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In this episode I’m talking with Gene Hammett of Leaders in the Trenches, a consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and team leaders achieve their goals. During our discussion he shared with me how agency owners can use speaking gigs to reliably generate new business.

Gene was referred to me by our mutual friend, Matt Inglot, and I’m so glad Matt made the introduction because Gene has a great story.

Most people think of speaking engagements in very loose terms. They know that it will “raise their profile” or give them more exposure. It’s something that everybody knows is good to do. But it isn’t clear how it will directly lead to more clients, so it usually gets pushed aside.

Gene has personally seen that, with the right approach, speaking can directly lead to new business, and today he works with agency owners to help them do exactly that.

In this interview, Gene shares the exact framework and process he uses to help his clients land their first speaking gig and dramatically grow their business. One client of his has earned over $800k from a single speech.

Get a full transcript of the interview with Gene.

Key Takeaways

It all starts with positioning (5:00 – 15:00)

Organizers aren’t looking for generalists to speak at their event, especially a generalist who has never spoken at an event before. To increase your chances of breaking through and getting that first speaking gig, you need to zone in on your positioning. Make it known that you serve a specific type of client.

Once you’ve narrowed down your positioning, you need to find events catered to that audience and reach out with your pitch. For one of Gene’s clients, Ron Dod, this meant repositioning from being a general Internet marketing agency to an ecommerce SEO shop specializing in Magento.

If you were hosting a conference for ecommerce businesses built on Magento, who would you rather have speak? Somebody who does SEO for anybody and everybody, or somebody who specializes in Magento ecommerce businesses?

Gene and Ron bet that the latter would be a much more appealing pitch, and they were right. Ron landed an opportunity to speak at the Magento conference.

Adopting narrow positioning can be a scary proposition for many agency owners. If you’re on the fence and want to learn about other benefits that come with it, check out an earlier episode of the podcast on commanding premium rates with focused positioning.

Get prospects chasing you (15:00 – 20:30)

Landing a speaking gig is just the start. Once you have the opportunity, you need to make sure you capitalize on it. As with any form of content marketing, in order to get results, you need to give your audience your best stuff.

Don’t hold anything back.

After you give a valuable presentation, don’t make the mistake most speakers do and end with a slide asking people to email you their questions. Instead, do a live Q&A to hold their attention and cement your reputation as a helpful authority.

At the end of your presentation, Gene says to make a polite but direct invitation to the audience:

If you’d like to come up and meet me when I get off the stage here, hand me your business card. I’d like to schedule some time to talk with you just to get to know you. Only do this if you’re serious about your business. If you’re serious about taking these strategies and actually making them work for you, then I’d love to have that conversation with you.

When Ron did this, he ending up booking discovery calls for the next six weeks that immediately netted him $50,000. And since giving that speech, Ron estimates it has generated over $800,000 for his agency.

You don’t need to become a professional speaker (20:30 –  24:00)

When I think of speakers, I think of people like Jay Baer and Marcus Sheridan who are on the road doing dozens of speeches every year. That seems pretty far out of reach to me, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear Gene describe a way to use speaking to reliably grow your agency without having to spend your life on the road.

If you follow Gene’s plan to establish yourself as an authority, it’s just a matter of choosing the events with the highest concentrations of your target clients rather than taking every opportunity in front of you.

Ron is speaking four or five times a year and focusing only on the biggest shows. He has a business to run, so he can’t be scattered around the world. By focusing only on those big shows, he’s able to get 80% of the results compared to speaking at a few dozen events while only spending 20% of the time. That’s a good trade.


Andy Baldacci: Gene, thanks so much for coming on the show today.
Gene Hammett: I’m happy to be here, Andy.
Andy Baldacci: Today, among many things, you help agency owners win more clients through speaking and without pitching, as our friend Matt Inglot told me. Before you get into exactly how you do that, can you share how you ended up in this position?
Gene Hammett:
I’m going to go back because I think there’s some probably little nuggets in the whole back story, but I spent about nine years in corporate America. I say this with love. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, so I was taking these jobs to figure out how to prepare me to be an entrepreneur. I spent the next nine or ten years, running a business, an ecommerce business, very competitive market, a lot of price pressure, a lot of people doing the same thing that I do. I had to figure out how to position myself in that market. I took it to about five million in sales, and I created what’s called a lifestyle business. I had financial freedom, and I got to travel and do all the things I wanted to do. I got to that place, and I wasn’t very fulfilled. I would say I was happy, but I just knew that there was more for me. There was a bigger calling for me.
[00:01:30] I, basically, [quiet 00:01:15] in that calling. I did not listen to it. I just continued down my path, and continued to just make more money and live this lifestyle and grow a little bit at it every year. I faced the biggest contract I ever had in my life. 2010, it was coming to the delivery point of that contract, the inventories that I had purchased for about three million dollars. I lost everything.
Andy Baldacci: Wow. How?
Gene Hammett:
I had a sports tour company, an international sports tour company. I was in the Vancouver Olympics. I had 10,000 customers that were depending on me for their tickets to the Vancouver Olympics. I had done this for nine years, and I had done this very successfully and had done over 30 million in business. This was just another step in that journey. My best friend, I had a contract with him just to keep things clear on when he would deliver to me and whatnot. Well, he actually misappropriated the money, we’ll say, and when it came time for delivery, he’s like, “We got a problem. I’ll take care of it.” Next thing I know, we’re both lawyering up, and it never came. It never got worked out.
Andy Baldacci: Where did you go from there?
Gene Hammett: That’s the million-dollar question.
Andy Baldacci: Right.
Gene Hammett:



