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10 Aug

Ep. 114 – John Hall – CEO & Co-Founder of Influence & Co.

“That’s why you’ve got to be focused on it. Whether you’re a large company, small company, content does matter. It will increase the number of the amount of content out there over the next couple years. There’s going to be noise but as long as you’re very focused on distributing that out to the right people, the noise won’t matter.”

John Hall – CEO & Co-Founder of Influence & Co.; Building influence online; Authenticity is everything; Content brings more opportunities; Top of Mind

 

Segment 1: (Length :04:00) – General Updates; Introduction to John Hall and his journey as an entrepreneur; Co-founding Influence & Co.; Trusted influence versus buying influence.

John’s finer points:

Let me clarify that first. Very few things are because of one person and so, for me, it's more about the people that founded the team together just because even though some people might have a co-founder title or a founder title, success, it's very rarely one person.

“One person a lot of times gets the credit. For us, we had an amazing founding team and I was very lucky because in entrepreneurship, in business, one of the things that you can catch yourself into with success and making money is that you can be around the wrong people.”

“For me, this is my I guess second venture on my own, third venture total. I’ve been around good people and I’ve been around bad people and ultimately you’re happier, success comes a lot better when you’re around great people.”

When we got together it was something that we saw this opportunity and this was more of not that we saw that it was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to make a crap load of money.’ It was more.”

This is a service, and the service at the time we looked at was there's a huge need with entrepreneurs, business leaders, somebody just in general to create trust with an audience.

“The best way of looking at trust and gaining trust that we could find is education. The most trusted people in the world are mentors, coaches, parents, people who have coached you through life and educated you to become the better version of yourself.”

“Our kind of angle on that with what we could do to help was, hey, let’s help these companies create content that’s engaging to this audience, that’s helpful, that really helps them connect from their leadership to this audience. That was the idea and the team came together.”

“I was the co-founder and CEO out the gate but we had a great team that was kind of a team of specialists, a strong editor, a strong writer, a strong publication relations and we put that together and said, “Hey, let’s create this turnkey solution for entrepreneurs.'”

“We did that. It grew substantially within entrepreneurs, small business owners and then what ended up resulting from that is it wasn’t just a entrepreneur or small business thing.'”

People want easy wins and it's very hard in life in general to get very easy wins. They want to say, 'If I pay this money, this influencer who has these 2 million Twitter followers or 5 million Twitter followers, they're going to publish it and it's going to be worth it because all those people are going to buy my product.' It's not like that.

“If you want a successfully influence an industry, there has to be strategic thought and there has to be consistency. There has to be a dedication to it and something that I just did a email about is that create your own influence before you rely on only other people and pay for it.”

“I’ll give you an example of what I mean there is that there was a brand, it was probably six months ago that paid so much for conferences to go to and to get speaking opportunities and paid so much for for content at these large publications and I just looked at them and I was like, ‘Guys, why are you immediately just jumping into paying for everything you possibly can and everybody knows you’re paying for it and you haven’t earned anything?'”

“I gave the example of now people, there’s been one conference in the last year that I paid to speak in and that was just because I knew the owner and I wanted to support the conference because I think it’s an amazing event. It wasn’t to get the speaking gig. Now I’m getting these inbound opportunities where I’m not paying for them. People are actually asking me to speak. Then granted I might spend some money amplifying something beyond that.”

Too many people jump to, 'I'm going to spend money and it's going to be easy,' when in reality the best way to do this is to form your own influence first. If you can form your own influence first, the one thing that influential people love more than money is influence. If you can offer them something of value then that's something that can create a lot of opportunity for you.

“I think the first problem with when people think of influence and specifically when you mention influencer marketing is that they skip a step. They don’t really work because it’s hard to earn your own influence but it makes things so much easier.”

“That’s what I would say is that the number one thing is be focused on how can, as a company, we become more credible, people pay attention to what we’re doing? Have industry leadership so that people want to deal with us and want to work with us and then, in the long term, that should be the main focus initially out the gate.”

