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Breaking The Negative Stigma Around Vulnerability

A relatively recent study by Berlin Cameron in partnership with Ellevate Network gathered insights around vulnerability and found that,

  • 58 percent of people polled perceive vulnerability as authentic
  • 37 percent perceived vulnerability as relatable
  • Only 4 percent thought it showed weakness

Not to mention, 96 percent of respondents felt that they could learn more from a leader who shows vulnerability than from one who does not.

At a recent “Two Pizza Rule” sales team meeting, I shared an email with my team that I sent to a personal client. I did so to simply to change their thought process and prove a point about being vulnerable, transparent, and painfully honest with your prospects and clients.

This email reminded me of an interview we had with Stephen Covey some years ago, about the importance of building trust in your brand.

In the end, my team prompted me to turn this novella into a motivational article.

Not to say that I’m a fan but assured future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, shows up to practice as if he’s still a rookie, 38 playoffs and 5 Super Bowls later. He says he enjoys the competition, he enjoys the game within the game, competing with himself. And he enjoys bringing his team to victory and working towards a common goal. Isn’t that what drives us as CEOs?

How do your clients know they can trust you? How do your employees know they can trust you?

First, you have to tell them; then you have to show them, and then you have to reassure them.

A Brief Backstory Of Myself

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I’d say I am the product of generations of dedication, loyalty, sacrifice, education, and service. A 24-year-old product of great grandfathers of the US Navy. The product of grandparents of the Army and Air Force. The product of parents of the Air Force and countless Aunts and Uncles in the military and law enforcement. The product of US Marine Corp training.

Whether fighting wars abroad or maintaining order here my family and my training has taught me sacrifice, honesty, and discipline through pain.

I learned early on,

Do today what others won’t, so tomorrow you can do what others can’t.

Tomorrow can be three years, five years, or 10 years from now.

Stay Focused

That’s not just some quote, that is how I was raised. I watched my father give up nearly 20 years with a great computer engineering position at the international powerhouse known as Intel to pursue his dream in acting and producing.

That meant goodbye to certainty. That meant goodbye to life’s cushions, the house, the cars. I watched my mother go from apartment to mansion down to townhouse, to a hotel all to self-finance her dreams. That taught me a lot.

Both parents instilled the importance of education in me. Both parents went past undergraduate degrees. I remember, helping my mother with papers and assignments. I remember reading her textbooks just for fun. I was the “internet” sidekick in her marketing company in Middle School and High School. Even now, when she doesn’t need to, she’s looking into doctoral programs. That means, you never stop evolving, you never stop innovating, you never stop getting better, you always look for ways to learn more.

Helping others is in my blood, sacrifice, and innovation in my DNA.

With that, I’ve decided to share this email with our audience here in our Business Journal with the hopes to shed some light on the topic of vulnerability in marketing and building trust for your business.

Names and company information have been removed to honor the privacy of our clients, but everything else remains, even a few grammatical mistakes.

Being Vulnerable Is The Courageous Act Of Business Leadership

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RE:

TL; TR: You don’t have to read it all at once.

I saw some of these problems early on and wanted to get them fixed ASAP, but I didn’t want to be pushy though. I only mentioned it a few times. Now, I know bigger companies take a little bit longer because there’s a chain of command in place and that’s okay. But…

You know what? Looking at each of my clients, I’ve just noticed a trend. Most of them have been ripped off by another “marketing” “company.” So I tread lightly, try to be less of a salesperson and more of a consultant. Consulting isn’t just about telling people how to do their job and run their business; it’s about strategy, opinion, compromise and even in some cases the implementation.

I have clients and leads that come to us saying their budget is $5,000 to $10,000 a month and after an evaluation, if I see they could get what they need for only $2,000 or $3,000 a month, then that’s what I’ll suggest. Or if I see that we’re not a good fit, I’ll kindly turn them away. Now there’s still value in spending more, and I can always show them where and how to invest the difference and the returns they could expect. But… We’re not here to ‘get by’ and definitely not to just take people’s money.