I felt horrible. I mean, I just lost all my money. I’d lost all my savings. I lost my house. I lost my business. I lost my confidence. A couple of weeks into that, I really started looking back at where I would move forward. I’m an entrepreneur, so I knew I would make a difference, but I didn’t know where. My confidence level has just been shot. Who wants to do business with someone who just lost three million dollars? I was looking at coaching I got, I guess, back in 2002, 2003. That really changed my life. The one thing I kept remembering is I love being heard. I would be able to talk through my issues. I would be able to come up with my own decisions, have some coach help me through that. I literally made huge strides in my business and started doubling my income year after year after year.
[00:04:00] I said, “I want to do that.” I didn’t know how I would do it, but that’s where I decided to make the shift. A couple of months later, I realized I needed to get a coaching degree or certification, if you will, and so I did that. I spent a couple of years working in the agency world and vice president in sales. That’s my background in agencies. I’ll tell you a little bit of the reason why I focused on who I focus on now, but I made that shift. From there, I started coaching business owners in general, but then, I started working with web designers. Web designers had a really huge opportunity for them because I knew there were so many of them. I knew they struggled. The way they saw themselves in marketing was just a little bit warped, if I can say that.

Andy Baldacci:

How so?
Gene Hammett: Well, they were trading time for money. They would get a project. Then they would do nothing else but that project. They weren’t really running a business. I wrote this small little book, and I can’t remember the exact title of it. You’d have to look it up on Amazon. It’s still there. The Five Mistakes-
Andy Baldacci: I’ll dig it up for the show notes, yes.
Gene Hammett:



I think it’s The Five Mistakes that Broke Web Designers Make, and How to Stop Making Them. It really came from working in my own business back in 2001 to 2010, where I had hired a bunch of web design people, SEO people, marketing people. This is before social media because I probably would have hired that too, but I got sold the big promises on delivery. It was very short on results. One of the things when I got into this, I said, “You know what? One reason I think they’re not as successful is because they’re not really going deep into serving one client. They really are spreading themselves too thin across many industries. They don’t really have a deep sense of knowledge on what it takes to be successful in this one space.” That’s a real problem for the way I saw the world.


Now, I have clients that only work with speakers and the branding and design world. I have one that only works for restaurants. In fact, he only works with Italian restaurants. I have one that only works with ecommerce companies. I have one that only works with … What’s another one? Authors that are creating books. I mean I could go on and on and on, but they get really deep. Most of my clients are really experts in one area because they created that. They understand the power of the niche. I started working with all these people, and back to the story a little bit, when I found that for me, I started speaking and getting clients. Then I got a podcast. I started just compounding that success and systematically adding new marketing channels into my business and creating a back-end of people behind me, so that I wasn’t in the trenches. Because that’s the name of my podcast called Leaders in the Trenches. I could create a podcast with very little effort to me.


I got to do exactly what I do best. I write. I get to do exactly what I do best in all those different areas. Today, I now have a business where I focus on agency owners. Branding companies, SEO companies, social media companies primarily are the clients that come to me. I help them understand sales and marketing, specifically using authority positioning. The best way I know to increase your authority is to speak on stages where your ideal clients are in the room. You give a speech that positions you as a trusted adviser. You make an invitation for them to connect with you. They will chase you, instead of you chasing them.
Andy Baldacci:


Interesting, I think. I remember when I was talking to Matt about a little bit more of your background. One of the big things he focused on was saying that you help agency owners get clients directly through speaking, but you don’t have them pitch. It’s not about the agency owner going after the client. It’s about positioning yourself as an authority and getting the clients coming to you, like you just said. Can you talk a little bit more about how that dynamic comes about?
Gene Hammett:



Yes, so in the marketing world, since our agency owners, they probably know this if they’re trying to speak at all. There’s a pay-to-play mindset in a lot of the marketing events. Meaning if you call them up and say, “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about the speaking opportunities for this event.” There’s a huge chance that they’re going to go, “Great. Here’s our sponsorship packages.” That does work. I mean if you get on the right stages, you can make that work, but what would it take for you to position yourself as an expert, so that them adding you to it actually made their event more successful than you having to actually pay to be there? I show my clients how you can go to these events, which are typically no-pitch. Meaning you can’t go in there and say, “Buy my program in the back. Power stack the bonuses and have a limited-time offer. First one’s going to get this, that and the other,” and do that kind of speaking.
[00:09:30] 100% of the speaking I’ve done has been no-pitch. Literally, I had a conversation with someone today that says, “Here’s what works best for our audience.” It’s a no-pitch audience, and I listened to what they’re saying. I said, “That’s exactly what I teach.” They’re like, “Great.” It works, but there’s a lot more opportunities that are no-pitch. There’s a lot more opportunities that, then, even paid speaking gigs or the sponsorship opportunities.
Andy Baldacci: How do you get started? How does an agency owner who, say, they’ve been running an SEO agency for three years? They’re doing well, but they don’t really have any authority at all. They have the skills and the knowledge, but no one quite knows that, so how does someone in that position get started?
Gene Hammett: Let me tell you a story. Can I do that?
Andy Baldacci: Yes.

