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Ryan Hanley on Getting Found Online with Content Marketing

Ryan Hanley on Getting Found Online with Content Marketing

Today, on The Profitable Property Management Podcast, I‘m talking with Ryan Hanley, the Senior Vice-President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and author of Content Warfare, a book that will help you find your audience, tell your story and win the battle for attention online.

Ryan got his start in the insurance industry where he used content marketing (which others said didn’t work their industry) to generate six-figures in new business premium a month.

Since then, Ryan has used those strategies to help other offline businesses get found online and today we’re going to dive into exactly how he does that.

If you’re struggling to stand out in the very, very crowded online market, then this is the episode for you.

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Topics covered:

  • (00:56) – Ryan’s background and his path to becoming a successful content marketer.
    • (02:20) – Discovered LinkedIn back in 2008, and became aware of the power of social media.
    • (03:02) – Began writing content for The Murray Group Insurance Company in Albany, New York.
    • (03:31) – After six years, was producing 90 inbound leads per month and closing 65 of them.
    • (03:56) – Reaction to his success from other insurance agents.
      • (04:02) – The challenges of introducing digital concepts to an established industry.
    • (05:04) – The reasons behind the success of Ryan’s content in the independent insurance space.
      • (05:57) – The ability for prospective clients to engage in the research phase from a comfortable position.
      • (07:39) – Clients feel more in control of the process.
      • (08:00) – Empowering the consumer with information.
      • (09:57) – Employing a human-to-human perspective.
    • (11:57) – How the independent agency space works and the industry forces creating pressure on smaller independent players.
      • (12:26) – The differences between captive, direct, and independent agents.
        • (13:04) – Independent agents are able to contract with as many carriers as they want.
      • (13:26) – The challenges a traditionally locally-based business enterprise faces in the digital era.
        • The culture of face-to-face relationships.
        • (14:24) – Success has created complacency.
  • (18:15) – Ryan discusses where a small business should start marketing.
    • (18:22) – The importance of a clean, easy to navigate website.
    • (24:04) – The importance of identifying your target audience.
      • (25:20) – Targeting a mindset versus a specific avatar.
      • (26:11) – Cultivating your tone and voice.
      • (28:19) – Having someone specific in mind when creating content.
    • (29:21) – The difference between mediocre content and content that drives results.
      • (29:45) – Why you need to be fully engaged in today’s digital market
      • (30:52) – Discussing his own experience with blogging for The Murray Group.
        • (32:05) – What drove Ryan to continue making content despite having no leads for nine months.
          • Belief in the process.
        • (35:40) – Ryan’s unique idea to get his blog noticed and attract attention.
          • (36:51) – The game changing results.
      • (40:49) – Discussing how good a piece of content actually needs to be.
        • (42:08) – The power of genuine authenticity.

Rapid-fire Questions:

  • (45:34) – Who do you learn from?
  • (46:58) – If you could master one marketing skill what would it be?
  • (48:03) – College or pro sports?
  • (48:10) – Organic versus paid?
  • (48:13) – LinkedIn versus Twitter?
  • (48:19) – Native or embedded video on Facebook?
  • (48:25) – Twitter versus Facebook?
  • (48:29) – Ebook versus email course?
  • (48:34) – Popover or Squirrel Box?
  • (48:37) – Kindle versus physical book?
  • (48:42) – Great marketers, are they born or bred?

Resources mentioned:

  • PM Growth Summit:  Property management conference designed to give you the performance education you need to succeed in the industry.
  • AgencyNation.com:  The leading digital publication focused on insurance marketing, sales, and technology.
  • TrustedChoice.com:  Ryan’s platform offering marketing solutions for independent insurance agencies.
  • Gary Vaynerchuck:  Digital entrepreneur that has been an influence on Ryan and his career.
  • Seth Godin:  Recommended source of information on content marketing.

Where to learn more:

If you want to learn more about Ryan and explore his content marketing strategies, head on over to his website AgencyNation.com.  And if you want to connect with him directly, get in touch with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Transcript:

Jordan: 0:00:00.4 Welcome closers, today we have another episode of the Profitable Property Management Podcast coming at you. Season one. We are still focused on marketing. I’m your host Jordan Muela, and every week I interview world-class property management entrepreneurs, industry experts and people who are going to share actionable insights to help you grow you property management empire.

Whether you manage 100 or 1000 units, this is the show that is going to help you see the big picture and give you the tools and tactics to get to the next level.

0:00:30.6 Today, I am talking with Ryan Hanley, the Senior Vice-President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and author of “Content Warfare”, a book that will help you find your audience, tell your story and win the battle for attention online.

In our chat, we’re going to dive into how Ryan uses content marketing to help small businesses stand out in a very, very crowded online place. Let’s jump in.

Welcome to the show Ryan.

Ryan: 0:00:52.7 Jordan, it’s my pleasure to be here man.

Jordan: 0:00:56.0 I’m super stoked to have you on and Ryan, I just want to start here: Ryan tell me how did you end up as a prolific content marketing thought leader by night, who helps insurance agents get better by day? How’d you wind up there man?

Ryan: 0:01:07.0 Yeah, that’s a good story. I will fast forward to the part where I’m like done the corporate thing for a few years after college, couldn’t really figure it out. Pretty classic story, and my father-in-law, or soon to be father-in-law at the time owned an independent insurance agency.

And I’m living in New York City with my then girlfriend who is now my wife, and we just, you know, it wasn’t clicking for us. New York City’s awesome, but it just wasn’t working and we wanted to move home. 0:01:38.1 We were both from the same hometown.

And I think her father-in-law, my father-in-law saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want his daughter to be married to a bum, so he kind of sits me down in his big high-level backed chairs, like no joke, like right out of a movie and he kind of says, “You’re coming to work for me. I’m going to teach you how to sell insurance and you can make a good living” and all this stuff.

