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How to Build a Million-Dollar Authority-Based Business with Mindi Zissman

November 27, 2023
EPISODE 147
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command higher fees, and work with better clients.

 

Are you struggling to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your niche? Do you wonder how specialists become famous industry authorities that attract premium clients?

Tune in to this value-packed interview on The Recognized Authority podcast between host Alastair McDermott and featured guest Mindi Zissman, an accomplished ghostwriter and content strategist who built a million dollar business specializing in the insurance and risk management space.

You’ll discover:

  • Mindi’s journey to hyper-specialization after nearly 20 years as a generalist freelancer
  • Actionable tactics to distribute your expertise and borrow audiences
  • How giving away “too much” free content builds authority and trust
  • The key role of curiosity and interview skills in cornering a niche
  • How long it really takes to gain traction and become the recognized authority

If you want to learn from a real-world case study of niche domination from this successful solopreneur, don’t miss this insightful conversation.

Learn more about Alastair’s Authority Accelerator program.

Show Notes

Key Insights

  • Choose a niche based on interest and opportunities, then fully commit
  • Giving away expertise builds authority and trust to attract premium clients
  • Niche content should solve target audience problems and pains
  • Interview and curiosity skills help create unique, valuable content
  • Consistent niche focus for 3+ years is needed to gain authority

Strategies

  • Use a mix of evergreen and timely content to engage audience
  • Distribution strategy is key – know your niche audience and where they consume content
  • Repurpose content across multiple channels and partnerships
  • Give away niche expertise for free to build authority and trust

Learn more about Mindi here:

Guest Bio

Mindi Zissman is the President of Zissman Media, a B2B content firm specializing in the risk, insurance and compliance industries. Mindi started Zissman Media in 2004 to be the voice of her clients, expressing their industry expertise through thought leadership.

Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS
clients, business, people, work, linkedin, niche, content, create, authority, podcast, freelancers, insurance, write, talked, ai, number, evergreen content, risk, specialization, find

SPEAKERS
Alastair McDermott, Voiceover, Mindi Zissman

 

Mindi Zissman  00:00

Often the people that come to me from LinkedIn have never liked a post of mine. They’ve never shared one they’ve never commented. So I don’t actually know that they’re in my like, audience, but they are. So there’s a ton of lurkers out there that could become potential clients, you just don’t know. I wouldn’t even say some of my, my least, quote unquote popular or performing posts, meaning they have less fewer likes, they have fewer comments, a fewer repost are some of the ones that people will mention to me that were like that, you know, very significant in their decision to reach out to me.

 

Voiceover  00:32

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott,

 

Alastair McDermott  00:47

I have a fantastic episode for you today. But very briefly, before we get to that, I want to ask you this. Imagine having your calendar booked months in advance, engaging in meaningful conversations with your ideal clients, without relying on spammy tactics or uncomfortable sales techniques. If you’re an expert in your field, you have a high ticket transformative, impactful offer, and you have a commitment to integrity. So you’re the kind of person who puts your clients best interest before your own, then this program might be a perfect fit for you. So authority accelerator 2.0. It’s all about creating an authority building and lead generation platform that will attract a consistent flow of high quality leads. And I’m excited to announce that the pilot for version two of this is open. Now, we’re inviting only three committed clients to this. And we’re going to be doing that at a significantly reduced rate. And the pilot is open for a limited time, because we’re planning to kick off in early January, your insights and your experiences are going to be invaluable, they’re going to feed back into improving, and also into testimonials and case studies. And the commitment that we’re looking for is very manageable. It’s only about 60 minutes a week, so about an hour a week for the initial 60 days. So if you’re ready to grow your business and your authority, generate high quality leads, click on the link in the shownotes to learn more. And now on with the show.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:11

And I’m delighted to say that today my guest is Mindi Zissman. Mindi is somebody who I know from one of my other friends and the person who wrote the foreword for my book, Rochelle Moulton. And Mindy was on her podcast. I thought it was great interview and I thought that it would be really great topic to talk to you about. Mindy, welcome to the show.

 

Mindi Zissman  02:28

Thanks so much. I’m so glad to be here.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:32

Well, you are a ghostwriter, a b2b content strategist. I’m really interested in what you’re going to talk about those topics, because that’s what we’re going to get into today. But I’m also interested in just kind of setting the scene with revenue. Because I know that for this year as a goal you were talking about when I say for this year, for the next 12 months, you’re looking to build your business to a million dollars in revenue. Is that right?

