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You’re dreaming big. You have huge aspirations for where you want to be, and you have a vision for how to get there. But for as big as your vision is, the results don’t seem to be aligning.

You feel like you’re spinning your wheels. You feel like you’re working hard to show up and create content but it doesn’t seem to be resonating with anyone. Your audience doesn’t seem to be growing very much or even at all.

There’s a problem here. I’m going to tell you what it is, and I’m going to tell you why you have it.

I’ll show you how to create insanely loyal followers who will become your personal ambassadors. I’m going to show you the key to your next 10,000 followers.

It starts with one person. All you need is one person. You can change someone’s entire perception of you with this one, single conversation tactic I’ll be sharing in this episode.

Show Notes
  • Creating Ambassadors
  • 03:26 You want to get big, but you’re not there yet. You get inspired. You decide you pursue something you’re passionate about. You have something you’re working on that you love and you’ve made the choice to go after it!
  • 04:06 Maybe you follow someone else who does something similar. Maybe you heard a podcast interview with them or someone else in your field who was successful, and it really lights a fire under you. You know you want to do this thing and you have high aspirations. You’re thinking big.
  • 04:26 Not just big as in 100 followers big, or 1,000 sales big, or even 10,000 subscribers big, but we’re talking hundreds of thousands of visitors. Millions in revenue. You’re not going to be self limiting about this at all. You are shooting for the stars, you are aiming, and you’re not going to apologize for your ambition.
  • I just want to say, keep that ambition.

    Keep the unapologetic attitude, and don’t let anyone talk you down.

  • The Problem
  • 05:01 But there’s a problem here. Tell me if you can relate to this. I think a lot of people are about to relate to what I’m going to say.
  • 05:10 The problem is you feel like you’re spinning your wheels.
  • 05:16 Is this you? Do you feel like your eyes are fixed on the horizon and you’re thinking long term and you’re certain you’re going to make it, but it seems like you’re not getting any extra exposure? It seems like growth is really slow?
  • 05:32 Maybe you’re thinking I just have 20 subscribers. I only have 100 followers. Or better yet—I don’t have any followers—only my Facebook friends read my writing.
  • 05:48 I’m going to tell you why: It’s because you’re focused on yourself.
  • 05:54 Hear me out. You’re writing for you. You’re blogging for you. You’re writing newsletters for you. You’re podcasting for you. You’re making videos for you.
  • 06:08 You’re so convinced that it’s all about consistency and just showing up that you’re just making stuff for you. You’re showing up regularly, but you’re dumping your stream of consciousness.
  • 06:20 We’re not celebrities. People do not care about your thoughts, your feelings and your problems. Sorry to burst your bubble. When you’re not a celebrity, people are not hanging on your every word. What you say has to be relevant to them and it has to feel like it’s speaking to them and solving their problem. They don’t care about you! At least, not yet.
  • 06:47 If you solve their problems long enough, you talk with them personally long enough, you listen to them long enough you make things specifically tailored for them long enough and they will end up caring about you (Related: e099 How to Read Minds).
  • 07:04 You want to write about yourself?
  • The only time writing about your own struggles works is when those struggles are other people’s struggles.

  • 07:24 It’s that you’re not listening. I don’t mean you’re not listening to me. I know you’re listening to me. I know right at this moment you are hanging on my every word and this is resonating strongly with you. How do I know this? Because I’m speaking to your problems. I’m speaking to your struggles, your emotions, you fears, and your aspirations.
  • 07:42 How do I know what those are? I know because I’m listening. You’re not listening. You’re not making what people want and you don’t know what people want.
  • 07:53 “How do you know what they want?”
  • 07:55 This is going to sound crazy: You talk to them. “But Sean, I only have 20 subscribers.” EXACTLY!
  • 08:05 This is the best time. You have a unique opportunity right now to build real relationships and invest in the people you currently influence. They are the people who will spread the word about you and share your story. Don’t ignore them!
  • Focus on the people who you already influence.

    Build relationships with them.
    Invest in getting to know their story.
    Find out what makes them tick.

