Episode 94

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Gene Hammett turns everyday entrepreneurs into FORCES of nature in their market. He sorts through the complexities of business strategies to help you “be THE choice, not just a choice.”

Gene has been a business leader for 20+ years. He started and ran multiple million dollar companies. He succeeded, failed, reinvented himself, and succeeded again. He can pass along to you the key lessons he’s learned in the process so you can have a business that is both successful and fulfilling.

On his podcast, Leaders in the Trenches, Gene has interviewed hundreds of world thought leaders and best-selling New York Times authors. Gene has been featured in Forbes, Success Magazine, Business Insider, and INC Magazine. Gene is also a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine.

In all of his keynotes, Gene uses personal stories and humor to clarify key points. This message is a unique approach to how stepping out of your comfort zone, thinking differently, and innovating can lead to increased market share and trusted authority status. Gene always gives powerful strategies to be implemented right away to create immediate results.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why Gene became a coach after losing 3 million dollars
  • The real reasons you should be speaking (it’s not a speaker’s fee)
  • Why you shouldn’t shy away from the “breakout” sessions at conferences as a speaker
  • The opportunity for diverse speakers
  • Why being a generalist is dangerous for speakers
  • Why great content rules over speaking skills
  • Giving attendees permission to come and find you instead of trying to sell from the stage
  • Why you need to build relationships before filling out the speaker submission form
  • How to figure out what to speak about
  • Getting on the radar of the conferences by you want to speak at through writing
  • Gene’s 5-day “authority gap” challenge

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Specialists get chosen to speak because they’re experts. Generalists don't.” – @genehammett Share on X

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by HubSpot. we’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line, bringing us 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you. Please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McClellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. We are going to talk about a topic today that a lot of you have been thinking about and challenged by, and I know that our guest is going to give you all kinds of pragmatic, practical, actionable items that you can put into place. So let me tell you a little bit about him and then we are going to jump right into the conversation.

So Gene Hammett has helps leaders go from status quo to exceptional to accelerate their business growth, and does that in a lot of ways, but the way we’re going to really focus on today is how do agencies drive revenue and sales through thought leadership specifically around being on the right stage at the right time in front of the right audience. So we’re going to dig into that. So Gene has been a business leader for over 20 years. He started and has run multiple million dollar companies and he like all great business people has succeeded, he’s failed, he’s reinvented himself and he succeeded again, and I’m sure he is going to tell us all about that.

And he’s going to help us really understand the process that he uses when he coaches his clients through the ability become really authorities in their space. So he also does a great podcast called Leader in the Trenches and he interviews world thought leaders, bestselling New York Times authors and talks to them about their leadership and the lessons that they learned when things got a little down and dirty.

So he has shared the platform with the legendary Jack Canfield and he’s often featured in Forbes, NBC success magazine, Huffington Post, and is a regular contributor to entrepreneur.com. So clearly, a man who knows his stuff. So Gene, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.

Gene Hammett:

Drew, thanks for having me and wow, it seems like I’ve been busy.

Drew McClellan:

It does sound like you’ve been busy. So in the intro, in the conversation we had before I hit the record button, you used a line that I want to start our conversation off with which is that you help your clients become the choice, not a choice when people are looking for speakers. So let’s just start there. Let’s how did you get from running businesses to doing what you’re doing today?

Gene Hammett:

The short of it is I lost 3 million in one day. Bam, there you go.

Drew McClellan:

So voila, I’m an entrepreneur, right? I’m going to start a business. So maybe there’s some context in that story that you want to share.

Gene Hammett:

I’ve never given it that short before. I was going to see how that felt, and it felt really odd. Normally I took go on way too long. Drew, I had been an entrepreneur since 2001, even before that, it was in my heart, but I was in corporate America learning the skills to be an entrepreneur. I think I was a little bit scared and just didn’t have an idea. So when 9/11 came along, now or never. And so I created an e-commerce business. I took it to a million very quickly.