Segment 2: (Length :08:00) – Talking with John Hall; Talking authenticity in your content; Influence is about quality and engagement, not necessarily quantity; Navigating new waters.

John’s finer points:

“I think a lot of times brands forget about authenticity and they don’t actually … There’s a difference how people react to feeling like something is … We’re in this stage of our generations that people, honestly they just see through bullshit.”

“Even as a 33-year-old, I can tell when something’s not natural and even though, as I’ve gotten older you become like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to call everybody out every time they’re bullshitting.’ A lot of times I do. At the same time, a lot of times I don’t and I think that you have to remember that when you’re doing anything, whether it be content coming from you, whether it be your hiring or doing some sort of a influence campaign in some way, people can sense that.”

You want to do everything you can to not lose that trust and so that's why when you are creating content, a lot of times people just take a stance because they know it's going to be interesting and attraction when in reality is that if that's not you, over time not only are you going to come off inauthentic but you won't be happy.

“I know a lot of people with massive amounts of influence that, as people, they’re miserable because of the fact is that they got influence by taking a certain stance just because there was an audience there and they actually don’t even agree with the damn stance that they took.”

“I think that authenticity is something that not only is great to get the right audience and to gain trust. It also makes you a happier person as you invest in your own brand, your company’s brand.”

“I don’t want to get all mushy on you but at the same time is that entrepreneurs and leaders and successful business owners really battle with happiness a lot of times. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen some of the billionaires out there that are miserable. I’ve seen somebody make $50,000 that’s a lot happier.'”

I think that sometimes when we're doing things like this we have to remember that not only are we trying to benefit and grow our company but you want to grow in the right way. I think that that's something that is often missed when you're doing personal branding and when you're doing thought leadership, when you're doing company branding. I think it's vital to growing influence in the right way.

“I think that micro influence is starting to be a loose term as well because you said 10,000 followers. There’s some people that have 1,000 followers that have more influence than people with 200,000 followers. It’s ultimately not about necessarily numbers.'”

“Granted, there are some people that have massive numbers and a ridiculous amount of engagement but a lot of them grew it in the right way. Adam Grant, for example, is a influencer who has a very engaged following, in the millions by now. He’s got a ton of engagement. Any time he publishes on LinkedIn or an article, there’s comments galore.”

“It’s important to remember why are you doing this in the first place? At this point a lot of times people are like, ‘Okay, are you only going to deal with people like if somebody wants to set up a meeting because they’re influential in this way, do you only spent time on this because now you have this amount of influence?'”

“For me, I think that everybody matters at this point. It’s not just someone with a million followers. It’s not somebody with 10 million. Everybody can be a micro influencer in a way.”

There's the influencers that are the people with very, very big numbers with a lot of engagement. There's the micro influencers that you described with 10 K but there's also the people that are still in our target audience that have influence and the opportunity for influence that we still need to engage with.

“You never know who knows somebody and you never know what connection and influence they have. That’s why when you’re looking into the area you got to say, ‘Okay, one, how are we engaging with each one of those people?'”

“It doesn’t mean that we ignore, for example, if somebody fills out a contact form or something that isn’t qualified or doesn’t have a ton of influence or whatever, it doesn’t mean we don’t respond the way we would with somebody with 2 million followers. You got to remember that every time you’re engaging people, they can make a difference in your life and when you have that mentality is that over time you gained these followers and you gained these advocates and champions.”

“Champions are a key part of influence. A lot of times the champions, for example, the Gary Vs of this world aren’t a champion for me or for other influences as much. They can help when they share stuff out. It’s great. It can make a difference but a lot of the people that take your brand to new levels are people that don’t have the most influence in the industry with people that become engaged with your brand at a lower level. As they build their influence they’re still a fan and you don’t forget about them.”

“Just to be clear, most of our clients are people or companies that want to build their own influence. You refer to influencer marketing several times which we’re influencer marketing by creating influence within the organization, by building up the key employees of that.”

“It’s a core and base part of influencer marketing but some people look to influencer marketing as the people that are in the industry that aren’t associated with the company so that you want them talking about you.”