In these processes, I’m not the decision-maker — just a person who wants to succeed in life. The only way I see that happening is through long-term relationships and sweating for the people who share the same vision such as yourselves. With that being said, you and I know that only way to make money is to spend money. Investing in yourself and brand is important. The two continue to provide ROI over a lifetime.

Let’s Share A Vision & Goal

If (the CEO) isn’t interested in PPC (even though it’s literally the thing that would be a gamechanger) we should find something he is interested in. There are thousands of ways (the Company) can increase assets, conversions, sales, customer retention, and decrease customer acquisition costs, liabilities and truly benefit from the lifetime value of each customer. I know there are multiple ways to view things. (True) consultants have this beautiful thing call external perspectives. You ever work on something for so long, but it’s not functioning properly then you ask someone else to take a look, whether they have the same knowledge or (relevant) experience as you, most often they’re able to point out the problem in no time. It could have taken you hours, days, weeks or months even. It’s frustrating I know. But I’ve realized these business projects have to be viewed from a customer, employee, HR, personal, corporate and investor standpoint. I’m always looking for the win…win, win, win, win, win, win scenario. There are dimensions in business.

Sometimes it’s hard for people to picture how this 24 going on 25 years old with no college degree can know or even do all this. But this is stuff I’ve been studying and researching since grade school. I was self-taught on coding and building websites in elementary school. Other kids were playing sports after school; I was inside developing and learning before going outside to play with the sports kids after their practice and homework. I’ll admit I had a behavior problem at one point that stemmed from being bored in class. I did all my work and homework early in the day and had nothing left to do. When I was homeschooled for a year, it really opened my eyes. I was writing essays that year in fourth grade and reading college textbooks. When I got to middle school and high school, I didn’t really have to apply myself because I literally had learned all the information. This time around my saving grace was that I was able to enroll in sports. My days were spent on sports, exercising and still studying business/ marketing.

Brace yourself; it’s about to get real, real quick…

The 1% Thought Process

I tell you this not to give you my life story but share my experience. I know firsthand the struggles in starting, owning and running a business. I’ve started nearly a dozen. From the little kid making business cards with scratch paper and crayons selling advice on the merry-go-round for 25 cents to helping business owners grow their business, I know quite a few strategies, hacks and techniques. Now unlike school, I don’t know everything in this field. Perhaps that’s why I chose it! It’s always evolving, or there’s always a new situation, so there’s always a challenge. Even though there are patterns and trends and averages, each case is slightly different and needs to be treated as such.

This year, I’m asking each of my clients to challenge me in helping them (that means YOU).

We no longer live in the era of information, that time has come and passed. Today’s age is the era of influencing and authority. You see it all the time on the news and social media. Everyone wants to be a celebrity/ influencer. Everyone wants the attention, well most people. So this saturation has shifted the market, again. People can’t fake it anymore. It’s all about being genuine and authentic. Those people/ brands who can accomplish this combination of authority and authenticity in 2019 will make more money than they ever have, it’s as simple as that.

In society, the lower class is always spending the little money they have (it’s a vicious cycle). The middle class is always saving. Then the upper class is always investing. And more specifically, the upper-upper class is always “hedging.” This is what I practice and coach — the principles of the 1% of the world. Growing up I also spent (and still spend) a significant amount of time researching and studying the greats, the legends, and just other people who have left the most impact on the planet…

Yes, from Jesus and Moses to Hitler and Stalin. That’s right… The greatest athletes, the greatest conquerors, the greatest artists, poets, theorists, physicists, philosophers, etc. Believe it or not, they all share a few things in common… It’s the obsession for something. The love for something so much that they obsess over it. Love and hate can oftentimes be one and the same without realizing it. They are equal and opposite. With enough of either, it can drive you to do what most people consider impossible. What is something you obsess over? If you don’t know, find it. For me, it’s to achieve greatness (success).

Yesteryear’s Success Formula

We were taught to go to school. Go to school and get good grades. Then go to school and get good grades so that we could get a good job. Then get a good job so we could buy a house, pay off our debt, get married, and settle down and have kids. That’s fine and all but what about the people that want more? Is it wrong to want more out of life? Whatever your religion or belief, is it wrong to truly want more whether it’s food, money, clothes, cars, vacations, etc.? In my mind, it’s not so long as we’re willing to work for it and do good with it.