0:01:58.1 The problem was – so I did that. I said, “Yes” obviously. I was terrible at it. I just hated every part of the classic insurance funnel to sale, prospecting, all of it. I just felt like I was interrupting people, I hated cold calling, I hated doing drop ins.

0:02:20.2 It was a weakness of mine, but I couldn’t get passed it. I was really struggling. I stumbled on LinkedIn and I realized that there were a bunch of people that I really wanted to do business with who were using LinkedIn. This was 2008, 2009.

0:02:38.4 So I dove into LinkedIn, started to get a feel for what social media was. At this time it’s in its infancy for the most part, and realized right away that people who created content won attention. 0:02:53.9 That’s absolutely the way it was. You could be there and that’s fine, but essentially it did nothing for you. And you had to be creating something.

0:03:02.4 Over the course of the next, call it five or six years, I just started creating content for this little, single location, independent insurance agency in upstate New York and just started absolutely killing it.

0:03:18.0 The day that I left that agency, and even though I was doing well, I left mostly because there wasn’t really anywhere for me to go. You know, that was the rest of my life, was creating videos for a single location, independent agency. Which would have been fine.

0:03:31.3 I wanted something a little more. But the day that I left, I was generating 90 inbound opportunities a month, and closing 65 of them on average. And in the insurance space, that’s – those are pretty big numbers. I was doing $100,000 in new business premium a month. You know, it was just pretty big.

Jordan: 0:03:56.9 So how did the other agents in the office relate to what you were doing at that time and the results.

Ryan: 0:04:02.1 They thought I was nuts. That I was completely nuts. And even when I was doing well, they thought I was nuts. Because it just wasn’t – it’s not the culture. Now today, fast forward eight years, nine years, whatever – well I guess four years from the day I left, but the culture has started to change in the insurance industry. 0:04:18.5 Just like it has in just about every industry.

But at the time, it was, “This doesn’t work in our industry, this is a face-to-face business, people want to come in and sit across the desk from me” and all this nonsense. I should say nonsense. Those things aren’t necessarily not true, it’s just becoming less true for more people every day, if that makes sense. Right?

There was a day when the only way you could transact business in the insurance industry was face-to-face, you know, handshake. You know, “You’re covered.” Whatever. That’s – but that population of people, of insurance consumers, or consumers in any industry really – that want that in person, analog process and our willing to accept that, is becoming smaller.

0:05:04.8 So it’s not that they don’t want the relationship, they just want a different kind of relationship. A relationship that weaves digital throughout the process. Specifically in certain aspects of the customer experience.

And those pieces are a little different for every industry, but the point is, people want to be able to do things online. And more importantly, and this is especially important for people who are in the prospecting phase of any business line. 0:05:30.6 They want to research you, and that’s what I was allowing them to do, which certainly in my geographic area, but essentially for the industry — no one had really ever done before, was create a digital, frequently asked question section of my website through video that just – anyone could come in and get to know me and get their questions answered before they ever had to pick up the phone and go through that process of talking to me.

0:05:57.5 They got to do hours worth of research on me. As much as they felt they needed. And that was my competitive advantage and why it ended up being the thing that catapulted my career.

Jordan: 0:06:09.9 Ryan, what is digital marketing? What is online marketing a proxy for? You just talked about the research phase. What need is that meeting? What are people getting out of being able to do all this on their own?

Is it the fact that they are fundamentally uncomfortable being in a sales type position? Is it about de-risking things? Because it can’t be just about time right? People are willing to commit quite a bit of time to doing the effort in that research phase. What need is – what itch is being scratched there?

Ryan: 0:06:39.8 That’s a really good question and I think it’s a couple things. 0:06:43.8 So the first part of it – it is time, but it’s comfortable time versus uncomfortable time. Right? So you’re a sales person for anything that is in essence the gatekeeper to the thing that I need. Spending time with you on the phone…one I know you’re biased, two it’s uncomfortable because that your end game, your agenda is to sell me something. Right?

0:07:11.2 So I don’t want to – I want to spend the least amount of time that I have to in that space. Because I’m on guard. 0:07:18.7 Where if I’m watching a video that you did – and granted you’re going to put your sales pitch in, you’re going to put your little bit of bias, but I get to do that on my own terms. And I can do it at 10:00 at night. I can do it for five minutes during my lunch break. I can do it whenever. Right? I’m checked out of the conference call and I pop up whatever I’m looking for. 0:07:39.2 And that’s comfortable time. It feels like they’re in control of that process. Very, very important.

The other piece is the research phase. 0:07:50.6 And there was a time when we were, regardless of your industry, whether it’s property management, insurance, banking, buying cars, right? Think about how much the car buying process is different today.

0:08:00.3 Essentially you go to buy a car and you know more about the car than the 22 year old that walks out to sell it to you. 0:08:06.2 And that wasn’t always the case. It used to be that you had to go to the lot and spend hours with the guy on the lot talking up the cars. Is it a lemon, is it not? Why is he pushing this car over that car? You didn’t know.

And now you go to CarMax and you’re like, “Ok, I want the yellow one that has this VIN number. I know it’s got 33,000 miles. If you show me one with 46, I know that’s not the right car.” I mean, that whole process has empowered the insurance consumer – the consumer in general, and particularly the insurance consumer in my case.

08:40 And that has changed the dynamic and given the power to the consumer so that when they come to the transaction, they feel that they’re on equal footing. 0:08:47.4 I think, done correctly, it sets up the business – again, whether it’s property management, insurance, banking, the industry doesn’t matter – it sets the business up to build a deeper relationship faster.