 

Mindi Zissman  02:56

That’s the plan.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:59

I hope I get that what I what I think is interesting is that you’re not growing a massive business in terms of headcount. And can you tell me a little bit more about how you think about hiring people and headcount because I know some people here listening to this or watching this don’t want to grow a big business in terms of having lots of employees? Sure,

 

Mindi Zissman  03:17

that’s a good question. So I’ll tell you, this was definitely a trial and error thing in my business. I definitely, as I said, you know, we talked about earlier that I definitely hit by myself as a freelancer, like kind of a revenue threshold. I was at about like, 120 to 150. And I just couldn’t get past that. And, to me, I thought, Oh, I better I have to just hire people. I think that we’re trained. I don’t know if this is a European thing, but certainly is an American thing. That to grow means to just add people add headcount. And I did that. And it didn’t, it didn’t do that, for me, I ended up hiring two people, they left me within six months, wasn’t, wasn’t a good fit for them wasn’t a good fit. For me, it ended up being just a tremendous amount of like headache in terms of, of actually just, you know, having to train and bring people up to speed and manage them. And that was a lot harder than I had anticipated. And I think that that’s the case with a lot of freelancers, we all kind of have worked for ourselves for a long time. I’m going on 19 years working for myself. And so I’m not sure what I thought that, oh, I’ll just hire some people and it’ll work out. But having not been managed very much in my life. As you know, as a professional, obviously, I did. I did work in trade publishing, and I was a reporter. So I did have that experience, but it wasn’t for very long. I’ve definitely been unmanaged for a lot longer. So I found that that was actually harder for me to then go ahead and do that. And I wanted to focus myself on working in the business and working on the business more than managing people. And so now I’ve kind of like right size my business a little bit more. I do have two people within the business. They’re both part time. I have an editor that is about 50% time. I’m in a VA that is not yet 50% time but close. goes. And then I have a lot of freelancers and subcontractors that we use and we subcontract out to, and that so far has been like a wonderful model for me, and has allowed me to scale up and down as the market goes up and down. And, you know, we see right now what’s going on in the economy, there’s a lot of worry about what’s going to be next year, I’m actually writing a lot of outlooks for my clients. And we work in the Risk and Insurance space. And so there’s a lot of clients, a lot of our clients who really do have kind of an eye on the economy. And a number of our clients are saying that things are going to be a little bit tighter, at least at the beginning of next year. And so that gives me confidence as as a business owner, that I don’t I’m not tied up with a ton of my money in personnel. And so I’m able to kind of scale up and down with freelancers at different times. So I for me right now, this is the best business model. I do. I do feel like there are other things I’m going to have to do to kind of get to that 1 million point. A lot of them I’m already thinking about and kind of planning for but But I do agree that the answer isn’t always just to hire people.

 

Alastair McDermott  06:08

Yeah, yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of different things we could dig into there. What are some of those kind of major things that you’re thinking about? Like, are they are they big strategic changes that you need to make to get to seven figures.

 

Mindi Zissman  06:22

So I definitely will have to bring, you know, a little bit more headcount into the business, as I’m looking at hiring an operations person, but again, not full time, someone that would be more part time. And I think, and some of that would still be kind of a subcontractor, you know, I guess, format and structure. So So I think that that could be good. I am also thinking about bringing on a totally different line of authority. In my business, I do have someone that I’m connected to that is an expert in a different department in different area, not Risk and Insurance. And that could be a potential possibility for me in the next year, as well. So those are just two kind of leverage areas that I’m considering. Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  07:02

The other thing, I’m interested. Okay, so where’s the specific niche? And I want to talk about that at some point, because I’m a big fan of specialization. But the other thing I was just wondering about, because one of the major services that you’re providing is ghost writing copywriting? Yep. Correct. Yeah. How is AI impacting on you and the way that you do things on your clients?

 

Mindi Zissman  07:28

That’s a great question. So I actually have a client who asked me to come speak about AI because they’re not knowledgeable about it, I do find that my clients are less knowledgeable about using it than even I am. I’m out there actually trying to figure out synergies and ways to make my business more efficient by leveraging AI. I haven’t been able to do it so much yet, although I do actually have an meeting tomorrow with a new AI writing business owner who is going to kind of demo for my team, their tool to see if it works for us. I do have subscriptions to a number of different AI writing tools. So again, beyond ChatGPT, there are a number of AI tools that writers are using, that are subscription based models that are a lot more secure than ChatGPT. I haven’t found any of them have helped so much, just because the work that we do is so bespoke. So clients aren’t asking us to do things that are easily searchable on the internet. They’re more asking us to which is really the model of using like, right now large language processing like a ChatGPT. But most of our clients ask us to do things that are super bespoke. So we, I would say about 95% of the work we do is we meet on the phone with an expert in something very unique and specific or specific issue or topic that’s coming up in the in the news, and we’ll interview with them on that. And then we will write the article with their name on it. So it’s it’s really unique and specific best practices, lessons learned considerations for their clients on a specific topic. And most of that isn’t something you can research right now. It’s really kind of in their head. It’s the risk management piece that goes with what our clients do. It’s also just information we use, even when we’re writing about something that is a brand new law or something like that. Those things aren’t on on the large language models at all either. Right? So ChatGPT is only trained on 2020 and earlier. And so if you want to write about a new law that just came out in employee benefits, you’re not going to be able to get that information on any kind of AI platform at all. So So yeah, I’m trying to find efficiencies in my business and use it but it hasn’t worked yet.

