Your Oprah Army

What you learned about business development for your professional services firm… is probably dead wrong. Networking – at least in the traditional sense – doesn’t work.  

That’s a bold statement. But in this episode, I unpack exactly what this means for you and your business… and what you should be doing instead to cultivate contacts with the right people that turn into long-term and lucrative business relationships. 

Not only that, they become raving “fans” who bring new clients to you… almost automatically.

We get into detail on that strategy, which was inspired by one of the world’s most popular TV hosts, as well as…

  • Leveraging an existing audience – that’s not yours
  • How you can get a steady stream of “pre-sold” leads
  • Creating a massive referral event 
  • The real reason you should be podcasting – and why it doesn’t matter how many listeners you have
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:

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Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon. And today, I’m really excited to be here. And we’re going to talk about a business building strategy that, in my mind, gives you the opportunity to have an infinite runway. I actually call it infinite opportunity. And it is a strategy that you may have heard of, but I’m gonna guess you’re probably not doing and maybe not doing effectively.

Assemble Your Oprah Army

And what I discovered was that, you know, about, I guess about eight years ago, I discovered this approach, and it’s really an extension of something that we’ve all probably learned to do in business development that we’ve all done before. But if you’re doing it the old fashioned way, you’re probably frustrated. I know I was. So when I first discovered this approach, back in 2012 I had been doing all of the things that we’re all taught as experts as professionals to do to develop business. You go out into the community and you be seen, you are seen and you want to be seen by the people in your market.

You want to network and be at those mixers and those functions and volunteer in the community groups and be on committees and do all that stuff. All of that in the hope that you’ll end up rubbing elbows with somebody that might become a client. And I was even involved in one of the big networking, international networking organizations. I was officer of the local chapter and doing all of the things that you’re supposed to do. And investing probably 8, 10 hours a week, doing networking. I was going to coffee meetings and lunches and, you know, chamber mixers, all that kind of stuff. Maybe you can relate. Even if you’re not doing it at that level, you’re probably doing it at some level. And what I found in all of that, while I got some results, it wasn’t nearly the level of result that I wanted. And I was even willing to play the long game with it. So I was doing it, I’d done it at that point for a number of years. I had a pretty well-developed network.

But it really wasn’t driving the business results that I wanted. And then in 2012, I discovered a little, small little tweak to it that actually changed everything. And it allowed me to stop going to all of those networking events and go completely cold turkey on it. So in 2012, I went cold turkey on all those kind of in-person random networking events where I was just hoping to, you know, to bump into somebody that might be really great for me and might be a good relationship where we create some reciprocal benefit. And I started using what I now call your Oprah Army. And I started building this little army and I didn’t really know how it was gonna turn out, what kind of results it was going to create but as I discovered it, it created massive results. And so I want to talk through that concept with you a little bit today.

I want to share with you how you can build your own Oprah Army and create your own Oprah Effect. And so what I mean by that is if you remember The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Oprah would bring on some business or some product that she was absolutely in love with. Probably the best example is Sara Blakely. You know, invented Spanx and has built that into I think now over 100 million dollar a year company, and they make women’s undergarments. And Oprah happened to love them. And so she featured them on the show, and all of a sudden, massive new business for Spanx. You know, something very similar happened for a small bakery. The bakery was actually on the verge of bankruptcy. And Oprah highlighted a key lime bundt cake that the bakery made that Oprah happened to love. And all of a sudden, boom, tons of business. Took them from the verge of bankruptcy to now being a very large business for that industry. And there is example after example, after example, you can find where that has happened.

Now, I don’t know that it’s going to turn you into a 100 million dollar business. It hasn’t turned my business into a 100 million dollar business yet, but it has fueled tremendous growth for me. And the way that we’ve done that is we’ve identified our own little Oprahs and we’ve actually built an army of them. One of the things that really makes this work and one of the things that made it work for people who went on The Oprah Winfrey Show, is that Oprah had some things. She had some advantage sort of built-in. And the first big advantage that she had is she had an audience.So she had built an audience of people, people that watched her every day, people that looked to her as a leader. And with that audience, over time, she developed the second really great asset. She developed trust. So she had an audience that trusted her. And then when she was able to come back to that audience and endorse a product, it created immediate sales and immediate growth for the business.

