In today’s competitive business landscape where everyone claims to be a ‘wizard’, ‘specialist’ or an ‘expert’, it can be extremely difficult to carve out a name for yourself and become a key influencer in your niche. We spoke to Leonard Kim, Managing Partner, InfluenceTree to understand why personal branding for agencies is an important area that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Have a listen to the podcast interview by clicking “Play” below.
Given below is an edited version of the original interview with Leonard.
[00:20] Bala – Hello Everybody! Thank you very much for joining in for another great episode of Mondovo 1 on 1 and today we have very interesting personality with us – Leonard Kim and he is going to talk a lot about personal branding. Today we are going to be talking at the very specific topic for the agencies itself. That’s because what he says is if you don’t kind of take social clout for serious, well it’s time to take it. If you can’t prove who you are to the people, then how you are going to be doing it for your customers.
Very interesting topic. Hello Dear welcome to the show!
Kim – Hey Bala, thank you so much for having me here. Do appreciate being here today.
Bala – Fantastic. Pleasure is ours. So Leo, we have a very interesting topic today to talk especially agencies are going to love it. But, before that before we get into the topic, why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience so then we can begin now.
Kim – I am Managing Partner of a company called InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, what we do is we teach people how to get their brand, get featured in publication and grow their social media following and we also do all the services for our clients as well or just tie up an agency with.
[01:33] Bala – Fantastic, Very good. Very good. So you said that you know you helped companies to grow their brands and proceed on. OK. So what is your idea and what is your technique and how do you know normally start with any client that you proceed on?
[01:50] Kim – Well from what I’ve seen through our history is most of the times people buy into the people first before they buy into a company. So what we do at our agency as opposed to other agencies as we lead with the person. Like have you heard of the company T-Mobile.
Bala – Right, Haan haan.
[02:11] Kim – And John Legere like he leads T-Mobile. He’s the voice of T-Mobile. He’s the face of T-Mobile. By him being out there in the forefront, people respect him and they ultimately buy in to his company because they follow his leadership into the telecom space.
Bala – Hm Hm. So it’s the personal branding which kinds of takes to the next branding itself for the company that’s what you are saying.
[02:36] Kim – Correct. And when you’re comparing T-Mobile to AT&T, Verizon etc. what other companies may be out there. OK. That one’s a telecom company, that one’s a telecom company, that one’s a telecom company but this company, this is John Legere’s company like there is a difference when you look at that company compared to the rest. That’s like you have a large sheep and they’re all out there and you have like one sheep with like may be cold boy. And it just allows you to differentiate yourself out from the rest out there.
Bala – True, That’s so very true. When people know about the big brands. Perfectly fine. Well I’m a small agency. I’m kind of doing business for the small medium businesses to help grow their business. So how am I going to be recognized for the brand which I’m going to be making them.
Kim – So what that means is even if you’re in a small agency to a medium sized agency, chances are people aren’t going to recognize the name of their company correct.
Bala – That’s correct.
Kim – So when you started off communications what you do is you have to sell them on like you’re the person and sell them that why your company is the best fit for them and you have all these companies out there doing the exact same thing.
And if you really start to dissect that sales process what you’re doing is first you’re selling yourself and then you’re selling the services that you offer so that same message being communicated in your agency material.
[04:08] Bala – Right. So you’re seeing the whole thing has to go from the personal level to the brand of or the company level itself
Kim – I correct like back in 2005 I used to sell cars and the first step was to meet and greet people. Second step is sell yourself. Third step was to sell your company and the fourth step was to qualify your customer. So if that’s the sales process to sell 30 thousand, 50 thousand and 100 thousand dollar real car. Doesn’t it like make sense like that will follow it to like mortgage industry all the way over to the agency model.
Bala – Right.
Kim – You have to sell yourself before you sell the company.