 

Alastair McDermott  09:36

Yeah, it’s interesting. And a friend of mine challenged me to actually quantify how much I’m using it and how much it’s helping me in terms of efficiency. What I found and and looking at in terms of because I write a lot in terms of what I do. I think that I’m saving about 40 to 50% of my time, and so I’m getting I’m getting a Major productivity boost. And yeah, so like, I’m finding it pretty significant in that sense.

 

Mindi Zissman  10:06

So you’re using it for I’d love to hear. Yeah,

 

Alastair McDermott  10:08

so I’m using it for. Yeah, so a typical workflow for me. And and this is where I think that having like what you just talked about there, you talked about interviewing an expert. And this is where I think that these tools are incredible, is where you have experts in the driving seat, because the expert is able to give input into it. And it’s not just, you know, somebody who doesn’t know a lot about a topic, asking questions, and then not knowing if the output is correct or not. But if you can give expert input as well, and then refine it as an expert who’s knowledgeable about the field, what it means is that the output is actually quite high quality, because what it’s really providing is it’s just providing kind of like the grunt work of tidying up text. So the workflow that I personally use is for myself, I’m with my clients. So I interview some of my clients, just like you do, it sounds like, now I do these in the form of podcast interviews, but we then do a transcription of that. And then we pull the transcription in. And we run that transcription through various different prompts to pull out different things. So like, for example, we can come up with a content strategy, and a UVP, a unique value proposition based on the interview that I did with the clients, because I asked the right questions during that during that interview. So we can we can get the information out so that so that’s the way I use that, then how I use it myself, for example, I was driving today, and I was running otter, which is recording fuel and transcription, I narrated in a prompt in there with loads of information, it was I was narrating for seven or eight minutes while I was driving. And then I stopped the recording, took that transcription, put that into ChatGPT at when I got back in the office. And then it was able to process based on what I had said. So that was the input from me. And so yeah, that’s the way I use it. And I find that the dictation features are particularly quite speeded up for me. So I’ll use the dictation into the ChatGPT app as well, which is, you know, you can use any font, so you dictate

 

Mindi Zissman  12:08

something, and then it will take that and go basically to town with that, like it’ll add to that it’ll log based on like your five minutes of speaking or something like that.

 

Alastair McDermott  12:17

Exactly. So for example, I was working on a new offer page for new products, and new for a new product or service. And so I was saying, Here’s what I would like it to have on there. So I want you to give that back to me in the form of a table with three columns with each of the three options, you know, the the bronze, silver gold options, and then come back to me with a sales page for that. Here’s what I think she’ll be on there. And, you know, use use a paid dream, fix copywriting structure to the page, for example. That’s that’s one way that I would use it. So yeah, so I find that that. But again, I think that for me, it’s about having the expert knowledge to like to know, for example, what the copywriting structure that you can use is, you know, that somebody who’s who’s using it at a more basic level, like, who’s not an expert in the field, they might ask it to create a sales page. But if they don’t know what format to ask, then you need to do a bit of pre work, you know? Yes. So

 

Mindi Zissman  13:17

does it bother you that like all of your kind of like IP, then that you’ve put into ChatGPT? is now like out there for use?

 

Alastair McDermott  13:24

Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So I understand it’s gonna be out there. But either I make use of these tools now, or I don’t like that’s the choice. And, and I know that like what, so I guess like maybe, maybe that’s something we should talk about, because I know that you talked about personal branding. And it like I talked about building authority and personal brand, I think is really the same thing. I mean, that they’re effectively I mean, maybe that’s a good question, is building authority, the same as building a personal brand for you?

 

Mindi Zissman  13:55

sort of question. For me it is because I’m kind of synonymous with my brand and the business. Because the business is me, obviously. But I would say for my clients and my customers, you know, for Britain, in the Risk and Insurance space, we have been getting more and more and more requests to create, like personal branding for business executives more than ever before. Right. It used to be the request was always like blogs that were kind of authored by the company, or you know, on a specific topic, some kind of new law that came out, you know, how is this going to impact your customers and clients and we’d write something that again, maybe had a byline, but maybe didn’t. Now more often, we’re getting a lot of requests from the marketing teams at like large commercial insurers to our or risk companies to actually, you know, interview their C suite, and then write the articles with their seats with the C suites names on them. And they will potentially go on the blog of the company, but even more so they’re going on a platform like LinkedIn. And then that person that C suite member is actually publishing it as a newsletter on their own We have, and again, it looks very good for the company. And it may also bring in ideals from the company as well. But it is definitely businesses are now paying for their C suite executives to create personal brands on social media. Oh, that’s very interesting. It’s new insurance space.

