Building A Personal Brand On LinkedIn With Justin Welsh

Stephen: All right, just hey man. Hey, nice having you on the podcast.

 Justin: Hey there today, Stephen. 

It’s great to be on, man. Thanks so much for having me.

Stephen: Yeah, man. It’s a real honor. I’ve been seeing you all around LinkedIn,  I’m sure as everyone else has. And so it’s really cool that you’d take a little bit of time and share your thoughts with me and just have a little discussion.

Justin: Definitely, man, I appreciate that. I’m trying my hardest, to be found by folks. And so I’m glad to hear it’s working. 

Stephen: Yeah. cool. I know that you really are passionate about helping people build their personal brand. And I’ve seen you for quite a while. I think one of the things that actually made me take notice more recently, which I thought was cool,

Cause it’s the mindset I have, I can’t remember, exactly who it was. It was another person that I respected a lot, but they were basically coming from the point of view as the personal brand is overrated or they were basically just saying, enough with the personal brand stuff. Just go get your clients results and that will build your brand.

And I think, I know where that’s coming from. I get that perspective. But on the flip side, I was like, Hey man, a lot of people don’t always have results. And I noticed you chimed in, too. Everyone was being very political about it, but you were like, Hey, no, I think people need to think about this.

Some people might not have results. So I’m just wondering, where did your perspective on building a personal brand come from and why are you sometimes fighting for the underdog or the person that may not even have a big resume?

Justin: Yeah, it’s because, what are results? It’s the same conversation I have with folks around expertise.

What does expertise mean and what do results mean? So, for example, let me give you an example with some context so I can help listeners understand that. When I went out to build my brands, I started in early 2019, at a business that I had grown from its first dollar in revenue to, maybe at that point in time, it was 30 or 35 million in recurring revenue.

That’s a pretty big win. But if I looked at someone who had built a business to a hundred million, or 250 million or 500 million or a billion then suddenly my win looks almost minuscule in comparison. So should I not have started? Should I have waited until I had more results? And it’s the same thing with an account executive, when do his or her results matter? Is it six months? Is it a year? Is it 18 months? Is it five years? And so what I often tell people is your personal brand online is simply an extension of who you are offline. And so even if you have a week’s worth of results, you are an expert compared to somebody with zero weeks of results.

And if you have 12 weeks of results, you’re expert compared to somebody with two weeks. And so I advocate for people to go out and share their experiences. Not their expertise. And so that’s how I think about it because building a personal brand is important in 2020. And as we go into 2021, start sharing your experiences and don’t worry about expertise.


Stephen: That’s a good point. It’s all relative. And it’s interesting that you mentioned that too, because I built a business before, and I sold it. My business was doing a couple million in revenue. And when I told that story to some people, that’s impressive to them, but then I tell it to other people and, for whatever reason their expertise is in such a place where that isn’t as impressive to them. 

Justin: The market will ultimately decide what’s impressive and not impressive.

And what I often, again, advocate for is that you share your experience and a certain part of the market will gravitate towards that experience. And that’s the way that you build your personal brand. I’m sure there are guys, Gary Vaynerchuk, is not reading my posts going, Oh my goodness, Justin Welsh is a guy I have to follow because he’s light years ahead of me on his journey.

But there are other folks who haven’t started yet their journey yet, that say, Oh wow. That’s really interesting that Justin’s been able to build an audience or build a business. And that’s something that I want to do someday. That’s my audience, that’s my market. And there’s a slice of the market for everyone.

It’s not a zero sum game, so go out there and find jurors. 

Stephen: Yeah. I think that’s a good point too, because that’s ultimately why I reached out to you and why I was gravitating to what you were saying, because I think we should be encouraging people to take these leaps.

It’s because there’s already so many things that keep us from doing some of these things, there’s already so many reasons why we don’t post. Why we don’t create content, why you don’t create a podcast. And then there’s even people that will make posts that are saying, stop calling yourself an expert until you’ve done this and this.