[04:46] Bala – OK. All right. Now here’s what I don’t understand Leo. See a company which kind of say an agency company itself they are small trying to establish their particular thing and then you have this leads coming to you inbound way and for say for an agency have to sell something for themselves in something like a value that they have created or a person in that particular brand who have created it.
- For a company who doesn’t have none where should they actually start from?
Kim – They should start building up their personal brand. So, say that you are an expert in marketing.
Bala – Yeah. Yes I can. Yeah I would kind of consider that kind of an expert yes.
Kim – And would you say you have extreme talent and specific areas within marketing.
Bala – Not Ok. Yeah in a couple of areas. Right.
[05:51] Kim – In a couple of areas like you’re probably good at one two and three things like may be content marketing may be like SEO something right.
Bala – Analytics Yes.
[06:01] Kim – Yeah analytics. So other agencies might be better like social media or something else and something else and something else. So if you’re an expert at analytics how many people out there know you’re an expert in analytics?
Bala – Good question not many.
Kim – Not many, but then you know you’re the expert in analytics. Right. Right. So we have to do is you have to showcase that you are the expert in analytics. So I guess the question you’re really asking is how would you showcase that you’re the expert at analytics correct.
[06:37] Bala – That’s correct. Yes.
Kim – Well there’s two different things you can do. You could either create white papers like content like blog posts that outline how you were able to become good at this with your insights and showcase how exactly you do your process and the second thing you can do is make videos of the exact same thing. Because once you start talking about that topic you become the expert right?
[07:03] Bala – That’s correct. Yes. OK. So it’s like pretty much what Neil Patel does or say you know they keep talking about it again and again and again or say Rand Fishkin talking about SEO again and again. So at one point of time they become an authority into that particular subject and then well the market is that OK whatever you say must be right or the wrong one. Because you have so much of content on it.
[07:26] Kim – Correct. And this is what happens to people who can’t afford your services, they’ll go out there and try to do what you do but that’s okay because they couldn’t afford you to begin with and they’d be wasting your time and thought if they came up and made inquiries with you right?
Bala – Right. Right.
[07:42] Kim – And then the person who has a $10000 a month budget, $50000 a month budget, $80000 a month budget is going well and this looks great. I know how to do it but I don’t have the resources. I’m just going to hire this guy because he’s the expert to do it. So that your company gets under clout it needs and the social proof it needs to go out there and build business because you’re saying yourself as the authority in this space.
[08:08] Bala – OK. But here’s what I can differ with you. When you say that a company, a kind of a person has to build a brand and then you know that brand should kind of sell whatever he’s actually selling in his company right?
Now. A company like Mondovo like what we’re doing is the small SEO tools company something what SEMRUSH is doing what is Raven tools is doing what is Majestic is doing. The big players in the market and the SEO tools side of it. I am sure you might have heard about many. And we are also in another particular thing but you know the whole focus is of course on one side we have a founder who has been creating his own personal brand and telling the world what it is but most importantly if we kind of look or you know do something with the product itself say for example, the SEO tool company we’re using same tool look how we are actually ranking up in SEO.
[09:05] So the same way you can use your tool to rank wherever you want I mean in our tool in rank wherever you want to. Wouldn’t that make a kind of a better. You know a better proportion than branding a particular person?
Kim – Well, is it easier to trust a person or a company?
Bala – Well it’s easier to trust a person first. That’s true.
Kim – Okay. As it’s easier to trust the person than why will you leave that person?
Bala – But that doesn’t happen in a very large scale or sometimes small scale industry where people do not have an expertise but they wanted to take the product in and go. So that’s why kind of thinking like are we clashing the ideas over there or should we act absolutely focused on personal branding and then take the product ahead.
[09:54] Kim – Well. Let me just explain a little bit about my business. It’s not even 2017 yet while we’re doing this interview right now it’s the end of 2016. Right. I already put six figures on the book for the books for the company.
[10:08] I have sales people who work for me. I have gross marketers who work for me. I have SEO specialists who work for me. I have all these different people who work for me to go and have the clients.