 

Alastair McDermott  15:20

I find this fascinating because like, I think that we’ve seen what people have done in the world of influencers. And this is effects effectively influencers for b2b or for you know, and, but we can’t do entertainment in the same way, like we can’t do just entertainment, there has to be an educational component there. And actually solving a client problem, at least that’s the way I think about it in the content. But for me, the superpower of all of this is is the interview component. That’s the, that’s the bit that that gets the information out of the thought leaders head and turns it into that content. And it sounds like I’m really interested in the fact that that’s a major part of what you do, because of the because of the overlap with what I do. So yeah, really, I

 

Mindi Zissman  16:07

think the interview was a main piece of it, right, you have to be the kind of person first of all that the business leader trusts, that’s major. So in the beginning, when we first started engagement like this, I definitely require speaking to the business leader a bunch, you know, getting to know each other. And that’s important, like to establish this trust with the writer and the interviewer. And so, so number one is the interview piece. But then the other piece is, is that over time, when you are putting that that leaders words on to like quote unquote, paper or in print, obviously, it’s all digital, but but actually, you know, creating something with their language and their ideas, is that like a trust is built between the two of you. And then also, when they give you comments for in the first few times, you owe also are able to then learn their voice, learn how they want things to be, you know, repeated and said and learn how they translate certain things. And so then you come to a place where you do your job better, because you know them better. So you’re able to write in their voice more and more and more, and I find every executive we work for has a different voice. You know, some of them like to be more personal, some of them like to be more business. Some of them, it’s not just the subject matter that they’re talking about, it’s also their personality, and you have to be able to kind of infuse that into their content. And so that takes time that takes trust, that takes actually doing it, you know, often and and getting feedback on both sides. Yeah,

 

Alastair McDermott  17:30

I think that also takes a human being, at least for right now, because that’s something that the the AI bots are really not very good at right now is kind of infusing that human element, and I see an awful lot of crap on LinkedIn in particular, you know, delve into the secrets of or unlock the this and the like, the language that they use is so repetitive. And, you know, so we’ve got to improve how we use these tools so that we’re not doing that, you know, anything

 

Mindi Zissman  18:02

will improve to themselves right over time.

 

Alastair McDermott  18:06

Yeah, I assume that they will. The only issue with that is if people start using AI to produce more and more content. And then we train it more future AI is based on the content that’s out there. We’re going to get this reinforcement bias wearing thing. Yes. It’s going to be building crap on top of crap.

 

Mindi Zissman  18:27

Right, exactly. That’s actually very funny. So

 

Alastair McDermott  18:31

yeah, that’s the that’s the only only big issue. And then of course, there’s, you know, the reinforcement off biases and all of that kind of stuff as well, you have to be careful that that’s

 

Mindi Zissman  18:40

an issue. Yes.

 

Alastair McDermott  18:41

I’m interested in content strategy, because because we said we’re going to talk about b2b content strategy. And can you tell me a little bit about what you actually think of content strategy or how you think about content strategy? Sure.

 

Mindi Zissman  18:54

I think content strategy comes, basically, I think, I think the mistake that I have, but I’ll start with the mistake, I think the mistake that people make is that it’s just about topics or ideas that you want to speak about, and when you want to speak about them, and creating a content calendar. And I think that’s really just the starting point, I think a big piece in today’s world. And again, this may change. I don’t think this was the case, even five or 10 years ago, I think today’s world content strategy should primarily be about distribution. So yes, you have to write the content. And yes, you have to come up with the ideas and the topics. And those are all important parts of fundamental parts of strategy. But then I think the main strategy, and the way that businesses can actually gain, you know, superiority or authority over other businesses, is by having a really good distribution strategy. So what I mean by that is, here’s a piece of content now what what are you going to do with it? Number one, where are you going to publish it? Number two, how are you going to repurpose it? And number three, how can you continue to use this piece? Is it evergreen? Is it specific to this time period? have, you know, what are ways that you can distribute it to its full extent. And I think that that’s where strategy is lacking a lot of places, it’s not actually hard to do this thought process is really not hard. People don’t take the time to do it. So I find in house marketing teams, those are my clients, they’re strapped for time. And so they need somebody, you know, a consultant like me, or, or some, you know, somebody else to kind of come in from the outside and say, here are the 10 things you can do with this piece that you just paid, you know, someone to do, and you took time out of your executives day, this is the best way to leverage it. And this is the best way to distribute it. So I think distribution is key to content strategy today. And I don’t think people are doing it as effectively as they can.

 

Alastair McDermott  20:46

I wouldn’t 100% agree with you. And so I’d like to dive into this topic even a bit more. Tickets, it’s okay. So you mentioned there, I just pulled up on screen here publish, repurposing, and looking at Evergreen content in particular. And I think that this is one of the advantages that we have in the b2b space is that a lot of our content can be evergreen, if we choose to focus on the evergreen content. And, you know, we like choosing to go down the route of doing ephemeral news type content, I think that’s a bad idea. Because you can’t really reuse repurpose any of that. But when when you’ve created this evergreen content, you can repurpose it in so many different ways. Like, for example, what we’re doing here, we’re taking this live stream, we’re putting it out on a bunch of different channels, we’ll also take the video, put it on YouTube, we can take it and cut it down into shorter video, we can also take the transcript and use you know, turn that into blog posts and things like that. There’s so many different ways that we could take this and and repurpose it. So can you dig into this distribution a little bit more? So like distribution really is about getting? Getting your content in front of people? Yeah, right,