And I feel like they’re doing those posts in a way to leverage themselves. So I kind of like more, I dunno if it’s grassroots, but just like encouraging people. To take whatever expertise they have and leverage it and go for it and just, just keep building on that. And I guess it’s a lot like what Gary Vaynerchuk says about “document the journey,” instead of always trying to feel like you have to explain some great thing that you’ve done in the past.

Justin: There are two ways to get ahead in life, in business, and audience building. Those two ways are either to be lifted up by people on their shoulders and be carried to your destination, or to step on people’s heads to get to the top. I prefer the former, I prefer empathy, authenticity, support, community, building other people.

They prefer to tear others down, to look larger by comparison. And so that just doesn’t jive with me. That’s just not how I was raised. That’s just not my style of personality leadership development. And so I just, I don’t know. I don’t believe in that. 

Stephen: Yeah. And to that point though, but I think some, the reason why it’s confusing sometimes is because LinkedIn is confusing.

You see so many different things going on. Like certain people getting ahead this way, certain people getting ahead that way. And if you’re just starting out, I can tell you for myself, sometimes it’s confusing. It’s like you have to have your own center in a particular group.

And this is something that you talk about in your course, about you gotta be talking to somebody specific and, you have to have your own core personality that you’re willing to stick by and live by. 

Justin: That’s right. And if your content or your brand, or the audience that you’re aiming for, if everything that you’re doing is about telling other people that their content or brand is wrong or bad, then there’s things that are going to happen. First of all, you’re showing a glimpse into your soul. If you’re a person whose contents are all about tearing others down, you are showing people a glimpse into your soul. Number one, because to me, that’s just, I don’t know.

I don’t like that kind of stuff. And number two, what kind of audience do you think that you’re going to build? Do you think that you’re going to build an audience of empathetic top high performers? Likely not. You’re going to build an audience of folks who think tearing other people down or pointing out why other people are doing things the wrong way or not the correct way.

That’s the audience you’re going to build. If that’s the community or the tribe that you want to surround yourself with, go for it. I would encourage you to pick up any book about networking, thumb through the pages and say, is anywhere in here, say to build your, surround yourself with people who are tearing other folks down or negative?

No, of course they all recommend the opposite. And so that’s why I build my audience the way I do versus telling you that someone else isn’t doing it the right way. 

Stephen: Yeah, no, I hear you. And it’s funny that you bring up the networking thing too, because that’s essentially what LinkedIn is. it’s a place where you can network, in somewhat of a scalable way.

Not entirely, but people for, I don’t know what it is about those, the platform, maybe it’s just that you’re putting yourself out there and there’s links or there’s likes and comments and all that stuff. So there’s that immediate engagement, but there’s something about the social platform that warps people’s ability to do what they would normally do in person.

Justin: Yeah. Some people don’t want to be on there. That’s totally cool. I’m also an advocate for people doing whatever they do and think is best for them. But people will go to a networking event, pre COVID, would go to a networking event to, I don’t know, meet 20 people, exchange 15 business cards, have some small talk, and pay a fee to go to those things.

And LinkedIn is a free networking event where you can scale the amount of people that understand who you are. You can have more meaningful conversation. You can also have terrible conversations if you want, just as at an in-person networking event, but you can have meaningful conversations with thousands of people at scale.

And I don’t know, I’m an introvert by nature. And a lot of folks don’t know that, but I’m very much an introvert. When I go to networking events, I’m actually very intimidated to go up and start conversations. It’s just not who I am. And so LinkedIn provides me a platform where my introversion doesn’t matter and where I can share my thoughts via text, via video, via audio and grow my own network.

Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. It’s pretty cool. And not only that, but the advantage is you can, so you go to a networking group and usually it’s like you’re networking with professionals that are similar to you. Where you’re always, if you’re using it to essentially get business, you’re always one step away.

So you’re having to, and I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, I think, to build those professional relationships, but you’re still not talking directly to, your customers or the people that you want to do business with. Ultimately, whereas on LinkedIn, you can really do both. With a single effort. 

Justin: But companies today will pay 15 or $20,000 to have a trade show booth where they might collect 60 leads. And someone who came over to win your free iPad and drop their business card in a fishbowl. So you’re spending 15, 20 K hoping to get 60 leads and maybe one or two of them turning out, turn it into a big customer this year. My content will be read by 28 million people for free.