“Granted, we have a service for that in a way but it’s not a lot of times the typical influencer marketing platform that you will see in a TapInfluence, for example.”

“For us, the big win was when we started really getting feedback from, because honestly the first year you don’t know what you’re doing a lot of times, specifically in our area because we were like, “This is new. There’s not really a service that specializes in expertise marketing for these individuals and companies,” and so we were trying to navigate it.”

“It was almost like we kind of seeing what would stick but we knew what didn’t work and we knew that the old traditional models of PR and content marketing, it needed to be not just disrupted but it had to evolve.”

“I think for us it was probably in I’d say year two or three when we started actually seeing tangible results where clients would say, “Hey, this isn’t just branding where we’re seeing lifts in brand awareness. We’re actually getting opportunities from this. We’re seeing clients come in. We’re seeing speaking opportunities come in. We’re seeing that we’re getting better recruits. We’re seeing that our sales conversion goes up.”

“One of our clients two or three years ago was somebody that was doing 8 to $10 million. They just got a valuation of $5 billion and we were with them to start that big jump. For us, those things are ones where it’s like, “Wow.” That really gets to me because of the fact is is that when you’re offering something and you know it truly helped someone and offered value and got them to a place that really improved their life and their company, that’s a huge, huge thing because if you can figure that out the money follows.”

“Any time you start figuring that stuff out money will follow and a lot of times people are driven by where’s the money and then we’ll go there and then see what happens. Going to the value first and really offering that, making sure you can scale it, that’s where I got a lot more excited about what the company was up to.”

Segment 3: (Length :10:00) – The responsibility of building influence; Finding new opportunities; the right content distribution for scale; his book, Top of Mind.

John’s finer points:

“Some of these companies, they just have a brand name in the industry and have been around for a while. That’s all they have going for them. They don’t have innovation. They don’t have a lot of times a better product but it really does show you how powerful a brand reputation is.”

“I’ll give an example in our area. There was an area of one of the larger, I don’t want to bash these companies in our area so I’m not going to say the name but they were one of the first people in the content marketing, content creation area now and they grew really early because they were that first company. Then when they got to the size they were they started getting, I mean the service was bad. The results were bad and they started just ultimately losing the business and they really went downhill but still people are going to them because of their brand and their credibility.”

“I think unfortunately for the larger companies, they’re going to have to do that if they don’t have a more flexible environment to try new things, to not get caught up in red tape, a lot of those things.”

I would say that there's a ton of opportunity in different places to really look and say like, 'Don't be scared because there's a big company that owns this space right now.' Be scared if they're really effective.

“There’s a lot of companies that are very, very dinosaur-ish where there’s opportunities. Yeah, the short answer is I see those opportunities that continuously happen, especially with branding. A lot of big companies are not good at individual and thought leadership branding.”

“They’re good at getting advertising and things out there so it gives you an opportunity to really invest in yourself, the leaders around you so that you guys are the familiar faces in the industry and it’s not these brand leaders as much anymore.”

“MasterCard, their CEO. He was one of the first people on the LinkedIn influencer program and he got one article live on it and the first article, I think in the first day, got like 80,000 views, a couple thousand comments. It was numbers that you die for as a influencer or somebody. There was so much engagement. Then he never published again.”

“An example with Dharmesh Shah there where Dharmesh had more influence on LinkedIn than the damn MasterCard. That should not happen. You shouldn’t be the CEO of MasterCard and then somebody from a company that is one, I don’t know, hundredth at least your size, I don’t know the numbers, is up there and has all this engagement and you’re just like, “Man, those are so many missed opportunities,” and that’s why there’s a lot of companies that have.”

“I mean, Buffer is an example of somebody who came up where they started dominating content in their industry when there’s a lot of apps that were out there before them that could’ve taken that crown but they came in, created some really good content, had a great distribution strategy and it resulted in some great branding which is not only going to help them with their apps but also expand their apps past to other services and they build that core content.”