0:09:01.0 Because that person comes into the transaction feeling like they’re on equal footing with you. And that is a completely different place than when they’re coming in naive, worried they’re going to get sold something, and you’re trying to convince them you’re a good guy. Or a good gal. 0:09:18.6 So it really is an equalizing force that can help grease the relationship and build that relationship faster.

Jordan: 0:09:28.9 Wow, I couldn’t agree more. Really well said man. And like you said, that applies to a variety of industries. 0:09:34.1 And so I want to dive in to the last section or portion of this podcast, we’re actually going to talk about insurance. And the reason is, I want to kind of frame what we’re doing here. What we’re talking about is the cross application of concepts that apply to businesses that have consumers regardless of industry.

I’m all about the cross application of knowledge. And in this case, you happen to work in the insurance industry. 0:09:57.5 And I do think that is more 0:09:58.4 [Inaudible] to property management than other industries in the sense that – first off, do you consider it B2B or B2C?

Ryan: 0:10:06.1 It’s H2H. Always.

Jordan: 0:10:09.4 H2H! Human to human baby. Ok, I feel you on that, I feel you on that.

Ryan: 0:10:12.8 I’ve completely bought into that buzzword. I can’t help myself. I think it’s the truth. And actually, it’s funny. You know, and I know that it’s a super buzzy, almost make you want to gag a little bit term, even though it’s true.

0:10:25.5 But the deeper I get into content marketing, the more I realize that you’re always speaking to a human, even if it is – even if they’re wearing a name badge that says some corporation.

You’re always talking to a human. It always comes down to some – I was talking to an insurance carrier, 10,000 people, Fortune 500 company. We’re putting together a big project with them, and the decision maker, you see all the same emotion driven buying signals that you see when a young couple comes to look at the house that you’re trying to rent. Right?

So like, all the same emotional triggers are there. It doesn’t matter if they’re behind the corporate veil or in front of it, or if it’s just somebody walking off the street to take a look at your two-family. 0:11:17.5 That – all those same emotional triggers are there, so when you’re marketing, it really is, if you talk to humans, it’s so much better than try to break it up into B2B, B2C. 0:11:27.8 I mean there’s obviously some small 0:11:30.2 [Editing Glitch]

You really dive into the deep stuff, but at the top level, when you’re thinking strategically, you have to think about the humans that you’re trying to reach.

Jordan: 0:11:38.1 So I’m with you on that. Nonetheless, we can’t acknowledge there is such a difference between high touch, low touch. Simple sale, complex sale. 0:11:50.6 [Inaudible] Stake holders. Sales cycle time, volume of the transaction.

And in that sense, insurance and property management are somewhat similar. 0:11:57.9 So, frame the industry for me. In a nutshell, what is the independent insurance space look like? How does it work and what industry forces are creating pressure on the smaller, independent players?

Ryan: 0:12:11.4 Geez, this is my sweet spot here. So, independent insurance space is actually, approximately 37,000 independent businesses located throughout the United States. You’ve driven by them, you’re seen them. Some are digital, some are old school analog.

0:12:26.8 They’re are wide ranging group in terms of how they do business, but essentially, the difference between an independent agent, a captive agent and a direct is, GEICO 0:12:39.0 goes directly from the insurance carrier, the person who holds the paper, who actually creates the contract, goes directly from the carrier to the consumer.

0:12:46.7 State Farm goes through an agent who’s a guy or gal you see in the State Farm agency, but that agent only has access to State Farm. They can only write State Farm paper. 0:12:59.8 So, captive being they only have the one.

0:13:04.1 Independent agents are able to contract with as many carriers as they want. They can choose to not write with carriers anymore, they can direct carrier, they can choose the ad carriers, they can do all kinds of relationships with managing general agents, which essentially gives them access to a whole other world of carriers. 0:13:21.3 And in that world, there’s you know, thousands of carriers if you go into the niched bases.

0:13:26.9 So the challenge that independent agencies have today and what they’re coming up against, is that they always — their marketing, their value proposition was always local. Right? I’m your local guy. I say guy because it’s about 87% male when you look at who owns insurance agencies. So these guys always marketed their agencies based on local.

And they based it on face-to-face, relationship business and for about 100 years, they literally had the market cornered. 0:14:04.2 And incredibly successful. It’s like the original lifestyle business. All these idiots you see taking Instagram pictures with umbrellas in their drinks down in Mexico, selling you an online course.

That lifestyle business that they’re trying to portray, independent insurance agents have been doing that for 100 years. 0:14:24.8 So, their success has created complacency in this last, say 15 years of technology revolution. And what they’re currently butting up against is, how do we take our value proposition of relationship, relationship, relationship, and move that into the digital space when the average age of an independent insurance agency owner is 56 years old and they’re making, call it between 300-500 thousand in personal income? How do you tell that guy that he needs to start blogging or he’s going to go out of business in five years?

0:15:03.4 It’s a really hard transition for a lot of these businesses to make. It’s very emotional. But many of them are starting to do it. And the ones that are, are able to compete against any of the players, including the GEICOs and the State Farms and the other directs and captives who are their direct competition.

Because the value proposition is better, it’s just that they’re working with an SMB’s budget. Right? They’re just small businesses. 7-12 employees working in a single location and they have to compete with the gecko on TV.

0:15:41.1 And so what I try to do in my work at TrustedChoice.com and our actual marketing – our educational media platform as AgencyNation.com 0:15:53.5, if anyone ever wants to check that out. That – what we try to teach there is how to you become, how do you out market, how do you out story-tell in the digital space with an SMB’s budget. In your local marketplace against these major competitors and the truth is, we win – an independent insurance agent will win every time, it just takes work and a lot of cultural changes within the agency.

0:16:19.8 So, it’s a lot of just legacy stuff and I don’t know if any of that is relevant to your audience, but…

Jordan: 0:16:25.8 A lot of that is relevant.