And so I would often compare those two things. If you’re a business and you’re missing out on this organic opportunity, you’re absolutely missing out on enormous potential. And that’s why you see companies like Gong. Outreach gravy. You see all of their reps, their C-suite, their managers, all of them, because they’re getting business from there.

And I don’t know, I just can’t, I can’t balance those two things. It becomes really challenging for me to understand the trade show game. 

Stephen: Yeah. And then, and to the point of how many views you’re getting, you’re getting a lot more views than most people. But even for myself, I realized if I do a post and it ranges from a thousand to 6,000 views, how many impressions am I going to get? Like just going to a network event. So that’s a ton of views as well, even though people I’ll talk to say, Oh, I only got 500 views on that. I was like, that’s a lot of people to see what you did and you get a lot of feedback from that.

And then when you post a couple of different times and then you get to see the difference between one post and the next, you can learn a lot from that. You learn how to get attention, how to learn what people actually want. You learn a host of things from even just a small amount of views.

Justin: If I told you that by spending 30 minutes of your time, every day, you could give a talk on a stage to 5,000 people, every single day, would that be worth 30 minutes? And my opinion? The answer is yes. When I write a post each morning, I essentially speak to an audience, the size of a college football stadium.

And that’s taken time. When I posted 18 or 24 months ago, it was nothing but just consistency and patience. And then the numbers are staggering and I don’t say that to be arrogant or braggadocious or anything. It just shows you that you can go from 500 to a thousand, to 2000, to eventually a hundred thousand.

If you stick with it, if you stay consistent. And I really think if you stay positive, empathetic, with your audience. When people tell me, “my content is only, it was only seen 5,000 times,” they always like, have you ever spoken in front of 5,000 people? That’s such a huge win. What a win, what a time we’re living in, where we can each have an audience like that every single morning.

That’s insane. 

Stephen: Yeah. The logic actually tells you, okay, the only thing I really need to master at this point is making sure that my content is going to impress people or give them some sort of value. That’s going to make them want to continue to engage with me or look at my profile.

You don’t even have to necessarily worry about getting more views. It’s just, now let’s perfect it. And my guess is all the rest of this stuff just comes naturally. 

Justin: Yeah. To me, it’s that’s where the positivity versus negativity stuff comes in. It’s if you’re going to have 5,000 people read something, do you want it to be you dogging someone online because you think you’re better than them?

I don’t know. I think that’s valueless, so for me, what I try to add each morning is actionable, something helpful. Something. The purpose of my content is either to inspire you to do something really great, or for you to read it and say, Oh, I learned one thing, reading this, and I’m going to go apply that one thing to my life today.

And hopefully throughout that, through that application, my life will improve. And if I can do that for people on a regular basis, then I like to think that they will find that valuable. And if they find that valuable, then I will earn a follow. And by earning a follow, I will hopefully continue to add value down the road and they will share it with their  friends and network.

Stephen: Yeah, totally. So then I’m like, you seem like a guy from everything that I’ve seen, you have a really strong center in terms of where you come from, what your purpose is, who you’re trying to serve. I think the one challenge that people do sometimes have is really getting focused on their audience.

So, what advice do you have for someone that knows who they are, who their audience is, but they don’t really know what they want or they don’t want? 

Justin:Yeah. Yeah. It’s a great question. I think it’s probably, I think I get that statement a lot, “Oh, you seem really focused.”

And the truth of the matter is I’m not. It’s something I struggle with just as much as everybody else. So to give you some context around that, for the first 12 months of posting, I was posting about my journey at PatientPop. My growing the sales team, learning about being an executive.

When I left that role, I used my personal brand to grow my standalone business. And so the content in the second phase of my journey was more around personal branding. And then as my client list got full, I wanted to continue to target more clients. So then it became more about advising other businesses.

So my content has actually shifted multiple times. The reason that I value, and I know that’s like a cliche word we throw around all the time, but the reason that giving actionable advice is so appealing is because people start to follow and engage with you. You become the brand, it doesn’t become Justin Welsh advisor or Justin Welch guy who helps with personal brands or Justin Welsh guy who built PatientPop.

