Episode 82:

John Hall is co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., a content marketing agency that helps companies and individuals extract and leverage their expertise to create, publish, and distribute content to their key audiences.

In five years, John has grown Influence & Co. into one of the largest providers of high-quality expert content to more than 1,000 of the world’s top publications. Under John’s leadership, Influence & Co. was ranked No. 72 on Forbes’ “Most Promising Companies in America” list in 2014 and was named Empact’s “Best Marketing and Advertising Company of 2014” at the United Nations. Influence & Co. was also recently mentioned in Inc. as the No. 1 company dominating content marketing.

John has weekly columns for Forbes and Inc. and has contributed to more than 50 publications, including Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, The Washington Post, and Mashable. John was recently recognized as a “must-see” and one of the most authentic speakers in Forbes. His talks have inspired thousands of leaders, marketers, salespeople, entrepreneurs, and others to improve their performance.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • John’s new book “Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You”
  • How John’s book fits into his thought leadership strategy
  • Why staying top of mind is a great strategy for developing trust
  • Short-term to long-term memory: consistently engaging people so that they remember forever
  • Why you need to make yourself approachable
  • Why showing your failings and foibles does not diminish your thought leadership
  • Why you must understand what is truly helpful for individuals
  • Why you must help people without expecting anything in return
  • How to tell people how you helped them without it sounding self-serving
  • Why you shouldn’t be too aggressive and should build a relationship over time
  • Why you need to start small with changing how you relate to others

 

The Golden Nugget:

“You want to come to someone’s mind in their moment of vulnerability.” – @johnhall Click To Tweet

 

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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 his 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is Drew McLellan, your host. And as often I do, I have recruited a great guest to talk to us today about a topic that I think should be on the radar screen of agency owners. My guest to for today’s episode is John Hall. He is the co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., which is a great agency. Forbes calls them one of America’s most promising companies. But the reason I’m having John on the show today is because he has a book that’s coming out at the end of April called Top of Mind. And the topic of this book, I know, is critical to agency owners and leaders, and it’s all about how to make sure that when someone needs something, you are top of mind, that you come to mind when they are looking to what it is you do.

The premise of the book is, really, what does successful businesses and leaders have in common? And it is that they are the first names that come to mind when people think about their particular industries. So John’s book explores, how do you achieve this level of trust that influences people to think about you in the right way at the right time? And so book is partially some anecdotes of his own experience and other people’s experience, but at the end of the day, it’s really a step-by-step guide where he’ll show you how to make sure to your brand stays front and center in the minds of decision makers.

Why this matters to you, of course, is because obviously, you’re all looking for new clients. Part of it is humanizing your agency’s brand, some of it is about building influence, and some of it is about being able to be a thought leader, which we talk a lot about at AMI. So John, welcome to the podcast. I’m anxious to talk about this today.

John Hall:

Thanks for having me. And good job explaining it. I’ve been on two or three podcasts in the last week or two, and I think I might just hire you to give openings. That was actually well said, so I appreciate that.

Drew McLellan:

Well, as you know, this is a topic that I have a lot of passion around. And I will also say, the listing of the book on Amazon was very helpful in me being able to articulate exactly what the book was about, so I cannot take full credit.

John Hall:

Yeah. If you were reading that off, that was nice and smooth, it seemed conversational. I will tell McGraw Hill-

Drew McLellan:

They did a fine job.

John Hall:

… that they did a great job with it. Yeah, it’s great. Well, thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

You’re a busy guy, you’re busy running the agency. So why write a book?

John Hall:

There’s quite a few reasons actually. Really, from what our company does, we built a lot of thought leaders up and influencers, and it was in a very specialized way of doing thought leadership content coming from them and getting byline and op-eds published all over the major media outlets and blogs. And as we were doing that, this was somewhat of a strategic move of the company, as we looked at it and we said, “Okay, well, we’re known in this space for doing this in this specific niche. However, what’s the vision of the company? Where do we see it in five years?” And truly, we said, “Well, the vision of the company is, we see it being a leader in creating content from key employees to influence specific target audiences.”

And so when you do that, that falls under a variety of different ways you can do that. There’s different platforms, there’s different mediums of communication. And so for us, it was actually really, really big on saying, “Okay, well, a book is a part of an integrated thought leadership approach.” And we hadn’t done it as a company, and so we started, one, we partnered with a couple book publishers as well as looked at it and said, “What two truly builds influence?” And one of those things is, honestly, a book. A book is a core asset that can be used, some people use it as a glorified business card, which is fine. It’s actually a very effective business card.

Other people look at it as true thought leadership. And so for us, we wanted to be true thought leadership. And we said, “Okay.” It was hitting several birds with one stone. One, we were testing out a process and a product that we were looking at doing ourselves, so offering a service for clients to do that. Two, we truly believe in thought leadership, obviously. And we do an amazing job at getting content from us and then getting our company written about, and we’ve got those two areas down. And so we looked at that as, for us to be a leader in the space, we do think a part of it’s a book.