Work Your Way Into Your Network’s Audiences

And what I want to suggest to you today is that you look for people who have an audience, who have the trust of that audience, who are the leader of that audience, who you can go and create a reciprocal relationship with. And you can give them an easy way to endorse you, to endorse your ideas, to endorse your expertise to their audience and use that as a way to generate leads for your business. That’s what we’ve been doing since 2012. So in 2012, I started another podcast. It was called the Small Business Marketing Show. Don’t go looking for it online because you won’t find it anywhere. It’s not there anymore. But I did 52 episodes and kick myself now forever having stopped, but I did 52 episodes of that podcast.

I interviewed 52 experts from all around the world, people that I wanted to have a relationship with, people that had audiences. And at the time, I wasn’t even thinking in those terms. I was just using that as a way to actually create content to nurture my own network. But what I found was, it was a fantastic way to quickly build rapport and relationship with someone. It was far better than going and meeting somebody at Starbucks. And the reason that it worked better was because, you know, we had the microphones on, we had the recording going. And what that meant was that we both showed up in performance mode.

We both showed up with our best selves. We didn’t arrive late. You ever had somebody come to one of those, you know, one on one networking things and they’re rushing in late from a meeting or they call and cancel at the last minute? That doesn’t happen when you’re interviewing somebody, typically. Occasionally, yeah, there’s an emergency. But very rare. Having done a lot of these interviews, I’ll tell you, it’s really rare for somebody to cancel. You know why? Because it’s an opportunity to promote themselves. And so they show up with their best selves. And that creates an energy that you just don’t get when you’re sort of both tentatively showing up to a coffee meeting and you’re trying to figure out, you know, how can I get what I want? Or what do they want out of this that they’re going to ask me for?

Because you’re showing up with a clear agenda. You said to that other person, I have an audience and I want to promote you first. I want to start a collaborative relationship and I’m going to be the leader. And I’m going to be the leader in this by inviting you onto my platform. I recommend you do this on a podcast, inviting you onto my platform, giving you a space to really be an expert to shine a bright light on all the great value that you bring to the world and I’m going to share it with everybody that I know. And because you lead with that, you create this great sense of reciprocity. And if this is a person that you’ve strategically chosen to come and have that interview, have that conversation to share their expertise, and you strategically chosen them because they have a network of your ideal clients, they have an audience of your ideal clients.

Then what we found is that about 80% of the time, when you give them an opportunity to share you, assuming it’s an easy share, and we’ll talk about what an easy share is in a minute. But assuming it’s an easy share, you’ve now created an opportunity for yourself where you can create a massive referral event. And we do this all the time with folks that we collaborate with. You know, when we have an interview and we build great relationship, we always find ways where we can continue to collaborate. And so what we might do is, you know, we might host a webinar for them and share it with you, all of our audience. And they may turn around and share one of my books or host a webinar for me to their audience. And in doing so, we help build both businesses. It’s good for both of us, but it’s a way for me to get our business in front of a group of people that I don’t know, prospects that I don’t know, that I wouldn’t otherwise know and get in front of that audience by providing value. Get in front of that audience in a powerful way where I’m being endorsed by someone that they already know.

Someone that they trust. It’s one of the most powerful ways to build your business. And what you want to begin to do is look around and say, Alright, well who has the network that I want to be in front of? And rather than me just go to them cold, and let’s say, let’s meet one on one and try and hope that they’ll see value in sharing you with their network, I suggest you lead the way. I suggest you leave with value. And to do that, you need to create a platform where you can share them. And I think a podcast is the most powerful way to do that. And the easiest way to do that. There are other ways you certainly could do it. We’ve seen businesses in the past to do it with a book where they’ll go in and interview people and, you know, each person they interview has a chapter in the book, but that’s a lot of work. And it’s also finite. You’ve only got maybe 10 or 15 or 20 chapters in the book. But with a podcast, because it’s ongoing, you have an infinite opportunity to continue to connect with guests and to continue to build relationships with people that have already gone and aggregated and rounded up the prospects that you need to be in front of. And you create multiple ways for them to share you. So the first way that they share you is you’ve interviewed them, and they’re gonna take this because it’s a marketing asset for them, they’re gonna take it and share it with all of the people that are in their database anyway.

And so that’s the first and easiest way for them to share. Now, that’ll bring some leads, because they’re going to share the link to your website. That’ll bring some people. And it’s great that that happens. And they’ll probably keep sharing it. If they’re smart, they’ll keep sharing it. I know whenever I go on to another podcast that actually goes into rotation on our social media and many of those interviews make it into our long term, nurture sequence that we email out to people over time. And so if they’re smart, they’ll do things like that. But even if they only share it once, you’re gonna get some traction from that. But that’s not where the big payoff is. The big payoff is when you then go and create an idea asset, where you take your expertise and your knowledge and you package it up in a way that’s easy for them to share. Now that could be in the form of a presentation and maybe they host a webinar for you. But the more powerful way to do that is with a book. It’s one of the reasons that you hear me talk so much about the value of having a book and a podcast and using them in combination because it’s easy to share a book. And it’s a powerful way for you to open up a relationship.

