Freedom to Launch: How to Find Your Big Zig

April 11, 2012

An interview with Jon Goldman
InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, April 2012

Jon Goldman is out there. We don’t mean the hippy-dippy kind of out there—but out beyond the gravitational pull of all the things that bring a business down.

Goldman wants to help entrepreneurs break free from the day-to-day operations to rekindle what they loved about what they do. He wants to help insurance producers lift their gaze from their limitations and see themselves as much bigger than simply a salesperson. He wants everybody to learn to zig when everybody’s zagging.

In some senses, Goldman does fit the Birkenstock of hippyness. He lived in a Buddhist monastery, fasted and meditated on top of a mountain for a week and did many other things to attain enlightenment. But be assured, Goldman is serious about business and helping entrepreneurs succeed. He has always been an over-achiever. For example, this Harvard Business School graduate started the world’s largest, student-run public relations agency while in college. Then, he built his marketing agency, Goldman Promotions, to be the 27th largest promotional products company out of more than 20,000 in the United States—until he sold it because it wasn’t enough to be marketing.

He saw legions of entrepreneurs, dragging the weight of their businesses on their backs and wanted to make a difference in their lives. With his newest business, Brand Launcher, Goldman is helping entrepreneurs—such as independent insurance producers—become gurus themselves. He wants people to transform their businesses from a heavy burden holding them down to a foundation, lifting them up to their potential.

In this interview with InsuranceNewsNet Publisher Paul Feldman, Goldman tells how ordinary people can become gurus and how burdensome businesses can become liberating.

FELDMAN: It’s easy to get your life out of balance when you’re a business owner or producer. How does a successful salesperson or agency owner grow business without working around the clock? 

GOLDMAN: The solution is to simplify, codify, multiply—and you have to have what we call the “magic formula” that helps maintain balance between working in the business and working on the business.

Start by asking yourself: what matters the most? You find a huge disparity between what people say matters most and how they actually spend their time. Look, I know you have to make an income for your family, but you have to learn how to work smarter so when you’re working, you are actually producing and when you’re off, you are actually rejuvenating. The secret behind the whole thing is to simplify your process, codify it and then multiply it as well as build a freedom team and systems. 

FELDMAN: For our readers who might not be familiar with the codifying process, can you explain that? 

GOLDMAN: Sure. Most agents who have great agencies have a certain way of doing stuff and they become CEOs/Salesmen. They’re really great at selling and so they sell, but every great light has a great shadow. I can’t stress that enough—the greater the light, the greater the shadow. So if you’re great at selling, you’re generally lousy at the other part, which is actually running the business and building the system. So what happens with the CEO/Salesman is that he’s got this great life of sell, sell, sell—but he doesn’t have any clue how to build a system. He’s got a shadow there. And their business is a total reflection of who they are.

They need to play to their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. Let’s say we have an agency and the agent is really good at prospecting, the sales process, picking the product and servicing. So, he simplifies that so other people can do it as well. Then he codifies it and puts it into a series of manuals, processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs)—a glorified checklist.

There is the art and the science of it. The agent knows how to listen, knows how to react if someone gives an objection and is good at the subtleties in relationships. That’s the art of it. The science is the “here’s what you do first; here’s what you do second.” 

FELDMAN: Is the individual’s goal to get out of his job and into a compelling business? 

GOLDMAN: The goal of a business is to build an asset that pays you residual passive revenue streams and gives you freedom. Let’s define freedom. It is freedom from and freedom to.

It is freedom from the parts of the business that you stink at and that you don’t like doing and freedom from the day-to-day part of the business so it’s actually not dependent on you.

It’s freedom to do the parts of business that you rock at, that you love. And also freedom to do the parts of your life that matter most. For many people, that’s their family, hobbies or something that’s a higher calling.

The problem is that most people have a glorified job. They own a job and the job owns them. That means they don’t have the freedom of time or the freedom of money.