And honestly, the last thing was, it was a barrier from me at the stage of my own brand. There was three speaking engagement last year where they said they accepted me, and then they said, “Hey, actually, we didn’t know you didn’t have a book.” One was a Fortune event, and they said, “Hey, everybody else has a book.” When I talked to a good friend, Len Herstein who runs Brand Manage Camp, a really great guy, he said years ago, he goes, “Look, some of these speakers here, Andrew Davis, Jay Bear, a lot of these ones that are speaking at great events like his event, they have books and you don’t. And so it was a barrier too.

So those are some of the main reasons. There’s a variety. I have some personal passions of wanting to do it as well. And also, we just came upon the right topic where I think people rush into a book and they say, “Well, great, let’s do a book,” and they don’t think it through. And their first idea isn’t always their best. There was a moment, I probably had four or five topics before that I wanted to do a book about, but there was this right moment where I spoke at a couple of events and I talked about this idea of Top of Mind and engaging people at the right moment and moving from short to long term memory, and it just hit with them.

They go, “Wow.” I had several people, other speakers, that were good friends come up and say, “That was a really amazing part of your speech. I like that.” And that’s what made me be, “It’s the right time.” And I had great support from my co-founder, Kelsey, and the rest of the team, and then it’s off from there.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. Let’s dig right into that core idea. So talk to us a little bit about the core idea of the book, because there’s a lot of talk and a lot of written content around creating content and thought leadership, but your book takes it at a really different angle. So talk to us a little bit about your theory around all of this.

John Hall:

At first, it was an acknowledgement and the realization of some people and myself with my own success, in addition to other people around me. I was like, “There’s a formula of how these people create so many opportunities for themselves.” There was one friend of mine where I was like, “Man… ” Jeremy Johnson is example who is an advisor to our company who started 2U, he runs Andela now. But I’m like, “Man, this guy just screams success. Every time he touches something, success comes his way. He’s smart, one, so that’s key.” But then I started looking and seeing a similarities in how people like him and others like engaged people.

And what I found out is that it wasn’t just Jeremy, it was across the board. There’s so many people that are successful because they’re so engaging to people that they stick with them. And I looked at that and I researched it and I studied it and said, “All right, well, so there’s these people that do this in this one-on-one group setting in-person, there’s got to be a way to scale that.” And then I started looking at people that have influence and saying, “Wait a minute, these people that built these massive platforms did similar tactics, but they might have added something differently or had a unique tactic that they use to stay on these people’s minds at the right time and engage them that they wanted to come back, wanted to come for more.”

And it was interesting when I looked into it across the board with all these entrepreneurs and leaders, they all had these different ways of engaging people so that they stuck with them. And so at the right times, they were given opportunities. There was one where a client of ours got a funding at just the right time, just the right moment. He’s like, “Okay, well, we got funding and it really took us to this next level.” And I go, “So instead of being like, ‘Cool, that’s great,’ you’re just awesome in this cool company.” I go, “How did that happen?” And he goes, “Simply, all I did was, actually, at first, nobody wanted to invest in the company, but every month I did a newsletter, and I did this newsletter that… and they didn’t even ask for it. I had their email, they did opt in initially, but every month I would say, ‘Hey guys, here’s, what’s going on.’”

It was a quick two paragraph, and then it would have a very transparent personal message that said, “Here’s how I honestly feel how we’re doing.” Some of those months said, “I think we’re doing pretty shitty right now, I think we need this.” Or, “I think we’re struggling.” And it was very, very honest. And over time, he ended up getting this attention from all these different investors, and he was staying on top of their mind every month. They started looking forward to it. And then all of a sudden, at the right moment when he just sent the email out and he said, “Hey, at this point, we’re going to really need funding,” they all jumped at the chance.

It was unbelievable. And all he did was he just simply engaged them every month consistently. And he was super honest about what was going on. And he ended up really sticking with them compared to other companies. And he ended up getting funding from who he wanted at the right time and he used a top of mind strategy to stick with them and an opportunity ultimately came that resulted in business success.

Drew McLellan:

Lots of people send out e-newsletters and that sort of thing. So when you looked at these people who were top of mind, who were engaging at an uber level that was different for you than everybody else, what did they have in common?

John Hall:

Oh, it’s all different types of things that they did. The similarities were that they, one, offered something that was truly valuable, they actually had something that they thought about the people rather than themselves, and they did it very consistently. And they also knew their audience well and knew what would play to them. As simple as it is, there’s some people that do the newsletters and it’s crap. You read and you’re like, “This is not good stuff.” And what I liked about, the guy’s name’s Patrick. And Patrick, what was cool about it is I just told him, I go, “So what did you do that was different?” He goes, “Well, I hate these e-newsletters, those drive me nuts. I honestly just wrote it from a standpoint of like, ‘Hey, guys,” almost like they were friends.

