One of the difficulties many businesses face is finding the perfect timing to pop the question and ask potential clients to take the leap. How do you make people have the confidence and trust to work with you? In this episode, multiple best-selling marketing author, Tom Poland, joins John Livesay to reveal his unique answer: webinars. Tom shares with us his book, Marketing with Webinars, to guide us into the key benefits of using this method and what you can do to successfully get people to your lane. What is the Goldilocks marketing? How can you become more relatable? What role does storytelling play in the process? Why is reciprocity the most powerful force in marketing? Tom gives the answers and more in this discussion.
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Marketing With Webinars With Tom Poland
Our guest is Tom Poland. He’s a multiple best-selling marketing author. Over the past 41 years, he started and sold five businesses, taking three of them international. He has led teams of over 100 people with annual revenues of more than $20 million. In his book, which is called Marketing with Webinars, he reveals the unique method that has helped thousands of organizations globally enjoy the fulfillment and prosperity that comes with a weekly flow of high-quality inbound client inquiries. Tom, welcome to the show.
John, thanks for having me.
Let everybody know besides your accent, where are you located in the world?
Just a correction first. I don’t have the accent, the Americans have. I am in the center of the universe, which is little Castaways Beach in Queensland, Australia.
It’s such a beautiful country. I’ve been up to the Barrier Reef. I know it well and lucky to be in all that beauty. Tom, I like to ask my guests to take us back to their own story of origin. You can go back to childhood, school, wherever you want to start the story, your interest in communications or marketing. It’s always fascinating to hear those stories are rarely linear.We've got to give people an opportunity to get to know us before we even pop the question of maybe talking about working together. Click To Tweet
If I went and clocked back 41 years, I started out as a young management consultant. As a 24-year-old setting up shop as an independent management consultant. I was competing against the likes of the big fours that were then, the PricewaterhouseCoopers and Coopers & Lybrand. Way back then also, if you didn’t have a brick and mortar office with a receptionist behind a typewriter, you didn’t have a business. I had the overhead of a brick and mortar office and I had mortgages, three of them. I had children and I was broke. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that if you’re going to set yourself up as a 24-year-old management consultant marketing in competition against some big brands, you better get bloody good at marketing. You better get good fast. I bought every book, I went to every seminar and put everything in place. It didn’t work. I was going broke. Long story, I survived. I ended up thriving, but it was because I figured out there was one vital difference between almost all the marketing information and teaching that I was consuming and what would actually work. That one vital piece of information could be summed up by me saying, “When you’re marketing services advice or Software as a Service, it’s far more like you’re proposing marriage in your marketing than it is selling a washing machine.”
I was learning from people that were selling cars, real estate or dry-cleaning services. I was suggesting that a prospect enters into a long-term relationship with me so that I could give them advice. That meant the direct mail letters and whatever else we use back then, radio ads, “Come and get it, call this number and we’ll give you one.” None of that worked because I had to set up a scenario where people could have a first date with me. Before I propose, we talk about business. That first night became the event. It became the seminar, the workshop, the conference. I found that was a tremendously effective way to get new clients in the door. I reflected on that and I thought about the oldest, most successful marketing method in the world, which is speaking to groups of people.
If you have any doubts about that, ask yourself how many clients Buddha, Christ, Muhammad have. There are billions of them. All those three guys did was speak to groups of people and often quite small groups but it produced billions of followers. They didn’t even write anything. How I got to marketing webinars goes way back to that origin story. We’ve morphed from physical events into webinars mainly because I’m lazy. I got sick of running around the planet. I did have 500 physical events over those years. You’ll hire a conference center, send out direct mail letters, give everyone tickets, fill a room and struck your stuff on the stage for a couple of hours, hand out feedback forms and pick up the clients. It works well but it’s complicated. Long story short, when you’re marketing services advice or development software, you’ve got to give your prospect, your audience an opportunity to get to know you, much the same way as if I said, my now wife, I could have proposed to her at first sight, but I didn’t. I was only smart enough to know that that wouldn’t work. I asked her out for a date. One thing led to another. I think that’s analogous to the consultant, the coach, marketing services. We’ve got to give people an opportunity to get to know us before we even pop the question of maybe talking about working together.
