Authority Hacking: Secrets for a Successful Startup

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***Dennis in Presentation along with Gavin Lira

I do believe that a lot of people are just in takeoff mode right now. I’ve been hearing it all my life. We are in takeoff mode but now is a very different takeoff mode because now most of us live on the internet and with just our phones, it has given us a true democracy and true power.

So now is the most powerful time ever in human history, especially for Pakistan and I am just so thankful for the privilege to get invited to Pakistan for a presentation wherein I have the opportunity to share my Mission and how people from this country, startups specifically can take advantage of the Internet.

You can agree with me that a startup is the most difficult place. It’s the most challenging place to start because you’re starting with no momentum. It’s difficult, but if you win, it can be really big. So maybe you have your underlying product or service. Maybe you’re selling something else, you’re not sure what to sell, or you don’t have the product yet. 

You know, people make decisions based on who they know they can trust, not on some sort of objective analysis. In the United States, they have this idea about Pakistan, which is incorrect. So the greatest challenge is how do you bypass that?

Yes, you can market directly to the client by saying, “Hey, buy my stuff. Here’s a landing page. Here’s why you need to be obsessed about your homepage.” 

This was a lot of startups mistake. Waste time with nonsense, don’t do that. 

Instead of gathering testimonials, find a lighthouse.

Why do you think people think that just having testimonials for products or services is enough to fly? Why do we think that there is more credibility with the testimonial than any of us talking about our product or service?  I don’t think anybody’s gonna disagree with that however, this idea of the testimonial is bullshit. 

I want you to reframe this idea of a testimonial into something that we call a lighthouse. 

So what is a lighthouse? 

Josh Nelson is our mentor and then he is somebody who’s running a pool of people who are all owners of digital agencies. He gets them together in a place every now and then and he has groups online where people get together. 

Another thing that he does is organize these meetings, and from there everybody starts sharing and everybody starts learning from each and every one.

So Josh Nelson is the most authoritative person for digital marketing agencies and thus is considered a lighthouse because if you reach out to him, that is you reaching one level above the client directly. 

So instead of trying to market directly to your client, “Oh, our product is so good, we’re cheaper”, go one level above to who is it that your client respects the most.

So when you see content with Josh Nelson and other people interviewing Josh Nelson, what happens is people can see that. So people are crazy about Josh Nelson and if he says something even very small about you or your company, that will greatly impact your business. 

So essentially, if you’re going to be talking about yourself, that’s not giving you nearly as much credibility as someone else who is respected in the space saying it.

But the other thing that’s also true about that is when you build up somebody else’s brand, you’re also indirectly building yours. And that’s very true in PR.

You have to be friends with people who are in the positions you want to be in, and you can indirectly build your brand by helping them build theirs. 

So who is your lighthouse? There could be three or four. Do you know who that is? Is that someone that your clients respect? The people that you want to buy from, who do they respect? Is it an organization? Is it a person? Is it a conference? Is it a vendor that offers a related product that’s kind of complimentary? Is it a competitor even that you can partner with? Who are these people? Who are the organizations and therefore who are the people that are associated with them? Who can you associate with? 

Because with the startup, by definition, people are like, “Oh, I don’t really know. They are a startup. Are they gonna be around? How can I trust them with my money?” But if you associate with another organization or someone who’s well-known, that makes your brand more trustworthy. 

Perceived Authority

Perceived authority is the whole point of PR hacking. It is when other people believe that you are good at a thing because you’re associated with someone who definitely is a professional and definitely well-known in that topic. So, therefore, your association with them conveys authority to you on a topic that you’ve chosen.

Do you see how this is inception? The Dream Inside The Dream Inside the Dream, and what’s the whole point?

 It’s that you planted the idea to make that person feel like it was their idea. So you were playing multiple steps ahead. So how do you take it into action? Here’s how:

 1. Start with your Topic Wheel

Topic Wheel 1

In the middle is your brand. So picture your face and if you feel shy about it, then put someone else’s face as the spokesperson but if this is your product or service, what are the things based on your product or service that you would know a lot about because of what your product or service does? And if it’s consulting, then obviously you have the expertise and things related to your consulting. 

Can you think of three things that are professional and three things that are personal and build this topic wheel? Think of three things that you would expect to be knowledgeable about, given what your practice service does. 

What are things that you want to be known for?

So if you say that you want to be known for mentorship. Well, if you just say that you know a lot about mentorship, that means nothing because you have to back it up. So who are the people that are knowledgeable about entrepreneurship or managing people or education?

And if you know who those people are, then create content such as long-form podcasts. So what you’re gonna do is go from those topics to think about who these different people are.

The reason why it’s inception is that you have pre-chosen these particular topics, which then drive who you wanna network with. 

Need help with the Inception Model? Here is an Office Hour Episode that talks about that and how Inception is key to Building Authority Organically.

 2. Network

So most people think about networking as “Look at all these people I know. Here are some famous people– Gary Vaynerchuk, whoever it might be.” This is the incorrect way of thinking about this. It’s not Bingo. 