And I said, “Here’s, what’s going on, just the update. And I didn’t sugarcoat it.” And I think that was different because a ton of people BS how their company is doing. And in his, case he didn’t, he was honest. He said, “We’re really screwed up.” And what he did was he humanized himself to those people and they felt like they were investing in somebody they trusted more. When it comes down to it, every single one of these little things, whether it’s differentiating yourself, whether it being focused on the audience more, it comes down to trusting people.

So what I tell people to do is you’re on a trust totem pole with everyone in your life, your wife, I’m on a trust totem pole with you, Drew. Hopefully, I’m high up there at this point. I look at it as that, every time you’re engaging them, you’re trying to go up that totem pole. And there’s different things that can do that. There’s things where content only gets you to a certain level, but there’s also other things like for example, something that I just did with someone where they were very, very vulnerable, because they had just fallen out with their partner. Now, that’s where I want to be there at the right time for them.

Any time somebody is vulnerable, you don’t capitalize and say, “I’m going to take advantage of this.” No, you identify it and you say, “This is a chance for me to develop a real relationship of trust because this is when people need us the most.” And so that’s where some of these people where, for example, they saw that somebody was struggling… One of the business leaders found out one of his friends had to just let go of 70 people on their company, so it was a tough day for him. And so what he did was he bought a book and he wrote a personal message and basically said, “Hey, I’ve been through some rough times. I don’t know what you’re going through, but just know that I’m there for you, whether it to help rebuild, to help advocate, anything I can do.”

I ended up talking to the person he wrote that to, and they go, “I will never forget this guy.” And the guy who wrote it, his name was John, and he goes, “I will never forget John. He wrote me that when I was bad.” Almost like people get away from you and this person said, “I’ll be there for you.” And now I do that, I do that for every single… In the last four weeks, I’ve sent probably 10 books. The book I’m sending right now is Essentialism. And it’s written by Greg McKeown, he’s a really nice guy. And it’s about what’s essential in your life, and are you focused in the right places?

And I think the tagline is, The Disciplined Pursuit for Less. And I sent that book and I sent it to, there’s somebody who just had a really struggling part of his life. And I sent that book. And I said, “Hey, like I just wanted you to know that I don’t know what you’re going through, but at the same time, this book has been valuable to me. If I ever can do anything and be there for you, just let me know.” And I did this, and the guy came up and he gave me a hug the next time I saw him. That was such a big trust moment. Now, in a person, that’s a gift giving one, it’s hard to scale that.

But you can identify all these things that happen, but it all goes back to building trust, whether it’s through a content platform or those individual moments, I’m doing everything I can to have more people trust me, because if I do that, more opportunity is always going to come to me, especially when I do it consistently, because I’m going to be in their mind and their long term memory. And so I’m the person that’s going to come up when they say, “Here’s an opportunity, I need to call John Hall.”

Drew McLellan:

Talk to us a little bit about the idea of this short term to long term memories. Tell us a little more about that.

John Hall:

Sure. So short term to long term memory, there’s obviously some science behind it, but if you type in memory and short term to long term memory, just study it a little bit. You’re going to find out that it’s funny how it works, it’s not like as crazy as it is, it’s not hard to understand. If you’re trying to go to short term memory from long term memory, there’s these neurons that fire at once. And the more they do that, the more they fire together, the more it goes from that short term to long term memory. And I became a little fascinated by, it’s a process called consolidation. So you can type in consolidation and memory and things like that.

The more you look into it, actually, it makes sense. If you are consistently engaging people at the right moment, at the right time, you’re going to stick with them. And the example that I give in the book is my sister, this is a goofy example and you’ll make fun of me, but at the same time, my sister just got married, she’s 41, just got married. When she was a teenager, she used me as a party favor, and she had me do all these tricks and things.

Drew McLellan:

I didn’t know you offered that service, I may tap into that myself.

John Hall:

Drew, for you, I’ll do it, but not for many at this point in my life. But the thing that she would do is she, would have me come and sing to her friends and some would be like Cabbage Patch Kids’ songs, others would be like Andrew Dice Clay, it was bad.

Drew McLellan:

Wow, that’s quite a range.

John Hall:

It’s quite a range. But I was at her wedding the earlier this year, and the people that were there, my sister and other people, they remembered everything about it. It stuck out in their mind so much. And it’s because I hit on something that engaged them, and I did it consistently. I didn’t just do it once, I was there, I think she probably called me down once a month for like six or eight months. And I did that and they remembered it. And at the same time, I also remembered it. I remember singing in front of those people and doing the Cabbage Patch Kids’ song, and they were engaged with me.