But then the thing is like my agency website. Not a lot of people end up on to that site. They’re coming to me from my personal contact. Like oh Leonard’s the expert. I’m going to go contact them. Oh Larry I want your services. I mean I can’t respond to others I hate that can you follow up with this person. Hey when you can follow this person can ask can you follow up with this is this is this.
[10:44] And I treat each them a law. I’ve created this inbound network where I’m seen as the go to expert in the field. So people come to me. I mean, I see us a great player if someone’s googling and searching but then there’s also those people like let’s say you wanted to get inspired because you were super depressed. What’s the first name that comes to your mind when you think of who to vote for something like that.
[11:17] Bala – one of the mentor who we have.
Kim – What name comes to your mind?
Bala – Oh my. one of my mentor which I have is so his name kind of comes into my mind immediately.
Kim – OK. So you have a personal connection. For me I think – Tony Robbins.
Bala – OK.
Kim – And for a lot of other people they think Tony Robbins why because he has a strong personal brand and now when he does the seven-hour thing people pay $500-$50000 to go. The same thing works in the agency model the same thing works for a doctor. The same thing works for everyone. Like it doesn’t matter what type of profession you’re in if you are leading with your personal brand that you wear.
[12:02] The other day, I was talking to my plastic surgeon friend and I’m like how much do you think you make compared to the other plastic surgeons. He said I think I probably make about 50 percent more than them. I asked why. He said this is probably because I target niche communities because I’m Chinese and my clients are Chinese.
[12:19] It’s great. So I ask them OK. Let me ask you a better question about the number one person in your field and how much do you think he makes compared to you and he is like who academically or the person was the biggest personal brand. I saw academically because you know there can only be one number one person academically. Right. It’s like all of that guys making about five times more than you.
[00:12:45] Pretty good. That’s a lot of money. That’s probably millions of dollars. But then I wanted to take it even further and ask. OK how about the person who is perceived to be number one.
And he’s like oh that person doesn’t even have a great technique. I was like if there’s anything wrong with his technique. He is like no it’s just not the best out there. Right. Stop hating on him. How much is he make up right here. He’s like OK let me think about it like you know that guy makes 10 to 20 times more than what I mean. I asked why it’s like everyone sends everyone to him. He is seen everywhere. Everyone knows he’s a recognized expert in the field.
[13:24] So when you recognize this is number one entirely in your space, people come to you. Which means that plastic surgeon he runs a practice probably doesn’t do all of plastic surgery things himself like how I view on the agency right. You have to do everything yourself. So his practice will be empty if you don’t have that personal brand just like how some agencies will have clients unless they have their personal brand.
[13:54] Then the next step is, you have to look at it like let’s say if you like let’s say you’re in the social media marketing agency. Let’s say you’re the founders for the company have like 300 followers on Twitter few hundred followers on Instagram and you say your clients have like hundreds of thousands of followers. It doesn’t matter if you say and it doesn’t matter if you have it.
[14:19] People are going to look at your profiles and go oh you’re the social media expert and you have only 200 followers. You can’t be the expert.
Bala – Right. Right. Makes sense.
Kim – Alright they go oh we will lend our clients into big publications like Forbes etc. Right.
Bala – Right.
Kim – You know you know what I’m going to do. I’m going to be like OK I’m going to Google you to see if you are in Forbes because if you can get your clients on Forbes, you can get yourself too. Right?
Bala – Right. Right.
Kim – If I Google you and you don’t come up in Forbes, I’ll be like this person can’t get other people on Forbes. I mean this is how people think. Now how I do.
Bala – Absolutely. Absolutely Right.
[15:07] Kim – But If you’re in Forbes and you like I got clients in Forbes then people are like Oh he is in Forbes and he got clients at Forbes he could help me.
Bala – Right. That’s kind of proves the point there and there and not much conviction needed in any of the sales circle. Boom you are there.