Gene Hammett:


This story is Ron Dod. He had a marketing company that wasn’t SEO-specific. He was doing okay. He was doing about $18,000 a month in revenues, but he knew he could do a lot more. Ron was about 26, 27 years old. I guess he was 26 at the time. He’s 27 now. Well, he was looking to create a more systematic approach to getting leads. He was getting referrals. He had about 96% retention rate with his clients. He was really happy with that, but it’s still a rough start. At $18,000 with a few contractors, he wasn’t making much money.
[00:11:00] We got together. One of the first things we did was I just asked him, “What parts of your business, really, do you hate? What drains your energy?” He said, “Web design.” I’m like, “Oh, you’re a marketing company.” He goes, “Yes. I spend 80% of my time on web design.” I go, “How much of the $18,000 is web design?” He goes, “Anywhere from about 4 to $5,000 a month.” I said, “So you’re spending a huge chunk of your time, and it’s only a portion of your income.” He couldn’t give it up because that’s what he lived on. I said, “Well, okay. What do you really like to do?” He goes, “I really like SEO. That’s where my clients get the most success. It’s easy for me and my team, and I’ve got this new guy that’s coming onboard. He’s really an expert. I really would just want to do more of that.”
[00:11:30] We literally, not immediately, said, “Don’t do any more web design clients,” but it was about two or three weeks because he got so frustrated. He’s like, “I’m just going to get a few more ecommerce customers.” We took his average bill rate from about 750 a month on those to about 2,500.
Andy Baldacci: Wow.
Gene Hammett:


Here’s how did it. I said, “You can be SEO for everybody, but let’s really define your ideal audience.” We did that. We took a few different options, and I remember him saying, “I like very stodgy business where most of it is not sexy. It’s not like start-ups. It’s just like a SKU, and they need to sell it.” Me, coming from an engineering background, I knew what a SKU was. I’m like, “Well, give me some examples.” He started rattling off these things. It’s like, “Oh, you’re talking about ecommerce.” He goes, “Yes.” I said, “Well, I run an ecommerce business. Here’s some of the challenges.” He goes, “Yes, that’s exactly what we’re seeing,” he goes. I said, “What if your next three clients were only ecommerce?” He goes, “I’d love it. I think it would be a home run for me.” I go, “Okay. Let’s do that.”
[00:12:30] We looked at really zoning his business in, and this is where it gets really interesting. I’m giving you the actual play-by-play because I think this will be useful to your audience. I asked him, “You don’t want to be just any ecommerce SEO company. You want to be considered the best.” He’s like, “Yes.” I said, “Well, how do you do that?” He goes, “I don’t know.” I said, “Well, have you thought about speaking?” He said, “No, never spoke before.” This is the part where he has no background in this, right?
Andy Baldacci: Mm-hmm.
Gene Hammett:


I said, “Is there a technology platform inside of the ecommerce world that you really like to deal with, with SEO?” He goes, “I work with Shopify, BigCommerce and” … I’m drawing a blank.
Andy Baldacci: Maybe WooCommerce?
Gene Hammett: Not WooCommerce. It was …
Andy Baldacci: Magento?
Gene Hammett:


Magento. I said, “Which one do you like best?” He goes, “It seems like most of our clients are in Magento.” I said, “Would you be willing to test something for me?” He goes, “Yes,” and I said, “What if we position you as you do SEO for ecommerce, specializing in Magento platforms?” He goes, “Okay, I could do that.” We changed some wording on his homepage and his about page. All we did. That’s all we did.
Andy Baldacci: Right.
Gene Hammett: You can imagine what happened next, right?
Andy Baldacci: I’m waiting. I’m curious.
Gene Hammett:


Well, I asked him, “Did Magento have a conference?” He goes, “Yes, they do.” I said, “Oh, when is it?” He goes, “It’s in four or five months.” I go, “Well, you probably might be too late, but let’s look into this.” He had two weeks to make a pitch for that, and I showed him exactly how to make the pitch. It’s not a pitch event, but it’s just a pitch to get booked. He got short-listed. He was excited, but he’s like, “They’ll never select me. They’ll never select me.” I mean, I got emails back and forth. He was just doubting himself. Then he had this scheduled interview. They asked him all about SEO, ecommerce. They asked him about this, that and the other. They asked him about the Magento platform.
[00:14:30] He did really well because apparently, two days later, he got an email. He said to me, “I got it,” with 17 exclamation points. I remember counting them. Then, he worked on his speech. It wasn’t anything fancy. It was very straight-laced. He went in there and delivered a speech. I say this jokingly. He took two Red Bulls right before going up on stage and got up there and just let it all spew out. I was like, “Why would you take Red Bulls to calm down?” He’s like, “I took them to raise my energy level up.” I’m like, “You don’t need any more energy.”
Andy Baldacci: You’ve got enough.

Gene Hammett:

He came up there, and we worked through the speech. He gave them his best stuff. He didn’t hold anything back because I told him. “Let’s just lay it out there.” He ended up getting discovery calls for the next six weeks that netted him $50,000.
Andy Baldacci: Wow. I’m curious. How? What did that look like? Were there people coming up to him afterwards? How did those discovery calls happen?
Gene Hammett:



Here’s the magic behind that. I showed him what not to do, which was, “Don’t put the last screen up on the slides. It’s contact me with your questions.” He actually did Q&A. That was part of the 35-minute session that he did. It was about 10 minutes of Q&A. At the end of the Q&A, I said, “I want you to control the audience back. Get them back to paying attention to you. Say, ‘I’ve got a couple more things I want to share with you.’ I call this the polite but direct invitation.” It’s something I’ve developed over time with my own business and with my clients, but it really is getting the audience to see that you just gave them value. They probably got a lot of questions. Some of them, they probably didn’t have time to answer. Maybe they don’t even know. They didn’t want to air them out in front of their competition. “If you’d like to come up meet me when I get off the stage here, hand me your business card. I’d like to schedule some time to talk with you just to get to know you.”
[00:16:30] It’s a polite invitation, but it’s direct. I asked him to say, “Only do this if you’re serious about your business. If you’re serious about taking these strategies and actually making them work for you. You’re frustrated, and you want to stop wasting money, stop spending your will, then I’d love to have that conversation with you.”
Andy Baldacci: Why do you think adding that last bit at the end made such a big difference?
Gene Hammett:



It brings people that are serious, so you don’t have people there just like, “Let me just get to know the speaker.” Then it also makes them show up, I think, knowing that this is a serious conversation. I asked them to actually say the phrase. After the speech, “Bring me your card up again.” This is usually right after. You’ve already opened the speech. You’ve already given them great content. You’ve done a little bit of Q&A. You’ve connected with them on a deep way. They position you as a trusted adviser. they see you as that expert, and then,you make this invitation. A lot of people go, “Well, you don’t need that.” I get it because if you watch Gary Vaynerchuk or if you watch Tony Robbins, or if you watch any other major speaker … I just had Les Brown on my show the other day. Les Brown would never do this because he would get inundated with people wanting to get to know him, to meet the speaker.
[00:18:00] You, as a business owner, you make your bread and butter by connecting with people. By inviting them into a conversation, you’re right in the same space with them. I say this nose-to-nose, toes-to-toes. You’re in. You’re right where you want to be. You’re sharing the same air. Make the invitation to give them a chance to extend from where you are right now. The transformation that you just described to them, and take it to a place where it’s one-on-one in private. It’s not a pitch because it’s just an invitation. “I want to get to know you.” What meeting planner would ever say, “No, you can’t say that.” They wouldn’t.
Andy Baldacci: Right. You’re clearly not. You’re not pushing anything on them. You’re actually providing them value. By the fact that people are taking up on the offer, it shows how you’re providing them value.

Gene Hammett:

The first six weeks, he got $50,000. We started working with each other again, and his business just exploded. He went from that 18,000. That first year, end of the year, at 85,000 a month.
Andy Baldacci: Wow. That’s huge growth.
Gene Hammett:


That’s huge growth. Then he was on my podcast about nine months after that speech, and he did, at that time, he said $600,000 worth of revenue, just from that one speech.
Andy Baldacci: That’s crazy.
Gene Hammett: I talked to him just last week. Oh, it’s just two weeks ago. I said, “What do you think it’s up to now? Are you at a million?” Then, he goes, “I don’t think we’re in a million. It’s probably a little over $800,000 in revenue from one speech.”
Andy Baldacci: Not too bad.
Gene Hammett:


Not too bad. No pitch, never spoke before. Then, his new positioning, right? His new, “I do just SEO for ecommerce,” and we focused on the Magento platform.
Andy Baldacci:


I think that ties it all together because I’ve had a lot of guests come on the show and talk about the value of having strong positioning. I know so many agency owners, specially on the smaller side, resist that because they’re like, “Well, I can do everything. I don’t want to specialize. I don’t want to turn away all these other clients.” If you do anything and everything, it’s going to be almost impossible for, one, for you to find speaking opportunities where you can just speak as a generalist, to really just position yourself as an authority, without taking some stance on something.
Gene Hammett: Yes. Here’s the secret. They don’t hire generalists.
Andy Baldacci: Right.
Gene Hammett: It’s really hard to get up on any of these bigger stages. If he had just said, “We do SEO. We’re going to come in there and speak to your Magento people.” They would have selected someone else.
Andy Baldacci: Right.
Gene Hammett:
They didn’t know him. They didn’t have a personal relationship with him. They would have just looked at him and go, “Why? You’re no different from this other person. Why not? I will just go with them. They were here last year. I know that they did a pretty good job. We’ll just bring them back.” Instead, this might have been the first time they saw a real tight specialist like that. That is the key to you getting on bigger stages. That’s also the key to not having to pay the sponsorship fees. When you start to make a name for yourself in that market like Ron has, if you fast forward to where Ron is now, he doesn’t speak that many times.
[00:21:00] He’s probably speaking four, maybe five times a year. He’s only speaking at the biggest shows for him. He is not scattered around the world, doing all these travel dates because he’s got a business to run, but he is showing up on the stage, delivering the right speech to the right audience, making the right invitation. That’s what’s boosting his business. It’s become one of the biggest lead generation for his business, even though he’s an ecommerce company and a SEO company.

Andy Baldacci:


I think what you just touched on also goes back to when you’re talking about how he was spending so much time in the early days on web design, but not getting a proportional amount of revenue from that. It’s almost like where you were just talking about. He’s speaking four or five times a year at the biggest events. He’s really leveraging that time because as you said, he has a business to run. Instead of just trying to speak at any, in all events, he’s prioritizing and saying, “If I speak at these four or five events, it will have the biggest impact. Am I leaving, maybe, someone in the table? Sure, but I now have the vast majority in my time to run my business, to grow my business, to do everything else.” Is that accurate?
Gene Hammett:



Yes. Because of all that, like you said, he is getting noticed more and more. I mean, using Ron is the basis of this conversation. I’ve done this with other clients, too, but Ron now writes for three or four, maybe even more industry journals that make him more of an expert. Now what we’ve talked about doing, and he actually does this, is he’s writing for publications. That makes him seem like an expert. That’s one level of growth. He’s also speaking on these bigger stages with a video because a lot of these bigger conference are doing their video recording, so that’s great. Then he’s also putting those videos on his website and using them in his emails to say, “I recently spoke here.” He’s using that to amplify his own authority through the sales process. There’s a lot to that one strategy and how it’s led into other areas and how he can leverage that. Now, if a Magento customer comes onboard, what does he do? He actually can give them that one video. They say, “Oh, oh, he must be the right company for me.”
Andy Baldacci:
Right, even if they didn’t hear him from that speech when he can then show those speeches. Even if they don’t even watch the video. If they say, “Oh, this guy was speaking at the Magento conference. He knows his stuff like I do. We know who we want to work with.”
Gene Hammett: My tag line, and my clients actually gave me this, Andy, is “Be the choice, not just a choice.”
Andy Baldacci: I like that.
Gene Hammett:



That’s what I work on with people in the marketing world, to really position themselves. It goes back to those days of those people selling me. I wasted a bunch of money to really be the choice. I chose them, yes, but they didn’t get the results from me. I really believe that we should look at the results that we’re getting in our business, and be able to stack that results. Every marketing company that I ever worked with, I think Ron included, every time I say, “Well, what are the results you get from your clients?” He goes, “Well, that’s really hard to figure out.” I’m like, “Yes, but that’s your job.” You’re in marketing. Are you driving leads? Yes. Now, it’s really funny how I’m a coach, and now, people will ask me like, “What impact are you making as a coach?” I go, “Oh, I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you the story about Ron. Let me tell you the story about Jason. Let me tell you the story about Derek and Stephanie and Adam.” You get it, right?
Andy Baldacci: Right.
Gene Hammett:


I could tell those stories, and they all are based on results. Thinking about your business to be the choice. You want to position yourself, not only with the right market, with the right messaging, but with the right authority. Using the stage is the best way to do that. Then doing it so well that you’re building walls up around your business that others cannot penetrate and get inside that. If it’s an RFP, I only did RFPs when I was uniquely qualified to win that RFP. I didn’t do many of them, but every time I went into it, I won because I knew that rule.

Andy Baldacci:

I mean that’s just such a powerful mindset shift from the way a lot of agency owners are approaching business where they’re trying to compete on price. They’re trying to compete on all these things. They’re trying to compete. Ultimately, what you’re saying is be so uniquely different. Have this authority about it that you’re not really competing. You’re the choice. You have your positioning lined up, exactly with what your target market needs. When they see you, you’re the choice. It’s not a competition anymore.
Gene Hammett: You said it well.

Andy Baldacci:

I’m curious. I want to go back a little bit and get into some of the specifics. For Ron’s first pitch, you said he gave the pitch. He was in, short-listed. What does that process even look like? If I am an agency owner trying to do this, who am I emailing? What am I saying to actually get on their radar?
Gene Hammett:
All right, that’s a good one. First thing you want to do is identify what is the right audience, right? Once you identify the audience, which is the people you want to go after. We’ll use one of my clients. A different client than Ron. We’ll use Derek. Derek has a branding company. They do a lot of design work for speakers. He used to work with a lot of different people, a lot of different industries. He went to networking events. He got a lot of referrals. He built a pretty stable business, just taking those referrals and building his business the traditional way, the way most people do. Now, we’ve been working together for a while. He wanted to find his niche. He never really found it until about six or eight months ago.
[00:27:30] His audience is speakers, and we know it’s not just any speakers. It’s not new speakers. It’s ones that are already speaking. They’re already getting about 5,000, and it’s also not big time speakers that are working $100,000-plus because they’re hiring agencies to do their work. They’re spending $50,000 on a website or something. He’s got this sweet spot. That’s what I call the profitable niche, right? You got a target market. You drill into the niche, and then you drill into the very bullseye of that, which is the profitable niche. For him, it’s those speakers that are around 5 to 10,000. That’s the beginning realms of a professional speaker. Now, he’s done, I think, he told me that today. He’s done 16 different websites in the last six months.
Andy Baldacci: Okay.

Gene Hammett:

He’s building this portfolio in this audience, stacking successes, really getting clear. Now, we just had a conversation the other day about speaking. Well, where should he speak? Should he speak to coaches? What do you think?
Andy Baldacci: I mean no, he should speak to … Well, it depends. He should speak to people who are speaking in that.
Gene Hammett:



He could speak to coaches because coaches, sometimes, like to speak like me, right? He could. I’m in his target market, but I’m not in his profitable niche. Would it be better off to go, “All right. Well, where are the people in the profitable niche?” Well, there’s a monthly meeting in almost every major city with a group called National Speakers Association. What do they do at those meetings? I know what they do on those meetings, and he does too, now, but he goes, “Well, they have an education component. They bring in speakers from outside the country that are experts in their area. They train the class on something,” right? One week, it might be story telling. One week, it might be humor, or one month, it might be how to use video. What if one of those sessions was how to get your website to generate to your speaking business?


He contacts the education chair, so you got to find out who the person is that makes that decision. It might be a different title, but if you’re going after a specific industry, there’s an association for that industry. You identify the places you want to speak. Then you identify the individual people that you could reach out to. One simple thing, and I give this away to people, so it’s not necessarily magic here, but I have a 40-word template that I give away that determines, “Is someone the right person, the speaker selection for their events?” It’s 40 words, right? Why is it 40 words? Because most people are reading on their phone. They don’t have a chance to read the eight paragraphs that most people put in those initial emails.
[00:30:30] I’ve learned that if we really get to the essence of this, and all we’re really trying to do is, like, “Who is the right person to select speakers for this event?” You don’t want to be come off as a broadcast, so you put in there, actually, the date of that event. You put in there the location. You can even put in the city. It looks like it’s a very short, very personalized message. You’re just trying to confirm, basically, “Are you the right person, or is it someone else?” Usually, they’ll tell you. There’s a pretty high success rate. When they’re getting it and opening it up, they’re going, “Oh, I’m not the right person. You need to talk to Susan. Here’s Susan’s email address.” They give it to you. If they don’t-

Andy Baldacci:

Yes, if you talk to anyone in the cold-calling, cold-emailing world like start ups, that’s one of the main tactics. It’s that they’ll email high up in the organization to try and figure out who they should be talking to. One, a lot of times, it’s not the right person. What they’ll do is they’ll just forward it over to the correct person. Then, not only do you easily figure out who to talk to, but you also have someone else that they know, peer-pressuring them like, “Oh, you really should respond to this now.”
Gene Hammett:


Yes, especially if you’ve gone up higher in the organization. Let’s say the CEO, Frank. Frank says, “Here, you need to talk to Susan.” Then, you send the email that says, “Frank asked me to talk to you.”
Andy Baldacci: Yes, Susan is going to reply to that one.
Gene Hammett:


Right, she’s going to reply. If you CC him on it, oh, wow. She’s really going to reply. It’s a long way to get to. You got to find the right places. You got to know the audience. You have to pull that list together. It really is just thinking it through. It’s pretty simple for me because I do it all the time, but most people get caught up with, “But I can’t speak here, too,” or “This would be really cool.” You can do that, and I call those practice events. If you really understand your profitable niche, and you really understood where there might be 50, 60% of the audience that’s really perfect for you and ready to make that decision, you’re going to find you’re going to get customers from them. The times when you speak outside of that, consider that practice. If you get a client from it, great.
Andy Baldacci: That’s not your main goal.
Gene Hammett: I used to speak at WordCamps. How many web designers do you think would be at WordCamps?

Andy Baldacci:

Okay, so that’s like-
Gene Hammett: A lot.
Andy Baldacci: Yes, yes.
Gene Hammett:


Right? They’re self-selecting themselves into that track, if you will. The agency track or the business-building track or whatever it may be. I spoke at, like, I don’t know, 10 different WordCamps. Then also Drupal and also some of the other different platforms, all specifically on that business track. They’re self-selecting themselves into those meetings. Does that help?
Andy Baldacci:


Yes. That helps a ton. I think it’s, honestly, so much of this ties back to just 80-20 thinking power laws where like you said, you can speak to the biggest audience. If no one or only very few people there are in your profitable niche, there’s probably better uses of your time. Is there value in getting a guest post or going on a podcast or speaking at a big, huge event? Probably. If you want to put up a logo on your website, you want to do other things like that to build you some more general authority. To land clients, you need to first go where those clients are. They don’t need to be these big events, as long as there are enough of your potential clients there.
Gene Hammett:
I mean some of the best events I had were 40, 50 people. They were chockablock full, if you will, if you have a little bit of English background, full of my ideal client. One of my best speaking opportunities for me, I’ve never made 800,00 like Ron did. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t sell an SEO package. I don’t have retainers that last for two years and whatnot, but I did speak in an event in Chicago two years ago. I got five clients immediately. As I remember, there were about 75 people in the room, so it wasn’t a huge room. I got five clients immediately. It was a very low-cost offer that I offered at the time. I don’t even offer that now. I did that for about nine months. Then, about month 12, I had someone call me up who downloaded that free ebook that I talked about. I made it free for that one day. I think it’s like 2.99 up there right now.
[00:35:00] He remembered the book, and so he found my email. He reached out to me and said, “I remember you gave this speech. Can we talk about you coaching me?” We had that conversation. That was two and a half years ago. I’ve added, not only that client, but I had another one come back to me two years later, and she’s still with me. That one speech, and I spent a thousand bucks to get there, the flight, the hotel, the food, the rental car. All that stuff was about a thousand, give or take. I’ve done over $50,000 in revenue from that one speech.

Andy Baldacci:

Wow. That’s-
Gene Hammett: It took time, all right?
Andy Baldacci: Right.
Gene Hammett: It wasn’t like this get rich quick thing. It’s taking time, and I’m still working with those clients. I’ll still be working with them, probably for another six months, maybe a year.
Andy Baldacci: How does podcasting, for you, fit into this? Do you see it as just another platform to speak to an audience, or is there more to it?
Gene Hammett: Can I be honest with you?
Andy Baldacci: Yes.

Gene Hammett:



Not enough honesty in this world. I love doing the podcast. I absolutely love it. I have connected with some amazing people. I got to interview a lot of speakers, a lot of best-selling authors. I can pick up and read a book. It’s built my network out really huge. That’s been the biggest benefit from it. I’ve gotten clients from the podcast. I get people who listen to two, three, four, five episodes that hear me from the stage. It deepens there. They know I’m the right person for them. My download numbers are not huge. They’re not just taking off. I’m not internet famous because of my podcast. I hoped I would be. I was disappointed that I didn’t have 10,000 the first month, and it continued to grow at a rate of 10% a month forever. It’s less than 10,000 a month now. I’m not sure why, but people love my podcast. They love it, and I say all this, being honest with you. It has helped me get on stages, really big nice stages.
They have generated business for me, and I get clients from it every once in a while, but the podcast is a very small piece of my lead source, if you will. Speaking is number one. Referrals are number two. Then podcast is number three.

Andy Baldacci:

What about going on other podcasts? Because I noticed that looking, doing some research to get ready for this episode, usually, what I’ll do is like, “Oh, I’ll see what other interviews they’ve done, check a few of those out.” You have done a lot of interviews. What is your approach to that? Is that something that you enjoy doing? Do you see it as a way to grow your audience? What makes you pursue those opportunities?
Gene Hammett: I get more business going on other people’s podcast.
Andy Baldacci: That’s one that I’ve heard time and time again.
Gene Hammett: My theory is … Can I share it with you?
Andy Baldacci: Yes.