Today’s Success Formula

“If you build it they will come” – Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams (1989)

That’s true to a certain extent. If you build it and don’t market or advertise you’re not hedging. You’re not practicing what I teach you’re just gambling. You’re betting your net worth on the color black on a roulette table in Vegas.

Remember, advertising lets people know you’re open for business.
Marketing, educates them on why they should buy, when they should buy, and why they should buy from you and not your competitor.

PPC is that billboard you always see coming down the highway to and from work. It’s the big “open” sign on the outside of your establishment. Marketing is handing out your business card when you meet someone, telling them what your website is, keeping your website and customers and leads up to date on the latest information about you, your brand and the industry. I know (this industry) might seem like it’s a special case, but it’s not. What’s separating (the Company) from (Competitor A) is the lack of a good email marketing campaign, customer loyalty programs/ incentives (I know (the CEO) knows the value behind this), search engine presence, social media presence, brand authority, leadership influence, and customer attraction. It may seem like a lot, but that’s really it. Combined, these things can generate their own quality leads, keep customers happy, engaged and wanting to stay in the program (make all their payments and on-time), keep employees happy and motivated (increase performance and work culture), and become the powerhouse it was meant to be.

Hedge, Hedge and For Pete’s Sake Hedge

I hear war stories all the time from some (industry related) veterans about the “good old days,” making $30k to $50k in sales commissions. Although the industry has more regulation in place, there’s no reason a sales rep shouldn’t be making at least six figures. (The Former Company) was able to survive the initial burst of the market… The market adjusted and evolved then was no longer able to keep up with the increased demands, thus (the Company) was able to take the spotlight. But for how long?

Truthfully, (The Former Company) could have survived the newer changes. How long can (the Company) last without a restructure to keep up with the increasing demand and poor reputation of the entire market before collapsing? I know there are contingencies in place. But why aren’t we hedging? People like George Soros and Warren Buffet know how to hedge and profit on both sides. Whether the market goes up, down or sideways they are making money, think about that. Even when they lose money, they’re making money, are able to collect their profit then when the market adjusts again, they ride that loss back up to the top until it’s profitable. But in order for that to work, one must know how and when to cut their losses.

Not every trade they make is profitable, but it got them one step closer to being billionaires. People like Soros and Buffet can also manipulate markets. I researched and wrote a lot on how George Soros was able to crash entire economies and profit from it. He was able to short (sell) the British Pound currency and break the bank of England. Not only did he make money from that but he knew his correlations and knew if the Pound fell the German Bond market would rise, so he also bought a lot of German bonds. I’m not saying be Soros. I’m saying have a strategy in place that incorporates at least some form of hedging.

So how can the (the Company) brand network benefit from hedging? Its sort of how (Partner Company) and (the Company) are linked. Technically, that’s hedging. That’s the steps in the same direction as the (Competitor A) Financial Network. Now, (Competitor A) invests in everything from Press, Social, Search, TV, Radio, you name it. Their ultimate boss move hedging technique was that of founding the (Industrywide Council)… All of their competitors are their clients. Even though that part of the market may be cornered, there are still other ways to have something similar, if not better, in place and generating revenue (quickly) to increase profit margins of the network as a whole.

What about (Competitor B)? They’re another big player. Let’s start with every single blog they post has a press release attached to it. They leverage reputation marketing in conjunction with reputation management. They have tens of thousands of reviews (but thousands of complaints as well). They have SEO, PPC, TV, Radio, Social Media, I mean if you’re looking for (industry related services) or know someone who is, and you live in America, chances are you know about (Competitor B)…

Other Ways To Generate Revenue Without Overhead?