For those first requests, I have found that the smaller they are, the easier it is. You don’t go from, “Fill out this form.” Maybe say, “If you want this free PDF, give me your email.” It’s like a little baby step. The risk is low and the reward is hopefully some good content as a sample.
It’s a bit like Goldilocks marketing. It could be too hot, it could be too cold. It can be just right. The right part depends on where the prospect is at because some of them want to know, where do I order? Almost literally they buy more of my books. I’ve got webinars. “Do we have to go through a consult? I want to work with you.” Those are the hot ones, and this is about 3%. Not a lot, but if you have enough volume, it can become significant. We find about 12% want to explore deeply. These are 12% of the people who comprised our audiences who want to explore deeply. They’ll read every word on a sales page. They’ll delve say for every second of a webinar or so on. That is what I call the explorers.
The 85% are the wanderers. They want to download the free PDF or the one-page blueprint. If you want to cater for the whole marketplace, you do need more than one marketing medium. The one I find that is the best, the Goldilocks. That’s about the right temperature is the webinar. If you align the title of the webinar with the benefit of working with you then you’re going to attract the right people. My webinars are about marketing with webinars. My book is about marketing with webinars, my program is about marketing with webinars and that’s an alignment. You think about this, we talked about how we’ve got to give people an opportunity to get to know us before we propose.
It’s like the first date. You can do speed dating. That’s not quite enough. That’s like social media. Six minutes and the clock goes, “Tell me all about yourself, I’ll do the same.” It’s not long enough to get to know someone. You could ask people to sign up for a six-week boot camp. It’s probably too much, but the webinars like the night out on the town. Let’s have dinner, let’s have a show, maybe have some coffee and we’ll go from there. They’ve got to register. It’s going to be an hour of their lives that they’re prepared to commit. If they’re prepared to put that much skin in the game, it’s about right for them at the end of that hour and 90 minutes, if everything’s clicked to reach out and book a time to talk with you about becoming a client. That’s why I call it Goldilocks marketing because we were hitting the sweet spot for the people that are ready to explore further.
I was doing one and somebody who’s a friend was listening, and he said, “Do you ever worry about giving away so much free good content that people might think?” I have my answer, but I would love to hear yours and I’ll share what I said to him. An open-loop we call that in storytelling. It’s creating a little suspense of, “I wonder what the answer is.”
My take on that is this. The simple answer is to give it all away, but there’s a caveat. I often start my webinars with a picture, a point of view photo of someone driving a beautiful car and you can see the dashboard and the screen, everything else. I said, “This webinar is going to be a bit like a test drive of the car.” Bringing them to the showroom. We can look under the hood and pop the trunk and fit you in the driver’s seat. We’re not going to build the car. We don’t have time to do that, but I can show you the car. If you want to build one together, we can talk about that later.You don't actually have to be smart to be successful. You only have to be smart enough to know how dumb you are. Click To Tweet
Don’t worry. You still going to get great value. You’re going to get lots of ideas and what to look like on a car. It’s going to be worthwhile. Please do understand that while some are paid to answer every single question, it’s not actually building the car. You will need help with that. If you want to work with someone else, work with me. I don’t mind. Please know that is a pivot to it. With that caveat, I’m happy to tell them everything.
The other thing to think about is what I say to my clients when they asked me this question, “Do you want to work with people who have the money to pay you and who are smart, or would you rather work with people that are broke or dumb?” It’s like, “It’s a no-brainer there, Tom.” If people are smart and they had the money having attended your webinar, they will want to work with you. If they don’t have the money, they can’t so give them lots of value because it’s good karma. I can help ignorant, but I can’t help stupid.
My response back to my friend who said that was, “I don’t worry about that because even if I show people step-by-step what to do, you still need help.” Everyone needs help. Crafting it, refining it, practicing it, honing it, whether you’re right. You’ve written a book, you need an editor. You don’t try to edit your own stuff. The same thing is true with everything. Reading a book on how to write a book, you don’t eliminate the need for the editor.