Gene Hammett:

I am getting more. I am positioned as an expert when I am being interviewed, versus when I interview someone else.
Andy Baldacci: Interesting.
Gene Hammett:


One of the strategies, if you have a podcast, is to interview people that you want to be on their show, because you can build relationships. From there, it doesn’t seem like you’re just like, “Hey, hey, hey, pick me. Pick me.” You could build a real relationship with someone and say, “Hey, when the time’s right, I’d love to be on your show. I don’t know how you schedule things. Let me know when we can talk about it.” At the end of the interview, you can say, “Hey, I’ve been listening to your show. It’s been fantastic. I really appreciate it. A goal of mine to be on there someday.” Some of the bigger shows, I mean it’s hard to get on, but it’s worth it when you get there. Some of the smaller shows, they literally will immediately go, “Oh, sure. You should be on my show. Come on,” right? It’s just so simple.
Andy Baldacci:


For you, it seems like the podcast, one, is something that you enjoy. There are some benefits that are right there, that you have it on a few clients, but a lot of it is that it opens up other opportunities for you. I’m curious to ask. What does next quarter look like for you? Are you doing a lot of speaking, yourself? How do you see yourself growing the business from here?
Gene Hammett:



Very good question. I was totally wrong about what my first quarter would look like. I have a book that I finished up this summer. I had planned on getting the editing done,  so that January will be launch day or launch month, week, whatever. We’re not finished with the editing process. The people I hired to help me have taken a lot longer than I thought, so a couple of weeks ago, I look back at my business. I said, “You know what? I got to completely revamp what I thought I would be doing first quarter,” because I was so excited about having a book and just getting on stages. At this point in my experience, I can get speaking fees, which is great, but I can also get speaking fees and get clients at the same time. I have really shifted my focus to my own speaking, but then something else came up. My own speaking, I’ve got four or five gigs already planned for the first part of the year. I only do about 10 gigs a year, so it’s about what I need for the first half.


I have actually gotten much more. I’ve created what I call the dream 25 for myself. It’s in marketing. I want to show up on five or ten of these really huge, huge events. I’m going to leverage my book to get there. Since my book’s not out yet, it’s put me a little bit behind the 8-ball, but that’s one piece to my strategy for the first quarter. Then, the second piece is, I’ve showed so many people how to speak to get clients. I create a program, and I’ve created a group coaching experience that goes with that. It’s all focused around how to do speaking to really get yourself on stages. I’m going to launch the first quarter out, really focused on building, getting that program full and up to speed.
Andy Baldacci:
Interesting. One thing I want to ask before we talk more about the program and about all those other things is, how does the book fit in with everything? Because I’ve seen a few different ways to do this. One is, like, if you look at the Chet Holmes’ sales machine style, you can mail it to people. You can use it to just build authority without actually focusing too much on what’s in the book. Then you have the other ones where they just are like, “All right, I want to just pack a ton of value into this book.” How do you see the book? Is it a combination of the two? Something different? Where do you stand?
Gene Hammett:



For me, with Chet Holmes, and I actually have one of his books, the Ultimate Sales Machine. It’s not a thin book. It’s a very, very proper book. When I say thin, I mean light on content. It has got some strategies that I use today and think through because I think he’s a master. I know a lot of people that say, “Just get a book out there. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. It will get you in media. It will get you on TV. It will get you speaking engagements.” I don’t believe in that because it’s got my name to it. It’s got, really, my heart and soul in it. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. This book is really … It’s called the Trap of Success. I don’t think I shared that with you guys so far.


It really goes back. If you think back, when I had the other business, and I said I wasn’t fulfilled and that I was successful, but I wasn’t. I hadn’t reached the potential that I wanted to, and I lost it all. Now, I can look back and go, “Wow, I could have made some different choices then. I made a choice specifically based on comfort.” I was in a comfort zone of income and freedom. That was really frustrating for me to go back and look at that right now. I wrote a book because I think a lot of people get trapped by their success, so that’s the name of the book. Then the subtitle gives you a little bit more description, which is about how to make the shift from success to significance. The book is about, how do you create significance with the work you’re doing, the fulfillment.
Andy Baldacci: When is it? Do you have an updated timeline from when you’re hoping that will be published?
Gene Hammett:


I wish I could give you a date. I’ve moved it, and I feel uncomfortable even saying that it’s going to be March. I want to get it out as quickly as possible this year. I do feel like the first quarter is going to be completely focused on my program, my authority camp. Then I really feel like that I want to get it out bad because I know you don’t need a book to get on stages, but at the higher levels, at the levels where they’re starting to pay you, the levels that really, really want you to be an authority, you do need it. I got asked a lot about what’s my book called.

Andy Baldacci:

Gene Hammett: I talked to 150, 200 meeting planners last year. Half of them are saying, “What’s your book?” I go, “Didn’t have one.” The other half were like, they go, “Oh, I’m writing the Trap of Success.” “Oh, I love that,” and they would book me for that speech. Did I answer all the questions in there?
Andy Baldacci:


I think so. No, but I think I really enjoyed hearing that honest perspective on how you look at it and what you’re hoping to do before, because like you said, there are a lot of people that say, “A book’s a book. If you just have a book, it will help.” You’ve admitted that it will, but I also like that you said, “You know what? While a book will help me, I want it to be the book. I want it to be something I can be proud of.” I appreciate you took that stance on that. I want to talk a little bit, before we wrap up, about the course that you’re going to be putting out there. What was that called again?
Gene Hammett: Authority Camp.

Andy Baldacci:

Okay. Can you just talk about what will be … What is it, I guess, is the best way to phrase that question.
Gene Hammett:


There’s a lot of programs out there that teach people how to be paid speakers. I have friends that have those. I have people that coach on that, and it is a different approach. They’re taking a business owner who has a professional services, whether they be design or branding or even coaching or something like that, and showing them how to use speaking to really accelerate their authority and increase their revenues. I created a program that filled the gap in the market that didn’t do the paid speaking. Also, it doesn’t do the speak-to-pitch.
[00:46:30] There’s a lot of programs out there that show you how to pitch your programs, so I just show people how to get speaking gigs. How do you find the right ones? How do you get yourself booked? How do you create a speech that actually will connect with the audience? Then how do you deliver that speech that maximizes connection? That’s really the essence of it. There’s a few more things I’ve thrown in there with it that make it really powerful, but I’ve been looking at my own marketing. One of the things I really believe, and I help people discover this for themselves. It’s called a unique mechanism. Do you know what a unique mechanism is?
Andy Baldacci: I don’t.
Gene Hammett:



I talked about this with Matt a few weeks ago with his product and his program. When we are looking at comparing buying from you versus someone else, we’re looking at, “Why should we buy from you? What is special about what you have to offer?” It’s like, “Be the choice, not just a choice.” Well, I always say that unique is better than better. If you can find something unique about what you offer, people will resonate with that. They believe that that’s important, and you have marketed that that is truly important, then that’s what we’ll get people to take action, whether it be from the stage or whether they’re on your website. A unique mechanism really paints a picture of what’s unique about what you have to offer, whether it be your service or your program.


