Building a community is the best way to sell a product. Imagine having people from around the world, all sharing your product. Then you can give them as much added value as you can. All it takes to build a community is a product and to just be yourself. Learn how to be yourself with your host, Mitch Russo and his guest Tom Poland. Tom is the founder of the Leadsology program, where he helps people generate high-quality inbound leads. He is also the author of several books such as The Million Dollar Ceiling and Leadsology. Learn how to just be yourself so that others can find you. This is one of the most effective ways to building a community. Build a diverse community today!
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Building A Community For Your Product By Being Yourself With Tom Poland
Our guest is like many of us, stuck in the corporate world, trying to find a way to build a successful life and then decided to start a business. After many years, he has created the most perfect life and helping others get what they want. Welcome, Tom Poland to the show.
Thanks, Mitch. It’s a privilege to be here on your show.
It’s my pleasure, Tom. Your story is fascinating because after all, you are living your dream life as many of us have done in our later years. Our goal is to help others accelerate that process. They don’t have to be old fogies like you and me before they get to live on the beach. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your tribe and how it got started? Then we’ll get into some of the deeper stuff about building it.
My tribe started because I was trying to figure a thing out and that’s all how businesses start. Successful ones are we find that something doesn’t work very well and figure out how to make it work well. Whether that’s a mobile phone or in my case, lead generation. The tribe came from my original frustration and at times desperation of trying to get enough clients on board for my consulting practice, which later morphed into a coaching practice. When I crack that particular knot, I started having more people saying, “Forget about your coaching call service. I want to know how you’re generating leads because I can see you got many clients. That’s what I want.” That’s how the tribe began because the demand for the marketing practices that I had embedded my own coaching as my only business was actually more successful than my consultant business.
As the Genesis of all these great businesses, it comes from that idea where you see there’s a need in the marketplace that’s not being met. At least it’s not met in a way that you think it needs to be met personality-wise or ethic-wise. Ethics plays a big part in effective marketing. That was the idea. My own journey from frustration, disappointment, sometimes desperation of marketing, cracking that system. Having people say, “Can you teach me about marketing?” That began the process of evolution. We added more aspects to our marketing solution and formula as I continued my journey on cracking the marketing code.
All along, you’re sharing this with your community. The things that are working and not working.Give all your ideas away, don't hold them back. Click To Tweet
In the old days, they called it added value marketing. Everything I did in my marketing, I wanted it to add some value to someone whether they bought it or not. These days they call it karma marketing. Not relaxed marketing because there’s anything bad sometimes. You reap what you sow. My take on it is, “Give away all your ideas.” Don’t hold anything back because there’s a bunch of people that can’t afford to work with you. You want to help them make their lives and communities better.
To the ones that have the money and are smart, I want to give you that money to implement the ideas. There’s a massive gulf between an idea and implementation. Enjoying the integration of that idea. That’s not just giving way the ideas to the pain community. It’s giving away the ideas to tens of thousands of email subscribers who need help and I’ve been there. I’ve been broken the rats bum from times, desperate for money. I could tell you stories but I won’t. I was broke more than once. I want to help people. Karma marketing helps me to continue to remember to help people who can’t necessarily afford to work with me just by giving them some ideas that work. Get them status over there.
What I find is that most tribal leaders or community leaders have a polarizing side to their message. The polarizing part of it is designed to chase away the ones who are not a fit and attract those who strongly are attracted to the message. What would you say your core mission or your polarizing message is about?
I call it a black jelly bean. It’s pretty much exactly what you’re saying but just in different articulation. If you see a bowl of jelly beans sitting on a table, I’ll be the guy picking out all the black ones. I’ve done the show of hands. Many speaking gigs that I’ve done likes jelly beans. Almost half the room puts their hand up, which I expected. The other half put their hand down. My polarizing message is you’ve got to lay down the train tracks. If you want scalable, high-quality inbound leads coming in every single week of the year, you’ve got to put the systems in place. That’s what I mean by the train tracks. The reason I call it to train tracks is, I asked the audience a question, “What’s the hardest part about getting a train from A to B?” People say, “Getting the right engine, getting the driver, making sure the chassis. I don’t know.” It has nothing to do with the train. It’s laying down the train tracks because once you go to the train tracks down, the train can’t go anywhere else, unless of bad driving. That’s what I want the marketing system to be like.