It’s like when we go out to the Australian Open watching Djokovic win it. I said to my wife, “I’m going to get his book because I’ve seen him play. I’ll go on the pro-tech.” I can see it how he’s done that. That doesn’t look too hard. I do always add that caveat, John, which is, this is not as easy as it might look.
I love that because you have to manage expectations. People either have one extreme or the other. They either think in the case of storytelling, “You’re either a born storyteller and I’m not so I can’t possibly learn it, or it’s easy for you because you are a born storyteller.” They don’t realize the skill, the training and the practice.
There are many subtleties and nuances to storytelling. To get to a level of professionalism, to get to a level of impact, you are going to need help from a specialist. It’s every other single specialization in the world, whether you’re a lawyer, an accountant or a software developer. It’s no good telling me how you do that. I’m not going to be able to do it. I would need your guidance. People that have money will want to reach out and work with you because they understand that.
I took an Accounting class in school, but I certainly don’t want to do my own taxes. I watched somebody cut somebody’s hair, I’m not going to cut my own hair. It’s fascinating.
To finish this off, there’s a little-known secret of success. You don’t actually have to be smart to be successful. People think you’ve got to be like Bill Gates or Zuckerberg smart. You don’t. You only have to be smart enough to know how dumb you are. If you’re smart enough to know how dumb you are, then you get help. That’s what I’ve done for years. I’ve started trying to learn from the marketing masters because I knew I wasn’t good at it. I knew I was dumb at it. I needed to upskill on that. I think if we can be humble enough to recognize that we only have to be smart enough to know how dumb we are, we can reach out and get help.Reciprocity is the least spoken about and yet the most powerful force in marketing full-stop. Click To Tweet
That will be a great tweet. If you are smart enough to know how dumb you are, you get help. One of the things you talk about are these immutable elements. One is what you touched on about, you’re not Hugh Jackman. Most of us are not famous. Our brands aren’t famous and so forth. It’s a bit of hubris to act like we don’t need to flirt or date. That’s where we have these stages. You talk about these four Rs. Rapport, you get respect, relatability and reciprocity. Relatability, let’s double click on that word and we’ll go to the last one. What is something that someone could do to become more relatable, in your mind?
They should work with you and understand that the story is a great way for having an audience feel like you can relate to where they’re at, the before and after part.
Revealing some of your pain points and not coming across perfect is all a big part of that.
You would know better than me.
This reciprocity factor, this concept of giving before you get is my definition of it. What does it mean for you?
It’s the before and after photo of the weight loss thing. You look at the photo before and think, “That’s me and I hate it.” You go to the after, “That’s what I want to be.” That’s a story I told you being a management consultant, having the overheads, going broke, reaching out for help, not working, and discovering, that’s part of my story. People go, “That’s where I’m at. I’m on a left-hand side of the Canyon.” I could see over the other side of the Canyon. It’s people who leads in and how do I get there? People can relate to that. The unpredictable nature of marketing, sometimes random acts of marketing, people can write to that. “I do that. I go run at a client, so I go to meetings and hope to get lucky.” Commercially wise. That’s the whole reliability thing. Somewhere early in the webinar, you want to be able to tell you the story in such a way that people can go, “He used to be where I’m at now and now he’s where I want to get to. I better listen up because he’s going to show me how to get there.” That’s a big part of relatability.
Reciprocity in my view is the least spoken about and yet the most powerful force in marketing full-stop. What is reciprocity? Let me tell you a story. A neighbor calls and I answer the phone, and they say, “Why don’t you come for dinner Friday nights?” “It sounds terrific. What time? What should we bring?” “Don’t bring anything,” she says. Me being a man goes, “She means what she said.” I said to my wife, “Are you up for dinner with Russell and Sally on Friday night?” She goes, “What are we bringing?” I said, “It’s okay. She said don’t bring anything.” My wife looks at me and she says, “Tom, are you so stupid? How old are you again? Eight.” It doesn’t mean don’t bring anything. We take wine. We take chocolates. We take flowers. Why? It’s because of reciprocity. Giving us a beautiful dinner, invite us into their home, but they’re going to clean the thing for half the day, if there is anything like my wife and so on.