It’s just, “Oh, I like Justin. He’s usually pretty helpful. He has a positive spirit. so I’m going to just follow him.” And when you, when you’re, the brand. And when people follow you, then there’s no competition. Nobody can compete with me because I’m the only me. And I don’t compete with Kevin Dorsey.

I don’t compete with Colin Cadmus or Jake, Don Lapper. They all have their own brands and people follow them for who they are. And that’s awesome. I love those guys too. So I don’t know. That’s how I think about it. I don’t worry about focus. I worry about value. 

Stephen: Yeah. that’s good. and so when you transitioned from those different roles, you didn’t really see much change in terms of like your audience or, 

Justin: Yeah, I did. I think as I move from phase to phase, there’s always peaks and valleys.

But I bring it back to something that I read Dave Gearhart wrote, at one point in time, which I thought was a really good thing. And it’s my it’s definitely a mantra that I’ve had, although I’ve never expressed it in the way that he did. So I really appreciated the way that he captured it.

He said something to the effect and I’m paraphrasing. So I may not get it correct. “Don’t step up to the plate every day trying to hit a home run. Just hit singles and doubles, get on base.” 

And so for me, if I write something and one day, it’s a hundred thousand readers and the next day It’s 40,000, I’m not sad or upset or worried. It’s just like that was 40,000 new people or 40,000 eyeballs that saw my stuff. That’s great. And so to me, it’s just hit singles, hit doubles. And every once in a while you get a home run, but consistency is the name of the game. I’m not for virality.

I’m not for trying to reach a certain number of views every post, it’s just, I get it out there. I share what I’ve learned and hopefully if people find it valuable, I’ll continue to trend in the right track. 

Stephen: Yeah, no, I can tell you from my own experience, that’s definitely something that I’ve always struggled with here.

And there is, I think you get a certain level of engagement and then the next day it’s, for whatever reason, it doesn’t go the way you wanted it. So it’s getting better as I go. I’m relatively new to social media in general. I’ve been on for nine months or something.

But that’s definitely something that I’ve had to think a lot about. And I guess a lot of this still comes back to mindset, like so many different things, having the proper mindset of what you’re trying to achieve. And not getting too caught up into those vanity metrics.

Justin: Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ll also add this on, because I hear a lot of people say a few different things. Some people will get on a podcast and say,”I don’t care about that stuff.” We’re all human. Yeah. They definitely… 

Stephen: It seems hard to not care a little bit. 

Justin: It is hard to not care.

And so when I go from a hundred thousand to 40,000 a day, do I wish it was better? Sure. I look at it and be like, “Oh man, bummer. I wish it was as good as yesterday’s.” Of course I’m a human being. But if you allow it to eat you, then that stinks.

Because it’s a dopamine hit. It’s like playing slot machines. So it’s definitely a dopamine hit. And people talk about vanity metrics a lot and I can appreciate that. I think the metrics are leading indicators of value. So if your metrics are continuing to trend in the right direction, then sure, they could be vanity.

But if more and more people are consuming my stuff year over year, I do believe that there is some indicator that what I’m putting out there is valuable. 

Stephen: Yeah. And plus those changes, I think we talked a little bit about this earlier, but it’s just you get to see there’s more than one reason why a post doesn’t do well.

And sometimes it can just be the way you tried to capture attention on your headline. And you just weren’t thoughtful about it. And so just nobody, it just, people pass by. So you gotta be a little bit of a scientist. It’s interesting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, like a lot lately, it’s like a thought leader.

It has to be more than just someone with good thoughts. They also have to be a marketer and to a certain degree, you have to understand how to craft the headline, tell the story in a way that’s compelling. And know what is valuable to your audience.

And those are all marketing skills. So you could be a great thought leader, have all the best ideas you could, but you could still come to the plate and still not reach as many people. Maybe in the long run you would, just because if you’ve got great ideas, if you have a good product, usually that shines through.

But the marketing part is a huge part of penetrating social media in a lot of ways.