 

Mindi Zissman  21:57

exactly. So okay, want to just go back real quick about the Evergreen, I do think evergreen is amazing, I think it’s probably the best content to read if you have a smaller budget. But I do think for businesses that aren’t tight to budget, I would do a mix of evergreen, and then also things that are very relevant to the moment. I do think that that there’s a range, it doesn’t have to just be current content. And then evergreen content, I think there’s something in the middle too. I’ll give you an example. I’m currently writing a lot of Outlook, or Outlook articles for my clients, you know, based on their different industries and verticals in the construction and risk world. I mean, in the in the insurance and risk world. And what you can do with with, let’s say an outlook 2024 that you create, it’s definitely not evergreen, right? Because you can’t use it next year. You can’t use it in 2025. But you can use it for a very good part of this next year. So I think there there is like a sliding scale almost on what’s evergreen and what’s not. And it’s not just kind of like not evergreen or evergreen, I think there’s a lot of like middle ground as well. But back to your question about, you know, digging kind of into the distribution, I think there’s a lot of avenues. And there’s a lot of verticals that you can create a lot of different types of distribution. So number one in the b2b space, obviously is LinkedIn. I and some b2b brands are on multiple channels, and not just LinkedIn, they’re on Instagram, they’re on Facebook, they’re on other places. But I think the main thing about knowing where you want to distribute is, first of all, and this is probably something you say all the time to start but getting very, very clear on who your target market is. And once you know what your target market is, and your audience that you’re speaking to, the distribution channels seem to kind of come into play. So then you can know where you want to pitch articles to, is LinkedIn of the place you want to go to? Are there other social media channels? Are there certain b2b trade publications that you want to go to, or their associations you want to reach out to, or their podcasts you want to be on? There are there are so many different ways to what I call a quote unquote, borrow an audience. So if you’re very clear on who your audience is, you can go find other partners that have the same audience as you and you can distribute in lots of different places.

 

Alastair McDermott  24:17

So, the part of knowing your audience, you talked about the insurance and risk industry, you have niched, down or niche down. And you’ve chosen a very tight specialization there. Yes. So, and one of the reasons why and now I totally believe I’m totally bought into this to the point that I have some have an evergreen podcast called specialization podcast, which is solely solely about helping people to to niche down and choose a specialization. If you so can you tell me a little bit of just about how you came to the realization that you needed to niche down and and how you actually chose that specialization?

 

Mindi Zissman  24:57

Sure. So originally, this is a funny thing I was actually in a different niche. So my my, my job before I went off on my own was working as a trade publishing editor. And the magazines that I worked for the two magazines I worked for were for architects and engineers. So that was my first original, you know, niche. And I did that for a bunch of years, I really did that I was, I did that for about 15 years exclusively. And slowly over time, you know, my aim was to get out there, and it was very word of mouth. And I would have different clients in different industries. And what happened was a client of mine, actually, that was in healthcare, so not not architecture, engineering, but a client of mine that was in healthcare, moved over to an insurance company to help me with her. And I thought, okay, I know, insurance, I got this, I have an insurance card in my pocket, I go to the doctor, I know how to do this. Meanwhile, the two of us realized very quickly that medical insurance is very different than commercial insurance. And we learned the industry. And then over time, I really came to love the Risk and Insurance industry because it reminds me of the days when I was a reporter, as a reporter, you’re covering whatever is going on in business and in, you know, the government world, etc. And that’s really what’s going on in Risk and Insurance, we are a mirror to government into business. And we are talking about what the new laws are, that are happening, what’s going on with social unrest with, you know, anything that’s going on the world. That’s what we’re talking about in Risk and Insurance, because those are the risks that businesses are facing. And so about four years ago, literally right at the time of the pandemic, when so many people have these stories of, you know, I quit my job where I did this, I did something also radical, I really put my stick in the sand. And I said that I just, you know, focus on risk insurance and compliance. And since then the business has just exploded, because there is a need, obviously, in every niche for people who understand that niche, understand the issues and the niche, understand the executives understand the thought leaders there. And so the business has just really boomed since I really took that into John. But I will say a big reason why he did that was listening to podcasts, like the business of authority, you know, Jonathan Stark, and Rochelle Moulton who we just talked about listening to just what kind of experts in the field had to say, and a lot of people were saying to niche down, and I really loved that niche of Risk and Insurance. And so I just kind of did it. And it was it was another another time where I kind of like, you know, took a step out and said, Okay, hope this works. And thank God it did. And it’s been, I don’t know, almost four years that I’ve just niched on that. And again, I’ve been in the industry for like 10. But, but just had that as my specific niche. It’s been about four years. So

 

Alastair McDermott  27:31

did you feel fear about doing that by taking that step?