  • 08:39 It may be hard to realize now, but you won’t always have that opportunity. This is a unique time you’re in right now. Once you have 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 followers, subscribers, etc. (and I know you’re going to get there), you won’t be able to facilitate those special 1-on-1 relationships. You won’t be able to have those valuable 1-on-1 discussions with each and every one of these people. You simply will not.
  • 09:14 I’m not even mega famous and I simply cannot respond to the sheer volume of people writing in. I do my honest best to respond to as many as I humanly can, but I’m talking dozens a day from people. Dozens every single day from real people. I absolutely hate that I can’t facilitate deep, meaningful relationships and conversations with each and every one of these people, but I would simply never be able to get things done.
  • 09:43 You have a unique opportunity right now.
  • 12:05 Ben: “I was thinking on the way up here. I think there’s a tendency when you’re focused on winning the world over to your brand and wanting widespread fame to overlook the experience of the one person. We build our brand, we build our products, and build experiences around these grand ideas that we have. There’s nothing wrong with grand ideas but when we only build our brand experience with that in mind, we miss the minute details that really make the experience with our brand meaningful.”
  • 13:13 “So the question that I like to ask is, ‘This person who’s sending me an email or reading my newsletter: if they were the only person who was having an experience with my brand, would their experience be powerful enough, meaningful enough, valuable enough for them to want to share that experience with somebody else?'”
  • The key to your next 10,000 followers
  • 17:11 What a lot of people don’t realize is the 5 friends, 10 subscribers, or 100 followers they have now are actually the key to the next 10,000. Many people overlook this because they’re so focused on getting to the next level, but these people are your ambassadors.
  • 17:37 Do you want to get to the next level? Do you want to increase your exposure? This is how you do it: You invest in the people you already reach. You invest in them and build personal relationships with them as if they are the only reason you are ever going to do this thing.
  • 18:05 Sean: Here’s a crazy idea: you can actually just call people up on the phone. You can actually email someone directly that is on your list—you have their email. I’m talking about clicking the compose button and actually writing them a personal email. Not just target your marketing campaigns and insert their first name, I mean actually reach out to this person individually. Have a Skype conversation or video call. Meet them in person.
  • 18:57 Ben: “I think for some people that breaks this rule that we build into the idea of ‘celebrity’ where we’re supposed to be aloof. We’re supposed to be untouchable in some ways and we believe the perception that gives to our followers is actually a positive thing. It seems like we’re exclusive or untouchable. But really I feel the most meaningful experiences I’ve had with brands I follow or with people I look up to are the ones where they actually took the time to reach out to me on a personal level.”
  • 19:44 Sean: It may seem like the people you look up to are aloof, but being that way is not how you get there. They didn’t get there by acting exclusive. When you’re on the outside, give people the benefit of the doubt. You have no idea how many emails are in their inbox right now. When it’s you on the inside, do the absolute best you can. If you’re sending out a campaign to your 20 subscribers and you’re purposefully not responding to their email replies because you think that would make you “look small” that’s not the right attitude to have. That isn’t going to get you anywhere.
  • 21:35 In the beginning, forget marketing. Forget automation. Forget all this big stuff that is tool-focused. You’re looking up to people who have reached a certain point where they need certain tools to reach their audience. But just because you want to be at that point, that doesn’t mean you need to be obsessing about leveraging that kind of stuff right now for your 40 subscribers. Are those things good? Of course. I’m just saying it shouldn’t necessarily be your focus right now.
  • 22:22 What should be your focus?
    • Building connections.
    • Answering questions.
  • 22:34 When you get a reply to your newsletter or you get a tweet about something you wrote, write a blog post that is a direct response to that specific person’s question. When you get a comment on YouTube, make an entire video that is a response to that comment.
  • Tobi in the chat room wonders:

    I think there’s a flipside to this that one needs to be aware of: sustainability. I know a blogger who rose to a very high level of prominence this way. Those early followers were responsible for the growth because they talked of how personal her interaction was. But are you setting an expectation that you won’t be able to fulfill when you get big? That’s what happened to her. The more she started to set up boundaries for her own health and sustainability, the more her existing followers got furious and abandoned her in very public droves.