Infinite Collaborative Opportunity

You know, so you build your Oprah Army and you build relationships with these people. And it’s not a one time, most of the time it’s not a one-time collaboration that happens. When you find somebody that’s willing to collaborate that you create a strong relationship with, those are people that you can go back to again and again and again and again. And so a great example of that is with my latest book, Podcast Prospecting. Just had an email exchange this week with a partner who’s going to share that with his audience. And his audience is perfectly designed for our business and our businesses are complementary. And the people that are in his audience, in his network are perfect prospects for us. But this isn’t the first time that we’ve collaborated like this.

So he was one of the people that I interviewed way back in 2012 and I shared him then and then he reciprocated. He invited me on his podcast a year or two later and he shared me then with his network. And then when I launched my first book, Unstoppable Referrals, he shared that. And he was one of the 15 people that really helped put our business on the map through sharing that book. And since then, in the last six years, we’ve collaborated a couple of times. We’ve supported him on some things that he was doing, a couple of new books that he’d read, and now he’s sharing again.

So imagine if you build for yourself an army of people that year after year after year, you’re able to go back to them and find ways to collaborate and promote one another. How powerful would that be? What kind of an asset would that be in your business if you had this Oprah Army? To me, it’s the most valuable thing I have in business because you can take everything else away, and I have these key relationships. And now because our podcast has been around for a few years and I’ve interviewed quite a number of people, I have dozens of people. Dozens of people I can go back to year after year after year.

And we have such a good relationship, that we find ways to collaborate. We find creative ways to collaborate, if you look back on when you might be listening to this, but in early March of 2020, I did a great collaboration with a company called Elite Online Publishing. And we actually decided to do rather than a webinar swap, or have them share a book and we share a book, we decided to do a joint webinar that they invited all of their people to and we invited our audience to. And it was a really creative collaboration and that’s turned into a brand new book that they created out of the content that we put together in that webinar. And so all kinds of really interesting and fun collaborations can come out of this. But the way that you started is you become the leader of the collaboration, you first look for people, you look for your Oprahs.

You look for people who have the audience that you need to be in front of, and then you need a place to invite them and you invite them to your podcast and interview them and you build a relationship. And then you look for creative ways over time to collaborate again and again, and again. And you know, when I was doing all those coffee meetings, and gosh, I probably, if I haven’t done 1000 of them, I’ve at least done in the high hundreds. And the mantra in all of those meetings was, hey, let’s create a mutually beneficial relationship. And I can count on one hand the number of those that actually came out of all of those meetings. Now, the one thing that I never hear in any of the interviews that I do, and I never hear from guests is, hey, I want to create a mutually beneficial relationship, because we don’t need to say it. We’re already doing it.

All Opportunity is Born of Relationships

That little shift is immensely powerful. And what I really want for you is I want for you to be able to unlock that. You know, right now people are running around, trying to sell you on the idea that there are all these magical ways to go and get business on the internet. But here’s the truth that I have found in 25 years of business, all opportunity comes from people. All opportunity and all money that comes into your business comes from other people. And it comes in the form of the relationships that you create. And so what I want to leave you with today is I want you to stop and think about how are you creating relationships in your business? What mechanisms do you have? What systems do you have to create relationships that aren’t just nice to have, but actually produce results both for you and for the other person? I want you to think about that.

I think this strategy will transform the way that you’re able to develop new business, particularly right now. We’re in a very dynamic time in the world. And the only way forward is through the relationships we have with other people, because they’re out there finding opportunities every day, just like you’re out finding opportunities. When you find ways to connect those ideas, it becomes a really powerful way to move forward. So I want you to think about that. And if this is a strategy that you decide you want to implement, there’s lots of ways you could do it. But I do want to suggest that we might be able to help.

And so if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work with our team, to help you through that we have a number of different ways that we can do that, depending on how much help you want and what your budget is. And so I’d love for you to reach out. You can send me an email, We’d love to help you. But no matter what, whether you get our help or you do it on your own or you get somebody else’s help, I want you to take this strategy and I want it to impact your business because I know it’ll make things better. So thanks for listening today. Until next time, stay unstoppable.

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