[15:25] Kim – Yeah. That’s one of the problems that agencies face is they’re going out there. They could do good work but then it’s so hard for them to be able to justify what they’re able to do because they work on their clients and they work on their own material collateral and reputation and social clout.
Bala – Right. It’s kind of funny right. You have the whole team in fact the best team you hired. But it’s sad that you would not go to be utilizing this whole team for your own company with somebody else’s company like typically any agencies have been facing the problem today.
[16:03] Kim – Exactly. But then that’s a problem with building any business. Everyone does better work for a client that they do on their own business. Everyone its human nature’. I could do this later I could do this then. When you have a client you have deadlines, you have such structure. I gotta get this, I gotta get this. But when it’s for yourself, you’re like I could do this next week. I can do this and things never gets started.
Bala – Right. OK so quickly on that particular thing. If a particular person if found that if an agency owner a person who is trying to build his business in this you know digital marketing space what is that a founder has to do. Could you just give us some steps and ideas like – What he has to be doing on the personal branding side of it so that his company grows?
Kim – Well why you need a buyer a strong buyer because anyone who reads something you write watches any video you make wherever it is sees you on social media they’re automatically going to want to know more about you and they’re going to be that buyer and that buyer you can’t make like a resume. No one cares about your work experience. They want to relate to you. They want to connect with you steps to that sales process I discussed earlier with selling yourself and you don’t sell yourself by talking about how great you are.
[17:23] You sell yourself by finding common grounds like biology like Cheerios or what’s your favorite serial?
Bala – Currently watching Friends after a long time
Kim – You were watching Friends for a long time. See if I like Friends I can be like oh me too. Then you’ll be like oh who’s your favorite character and I will like Ross. You will be like something else and we could like to connect and start a conversation and then like bond over that right.
[17:47] Bala – Right right .
Kim – Well, when you’re on the Internet you can ask questions right.
Bala – Absolutely
Kim – I mean I mean you can. But then you have someone to add to that. So how do you be on the Internet in your bio you have to talk about the things that you like you like surfing if you like friends to like lot of your stories that people can connect with you.
Bala – Right. Right. OK so we build the bio and we kind of go through the rest of the sales process and then we start talking, writing and start exploring various medium to promote what we are actually saying.
[18:29] Kim – Are correct. Like that’s your foundation your bio your head stocks everything everything that makes you look good. Maybe even a personal website. All that stuff is designed to be your foundation and your ground for where everyone goes.
That people really like you and the let them know your bio for some reason from not a business article and they want to learn more about you then they go and check out your business. Well this stuff is great this companies great, I am gonna work with these guys.
Bala – Got it.
[00:18:58] Kim – So what’s an agency maybe you get a lead but then that lead is not going to be as strong as a lead comes and where they’ve already been able to have a personal connection with you first which increases your closing ratio and increases the quality of leads you receive.
Bala – Right. And that also actually opens up various avenues for the biz just not the one main stream but also the other side of it. You know you have your own brand you can just hit on the any other brand to just make a big isn’t it.
Kim – Exactly. And once you have that foundation then if you go out there create content and a lot of people I’ve seen are scared to really give away their secrets because they think that someone else is going to go out there and duplicate it what you know what happens when you give away your secrets. You look like the authority on the field.
You look like the person who knows when no one else does. You look like the person who knows what no one else does. People buy it from you because they want you on their team.
[20:06] I mean I’m sure someone might steal it. But then the person who steals it doesn’t know how to actually execute it. So it’s not like they can really do anything with it anyway.
Bala – Absolutely right. Fantastic well said. And is there anything that you see today I know that you know many agencies are making this mistake of not personally branding and then selling it. What are the other common mistakes that you see in the small entrepreneur agencies apart from this?