I remember they were smiling. They enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. It’s something that stuck. And it was consistent. So it remained positive in my long-term memory that I remember. They go, “Yeah, but do you really remember that? You were six, or you were seven,” or whatever the age I was at. And I go, “Yeah.” (singing) So I actually could still sing the Cabbage Patch Kids song from when I was six.

Drew McLellan:

Wow. It’s such an insight into your soul right there.

John Hall:

That is a transparent view of my soul and my love for Cabbage Patch Kids. And I told that story too, a guy named Paul Spiegelman, a really, really great guy, started Small Giants and he is a culture expert. And he told me, he goes, “Man, John, that is an interesting story.” I go, “Yeah.” He goes, “You know what, I want to be the Cabbage Patch Kids to everyone when it comes to company culture and be someone who’s there for them, I want to be the Cabbage Patch Kids song for them.” And I was like, “You’re right, you do.” Because 20, 30 years down the road, if Paul is still known and people stick with that, “Wow, there’s some somebody who’s really smart who’s helped me out with culture. I’ve read is content, really got me through some hard times,” I’m going to think of Paul. There’s going to be a ton of opportunity that comes to him.

And that’s where that short term to long term memory, it’s key. But you’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be engaging and differentiate yourself so that you… What I called is idea content. Either you need to be industry leading where it’s stuff they haven’t heard before that helps them stay ahead of the curve. You have to be data driven, so information and data that they don’t have prior, and they actually are like, “Wow, this justifies the thought behind this.” And then there’s the educational or howtos, so actually educating things to make people better in their trade or what they do so that they value that, or being a music.

So that’s the idea, how I walk through. Industry leading, data driven, educational or howtos, and then amusing. And if you can hit one of those or hopefully it’s sometimes all of them-

Drew McLellan:

Right. Or multiple.

John Hall:

Yeah, exactly. You can have at the same time, but that’s what you’ve got to be thinking of and you’ve got to do it consistently. And if you can do that, you can move from that short term to long term memory.

Drew McLellan:

I knew this was going to be a great conversation, and you were really delivering it so far. I want to take a quick second and pause because lots of our listeners have been asking how they can learn more either through our workshops or some of the other things that AMI offers. So I want to take a quick minute and answer that question, and then we will get right back into this conversation.

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast and you’ve find that you 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. That’s a monthly phone call with homework in between. We start off by setting some 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 sure that you hit the goals that you set. If you would like more information about that, check out agencymanagementinstitute.com/coaching. Let’s get back to the show.

So one of the things as you’re talking, I’m thinking about and I’m cataloging that Cabbage Patch song for later use, but I’m thinking about, a lot of people are putting out content but I know one of the things that you talk about and model in the way that your company works with other people, is this whole idea about, at the end of the day it’s still about relationship and it’s hard to create relationship with arm’s-length content. So how do you recommend someone go from, again, I’ve written a book, I’ve got a podcast, whatever their platform, I’ve been published in Fast Company, whatever their platform is, how do they go from that to actually creating and sustaining relationship?

Because underneath what you’ve been saying is, you have to be around consistently enough that on the day the opportunity presents itself or the person is ready to hire an agency or whatever that specific is, you have to be top of mind. So how do you bridge that gap?

John Hall:

You want to make yourself approachable. That’s the key thing, is that if someone’s going to reach out to you, they have to feel comfortable doing it. And it’s hard to scale to millions or thousands and thousands if someone hasn’t met you in person. I’ll give you an example of my content. I just pulled this up. This is an article I just wrote for Fortune the other day, it’s Ways to Keep Pride From Ruining Your Growth.  And when I wrote this article, it was fairly about as transparent as you can get on the issues that I’ve had with pride.

The one I put is remind yourself daily that feedback is a gift and I put, “No one enjoys hearing his groundbreaking idea wasn’t great or he says ‘Uh’ too much in his speeches or that he shouldn’t have that second glass of red wine because now his teeth are stained red and he looks scary.” I wrote that and I said all these are things that happened to me recently and none of them were great or awesome to hear. So I try to, in my own writing, make myself a little more approachable there.

Even in the writing, you can make slight shifts to make somebody feel a little more… to relate to them a little more so it does humanize you. Because you want them to be like, “You know what, I can reach out to this person.” You’ll see that on this podcast, like you say, “Oh, any way to reach out to you?” The idea that people try and act too busy and that you’re like, “Yes, I don’t give out my personal cell phone to everyone.” But at the same time, I do, at the end of podcasts, they say, “Hey, my email’s [email protected], you can reach out to me. I want it to be very easy for you.”

Now, granted, I’m busy, I travel a lot so if you get a one or two-word sentence, don’t take it as I’m not interested, it’s more that I just want to make sure that I am truly accessible because if you create a more open and accessible personality, then more people will reach out to you at that right time that they feel connected to you, that you’re a person that they feel comfortable with. Even with your content, it’s unbelievable. After this article on Fortune, I probably had three or four people just reach out to me and said, “Hey, I’ve been following your content for a while, I just wanted to let you know that this article stuck out to me and I really connected with it.”