“That’s why you’ve got to be focused on it. Whether you’re a large company, small company, content does matter. It will increase the number of the amount of content out there over the next couple years. There’s going to be noise but as long as you’re very focused on distributing that out to the right people, the noise won’t matter.”

“It has to be very targeted and very focused on getting that information in front of the people that matter so they’re paying attention to you rather than your competitor or another company that’s starting to do some sort of campaign.”

Really, it's just a very big need for people. The term top of mind came up all the time as I was growing the business, that as long as you're top of mind there's an opportunity. I mean, it's just unbelievable how if you stay on people's minds at the right time, how much inbound opportunity comes to you.

“I think that people, you can hustle your ass off with entrepreneurship, with running a company. It’s part of it but trust me, it makes your life so much easier when you have opportunities coming to yourself more. I’ve been through the stage where I’m 100-hour work week away from family and it sucks and it’s effective. However, my life became a lot easier when there was a lot of opportunity in front of me saying, “Hey, we thought of you. Somebody was looking for this service and we thought of you. Oh, somebody was looking for a speaker and we thought of you.”

“The key thing is that you want people to think of you at the right time that can bring opportunities to you. I not only had a lot of professional benefit but I also had personal benefit is that if you’re engaging people in the right way at the right time and you’re gaining trust, you’re not only going to bring opportunity but you’re going to have better relationships.”

“The first part of the book (Top of Mind) is all about building trust with different audiences, how you scale that, how you improve, how you’re engaging whether it’s one on one conversation or whether you’re scaling a content platform.

“The first five, six chapters I wanted to be not about content marketing ultimately but about just the relationship and trust building and ways you can create habits to do that. Even if somebody’s not interested in content marketing, they can read that part of the book and be like, “Wow, this was actually very, very helpful.”

Then as it goes into the reason why I dive in chapters like seven and eight into content is because it's the number one way to scale influence and education. I can only have so many drinks with you and hanging out with you and run into each other but you can read my content over the year and I can also reach thousands and millions of other people just by creating and distributing that content.

“That’s why I focused a couple chapter son that and then I end on the evolution of this and how it’s growing not in just marketing but across companies. People are seeing that this top of mind marketing is working and they’re saying, they’re like, “Wow, this is doing really well. Let’s apply this to recruiting. Let’s apply this to investor communication. Let’s apply this to our employee training,” because all it is, it’s not rocket science.”

“It’s engaging someone to form a relationship with them so that they trust you and then they want you to bring opportunity. They want to work with you or some benefit like that.”

“Segment 4: (Length :03:00) – Hustler Thought of the Day:

As a marketer and leader, you have to be honest with yourself about what value you offer, what your brand stands for, and what your audience wants from you. You can’t keep your guard up and expect your audience to connect with you; the guard has to come down if you want your audience to feel affected by your story and eventually trust you.

 

GENERAL NOTES:

John Hall – CEO & Co-Founder of Influence & Co.

John is the CEO and co-founder of Influence & Co., a tech-enabled content marketing agency that helps brands and individuals extract and leverage their expertise to create, publish, and distribute content to gain influence, visibility, and credibility with their key audiences.

In 2016, John was a recipient of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Best Emerging Company and was recognized as one of the Business Journals’ Top 100 Visionaries.

Influence & Co. was ranked No. 239 on the Inc. 500 and No. 72 on Forbes’ list of the Most Promising Companies in America in 2014.

Influence & Co. was also recognized at the United Nations for being Empact’s Best Marketing and Advertising Company of 2014.

John has been called “one of the most powerful people in media who you’ve never met” by Inc. and a “must-see keynote speaker” by Forbes. He is consistently mentioned in major publications as a top influencer, leader, and speaker.

John writes weekly columns for Forbes and Inc. and has contributed to more than 50 online publications, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Mashable.

He just published his book, “Top of Mind” through McGraw-Hill, which has hit a couple of best seller and must read lists.

Check out John HERE |  Social for John: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

 

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Matt Gottesman

Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ - an online magazine dedicated to the world's entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.