Q&A with Marc Ensign, Beyond Branding, How do you become the Chosen One?
On this episode of I’m That Geek Web-TV Show, we are talking with the Big Cheese from LoudMouse.com, Marc Ensign. Marc is going to take us beyond personal branding into being Chosen. This is a topic near and dear to my heart because I lived it for like five years until I realized I was building my home on rented properties. Then it all disappeared. And so we'll dive into that. But before we do, let’s get to know Marc.
Who is Marc Ensign?
Marc’s story begins back when he was a kid and he wanted to change the world. Upon realizing that it might take a little longer than anticipated, he got sidetracked and found himself playing bass on Broadway with the Tony Award winning show, “Rent”. He was completely unqualified, his words, not mine. But’ he had a gift for marketing himself and the rest is Broadway history.
So fast forward a bunch of years. Marc is now the Big Cheese at LoudMouse.com. Loud Mouse is a branding agency that specializes in making some of the world's most inspiring speakers, authors, coaches and entrepreneurs, impossible to ignore through their one in 10 initiatives. Marc and his team have a goal of reaching 1 billion people in 10 years through their work with clients. So if you're reading this right now, they might be one person closer.
Marc made it to Broadway? WHAT?
Well first of all, it's a really cool story, but also it's just one of those things that is different, right? And it is a really good story as it really kind of bridges that gap of being a kid that wants to change the world to being the guy that is helping other people kind of reach that impossible dream.
In my case, my origin story is about working on Broadway. I was, and I don't joke when I'm saying this - I was completely unqualified. I just got out of college. I had no experience. I had never even been to a Broadway show before, but I heard that it paid well. And I lived in my mom's basement. Like that was my criteria for, I should get a job on Broadway, which is completely ridiculous. But a year and a half later, after really kind of pushing and I built a brand for myself, I created a logo. This was 1996, so there was no personal branding. All we had were AOL discs at the time. I created a logo for myself and I put it everywhere.
I gave out demo tapes. I figured out who I was talking to. I learned what they needed most and what they needed as musicians, they wanted notoriety. They wanted a pat on the back for the Gig that they had. They didn't need me as a sub as much as they needed me as somebody that could help them. So I got a job writing for a big music magazine at the time and I started interviewing all the musicians and just like we do now, like there were no blogs, but I was, you know, I was writing for a major magazine about what it was like to work on Broadway, to interviewing all the Broadway musicians. And then I became friends with them and then they started to need me as much as I needed them.
And that's how I kind of got my in and it's just a long story, but it was, when you look at it was all personal branding.
What does it mean to be the Chosen one?
Well, the whole concept of being this Chosen personal brand kind of stems from this idea that whenever we talk about personal branding, we're talking about standing out in a crowd or becoming known in your industry or becoming the recognized expert and all these like fluffy terms that don't actually mean anything. You can dress up like a clown and show up to a networking event and you're going to stand out. People are going to know who you are or you're going to be recognized. It's going to be hard to miss you.
However, that doesn't actually mean that you're going to get the GIG. In fact, you're not going to unless it's a clown conference or something like that. When we measure success in how many people know you, how many people like you or how many you know, these false metrics of significance, we're missing something. We're missing the boat. All the while, there's somebody that maybe isn't quite as popular, they don't have as many likes or maybe they don't have as many followers and yet they're getting all the gigs.
Whenever anybody thinks of that industry, they're the person that gets the call. That to me is what personal branding is. It's not about this feel good false sense of significance. It's the person that actually gets the job.
How do you become the chosen one?
After studying like a lot of really successful personal brands as well as my history for 15 years I ran a marketing agency that worked with a lot of major brands like Nike, American Express, travel, Leisure magazine, Callaway, golf, Berkshire Hathaway, and like a lot of those big brands. And then bringing that into personal branding, uh, and, and, and then just kind of studying some of the people that do it best, the Gary V's of the world. Uh, and, and what I found was that there are these three different things that, that really kind of define a successful personal brand.