Bingo is trying to check as many boxes with famous people as you can but this is not the way to organize your content–just like a content calendar. Don’t do that. It’s the same way as collecting testimonials, it seems like a smart thing to do but doesn’t. It’s a waste of time. 

All this does is say, “Look at me. Look at all the famous people I know”. What a big turnoff.  It’s just like boasting in front of everybody. No one wants to see that. 

Build a Genuine Connection with your Lighthouse instead. 

So when you go to conferences, take 15-second videos, 10 seconds videos together. Do selfies if you want, but ten-second stories carry way more power because there’s a story, there’s some kind of emotion, and there’s some kind of vibe in a video. You can just get way more than just some static pictures. Think about how this is going to impact your startup. 

How do you approach them?

  • Prepare your ten-second pitch where you say, “This is our startup, this is what we do, and all the stuff we make” and that would be very helpful because you can just repeat it again and again and you won’t be fearful again. 
  • Don’t overthink it.
  • Find who you wanna get connected with. 
  • Join the group

Mostly it’s a paid group and once you joined the group, I’m assuming you learned a lot from the content itself, and learn more from the content from other agencies in the group who were successfully doing things. 

And that’s what Josh is doing actually. He doesn’t preach himself, but what he does is he gets everyone in one room or in one zoom call, and then everybody shares their best practices. And that’s the key. 

And it’s not even only just the best practices but also tools like if someone is doing something on an Excel sheet, they will share the Excel sheet as well. 

So that’s where the change is coming from and it’s a huge, huge blessing to be in those groups. And you could say you’re close friends with multiple people in those groups. So that’s the kind of friendship you develop.

  • When you’re approaching somebody for a ten-second video, you wanna figure out, ideally, beforehand, How can you add value to them? Do your research.

Cause if you’re gonna ask for something or if you want something in return, too many people go wrong cause they just go straight for it. Everybody does that but if you want to get results, learn to invest.  

And if you wanna have results that people typically don’t have, you have to do things that people typically don’t do. So you have to find ways to provide that value.

Want to learn more about how to Power Network at the Conference and make sure you win at each event you attended? Here is an Episode in Office Hours that will teach you how.

3.  Create video content

Videos are the way forward. Pictures won’t let you go there.

What do you think is the impact of the above video on my brand, for people thinking about whether I’m authoritative on things like Facebook marketing? 

So some people saw that. But let me tell you where the real power was. It wasn’t in the people who were watching this because those people were busy maybe boarding the airplane. They look up at the screen, they’re not really paying attention. The real power is taking this snippet and then putting it on Facebook, on YouTube, and talking about it including in presentations. And that way, all those other people are now seeing the authority you have that you’ve built across multiple lighthouses.

Not sure how to get started with your Content Creation Journey? Here is a course in Content Marketing that will set you up for success.

 4. Create Content with your Lighthouse

The inception way of thinking is how do I build connections with these lighthouses to create long-form content that we chop into different pieces? 

What we’re talking about is taking the attention from yourself and elevating someone else and just keep talking about them honestly, because when it’s genuine then they’re gonna reflect it back at you. That’s what you’re looking for. 

If you start strategically thinking about the topics that you wanna be known for, who are the people that are very well known and authoritative and have an audience in that particular topic? Can you co-create content with them? 

When you co-create content, now all of a sudden you’ve got lots of content that you can basically push out there on all these different channels.

What am I doing here? I’m intentionally manipulating the audience. Clearly, a lot of people know Grant Cardone. He has millions of followers across social media and essentially Grants making a video about me. 

 5. Repurpose Content

So when you have some high-quality, long-form content you created with your lighthouse– podcast or some kind of YouTube or whatever. Don’t just let it live on one channel– such as Facebook Live. Turn it into a blog post and another form of content.

One of the greatest mistake people do is when they have this high authority content however they just stop there and lose all the power, which is such a shame. It’s like having a winning lottery ticket and you don’t even scratch it off to find out that you’re winning.

So the key is when you have some winning piece of content because it’s authoritative, because of who it’s with or where it’s being said, then you want to get more. You wanna maximize that. So how do you do that? You repurpose it. 

Repurpose means you cut it up into different pieces, like a long-form YouTube video, chopped into different stories.

Content Factory 1

Need confirmation on how powerful the process of repurposing can be? Here is an Office Hour Episode where Dennis showed how repurposing content can get you the traffic that you’re looking for, including content techniques that work in the world of digital marketing.

4. Publish 

5. Deploy Dollar-a-Day Strategy

So we’re repurposing by chopping it up into lots of different pieces, publishing it, and then we are boosting it. 

So the dollar-a-day strategy is something we’ve spent a billion dollars doing in the last 15 years. It works very well especially because you’re taking these little pieces of content and micro-targeting the other people that are fans of that lighthouse to maximize the power of your content and your lighthouse.

So if you are like most people who are constantly getting these social media posts or blog posts that get no traffic, that’s where the real problem is. 

With social media, there is just so much competition and noise that if you are just boosting straight-up advertisements where you’re promoting your stuff, no one would want to share that because it’s obviously an advertisement. 

