then we expand our branding discussion and talk through developing a point of view.

How do you become that go-to person with a magnetic personal brand? For someone entering the crowded online realm now, how in the world do they become the go-to expert? Rise above the noise? By developing a specific point of view, sticking to it, and truly adding value to someone's life. Turn it into THE way. YOUR way.

John has a framework called The Marketing Hourglass. The concept is really about spending time with the customer after they become a client. We get into the seven stages and why it's important to start with and end in mind by asking yourself the following: How do I want my customers to feel 180 days after a purchase? Always think about the customer experience fist, because a happy customer is your best referral source. This focus on customer loyalty is crucial to your success.

Then we transition to our online bubble, discussing rising stars like John Lee Dumas and Derek Halpern. Which leads to a discussion about the comparison game, John's admiration for John and Derek, and also mention of those who shall not be named, who are not so honest. When it comes to selling the idea of making money online, there are many doing it right (like John and Derek) but many who are not.

So, we naturally talk about the not-so-easy path. The not-so-secret "secret" to John's success. Truth.

Then we get into the art of delegation and how to scale your business. A true entrepreneur asks the following: How can I get someone else to do this? And that is something you must do if you want to grow your business—start offloading everything you can as soon as you can. So, how do you start? Put together a "not-do" list.

John says the key is starting by identifying the high-paying activities. John always takes two full days a week to focus on his business. On these days he doesn't do anything else. For you, this is when you take inventory, think, strategize. Look at your big goals and work to develop a structure for the things you must do to get there. Then start doing them.

We end by talking about the entrepreneurial struggle and habits that keep John on track. Exercise is a big part of his day, as is meditation and writing. John has very structured days. So we talk about all his "best practices" when it comes to keeping up a healthy, productive, and highly-structured routine.

I also ask for his opinion on the live streaming craze (Periscope anyone) and where it's going. A good takeaway from this discussion: When John is advising clients he usually tells them to not look at the next big thing. He asks them the following: Is there a way to enhance your customer experience with these tools? If not, drop it. If so, let's see how. I love that advice and I think you'll love this conversation.

Questions I ask:

  • When did Duct Tape Marketing start?
  • What are the first steps to effectively build a magnetic personal brand?
  • In your own brand positioning you use the word "practical." How have you expanded on this word?
  • For someone entering the online realm now, are their specific practices that will help them rise above the noise?
  • What is your Marketing Hourglass framework?
  • What are habits that keep you on track?
  • What about reinvention and those 40, 50, 60 year olds who want to break out online. People who haven't been in the game and are wanting to jump in. Where do they start?

What you will learn:

  • John's first blog post was in August, 2003
  • All about John's Duct Tape system and consulting network.
  • Great advice on how to scale your business.
  • John takes 2 full days a week to focus on his business and doesn't do anything else.
  • The importance of IDing your priorities and the areas you need to grow.
  • Great advice on how to build a personal brand.

Links mentioned in the show:


My guest, Chris Ducker, is an outsourcing expert. Well that might be an understatement because when it comes to all things virtual staff related, Chris is the go-to guy.

But this podcast is all about something else he's really, really good at—personal branding. In fact there's a little project called Youpreneur that Chris has launched and it has everything to do with rock-solid brand-building.

We start off talking all thinks Philippines, and you'll learn a few fun facts about the people and the country Chris calls home.

Then we discuss his start in the publishing world in London, and his transition to designing an entire sales and marketing funnel for an infomercial business. Turns out that this industry is actually where Mr. Ducker cut his teeth in the world of brand-building, and he learned a ton about corporate branding and identity.

Next, we talk about his mentors—one good, one bad. And how the bad one drove him to get out of a very, very toxic work relationship. This gave him the impetus to bust a major move and transition into the entrepreneurial world, starting in 2006 with the Live to Sell group.

We dive into how the Chris Ducker personal brand has evolved over the years. And why he stopped pulling back and just went ahead being his authentic self. So, he went all-in with his own new platform in 2012. This branding discussion leads to one of my favorite topics—the intersection of passion and knowledge; what this means for others and what it meant for him while developing his story and fleshing out his online brand.