The first one is you have to have a strong identity. You have to know who you are, what you stand for, who you're here to help, what problems they have and how you solve those problems different from everybody else.
You have to be specific on this is who I am for, this is who I help. This is what they're struggling with and this is how I solve that problem. And again, the key is different from everybody else. You cannot be just another, oh, I do that too kind of approach to what it is that you do. You have to approach it differently from everybody else because otherwise you're competing on price.
How do you differentiate yourself?
The first place I always start with trying to figure out is what everybody else is saying to be true and seeing that if there's a way that you can prove it to be false. So, everybody's always saying the exact same thing, “Hey, you need a website, you need a website, you need a website.” And then you come up and say, “Well no, cause you know what, if you gave me a blank piece of paper and I had the right message on that website, I bet I could sell more than you with your $10,000 website and no message and so on. I will say, “Hey, wait a minute. You know, that could potentially be true. Let me think about that.”
You know, we've all bought stuff from websites that looked horrible. We've also not bought and purchased something from websites that looked great. So it's not necessarily just the pixels and the pretty colors and logo. There's aspects of the messaging, which is such an important role. And you start to see, you start to position things differently.
You know you need a website. However, the message is what's gonna sell the website. And so you sell people on the message. You have to look at what everybody else is saying and say it differently.
This allows you to bring up your own voice, right?
This is exactly what I've done with this whole concept of being chosen. Everybody's talking about standing out. There are books about becoming known. There are books about being that recognized expert, how to get more likes, how to get more people following you. And here I am standing up saying, “Well, none of that stuff matters unless you're the one that actually gets chosen.” It actually makes sense and I have the background to prove it because like when I say showing up to a networking event, dressed as a clown. I'm not making that up. That is an actual fact. I have shown up to networking events dressed up like a giant slice of pizza.
I've shown up dressed up as a superhero. I have done everything humanly possible to meet people and I get noticed. I got pictures taken with people. However none of it turned into actual work. It was hard to take me seriously. So I did get noticed, I get that significance, but it didn't actually mean business, like it didn't turn into any kind of business.
So, I've been able to change, turn that message around saying, “Hey look, it's just not enough to stand out, to gather likes and gather all that data. It's you. You have to actually be the person that answers the phone and gets the job.”
Don't you find that most of that stuff happens because of the relationship that you have with someone?
Yeah. I mean, it definitely has to do with the relationship, but the relationship starts by positioning yourself in a way where people get you and they like you. When you're somebody that's really likable, somebody that they connect with. They see what you're saying, they read what you're writing and they understand. They feel connected to your message, and you're able to deliver it in a way that they get, it builds that human connection.
There's that old adage that we do business with those we know, like, and trust. Well, we commit to those that we love. And so when you get somebody to fall in love with you, then all of a sudden they’re by your side helping to share your stuff, buying your product without reading the synopsis of the book.
JK Rowling doesn't have to do a lot of promotion, when she has a new book coming out. She puts a book out and she's got people that just love her, put her on the New York Times bestseller list. She doesn't have to announce it. Word will get out soon as it hits the store with no advertising. That's what it means to build that brand. It's so powerful that people actually take action to do something to put their money where their mouth is. Where they are committed to you. They're committed to your success.
A lot of people think that you can become chosen overnight. All you have to do is have the right messaging, have the right look and feel, have a good website, and you're chosen.
What's the timeline people should expect to put in some sweat equity before they can be like okay, now everybody knows who I am and money, contacts and business will come to me?
I don't think it's a specific timeline as much as it comes out to how much your message resonates with other people as well as what you put into it. Looking at the JK Rowling example: She lived in her car. She started writing Harry Potter on the back of a bag. She was a single mother. She was on welfare. She's got this horrendous story. But it's this amazing story of overcoming and she was declined by almost every publisher. Someone finally picked her up and then that started it down when she released the first book. Iit took time. It took another book, another book, and another book of that consistency.
She was clear about who she was. She was consistent by constantly writing and putting out great material. Her work was exceptional. It was that clarity and who she is and what she writes about what her message is.
