There were a few sessions that were highly anticipated at this year’s New Media Expo in Las Vegas. I won’t name names but one of them was clearly Pat Flynn’s Day 3 presentation, “Proven Methods to Use Free in Your Business to Get More Traffic, More Subscribers and More Customers”. Frankly, he could have spoken on “What I Like to Eat for Breakfast” and it would have been a packed session. Pat has just developed that kind of passion amongst his fans.
Rather than covering the topic of “Free”, I thought I’d talk about what his presentation taught me about why he’s become such a success online – all without a major product of his own and by building his own platform from scratch (i.e. not coming from a large company that had a platform to lend him). Reading this, you may also pick up some tips on how to deliver a compelling presentation for your own audience.
Let me set the stage:
Pat comes in – sets up his ipod to play a series of songs over the PA system. We later learn that the theme was songs related to “Free”. See the playlist here:
He then proceeds to walk around the audience and hand out Hershey’s Kisses and Lindt truffles. We later learn that this is not just a nice treat and a way to connect with each of us, but it will be used in his presentation as a way to make a point about relative value between different items, and how “free” skews that relative value (see the book Predictably Irrational for details on this Kiss and Lindt experiment).
Pat’s dressed sharply in a tie with a vest – we later learn that this ties to another part of his presentation as well.
The presentation starts with an entertaining video and pictures of the crazy things that people will do to get something for free (even low value items). Standing in huge lines, painting their faces, bowing to a machine in front of a huge crowd, touching a car for 72 hours to get a car (this one may be worth it!), and more.
The basic presentation structure includes (my interpretation):
- The Power of Free
- How To Use it to Support Your Business
- Types of Free That You Can Use
- Case Studies (including how people in the audience can use Free)
Overall, it was an awesome presentation with lots of surprises and great content – you can access free resources and a paid replay of all of the sessions (including Pat’s) here: NMX University (affiliate).
Watching the presentation up close (I was there early and sat in the front), gave me some insight into why Pat has been so successful online. This presentation is just one example of the type of work that he delivers on his blog, in his podcast and with each of his projects.
Here’s my take on why he’s been so successful with examples pulled from the presentation or his other work.
1) Keep The Big Picture In Mind
In his presentation, in his coaching of entrepreneurs from the audience, and in his various projects, Pat always seems to focus on the big picture. Who’s your audience and what outcome are they trying to achieve? What are your goals based on this and what are the pieces that need to be put in place to grow your platform and your business (including the role of free content).
Know your goals so every piece of your strategy will fit in with them. This includes how you strategically use free content to grow your audience.
2) Sweat the Details
Having the big picture in mind is critical, but flawless execution is key. In pulling together his presentation, Pat had plotted out each step, each prop, and each piece of content. And it all tied together to give the audience an amazing experience and some excellent lessons. In Pat’s business, his execution is pretty incredible. He admitted that he used to waste a lot of time focusing on even minor coding changes – several hours at a time – because he wanted to understand it intimately. He’s finally letting VA’s handle some tasks but has started with a foundation of extreme care and attention to the smallest details.
Tying big picture strategy with flawless execution is a combination for success. Being focused on strategy but lazy on execution will bring sub-par results. Focusing on the trees but never seeing the forest is a recipe for burnout.
3) Provide Insane Value
Pat could easily have delivered a solid presentation on autopilot. Hey, some of the other lesser-known presenters went through basic presentations and took questions. Done.
Why did Pat work about 10x harder than those other presenters when he could have coasted through this presentation?
That’s a key to his success and the success of many other top bloggers, podcasters, authors and speakers. Delivering insane value is the reason they’ve become so successful. In this case, he produced an “experience” to remember.
Doing just the basics or going through the motions will produce sub-par results. To achieve success, you’ve got to over-deliver early and often.
