At 35,000 feet in the air, flying over the emerald green seas of Vietnam, in the airplane filled with tourists mostly made up of aunties, I heard a familiar name being mentioned.
Yes, the High Ticket Closer, the YouTube KOL, and probably one of the hottest business gurus at the moment. I turned around, thinking to find fellow entrepreneurs that I could network with on this three-hour flight back from Da Nang. Instead, I found a group of Cantonese-speaking aunties discussing Dan.
“No way” was my immediate response.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The aunties could discuss anything they want, and I am in no right position to judge. But while I expect to hear family gossips, highlights of their travels or their talk anything politics, the last thing I expect was them discussing Dan Lok. Heck, one of the ladies was even showing one of his video she saved on her phone.
As Dan’s voice (with his signature speaking style and accent) start to fill one part of the cabin on this 100% occupancy flight, I was just literally mind-blown. Having been in the personal development industry for 15 years (as a customer and also a service provider), by no way again this was an elitist mentality, but usually, only a certain group of seminar junkies and personal growth enthusiasts would exchange notes on anything self-help. And I am truly impressed with Dan for being able to break barriers into this unusual group, influencing their thinking most other Caucasian gurus have failed.
Over the years I had tried to get my own relatives to consume content from the greats, the Robbins, the Kiyosakis, and the Sharmas, of the world, but they usually brushed it aside with remarks from mumbo-jumbo to snake-oil peddler. I am also mindful that perhaps it was my poor marketing and promotion skills that failed me in buying their attention. 🙁
So now, you can imagine how impressed I am, and that made me wonder, what can marketers like us learn from Dan Lok, so that we too can expand our reach beyond the usual target audience, tapping perhaps into an untapped market, opening doors to endless possibilities.
While I do not promise you will become Dan by the end of this post (or be the topic of discussion for a group of aunties on a flight), some of these tips are what I repeatedly recommend to my clients who want to become an authority in their space over the years. Chances are they can be useful for you too.
“You’re stupid for giving all these value without charging your community a single cent”, was what one “business coach” told me when a bunch of my friends and I started KICKSTART many years ago. From a pathetic meetup of 20 pax in a shady part of PJ to over a 200+ attendees monthly gathering of entrepreneurs in less than three months, we were having so much fun featuring prominent local and international speakers to the community, that we never really thought of a business model. Little did we expect that those value-adding activities to over 4300+ members came back to reward us many, many years later, when we least expect it. For myself, all three ventures I am involved in currently are the result of KICKSTART. Yes, while we could have made some money charging the attendees, just like how the business coach advised us to, I like to think the returns I am enjoying now far outweigh the short term gains.
And that is a mindset I would recommend you adopt moving forward. Always seek to add value to the market, and trust that the market will reward you later. Some say what goes around comes around, others call it seeding. John Maxwell once told me something I had been using as a guiding compass for my years as a content marketer, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much care.” Gary Vee echoes with his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.
Or Winston S. Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Heck if these legends lived by that rule, perhaps it’s wise of us to adopt that as well.
Back to Dan, if you dig into his YouTube history, you will see that he had been producing years of great content for free. So before you remarked that he’s an overnight rockstar by sheer luck (or by going viral among aunty-groups), know that he had been putting lots of hard work out there, seeding for his success today.
I once asked a great public speaker how she made such amazing connections with her audience every time she went on stage. I mean, by the end of the session, she usually received thunderous applause from the crowd, standing ovations and even hugs off stage.
“Focus on only one,” was her advice. Regardless if it’s a crowd of 5, 5,000 or 500,000, focus on connecting with only one.
She encouraged me to apply that mentality into my writing and content production as well. Whether you are crafting an ad for the masses or writing an email to a list of 10,000, always aim to connect with just one person.
That’s where customer personas come in. Imagine your ideal audience – a rebellious teenage looking to prove her self-worth, a struggling single mom trying to earn that extra dollar, a retired CEO looking for meaning in his life – and pinpoint his or her interest, the brands that they follow, the influencers that influence them, the places they hang out, the pain points in their lives. Imagine yourself interviewing them, or better yet, find one in real life and buy them coffee. Be curious about their behaviors. Question their thought process. Quiz them on their lifestyle choices.
BONUS RESOURCE: I only use this template when working with my clients, and it’s free for you to down here.
This customer persona (or ideal client profile whatever you wanna call it), is three things.
One, it’s a guide to how you can plan your content angle, direction, flavor and style. It will help you create content that really matters to the person, something they can relate, something they will whisper under their breath in astonishment “man, it’s like the author is talking to me!”.
Two, it’s an ongoing project. As you become more familiar with your persona, you will refine your profiling, adding some stuff, removing others.