I ended up figuring out how to take it to 5 million, created a cash cow, created a lot of money and a lot of freedom for myself, but there was something that was missing and it was really two things that were pulling at me. One of them is I wanted to innovate inside this business that I kind of hated because I wanted to kind of get out of it, but I also wanted purpose in what I was doing, and they were two opposite ends of the spectrum.

Do I stay or do I leave? Do I stay or do I leave? Do I persist or do I pivot? And I chose to persist, I chose to do just make more money. And it really came from looking back at that showing that I was really scared. And so I gave you that context to this. I was at the height of that business. I was in Beijing, I had 8,500 clients, sports tours at the Olympics there 2008 and I made over 1.2 million for me and my partner. So I obviously, I knew what I was doing in that world, but I just, I wasn’t happy.

And I moved into the next big deal which is what we do. We go into the next bigger thing which was Vancouver Olympics, and my best friend and I had a relationship and a partnership and we’d done business together and he had $3 million of my money, and I had a piece of paper that stated out all the stuff I’m supposed to get and I ended up getting nothing. So that caused an immediate halt to everything I’ve done, even my breath. I felt like I didn’t breathe for a few days there.

Drew McClellan:

I can’t imagine that you weren’t curled up in a corner somewhere.

Gene Hammett:

I was. It strung out over a few days of what was going to happen and the lies started unraveling. And I won’t throw any stones here, but I trusted the wrong person way too much. They had all my money and I ended up losing everything. So coming back into the real world, I knew I would start another business. I had no idea what I would do, but I’m like, “You know what? I should do something that really charges me from my purpose-driven place, from my inside out.”

And it’s not that I wanted to make more money to buy more toys, I just wanted to provide for my family, but that was all gone now. And so I started a business. I started thinking about the coaching I got in my journey as an entrepreneur because I believed in getting guidance.

Drew McClellan:

Right.

Gene Hammett:

And so I got this guidance and I love being heard. It sounds so simple, but I loved talking. I like to talk out my problems and I love for people to challenge me with good questions and really help me see things I can’t see. And it really helped me grow my business. Some very pivotal moments through all that. And I’m like, “I want to do that.” But I was worried, I just lost $3 million. Who’s going to hire me to be their business coach if I just lost $3 million?” That’s a pretty valid kind of concern, right?

Drew McClellan:

Sure, yeah. Maybe.

Gene Hammett:

So I did that research and I thought about it and I actually got some more coaching around this because that’s what I believe in. And that helped me navigate through that time in my life where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I’m like, “I’m going to do something that really means something for me.” And the word significance came up. I want to feel significant. I want to make sure I’m making an impact, I have a purpose.

And so I decided to become a coach. I got trained. I had to get a job so to speak. I’m really unable. But for a couple of years, I did sales for digital agencies. So shout out to you guys, I understand your world. And I did that and I started out five years ago. I became a coach mostly to creative companies, design companies and agencies to help them become the choice, not a choice.

Drew McClellan:

So one of the things that we chatted about again before we hit the record button is that part of your role is to keep track of the best places to speak and the best conferences. So tell us a little bit about that, and then I want to dig into how you help your clients become the choice rather than a choice.

Gene Hammett:

I want to back us up one step behind this because knowing that there are speak engagements out there is great, but why would you want to speak for your business?

Drew McClellan:

Right.

Gene Hammett:

The why, some people get this twisted and I’m just going to be honest with you guys. Let go of the fact that you’re going to be a paid speaker. Maybe you will someday, and maybe that will be the place, but you don’t need to get right now. What you need to do and I’m going to say this very clearly and bluntly is if you’ve got a strong company, you’re doing really good work for people, you need to get more people to know about that work.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

Gene Hammett:

Period.

Drew McClellan:

You are going to get paid, it’s just not you’re going to get a speaker’s fee. It’s that you’re going to get revenue from another source because you spoke.

Gene Hammett:

Absolutely.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, I agree. I agree completely.