Justin: Oh, 100%. It’s probably the most important, unfortunately, right? The best product doesn’t always win, and the best product doesn’t always win because the best marketing usually wins. 

And so when I’m looking to improve my skills, am I improving my sales, leadership skills? Yeah, of course. Yeah, definitely. But I’m also improving my copywriting skills. My copywriting skills are the most important thing for getting my message across to a wider audience. So I’m not a marketer by trade. I’m a sales leader by trade.

But I spend a lot of my free time when I’m reading books on copywriting. 

Stephen: Yeah, me too. So I help people with marketing now, but honestly my background is all in technology. My first company was a software company. I was building technology, helping people think through technical problems.

I was able to build up that company mostly because I was a thought leader. I was always trying to innovate on the technology side and I was just doing good work for people. So my business grew. And then when I sold that company, I was starting from scratch, just like a single dude again. That’s when I started investigating marketing and copywriting and, I think it’s actually cool to come at it that way, because I came at it from an entrepreneurial standpoint.

I’m just testing things out. I’m learning how to communicate my value. Actually what’s interesting too, is that I’m dyslexic. So I’ve never been a good writer, but copywriting, I don’t know, it’s a little bit different and it made me a more effective writer. So I’m always encouraging people who get intimidated by the marketing piece.

Just don’t look at it like… whatever marketing means to you. Think of it as an entrepreneurial endeavor. And you’re just trying things out. You’re seeing what resonates with people and you’re iterating on that. You’re making hypotheses and just iterating it to make it better.

And then it becomes a lot more fun. It’s not what I think a lot of people think about marketing. Cause a lot of people just don’t want to even touch it. It’s something they just don’t want to do. 

Justin: Yeah, a lot of people also don’t like to write. It’s interesting. So, I write every day. I’m on LinkedIn, as most people know, and some people may know when I go back and I look at some of the stuff I wrote 18 months ago, it looks like I’m reading a different person. I can’t actually tell, I can’t be like, “this is where I think I got a little bit better, this is where I think I got a little bit better.” It just got a little better.

Every week, by writing consistently, and I still have a long way to go. Now I’m going to start creating a little bit more long form stuff through a blog. I’m excited because I stink at writing blogs. So we’ll see if I can get better at writing longer form. But to me, it’s just like any skill. It’s like swinging a baseball bat.

It’s like swinging a golf club. The more you do it, the better you’re going to get at it. It’s not rocket science by any means. But if it is rocket science, if you try rocket science every day, you will get better at it. 

Stephen: Yeah. And you’re making another important point too, because when we first started talking, we talked about how social media, getting out there, making your brand as an important thing yet,

I’m sure some people just start and are just naturals and they just do really well. But if you think three or four or five or 10 years out, and this is something that’s going to be important for you or your business or whatever, and you’re not going to get good right away.

It’s something that you have to just fight through and start to learn because the skills will take awhile to develop. It takes a little bit of time to get on video. I’ll tell you, one of the biggest things I did this year was just get on video. And, just like last December, I dreaded it.

I knew I would have a hard time going to sleep because I knew I was going to have to deal with this thing. And, I eventually got on video and now it’s nothing for me at this point. And I’m an introverted person like you. You have to understand that these things will take time and you won’t be the best when you start.

But if you put in the effort, like you said, you’ll look back and you’re running. You’re like, man, I’m so much better at this. And that skill will last. Forever. And it will help you hit that longer term goal of being an effective marketer, social media marketer, even paid advertiser, if that’s something that you want to do. 

Justin: Yeah, absolutely. Let me get my dogs to be quiet for one second… 

Stephen: No worries.

Justin: Sorry. Yeah, I totally agree. I think I’m not a big fan of… I love being on video like this. I love being a podcast guest. I hate being a host. I just don’t, I just don’t love it. And so I put myself out there and did 15 episodes of a specific podcast and I still didn’t feel great about it but I’ll probably give… 

Stephen: What was it that you didn’t like? 

Justin: Boy, I don’t, I can’t really put my finger on it. I didn’t like the pressure of having to, so I’m also an introvert and I hate small talk. I just, I hate small talk. And to me being a podcast host feels like extended stuff. And maybe you should… I didn’t approach it the right way or I just need to practice more.