I want the marketing system to be predictable and relentless. It’s like a train down on the train track. That takes a thick end of 8 to 12 weeks or at about 8 hours a week to do the work to put the systems in place so that leads to a relentless and high quality. Most people don’t want to wait eight weeks. Most people want results like, “This week or next week would be good.” That’s my polarizing offer. If you’re prepared to work with me for eight weeks at about 80 hours a week then we can get a system in place that’s going to help you long-term. We get a bunch of people visiting the website and one of those chatboxes go, “I need something fast, please.” We can give them something but we say to them, “If you want something long-term that doesn’t require so much time and effort every single day for you then you might want to think about putting down the train tracks.
All along, you’re attracting those who want to pay you to do the work with them but what about the folks who love to follow you and learn from you without paying you? How big do you think that group is?
We had 44,000 email subscribers who were all grown organically. All attracted to the list, not by buying a list or by doing Facebook Ads or whatever but they just signed up. We count that down to 26,000 of opening our emails regularly. We’re engaged and bouncing, etc. We have about 91 clients around the world in about 27 different cities. If you do the Math, that’s a pretty low percentage of paying money. I’m happy with that because as I said before, I’ve been in a position where I haven’t been able to afford to pay anything and I desperately needed help want to be able to return that to other people. Some people were kind enough to help me. Let’s do the favor. There are different types of marketers. There are people who are, “It’s all about the sale. If I can sell your dirt in a cardboard box or put a label that has gold on there and I can sell that, good on me and stick to you thing.”
I have a pathological hatred of that. It’s not like Mother Teresa. I think, “Come on, let’s help people.” They get obsessed with the sale that they forget about the value delivery. I said, “I’m not Mother Teresa. I can’t sleep well at night. That’s not the way I was.” There are a bunch of people that don’t care. You’ll hear it all the time. People ask me, “How much content should I give away on my webinars or at the conference?” Give all the ideas away. Some people say, “Tell them what to do but not how to do it.” Don’t give them any chance of implementing this thing. I think that’s BS. We need to break the mold on that and help everyone. The people are reading to this going, “I’m not sure. Will they still pay me money?” Sure, they will. The people that have the money and that are dumb won’t pay the money and you don’t want to work with people that aren’t smart enough to know how dumb they are.
The people that have the money and are smart will know that they’re going to implement a whole lot more effectively if they get an expert like you to help them implement. The smart people with the money will pay it to you. The dumb people, you’re not going to help anyway. One of my secrets to success is I’m not a smart person. I’m a slow, plodding observer of reality. I built the system over decades. A smart person would have done it in months. It took decades. I had one redeeming characteristic, which is that I’m only just smart enough to know how dumb I am. I’m dumb at numbers so I get someone in to help with the numbers.
I do understand the self-deprecating comments, however you’re not quite accurate. You are a genius in what you do. As many of our readers are, we’re geniuses in the area that we have focused on and spent decades developing. You’re definitely one of those types, for sure. You communicate with your members through email. Are there any other ways that you communicate with your community?
We have a Facebook Group and we do a very poor job of that. Although, we’ve hired someone to get people more engaged. We use all the main post social media platforms as well as LinkedIn on a regular basis. That’s for two reasons. One, to keep our brand in people’s brains to buy those three B’s. Keep your Brand in people’s Brains already put By. Social media is good at that. It can give people these little soundbites if you like or eye candy on Instagram and you go, “There’s the brand.” In my case, I think about lead generation, “Leadsology, that’s right.” The other reason I do it is because I don’t want people thinking that I’m this old fat who doesn’t understand social media. It was back in the days of fax marketing. You and I got back before fax marketing, direct mail days and coupons. I do it because I want people to understand that I understand social media but I always offer the caveat with our clients they say, “Understand social media for high-end professional services. This is not going to generate new client inquiries on a systematic or regular basis. You need some form of direct response marketing for that.”