How do you know when you’re getting somewhere?
I think you know you're getting somewhere when you feel like quitting and you see other people quitting and you continue to push through. It's when you continue to push through it enough times that things really start happening. It's never as easy as the first couple of things that you do. You have to constantly push towards it. That's why it's so important. When they say find what you're passionate about, you'll never work a day in your life and all that kind of stuff... I dunno how true it is or how much I believe it, but, I will say that in order to build something, build something like Gary Vee, JK Rowling or Tony Robbins has, it takes such an enormous amount of effort. Consistent and constant effort. Not giving in when things are tough. You do have to love what you do because you would do it for free.
Cause you're going to be doing it for free for a little bit of time. Whether you like it or not. You're going to have to invest the time into writing a blog that the only person who reads it is your mom. Also doing some online videos that nobody watches. Spending time putting stuff out there and getting nothing back but crickets, BUT eventually it'll start to catch up. The universe wants to make sure that you really want this bad enough. If you're willing to give up in 30 days, then you probably didn't deserve it anyway.
I want to grow my personal brand. How do I go about that?
So, we talked about the first step being your identity and being clear about who you are, who you're here to help, how you help them, what the problem is. And being crystal clear on what all that is. The second step is your visibility. It's the ability to be able to now communicate that.
How are you going to communicate that identity to the rest of the world? That shows up as your presence. How do you carry yourself, down to like, your headshots, your dress code. It’s all your design stuff like your assets, your logo, your website, your social media presence and the channels that you show up on. How is it that the rest of us interpret that message visually? And so that's your visibility.
You can have this brilliant identity, but if you're not actually packaging it up in a way for people to see and consume, then it really doesn't matter. You're not gonna reach beyond your current audience. That second step is visibility.
How can you tell if something is missing when trying to build your brand?
I started the test, for example, is an assessment that I give every single one of my clients before we start working together. So I can kind of gauge where their biggest issues are because one of the problems that we have is that we tend to focus on one or two things. And if you're not focusing on all three, you're leaving too big of a hole, which is gonna result in a personal brand that just doesn't catch on. That doesn't reach enough people or it's not profitable enough or it's hard to find or it's not clear.
There are all these other issues that stem from not approaching these three different elements. So I've been giving this assessment for years and then we decided to digitize it and let's start seeing what other people think, how other people rank.
We kind of put it out there and it's been this really valuable tool for people to understand where they are. Because what we tend to do is, if my business is slow right now, well Facebook really works really well for me. So let me double up my efforts there.
Well, what's already working on Facebook is great, but maybe the hole is that they don't see you as an authority or they don't, they don't understand who you are. There's not a clear enough identity. And so you're ignoring these other two elements of your personal brand. It's a double up on the thing that's already kind of working as best as it can given the fact that you're ignoring these other two other aspects.
When we give you the assessment, I can see that you’re weak in your identity or you’re weak in that you don't have a solid story or your website is lacking and it's not converting or whatever elements are missing or are weak. Then from there, we can fix those elements so we can get a quick return on your brand. This is a way, if we can plug some of those holes, we can get a result much quicker and get right to work fixing things that are broken first and then growing the brand.
Does everybody who starting a business online need to have personal branding?
It's kind of a tricky question because whether they need to or not is almost irrelevant because they all have one. Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand. Now you may not like it but the fact is your personal brand is really determined by everybody else.
You get to decide what my brand means to you. My job is to control the conversation as best I can. I can give you certain information and I can position myself a certain way. I can kind of guide the conversation, but at the end of the day, you're going to decide what it all means to you.
What is the 3rd element needed to build a strong brand?
Identity and visibility are the first two. Then the last one is authority. What that means is, do people see you as an authority in your space? When you're not seen as an authority, you're, adjusting yourself trying to chase down leads, you're competing on price, you're just one more person that somebody is getting a proposal from and likely never going to hear from again as opposed to, “I need to work with them.”