And that’s, it’s probably the latter. It’s probably both the former and the latter. But it just didn’t resonate with me. It didn’t feel comfortable for me. And so I stopped and, as I get some more free time, what I’ll probably do is start to challenge myself to do things like that again, because I would like to be more well rounded.

I would like to have hosting and guesting and writing and video in my repertoire. Today I’m just, I’m a guest, I write, and that’s it. And that’s cool. It keeps me focused, but I think, putting more tools in your tool belt, it’s always a good thing.

Stephen: That’s ultimately why I did it.

I didn’t do it to get subscribers. I did it, number one, I was like, I’m going to be able to meet a bunch of cool people. And I’ll be able to make content out of it. So when this is over, I’ll go through it and make clips of it. I’ll send it to you. and I’ll publish them myself so I can make content from it, which I think is awesome.

Because that’s one of the things, over the time, that I’ve been doing content and the reason why I was glad I committed to making it, was that I understood all of the challenges of doing it. And it’s hard. 

So having something like this where I can sit and talk with you for 45 minutes and then be able to make, yeah, maybe five, maybe more clips. That’s pretty cool. But I’ll tell you that, just from one introvert to the other, the way I approach it in a way that I pretty much don’t have any anxiety, a little bit, just a little nervous in the beginning, is really just like being a curious person and just being with this guy who has a lot of interesting knowledge and thinking about it like we’re talking at lunch.

And I’m just like, this is a cool person. What can I learn from him and what cool stories that would, what I think he might be interested in? And then when I take it from that approach, I don’t even really have to plan too much. It’s just two interesting people chatting about stuff. 

Justin: Yeah.

That makes sense. To me, I’m a systematized guy, so everything I do has systems and process. And so the natural flow, which is probably why I hate small talk, is when I go to a cocktail party, and I get stuck in a corner with somebody and I feel that pause in conversation, that’s where I’m not super great.

That’s generally, I’ll be like, I’m going to walk away. And so that’s what it feels like to me. And not having a system or a process is really challenging for a guy like me. And I think, strengthening that skill will just come with repetition. 

Stephen: Yeah. That’s funny. In a way, I’m just trying to compare myself too, because I’m very similar to you, in fact, I love systems and processes so much.

Sometimes those can bog me down because I’m trying to perfect things. Perfect things. So maybe I partly do this kind of thing just for practice of being more comfortable. I tend to be the same way when I’m writing content and I’m stuck, I try to get outside my own head.

And I’m just like, what is interesting to this person or what is interesting to my audience? The same kind of thought, it’s like, when I write content, instead of me being insecure about what I’m going to share today it’s, what do I know they really need? And so then if I’m talking on a podcast or at a cocktail party, whatever, I’ll just ask the most of that.

What are you interested in? What kind of things are you interested in? And usually people will, not everyone, but most people, will at least entertain you for a while on the things that they’re interested in. Anyway, it’s just thoughts from somebody that’s going through it. 

Justin: No, I appreciate it.

Stephen: Cool. So, just a quick question, you have a sales background and usually there’s, I think that I’ve never thought of it this way. Cause I’ve just been an entrepreneur, and I’ve had to do marketing, sales, all at the same time. But when you grew up, I watched another podcast, your dad was in sales.

You were in sales. So when did you learn, when did you start learning about branding and marketing and how that could play an important role in terms of acquiring clients and acquiring customers? 

Justin: Yeah, hum. So when I started running on LinkedIn, I did it with the intention of building an audience and that started to happen slowly but surely.

And then I started to realize that I could look at my analytics and see how many people were reading my stuff or going to my profile. And I was like, Oh, this is interesting. Cause I mentioned, I’m a systems and processes guy. So looking at analytics to me, looking at data, is a lot of fun.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at and breaking down data. It’s what makes me an effective sales leader. And then when I went out on my own, I launched a website. And I started to look at, okay, cool. Here’s all my LinkedIn data. And then I launched Google analytics and I was like, Oh, I can see how people move seamlessly from LinkedIn over to my website.

