Episode 318:

Putting yourself in the center of a community is a powerful tool for any agency owner, but that just scratches the surface of what is possible — if you make one small tweak. Imagine putting your client at the center of a community instead of yourself. An ecosystem of businesses, experts, and tools, all designed to help your clients become even more successful. This shift allows us to completely redesign how many of us think about biz dev and how best to serve our audience. And this is also how we can keep leveling up without having to know it all ourselves.

As many of you know, community is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, which is why I was excited to talk with my guest, Pam Slim. Pam is a 30-year plus business veteran, coach, and author with decades of experience building communities. Her latest book, “Widest Net” is all about helping companies reach their audience. If you have ever caught yourself thinking, “I know my thing. I know my point of view. I know who I want to reach, but how in the world do I reach them?” then you should probably be reading Pam’s book.

Pam was also our guest back on episode 142 for anyone who wants to soak up even more of her brilliance.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency — Pam and I address the myth of the sole owner needing to hack their way through the wilderness, and instead, how to provide agency owners with a way to see themselves as part of a coalition striving to help their clients.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

client-focused community

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How you can show up as a strong member of the community.
  • How to embrace the ecosystem model because you are in it either way.
  • The benefit of using the community around your clients to define your niche.
  • How to get intentional about building your community.
  • The benefit of being the “weirdo” in the room.
  • How to select the right community, so it isn’t a competition.
  • Why this sort of strategic work helps you win long-term.
  • Why PB&J relationships are the gold standard.
  • How you can feel like you are everywhere to your clients and prospects.
“Look for peanut butter and jelly relationships, those with a highly complementary, but non-competitive skillset.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “Where is the edge of your thought leadership? So people are not just following what you have been doing, but they're following where you're going.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “I think that a lot of people get lost thinking they have to be everywhere to be visible. And then they realize no one platform is telling a coherent story.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “I have clients say, ‘Everywhere I turn, you're everywhere!’ I just laugh because I'm not everywhere, but I am very strategic with the places and people who I know they consider to be the best in their field. And that’s not by accident.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “So much of business advice is transactional...like ‘just reach out to 25 people you don't know and do this spray and pray’. And as a long-time community builder, I know this is not the right way to teach people how to connect.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “The ecosystem model is a way for you to see all the different people, organizations, and resources that are aligned with your values, who are also helping your ideal customers solve their problems.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “When we’re short-term and reactionary, looking for the quick win just to get clients in the door, we miss the opportunity to take the time to be strategic.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet “It's a myth that all people who are successful, who have grown unicorn companies or sold their agency, succeed due to the sole brilliance and expertise of the business owner. I have never seen that. And I see behind the scenes.” - Pam Slim Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Pam Slim:

Tools & Resources:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web develop, PR. Whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build A Better Agency podcast, presented by White Label IQ, will show you how to make more money, and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25-plus years of experience as both an agency, owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build A Better Agency. Super excited to have my guest Pam Slim, author of many books, business coach to many and repeat guest from episode 142 of the Build A Better Agency podcast. Pam’s got a brand-new book out, which I’m going to tell you about in a second, but first I want to remind you that tickets are on sale for the Build A Better Agency Summit too. As you know, or hopefully you know, we held our very first summit or conference in August of 2021, just a couple months ago. And, knock on wood, it was super successful, everybody had a great time. It really exceeded my every expectation in terms of community building and learning from each other, and connections, and the hug quotient was off the charts, which I loved. And so we’re going to do it again. We’re going to do it again in May of 2022, so it’s May 24th and 25th, in Chicago, and we would love to have you join us.

You know how the deal is conferences, the tickets just get more expensive as you get closer to the event. So, if you want to join us, grab your ticket now. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, and then, in the upper-left corner of the navigation, it says BABA Summit. Click on it, and you can buy your ticket now. We are actively working on speakers, but I promise you they’re going to be awesome. We’re already over a third of the way sold out. We cap the event at 300 people, so it stays intimate and tight, and feels like a community. So don’t wait too long. Please grab your tickets now so you can join us. I would love to hang out with you for a couple days.

If you’re an AMI member, either an associate member or in one of our peer groups, of course you know that there is Family Day. The conference is Tuesday, Wednesday, but Family Day is just for members, and we’re going to do some panel discussions, and then we’re going to all have dinner together, so it’s going to be a great afternoon and evening. Make sure, if you’re a member, you grab the Family Day package so you get that included. And if you’re not a member, you might want to think about joining us as a member so you can enjoy that extra day of content and connection. Either way, we would love to have you.