Would you say the benefits that you provide your community is encouragement education? How would you define being a member of your community and what are the benefits for those who are paying attention?People get so obsessed with the sale that they forget about the most important part – value delivery. Click To Tweet
We’re very good at giving people practical, implementable ideas that will make a difference. It’s something that’s effective. I consider part of my role to waste tens of thousands of dollars, if not every quarter then certainly every year on confirming that certain things don’t work. We’ve all bought the tools, platforms and coaches. Most of us have hire coaches. We’re very confident that this thing would be a game-changer and it wasn’t. I got frustrated with paying people the little money that I had, only to find out it didn’t make any difference. I don’t want to be that guy. We want our organization to be delivering implementable ideas that are a whole lot faster and more effective with us. Things that community members whether they bought or not, they are going to get some value out of because they can put something into place.
For example, we’ve got a five-day challenge. I regularly get emails pretty much every week from people saying, “This has been great. Thank you very much.” It’s completely free and a lead generator for us. It’s implementable ideas that make a difference. I was in the supermarket and I’m looking for something to clean the bathroom with. There’s this one called Shower Power. It’s this big starburst on the labels. Shockingly, it works. I wouldn’t mind that sticker on Leadsology.
For personal purposes, I’ve attended your four-day long-form webinar presentation. I came away with pages of notes and began implementing right away from what you taught. I thought it was great. Other than picking up some clients, which is part of what all of us are doing in business, what do you say benefits your community brings to you as the leader of this tribe?
It’s undoubtedly the richness and diversity of cultural insights. I love the fact that we can do a call and have people, depending on the time you run it, from the UK, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Canada, outside the US but not forget that so much important market Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong. We can have all those people on a call. Whether that’s a marketing webinar or a client call, I love that diversity. We’ve got every color of the rainbow there on some calls. The worst thing for me is to be bored. I’m very impatient. My mind goes at 1 million miles an hour but I find that incredibly interesting and stimulating. I know it’s not even a commercial. You can’t put a special dollar on that.
Tom, I know how you monetize your community but why don’t you explain it? Can you lay out the whole process so people understand it?
What we do with the monetary side of our community, we invite people to join. It’s a membership. We have an initial upfront fee. We give them a seven-day free. We have a program, support sessions and everyone gets an assigned instructor. They follow the program step-by-step, very short lessons. They implement our lead generation system. They have an instructor to help them do that implementation. We have support sessions every week with small group Zoom calls with different members, helping each other, offering each other ideas. We have created a whole joint venture community within our membership. If someone’s a member of the community, we created software to help them identify the right joint venture partners. Initially, we give them as much value so they can put the system in place but then we built these other tools and aspects to the membership, which gives them value week after week, year after year. Our aim is to create more software as a service-type business, as opposed to say, “Do the program and we never see you again,” type of business. That treadmill that some business owners get them on whether you feed new people out of a program then graduate, “We can get more people in.” We always want to have more people coming in.
We have our clients that’s around for nine years. That’s our record every single year. That’s rare. We want that to be close to the norm. That’s the direction we’re heading in terms of more of a community, membership, value month after month. One thing we’ve been stink at is opening up the value cross-member. Getting members, opening up and sharing with each other more and stop because they are selfish people. We haven’t created the framework or the environment to do that. That’s another thing we’re working on, tapping into the richness of experience. We don’t want the blind leading the blind. That’s the only caveat there because a lot of us market as confident-sounding people. We think ahead to the point where we think of something. We imagine we’ve done it and we’ve been very successful. It’s very easy to talk about the thing that we started doing and say, “This is amazing. You guys should all do this.” Suddenly, we’ve got something out there in the community that’s not proven at all. I do keep pretty close eye on that.