Gene Hammett:

That’s one thing we’ll talk about in the stage mapping. So when you understand that you need more people, I’m going to be honest with you. It does happen, but you putting together an email sequence in a funnel is not going to bring you in that next 50 or $100,000 client. It’s just not. They’re not listening to webinars, they’re not going to probably find you on the podcast.

High value clients are busy working. They’re probably already working with another agency too. So what you have to do is go, “Well, who are my ideal clients?” And you get really clear about that, and that’s part of being the choice which we’ll get into, but when you know which industries you would best serve, and one of my friends came up with this question, I’ll give it to you because I just really think finding your target market and your profitable niche is just one of the most foundational exercises you can do as an agency owner and most people resist this because they’re like, “I work with big brands.”

Drew McClellan:

Right. And there’s a dollar on the table that I want. So that’s a client, right?

Gene Hammett:

So if you find that profitable niche and here’s one question that will help you. If you only got paid on performance, who would you work with?

Drew McClellan:

That’s a great question.

Gene Hammett:

And it’s a question that’s meant to challenge you. Why is he telling me to get paid on performance? I’m not. I’m just saying you know where you do your best work. You know where your work is translated into new revenues, new leads, new business and it’s really clear, you know that. You should know that as new agency owner, do you agree with me or?

Drew McClellan:

Absolutely. You should know what clients you are delighting every day and which clients keep bringing you more money and saying, “That was awesome. I’d like to give you more money and do more of that.”

Gene Hammett:

You also know which clients you think you can’t stand.

Drew McClellan:

Right. Right.

Gene Hammett:

And you know the clients too that you’re not doing the work that you could be. You’re not delighting them. You’re taking their money, but you’re not delighting them.

Drew McClellan:

Right.

Gene Hammett:

And you may not like me for saying this, but I’m just going to say there’s different clients out there really focused on your business on the ones that if you only got paid on performance, you’d work for them. And then those will be your brand advocates. Those will be your raving fans. Those will be the ones that will be so the thrilled about what you’re doing that they’ll tell everybody. They’ll actually get on stages for you-

Drew McClellan:

And with you.

Gene Hammett:

And they’ll give you a speech and say, “Yup, my agency figured this shit out.”

Drew McClellan:

Right.

Gene Hammett:

And that’s the best advertising you can get. You can just be in the audience and go, “Hey, that’s me.” Right?

Drew McClellan:

Right, right.

Gene Hammett:

I’ll take that.

Drew McClellan:

Right. I’ll wave when he mentions my name.

Gene Hammett:

And you can co-present. Sometimes you can do a case study, co-present.

Drew McClellan:

Yup.

Gene Hammett:

Which works too. But if you found, if you knew where those people are, those valuable clients, whatever you want to call them and you knew which conferences they were going to, and you were the only digital agency in that lineup. This is not amongst your peers. You go into that software as a service companies and there’s a thousand of them or it’s doctors or veterinarians or it’s consultants or it’s speakers or whatever it may be, right? You follow me there, right?

Drew McClellan:

Yup, yeah. Well, it’s interesting because a lot of my peers in the digital space, a lot of my marketing peers, they love to speak at marketing conferences which I get because they’re fun and you get to see all your friends, but nobody there’s going to actually hire you to do anything because they do a lot of what you do unless you are really are very narrow in your focus and message, right?

Gene Hammett:

I will have to disagree with you politely. There are at all those marketing conferences and it depends on your industry and it’s a little bit hit and miss to be honest with you, but there are lots of times if you go in there, there’s both sides represented, the buy and the sell side.

Drew McClellan:

Oh, I’m not talking like social media world or I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about conferences where it is for the conferences for your peers. I agree, those marketing conferences where as many clients are there as agencies, actually in a lot of cases, there are more clients there than agencies, that’s prime picking. I’m not saying that, but I’m saying a lot of marketing folks love to speak to other marketing folks.

Gene Hammett:

Yes. Yes they do.

Drew McClellan:

And that’s not really going to put more money in your wallet at the end of the day.