When you're somebody that, people say, “let's not even call anybody else, let's call this person because we know they're going to kill it. We know that this is what they do. They're the best of the best.” Then, if they can't afford you, maybe they'll go somewhere else, but they're always gonna start with you. If you're within their budget, then it's not even worth talking to somebody else.
So that's when you know you're an authority where you've really kind of broken the mold, in terms of positioning yourself where when somebody wants the best, you're the person that's showing up on TV. You're the person that's being interviewed on the podcast or on the radio. You're showing up in Forbes or INC magazine. You're seen as that authority.
How do you not compete on price?
By being seen as an authority. That is the number one thing. If you're not clear on who you are, you're probably not competing at all. So it's not even a matter of price. If you're clear on who you are, it's really when you're seen as an authority that you're not competing on price.
If you could choose any coach on the planet to help you get to where you want to go and it wasn't about money, you had unlimited funds. You can hire any coach that you want. Would you choose some 21 year old kid that just graduated college as your coach, or would you choose Tony Robbins?
You would probably choose Tony, right? He's the authority in that space. He's been on all the interviews. Everybody sees him as an authority. He's written books. The 21 year old may be brilliant. He may even be a better coach than Tony. You don't know, but Tony has the authority and he's got the name recognition. He's got all this stuff backing up.
What are the 3 elements needed to build a successful personal brand?
The idea is that you have three aspects of personal brands: identity, visibility, and authority. Within each one are different sections. So within your identity is: what's your position? How are you positioning yourself? This is kind of that internal aspect of who you are. Once you know who you are, what your mission is, what you stand for.
Then how to communicate it to everybody else. That's where your message comes in and your message is: who's the market that you're trying to reach, what's the problem that they have? How do you solve that problem differently from everybody else?
And then your stories, what wraps it all together? We love stories. We connect with stories. Your story is so important and we allow them to be a little story because, you know, we don't see as much of a value in it, but it really is what connects the dots. Your story is what makes it possible for you to stay here and do what you do.
My origin story and how I made it to Broadway. It was being clear on what my message was. It was making sure I was in all the right places at the right time, having the logo, the look and everything else. And seeing myself as an authority by being a writer for the magazine, it was all identity, visibility and authority. And that story allows me to do what I do.
Your visibility is your presence, it's everything from how you show up in a room. When you walk in are you dressed the part? We do judge a book by its cover. Presence is important and that includes not just what you wear when you walk into a room, but what you're wearing out on the internet. That means your logo, all your different assets, your website, the design, the look, the colors, the font, you know, even down to the icons. How does it all consistently represent who you are and what you stand for? Then of course your network and making sure that carries over. Then you're communicating that message to everybody else through your network, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and wherever else you like to play around.
Then the last piece is authority. That’s positioning yourself with content. You're putting content out. That could be visual content like a video. It could be written content, like a blog. It could be long form posts on Facebook. It could be auditory, whatever your method of delivery is. It is relevant that you're putting out good content. It's monetizing your brand at the end of the day. If this is a hobby, great, but if it's not, you got to figure out how to make money on it because you need to fund this thing that you're doing and your lifestyle.
What happens if you don’t focus on all 3 elements?
Where this gets really interesting is that, like I said, we only focus on one or two of these. What we do is when we focus on just identity and visibility, your results are you going to limit your income because you're not seen as the authority. So what ends up happening is you're competing on price because everybody does what you do. You're just another person that does what they do. There's really no value in it. You're not going to do it any differently than anybody else.
When you just focus on visibility and authority, there's this limited understanding. Like, “I like him. He seems real. He really does what he's talking about. He was out there as a speaker or an author and someone who has authority. I'm just not quite sure what he does and if I should actually hire him.”
There's this limited understanding because there's no clear identity.
Then the last one is when you focus on just authority and identity and you're not spending time putting it out there, you're not spending time on your social media channels or your website or having a clear, visible, identity out in the world, then you limit your impact. Basically what you're doing is you're just reaching your close circle of friends. You're not extending outside of that circle because there's no way to do that.