And I go, “Oh, that’s cool.” That’s great that they felt comfortable enough, and they didn’t even have any agenda. It was like, “All right.” I just wrote back and two or three of them were through LinkedIn and I just said, “Hey, I appreciate the kind words,” and got on the radar. But those are just some simple tips that you can do. And even in my own writing, I’ll present myself a little more open and I’ll say, “Contact me here, contact that.” So it’s key to make yourself approachable and connect the dots for them so they actually reach out and they have that idea in their head when they need you.

Drew McLellan:

I think one of the things that agency owners or agency leaders struggle with is that they want to position or present themselves as an authority. And so in their mind or their heart, the idea of presenting the more human side of them, the failings or foibles feels like you’re diminishing your thought leadership. Do you have a thought around that?

John Hall:

I just disagree with that. If you put yourself on this crazy pedestal of authority, you also lose your opportunity to gain trust. You can gain respect and you can be looked at as an expert, however, you want to build a real relationship. And the relationship that I tend to like is someone who wants to feels like they can connect to me and doesn’t put me on a pedestal. Even when you’re on a pedestal, it just sets the relationship up to… If somebody looks at me in a pedestal way, it’s going to be really hard to do business with them, because it’s not going to be a win-win, they’re going to do whatever I say. And that’s not good either.

You want mutual respect. And so in my mind, it depends how you want the relationship built, but I think it’s extremely important that… You want to come to their mind in the moment that they have where it’s… What I do is I call them moment of vulnerability, and this is an example that I’ve given a lot in my keynotes, is my wife is the smartest non-content marker I know at content marketing me. And what she did, I’ll try and shorten up this example, but we meet once a month to work on our marriage and to say, “Hey, what can I do to make you happier?” And she goes, “I want you to cook more at one of the date nights.”

And I go, “Okay.” And I did what other spouses do and I didn’t, I just let it fall off the radar. I was the bad spouse there. And she sent me an article about essential tools in the kitchen, and it was from Plaid’s blog. I still didn’t do anything. And then a week later she sent me another article that was like, “What dumb spouses need to do in the kitchen?”

Drew McLellan:

Escalating the conversation.

John Hall:

Yeah. This was from a chef too, and he joked around, I forgot exactly what it, and I could be wrong. This was a while ago, to be honest with you. But bottom line is that it was content that actually related and I could connect with it. And before our next date night, she said, “So what about that whole cooking thing?” And that’s where the example I give people is that moment of vulnerability, when the boss comes up and says, “Where’s the TPS reports?” And you don’t have them done, or if somebody comes to you and is like, “Oh, well, why do we see our competitor being a thought leader all over in these publications? What the hell are we doing? We should be there.”

That’s a moment of vulnerability where I want my name, my company to come to mind, and that’s the most important thing by far. So strip your pride away from it of how you need to be on a pedestal. Number one, you just need to be there in their mind when they need you the most or when they need you in that moment because they happen all the time. That’s where the majority of our best clients come from, “Hey, I’m calling you because we’ve been paying attention to your content for a while. Just the other day we saw a series of articles come out from one of our competitors and it just drove our leadership nuts. We’ve got to do something about it.”

And I’m like, “Yeah, you guys are in a state.” It’s not what I love to see from a client because they’re reactive, they’re already behind, and I don’t like that, but for my company’s standpoint, it’s great because they’ll do pretty much anything you want.

Drew McLellan:

To help achieve their results.

John Hall:

Yeah. To help achieve. And it’s a little healthier, it’s a healthy relationship where they’re coming to you not because you’re an authority guy, well, authority is great, but not because they put you on a pedestal, they’re coming to you because they truly think you’re going to solve their problem. And we can, we honestly can, and they know that through our own content and through the reputation. And so it’s a very healthy thing that a lot of our best clients come from the need of, “Look, we’re seeing this happen, we’re coming to you. We’re in a moment where we know we need help and we feel like you’re the company that’s educated us, got us into the state where we understand we need this. And now we’re coming to you to engage. And I would say 90% of those relationships end up being long term clients.

Drew McLellan:

I have to think too, that some of this is about creating some thought leadership and demonstrating to people that you’re good at what you do, whatever it is you do. So in our conversation that you’re a strong agency that helps clients get results and all of that. But I also have to think that it is about reaching out and having connections with people when there’s nothing to gain. So for me, part of trust is if every time someone calls me, I’m thinking in the back of my head, “I wonder what they want.” That’s not a great trusting relationship.

But if they call me on occasion because they don’t want anything, because they’re either extending, to your example earlier, they’re sending me a note because they know I’m struggling or, “Hey, saw this great book look and thought of you,” even if I’m not struggling, it’s just, they thought of me, or that they are reaching out to be helpful even before I know they need to be helpful. So in my mind, one of the examples would be somebody who says, “Hey, I met somebody at a conference that you need to meet. I need to connect the two of you.” So again, nothing in it for me, but something in it for both of them. So talk a little bit about how that plays into the equation.