Gene Hammett:

They like to talk about their awards Drew, they like to talk about that stuff.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

Gene Hammett:

And those things are fun too. I take those opportunities.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, they’re fun. Sure. But they’re not, the revenue part. Yeah, right.

Gene Hammett:

So once you get clear about who your clients are, you want to know where they are. And I really believe this that there are certain segments of the market. Some of them are completely 90% full of your ideal clients. Some of them are 40% and it’s a pretty good, it’s not much in between that, and there are some that’s like 5%, right?

So you want to be able to be able to look at a conference and look at the profile, look at the sponsorships, look at what their messaging and who they’re attracting and go, “If I really work with automotive supply companies, are they going to be in that conference or not?”

Drew McClellan:

Right.

Gene Hammett:

So that’s one thing you have to figure out for yourself and one of the things I’ve done to move to the real question you asked me about these conferences is I like to speak as well. I speak to get clients, I’ve been doing this for five years. It’s one of the main ways I connect with people because I like to do high value work. And I will go to marketing conferences because those are filled with my ideal clients.

Drew McClellan:

Absolutely.

Gene Hammett:

Those are filled with the people that are having a little bit of that struggle going, “I’d really like to make a turn or a pivot to something bigger.” And I give them permission to look at having a niched business that becomes the choice, not a choice and have authority positioning in their market. And one of the ways to do that is to speak on these stages, that’s the reason we’re talking.

So I’ve mapped out with my team. I didn’t realize it’d be this much work, but I hired someone on my team specifically to research the top 400-ish speaking conferences. And these are conferences, not corporations, not associations. These are just conferences, social media marketing world is on the list, trafficking conversions on the list, but also leadership sales, international events, entrepreneurial events, so there’s a big selection.

And I have mapped out not only the name of the conference and the URLs and the dates and the locations, I actually know who are the meeting planners behind that.

Drew McClellan:

Wow.

Gene Hammett:

That pretty powerful.

Drew McClellan:

That is, yup. That’s the playbook right there, right?

Gene Hammett:

That’s the playbook. Now, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t just shell that out willy-nilly. My clients don’t even get it. I give them the names they need when they need them. I don’t want anybody blasting this list and burning it up because that’s what would happen. And we can talk about the strategies to actually get these bookings. But I have done this research and I’m not saying it’s all of the places you could speak, but it is the conference set.

You would also probably want to look at corporations and associations. And so there’s three dominant players in the stage market. And I think you need to understand those and how they fit into your business. And that’s a real powerful play when you identify the stages and you get on those stages and give her a message, we can get into the details of the message because this is the key. We give a message that shatters beliefs, that shatters what they think is to be true and gives them another choice that’s something they’ve never heard before. And that unlocks all the problems that they’ve been having. And it addresses all that other stuff. There’s a promise behind every speech, right? And behind every business.

Drew McClellan:

Right.

Gene Hammett:

It unlocks the promise.

Drew McClellan:

Right. Okay. So I want to dig into how do we develop the … How do we know what promise to make? How do we develop the promise and then how do we deliver on that promise? But first, let’s take a quick break and then we will come back and dig deep into that. If you’ve been enjoying the podcasts and you find that you’re nodding your head and taking some notes and maybe even taking some action based on some of the things we talk about, you might be interested in doing a deeper dive.

One of the options you have is the AMI remote coaching. So that’s a monthly phone call with a homework in between. We start off by setting goals and prioritizing those goals. And we just work together to get through them. It’s a little bit of coaching, it’s a little bit of best practice teaching and sharing. It’s a little bit of cheerleading sometimes. On occasion, you’re going to feel our boot on your rear end. Whatever it takes to help you make sure that you hit the goals that you set. If you would like more of information about that, check out agencymanagementinstitute.com/coaching. Okay, let’s get back to the show.

Okay, welcome back. I am here with Gene Hammett and we are talking about how to create revenue and sales from the stage. And so Gene, before the break, we were talking about that every presentation or every speech is a promise and that someone who wants to be on the stage with the idea of being in front of prospects that attract them than to hire their agency, they need to understand how to really package themselves in a way that’s going to make them the choice for the conference planners rather than a choice.