Three, it comes in a collection. So don’t just have one persona; have multiple. And rotate your content across the different personas you are targeting. Someone once asked how NYT bestselling author and award-winning podcaster Tim Ferriss how he creates content to appeal to his different audiences – health, fitness, personal development, investment, entrepreneurship, lifestyle hacking. He simply cycles through those interest. One week he could be interviewing chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, next week he would be talking to multi-platinum, Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx. Basically, what Tim is saying is you can’t appeal to everyone at the same time, so just focus on one, and shift your attention along the way.
If you’re digital marketer, let me tell you this: I personally hate digital marketers who think that digital marketing is everything. While you can throw around your CPAs and impressions, boasting about how you “hack” your funnel, there is still tremendous value in mass-mailing personalized letters to SME business owners, or leaflet dropping to promote swimming classes in residential areas. End of the day, PPC, email, SEO, chatbot and whatever comes up tomorrow are just tools. And the thing about tools, they come and go. Remember when the only way to send a message faster than snail mail was fax, or when T9 was hailed as the only input all mobile devices should employ? It comes and go, baby.
Rather than focusing (gloating) on the tools, think where your target markets are hanging out. If they are consistently using a fixed route to and from work, explore billboards (yes growth hacker… while you cannot track the performance of a billboard, try beating its frequency and impressions). If they are doing their grocery shopping at a particular chain, try pop up stalls. If they need to clear their inbox daily, experiment with crafting catchy email subject lines (yes, to those digital marketers who think that email marketing doesn’t work, please know that over 93% of my businesses start off with a simple, often cold email. Heck, even my life partner came off email marketing, so take that Tinder!)
Remember, keep your mind on your target markets, as if you have studied them as recommended in step 2, then you will know the best platforms to engage with them. Facebook may be all the hype, but is LinkedIn a better option? Google is great for those who have the intention of buying, but what about those who may need to be educated of what’s being offered out there? Youtube may be ideal for those who want longer form content, but perhaps the touch-and-go engagement style of Instagram and Snapchat may be more appropriate. Think out of the box too, hit them when they least expected. For example, I have used Eventbrite to boost app downloads, and Tinder to drive participants to events.
A friend once told me, if you want to look for a religious/spiritual, family-centric home-making wife, don’t lar go clubbing every night. Great dating and marketing insight, yes?
So you create an awesome piece of content – video, guide, infographic even – and you put it out there. Will one piece of content makes you a rockstar overnight? Maybe, but the chances are healthier if you buy a lottery ticket.
The truth it, as you get started, you will need to be consistent in your content production, or at least your audience engagement. One blog post a year during new year’s eve ain’t gonna cut it. And so is one video per quarter. Just like everything good in life, authority building takes time before you hit the tipping point.
Now that you know who you are talking to and where they hang out, map out a 6-month calendar. You can set themes, tie in with industry happenings, or bring your audience through a journey. You chart the course, you pinpoint the key attractions, you decide on the stops you want to make. Look at it as planning a 6-month journey around a region (US, Europe, Asia, whatever fancies you); I’m pretty sure you’re not going to decide where to go by throwing darts on the departure/arrival boards at the airport, and then figure out what/who you wanna bring along right?
But hey, what about influencers like Kevin Rose who hosts the successful Random Show, where they can talk about everything and anything? Yes, if your theme is random, shock-and-awe and generally ’surprise!”, then yes, that is a path you can follow. But remember, Kevin has got a huge following since his Digg and Google Venture days, and he has amazing traction in the startup and entrepreneurship scene. People are hooked on his natural spontaneity and curiosity, because friends would constantly ask him “Hey dude whatcha doin’ these days?”
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. So if you have missed the earlier boats on personal branding and authority building, start with a plan today. Each influence building stage comes with it’s set of challenges – start too early and not enough users are on the platform yet. Start too late and you have to stand out from the crowd. The only guaranteed chance you have is to move forward.
They say human attention is akin to a goldfish these days, with all the constant distraction of technology and all. Actually, that’s incorrect.
Count with me.
7 seconds is the attention of a goldfish, as researchers have discovered.
3 caterpillars… oh hey look at that blip on my phone!
Yup, it’s a little over 3 seconds.
Attention is the true currency today, and businesses are paying top dollar for it. Which is why you need to have more than one way to present your content, and chances are, your mom has already thought you how in the kitchen… using eggs.
Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Runny. Hardboiled. Softboiled. Steamed. Omelet. You would think at one point in history, they got really bored one weekend and decided to have a hackathon around ways to cook eggs!
How does that apply to authority building? Repurpose for variety. If you have written a long-ass post (kinda like this one, but hey, the flight haven’t ended), you can summarise it into a 60 second video on Facebook Live, or 8 slides on Slideshare, or an infographic on Instagram, or story block on LinkedIn, or a series of Tweets, or read it into a mic and upload it to Soundcloud, or record a video of you narrating the highlights on the article and upload it to YouTube, or fit it into a mobile-friendly template and email it out, or print it out and mail it to your key clients.
Remember, if your mom had fed you hard boiled eggs every day, chances are you will be bored by the end of the week (unless you love hard boil eggs to the core that you can fill a bathtub with them, of which I would strongly advise a health check, just to make sure things are ok). So will your target market. Give them different ways to “stumble upon” your content and you.