John Hall:

Yeah. That’s one of the chapters of the book, it’s about helping others and truly understanding what’s valuable to them because you can also offer help that’s just not valuable at the same time, so it’s that unsolicited help where you go out of your way to give introduction to someone that they’re like, “Oh, well, that’s not truly helpful.” So the first step in that is understanding what’s truly valuable to people. So ask the question, understand. When you’re in conversations with people, I would say probably 30 to 50% or more of conversations I end with, “How can I be helpful?”

Because I want to know. And I’ll document, I have a spreadsheet. And also I’ve used contextually related IQ in the past, some technology tools to say, “This is what’s valuable to this person.” So when I see an opportunity for that, I give them a shout. For example, two weeks ago somebody said, “Hey, if anytime you can draw attention to this new product we just had, great.” Now, I didn’t go out and say, “Well, I need to make sure that I spend time helping them, I said, “Okay, I’ll keep an eye out.” And I actually put a note down.

Now, I just had an article that I was writing for my Forbes column, where I go, “Wow, this actually fits perfectly into there,” and keeping an eye out for them. I didn’t ask for anything. I’m going to get it published and I’m going to say, “Hey, here you go. Hope this helps you.” So not only did I help him, I helped him exactly what he was looking for most of the help. And so that form of natural, for example, identify when people… Like for me, I’m going to be vulnerable or not saying it’s going to be vulnerability, but it’s going to be a moment where people can connect with me because getting this book distributed is extremely important to me.

So if somebody reaches out to me and says, “Hey, I reviewed your book on Amazon, here you go. I really enjoyed it.” Or, “Hey, I have a group at EO that I all had buy your book. They really enjoyed it. Thanks for that.” Those are things where it’s going to stand out a lot to me. And if they just especially come to it from a standpoint of not wanting anything, I’m going to remember that. And so that’s where you’ve got to not only identify, what’s truly valuable, you’ve got to point out is that, “Oh, okay. Here’s an opportunity to help.” And you’ve got to take those.

I kept track of the people that I helped out in ways last year, this is a little informal study that I did. 50% of the people that I helped out in that type of way helped me out in the year. So all I did was I made a note and say, “Cool, I’m helping Jim out. I’m helping Sarah out.” And I had a little spreadsheet. And then at the end of the year, I went back and I said, “Did they do something by the end of the year to help me?” And over 50% of those people did. And so as crazy as it is, when you come at it from a standpoint of how can I be most helpful to people and keep an eye out for their best interests, and you’re not thinking about how they can help me out, it’s crazy, they end up helping you out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It works out just fine. I have always said, in the long standing of how long you’re going to know people, if you help them sooner or later, an opportunity will present itself that they can return the favor and they are likely to do so. And the minute you stop keeping score, or it’s, I have to get something right away, I think that’s when, A, feels authentic because it is, and B, that’s when I think the magic happens.

John Hall:

Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. That’s a key part. And that’s where I used to not be, and especially agency owners. Oh my gosh, we’re so about ourselves. And that sounds terrible, but a lot of agency owners, you don’t have bosses, you’re the person, you’re used to people trying to kiss your butt. And as crazy as it is, you’re, you’ve got to take a step back and say like, “How can I be a true servant to others?” And I’m not looking at that as a bad thing, serving people is actually a very healthy thing, especially when you’re offering value to them. And so look at that and think about, how can I help others in a way where I’m not doing it.

It’s like, I forgot, there’s probably some old story about this, but I’ll just say, there’s a difference of coming at it from a standpoint is that, am I helping this person to get something out of it? Or am I helping someone because I truly can offer a ton of value for them and I’m not expecting anything in return? And that’s where you’ve got to get your mindset. In reality, if you create, and that’s what it’s in the book, if you create those habits where you’re consistently helping people and you can scale that, your chance of creating opportunity and getting someone that actually is going to help you a ton increases substantially.

What’s more important is creating and stealing those habits. So that’s where in the book I talk about is that, I’m not talking about doing this once or twice, I’m talking about creating habits so you can be effective. And I give tool examples, I’ll say, “Hey, you can use this tool.” I already told you, contextually related IQ. Some of these tools will help you scale it so that you’re not just helping 10 people out a year, you’re helping out thousands. And you’re spending probably just a minimal amount of time more just by creating these processes. And so that’s what a lot of the book is about is that, here’s these habits and tactics that you can use to scale it to increase those chances. And you’re doing it in the right way.

Drew McLellan:

You were talking before, you were using the example of right now is a point where people can step in and help you because you’re promoting the book. And then you said, for example, if somebody called and said, “Hey, I left an Amazon review,” or, “Hey, I got my EO group to buy the book,” do you recommend that people merchandise when they’ve done… In other words, let’s say, I’m going to write an Amazon review for you, am I better off because you’re busy and you may not notice to shoot you a note and say, “Hey, love the book, just left an Amazon review”? Or is there more value in it to the recipient if I just do it without saying anything?