Just to give you an example with Authority Camp, I had to go find out what my unique mechanism is. I created this about 15 months ago. I’ve put probably two dozen people through the program through my private one-on-one coaching. It’s nothing I’ve opened up as a group program, but I was looking at this. I go, “What makes this unique? What makes this unique?” I kept challenging myself. I had some people challenge me that understood marketing. What came out of this, you’ve probably heard me say this today, and maybe I get a chance to explain it, is it’s about connection. If you want an audience to take a speech and take action from it, come up and give you their business cards, then, you must connect with them. You must build trust. Connection is something that a lot of people don’t think about. Connection is more important than communication.
[00:49:00] Communication is where people think about what I need to say. Connection is about, “What does the audience need to feel through this speech? What are the contrast levels? How do I open myself up? How do I use humor? How do I use story? How do I use what’s available to me to maximize connection with the audience, so the people that are ready to do business will see me as the choice, not just a choice?” The same thing, I use with delivery. There are things that take people away from the delivery. I can give you an example if you want one.
Andy Baldacci: Let’s hear it.
Gene Hammett: There’s many examples in delivery, but if you spend 80% of the speech using “I” and “me,” what happens with the audience?
Andy Baldacci: I’m guessing that they’re not going to be as engaged because you’re listening to someone talk about themselves.

Gene Hammett:

Right. What if you spend 80% talking about you and about your problems and about how you can grow and how you could take this strategy? You could do this. Different, right?
Andy Baldacci: Yes. Yes, you’re starting to visualize. You’re starting to see this more as a conversation. You get into the mindset of, “Oh, you’re speaking to me. Let’s think about how this could change my life, how this could impact me.”
Gene Hammett:


There’s literally dozens of those factors that when you understand what they are, if you have awareness on connection, that you can maximize your ability to deliver to the audience. A lot of people go, “Well, I’m just giving a speech about the seven SEO tips for Magento,” right?
Andy Baldacci: Mm-hmm.
Gene Hammett:


Great. That means that when you deliver it using a connection framework, then you will actually be seen differently than what anybody else would be expecting. You’ll be able to tell a heartfelt story about why SEO is something that you believe is important. You’ll be able to leave them with something before they really know who you are. See how that’s important?
Andy Baldacci:


Yes. Because that’s the thing. There definitely is a huge difference between someone just rattling off seven quick tips to do this and someone who can actually leave that impression that’s deeper than that. I already got my brain off track a little bit, just thinking about all the possibilities with that. If listeners do want to look more into Authority Camp or other things that you offer, where is the best place for them to go to do that?
Gene Hammett: I’m going to give you a quick little … Let’s do this. I’m going to give you a special URL.
Andy Baldacci: All right.
Gene Hammett: Do you think it should be agency?
Andy Baldacci: I think that should probably be involved.
Gene Hammett: Okay, so let’s do leadersinthetrenches.com/agency.
Andy Baldacci: All right.
Gene Hammett: What you’ll get there is, I remember I said something about a 40-word template.
Andy Baldacci: Mm-hmm.

Gene Hammett:


It’s the easiest place to start. If you think you might want to speak someday, go ahead and download that template. It’s 40 words. The idea is to use it to figure out who the decision-maker is for that one event you’d like to speak at. Once you do that, I’ll send you a couple more things that go with that. Then I’ll share with you, maybe some training around what is it like to speak? How do you do this? You can just build your own story from there, but it’s just a really easy starting point that if you want to look at authority within your business, and you believe that speaking could be part of that journey, then, just go to leadersandtrenches.com/agency.
Andy Baldacci: Awesome. I really appreciate you setting that up. I’ll make sure to get it all linked up in the show notes. Gene, if listeners want to hear more from you, personally, are you active on social media? Where is the best place for them to check you out?
Gene Hammett:


They can go to Twitter, @genehammett. I’m on Facebook, so if you want to reach out to me there. I don’t accept everybody on Facebook, but I do have Leaders in the Trenches on Facebook, so that’s a good place. Then check out the podcast. Leadersinthetrenches.com is a pretty good way to connect with me. If I’m in town, check me out at one of my speeches.
Andy Baldacci: Awesome. Now I’m going to make sure to get all of those resources, all those sites, everything linked up in the show notes, so people can check that out, reach out to you, see what you’re up to. Gene, I just want to say thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. It was a lot of fun.
Gene Hammett:


Absolutely, Andy. Thanks for having me here, thankfully. Anybody having questions, reach out to me. I’d love to help you. There’s a ton of free resources that are on this, but just go to that. Get that free email template.
Andy Baldacci: Absolutely, and again, if you don’t have that right now, it’s leadersinthetrenches.com/agency. If you want to check out the show notes, there will be a link. You can just click right there. Gene, thanks again. It was a lot of fun.

Learn more about Gene

If you think you might want to speak some day, go here to download Gene’s 40-word template to get you in touch with the decision maker of the event you want to speak at. And If you want to hear more from Gene, subscribe to his podcast Leaders In The Trenches and follow him on Twitter.

Resources mentioned