All right. So, Pam Slim. Many of you will probably know Pam from her book, Escape Cubicle Nation, which she wrote many years ago, helping people get out of their corporate environment and sort of start their own business or side hustle or whatever they wanted to do. That was really when she broke on the scenes and became famous for being as helpful as she is. And she has a brand new book out called The Widest Net, which… I love all of her books, but I love this book the most, I think.

Her second book, Body of Work, is also brilliant, and I highly recommend you read all of Pam’s books, and that you follow her on social and just connect with her however you can, because she’s super generous and super smart. But this book, The Widest Net, speaks to something that, as you know, near and dear to my heart, this idea of community, and how do you build a community of professionals that you can support, that can support you, and together you can support mutual clients. I just want to get right into this conversation so we can pick Pam’s brain for as long as we can, so let’s just jump in. Pam, welcome back. I’m so glad to have you back on the podcast.

Pam Slim:

I am so happy to be here.

Drew McLellan:

Your new book, The Widest Net, is out, based on, this week, if everyone’s listening live, this wee, it comes out. One of the things I find fascinating, and I love talking to authors about, is what prompted the book? Because, as you and I have talked about before, writing a book is akin to giving birth. The minute after you do it, you don’t ever want to do it again. And then, after a while, the kids are cute, and you’re like, “Oh, this was fun. Let’s do it again.” What prompted this book? And why now?

Pam Slim:

I always describe myself as an author practitioner. I’ve been in business 25 years, and the first as a management consultant, and then the next 15 really working with early stage startups. This book is really the third in a trilogy. My first was Escape From Cubicle Nation, which I really wrote based on being a management consultant in corporate, meeting people who wanted to leave, who didn’t know how. And that’s really what prompted the first book, just getting people out of corporate, into their own thing. Once I was doing that work with people, I found that people had a binary way of looking at things, where if, for example, they quit, and it wasn’t successful, they felt really ashamed to go back to work in a job. And I thought, “Let’s create a broader way that we look at the world of work, and really focus more on what we want to create, and give people options for how to create it.”

There’s a lot of focus in Body of Work of really, what are you creating? What’s your IP? What’s your unique perspective, your thought leadership in terms you use all the time. And then, from that book, as I was working with more clients where they said, “Great. I know my thing, I know my point of view, I know who I want to reach, but how in the world do I reach them?”

And that really is what inspired The Widest Net. What I find is, so much of business advice is very transactional. You can give people advice like, “Just reach out to 25 people you don’t know, and do the spray and pray.” And as a long time community builder, I thought, this is really not the right way that we’re teaching people how to-

Drew McLellan:

That’s so much harder.

Pam Slim:

Yeah, how to connect. I really documented 30-plus years of experience of building community into a method that people can use to build a business or, in some cases, to build a movement or build a community.

Drew McLellan:

As I was reading the book, while it’s very business-focused, the idea of community, and connecting into a community, and influencing through that community, could be for a variety of reasons. Could be for a personal cause, could be for a business, it could be for a community advocacy thing. It could be a passion project.

Pam Slim:

I look at our work, and the core of work that we do is really moving forward some type of a change. I think most of us want to be doing something we feel matters, that makes a difference for people we care for. And sometimes that does have a work lens, but other times there are passionate causes that people are engaged in. And it’s so interesting, because you can look at ways to do it. To just hit people over the head all the time with a hundred emails asking them to donate money, for example. Or more a way that you can look at what really are the dynamics in an ecosystem? How can you partner in order to move something forward?

Drew McLellan:

I think sometimes people think about their work life and their life-life as these separate entities. I think, when you surround yourself and immerse yourself in good, healthy communities, you don’t have to be two separate entities. You can bring all of yourself to that community. And so both your personal passion projects and your work projects and all of that can live in that same ecosystem.

Pam Slim:

I think it can be easier that way. I will say, being a career coach for so many years, that some of that depends on people’s individual perspective of-

Drew McLellan:

No doubt.

Pam Slim:

…how they look at work, and wanting to keep things maybe a little bit separate. But it certainly becomes easier, where people can know you as somebody who has a variety of interest. And often, I know you and I share a lot of friends out there that are peers and what I call peer mentors, also you can just have this really wonderful group of people who are eager to help you, and really regardless what area it is, so maybe within a specific area of business. But then when you do have a passion project, they’re the first to jump in and roll up their sleeves and help you out.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think also on a much more personal level, when life is throwing you a curve or whatever, they’re equally ready to be supportive in that, if you’re open to allowing that.

Pam Slim:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

And you’re open to sharing that, because you’re right, not everybody wants to share at that level. Let’s talk a little bit about the… One of the concepts in the book is this idea of this ecosystem, and the ecosystem map. Can you define that? And then I have some questions around it.