So you take something that is not an advertisement like if you’re interviewing someone else who’s an expert or you are elevating somebody else. 

Run ads against it so that the algorithm– Facebook, YouTube, TikTok is going to show it to more of those people that are associated with your lighthouse. 

Now, this sounds kind of technical, but this is something that we’ve done over and over again, and it works unbelievably well. As long as you have people who believe in you, as long as you have a product or service where you have customers that are willing to say good things about you, those two things are true. This is like cheating on social media. This is like cheating on digital. The secret to startups being successful.

The other thing that I can do is I can go take that CNN video and the Grant Cardone clip above and then post it on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or whatever platform it is, and run ads to people who like Grant Cardone and CNN. 

And what does that do when people come in contact with me for the first time? It gave me instant credibility.

Find ways to be unique and stick out. Use people’s biases that already exist to your advantage.

So if your audience already likes and respects somebody and you can associate yourself with them, it’s only going to help you on your journey.

Not sure how the Dollar-a-Day Strategy works? Here is a Course that will get you up to speed so you can enjoy driving traffic and conversions for as low as $1 Per Day. 

 6. Retargeting

I’m not trying to be a social media celebrity. I’m trying to drive leads and sales for my startup. So what I do is I take any one of those pieces of content and I target it against any of the fans, or I retarget against anyone who’s seen any of my other content based on my tag manager container that has my Google, Facebook, Twitter and retargeting all the pixels inside Tag Manager.

I’m retargeting my entire email list. I’m retargeting anyone who’s seen any of my videos on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or LinkedIn. Because now I have a sequence of high authority pieces of content where they’re seeing this over and over and over again. So then when it’s time to buy, your brand sticks to their mind. 

And let me remind you, we don’t know exactly when someone wants to buy because in social media, you don’t really know that and in Google, you only sometimes know that. 

Want to see how retargeting works? Here is an Office Hour Episode that will send you behind the scenes of how Dennis and Logan use Facebook targeting for PR, media inception, retargeting, and building a brand.

7. Get Featured

For a startup, you might not have particular search terms because you have a new kind of product. So the way you get around that is through word of mouth– through having high authority content and being associated with other people that are well known.

Another thing that can help is if you can get yourself featured in one article that is big and use that to get all your other press. You target journalists and you run dollar-a-day against the feature. 

Take your High Authority Content and Show it to High Authority People

You cannot easily manipulate people who work in the media unless you’re using this particular technique in retargeting because they will recognize everyone trying to use PR against what they’re doing.

8.  Create more Authority via a Book

Do you believe that a book would create more authority for you?

A book is probably one of the most authoritative pieces of content you could have out there. 

Just like I have this best-selling book on social media, my co-author and I previous book sold 800,000 copies on Facebook ads and the previous book in Google ads, and then TikTok ads where we sold 12,000 copies.

tiktok book

This book, even though I’m the main author, I didn’t actually write this book. It wasn’t ghostwritten either.

Want an Ebook done for you? We have a package just for busy people like you.

So the foundation of anything in entrepreneurship is what you’re offering somebody. If you’re offering somebody something very attractive, a whole bunch of people is gonna take action on it, you’re gonna have a lot of opportunity. 

The key is implementation, but it starts with the mindset of realizing you don’t have any competitors. When someone else is doing really well, you wanna be able to share.

Just like how it’s extremely easy in Pakistan to get in the news or do a press conference. So it’s extremely easy to get from one news to one. It sounds difficult but the challenge is not the newspaper. The challenge is usually the mindset–It’s us. 

So this may feel like a lot of work and you might think, “Well, I can’t get on CNN or be in the New York Times or these other sorts”. It’s not that hard. You just need one and you can also pay for one. You get one piece of press, then use the dollar-a-day technique. Repurpose this to attract other people. 

So you might not get CNN on the first try, but you’ll get something. When you have a couple of these, you can then expose that to all the journalists and that’s how you’re gonna win. 

You just need to also remember that people make decisions based on who they trust. That’s just how they make decisions, not on this cost-benefit chart calculation analysis. It’s not how people make decisions. They make decisions with the heart. You guys know that.

Business is about trust, not about the product. So trust is what gets you through first. You don’t build trust when you just ask for something. You’re not going to get it. And the way to build trust is through information, and through giving.

The biggest problem comes in the mindset. So we are more worried about how is it going to get done because we are all analytical. Unfortunately, we are designed to think about it. We’re all right but we are not dreaming enough. And as Martin Luther King’s tweet starts with “I have a dream…”, I have a dream that in this country nobody should make it less than a hundred thousand repeats a month. 

It’s not a big dream, it’s a very small dream because I’ve seen other countries do it in the last few years– Bangladesh has done it. Why can’t Pakistan? 

The key to driving marketing is to preempt the trust that’s already been built by someone else instead of the new trust that you have to come up with.

Interested to learn more about what other hacks you can do to Build your Authority and be able to grow your business? Here is another Office Hour Episode that you can check out. 

Dennis Yu

About the Author

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.

You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.

You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.