“I really like who you are and what you have to say. I love the book that you wrote and you're clearly an authority, but there's no website for me to share with anybody. You don't have a Facebook page. So I don't know how to share you with the people in my world.”
Now you're stuck within your limited circle that you currently have.
This is where Marc Ensign’s Personal Brand Assessment comes in. When you take this assessment, you're going to find out where your results are showing up, where those weaknesses are, what you need to patch up. Such as: where do you need to spend some time? Do you need to spend more time on visibility? Do you need to spend more time on your authority or going to spend more time on your identity? Where do you need to put your attention in order to grow your brand and actually get some traction?
What would be the roadmap to get started with building an authority or being Chosen?
It kind of depends on where you're at. If you're starting from nothing, if you just woke up this morning now you're like, Ooh, I want to make some money. In which case you have to start at the beginning, which is your identity.
But in most cases, the first thing is, like any other kind of goal that you're trying to reach, you gotta get clear about where you are and you have to be clear about where you're going. So I need to know if I'm looking at a map, I need to know that I'm starting here and then I have to know where I want to go.
If I want to drive to California, how am I going to get there if I don't know where I'm starting from? If I'm looking at a map, if I don't know where I am, there's no way I'm going to get to where I want to go.
I gotta be clear on where I am and where I want to go in order to determine what that next step is. Once you know your next step, you then determine “okay, I know there are these different aspects and in order to get to where I want to be, I need a website. I also need a good logo. I need a color scheme, I need fonts, I need good headshots, I need pictures of my product. I need to be clear about who my target market is. Who am I selling to?”
So once you know the answer to these questions, then, “What shows or what places can I be interviewed by to be seen as an authority? Maybe if I won a competition in my niche, that would just blow my business out of the water. So that becomes my goal and becomes my authority piece.” You start to build out all these different pieces along the way, but it really starts with: Where am I now? Where do I want to go?
So all that stuff you have to kind of figure out before you even embark on the personal branding journey because otherwise you might be Chosen, but for the wrong stuff.
You might just head down a path that you spend a year writing a book only to realize that you hate writing or your audience doesn't like to read. You've written a book for people that genuinely don't care or you started down the career as a speaker only to find out that you don't like being in front of people.
Why it’s important to be clear on your personal branding journey outcome?
When I look back on the Broadway thing after college, I decided that I was going to be on that Broadway stage. I didn't know exactly what show. I didn't know how it was going to happen.
I didn't know how to get there. I didn't know who I needed to talk to, but I knew what the outcome was. I know that I'm here. I know I don't have enough experience. I know I don't know enough people to get there. So I know where I am right now and I know where I'm lacking. And I also know where I want to go. Now I just need to start filling in the gap. What roads are gonna take me there? I would reach out to everybody. I would take people out to dinner and I would stop them and I would get the restraining orders and all the other stuff. Then after a while you start to realize, okay, I'm on the wrong path.
I'm not getting the outcome that I want. What else do I need? Well, let me take a look at it. And so I noticed: “Well you know that bass players, they want to be acknowledged for the work that they're doing. As a musician, bass players like to be noticed. So, let me be the guy that shines the spotlight on the bass player and I'm going to get the Gig writing for this magazine and I'm going to write about these bass players.” I took a different path and you know, with the outcome, like I didn't want to be a writer. But I wrote those articles for the year just to get in their good graces and to get noticed. To get in the same room and interview them and ask them all the questions I wanted to ask. That led to me ultimately getting the Gig.
That one thing was where it all really started. If I didn't have a crystal clear vision of where I was and what I needed to do in order to get to where I wanted to go, I don't think I could've gotten there. It was just too big of a task. There were too many things in the way. I had too many people telling me it was not possible. I had too many people telling me to give it up. I put in enough effort that if I had I given up, nobody would've blamed me cause I really put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that thing. Yet being that crystal clear, knowing that I'm just one yes away from making this happen. Visualizing myself on that stage played a big role in getting past all that.
Why you need to be a dick!