4) Touch Multiple Senses, Use Multiple Platforms
In the presentation, we had touch, taste, smell, sound, and of course visual stimuli. Pat used music, video, visuals, crowd interaction and co-creation with the audience (via live case studies) to keep us interested and attentive. In his business, he uses podcasts, videos and text across multiple platforms to grow awareness of his business.
Be creative in how and where you deliver your message. Touch multiple senses and address different modes of learning and content consumption. Of course, consistency is key on any given platform.
5) Be a Great Teacher
People want to learn. Think from their perspective. How can you make it actionable for your audience? In Pat’s case, he covered the Why, What, and How of using free content for your business. He also showed us case studies and showed (real time) how he would brainstorm content strategies (for free products) for the businesses of people who volunteered. On his blog, in his emails and in his podcast, he goes into great detail and provides tools, templates and guides.
How are you helping your audience learn? Are you providing multiple ways to learn? Do you have enough supporting elements?
6) Leverage Your Network / Don’t Hog The Spotlight
You’re not in this alone. If you are, that’s a recipe for disaster. The longer I’ve been in this business, the more I realize how important others are for your success. Your audience/readers, your peers and your teachers/influencers are all critical to your success.
In Pat’s presentation, he clearly focuses on giving the audience insane value and on connecting with them. He mentions his mastermind group in his presentation as well – made up of peers and influencers/teachers. By interviewing others and connecting at events and elsewhere, Pat is able to meet more teachers and influencers.
Have you considered how you build and strengthen your authentic connections with audience/readers, peers and teachers/influencers?
7) Connect With Your Audience / Get Personal and Vulnerable
From sharing stories about the lint in the crook of his son’s finger to stories about his childhood fishing trips, Pat’s able to provide a very personal connection to each member of his audience. On his blog, he has shared his stories of his usage of P90X, including shirtless pictures (from out of shape to in shape). He’s shared stories of project successes as well as failures and challenges.
In his presentation at NMX, Pat brought up two people to do live case studies with him (answering the question, “how can you use Free to grow your business?”), helping to co-create part of the presentation.
Are you willing to share some of you or your company’s personality, history, vulnerabilities and failures? Are you willing to get more personal in exchange for a deeper bond?
8) Teach Via Stories / Weave In Case Studies and Proof
Stories are memorable and powerful. They leave a lasting impression. Whether they’re tied to a pictures (like the power of free and how people will paint their faces to look like a cow for a Chik-Fil-A burger and the story/pictures of how a pizza restaurant, Varasano’s, published their pizza-making secrets to develop a huge following) or not (the story of how from Real Men, Real Style got tens of thousands of downloads of his free ebook using Pat’s free eBooks the Easy Way techniques). but the story and the proof that goes along with it are very memorable and powerful.
Rather than saying, “solution x is very powerful and will get you lots of traffic”, demonstrate it with a story that shows exactly how someone used this solution and what it did for their business. Show rather than tell.
9) Surprise, Delight and Entertain
I learned this also from Jon Morrow, who said, “delivering what you promise to deliver is boring. Surprise is what keeps people coming back!”. In his presentation, Pat kept it interesting from the beginning, with the music, chocolate hand-outs, videos, live interaction and more. In fact, he gave away ipod Nano’s to the two people who agreed to do a live case study with him (I was lucky enough to be one of the two!). That’s certainly a nice surprise.
Delivering what’s expected is not enough. How are you doing to surprise, delight or entertain your audience or customers?
The Hardest Working Man in Online Marketing?
One of the names James Brown earned was “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” because he did so many shows.
I now think of Pat as “The Hardest Working Man in Online Marketing” and his success is well deserved. Not the result of a lucky break, being in the right place at the right time, having lucked into the right connections, or having family wealth to fall back on.
Based on what I’ve now seen on Pat’s blog, in his podcast, in his videos as well as in how he prepared for and delivered this presentation, I can more clearly see where his success has come from. What other elements do you think have led to Pat’s success as a marketer or which of the above do you think is the most important?
Let me know in the comments and if you enjoyed this, please feel free to share it!
Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.