Pam Slim:

It’s really a juxtaposition around a common metaphor that we use for building a business, which is building an empire. And so when you have an empire, really, you as the business owner, your business is the central focus, where basically you’re just trying to pull everybody in to, “Look at me, look at what it is that I have to offer,” and really distinguish yourself as the sole expert in order to solve a problem.

Now we know expertise is critical. We all want to do a great job. But really, what I find mostly in the world of work that I do, is if we instead center our ideal customer in the center of an ecosystem, that frankly they already are utilizing, to get answers to problems that we’re also helping them to solve. So, within my ecosystem model, I have 10 different segments. That can be things like service providers. I’m a business coach with business owners I work with to scale their business. You know very well, they also need IP attorneys and graphic designers and copywriters, all these other service providers, that can be another slice.

They also might be looking at a slice of media hubs, so they might be listening to podcasts and watching TED Talks and getting information, and then using products to solve the same problem that I’m helping them to solve. So really, the ecosystem model is just a way for you to actually see who are all of these different people, organizations, resources that are aligned with your values, who are helping your ideal customer solve their problems. And I always just really like to center the customers, because if our main focus is helping them to solve their problems, then naturally we’re going to show up in a really good way where we focus on our expertise, but as part of a broader coalition of people who are out there to help them do it.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and to your point in the book, understanding that coalition is so critical, not just because your partnering with them, even if you don’t know, you’re partnering with them, you are partnering with them to help the same client. But they’re also conduits to opportunity for you, and they can become partners to you in a variety of ways. They can be referral sources. Not only can they bring you new clients, but they help you enhance what you do for a client, by now you can bring them on board as a partner to you and your agency.

So, understanding the ecosystem that surrounds your client actually serves you pretty well and begins to build community for you in a variety of ways. For example, you talked about, in an agency, agencies need consultants like me, but they also need IP attorneys, and they need research people. Common guest on the podcast is Sharon Toerek or Susan Byer, and so I’m able to be more helpful to my clients by introducing them to those folks. But also, I learn. They make me smarter and better because I surround myself with them. And so, as I was reading the book, I was thinking, this is exactly right. This is how we level up without having to know it all ourselves.

Pam Slim:

It’s exactly right. I think it’s a myth that’s perpetuated by sometimes just business lore, that all the people who are successful, who have grown unicorn companies, or sold their agency, whatever is the goal that people have, that it’s really just due to the sole brilliance and expertise of the business owner. I don’t know about you, I have never seen that. And you and I see behind the scenes, so I’ve definitely seen it positioned that way, but the reality often is, there’s a really powerful team. There could be coaches or consultants that are working with them, there are other colleagues. And so, when you know that it really is your job to figure out, in a really smart ecosystem, this is something to me that’s really exciting from a personal and professional growth perspective. When you know your peers are on their game…

Drew McLellan:

It’s awesome.

Pam Slim:

…and you have to really choose that segment where you say, “Gosh, I know Drew is really good at this part, and Susan is amazing when it comes to really understanding your audience, so where is the place where I can really play a truly differentiated role?” That to me is that definition of thought leadership, because you really are looking at what is your unique perspective, and how you are helping to solve the problem. And really, ultimately, in identifying this ecosystem surrounding your client, it really should just be all the puzzle pieces that help them to solve their problem as quickly, effectively, as efficiently, and as cheaply as reasonably investment is possible.

Drew McLellan:

As I was reading, I was thinking, one of the things that we all have to learn and get better at is… so I’m now a part of this ecosystem that we just described. How do I contribute and add value? I can see how everybody else contributes and add value to me and to the client. But one of the things I was thinking about as I was reading the book was, okay, so if I recognize the value of this concept, I should want to be a great community member. I want to be a strong thread in the net. I’m curious what you think that looks like. If I want to be a great part of a community, how do I show up?

Pam Slim:

That’s a great question. I think, first of all, when you do make a choice to want to do that, and just to be clear, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every single day, what you’re doing is always partnering with others, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Pam Slim:

But it’s where you can fundamentally say, “Yeah, that makes sense. I can’t have all the answers for my clients, and there are other people who do,” a lot of the focus in really understanding how to be effective is actually listening deeply to your customer. And when you can do that, in collaboration with others, to me, that’s part of the best thing where you can collectively, lets say there are a couple different ecosystem partners. And just examples of folks that I work with, I will work with other service providers. In fact, Sharon and Susan too, that you mentioned, are good friends, I’m constantly referring people to them.