This leads to the topic of what most people do wrong when it comes to brand-building. So we discuss the passion versus a solid business model; success, selling, and the mistakes too many people make. We mention Pat Flynn, and it turns out Pat Flynn's fortuitous—and quickly successful–arrival on the blogging scene was not a fortuitous accident at all. And why "success" almost always comes down to effectively solving a problem. A customer's pain point.

We dive head first into the live streaming phenomenon and I ask Chris to convince me that Periscope—and the live streaming craze in general—is worth my time. He has a very interesting viewpoint on this medium, how it exposes people in its live, unedited format, and how it might shake out over time.

I conclude the show by asking him what showing up means to him. (I think you'll love his answer.)

Questions I ask:

  • How hard was it to whittle down your content to a laser-focused brand?
  • Why do most people fail to gain traction with their online brands?
  • Is Periscope (and the live streaming craze in general) worth it? What does one gain from being on one of these platforms?
  • What does showing up mean to you?
  • What was the process like developing your personal brand—from a design and story perspective?

What you will learn:

  • Filipinos are the world's biggest gin drinkers. No kidding.
  • Chris is a huge Bruce Lee fan.
  • My favorite saying form the interview: Attract the best, repel the rest.
  • Chris's personal logo was done in less than a day.
  • Why cashing in on your passion is never a great model. (Profit trumps passion.) You can't pay the bills with excitement levels. Build it. Market it. Sell it. To as many as you can.
  • Chris thinks the live streaming phenomenon is personal branding gold, if done right.
  • He currently sponsors over 30 children for school.

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Direct download: Episode_43-_Chris_DuckerHow_He_Built_a_Magnetic_Personal_Brand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:23pm PDT

ReinventionWorks was conceived when my guest, Hollis Thomases, had to serve jury duty. Yep. In the midst of her own reinvention, and unable to bring any electronic devices to the jury room, she began contemplating her next career move.

After listing a few ideas she had a flash of inspiration: To capture the stories of individuals going through their own reinvention and turn it into something special.

Hollis had built up quite a list of credentials over the years, so why not use her talents as a connector, networker, and storyteller to inspire, teach, and spark reinvention in others?

This kind of sums up her baby, Reinvention works. And today's podcast is all about Hollis, her story, and what she is doing to make her own dent in the universe.

We start off talking about young Hollis, what it was like growing up in Rockland County New York, and a discussion all about her years at Cornell University. We then get into how she started in the social media world, and how her first reinvention happened while she was working as a communications assist for the greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Hollis spent the next 10 years of her career in various jobs in marketing, PR, sales, etc. So we talk through her foray into the digital marketing world, and how a great idea she thought she had, actually led to her pivoting and reinventing her entire business.

Fast forward to what she is doing now—ReinventionWorks. Hollis and I talk about how she came up with the idea, what the platform and program is all about, and the amazing importance of thinking as a reinventionist, no matter your age or situation.

So, when it comes to reinvention, who are we talking about? Well it spans the gamut, from people in financial services now working in women's apparel to rock stars becoming chefs. I turns out Bad Co. bass guitarist Paul Cullen is now a private chef. And Erin Dickens, cofounder of Manhattan Transfer, is now peddling spices, cooking in your kitchen and singing you jazz. (Check out the show notes for both.)

We get into a discussion of what reinvention is, how Hollis is growing ReinventionWorks, and what it means to you…

Questions I ask:

  • How do you define reinvention?
  • How does someone go beyond mere change?
  • Can someone reinvent themselves working for someone else?
  • What habits keep you on track?
  • What are some of the questions you ask for someone wanting to reinvent themselves?
  • What does showing up mean to you?

What you will learn:

  • The importance of pivoting
  • Everything about her reinvention experiment.
  • Reinvention reaches many different age groups.
  • The average life expectancy of a company on the NY stock exchange is 10 years.
  • The importance of intention with reinvention.
  • Internal chatter is the little devil and its usually what stops you from change.