How’s that for not putting all your eggs in one basket? #punintended
Content creation is awesome, but trust me, it can be tiring. I used to write daily for years, and yes, while it gets easier, it is still time-consuming. Coming up with content ideas is one thing. The actual production, that harder work, mind you.
Side note: Take this article, for example. At 3200+ words, I took about 25 minutes to map out what I wanted to write about – the table of contents, the key points, if you will. Then, there were about 25 minutes of research, just to make sure I have enough to flesh out the content. Then, although I originally planned this to be a 1200 word article, which normally takes me 25 minutes to write, the truth is the longer an article is, the more time it will take. As of now since the flight start, I have clocked in about an hour of writing. Is it done? Hell no. There’s still editing and formatting (which I entrust to the good hands of the editors of NEXT).
Now you know why content writer charges so much, eh?
Which is why instead of just serving eggs, even if they are in different styles, try introducing some bacon, sausage, toasts and baked beans. Eggs on noodles. Eggs on rice. Eggs in soup. Eggs wrapped around chicken meat and deep fried.
So while there’s content creation, there’s also content curation. Look for other credible sources of content, add in your personalized captions, and share it with your community. If you run an email list, do a little summary of what’s up with your industry, inject your thoughts (just a paragraph of two will do), and send it out to your community. Think “branding by association”. So if you’re on this authority building journey, and you’re tapping on the established authorities of others, it will help to elevate you too.
Some of you may be thinking now, “Hey, Mav, isn’t that sending traffic to others?” Two things. One, I’m pretty sure you didn’t mind others sending traffic your way, right? So let’s make it a give and take, win some, lose some. Remember point #1?
Two, explore “traffic call-back” tools like Poplink.io, Snip.ly and Back.ly. These nifty tools create a special link based on your third-party contents that will enable you to integrate pop-ups and call-to-actions onto other people’s articles. Sounds magical and unreal? Check them out. Most of those tools have free trials for you to play with.
Another form of curation-creation hybrid you can play with, is to “crowd-source” your content. Interview other subject matter experts, invite someone to guest blog (like what I’m doing for NEXT now), organize an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on AMAfeed, collect the questions and answers them in a content piece. Heck, you can even invite your community for their views and opinions on a matter aligned with your content direction, curate their responses, put in your thoughts here and there, and hit ‘publish’. Don’t forget to credit them though. As a matter of fact, tag them on social media and who knows, they will share it with their connections as well!
Don’t take offense on this, because if you follow me on one of my early morning breakfast (5am) at Chow Kit (BKT), you’ll occasionally stumble upon some prostitutes. Yes, at 5am, no joke. Well, at one point, I have to credit them for the hustle, but as I sat there observing them, sipping my shots of tea, I occasionally wonder, what could I do better in their position?
And before you judge, mind you, prostitution is a legal profession in more and more countries, aside from being one of the oldest profession there is. That aside, for a few, it’s a means to an end, a way to put their kids to school, a path to ensure there’s food on the table.
So, back to Mav being a prostitute, how would he avoid the 5am hustling? For one, think strategy. Is there someone that I can partner with (aka pimps)? Or better yet, can I move up the supply chain and be the supplier instead. Can what I offer to be a pre-business to another existing business out there, or a cross-sell, upset or downsell?
As you chart your course to amplify your authority, one thing you cannot do without is partnerships. Sure, you can hustle and do it all alone, That’s working hard, and sometimes you have to pay your dues. But once you’ve learned the rules of the game, it’s time for you to sit back and think smart. If you’re paying $0.10 to show your content to one person, can you partner with someone to reduce the cost down by 50%? Is there another medium/platform/channel you can tap on with existing traffic? Is there a brand you can be associated with where for 100% of the effort you put in, you will get 1000% ROI?
As I depart to leave the plane after a 2.5-hour cramped up session between a hyperactive kid and a frustrated old man, I kept asking if perhaps it was a matter of timing that KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) like Dan Lok rose to their prominence. Would the same aunties be talking about him if he had entered the scene 10 years earlier? It’s a hard answer, because we both know how much a hustler Dan can be, and he could still make it work. But let’s look at factors – a decade ago, we just had our first entry into the MCU (RDJ’s Iron Man), the iPad was introduced, Google had just bought YouTube, and digital marketing was mainly SEO and Google Adwords (it was more known as internet marketing back then).
But fast forward to today, and the internet is on the piece of device that everyone is holding more often than the hands of all their loved ones combined. There’s never a better time to kickstart your authority and become an influencer.
Take some time this weekend to take stock of your current skill set, identify the best content formats for you to delve in, map our your customer profiles and content calendar, and just start writing or hit that record button.
Who knows, 6 months down the road, I’ll be hearing your name being thrown around by aunties in that cramped up cabin 35000 feet up in the air.
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