The thing is, these other companies aren’t perfect, and neither are the people working for them. There are many flaws and opportunities to gain market share and be in a position to control the market. When I applied to work for (The Former Company) it’s because people who worked there said I should apply, they see me making six figures. I did my research and saw the opportunity. It was doable. I never lost sight and just realized perhaps not everyone had/ shared my vision. Whether it’s offshore outsourcing, technical, fundamental, internal, external, I’ve thought about a hundred plus ways this company and network can make more money. What are we doing for all the clients that canceled to (services) their accounts themselves? Or people not interested because they want to try it themselves? There’s an entire 7+ figure a year market for this. DIY (industry related services) – courses, videos, webinars, things that once they are set up (the right way – optimized for conversion) they are automated and continue to generate revenue with no overhead. What about the (adjacent services) lead/ clients? Why don’t we have a life after (adjacent services) podcast, ebook, webinar or course? These things generate first level sales and position the brand as an authority in the market. Do you think that a person who benefited from the DIY (adjacent) course is going to refer their friend or family member who is in (need of industry related services)? Believe it! Do you think if that friend or family member doesn’t have the time they might just prefer to have an expert do it? Believe it! Now there’s leads and sales happening at absolutely no costs.

Companies aren’t taking advantages of these things to the fullest (if at all). Not because it doesn’t work but because they don’t know how. I have other consultant friends/ mentors who tell me how they were able to quit their job and start a successful practice. This is the power of outsourcing vs. in-house. Take someone who can do it for themselves, like him, in cases of growing multi-million dollar companies by 30%-net in one quarter whereas companies that size staffed with hundreds if not a thousand people would be lucky if they saw that type of growth in two years. Not only did he increase the margins and profits of the entire company but think about all the money that was saved. How can one person do the jobs of a thousand? It’s thinking like the 1%. That’s not only doing the job of a thousand people but doubling and tripling their performance. On top of that factor in the time it would take and everyone’s salaries, businesses utilities it would take to reach that point, and the value is unmatched. The actual value generated (ROV) is in the thousand percentile range. ROI and ROV are about as similar as a square and a rectangle. In my mind, the comparison is more of a square (ROI) and a Rectangular Prism (ROV). Between the millions of dollars generated and saved, the value provided was in the billions. A thousand x a thousand is one million. What’re thousands of millions? That’s the equivalent of having the next big billion-dollar idea or a billionaire consulting for you. Will those companies ever see billions in sales? Only time will tell. If they’re still in business for at least ten more years, I’d say pretty easily. Do I believe this network has that same potential? That’s why I’m here.

Everything Happens For A Reason

I don’t believe in coincidences; I believe we are all here for a reason. I believe our paths have crossed for a reason. Not just to do some work and collect a check and do some more work, that’s good, and all, no complaints from me and I hope you feel the same, but I believe our paths crossed to do something great, something legendary. No matter the circumstance, no matter the cause, there’s always a way. You could tell me the company is under federal investigation and generating too much income too fast would raise a red flag, or one of the investors is under federal investigation, or whatever the case may be, I’d think about it, strategize and come up with a solution. You see the thing about consultants (real) consultants is that much like philosophers, and even scientists, we solve the world’s greatest challenges. So, tomorrow the world, but for today let’s settle for greatness.

Be bold,

Wrapping Up: Vulnerability & Authenticity In Marketing

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As you can see, and without knowing the whole story of who our client is or what this email is in response to, I took the time to address them indivually. I wasn’t afraid to open up. This wasn’t a crucial moment nor was it planned. As more and more businesses start learning about the profit and returns behind marketing a trust-worthy company, many are beginnging to fake the authenticity part, which is the most important aspect of it.

Not only will faking authenticity and vulnerability backfire, it will have lasting negative-effects on both you and your brand.

Everything we do today is considered marketing. With the world finding and becoming connected in more ways every day, everything from the people we know, what we do and how we do it adds to the brand presence of ourselves and businesses through authentic leadership and vulnerability.

As leaders, it’s crucial to lead by example and show those closest to us who we truly are. If your intentions are good and you aren’t afraid to share your story you should find the right people becoming more drawn to you.

How do you address your clients? Would you have changed anything? Let me know in the comments.

D'Vaughn Bell
D'Vaughn Marqui Bell is a millennial entrepreneur, author and businessman. As CEO of Marqui Management he is responsible for day to day operations, management and insight. He continues his leadership development and training for the millennial generation at his website: D'Vaughn Bell

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