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: Episode_42Personal_Reinvention_with_Hollis_Thomases.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:04pm PDT

My guest, Joe Pulizzi and I start out talking about his home town, Cleveland, Ohio, and  the song Cleveland Rocks by Ian Hunter, Harvey Pekar and other Cleveland luminaries. We talk all things Cleveland and I can't help it. My last visit to Cleveland was over 20 years ago, so I'm a little bit fascinated with this town's turnaround.

And sorry, I know it's March, but I couldn't resist asking Joe about the Cleveland Browns and his opinion of party-boy quarterback, Johnny Manziel. This interview was recorded just before the Superbowl, so football was a topic ;)

Then, at last, we get to marketing and his book Content Inc. So we talk about the little guy (small business owner and solopreneur) and how he can get traction online. We talk about why Joe—a guy who usually focuses on enterprise business—wrote Content Inc. and worked to focus on the little guy. And how he reverse engineered the model of each individual featured in the book. They all went through Joe's Content Inc. six-step model (the six steps are listed at the end of this post).

Joe takes us through his six steps, first emphasizing the importance of finding your sweet spot (and starting with why) and finding a business that feeds your passion. Turns out that Andy Schneider (aka The Chicken Whisperer) has a lot to teach your average small business owner about breaking out online. We discuss how Andy grew this brand through content marketing and Joe describes an easy exercise to help you start to find your sweet spot.

We then talk about developing a brand around a niche (which leads to a discussion on how the heck do you pronounce "niche" anyway?) It turns out that finding a niche within a niche might be the way to go. His strategy is about saying no to certain things and focusing your resources and attention on one area. Most successful brands and media companies started this way.

Next we explore Mark Schaefer's Content Shock message and Joe's thoughts on content saturation as an impediment to breaking out online. Joe makes a case for it being easier to break out today because there are little to no barriers to entry. Joe's lesson: There is more content sure, but if you're focusing on the right niche and pain points, maybe it's easier to break through today.

We dive into a real-world example of Marcus Sheridan and River Pools and Spas (dive in. Ha ha, get it?), the importance of creating an audience first and then being consistent, consistent, consistent, and "building the base" vs. being everywhere.

After that we get into RedBull Media House and what they are doing with their amazing success and its value to Red Bull. Turns out they started with one type of media–a print magazine. If you want to break out, you should start with one type of media as well. This leads to a discussion on the live streaming phenomenon, why this spreads some people so thin, and why it'll never work for you if you don't first find your sweet spot, put your own personal spin on it, build the base and be consistent.

The Chicken Whisperer made it because he started with a very simple base and slowly grew his own little media empire from that.

Next we discuss monetization. Joe reemphasizes the importance of building audience first, and keeping a narrow focus. He even uses the example of John Deer (the largest media company in the farming industry) and how their successes where incremental.

At the end of the interview I ask Joe what a typical day is like for him and how he stays so productive. This includes the importance of goal-setting, daily review of goals, and OUTSOURCING! Review goals, plan, give up control of what you can't handle and… break out.

My final question is about breaking out and what "showing up" means to Joe. You'll love what he has to say about this.

Joe Pulizzi's Six Steps to Content Marketing Domination (The Content Inc. Model).

1. Find your sweet spot
2. Content tilt
3. Building the base
4. Harvest audience
5. Diversification
6. Monetization

Questions I ask:

  • You’re in the enterprise world. Why did you write a book directed at Solopreneurs?
  • Why do most people fail to build and effective online brand?
  • What is the secret to drill down to profitable niche?
  • What mistakes do aspiring entrepreneurs usually make when it comes to developing their online niche?
  • What is a typical day like for Joe Pulizzi? How do you stay so productive?

What you will learn:

  • The big trends for 2016 are… are you ready?… Print and Email ;) Seriously folks.
  • Joe has a goal of writing a book every two years.
  • Even a great content marketing plan often takes 6-9 months to break "radio silence."
  • To go big you have to go small (and specifically answering the hard question—is your venture "niche enough?"
  • The importance of focusing on one content type and one platform to success.
  • The importance of reviewing your goals daily.

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: Episode_41Joe_Pulizzis_6_Steps_to_Content_Marketing_Domination.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17am PDT

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