So walk us through your thinking around that. And as you know, many agencies aren’t differentiated by niche or by a thought process or something else. A lot of them are generalists are we serve butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. So I would assume that it’s much more difficult to execute on your strategy if I’m a generalist.

Gene Hammett:

The generalist has a tough time to be honest with you because when you think about the process of a meeting planner or conference host to select the speakers, and let’s say the average speaker per event is doing about 20 stages per day. So if a conference is three days, you’ll have 60 speakers. That’s a pretty good number, right?

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

Gene Hammett:

Some of them will be main stage or keynote kind of style speakers, and some of them will be breakouts. And I wouldn’t shy away from the breakouts because the breakout gives the chance for the right people to be in your room. They self-select themselves in, that’s the version of the opt-in, right? Which way do I go?

Drew McClellan:

Right. Absolutely.

Gene Hammett:

I’m going to go to this one.

Drew McClellan:

Yup.

Gene Hammett:

And rarely these days do we go to the one we don’t want to go to because we’d rather just sit outside and check our email.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, that’s right.

Gene Hammett:

So we’re actually [crosstalk 00:18:46]

Drew McClellan:

… To socialize with, right.

Gene Hammett:

So you don’t shy away from the breakouts, but if you want to, if, once you identify the places and you want to make sure that they don’t see you as a generalist. They have to see you as someone that will add a unique perspective to their platform and it’s always a mixture of this. This is something I learned through all. I did fit P seven interviews over the last eight to nine weeks with meeting planners and conference hosts, and I’ve got all this data that I’m collecting about this 57 of these interviews, more than half of them, probably 40-ish talked about the importance for diversity.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

Gene Hammett:

So if we have any females that are listening into this, really perk up to hear because I’m really calling you out saying there’s an opportunity. They’re actually looking for you and there’s really a big benefit for them to bring you on the stages. You still have to be good. You still have to have a good topic, but if you are female, or if you have a different color skin than white, then you have a much better chance on the stages than I do. I’m a white male. So in case you didn’t know.

So that being said, you want to make sure you’re not positioned as a generalist. The generalist gets up there and talks about general stuff, but the expert or the authority is selected because they’re the expert or the authority. Have you ever heard this term curation?

Drew McClellan:

Yes.

Gene Hammett:

Okay. So conference planners, what they typically do is based on last year’s event, they’re looking at the new topics whenever they start to think about the content. They think about the content before they think about the speakers.

Drew McClellan:

Sure, right. What are the trends or the topics that my audience wants to hear about. Yup.

Gene Hammett:

The theme of the event is part of that, and so the trends that are going on. And so if you’re talking about something that’s new, you’re by definition not a generalist, you’re talking about the cutting edge innovations of today, right? So that is something that is a good way to do this. If you are taking a spin on social media and making it different and unique that they want you on the stages. If you are doing something that no one else is doing in SEO, please apply to their events because you have opportunities, because they’re looking for innovation.

And actually they require innovation and they actually reward innovation by selecting them over everybody else. Even if you’re not as good a speaker, they want the fresh content. And it really goes counter intuitive to what most people think. They think you have to be just super engaging. Now they want you to be engaging, they want you to do this, but they will actually take people that have just really good solid content even if they’ve never spoken before.

Drew McClellan:

Well, if you think about it, they’re going to put the title of your presentation and maybe a little blurb and they’re hoping that that will A, drive conference sales or B, at least drive people to your session. And all of that happens before anyone knows if you’re engaging at all unless you’re well known enough in your world that people go, “Oh, it’s Mary, and she’s awesome. She’s funny, she’s whatever.” But in most cases, if you’re not a recognized name, it really is about the content.

Gene Hammett:

Let me give you one example. Can I tell you a story behind this?

Drew McClellan:

Sure, you bet.

Gene Hammett:

I don’t know how much time we have, but I’ll be brief. I had a general agency t