 

Mindi Zissman  27:35

Yeah, for sure. I think there’s a lot of fear as being an entrepreneur. And that was just one of them. But I felt that same fear many other times in my life. Number one, when I went off on my own, you know, I’ve been in business for myself for 19 years. And the first time when I decided to go off on my own, even my left, you know, I left the magazine that I was working for, and I went, I went to my editor, and I went to his desk, and I said, So Rob, I’m going to you know, leave and I’m gonna go do some freelance, and he was like, you can do that, you know, how, how can you just leave. And again, this was way before the gig economy. So, you know, there weren’t these, there weren’t tons of freelancers out there. And I was like, well watch me. And if you want to use me, you know, here’s my number, or, you know, welcome to call, I’m happy to write for you guys. So I felt the same way, then I felt when I niche down, like you said, I’m risking insurance and compliance. And all of these moves in business are risky. And as entrepreneurs, we have to be a little bit able to take a risk. And I think that the entrepreneurs that grow the most, and this is something that I’ve had to tell myself over and over again, and, and I see it often in the groups that I work with, that are entrepreneurs, the more risks you take, the more your business has a chance to grow. And obviously, we make so many mistakes, which I know we want to talk about as well here too. But you know, we make mistakes all the time. But the more you can kind of put yourself out there and and do the next right thing for you. Even if that means really sticking your neck out and taking a big risk. Your business will thank you. And usually you’ll you’ll be in a better place that you want to be.

 

Alastair McDermott  29:01

Yeah, cool. Thanks for talking about that. I think it’s a really interesting one to talk about. And, like, I talked to people about that specific fear, you know, there’s the fear of, I’m turning away business, or I’m gonna choose the wrong thing. I like the way I think it’s Jonathan, but it might come from Phil with Philip Morgan, originally, I’m not sure who was. But they talk about picking a niche and specialization as a test campaign. And just just test it out and see if it works. And if it doesn’t work, you can roll it back, you know, nobody’s gonna do that.

 

Mindi Zissman  29:36

But I will also say to that, and Blair Enns, who also, you know, does a lot of he does actually sales training for, you know, for different markets and creative professionals. I would say he one of his things is he says it usually takes about three years to really gain authority in a niche. And I do think that’s true. So I would say the last year has been much greater of a boon for me in my business and again, Like I said, I’m just coming up on four years of having kind of like stuck my stick in the sand of doing risk insurance compliance. And so I would say that that’s true. So I would also encourage people who are trying out a niche, don’t try it out for five days, don’t try it out for six months, give it like a good run. And I feel the same way about social media, right? People will, will, you know, ask me, like, you know, how do you gain authority in LinkedIn, and I always say the same thing, put some free information out there, give of yourself, and you’ll see over time, it will pay back. And people come back to me after I don’t know, three months, it’s not working. Of course, it’s not working. Because it takes six to nine months on LinkedIn, I think this is actually a stat that LinkedIn promotes and puts out there also. But it takes actually six to nine months on a platform like LinkedIn, to gain, you know, adequate authority and to get your first client. So for me, I know it took nine months to get my first clients on LinkedIn. And again, that was after posting two to three times a week, every single week, consistently, you know, out there giving out quote, unquote, free information, giving ideas talking about, you know, not advertising, but really being a helpful person. And just kind of like adding to the the conversation that was out there about content or about Risk and Insurance took nine months. So I think people need to just remember that and you know, nothing. Rome was not built in a day, you will not build your niche, and it needs in a day, either. Just that’s just how it’s gonna go.

 

Alastair McDermott  31:22

Yeah, yeah. 100% agree with that. And I’ve been doing this, The Recognized Authority for 144 episodes or so by the time this goes. So that’s amazing. Yeah. And so that’s in and around the three year mark, I think, you know, just coming up to three year mark. And now, I was very lucky, I got some inbound inquiries pretty quick after I started, but I’m pretty sure that they came from referrals, rather than from the actual process. But it does take time to build up that organic engine and flywheel. So yeah, you know, it definitely takes time. Yeah,

 

Mindi Zissman  32:00

organic, you’re saying like that organic engine that you create, that’s also susceptible to referrals, as well. So I’ll get you know, referrals from people who see me on LinkedIn. And they’ve often the people that come to me from LinkedIn have never liked a post of mine, they’ve never shared one they’ve never commented. So I don’t actually know that they’re in my life audience, but they are. So there’s a ton of lurkers out there that can become potential clients, you just don’t know. I wouldn’t even say some of my, my least, quote unquote, popular or performing posts, meaning they have less fewer likes, they have fewer comments, a fewer reposts are some of the ones that people will mention to me that were like, dead, you know, very significant in their decision to reach out to me. So

 

Alastair McDermott  32:45

this is a pattern that that I’ve seen as well. I think I’ve heard this from other people, although I’m not sure that’s the case. I’ve seen myself where some of my least popular in terms of downloads of, or views of articles or, or podcast episodes. They’re the ones where people will actually where clients will come from. And actually, I think I remember who who talked to me about this before was Adam Shively, who I had on the podcast about 80 episodes ago, I think. Yeah, he’s a guy I used as a podcast coach, when I was setting up, he was really helpful to me in setting up the podcast back back when I started. And I remember talking to him about specifically interview podcasts versus solo episodes. And he said, Look, your solo episodes will not get as many lessons as the episodes with guests, but the solo episodes will bring you in clients. And that’s why I do solo episodes every so often. You know, sometimes I’ll do a solo episode every second episode. Typically, an interview episode is much easier to do, because it’s much easier to get on and ask questions. Solo episodes require more work. But I do understand the value of those. And that’s, that’s why that’s us. So I think that confirms what you’re what you’re saying there.