For example, if we’re really looking at, okay, we’re really trying to help thought leaders to distinguish what they’re doing to really protect their IP, but also to have something unique. If Sharon and Susan and I were to get together, and really sit down and interview some of our ideal customers, and deeply listen to what they’re saying, and utilize each of our unique perspectives to be asking questions and understanding them better, when you have a community that’s really centered around solving a problem in a business context, so you’re really trying to provide better business support, it is important to keep that focus centered on the customer of, what do they need, what are we not getting? What are we duplicating?

And what I love, too, when you look at, often, what it takes for somebody to go all the way through solving their problem, they’re using a bunch of different kinds of software. And they might be repeating the same information when they work with a positioning coach and then a business coach. So when you’re looking together and saying, “What’s the way we can collaborate to really work better together?”, that I think is one way of listening first, and really understanding what other people are doing, before immediately jumping in and providing the solution. It’s a little bit of a different method if we’re used to being rewarded for stepping in to be the expert.

And again, expertise is important, it’s hard fought, it can be very useful. We call it listen first, here at the Main Street Learning Lab that my husband and I run. If we can stop for a moment when people literally walk through the door from Main Street as a small business owner and say, “Okay, here’s my program, sign up for my stuff,” and just sit down and say, “Tell me more about yourself. What are you looking to do? What have you tried already?”, which is one of Susan Byer’s questions, that can give us a better sense of really how to stay connected.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Pam Slim:

And then, from that, once we really get a sense of what’s missing, then we can say, okay, what is something that needs to get done? And you maybe would say, “Well, I’m really great at creating content that’s super effective and pragmatic. Let me create an ebook.” And then somebody else can say, “I’m going to work with banks to make sure they’re really more aware of how it is that we can extend lending practices for agencies,” or something like that. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Pam Slim:

So, first you got to listen, then you look at your unique contribution.

Drew McLellan:

I love that, but I’m also thinking about, part of what makes the net strong is the tangential relationship you have with all of the other slices, the segments, right? So how am I a good partner or community member to the other people that occupy all the other segments around my ideal customer? What does that look like? Because I think it’s easy to go, “Well, boy, I can tap Sharon and Susan,” and they’re going to love the fact that there are examples today. But I can tap them and, and learn more from them, and that makes me smarter and better. But I also think, how do I then show up for them and be a good peer, so that they too get better and smarter and more successful? What does that look like? I think people are so hypersensitive to competition and keeping their secrets and all of that, that it’s almost counterintuitive to be a giver inside a community of people who also sell stuff to the same people you sell stuff to.

Pam Slim:

That’s right. I think, first, it is important when you have more of your close circles of folks that you’re collaborating with all the time, that you do determine, I call it a PB&J relationship, so it’s a peanut butter and jelly, highly complimentary, but non-competitive skill sets, so you might serve the same customer, but with different things. The process is really very similar. As you get to know each other deeply and say, “Tell me about your business, tell me about the areas where you really feel really strong. What are the areas don’t feel so clear? What would be really helpful for you? What are barriers or bothersome things that you’re constantly dealing with?” And when we help our ecosystem partners the same way that we might help our ideal customers, that same feeling happens.

We could share tools, information, resources. We could say, “Hey, I created this program that you’re welcome to use for your clients if you want, as part of their onboarding, for them to understand something.” That, in my direct experience, has been the way in which you really help the partners. And so sometimes that means having conversations, I know a lot of it, COVID has thrown everything for a loop. But at events and conferences, that’s an example often of the times where I would be in collaboration, something like South by Southwest, where I’d be sitting with people from my brand clients, who are from companies that serve the small business market, with other thought leaders and influencers, with other service providers. And that natural conversation, where you’re really sharing your craft, is when I think that can help make people get better. And I know you’re a big fan of Masterminds, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, yeah.

Pam Slim:

You just personally and professionally-

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Pam Slim:

…really cultivate that mindset. I think that’s one of your unique areas of expertise.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. No, I love it. I love both sides of it. I love the learning from my peers, and I love being able to be an accountability partner and a call it as it is partner sometimes, for people that I care about it, and I want their business to be successful.

Pam Slim:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So, yeah. Yeah, it’s really good. So, one of the concepts in the book that you talk about, I’m going to ask you this question, then we’re going to take a quick break.

Pam Slim:

Okay.

Drew McLellan:

Is this idea of a beacon. Talk to us a little bit about how you define beacon. Because I think it aligns really nicely with some of the things that Steven Woessner and I talk about in our book, Sell With Authority. But you have a different little twist to it that I want the listeners to hear, so talk a little bit about that.