John Hall:

Well, if they know you, we’ll look at those. Most cases, especially if it’s early on, they’re going to look at that, there’s a good chance, but you also, I’m not saying that you want to raise a flag and you want to say, “I helped you so you owe me.” But also it’s natural to email somebody and say, “Hey, I just left this review, and I also wanted just to send you a personal note. I really enjoyed this. Here’s a couple things that I liked about it. And I appreciate that you took the time.” And now if you said, “Hey, I just left you an Amazon review, hope it helps.” That’s like, “Hey, just so you know, I’m helping you. I’m obviously helping you.”

I think that you’ve got to make things naturally. And I do it all the time, the Essentialism book, for example, wrote an Amazon review. When I ran into Greg in Napa, I said, “Greg, really good book, man. I left a couple reviews and I wanted to let you know that it actually was a book that was helpful to me.” And he goes, “Oh my God, thank you. It’s so awesome that you left those reviews. Thank you.” And it was just natural for me to say that. And so now, I would say that, yes, in some cases, you’re just going to do something and just leave it be, but others, there’s a natural way of communicating that, “I did this because I appreciated it and it was good, so I just wanted to point out. And these are some of the things I liked about it.”

And a lot of times that can help start a conversation where I’ll even respond and I’ll say, “Wow.” There’s a couple people that got the book early and they read it and they said, “Hey, I really like these couple of chapters.” And it was so valuable to me because those couple of chapters, I’m only allowed out to share 20% in the book when I speak now until April 28th. And so it’s actually that feedback that helped me choose which chapters I was going to share. So I wrote back the people who emailed and said, “Hey, I’m going to be leaving an Amazon review for this. I thought it was great, these chapters specifically.” I was like, “Cool.”

And so like I looked at it and I was like, “Yeah. That would actually help me get some good feedback, and now I’m going to use those because that person was a CMO and I’m speaking to a bunch of CMOs next week and so I’m going to use that.”

Drew McLellan:

So as all things, it’s probably about intention. So if I’m telling you to get credit or to remind you that I now have a chit in the bank with you, probably less effective. If I’m telling you, because I want to connect, which again gets back to the humanity of all of this, then that’s when it actually extends the value of what you did, it makes it more exponentially valuable.

John Hall:

Yes. And there’s two ways to start a relationship. For example, let’s say you come up to me after I speak, I’m a little different, let’s say you come to someone else after, let’s say, I don’t know, Adam Grant or somebody who speaks a lot is speaking. If you come up to them in that moment and talk to them and you’re like, “Hey, we should talk because I think there’s some opportunities of us working together, I think I can help you out.” Now, it comes off where it’s like, “Look, you’re already talking about getting married immediately where you’re wanting to do business and we haven’t even had really a conversation.”

You should always be looking at a relationships like it’s a good marriage. And most marriages… Now granted, I have a friend who got engaged after three months of knowing each other, they just knew. There’s got to be moments where you just know, but in most cases, you want to date, and don’t risk basically trying to go out on the first date and do something that you’re going to regret. And so set it up right. And so that’s where sometimes it takes more than one encounter. So I just met with a media outlet where I could have been like, “Hey, honestly, to the point, this is what we need to get done. Here you go.” But was there a relationship formed?

No. I could’ve been a little more straightforward, but it would’ve potentially heard a relationship from happening. No, I spent the time saying, got to know them, we went out to dinner, we went out for drinks afterwards. I learned and actually learned about their family, learned things about them, which was great. It ends up like as crazy as it is, my birthday is on the same damn day as this person. And so we were laughing, that out of all this times=

Drew McLellan:

You’re birthday buddies.

John Hall:

We’re birthday buddies. And so that created a connection. Then later on, after that, we talked more about what we could do and help each other out in a second or third meeting or call. And it allowed us to create a real relationship and it’s a challenging thing to get those relationships, but that’s an example of don’t be too aggressive, just try and create another serendipitous opportunity like that, where you have another connection or reason where it looks natural, but might be that you actually got in front of them. And then you can go a little slower there, but really read this situation there because you don’t want to risk.

And I do this a lot, I’ve done this a on in the past where I go, “I want this, so I’m going to bring it up in that first conversation.” That just happened the other day with a media outlet where I go, “Hey, we should be doing more content with you guys, this, this,” before I really got a relationship and he just closed up, just closed up completely.

Drew McLellan:

It’s the equivalent of trying to shove a five-pound bag of content into a one-pound container of an ad or a story as opposed to letting it play out, and having enough confidence that you’ll have another opportunity to have conversation and to create more relationship.