Ryan: 0:16:25.8 Ok.

Jordan: 0:16:27.9 Here’s some obvious parallels. First off, the recurring revenue nature of the business, and in property management, you’re managing a portfolio of doors and it’s recurring revenue.

So growth is a fantastic, exciting idea, but if you don’t, you still have a great revenue stream. So the complacency factor is there. There is some churn, some sell-off, but there’s a lot of opportunity to ride and coast.

0:16:49.6 It’s absolutely geographic, because real estate inherently is highly fragmented by nature. There’s a lot of bigger players coming into the space. They’re assessing the value of the current recurring revenue nature of owning a portfolio, they’re realizing it’s undervalued and they’re putting capital in this industry.

Consolidations, rollup plays, tech-based companies that are effectively SAAS first, service second, that are coming in. 0:17:14.4 All that stuff is happening, and the small businesses, the small players, mom and pop shops are trying to figure out, “How do I not only maintain this great lifestyle I’ve had, but how do I actually grow and progress in a way that’s successful.”

Because when people like me and you that have a certain set of expectations that’s grounded in just general business thinking, and what’s popular, etc., go to a small business and say, “Oh, you’re thinking about doing SEO.” And somebody says, “Well, what should I spend on SEO?” And my kind of gut response is, “Well, you know, good SEO campaign, if you want to fully outsource it, that will probably start at around $3000 a month to find a reputable company.” Nobody that I talk to ever says, “Yeah, that sounds totally reasonable, I think I’ll jump on that tomorrow.”

The expectations of going from a referral based business to now doing either paid or dedicated digital marketing can be staggering if you’re going from doing nothing to looking at outsourcing it. 0:18:11.2 So people want to do something in the middle, but they don’t know what and they’re very, very 0:18:15.0 [Inaudible]

That leads to my next question, Ryan, where should a small business start marketing?

Ryan: 0:18:22.5 Yeah, so if I am 0:18:23.2 [Inaudible] the property management space, I’m thinking to myself – or an independent insurance agency, the very first thing I’d tell them to do, is you got to get your website squared.

That does not mean SEO, so we’re not even talking about a full search engine optimization campaign. You have to have something, that when a consumer finds you, is a positive, understandable, clean, representation of you and your business. Right?

0:18:56.4 Because we’re making snap decisions. The people that are renting properties today? They grew up with the back button. So when they hit a website and it doesn’t look like you can serve their needs. Back. 0:19:05.6 I know the next Google search has a chance to be just as successful as this one.

So the first thing they see, it just has to be a clean representation. And you can do that for $2000 or less. And now it’s a real property. Right? If you want to get super technical, you can even appreciate your website as a real asset. At least your URL you can.

0:19:32.2 So, there’s ways that you can create this thing that’s just clean and simple and just make it nice. If you’re talking just very basics, just have a nice thing for someone to go to so you seem legit. I mean, how many times have you surfed to a local business and you’re like, as soon as you see the website you’re like, “Ahhh, ooooohhh, geez.”

I did this with a pet groomer the other day. We have a Vien ((??)) Terrier and she’s got real hair, so you have to get it cut. And we had trouble with our pet groomer, she hurt her back and she couldn’t lift our 35 pound dog. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. But I didn’t have another recommendation, so I did – I literally, in the moment, when I got the call that she couldn’t help me, I went Pet Groomers, Albany New York. That’s where I live. And up popped a bunch of websites.

And the first one I went to I was like, “Uuuuhhhh. I’m not taking my dog there.” Ok, what about the next one, “Jeez, well that doesn’t look nice either.” So then I went to Facebook and said, “Who knows a good pet groomer?” Ok?

0:20:39.4 So number one is, just have a nice clean website. Just something nice and clean you can send somebody to. You meet them in the street and you’re like, “Hey, just go check out my website man, it’s got all my properties on it.” “Hey, just go check out my website, so you can learn more. It’s where everything’s at.”

You’re going to say that so many times in your life, that place has to be clean. It’s like inviting people over for dinner and your house is disgusting and you’re a hoarder and it smells. They’re going to be like, “Ehh, I’m not coming over for dinner again, I’m not going to do that.” Even if you make the best, the best, ziti in the entire world, I don’t know why I picked ziti, I’m not coming over again, because your house stinks. So, that’s super simple. It’s very clean. It’s something that can last at least for a couple years. And just clean, easy and a nice website to go to.

Jordan: 0:21:22.8 So you start it off with the website, the follow up question is, what about if I’m a non-discriminating consumer? I do not know what it means to design a clean looking website. I’m going to the mechanic and being told that I need more blinker fluid and I’m gladly paying money because I know nothing about cars. That’s a common issue.

0:21:37.8 But before you answer that, I want to back up and talk about even before you start any of the marketing, identifying who your target customer is, and before we do that, I want to talk about our show sponsor, the PM Grow Summit, which is a conference designed to help property management entrepreneurs level up their sales marketing game.

If you want to go pro, if you want to stand out, if you want to be surrounded by best in class entrepreneurs and stay on the bleeding edge of the industry, this is the place to be. It’s going on in 2018, end of January, find out more at PMGrowSummit.com.

0:22:16.6 Ryan, I know that you’re all about professional education, you just put on your own conference, tell me what you got out of it as the person that put it on and why that was a good investment of your time and effort to put on a conference that we both know is a lot of work.

Ryan: 0:22:31.0 Yeah. So two things. First, exposing the audience to speakers that they normally wouldn’t have access to. So one of the things that we did at our conference, is I paid – most conferences, they pay for you for one hotel night for the speakers, I said to my speakers, “You come in, I”ll pay for as many days as you want to be part of the conference.” Just to have them around.

