This weekend I’ll be masterminding with my colleagues in the Million-Dollar Speaker Group. The message I want to share with them is that if they don’t build their brand, their businesses will die.
And that’s pretty much the same advice I would share with any group of professionals, entrepreneurs or C-Suite executives. The Internet is one of the greatest developments in human history, up there on the level of the discovery of fire, electricity, the printing press, and maybe even Frosted Pop Tarts.
But here’s the thing about the Internet…
It’s going to vaporize a lot of salespeople, entrepreneurs and even companies. Because the Internet allows a manufacturer to go direct to the customer. And a lot of you haven’t really foreseen how disruptive this is going to actually play out. Like my speaker colleagues…
And consultants, car dealers, coaches, real estate agents, authors, soda companies, network marketers, and all of those resellers who are killing it right now on Amazon, eBay Shopify and a gazillion other e-commerce web platforms and mobile apps.
My speaker friends think they’re safe because they work with a big seminar company or have developed strong relationships with speaker bureaus. Just like most of you reading this think you have nothing to worry about.
And most of you are wrong. Most of you are dead man walking in the zombie apocalypse.
And the reason is because you haven’t built up your own brand. Because you think you don’t need to. Or you don’t know how.
Either way, it’s going to be deadly.
Once Amazon has everyone hooked on their echo devices, do you really think they’re going to promote your cereal, back massager, toaster, selfie stick, or whatever you’re selling through their channel – when they decide they can make it themselves with a better profit margin? (And the same holds true for Alibaba, eBay, Shopify and all those other e-commerce platforms.)
If you’re a car salesperson or dealership, do you really think Kelley Blue Book, CarsDirect, or those other places you’re getting leads from aren’t going to eventually cut you out of the picture?
If you’re a speaker counting on bureau business, what are you going to do when the last bureau goes the way of travel agents and video stores?
In an online interview, John Milton Fogg asked what I thought the biggest challenge distributors in the Direct Selling business faced.
Instead of answering him, I turned to my Amazon Echo device and said, “Alexa, I want to buy a vitamin.”
She responded, “Here’s what I found. Based on your order history…”
I interrupted her and said, “Alexa, buy that vitamin.”
The whole transaction took about eleven seconds. John stared at me, totally gobsmacked.
“That’s your biggest challenge,” I told him.
And now I’m telling you. If you’re in Direct Selling, your biggest competitors aren’t Amway, Nu Skin, Rodan + Fields, Herbalife or those other companies. Your biggest threat is Amazon, Shopify, eBay, and all those other online marketplaces.
And you real estate, insurance, mortgage, and other agents – do you have any idea just how screwed you really are five years from now?
All you peeps getting your side hustle on with Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing apps, I salute you. And hope you know that when autonomous cars are ready, these companies are going to drop you like a godless communist with bubonic plague.
If you want to be still doing business in 2025, you better be building up a kickass, killer brand now. Or the Internet is going to wipe you off the map.
You have to show your customers/clients that you are their number one coach, guide, and mentor – and that no one in the world will take better care of them than you do.
And here’s something else you need to keep in mind…
Not only do you need to craft a brand and develop your tribe – but you need to be doing it on a platform you control.
If the only way you connect with your tribe is through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or any other platform you don’t control and own – your business can be stolen from you in ten minutes.
So how do you protect and put yourself in a viable position to succeed, no matter what business you’re in? Here are the five steps I recommend you take:
1) Develop Your Brand
If you’re a company, a corporate brand. If you’re an agent, salesperson or employee, a personal brand. And by brand, I’m not talking about a tagline or logo. I mean you or your company stand for something in the mind of your target market.
2) Build a Tribe
Your tribe should be the people who appreciate your brand – meaning how it relates to and benefits them. They should be looking to you for guidance, as a resource that helps them achieve what they desire.
3) Connect with Your Tribe
Solve problems and add value. Educate them about the issues that affect them, share positive solutions, and become an indispensable resource for them. When this happens, you become a definitive expert in your space – the branding that keeps you relevant when people are going to spend money in your arena.
4) Get As Close to Your Customer as Possible
It doesn’t matter if you’re the real estate agent counting on leads from Zillow, an energy drink that has to be found in the supermarket, the insurance agent needing leads from Hometown Quotes, a speaker waiting for meeting planners to discover you, or the Lyft driver needing fares: If there is someone between you and your client or customer – you’re eventually going to be eliminated.
5) Do All This on a Platform You Control
I know people today who believe they no longer need a website, because they have a huge following on Instagram. That’s about as foolish as trying to teach an alligator how to ride a bike. What are those people going to do when Zuckerberg makes them have to boost their posts on Insta, like he already does on Facebook?
Use social media, the regular media, books, and whatever other platforms you can to meet people and attract them into your tribe. But be continuously migrating to platforms that you control and own: Your email list, blog, text list, podcast, etc.
Let me give you an example of how powerful this process works. I’m one on the highest paid non-celebrity professional speakers you’ll find. Yet I have no sales staff and do no outbound marketing. And I’ve spoken to more than two million people, across more than 50 countries.
My business model is creating revenue from the ground up, by the people who want to be in my audiences. (My tribe.) They are my unpaid (but highly appreciated!) marketing department. This happens because I'm religiously following the process I shared with you above.
There’s no need for me to cold call meeting planners. (I would rather stick a fork in my eye than do that anyway.) Those meeting planners hear about me from their own people. Their sales force, employees, or even their management team are already in my tribe. They read my books, follow my social media, listen to my podcast or see my blog. Those people are then calling up the meeting planners or the bureaus and saying, “Why don’t you bring in Gage? I love his work and he knows the issues we’re going through.”
That’s what branding does for you. It creates a steady stream of qualified candidates looking to buy from you or your company.
At some point, Amazon is going to try to sell you Whole Foods Cola instead of Coke, State Farm is going to decide they don’t need agents any longer, Uber is going to axe the drivers, and Zillow is going to nix the agents. (And we can argue that this process is already happening in these and dozens of different industries already.)
You’ve got to be inextricably linked to your customers, with no one in between you. And until you are, you’re vulnerable.
This is one of the reasons I started my annual TRIBAL event. It’s for professionals, thought leaders and companies who want to learn how to attract, build, nurture, and connect with their tribe. And, of course, figure out how to monetize their efforts, so they can survive long-term. It’s four information-dense, intense days of tribe-building magic. For details, see the event site here: http://tribalevent.com/
I understand that for right now, it may make sense for you to try and co-exist in a space that has channel conflict and might not be optimal for you. If you make a gourmet popcorn and Whole Foods is willing to sell it – or you’ve developed a nifty product for back pain and it’s selling well on Amazon – or you’re a speaker who has ten bureaus representing you – have at it!
But just know that the clock is ticking…
Because until you lock down the five-step process above, you can lose your market relevance in an instant.
Randy Gage is the author of 11 books, including the New York Times bestsellers Risky Is the New Safe and Mad Genius. He has spoken to more than 2 million people across more than 50 countries, and is a member of the Speakers Hall of Fame. When Randy is not prowling the podium or locked in his lonely writer’s garret, you’ll probably find him playing 3rd base for a softball team somewhere.