John Hall:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. At the end of the day, after people have read the book, what’s the takeaway? What do you want them to do different? What do you hope will come out of… I’m sure you have, like we talked about in the beginning of the conversation, I know you have a lot of reasons for writing the book, but when you think about the readers and I guess in alignment with what the purpose of the book and the point of the book is, what do you want them to walk away and how do you want them to be different? How do you want show up differently?

John Hall:

After people read this book, if I can have them just… I’m not a believer of a book will completely change their life as crazy as it is, I think they’re great. I actually do think some specifically can, but in reality, most books you’re lucky if you can make any change at all in someone’s life. And I want to do that, I want to actually make it so that when you walk away, you look at the relationships in your life, whether it be your friend relationship, relationships with employees, relationships with potential sales, potential recruits, and you look and you see, you truly think about how you’re engaging with them and you take some of the habits and things from the book and you just apply them.

I’m not asking for 10 steps, I’m just asking for one or two steps, because once you start doing it, it’s this spread effect. And that’s where I got to addicted to it, is that once I helped someone out in a way and I got that email that’s like, “Hey, thank you so much. This really helped me.” It was like, “Wow, this is cool.” And also, I was able to help them build a relationship at the same time. And so for me, the takeaways are, if you can read the book and say, “Okay, I’ve got one or two things or three things that stuck out to me that I’m actually going to create a habit or actually document, this next year on my goal is to send this many gifts out or to gift transparent feedback to people when there’s opportunities to help them become better,” do that.

You’ve done that, Drew. You’ve always been transparent with me and it’s helped me grow. And so when it comes to that, those situations, all I’m asking for is to look at those, some of those things that I described the book and just make a goal and say, “Hey, in the next year, I’m going to try and implement two or three of these things and see if it helps me build the relationships, whether it be with someone I don’t know from using this, the content tactics that he’s used, or one of my friends that I wish I had a closer relationship with.”

If in a year I get somebody to write me that says, “Hey, you helped me do that with just one person or 10 people,” I don’t even care. If I can do that, that’s a win for me. And so I would love, love if someone listen to this, they read the book and they actually do something and they see those results happening and saying, “Wow, I’m able to really form a lot better relationships,” and to start building a platform that people pay attention to me for, if they can write me and say, “This is what helped me or this tactic in chapter this that was helpful,” I would love that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that certainly would be a worthy outcome. I don’t disagree. John, this has been great. I know people are now anxiously scrambling or by the time this airs they’ll be on Amazon ordering the book. The book again everybody is Top of Mind, depending when this air, it comes out the end of April, 2017. So whether you’re listening to this right before the launch or two years after the launch, make sure you get to Amazon and check out the book. And as you have heard, if there’s something in the book that was particularly helpful or inspiring, reach out to John and let him know.

John, if people want to track you down, they want to reach out to you, they want to follow the thought leadership all over sharing your ideas in all kinds of publications, what’s the best way for them to follow up with you and to keep track of where you are and what you’re thinking about?

John Hall:

I was just actually making fun of this, I was going to say, if they want to reach me on Twitter here, LinkedIn here, Facebook here, Snapchat here, Medium here, I feel like there should be a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of this where I have 20 different ways and platforms to contact me.

Drew McLellan:

Carrier pigeon here.

John Hall:

Carrier pigeon. I also do a lot of carrier pigeons. Really if it’s something that I can directly help with or my company can, a lot of times it’s a quick sentence to my email. I already gave it earlier [email protected] In most cases where it’s just like, “Okay, some of this stuff was interesting, I’d love to pay attention a little more,” I would say that the best ways, I do share a lot of my content, others on Twitter. So it’s John Hall or so it’s @johnhall. If it’s something like my company or like the blog on my company, influenceandco.com, the blog there, just go through the contact form. There’s some great people that can help there.

Feel free to connect on LinkedIn and say, “Hey, I heard on Drew’s podcast.” I don’t connect to everyone, but as long as there’s some familiarity with someone saying that, then I’ll connect if it’s somebody that’s in your platform. That’s pretty much. I write for Forbes, Inc. occasionally, for places like Content Marketing Institute, HBR. But I think if you’re following me on LinkedIn, Twitter and things like that, you’re going to catch onto that stuff. And others content that I think is valuable, I’ll be sharing as well.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. As always, thank you my friend for sharing your knowledge. I’m anxious to dig into the book and I have no doubt that I’m going to be able to create some new habits after reading it. So I’m looking forward to it.

John Hall:

Great. Well, thank you for having me, Drew. It was a pleasure.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. Hey everybody, this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. I will be back to you next week with another great guest. As always, incredibly grateful when you take the time to leave a rating and review on the podcast, that’s how we get on everybody else’s radar screens. So if you have something that you like or something you don’t like, either way, I appreciate the feedback. You can also reach me at [email protected] Otherwise, I will be back in a week with another guest and more things to get you thinking. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 1:

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