So, just getting them access to those thought leaders is one, that’s cool. 0:22:54.9 But the more important thing is getting them to bump into each other. Because what’s going to happen is, you come to a conference like this, you – everyone there paid to be in that place.

They’re all looking for the same thing, so you’re just going to bump into someone when you’re grabbing a cookie in the afternoon break, and they’re going to start talking to you about some issue that they’re having with their property and you’re going to say to yourself, “I solve that problem. Hey man, have you ever thought about this, or did you do this?” or, “Man, I called this company over here” or whatever.

Or maybe it’s going to be the opposite roll. They’re going to start talking about something they just figured out and that’s going to be a problem that you have as well. 0:23:31.9 And there is a serendipity in putting yourself in that place that you have to believe in and if you do, you get so much out of it.

23:42 So, I’m a firm believer in serendipity, but it doesn’t happen. You have to put yourself in those situations, and going to conferences like this are the way to do that.

Jordan: 0:23:51.5 I couldn’t agree more. I was this close to attending the Trusted Choice conference, but the dates and logistic stuff came up that prevented me, but I really wanted to be there, because again, all about the cross-application of knowledge and information.

0:24:04.7 Going back to the question I asked you about where should somebody start. Back up one level. Talk to me about the importance of identifying your target customer.

Talk to me about personas, avatars. A lot of these things sound like a waste of time, and meta work. Is it worth it to spend a lot of time identifying my target customer, and if so, how does that tangibly impact my day to day marketing?

Ryan: 0:24:27.0 Before I answer that, you asked a – the very first question that you asked was, “How do you know who a good service provider is?” You listen to podcasts like this and you go to conferences like the one you put on. That’s how you meet the people that you are going to trust that will recommend you to the people that they’ve worked with that have helped them do a good job.

0:24:44.4 So, I’m with you, I wouldn’t just blindly walk into a relationship with a service provider, but again, by putting yourself – by listening to shows like this, by listening to other marketing shows if that’s what you’re looking for or interested in, or going to conferences, that’s where you meet the people that are going to help you find the service providers that you can trust are going to do a good job for you. So I just wanted to make sure.

0:25:06.8 You never just blindly just walk into a relationship, or you know, I shouldn’t say never. You – it will grease the wheels, it will help things move faster if you surround yourself with these people. Because they’ll help you find the people that do a good job.

0:25:20.4 So, avatars and personas. I’m going to be a bad marketer here and say that I really struggle with persona work. Only because people are so friggin’ dynamic and crazy, and I know that it’s like ‘Structured Steve’ who wants, you know.

So I tend personally to think in mindsets and writing down – who those mindsets are tends to help me. Doing full, blown out persona, 0:25:59.3 [Inaudible] down, and coming up with a stock photo that looks like the type of person you want – maybe if you’re super, super type-A, anal, and you need that. Maybe that works. So do it.

0:26:11.7 But to answer your question, you have – you can’t go into this blindly. So I know when I create content for, we’ll call it Agency Nation. So I’m speaking to the insurance industry in this case. When I’m – the voice that I use in that framework is casual, it’s fast, it’s youthful. Not necessarily to young people, but the tone is youthful. So I’m using words from my generation like, — I reference 90s gangsta rap all the time, stuff like that. I make it – and I know that a stodgy, 65 year old, white guy from Georgia who owns three agencies and doesn’t want to come down to that level, I know that he’s not going to and he’s going to be turned off or he’s just not going to turn in. 0:27:06.0 And I’m completely ok with that, because that guy is not my target market.

My target market is, call it 25-45 year old agency owners and young producers who are looking at their situation going, “Holy shit! I have 20 more years in this agency and if I don’t turn around how I’m operating, I am not going to make it those 20 years.”

Those people who are hungry to push and grow and aren’t sitting on $500,000 in personal income every year. Those are the people that resonate with my message. 0:27:39.1 Now that’s not to say that I don’t get some of the other group who are just kind of wired to always be in growth mode, or just love this stuff, or are very competitive. I get those people too, but my target market is that mindset of, “I’m going to lean into everything that’s going to help me be part of this industry for 20 more years and be a successful part.”

0:27:59.0 So, I have that in my mind all the time. Now, I’ve worked on that for so long that I don’t need to think about it anymore. It just comes naturally when I’m creating. But if you’re doing this for the first time, it definitely makes sense to create content, or whatever you’re doing, thinking as if a person is sitting across the desk.

0:28:19.8 So that’s how I started. I started with, “I’m speaking to my sister, who is 27 years old, who still rents, owns a car, but does – has like two or three small jobs. Hasn’t really found her career yet.” I’m writing this for her. So, is you know, is your car covered if you’re parked in your rental’s garage. Right? Whatever, I’m just coming up with a quick example.

0:28:49.5 So when I used to create when I first started, I always had someone in mind when I was creating. But I never did persona work. Maybe that was a really long winded way of saying don’t – I’m kind of lazy.

Jordan: 0:29:00.4 Persona work is just a proxy for really being serious about knowing who you’re talking about. You’re talking about the perspective of saying you’d rather have one person that is balls out, 100% engaged with what you’re saying, as opposed to 100 people that are kind of, “Meh”. Nominally so so engaged with what you’re talking about, and that makes sense to me.

0:29:21.9 Let’s transition this to just the content marketing piece. What is the threshold to get in the game with content marketing? I think about this with content, I think about this with social. It seems to me like there’s a certain threshold of care or effort that you need to be willing and committed to exerting to even make the effort worthwhile. If so, do you agree and if so, what is that threshold look like?