She feels she needs to do something to even the score. The next morning, we wake up, on the front doorsteps there’s a pot plant because we went over the top and our neighbors have to even the score. This is like a perpetual giving machine. It never stops. That’s an example. Psychological reciprocity typically means it’s a fancy way of saying, “In our mind, we like to keep the score of giving even.” It is unconscious and it is powerful beyond belief. In the world of marketing, it means if I do something cool for someone else that’s genuinely helpful, they will feel unconsciously compelled to want to even that score up all other things being equal. If I have a Hitler youth party do something for me, I don’t want to even the score. When I say a lot of the things being equal. You’re interviewing me for your show, which is terrific. It’s a great example of reciprocity. At the end of the show, I would love to reach out and say, “How can I help you, John?” Reciprocity. It’s not going in with strings attached. It’s going in with extremely low expectations of a return on that giving, but a high expectation for the management of the giving.
The other thing you talk about is to be consistent in what you do. You alluded to that before. The book, your website, everything is about webinar marketing and consistency. I love it. Where I want to take you and the readers is when we get in a situation when someone asks us to do something for a famous company for a lot of money that’s not in our expertise, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Can I figure out how to do this? Can I suddenly become an expert in whatever it is that I am not an expert in so that I could shake and maneuver myself into this little box that they are describing, which I actually know somebody else who is good at that?” I was in that situation and I said to the event planner, “Here’s what I’m hearing you need. This, this and this. You want someone who’s comfortable entertaining people going out into the audience, 1,500 people and razzle, dazzling them, talking about customer service and getting into all of the nitty-gritty of operations and all these other things.”
I said, “My sweet spot is storytelling and an audience of salespeople, not people who run a quick-service restaurant.” I do know someone. That’s what they do, they perform, they’re an entertainer and they’re also a speaker. They’re getting everybody clapping. The irony was, they then started to change the parameters to fit my niche. “Maybe we could have you in a breakout room then.” I thought how funny. I’m like, “It’s not the number of people. It’s the audience and the topic that I was saying no to but, okay.” I’m curious if you’ve ever had people approach you going, “Can you also help us launch this product?” Whatever else they might ask you to do that you go, “I didn’t know how to do this well, but I’m not going to pretend I know how to do everything well.”You’ve got to make sure that the majority of your lead generation is in-house. Click To Tweet
If I want the clock back 30 something years and you can have a look at my overdraft, and you asked me that time, “Can you do juggling on stage in front of 10,000 people for half an hour?” “Yes.” Realistically without wishing to seem too pure about it right now, I would say no to that request if someone asked me that exact same question. “Can you go through and make them laugh?” No, that’s not me. Call John. Way back when I was desperate for money, I probably would have said yes and figured out how to get paid and do the best job I can.
The yes-no response to that is dependent on how hungry I am. A beggar on the streets in Calcutta, if you ask them to do cartwheels for $10, they’d probably go, “Yeah.” I would say no right now because cashflow is pretty good. We’ve had a few years of successful business. I did have a friend of mine who did a lot of work on Twitter, LinkedIn and had millions of followers decided to focus on LinkedIn. She said she had a request to speak on Twitter a day after she made that decision to focus on LinkedIn. She turned down $25,000 gig. I would have said yes to that. She knew the subject. She had made a mental decision to make a break. That’s fine. Take the $25,000. You can deliver the value. It’s good money. It’s meat and drink for you. Go get them, girl. That’s what I would’ve done. People will draw the line in different places, but I have respected the decision all the same.
What I found fascinating with that, and I never tested it, was when you pull back and go, “I’m not sure this is for me.” Sometimes people pull in even, and they go, “I’m going to give you someone else.” “That’s the person we want is somebody who cares.” I phrased it in a way and I’m like, “I want you to be a success. If I’m not going to give you what you’re looking for, then I might not be the right person.” That takes a lot of awareness, confidence. You each decide, I heard Matthew McConaughey talking about his own career in these terms. That’s why I think it’s so relevant for everyone. Pick a niche, double down on it. He’d been known as the romantic comedy guy for years making all these movies with a shirt off making a lot of money. He decided he didn’t want to do that anymore. He’d made enough that he never had to work again if he didn’t want to. For six months he got more offers in that niche. He kept saying no and gets millions. He still said no. It was eleven more months for a total of twenty months before he finally started getting an offer for the serious roles that he’d always wanted to do. I thought, “We don’t all have that luxury,” but mentally it’s a great story in terms of consistency. If you’re in a box you don’t like to be in, it’s up to you to get out of it. It’s my takeaway from that story.