For those reading who are just at the beginning stages of building a community, what would you say is more important? Building the community first or having a product or service to sell before you build the community?
You got to have the product or the service. There’s that movie, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come. “He builds this baseball car park and all these deceased baseball players come in the middle of these cornfields to play baseball. A ghost if you like. I remember when the iPhone came out. It was revolutionary. Unless you got an iPhone-type of product that was probably not going to happen. Nevertheless, you got to put a stake in the ground, I believe and say, “This is what we’re about.” I know it’s hard if you don’t have a lot of money but try, pack that idea and put it on the shelf, “How can I use my natural inclination is to make the world a better place?” The world might be your suburb, town, city, community that is scattered around the world like ours. When I wake up in the morning if I’m going to go to work, what are the things that I do want to do? For me, it’s ideas, products, presenting, programs.
I’m a people and program type of person. I’m not a numbers person. I’m not adopting the I’s cross the T type of person. I need other people to finish that. My natural inclination is not to review a five-year cashflow spreadsheet. It’s not to go to LinkedIn, try and message everyone and get them to connect. The sooner you can get your business week filled with the things that you want to do, the sooner you’re going to be on the path to fulfilling your destiny and making money.
Let’s switch gears a little bit here and talk about tools. You’re starting to catch up a bit on your Facebook Group and LinkedIn, what other social media do you use and how would you say you use it? What do you share?
I probably do an average of two podcasts interviews a week where I have guests on my show. That’s the main content that we share. I do seven questions in seven minutes. It’s very tight, as you could imagine. You’ve been on my show. It’s a bit of a whirlwind. These are small sound bites that are packed full of value. Very quickly identify who the person is that my guest is serving, what the problem is, what the symptoms are, the mistakes people might’ve made, a free landing page, more resources and connection or contact. We share that around the internet like confetti at a wedding on almost all social media platforms and on all the podcast platforms as well. Plus, the big thing that we share is once a week, we go out to our email list and social media platforms and say, “We’ve got someone who’s running a webinar. We’re giving away a free book.” That’s the second thing we’re sharing. A lot of people think building a community is about promoting your stuff. The tip of building a community, if you’re talking about the unpaid stuff is to promote other people’s stuff.You don't have to be a smart person. You just need to be a slow-plodding observer of reality. Click To Tweet
A lot of people would say, “Building a community is about finding the polarization in yourself that would attract others to you but it can’t be like an experiment. You have to feel the passion. Be passionate as you are about your mission. Those who are connected to your mission are going to be in your community.”
It’s even simpler. It’s about finding you. It’s about the expression of you. Putting a magnifying glass on your ethics, values, personality and not trying to figure out someone else’s formula. It’s like when I first met my wife. I’m a sports nut. I’m a football tragic. We were looking for something to do as a date. Very early on she said, “Do you like cello recitals?” I’d never been to a cello recital in my life. I’ve been to lots of football games. I said, “I do now.” Off I went to her son’s first cello recital. After about 6 or 7 cello recitals I said, “I can’t take it anymore. I need my football.” The temptation is when you fall in love, as you bend yourself out of shape to try and get yourself loved.
As marketers, it’s easy to do that. It’s like, “Let’s find a formula that people like,” but that’s not our gift to the world. That’s not what we were given to share with the world. What we were to share is our ethics, values, beliefs, personality, mission, vision. It comes back to, “What are you driven to want to do in the morning? How are you driven to express it? Forget copying.” Someone said to me, “You should get the book Talk Like TED.” I said, “I don’t want to talk like TED. I want to talk like Tom. Get me that book. I’ll read that book.” It’s all about authenticity, not because authenticity sells more stuff which it does but it’s because it’s about your fulfillment and getting your gift out to the world. That’s why you should liberate yourself and get your message because people will connect and resonate with that. They will say, “Thank God. It’s not this formulaic template thing. There are things you should do in your marketing. There are things you should copy from me but it isn’t my personality and certainly not my haircut.”