 

Mindi Zissman  34:03

Yeah, yeah, I absolutely actually listened to a solo episode of Michelle’s new soloist podcast today. And it was the first time that she had done something like that. And I thought it was excellent. And and it will for sure, bring her clients because she talks she gives away a lot of information in them. Right? Yeah, I think I think that’s the goal of any of the content that you’re creating as a content creator yourself, for your own business, is to really give away as much as you can without actually like selling your business on LinkedIn, or on your podcast. But when you can just give away kind of like details and little information. And I always say this is really the goal of all b2b content marketing. I tell my clients is to the goal of whatever we’re creating is so that the reader reads it and says, Wow, if that’s their free stuff, what’s there paid staff? That is always the goal of content creation?

 

Alastair McDermott  34:52

Yeah, sometimes you know what I think about talking when we talk about like the brand here is The Recognized Authority for the podcast. And we talked about building authority and building personal brand. And that sometimes I think, you know, that’s very kind of inward focused, like on what we want. But in reality, what we’re doing the content that we’re creating, when we’re doing that the authority building content is actually all for our clients. And it’s all to help them with the problem that they’re facing. And so actually, even though like we’re talking about building authority, what we’re actually talking about doing is helping people and helping them with the problem that they’re facing. So I think it’s important to bear that in mind behind all of it, you know?

 

Mindi Zissman  35:31

Exactly. Yeah, that’s the point.

 

Alastair McDermott  35:34

Okay, one thing that we, we talked about a little bit in the pre show is mistakes or failures. And I like to bring these up, because I know that every business owner who’s successful has a lot of them. I know, there’s famous Michael Jordan quotes, but the number of failures and times he’s missed that the game winning shots and things like that. Can you tell me a little bit about is there a business mistake or failure that you’ve experienced? That can tell us but

 

Mindi Zissman  35:55

or where should we start many, many? And I mentioned this before, definitely, the failures I find kind of propel you ahead. And I had heard that from a lot of business owners people say that, but you never know. But as a business owner, you’re like, oh, no, many mistakes I have to make to get everything right, you know, I’ll say I’ve tried having different productized services that haven’t worked, I currently have none. I have tried, you know, like I said before, scaling up, you know, hiring to full time, people that were like super costly. That didn’t work out for me, I’m much happier. Now, as a solo business owner, again, using subcontracted work. I mean, the list is really endless. I even tried to create a, I actually created like a webinar that is like LinkedIn training for insurance, insurance producers. So producer and insurance language is a salesperson. So I did that actually, at a client of mine, it was super successful in person, I tried to do that on my own this year in Chicago, kind of rented out a hotel space, and, you know, thought like, maybe I would just get a ton of different producers, you know, coming from all different businesses. And even, even though I had people in the industry kind of like forwarding my information to producers, it was not super successful. But I do think that, that I can take kind of, I always try to do this, obviously, every business owner, well, who’s who’s going to be successful moving forward, but you try to take those lessons and see other places that you can apply those products or services, because maybe it’s just a little bit off your application or your distribution. And then it doesn’t mean that the product or service is really not good. It just naming you are kind of targeted at the wrong audience. So let’s say for example, with my Legion producers webinar, so I think it would be more successful number one, maybe doing it online, and you know, having people having it maybe cost last but not be as in local and in person. And another thing that for sure, was successful. And this is really how it was born, was good, you know, bringing it to the larger companies for all of their producers, and letting the businesses purchase that time from you. And you know, you know, they have already obviously, you know, a ton of producers that work for them. So you can do it that way instead of just kind of calling all producers. So so there’s a ton, I think, I think there’s a ton of different lessons learned. And some of them are about at what actually works and what doesn’t. And some of them are about what actually works and what doesn’t for you. Because each each one of us is so different. And there’s not one rule about the way that something will work positively or negatively for a business owner in general. You know, their own feeling about things and, and what and their own risk tolerance, right, you know, coming from,

 

Alastair McDermott  38:36

that’s something I think about in terms of contradictory advice. Because at this point, like I said, 140 plus episodes, I’ve had experts and very successful people on giving contradictory advice from somebody else who’s who’s equally successful. And I find that really interesting and absolutely fascinating, in fact, because we have people who have chosen completely different and opposite paths, and it’s working for them. I mean, the takeaway for me from that is that you have to try and the trial and error thing you have to do it. And particularly around content creation, I think you’ve got to try to create different types of content and see what works for you what doesn’t work for you. I think that’s something that’s really important. So, yeah, yeah,