Pam Slim:

I define beacon in the book as… it’s actually a little bit later in the method, because when you think about first understanding your customer and who else is serving them, and what’s your unique point of view, there is the time and place for you to show up in a very clear way with what I call a primary communication vehicle. I lean towards things that you can own, like an email list if you have a newsletter, or a podcast that you own, or maybe your own video series. We all utilize social media satellites, which are very important, obviously, based on who our audience is, we might share some things from the beacon.

But when I think about it for people who do it exceptionally well, where they really create something that is unique and valuable, your beacon, when you craft it well, really showcases your thought leadership and your expertise, and it is the place for you to think coherently, “What is my point of view? What is that content that I want to share? And how can I choose a beacon that will be uniquely matched to what me as the creator,” if you indeed are the person who’s creating the content. “is really a vehicle that I resonate with that I enjoy, and that is a match for my audience?”

And so I use the example in the book of James Clear, who wrote Atomic Habits, who clearly has his newsletter as a beacon, he has over a million subscribers, and he has a very specific format that he shares information on. He’s an example of somebody who’s really, really dialed in to a vehicle and a beacon that lets people know who he is. And he really isn’t anywhere else.

You can look at somebody else who I shared, Brené Brown, who really has zeroed in on a podcast as a beacon. And now partnering with Spotify and having one of the top podcasts, well, a couple, she has two podcasts, Unlocking Us and Leading… what was it? Dare to Lead?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Pam Slim:

And so, with those, when you look at her as an example of somebody who actually has a body of work that is absolutely fitting within just about every segment of the ecosystem wheel, I mean, it is a trip when you look at who she’s worked with. The CIA, the US Army, social workers, teachers-

Drew McLellan:

I know. Amazing. Yeah, yeah.

Pam Slim:

…other thought leaders, Disney, big corporate clients. She exemplifies to me somebody who understands that they may have a very broad audience demographic, but she’s choosing to really zero in on a beacon as the way that she can be sharing her thought leadership. And I think it’s critical in a crowded market, and I think that a lot of people get lost just thinking, “I have to be everywhere in order to be visible.” And then you realize no one beacon is actually telling a coherent story.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s so true. Again, that just aligns beautifully with what we call cornerstone content, and the idea of creating one big meaty thing. Because the other issue is, for agency owners and everybody else out there, because this is a challenge for agency owners for their own thought leadership, but also to get clients to do it, it’s daunting to try and be everywhere all the time.

What we advocate, which is very much aligned with yours, which is create one big meaty thing, a cornerstone content podcast, a book, whatever, a video series, and then slice and dice it into smaller pieces that are cobblestones, that you can then scatter out into the world that lead people back to the cornerstone. And then, that way, they have a touchstone with you where they always know that they can get the latest and greatest from you and be connected to you and learn more about you in that one place. And that becomes a place where you add so much value that they don’t want to miss it every week, every month, every however often you produce that thing. I’m curious, what do you think your beacon is? Is it the books? Is it something different?

Pam Slim:

You’re asking the million-dollar question, because for years, I will definitely say my newsletter, because I have been writing it since 2004, actually. It started before I started my blog in 2005, so a long time, 17 years. That said, and I love to write, and I have people who have actually been on my list all of that time…

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s great.

Pam Slim:

I also really love podcast. When I think about an alignment with my message, really, a podcast is a great example of a natural place in which you’re going to be highlighting the ecosystem surrounding your ideal client.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Pam Slim:

Because by virtue of who you’re choosing as guests, if you have an interview show, you’re bringing in other people to share perspectives. I had a podcast with my first book, Escape From Cubicle Nation. I put it on ice as I transitioned into doing work more with helping companies to scale through Body of Work, and I was waiting to see. But now I’m actually really seriously considering, and it’s a big investment because, as you know very well, I’m not going to go into a beacon lightly. Right. But I feel like creating a podcast around The Widest Net would be something that would bring me great joy, and is the best vehicle. I’m a writer, I will always write my newsletter, but I feel like that could be something that would probably have a little bit more bump, and be a better method for expanding my audiences, especially knowing that I have a book of the same name.

Drew McLellan:

I want to pick up on that after we take a break. So let’s take a quick break, then I want to pick up on that idea of maybe sometimes your beacon changes. So, all right. We’ll be right back guys.

I know. I know you did not want to break away from the show, but I had to tell you about this workshop that’s coming up soon. One of my favorite workshops to teach is Money Matters, and it will be in December, on December 9th and 10th, in Orlando, Florida, on beautiful Disney property. Here’s why I love teaching this workshop. It is all about money. For two days, that’s all we talk about. And we talk about how you can make more money, how you can keep more of the money you make, and how you can grow the agency’s bottom line and your own personal wealth.