Ryan: 0:29:45.0 So, I will start with the very awful caveat of something is better than nothing. But, if I’m being honest with you, one of my number one bullshit meters for thought leaders or master gurus in the marketing space is like, “You can write one post a week.” No, that’s nonsense. If you’re not blogging two to three times a week, creating video. If you’re not fully engaged in this, if this is not becoming a culture of your business, you’re going to struggle. Right?

0:30:17.9 So there is this escape velocity that you have to hit. Now I don’t think you have to do that forever. So this is what I’ve found. Max effort for, call it six to nine months, completely generic. It could be three months, it could be a year and a half. Who the heck knows. But you put in max effort for a substantial but given period of time, you can tailor off. You certainly can. It’s not like you have to ping in like Gary Vaynerchuck for the rest of you life. That doesn’t have to be what it is.

0:30:52.9 And I’ll tell you how I know this. I was blogging for about two years. I learned about LinkedIn, said I want to start creating, and I went to my father-in-law and I said, I want to start blogging on The Murray Group website 0:31:06.0.

And he said, “No way, you’re not that good at insurance, I can’t imagine you’d be any good at blogging.” So, either in a moment of brilliance or complete idiocy, he said, “But you can do it on your own website if you want, you’ve just got to let everyone know that you work for us.” I said, “Done.”

So I started blogging on RyanHanley.com, which is now a marketing site. Labeled myself, “The Albany Insurance Professional” and I started blogging. A couple times a week. Two, three times a week. Basically, anytime I learned a new insurance coverage I would blog about it. Because I was learning the business. I’d only been in the business for about a year and a half at this point.

And we had a Monday morning sales meeting, and every Monday we would show up and say, “Here’s the business we wrote last week, and here’s where it came from.” And I started to, over time, I started to write more and more business. It took me nine months before I got my first inbound call. Nine months.

Jordan: 0:32:02.2 Nine months!

Ryan: 0:32:03.5 Yeah, nine months. Here’s the…

Jordan: 0:32:05.8 Let’s just pause on that man. How do you sustain nine months of effort without getting a phone call? Let’s just take a reality check on that. Is that Ryan having a screw loose? I mean, how do you sustain that effort for that long with no tangible reward?

Ryan: 0:32:18.6 I believed in it. I believed in it so strongly. I just knew. I knew I was doing something different than other people. I knew that it would pay dividends. I just believed in it. I just believed. I just believed in it. I just did. I knew I was helping people. People would do little comments on social. Every once in a while I’d get a couple comments.

Or if I was at a networking event – because now I’m just working the local Albany area – every once in a while I’d get a comment from someone who’d read my blog. “Hey I read your stuff, it’s nice” or whatever. And – but I just believed in my head. I just did. I just said, “People – this is how I consume.

I’m out there reading stuff online.” Mostly about sports and stuff like that, but you know what I mean, I was reading stuff and I was like, “Something’s here. I don’t know what it is yet, I’m just going to keep doing it.” Plus I suck at selling insurance regularly, so why not just keep doing this.

And I’m telling you. Dude it is the – it’s the classic story. I didn’t have kids yet, but I was married, and I’m grinding it at like 9:00pm at night doing these blog posts. Because I had to sell insurance during the day, or like I didn’t bring home any money. I was a commissioned sales person.

0:33:26.2 So, 9:00 pm at night I’m doing this. 0:33:31.1 So finally I get my first call. Here’s the beauty of the first call. Woman calls me up, she says, “Ryan, I’ve been reading your blog posts for two or three months now, I own a home. I have two cars and I work out of my house, so I need a business policy.”

And I said, “Oh great.” Got her info, I said, “Well who else are you calling?” She said, “Oh no no, I want you to do it.” And I said, “Well, I’ll get back to you with a quote.” She goes, “No no. Whatever you think is the best policy for me, that’s the most competitively priced, just put it all together and send it to me and I’ll sign it and send you a cheque. I just want to work with you.”

Jordan: 0:34:05.0 You’d already won the business.

Ryan: 0:34:04.6 She was already sold when she called. Because she’d spent the last three months getting to know me as a person. You know what I mean. Because she’d been reading my stuff for that long.

So dude, my goal is I don’t want to have to sell anymore. I want people to call me and they’re like, “I want to do business with you. What does that look like, let’s talk about that.” Right? So that’s a completely different conversation than, “Ughhh my friend John referred me to you and you know, I don’t really know who you are.”

I’m not selling on a phone. The calls that I was getting, these people, they had decided to pick up the phone and call me. They’re 60% of the way there, I just got to take them home. So everything changed.

0:34:45.2 So here’s where the rubber meets the road. So I’m doing this, I’m starting to get more calls, more calls, more calls, and my father-in-law and my bro in law get sick of that happening. 0:34:52.3 So they say, “Ryan, why don’t you do what you’re doing, but do it for The Murray Group”. I said, “Ok.”

So in December of 2012 – 2011 sorry, I got full control of The Murray Group website. I did a quick redesign on a WordPress blog. I guess this was 2011 so WordPress is still pretty generic at that point. Clean, simple, WordPress blog, but I can now blog. I can put posts up.

And I said the only way for me to get this thing going is I’ve got to do something big. I’ve got to make a splash. Because literally, this had been a seven page website for like, nine years. I think the website was created in 2002 and this is 2011 and it had been the same seven pages that entire time.

0:35:40.2 What I decided to do was I started asking every single person I bumped into, “If you could just have one question answered about insurance, what would it be? Just give me one question. It doesn’t matter, there’s no stupid questions, no too small too big, whatever, just ask me.”

I collected 147 questions. I pared those down to 100 and then starting on January 2, 2012 I answered every single questions one at a time, every day for 100 days in a row. Two minutes or less via YouTube video.