The idea is to be ourselves. Let’s go back to the tool side. Are there software products or services that you use to share your message and create this bond between your members and your company?
You’re going to hate this answer because it’s yes, there are. The second part of the answer is, I have no idea what they are because that’s all about my social media team. I know we use SocialBee and we have some widget that shares our interviews across multiple platforms with a click of a button. Beyond that, I’m very sorry but I can find out for you if it’s important to your community.
Everybody has a different way but the point is there are many tools that will allow you to schedule and share posts on social media. That by itself is not necessarily important. The idea of automating the process and creating a systematic way is what we’re getting to here.
We use multiple tools. The dissemination across different platforms through one channel and conduit, we’re definitely into that. At everything we do, every single little action and ask ourselves, first of all, “Can we automate that?” If we can, we automate it. If we can’t, we outsource it and what’s left is what I do.
Which hopefully is not too much other than being the star of your own show.
It’s three days a week.
I’m going to ask you to offer a little bit of advice here. How can others that are reading to you take their first step or next step to building or growing their own tribe or community?
The best thing that anyone can do is to grab their calendar and put aside one day a week for that specific purpose. When you open up your calendar, you’re going to look ahead a couple of weeks and I go, “I’m booked in the next few weeks. I can’t do that.” That’s fine. Go to the month after whenever it is and find a day. You will have one day the month after this one. Go to the following month and find two days, in other words, cross two weeks. The following month, three months out, book three days. Within four months, you will have one day a week dedicated for the specific express purpose. You do no emails and take no meeting on that day unless it’s related to the specific purpose.
If you have gaps on that day then you go to someone like Mitch and find out how to do this alone his software and platform but that day is dedicated to building a community. That’s the only way it does. It happens. If you do it any other way or you say, “I’m going to get to that as soon as I have finished,” it’ll never happen. You force yourself into a structure and I literally color code the whole day. You can color code it as a meeting with yourself from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM so that no automatic booking system can book appointments there. It’s a reminder to you that you don’t book any appointments unless they’re related to that specific one purpose. My times have suffered, which life has made. We have to have an allocation between the goal we want to achieve and how we’re using our time. There’s no other way this works.Building a community is about finding the polarization in yourself that would attract others to you. Click To Tweet
You’re saying that if you’re not going to spend time on it, don’t bother doing it.
You just get the idea out of your brain or put it on a shelf or something. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can achieve a goal without investing some time in it.
I’d like to add to that because having done this and interviewed dozens of people who have, the recurring theme is that moment where you understand and feel the passion about something. Whether it’s a process, place, community, group or anything as long as there’s that passion there then I would go forward and do a Tom explained. Without the passion, you’re going to give up anyway. You might as well spend that day or month and maybe even journaling for a couple of weeks or longer to discover what it is that you’re truly passionate about? If you are, it’s likely going to be others who will be too and are looking for someone like you to take them to the next step. That’s what I would suggest. Tom, now’s the point where you get to do a little bit of dreaming with me. If we go out, two years, what does the future look like for you?
I’ve been boring here and stay more the same because I can genuinely say, I love my life like you. My house is sitting on the sand next to the beach. We live in a tiny little place in Australia that most people in Australia don’t even know about. I play a lot of tennis. I drink a lot of coffee. I roast my coffee beans. I have a couple of other interests that I’m passionate about and I love my work. I don’t want to change a thing. I want to keep growing, learning and developing. It’s still a three-day workweek. Probably, I’ve filtered a bit and focused a bit more on what happens in those three days. It’s a constant evolution of moving more towards the things that I want to do. I believe this is my destiny. More writing would probably be something I’d do more of than in a couple of years.