I love teaching this stuff. There is not a time I have taught this workshop that somebody doesn’t walk up to me and say, “You know what, Drew? I wish I had been here 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago. I could have made so much more money.” And what I say to them is, “I know, but you’re here now, so let’s put it into play.”

But here’s what I’m going to say to you. Don’t wait another five years to attend this workshop. I promise you it is worth its weight in gold. And, as always, we have a money-back guarantee. So come join me December 9th and 10th in Orlando for Money Matters. All right, let’s get back to the show.

All right, I am here with Pam Slim, and we are talking about her new book, The Widest Net. But right before the break, we were talking about this idea of her newsletter has been her beacon since 2004, but now she’s thinking maybe there’s a podcast in her future. And one of the things that people ask me all the time when they read Sell With Authority is, they’re like, “Okay, well, Drew, what’s your cornerstone content?”

Well, for a long time, it was my newsletter too, and I write it every week, and I love writing it. But I think it’s okay to also recognize that, as your business matures, as technology changes, as people’s learning habits change, that sometimes you end up adding a second beacon or a complimentary beacon. And so, for me now, at AMI, there’s the weekly newsletter, there’s the weekly podcast, and then the other big piece of content that we create every year is the Agency Edge Research Series that we do with Susan Byer and Audience Audit.

So we in essence now have three beacons that all serve in different ways, and people can connect. If somebody’s a reader, then they gravitate to the newsletter. If they’re more audio oriented, they might lean to the podcast. Or if they’re a multi-tasker, so I’m on a golf course, I’m on a subway, I’m wherever I am, I walk a lot of dogs and treadmills. And then the research is this big meaty thing, but we only have to do it once a year and then we can slice and dice it and share it out in little bites and pieces throughout the year. I want the listeners to recognize that, just because you pick a beacon doesn’t mean it has to be your beacon forever.

Pam Slim:

That’s right. And I think that when you look at the utility of it, because anything, I will say to my clients, and they probably glare at me, I do know that, if we’re coaching on Zoom, but you do need to make a commitment. So there’s a difference between just sharing content, of which I’m a huge advocate, especially when you’re entering into new area. I love experimental things. Try TikTok, try whatever, just in that mode of experimentation.

When you really do decide to make a commitment to consistent communication and a beacon vehicle, then you do really want to look at it in the long haul. I think it can change over time, and I just know, using my own personal example, I always love it. I love that intimacy of sharing a little bit of what’s going on in my personal life at the beginning of the newsletter, just because so many people have followed my kids since the time they were little, and are truly interested in the family slice before we get into business. It can have a little bit of a different functionality, and also highlighting what my clients are doing, and maybe business events.

But when I think about it from a thought leadership perspective, in entering into a new phase of my body of work, pun intended, to put myself, then for really that more cutting edge development, when I look at what is a beacon that I can really be sharing this new development of thought leadership, I actually am more excited to be sharing that through deeper conversations, and even panels of conversations with people, because that’s the nature of what the content requires. There are definitely people who say, “I have a great newsletter, I have a great podcast, or I have a video series that I’ve been doing for a really long time.” Look at somebody like Marie Forleo as an example, that has really like doubled down in the internet marketing coaching world, in that vehicle.

So you need to resource it. But I think it’s also making a distinction of really where is that edge of your thought leadership, so people are not just following what you have been doing, but they’re really following where you’re going. And to me that’s part of the interesting part of content creation.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think you’re right about the commitment. It is, while you can experiment with things tangentially, if you want to create an audience and you want to create a connection, consistency is critical.

Pam Slim:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

They need to know they’re going to hear from you or see you or whatever, and you’re going to show up every time, whatever that is, in an ongoing basis, so that they become comfortable to be… that it’s safe to rely on you as a consistent learning partner or teacher or mentor or coach or whatever, however you want to position yourself.

Pam Slim:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

So, from a bus dev point of view, from a growing your own business, let’s talk about this idea of community and how do you tap into that community to actually grow your business?

Pam Slim:

Very tactically. One of the main purposes of the ecosystem map, where we look at this lens of different sectors and segments of folks who are also aligned around solving the problems for your ideal clients, there are very natural places where you can use it as a strategic tool for identifying new audiences. Maybe you have a method that you’ve been using within a particular vertical, within an industry, where you say, “Wow, this method that I’ve been using to grow some of these business through social media has really worked for real estate agents, and let me also look in the slice of service providers that could be financial planners, or tax attorneys,” or something like that. You can just identify places where you could be partnering. The other thing is from a visibility perspective. I like this idea because I’m a big nerd for Star Wars and any superhero movies in general. I know you’re a big Disney fan yourself. And I really like this idea of where you have this whole cast of superheroes that are aligned, like if we have a 30-second countdown and the world’s going to end?