So I pop open my cell phone, this is a 5-megabit non HD Android Pro, which is literally the worst phone ever, and I would hold it up selfie style and say, “Hi, my name is Ryan Hanley, I’m a producer for The Murray Group Insurance Services, today I’m going to answer the question, “What is New York State short term disability. New York Short term disability is ….” and I would just barf it out. Minute and 32 seconds later, done. I trim the edges where you see me reaching to turn the camera off. Upload it directly to YouTube, publish it, put it on the website and now I had that video on YouTube with my phone number. You know, my phone number would be in there and stuff, and then a blog post.

0:36:51.9 Game changer. Complete game changer. We went from 72 a hits to our site to over 3000 hits a week in the 100 days. My phone was ringing off the hook. It just completely changed the game for me. And this is – you know, I’m way deep in this, but I’m going to give your audience probably one of the most important lessons I ever learned.

0:37:16.6 So six months after I do the 100 days. I answered 100 questions about insurance, questions no one had ever answered online before in some cases. So, six months after that program or campaign or whatever, a company called Zurich, an insurance company called Zurich cancels their New York short term disability policy.

They just didn’t want to write it anymore in New York State, so they non-renew every business that had that policy. So those people got a letter that said, “As of your renewal, you have to go find another insurance carrier.”

0:37:47.9 So what do you think all those people did when they received that letter in the mail? They went to Google and typed, “What the bleep is New York State short term disability. What is this thing that I am now being cancelled for.

Well, no one had ever answered that question online before. Not even New York State Department of Insurance. They had some information on the coverage, obviously, but never had anyone created a post that answered that simple question.

I had to start giving business to other people because I couldn’t write it it was coming in so fast. 0:38:19.2 Because thousands of businesses across New York State started typing into Google, “What is New York State short term disability”, and I came up first every single time.

Completely changed my career, changed my entire belief structure around content marketing. From that day, I’ve been completely sold. I’ve preached it from the top of the mountains because if you answer – it’s the simplest formula right?

I mean you’ve had Marcus at your conference before man. This is how I found Marcus. I was three-quarters of the way through the 100 insurance questions answered thing and I saw him doing the same thing in the pool industry.

0:38:53.6 Now granted, Marcus made it sound cooler when they ask you answer, and build a whole business around it, and I didn’t, but like the point is, this works. This is the simplest thing that you can do, and you never know which piece of content – I would have never guessed in a million years that What is New York State short term disability would be the post that went completely ballistic. I would have never guessed that in a million years.

0:39:16.2 It’s the stupidest little insurance coverage. It makes you almost no money. It’s crazy. But this little coverage made me hundreds of thousands of dollars. I can’t even tell you. It’s still to this day the most successful piece of content I’ve ever created in my whole life. It took a minute and 32 seconds to create that piece of content and you just never know. You’ve just got to do the work and you’ve got to believe.

Jordan: 0:39:42.3 Wow. What a story man. I love it! I love it. So you did believe. You put in the work. You started tasting some of the fruits. Started tasting a lot of fruit on a local level. And eventually you graduated. You levelled up. You wrote a book.

Now you’re working with the TrustedChoice platform and you’re continuing to practice the discipline though. 0:40:09.8 Because this is where I like – you mentioned the gurus, and there’s a lot of gurus out there that talk about the ethereal ideas but don’t have to put it in practice. You are focused on taking these concepts and ideas and applying them day in and day out. You are still grinding within the context of a specific vertical, which has specific consumers, which I love that you’re still putting in the hustle.

And each content – each piece of content that you put out, whether it be an email or a video, I get these. I’m on your list. I’ve been consuming this stuff week after week, and I read it because it represents good, thoughtful copy. You still have that polish.

0:40:49.8 So tell me this, Ryan, what is the quality component? The quality threshold for a given piece of content. How good does it need to be? Because you just mentioned a minute 30 seconds and if I’m listening right now, I want to take that to the bank. A minute 30? No problem. I’ll do it all day long.

Are you saying and advocating – I know you said that something is better than nothing, but is that a viable plan with the content saturated nature of where consumers are at now? Or do people need to create something more robust and beefy, and if so, how good does it need to be?

Ryan: 0:41:22.7 So the internet is saturated with crappy content, it’s not saturated with good content. But let me – so let’s explain what good content is, because I believe in content check ((?)). I think that’s crazy.

So good content is not necessarily the Hollywood quality video or you know, a well copy written piece of content. Though that stuff does matter. There is a threshold where people don’t want to read it or watch it because it stinks. 0:41:54.6 But you download a program like ScreenFlow 0:41:57.2 or Camtasia and you can create, you know, reasonably high quality video and you use Grammarly and you become a good writer.

0:42:08.2 So there’s – that’s not really a problem. What people care about is genuine. So what I was in those videos – one of those videos, I did at 10:00pm at night because I had to drive back to the office because I didn’t have a setup at home to do the video and I had forgotten to do my video for the next day – little side note, if you ever take on the 100 questions in 100 days thing, batch. Do batches. I did it on a daily basis.

It was like, by the end I wanted to kill myself. 0:42:40.6 Side note. But fuck, where was I going 0:42:44.8 [Edit – lost train of though] So, I probably shouldn’t curse on your podcast either.

Jordan: 0:42:51.7 It’s all good to me, we’ve got an editor. It’s all good.

Ryan: 0:42:50.8 So the quality pieces is about being genuine. So I roll up back into the office at 10:30 and I’ve got this hoodie on because I’d forgotten right? I’d gone home and I changed and then I was, “Oh crap, I’ve got to do my video” so I rolled back to the office and I got a hoodie on. People would reference the hoodie video all the time. “Aww, I saw the hoodie video, that was really cool.”

And I was like, “The hoodie video?” And I just – I had forgotten that I had – I had just gotten into such a rhythm that I’d forgotten, but what people took from it is that I was more interested in delivering – in being genuine and who I was and not in a like weirdo kind of way, but just in a, “Here man, I’m a real person, I’m getting this out, I want to make sure I get you this content.” Bam, get it done.