It's definitely one of my favorite stories to tell. About six or seven years ago, I used to live in New Jersey and I grew up in New Jersey and I had this idea that I was going to change the world not just as a grown up, but as a little kid with a snap on Cape and the whole thing. But I convinced myself if somebody is going to change the world, I feel like they're not going to be from New Jersey. I don't know why, but I just feel like they would come from someplace other than New Jersey.
I figured that I got to get out of New Jersey and so I moved to Boston. I traveled around the world for a bunch of years, went on the road and did all this great stuff. Then I ended up meeting the girl, moving back to New Jersey and I was like, you could throw a rock out of my bedroom window and you would hit people that I went to highschool with. So, that's how close I was to the guy that was never going to come back, came back with a vengeance. I should've just moved back into my parents' house. It was right around that midlife crisis time, I was 40 or 39 and it just hit me like all at once, “Wow, what have I done?”
Why am I here? I don't want to be in New Jersey. We should move. And I convinced my family to move. We sold all of our stuff. We sold the house, put everything that was left in a truck, and we drove it down to a Tampa, Florida sight unseen. I love the Gulf coast. So we decided we should live in Tampa. And that was that. We threw a dart at a map and ended up here.
So as my wife is unpacking everything, I now have a panic attack. My God, what have I done? I sold everything. Why would somebody do this? This is not normal. She convinced me to go for a walk, take a breather and get out of the house because I was driving her crazy. I took the kids with me just to make sure I wouldn’t run away.
We're walking around the neighborhood and I meet this gentleman who was seven or eight houses down the street from me in his mid sixties. One of the nicest people I've ever met in my life. He was generous to my children and me, so giving and humble. You go into his house and he's got a dozen Emmy's on the wall. You ask him about it, he just Kinda Poo-poos it. “Ah, that's just something I used to do.” He was this welcome wagon in my life at the time when I needed it the most. He was such an inspiration to me that we became really good friends.
Every time I saw him walk his dog, I would run outside with my dog and we'd go walk our dogs together. That was my neighbor Dick, this extraordinary guy. One day, a month and a half after we moved there. It's my birthday. He shows up at my house and hands me a baseball with a bunch of autographs on it. He had found out through our conversations that I was a Red Sox fan. He had a bunch of retired Red Sox players sign a baseball to me as a gift. He said, “You know, look, I know you're in a new area you don't have any family to celebrate your birthday with. So here's a gift for you to make you feel welcome.”
That was it. I went into my office, I was all teared up and I wrote a blog post called: From now on, I'm going to be a dick to everybody I meet online. That post went viral and hit a hundred thousand views over the course of a couple of days. It became this kind of swan song, the Be a Dick Movement where I changed the way I live my life because of this one guy. It really got me to understand that you don't have to do these extraordinary things to make an impact in the world.
What I learned from my neighbor, Dick, was it doesn't take a lot to make a difference. It's welcoming the new neighbor. It's help... it's feeding the elderly couple that lives down the street. It's doing these little things that make a big difference. So I started gathering a lot of stories of people that are really changing the world by doing these little things.
There's a guy in Iowa, that everyday buys a box of chocolate bars and hands them out to all the people around town and he's become a legend. He's in his nineties. It's the little things like that, that make these huge differences in our communities in the world. I think I'm kind of a jerk, but Be a Dick to me means always look for that one thing that I could do that can give back to the people around me.
How do you know where you stand and next steps?
If you want to know where you are right now, go to: https://imthatgeek.com/marcensignassessment and download the assessment.
After you take the assessment Marc Ensign is giving you a step by step breakdown of exactly what you need to work on in order to improve where you are with your personal brand.
It's not just a matter of having the score. The score is good to give you kind of a temperature of where you are. But, with the score in each of these different categories, it's gonna give you very specific things that you can do right now in order to lift your score up to the next level. Then you can take the test again and you can keep repeating it. It's very personalized and very specific with To Do’s, action steps, and the strategies that you can actually implement right now.
You can see exactly where you need to focus: your visibility, your identity, your authority, and then just start tackling one thing at a time. When you do, you will have everything in place to become The Chosen One in your industry.