The big thing that helped him was the luxury of having millions of dollars in a bank account. That’s what I was referring to before. Years ago, my bank account was in overdraft. I was desperate. I probably would have said yes to about anything. These days you don’t have to. Where you draw the line might move. There’s a terrific book and I had a chance to have a preview of it. It’s the Greenlights, which is Matthew McConaughey’s book.
Your third element is, we must control our own oxygen supply. We’ve all heard that premise. If you are traveling with a child, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, not the child. It seems somewhat counterintuitive, but maybe even selfish if you think it through a bit. If you pass out, the kid doesn’t know what to do. In terms of business being leads, being a supply of oxygen, how do we help people make sure their lead supply doesn’t stop?
What I’m essentially saying there is that you’ve got to make sure that the majority of your lead generation is in-house. You can push the buttons and pull the levers. I’ve heard a lot, and it’s a tempting value proposition is, “Tom, if you could get me all the appointments, please. If you could set those up or if someone could do my marketing for me because I like to work with client,” which most of us do. The problem with that is if you outsource it to an agency, about 85% of the time, you will pay the money and they won’t get you the results. After 3 to 6 months you go, “I don’t want to keep doing that.” You write them the Dear John letter, “Dear John, I taught you, it’s me. I need to put this on pause for a while.”
Fifteen percent of the time would deliver results, you create a dependency. That dependency is dangerous. Someone once said the scariest number of businesses is the number one. One supplier, one client, etc. If you have one organization that you are totally financially dependent on for the supply of all your business and they go over or they sell, COVID hits, who knew? It’s like you’ve outsourced your oxygen supply. You wouldn’t outsource the oxygen supply to your body because if that third-party supplier fell over, you’re dead. The difference with the business is the death takes longer, but you’re still as vulnerable. By all means, if you have a great agency that can supply leads and they’re prepared to get started, especially if they’re prepared to give you a split of results that you pay them from a split of results, not money out upfront, do that. Make sure that they’re not supplying any more than 1/3 of your new business requirements. You’d have to have the rest of the house otherwise you’re vulnerable.
Any last thoughts or tips that you want to leave us with before we talk about how people can follow you? The book is called Marketing with Webinars.
The best thing people can do is buy the book, Marketing with Webinars because it’s the most prescriptive book I’ve ever written. It’s the sixth book I’ve written. It goes into the most detail. I go into all sorts of tech equipment to get and what not to get platforms. It will be going to things like titles and every single slide. When they get the book, they’ll have access to my 31 template slides, which is the same 31 slide template all my clients use. When I give it to my clients, I said, “When you bring it back, I don’t want to see 32 slides.” You can have any type of color font you would like, as long as it’s black, any background. It’s prescriptive. That’s what I’m saying.
They’re going to get a lot of value out of that, but other than that, I think the big thing is to make your strategic commitment to do your marketing and webinars. I do all of mine. It is the combination of the most efficient and effective marketing medium. It combines that oldest, most proven marketing message in the world, what I mentioned before, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, billions of followers. I was speaking to groups of people with the world’s newest marketing medium, which is internet. It’s got the best blend of the old and the new in terms of marketing.
What’s the best website for people to find you?
Leadsology.guru, there are a lot of free resources there. There’s also LeadGenDemo.com because that’s where they can sign up for our monthly lead generation demo using marketing webinars. It’s completely free. People can come along. The website is a good place to start.
Tom, thank you for not only sharing wisdom but humor. What a fun way to have the medicine go down as they say. That’s why I’m sure you’re so successful. Thank you.
Thank you. All the best.
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