Today, I spoke to David Siteman Garland, who is the Founder of The Rise To The Top, and the author of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business. In this interview, David talks about how to grow your brand without spending a lot of money, how to compete with mega brand names, and more.
1) Shift your mindset from a product pusher to a trusted resource. A product pusher (online and offline) focuses on shoving his or her product down people’s throats. And really who wants that? On the other hand, a trusted resource is the go-to person that spends their time educating, entertaining and inspiring as opposed to hard selling. An approachable authority. As opposed to focusing on marketing and promoting a product, a trusted resource focuses on marketing and promoting great content (online and off). As a result, trusted resources not only make more sales from a soft selling approach, but also have a great reputation. Not a bad position to be in!
2) Start the online media arm of your company with some type of FREE no-strings-attached content around an interest or passion (not a product). For example, if my company was a hockey stick company, I wouldn’t create content about how cool the sticks are (because really…who cares?). Instead, a better play would be to perhaps create a web show interviewing hockey players or a series of short videos with shooting and tips. Why? Because content is marketable. People share content. And it builds influence and trust. Influence and trust leads to sales.
3) Respect the blogger: Focus on one-on-one relationships with bloggers and new media sources. There are influential and up-and-coming bloggers in really every industry and niche. Search Alltop.com or Google Blogsearch and identify the key players. Look for opportunities to participate on their blogs (leaving comments, offer guest posts, etc.). A key component of brand building is relationships and networking with likeminded people. Trust me, good things will happen.
It used to be the big brands had all the power. Now, due to the social web and new economy, the Davids have advantages over the Goliaths. The key is focusing on things that you can do as a small company that big brands struggle with. For example:
On social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), big brands REALLY struggle with one-on-one connections. The Goliaths often focus on campaigns and coupons. The advantage of small here is to really get in there and form a personal connections with friends and followers. It might be as simple as asking people how their day is going or joking around. We are in in the midst of a return to the way business is in small towns. You do business with the butcher on the corner because not only is he the closest butcher but he knows your kids names and your favorite sports team. The Internet has allowed for geography to no longer be the barrier. At some level we all crave connection. And connection is at a one-on-one level.
This is what I did when growing The Rise To The Top. Entrepreneurship is a crowded industry and there are lots of big players (Goliaths). I knew I couldn’t out-spend them with a limited budget, so I decided to out-connect and out-engage. That meant replying to all comments on my website. All tweets and messages coming my way (as many as possible). All emails. Is it time-consuming? You bet. Is it worth it? A million times over.
“The key is being a human as opposed to a company.”
This might seem like common sense, but open your big mouth and let everyone in you know you are starting a business and ask for a nudge in the right direction. My company started as a local TV show and I had very little money to get going. What I did first was made a list of people I knew and simply told them, “Here is my idea. What do you think? If you hate it, feel free to punch me in the face. If you like like it, would you mind nudging me in the right direction?”
What ended up happening was people were helpful. Someone knew someone in production. Someone’s brother’s friend’s mother’s cat’s uncle (or something) knew someone in the TV business. Introductions happened. The funny thing is you NEVER know who will be helpful until you ask. It might be the guy on the corner who serves coffee.
Should everyone become an expert source in their field? Why or why not?
Ab-so-freaking-lutely. Here is the secret sauce: The word “expert” is often misused and kind of gives you that “ewwww” feeling and I get it. An expert isn’t some all-knowing being who sits in silence for twenty hours a day or someone that the media deems an “expert” or someone that is a jerk and knows more than you. That might have been the way it used to be, but not anymore. I like the term trusted resource. A trusted resource is someone that brings people together around a common passion, interest, idea or quest and the leads the way. Trusted resources aren’t inaccessible hiding behind PR reps, but instead friendly, approachable and helpful (and human!).
When you bring people together and you are a leader, it is incredibly powerful. Building a community is like building an army that supports an idea. This can lead to everything from more sales to delicious media attention and more importantly long term brand value.
What has been the most important thing to you as you’ve grown your business?
I have a saying: “Money follows passion and not the other way around.” I’ve found that to be more than true. The most important thing I’ve done to grow my business is to focus on at least 50% of every day being dedicated to actual business activities I love. For me, that is writing, interviewing awesomely creative entrepreneurs for my show and schmoozing and connecting with our fans/community. And I strongly believe that has been the key to growing my business from 0 to over 100,000 viewers a month online in less than two years as well as profitable business model bringing in well into the six-figures in profit.
David Siteman Garland is the Founder of The Rise To The Top, The #1 Non-Boring Resource For Building Your Business Smarter, Faster, Cheaper and author of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business (Wiley Publishing). He writes/hosts RISE, a web show for entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers, business owners and marketers, as well as The Rise To The Top TV show on ABC. To date, David has interviewed over 250 of the world’s most unique, interesting, successful and passionate entrepreneurs in the world.The show and web resource now has over 100,000 monthly viewers and numerous syndication deals with a big focus on interviews and picking the brain of top entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers and authors including Tony Hsieh (Zappos), and The Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger. He has been featured on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, CBS Bnet, Small Biz Trends, Personal Branding Blog, and Speaker Magazine. He was recently selected by Speaker Magazine as one of the Hot Speakers Of The Year.