And then I can see how they take action on my website to become customers of my business. And I was like, okay. Customers, my business pays my bills. So LinkedIn to website, customer, bill payment, right there. That’s how I make money. It’s how I support my family. And so that was like a light bulb moment for me, where I wanted to double down on learning everything that I could about branding to drive that funnel.

And. I love data to begin with. So I started reading books on funnels, right? Copywriting, conversion rates, marketing, like everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to study digital marketing. I just found it more interesting, because it propelled my business. So I think it was out of necessity.

I wanted my business to be successful. And then the second part is just out of enjoyment. I just liked that stuff. I just think data’s cool. And to know how I can tweak my brand or tweak my message and watch the data change. I don’t know. I kinda, I’ve always just had an interest in that so that’s where it all started.

What else? Sorry. 

Stephen: So did you stumble on brand accidentally or like in your other sales roles and at your other companies, how were they? Did they have a big focus on brand or was that mostly highly sales driven? 

Justin: All sales driven. Last time I was an individual contributor in 2012.

So back then, there wasn’t a whole lot of social media branding or companies using social media to drive traffic, unless HubSpot, they did a really good job on that early on. But no, I wasn’t privy to that. To me, making sales was like, sales process, it was knowing your customer.

It was knowing your product, knowing that pain, knowing what value you brought. So it was not a lot about branding, and when I became an executive at PatientPop in 2015, I had a marketing tier. I had Kim, I had Jared Joseph two, really great marketers. I started to understand how their work fed into mine.

My work and how I was, for lack of a better term, was dependent on those guys. If I had not had a good marketer, to fill the funnel, then it was harder to make sales. And so just understanding that world, not on the level of a VP of marketing, not on the level of a CMO, was helpful in my daily business.

So I started to understand branding and marketing and positioning holistically from a business perspective from powering PatientPop. When I went out on my own, all I did was take some of the lessons I had learned from really smart guys, Jared and Nelson, and try and apply them in my own brands.

And then furthermore, I’m a huge proponent of self investment. So I belong to Dave Gearhart’s Patreon group. It’s 10 bucks a month, like 10 bucks a month. If I get one nugget, it’s a thousand extra times, right? I’m constantly reading Harry Dry on Unbelievable website.

You can go down, you can go down a rabbit hole for hours and I often do. And so I don’t know, I’m just trying to use what I learned in my previous business, like PatientPop, combine that with what I’m learning in real time for my own brand and own business and, turn into my own marketer and I’m always getting better. And the better I get, the better my data is and the better my data, is the more customers, 

Stephen: Yeah. And is another one of those cool examples of where somebody, I don’t know the full history, but from what I know, like he basically started that and he was building a brand, but he didn’t have a lot of quote unquote results to show, but the journey led him to figure it all out.

And now, lots of people, I just, I hear his name all over the place. 

Justin: Yeah, he’s great. And, yeah, he accelerated very quickly. There’s email mastery. There’s all these different really sharp young guys who are like coming out and really just showing you how to do marketing online.

Another one’s Matt Kobach over at Fast Company. He’s doing, he does Twitter. He’s basically a walking Twitter masterclass. You use Daniel Vassallo on Twitter. He’s another example of a guy who shares his journey, like sharing how the journey works. And I preach it all the time. I don’t follow it as well as I preach it.

And so 2021 for me is about, pulling the curtain back from what I do on a daily basis. And hopefully people will find that interesting. 

Stephen: I’m going to start doing that more, too. Part of the reason why I’m going to do it is because it’ll just be like an accountability partner, a virtual one.

And, I think people are interested in that kind of stuff. It’s just like showing the insides of what you’re trying to do. What are your goals? Like, how are we doing it? What are you learning? Showing people how you did it. I think people really like that stuff and I like the inspirational stuff too.

But I think there has to be a balance of helping people out. 

One final question. You did another post, I think it was a couple of weeks ago. And it was talking about how you unsubscribed from every email chain, any kind of DM that’s trying to sell you. You pretty much removed the connection or something along those lines.