[20:41] Kim- I get a lot of cold e-mails from agencies they are like where you are emailing me where I have other agency well. But aside from that it’s like these people they just like spam and they’re not building a connection. Like if I was going to send you an e-mail about I have first look over your website. I understand everything that you’re doing. Hi Bala. I researched it thoroughly and I really agree with this thing that you are doing it’s so exciting. I’m so happy to see that you’re doing that because it really resonates with me and I’m so happy to see that you’re an expert at analytics. I used to blah blah blah analytics stuff.
I don’t know anything about analytics and if I did I already there and I feel let bond over this. Oh by the way I would see if maybe you want to chat, talk more about style. These are the services I could have to help you with but a better question is how can I help you.
[21:34] A lot of people out there they just lead with starting to sell and you know like why do I want to talk to someone who’s perching me on the cell. Why don’t you tell me how you can help me because I mean it doesn’t matter if it’s me or you or any of the other millions of people in the world. Once you get that e-mail and it’s starting to sell you no one really cares. Everyone cares about me me me me me. What can you do for me? Tell them what you could do for me or ask them how you can help them.
Bala – Right. I think that is what it’s going to. I mean that’s one of the common mistakes which many agencies kind of do it spam it and then of course they don’t get the right leads and work with the wrong customers at the end.
Kim – Exactly.
[22:26] Bala – Perfect. Fantastic Right. That’s kind of a crisp answers that you have given in the good list of items that a person has to do in order to start as personal branding itself as agencies and go. Is there any other point that you want to kind of highlight before you know we can of conclude this call here?
Kim – I mean I don’t just work with people from outside my field. I really worked with anyone. So if someone really needs help on building out their personal brand. Like me it doesn’t matter if you’re a competitor to me I just so help you with that I suppose other than that I mean if you have any specific questions or anything you can always e-mail me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter I think that we could chat we can talk about things and we can see where you’re at and maybe there are some ways that we could potentially work together.
Bala – Fantastic, I’m sure people would be noting it and of course if somebody Googles you, you’re the pretty much the person to go for when it comes to personal branding really love your website. You know the way you’re actually branded yourself, you have a wiki page and everybody kind of talks to you and you have the same kind of messaging going out everywhere. So that kind of gives us gives a person a right understanding about what you do and what exactly you mean doing. Pretty much impressed with whatever you have been doing. So that itself a great lesson that you’re teaching people like how it’s supposed to be done. It’s a great thing.
[24:03] Kim – Thank you, I do appreciate that. And another thing I’ve noticed is if you have a small agency in three to five years it’s still going to exist that’s another question to ask yourself. And at the same time ask are you going to be here in three or five years. You’re probably going be here in 3 to 5 years but your agency may or may not be. So the thing is if you invest into your own personal brand and it stays with you for as long as you’re alive. When that company resume you create for your agency if anything goes wrong and it goes under, your brand goes with it, your resume goes missing.
Bala – Right absolutely right there. Very important lessons from various people actually very good fantastic. All right. I think I’ve got a pretty good point over here and I’m sure like most of the people are going to be getting the point and start focusing upon building their own brand and of course you are there to help them out whenever it’s been needed then I think this should not be a problem at all.
So thank you very much Leo for giving us the time and I think you know we should be having in this particular episode coming out soon and also be kind of we’ll make it into a blog post and actually been publishing it out and if you need any kind of help in terms of say using an SEO tools or anything we’d be happy to assist you there.
[25:34] Kim – Appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Bala – Fantastic thank you very much and you have a great day there.
Kim – Thanks Bala thank you so much for your time.
About Leonard Kim
Leonard is recognized by Forbes as a Top Marketing Influencer, Inc. Magazine as a Top Digital Marketer and Top Youth Marketer and by Entrepreneur as a Top Personal Branding Expert. Adweek recognized him as one of their Socially Strong Entrepreneurs Every VC Should Be Following. He went from being almost homeless to becoming a personal branding expert whose content has been read over 10 million times. He has amassed a social media following of well over 500,000 people. He’s been featured in a huge list of publications, including Mashable, Inc, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and more.
Leonard is managing partner of InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.