You’re staying healthy, focusing on yourself, family and enjoying your life, which is the prime directive. It is to be happy. That’s what I tell my daughter since she was able to listen to the words that I’m speaking and that’s what she did. I try and follow that same advice every day, myself as well. I say try because sometimes I got to do stuff that I can’t avoid. I’m glad to know it because it sounds like you’re in a great place. I also want to make it clear. There is a point in all of our lives where we should get to where Tom is.
If we’re working every day and see the future as this unlimited dreary destiny of going to work 9:00 to 5:00 and coming home then you’re in the wrong place. I could say that categorically but if you see a moment in time when maybe you could work three days a week, have a home near or on the beaches Tom and I both have, that would be what you should shoot for and think about because you can do it. Your community will be there to help you and support you as well. Tom, I know that you have this amazing book that I read called Marketing with Webinars, which I loved. Is it true that you’re offering to give that away for free to our readers?
We made the decision that we would offer that in PDF form for free. People can go and pay for it on Amazon. I’d be delighted as they did. We are going to offer it to your readers for free. There’s a URL that we set up GetTomsFreeBook.com. They can go there, opt-in and they’ll be a member of our unpaid community. They can unsubscribe anytime if they like. In the meantime, they can swap and deploy the book. It’s the most prescriptive book I’ve ever written out of the six that I’ve written. I’ve got three best-sellers but this is the one that lays down the train tracks. It’s a step-by-step on what not to do, what to do and why.
Your whole process revolves around webinars, which is the title of the book as well. Do you feel as if we’ve been inundated with webinars now? I know that if your email is anything like mine, we’re being invited to several dozen free webinars a week or more. How could anybody possibly have a life if all they’re doing is attending free webinars?
The vast majority of people are registered for webinars don’t even chin up to them. That’s the first thing. You don’t want everyone tending up. You want the ones that are seriously interested in learning more about what you do turning up. We do a couple of things differently. First of all, when we do webinars, we were explicit. We put it in caps like we were shouting, no replay. We do one every month. You can go on the waiting list to become like this month, click there, put your name on the waiting list and invite you to the next one but there are no replays. The second thing is, we don’t run them 11 hours apart or 1 day at the first Wednesday each month so that we attract people from different time zones. If you run just at one time then you’re going to cut out many people globally.
The third thing we do is we don’t pitch it as a free training webinar because everyone does that. If everyone else is swimming West, you want to swim East. You want to be noticed. Ours is a demonstration of how I work with my clients in 27 cities around the world to generate a weekly flow of high-quality inbound, new client inquiries in less than 1 hour in 1 month. That’s a mouthful. That’s not designed as an elevator pitch or USP. It’s the design is a title of a webinar. You get more real estate with titles because we positioned it as a demonstration and we are explicit as to what a value proposition is. We tend to attract the right people to the webinar. If we did it as a cloak and dagger type thing or a bait and switch, “Free training webinar,” it turns out to be a sales pitch, then people should be rightly disappointed with our brand. We want to kick it off from the get-go with a value proposition that’s open, transparent and honest, “If you want this great, we’re going to do it.” Your polarization concept with my black jelly bean concept.
The book goes into some detail on building that name, which is very important. I enjoyed that as well. Tom, this has been great. I appreciate you showing up and sharing. For those reading, how would they get a hold of you other than downloading the free book? Is there a website they could go check out?
It’s Leadsology.com, the science of lead generation. There are lots of free stuff on there as well and different stuff. They can also go to LeadGenDemo.Live if they want to attend one of our monthly webinars and see how we run them. It’s probably different to what everyone has experienced before. It’s not by PowerPoint. It’s me standing up in front of the webcam like a weatherman screen behind me, flicking through that and make it engaging. We write over 90% for attendance at this level as measured by GoToWebinar, independent platform measurement. Whereas the average marketing webinars they tell us average is 23% of attendance. We’re doing something okay in terms of engagement. Come and see how we do it.
Tom, thanks for our interview and for sharing your skills and knowledge. We’ll talk again soon.
It’s been a privilege. Thanks, Mitch.