You were basically saying, it’s time to think differently folks. These methods are not working. So what advice do you give to someone that’s feeling the pressure of needing to close deals to get their consulting business going or whatever that is, they have that pressure.

They feel like they need to do this and then building the brand can take awhile. So, how do you help people think that through or navigate that?

Justin: Yeah, it’s really hard to build something when you’re under pressure. So what I would recommend, and the way that I did it, is similar to the way that a guy like Colin Cadmus did it, a really smart guy in the way that he did it, as well as we built our brand while employed.

I built my brand while I was an executive at a startup company and a steady paycheck and, for me, that was the best way to do it because when I left, I didn’t have to start from scratch. So my first recommendation is if you are employed, start building your personal brand, right?

There’s no better place or time to get started than when you are fully employed. I think the reason that I talk about unsubscribing and blocking is because, I don’t know, I think very differently about email chains or email funnels. So let me give you an example.

I just told you, I bought Dave Gearhart’s course or excuse me, joined his Patreon. And I also bought his course on copywriting. I bought Daniel’s course on Twitter. I’ve bought a few others, I’ve purchased a few other courses from people who I follow online. I have also entered into probably over a thousand email funnels in my life, and I’ve never bought a thing.

Now bring a marketer on here, a traditional marketer, and they will tell you I’m not going to stop doing it until it stops working. But what does working mean? Again, this is going back to what results mean? What does expertise mean? What does working mean? If you make one sale out of a hundred people in your email inbox, is that working when you burned the other 99?

When 47 of the other 99 unsubscribed and block you from their email? Working is subjective. There’s costs for every person you put into your email funnel. You might get a few wins, but you might get significantly more losses. And so I don’t, I think that people don’t think about that a lot.

Stephen: And that’s brand too, those experiences. So like DMS and emails, like you could be building a reputation through your posts and doing a good job there, but then burning a bunch of other people elsewhere. 

Justin: Totally. And so that’s how I think about that. And I don’t know, to me, I’d rather, and again, I don’t like violence or guns, so pardon my metaphor or simile or whatever it is, but I’d rather use a sniper rifle, right?

I’d rather be, I’d rather have a specific target. Be very specific, go after it, than send 30 emails to someone’s inbox for 30 consecutive days. I just don’t feel comfortable with that. That’s why I don’t do it personally. 

Stephen: Yeah, no, I hear you. And that’s also an interesting thing about podcasting, too, is you just have to come up with more interesting ways.

Keep up with the times to invite people. Because you can invite prospects to your podcast and then get introductions that way. And so yeah. But it does require you to, I guess coming back to that center, like you get bombarded with all these different things.

You’ll get bombarded with people on LinkedIn telling you that they can get you clients doing it the same way they’re doing it. And you’re getting so many mixed messages. From LinkedIn and marketers on what’s working, what’s not working. It’s a noisy place to try to plan your own strategy.

Justin: Agreed. 

Stephen: Yeah. Cool, man. So how do you specifically help people and then how can people get a hold of you?

Justin: My core business is I advise early stage SMB, SAS founders. They’re generally below 10 million in recurring revenue and looking to grow their recurring revenue toward 50 million.

And I also help people build really intentional and purposeful brands on LinkedIn. And so if you want to learn about either of those things, you can go to my website. It’s pretty simple. It’s Or if you want to, reach out and say hello, then you can use my email address, which is [email protected]

Stephen: Cool. And then do you, besides your course and the strategy session that you can get along with that, do you do one on one consulting with people on LinkedIn and building personal brands? 

Justin: I do. I do. I don’t market it, but a lot of folks reach out and say, can I get a few coaching sessions?

And I’ll usually put together something. So yeah, it’s the same way you can email me or you can purchase my course and there’s a coaching session you can get with it. And then we can discuss after that coaching session, if more is warranted. 

Stephen: That’s cool, man. Alright, cool. Again, I totally appreciate you coming on.

This has been a cool experience and I look forward to seeing you on LinkedIn and interacting there as well. 

Justin: Stephen, thanks so much for having me, man. Really enjoyed it. 

Stephen: All right. Cool man. Have a good one. See ya.

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