Drew McLellan:

Like Justice League of America, what you’re thinking?

Pam Slim:

Exactly. Justice League. And then, if we have 30 seconds to solve the problem that our business solves for people, who would be those that would be within that Justice League? When you think of it that way, those probably are the perfect people in order to really help you to have referrals, to have visibility. When you think that this is the very best person who talks about this problem, who could get the word out to the most people, those are the places where you should be showing up in person or online in order to share your message.

So there’s a very strategic way that you analyze how you spend your time. And I think back to when, hopefully, the events will come back to normal, it can help you make your very tactical business development plan for the year, where you say, “Of all the different conferences that I could go to, virtual or in person, where are the watering holes?”, and that would be an example, an event’s like a watering hole, where if the audience for that event are your ideal customers, your fellow peers are presenters who can be great referral ecosystem partners. Sponsors of the events can be folks you could partner with in order to get the message out.

It’s being strategic about it, and not just responding to who might reach out to you and ask you to speak, but to take a very clear analysis and say, “I want to be seen as one of the Justice League, and I want to see where they show up and I want to be in those places where my ideal audience will see me as part of them.”

I used to laugh because I would have some of my clients say, “God, you are everywhere. Everywhere I turn, you’re everywhere.” And I would just laugh because I’m not everywhere, but I would very strategically be in the places and with the people who I knew that they’re considered to be the best in their field. And that was not by accident. That part takes some strategic analysis, and can lead to really a really strong business development plan.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and again, the opportunity to commingle and co-serve the same clients. But also, for me, part of that too is, continuing to sharpen the saw by being around these people who are super smart about some aspect of my client’s world that is not my depth of expertise. But man, I can learn from them, which makes me better at what I do too. So it’s not just about bus dev, but it’s also just about improving my own craft, and continuing to get better.

Pam Slim:

Yes. It really is. And I think there are just some meta places for this. I’m a member, what they call a small business influencer council for the B2SMB Institute, which is for SaaS companies that serve the small business market, so essentially it’s just all the players for the apps that we use. And it’s an example for me of a watering hole where I go with some of my fellow colleagues that are also like me, they work with business owners, and we provide that feet in the street perspective of what business owners are saying. But imagine the opportunity when I’m at their annual events, and I’m walking, around and there’s somebody from Salesforce, and from GoDaddy, and they have millions of customers that could be a connection with me.

I often do webinars with them or partnerships or create content. It’s just a strategic way to navigate through that world. And you’re right, it does give you such a different perspective of knowing that they could be sharing insight that you may not have access to. These SaaS companies, for example, have data galore, that’s amazing to understand the behavior of small business owners, that’s really helpful for me.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. There’s so much more about this that we keep talking about, but as I think about what the listeners are thinking right now, oftentimes what I hear when we talk about this is two things. One, these people are potentially my competitors, so should I really mix and mingle with them? And two, as you’ve been talking, I’ve been thinking about how, a lot of times this happens by accident, and people aren’t as intentional, perhaps, as they could or should be about building this community around them that actually helps them serve their clients better, but also serves their business better. So can you just talk about, A, the competitive thing, and then B, about the idea of being more intentional about building this community that you want to be a part of and surround yourself with.

Pam Slim:

Yes. For sure. I think, on the competitive side, we understand. We all are out in business, and it can be hard if you’re in places where you have a whole bunch of peers who are basically offering the same services to the same client. That is different than what I’m to talking about foreign ecosystem analysis.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Pam Slim:

As you really look at, on one hand, other people who are providing highly complimentary, but non-competitive services, those are people, for example, when you’re hanging out in places where you have folks who offer a complimentary service, I call it being the weirdo in the room. Let’s say you are the only agency builder at the International Association of IP Attorneys, of which Sharon probably would be a member if there was that association. If you were that weirdo in the room, where you’re the only person who’s coming from that lens of business development, that’s a pretty juicy place for you to be that’s not necessarily competitive.

We do need to understand and look at lens of our peers within the ecosystem because yes, there are highly talented peers. And there are times, I would argue, that with… The slice of values is incredibly important to this experience because I’m not just talking about anybody in the world who might be serving your ideal client. It’s those who share values.