So they afford you those little, the little imperfections if they know that you’re giving it to them in a genuine manner. 0:43:45.6 So I really believe that for people who aren’t, who aren’t deep into content creation, being genuine is really important at the beginning. It can really differentiate your content.

You can say the same thing as someone else, or the same topic as someone else, but if they’re doing it with this corporate filter or this very stuffy filter and you’re coming at it from, kind of talking to them like you would through a conversation, it’s really going to come through and people are going to enjoy that.

0:44:16.2 They don’t need the New York Times, they want you. And that’s really important. And one little trick to get that is read your post out loud. If you – if it’s tough for you to read your own content out loud, you need to rewrite it.

0:44:31.8 I still do this today. Every single thing I write, when I’m done, I go back and read it out loud to myself, and if it doesn’t work reading it out loud, I cut and whatever I gotta do. I just rewrite it. I rewrite that section so that it sounds good when I speak out loud.

Because again, you go to the New York Times for in depth journalism, they came to your website to find an answer to a problem or a question that they have and maybe build a deeper connection with you. And having a conversational style that is very genuine is the best way to do that. You own the knowledge, right? You own the property, it’s your property, you’ve been in the property business for some period of time. You have an expertise, that’s going to come through. The quality part is going to come from being genuine and conversational in a way that people can connect to.

Jordan: 0:45:22.4 Man. Absolutely awesome. Ryan, I want to transition to the rapid-fire section of this interview. And I just want to quickly go through some questions and kind of get some gut responses from you. 0:45:34.4 My first question for you is, who do you learn from?

Ryan: 0:45:36.7 That’s a good one. I’m all over the place. I do some of the tried and true. I watch a lot of Gary V stuff. Read a lot of Seth Godin. 0:45:45.5 I read a lot – I’ve been doing a lot of more study reading.

So like watching the studies that Harvard Business Review puts out, McKinsey 0:45:52.5 [Confirm] puts out. I’m kind of really diving down into the nuts and bolts. The next level for me personally, is becoming – going a level deeper with my expertise. 0:46:08.5 So, I have a certain level of insurance expertise, and for me to evolve I need to become more.

And so I’m going a little deeper with some studies. And then, you know, I just connect with a lot of people. And I’ll tell you what, as much as people tell you it’s a waste of time, I kind of skim through my LinkedIn feed and just find things that are interesting and I read them and see what they’re doing. I watch what’s working and what’s not and just try to keep your eyes open when you’re on the web.

Because, a lot of times, the people that are talking about the tactics – the people who really know what they’re doing, very rarely are the ones speaking the loudest about the tactic. 0:46:50.3 So, it is good to just keep your eyes open and watch people. But yeah, I hope that answers the question.

Jordan: 0:46:58.1 It does man. Totally makes sense, especially that last bit. Ryan, if there was one marketing skill – you could wake up tomorrow and have complete mastery of, what would it be.

Ryan: 0:47:09.7 Public speaking. Public speaking. You gotta be able to talk to a group. I would like to believe that I am good. I am far from great or even excellent. It’s the – I love it, but if you can control an audience, and that can be an audience of three or it can be an audience of 3000, it’s very similar, but that ability to connect with people in a space like that is a skill when you master it, it’s obvious. It’s obvious.

Jordan: 0:47:50.6 I couldn’t agree more. I felt that way 0:47:52.8 [Inaudible].

Ryan: Yeah, great example, great example. He owns it, completely owns it.

Jordan: 0:47:57.9 Alright man, last questions man. These are one word, let’s do this quick. 0:48:03.0 College or pro sports? Don’t go indecisive on me Ryan.

Ryan: 0:48:06.6 College basketball, pro football.

Jordan: 0:48:10.7 Organic versus paid?

Ryan: 0:48:11.6 Organic.

Jordan: 0:48:13.8 LinkedIn versus Twitter?

Ryan: 0:48:15.0 LinkedIn. Not even a question. Twitter what?

Jordan: 0:48:19.8 Native or embedded video on Facebook?

Ryan: 0:48:21.7 Native. Native.

Jordan: 0:48:25.9 Twitter versus Facebook?

Ryan: 0:48:26.3 Facebook.

Jordan: 0:48:29.8 Ebook? Or email course?

Ryan: 0:48:30.0 Email course.

Jordan: 0:48:34.3 Popover or Squirrel Box?

Ryan: 0:48:34.4 Squirrel Box.

Jordan: 0:48:37.8 Kindle or physical book?

Ryan: 0:48:38.8 Kindle.

Jordan: 0:48:42.1 Great marketers. Are they borne or bred?

Ryan: 0:48:44.8 It’s a completely learned skill. I was a math major dude.

Jordan: 0:48:48.6 There we go. Ryan, one more time thank you for coming on the show. I know I got a lot out of this. I think are listeners did as well. If folks want to jump on your list, if they want to see what you’re up to and learn from somebody that is actually in the trenches with this discipline of content marketing, where can they go?

Ryan: 0:49:05.5 They can go to AgencyNation.com. That’s AgencyNation.com. I’ve got a video show that I do, a podcast, there’s the newsletter, tons of blog posts and I’m on all the social media. You can find me, just search Ryan Hanley. I’ve pushed out all the other Ryan Hanleys, just like Highlander. There can only be one.

Jordan: 0:49:27.6 Jump on the list guys. AgencyNation.com. It’s worth your while. I’m literally reading these emails on a weekly basis and my life has nothing to do with insurance. And yours probably doesn’t either, but it’s still worth your time. The content is that good. Ryan thanks again.

Ryan: Have a good one!

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