By Mark Schaefer
The story of my book KNOWN is really about how successful people establish a personal brand in the digital age. One of the things that impacted me profoundly is the discovery that all of them followed the same four steps to do it.
From time to time, I want to feature people I meet along the way who can relate their own journey of becoming known. Today, I’m highlighting Anthony Iannarino, an author, speaker, and consultant who specializes in modern sales strategy.
Like many people in my book, Anthony overcame severe personal obstacles to become known — in his case, a surgery that removed part of his brain! Let’s hear how his personal authority evolved on the web:
Mark: In my book I talk about the importance of establishing your sustainable interest, what you want to be known for. How did your sustainable interest become apparent to you?
Anthony Iannarino: My inspiration was Steven Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here was a guy who recognized that, in the world that we live in, the work that you have to do is not structured in a way that you always know what to do.
Our grandparents in the industrial age, they knew what to do. They went to work every day, they followed their instructions, they went home. And then Steven is looking at this changing world in 1989 and all of a sudden it’s hard to figure out what to do. His message was the right thing for the right time.
I felt like in terms of sales strategy, I had the right thing for the right time because the stuff that you would’ve learned in the 70’s and in the 80’s will actually make you a horrible salesperson today. I realized this is more of a consciousness evolution and it’s more about being other-oriented, it’s not about being sales-oriented. It’s not trying to do something to somebody, it’s trying to do something for somebody.
I’ve had to explain to people, look, you’re coming at this from the wrong side. Your product is no longer interesting. It’s commoditized, it’s undifferentiated. Your service is table stakes. You have an ROI calculator, so does your competitor, you’re both handing them a spreadsheet wondering why they’re measuring you on the spreadsheet that you both handed them. I can see around corners, I can help you understand the world that you live in. I can explain this dissonance that you’re feeling and I can help move you forward.
My sustainable interest came from just noticing the world around me and responding. I saw Keith Richards on an interview say that he didn’t write the song “Satisfaction,” he was just the antenna that it came through. And I think that can work for a lot of people if they let their observations and insights flow.
I started to write from that place and immediately people began to say “this is what I believed and you’re the person that says what I believe.” That’s what happened for me, and that’s what I’m known for.
Mark: So many people comment on a post and tell me, “how did you know this was what I was thinking?” I suppose the difference is, I actually write about it, instead of just think it.
Anthony: Exactly. A good way to describe it.
Mark: So, let’s talk about the “space,” finding an un-contested niche for your content. Were you a first mover in your content space or did you kind of have to fight your way in?
Anthony: I was not a first mover. There were people way in front of me.
But I was inspired by people like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan and I just thought, you know what, it’s a different time. I truly believed that I had something new to say. So I started writing and sharing my best ideas. And that was one thing I did right. I created content consistently and built my audience. When I had an audience, I was in a position to write a book.
So many people get it backwards and think, ‘I’m going to write a book and then I’m going to build an audience.” They send me notes saying, ‘”I wrote this book, how do I send it to you?” And I’m like you don’t really want to send me your book, you want me to promote your book, because I’ve already built an audience, and now you’re behind the curve and you still have to go do the work on that. If you worked to build an audience like I did, you’d know how to sell your book!
Mark: Well, you’re leading us into the last phase of this, and that’s this idea of building an audience. It used to be you’d get a book contract, and the company would promote you and build your audience, but it’s flipped. Today, you’ve got to bring the audience. No one is going to hold your hand and help you become known. So, what were some of the things that you did, other than consistent content of course, as the bed rock?
Anthony: The most valuable thing that happened at the beginning was being part of a small group of people who supported each other. There were about eight of us sharing each other’s content, and commenting on each other’s post, and working hard to get it noticed.
Some people made it, some people fell away, but the idea worked well so I have tried to work hard to maintain some sort of core support group. Today, there is a group of about 50 people who really, truly help each other. For example, if I write something on LinkedIn and I want to get a boost, I have people who are going to be helpful and do that for me. We send newsletters about each other’s events, and cross-promote our work. But most important, being part of a group like that accelerates the learning curve for me, and also the success curve. There’s a lot of lone wolves out there. They don’t want to share, they are protective of their own audience. I think that approach will eventually fizzle.
Mark: You worked hard for a long time to build your success. For most people somewhere around year two or three it starts to take off.
Anthony: I would say that was true for me, too. I had been blogging since 2009!
Mark: And how did you know it was working?
Anthony: I started to get more work — more speaking work and consulting work with more sales organizations.
Mark: What’s next for you?
Anthony: One of the things you said in your book was the importance of picking a content form and sticking to it. I knew this before I read your book and your book confirmed it for me. I’m a writer, and I’m going to stick to writing, but I just now starting to branch out and do more video. I think it would be interesting to do some video and let people peek behind the curtain.
I’m also growing in new areas, turning to management and leadership. I have a lot to say in those areas, and I have experience leading a company. I have experience on what does it take to be successful in this age and I have an audience now who is interested in that.
Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
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