So if you have values around intellectual property, around partnering, around relationships, trust building, I know so many people where, very often, literally, a client could be talking to each of us because we might both be business consultants, but because of the relationship that we have, we know it’s a big world, and it’s okay for those vetted partners that I have. I trust that when I’m sharing things with them, it’s to make us better at our craft. The discernment is important, that it’s different when you go and you’re presenting along with 50 other peers to your ideal client, and you’re all fighting for the business. I’m saying, be the whereto in the room. Go places where you’re the only one. And then, tell me what was the second part of the question?

Drew McLellan:

Being intentional as opposed to letting the community just happen.

Pam Slim:

Being intentional about it, yeah. I’m just listening to Dorie Clark’s new book, The Long Game-

Drew McLellan:

Oh, it’s great, isn’t it? I just interviewed her last week.

Pam Slim:

…which I love.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Pam Slim:

Did you?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Pam Slim:

Yeah. We’re doing a Newsweek gathering this week, where we get to talk together. And I feel like her book, I’m calling it now the favorite cousin book of The Widest Net, because Dorie, with her research and examples-

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, very aligned.

Pam Slim:

…is making the case for why it is that we need to be strategic. And when we’re just being short-term and reactionary, looking for the quick win, just to get clients in the door, we miss the opportunity to take the time to be strategic.

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Pam Slim:

So, in order to really be effective with creating an ecosystem app, it takes some time. It takes research. It takes talking to people, tracking things, setting up your own business development process so that you do have a method for following up. But I will argue, because a lot of the examples I used in the book are clients who I have worked with, and the method works. It absolutely works to help people exponentially grow their audience. And a lot of folks to just don’t have the patience to take the time upfront to do the strategic analysis, so that’s that part where I’m like, “Read Dorie’s book, and if you agree, then come and read mine, because you need to make that time.” And it’s what she refers to as Google’s 20%, carving out time to do the strategic work. But that honestly is the differentiator of what I’ve seen in my field, and in the business environment in general, is those people who do make time to be strategic, in the long run are the ones that are more sustainably successful.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s so, so true. What a great reminder to end on, that measure twice, cut once. Let’s be thoughtful about it, and then build what will actually serve you best, and what helps you serve others best. That’s the beautiful part about it, is that it’s not just one side of the coin, it’s both.

Pam Slim:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Pam, thanks so much for being here and talking about the new book. It’s brilliant, everybody needs to read it, which I’ll tell them in a minute. But if people want to get on that newsletter list that you’ve been writing for 17 years, or keep track of you and what you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

Pam Slim:

Best way is at pamelaslim.com, which is my main website. And I also love to connect on LinkedIn, that’s where I try to share a lot of good, useful business information, so I’m just Pamela Slim on there. And we’ll put a link, I think, in the show notes-

Drew McLellan:

For sure.

Pam Slim:

…to anybody who wants to get a couple pre-order goodies. I’m a business coach, I’m big on exercises, so I have a workbook that has all the exercises from the book, as well as some other things to help you plan. So you can get that at pamelaslim.com/thewidestnet.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Awesome. And we will definitely put that in the show notes. But, as always, it’s great to have you on the show. I love sharing your smarts and your wisdom and your insights with our audience because it’s always spot on, so thanks for making the time to do this today.

Pam Slim:

Thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

Always good. And I need to get down to Arizona soon, we have not hung out…

Pam Slim:

Yes, you do.

Drew McLellan:

…for a long time, so it’s on my to-do list, I promise.

Pam Slim:

Yes, you do.

Drew McLellan:

I promise. All right, guys, this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. Pam gave you a lot of really good practical advice, and seriously, grab the book now so you can get all the goodies because Pam’s exercises are great brain teasers to get you thinking differently about how you want to actually put her thinking into practice for the agency. And, by the way, it’s great stuff for your clients as well, so grab that.

Want to give a huge shout out to our friends at White Label IQ for being the presenting sponsor of the podcast. As you know, they do white label design, dev and PPC for agencies, lots of AMI agencies. Love them and swear by them, so you can go to whitelabeliq.com/ami, because they have a special discount for you, actually some free hours, I think, on your first project with them, so go check that out.

And I will be back next week with another guest to get you thinking differently about the agency. As you know, I am always grateful that you keep coming back, so thanks for listening. And if you need to track me down, you know how to get ahold of me, I’m just [email protected], the longest frigging URL in the world. I should’ve thought that out before I named the company, but there you have that, so too late now. All right guys, I’ll be back next week. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for spending some time with us. Visit our website to learn about our workshops, owner peer groups, and download our Salary and Benefit survey. Be sure you also sign up for our free podcast giveaways at agencymanagementinstitute.com /podcast giveaway.