  • 24:29 Ben: “If you are constantly and consistently providing valuable content and giving it away for free, the personal engagement aspect of your brand isn’t going to matter as much. The people who are following you will be following you for the value they’re receiving from you. At the end of the day, they’re not following you for you, they’re following you for the value that you provide. As you build your brand, focus people toward the value you provide and take their focus off of you directly.”
  • 25:24 “There are some things that you’ve done too, Sean, that allow for personal engagement. You’ve scaled that up by creating the Community. You still get to have this kind of engagement with a smaller group of people even though your following is much larger now.”
  • 25:48 Sean: Can I jump in here? She mentioned that some of the people were leaving and were angry or felt duped by her putting in these safeguards for her own health and sanity. I don’t think those are the original followers. I don’t think those are the people who have been there from the beginning who got that personal outreach from her. I think that is other people who are coming in sheerly based on the fact that they heard she reached out to someone and they’re upset that they didn’t get it for themselves. I think those are the very recent, newer, surface-level followers. I agree with Adam’s response in the chat room: “The people feeling duped are being arrogant.”
  • 26:53 The way you get big is not by acting arrogant and big in the beginning. It’s by reaching out, being personable, and making connections with people. Once you’re there, of course you can’t respond to 10,000 or 100,000 people personally. Any sane person knows this. Does that mean that you just don’t reach out to any of them? No, you reach out to as many as you can. Don’t say “I can’t answer one hundred thousand people,” do what you can. Answer one of them. People will notice. If you’re ignoring every single person, that means you’re not even trying.
  • 27:49 Sure, at some point, it’s no longer possible to reach out to every single person individually, but I don’t think that means you should be afraid to start out that way in the beginning. I would not worry that “setting an expectation of being personable” is a risky thing. Do that in the beginning. Worry about the fact that you’ve got so big that you can’t respond to everyone later.
  • Reach out personally as much as you can.

    At some point you’re not going to be able to answer every single email and that’s okay.

  • 28:12 In my case, I have the Community. I do my absolute best to respond to as many emails as I can, but if you really want to access me and if you really want to be able to connect with me personally—I am able to make myself available to people within the Community.
  • 31:20 Ben: “Pretend that you live in a world where advertising doesn’t exist—there’s no Internet, there’s no multimedia. The only way that your product or your brand gets out there is you sitting in a room with a single person. You get to allow them to have an experience with your brand. The experience that one person has determines whether or not they will share what you’re about with others after they leave the room.”
  • Create A Meaningful Experience for One Person
  • 35:50 I was always inspired by Cameron Moll who is a speaker who speaks at a lot of conferences in the design industry. Something I noticed about him is when he would finish speaking, a bunch of people would gather around him and want to talk to him.
  • “He would talk to one person individually until they were done before he moved on to someone else.

    He was all about them. You’re the one who wanted to meet him and he’d be the one asking you questions:

    What’s your name?
    Where are you from?
    What’s your wife’s name?
    What does she do?

    He would just be all about you. That has stuck with me.”

  • 36:34 Sean: See that Brooklyn Bridge letterpress poster on the wall behind you, Ben? That’s one that he did, and you know, I can’t say necessarily that I bought that because of the experience I had with meeting him but I know that it had an intangible impact. I know that it affects my perception of him and what he does and that poster reminds me of a positive experience that I had with him. Because he took the time, he remembers your name, he remembers your wife’s name, he doesn’t cut you off.
  • 39:07 I’ve tried to adopt the Cameron approach—just exhausting the full amount of what someone wants to share with you when they come up to you. Instead of thinking, “Ok, I can get to 30 people if I just cut this off at 30-second intervals,” just sit down. Step outside the venue, go sit on a bench outside, kick back, put your feet up, and just have a conversation with this person.
  • 39:41 Ben: “It’s hard because you feel for those people who are waiting to talk to you. You don’t want to leave them out, and you want them to get their money’s worth. But what’s really giving them their money’s worth? A half-hearted acknowledgement or a chance at a meaningful interaction with you?
  • 40:12 “I think about the people who were at the back of the line. Maybe time ran out and they didn’t have time to talk to you, but they still notice that you weren’t looking past the person that was in front of you. They notice that you weren’t distracted by the number of people who are waiting to talk to you. They see that you were engaged and focused on the person in front of you.
  • 42:00 “Do you purposefully want to set yourself on the side of not being the one to end the conversation?”
  • 42:26 Sean: Yes, exactly that. Because people remember how the conversation ended. “I remember I met this person and we talked and then he had to go to dinner, or then he turned and talked to the next person.” But if you’re the one to end a conversation with someone you wanted to meet, it’s 10x more positive of an experience.