 

Mindi Zissman  39:22

and one great example I know we were gonna, you’re gonna ask about like a book. A great a really great book that teaches that lesson specifically is how I built this by Guy Raz. Sorry I’m sure you’ve read that before he has a podcast also. But it’s just tremendous to read about these like quote unquote big brands that you know and love today and to just see how their founders struggled you know, remortgage their homes, I mean, even at like kind of the bottom of the barrel. And I found myself even during that book things things to myself like, oh my gosh, I would have never done that. You know, I would have never let it go that low. I would have quit or I would have you know So given things and you see how people kind of like hold on, and and then in the end their business is successful, but often, it took like a pivot that they weren’t planning to do, or some kind of like different way of, you know, either attacking the issue or problem or a different service or solution. And so I think it’s, I think the success isn’t the pivot very often, the more you can surround yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur, with other people doing that. So like I mentioned, I’m in entrepreneur groups, I have mentors that I reach out to regularly. I am like, you know, I’m in, I do a lot of business development with other entrepreneurs. And they think that, that is what also keeps me sane, and helps me to realize that I’m not the only one that has all these ups and downs, or, you know, successes and failures, everybody is going through them all the time. And if we’re all just kind of like scrappy, and trying to learn together, it’s a much better experience and feeling. Yeah, I

 

Alastair McDermott  40:56

think that’s why it’s so important to have peers like mastermind groups or groups of peers that you can talk to. And also coaches like Jonathan Stark is somebody else who I’ve worked with as a coach Philip Morgan, I mentioned earlier, he was a coach for me and helped me with my specialization decision law. And Adam, who I talked to him about the podcast, like I’ve worked with countless coaches over the years on my business, which also helps me when I’m trying to coach my clients, because it makes it easier for me to understand where they’re coming from. So I have one final question for you. What, what is the number one tip that you would give somebody who wants to build their authority?

 

Mindi Zissman  41:31

Oh, that’s a good question. I would say giving away your expertise. I know I talked about that briefly before, but you almost cannot, you almost cannot give away too much. Obviously, I would not put everything you know, down into a book and then give it away for free, you should definitely sell that. But, but if you give away little pieces at a time here and there, whether that’s on LinkedIn, whether that’s in a newsletter that you write, whether that’s in a, you know, book that you create, etc, the more than you can, can almost give away, the more that people will recognize who you are, and your value and what you do and what you bring to the table. And the other thing is, you know, people are very nervous about that. I know you mentioned before Alastair that like, you know, people don’t want to give away, you know, everything they get, they get nervous, and it’s true. But I will tell you that you will the goal, as I said, with all b2b content, it’s the same thing. If you can get people to say, Wow, if this is the stuff that she’s giving away for free, I wonder what it’s like to work, you know, in a paid engagement with her. And I also find that even that little points and things that you give away for free, no one is really sitting out there and like cataloging all of those things that you’ve given me for free, and then somehow turning that into some strategy for themselves as a business. We just nobody just has that much time. It just makes you an authority. And then somebody will come to you and say, Hey, I know you mentioned this, this and this. And these are things that attracted me. But how do you think that that applies to my business, because everybody’s going to want you to personalize your advice for them specifically. So that’s why it works. And that’s why you never are really giving away everything. And if you really are a thought leader, and you really are an authority in your space, you will continue to have new ideas. And you will continue to have new ways of working with people. And you will continue to be a thought leader. And so the knowledge you have only, you know, get bigger, it won’t be it won’t be finding. Yeah,

 

Alastair McDermott  43:26

I just add something to that the process of writing will give you more ideas. So as you start to try and share your knowledge that will actually improve your knowledge. And you’ll get better at your field because you write because you’re going to be connecting the pathways in your brain and coming up with new ideas and new insights. And one of the best ways to learn is to teach. So that’s why I think it’s important to do some writing as well or explaining what you’re doing and teaching and sharing.

 

Mindi Zissman  43:54

And membership plays into that too.

 

Alastair McDermott  43:57

Yeah. This has been great. Thank you so much for coming on. Last thing I just want to ask you is where can people find you if they want to learn more?

 

Mindi Zissman  44:04

You can find me on LinkedIn. Absolutely. My website is this When media.com We are resisting media. So those are the two best ways to reach me, you know, DM me on LinkedIn, you can email me off the website, you can jump on my human jump on my calendar. I definitely do a lot of mentoring and coaching calls as well. For fun, I enjoy doing that. I enjoy doing that with you know students at my alma mater all the way to you know, other content professionals, so happy to be of service and to help anybody that you know with wants to reach out. Awesome.

 

Alastair McDermott  44:36

Mindy, thank you so much for coming on the show.

 

Mindi Zissman  44:37

Thank you for having me.

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