If you are ultra-successful but your life is totally out of balance, what are you doing it for? You got a glorified job. You’re like a golden handcuffed slave.

People need to change the frame of reference for their business from a glorified job to an asset and the way that you do that is you need to build a compelling company.

A compelling company has three elements to it. No.1 is compelling to you—the owner and the shareholder. No.2, it’s compelling to the team, your own team of people. They want to work there because they’re aligned. And No. 3, it’s compelling to your customers and your community. Most people have two out of three, so if it’s only compelling to you as the owner and to your customers but not to the employees, you haven’t built an asset because there’s nothing long-lasting.

If it’s just compelling to the employees and it’s great to work there and it’s compelling to the customers because they’re really happy—but to you it’s a job because you don’t have any freedom. So then it’s out of whack because you’re the entrepreneur. You’re the one who took all the risks. So you end up with something that’s not an asset to pass along and you’re not going to grow. 

FELDMAN: A lot of people are struggling because they know they need to create a system but they don’t want to take the time to make one. It’s taking away from making the sale. How do you change that mindset? 

GOLDMAN: Here’s a big rub: it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Nobody wants to hear that, but a person has to understand that you have to slow down in order to speed up. You have to take the time to simplify, codify and multiply. If you’re willing to stick it out, then you start to see some real growth.

The first thing is you have to start to move the needle, so that’s all about KPIs—key performance indicators. Any company that doesn’t run on KPIs is not a company that’s ever going to be a saleable asset or ever going to give you residual passive revenue streams.

There are two types of KPIs: activity KPIs and results KPIs. Let’s say you want to have a personal income of $250,000 a year. So, in order to do that, you have to have this much premium. In order to do that, you’ve got to do so many proposals. In order to do that, you have to have so many seminars or so much direct mail or emails. Those are the activity KPIs that drive you. If people have only the gigantic results-only KPI, they’ll get frozen in their tracks.

You want to be able to prioritize the opportunities with your capabilities and you want to prioritize based on a couple of key things. No.1 is difficulty, No.2 is payoff, No.3 is speed.

If you look for something that is above a six on a difficulty scale of one to 10, that’s not the place where you want to start because the whole goal is getting some momentum and actually move the needle. Most people try to push seven balls up the hill at any given time and that is a total disaster. Instead, you make money by pushing one ball across the finish line. Focus, focus, focus.

 FELDMAN: What do you mean when you say that—in order for something to live, something else must die? 

GOLDMAN: The problem is that if everything is important, then nothing is important. You can do it all, but not all at the same time. Once we prioritize, then we can feel really good and then the next step is implementation. That’s what we call the GID phase (Get it Done).

But people take that new opportunity and keep using the word “and” instead of “or.” You can’t always have—and, and, and, and, and. Because then you start to break your word. You don’t mean to, but you keep taking on more and more— you’re ambitious and you’re hungry. 

FELDMAN: We have discussed a lot about personal and organizational change, but not about one of your strongest attributes and that’s marketing. To cut to the chase, what is the most important thing one should do when it comes to marketing? 

GOLDMAN: What I’m going to share with you is a counterintuitive way to approach this whole thing. The idea here is that you switch from being a vendor to an expert, and most insurance agents are total vendors. The idea is to become known as an expert—and everyone wants to be a trusted expert, but how do we do that? There are a couple of different elements. So if that’s our goal, why? Because who would you rather do business with, the guy who wrote the book on it or the guy that’s selling you something? We all know and trust the experts. Anyone who’s been published or has been on CNN or your local TV or radio station—those are the people who, for some reason, we trust.

We call this the guru-ship approach. That does not mean you’re just spouting off, but you’re actually a guru who helps change people’s lives. 

FELDMAN: How can an insurance producer become a guru?

 GOLDMAN: First you ask yourself: are you an expert or not? If you’re not, then what are you doing in insurance? Clients expect their agents to be an expert, that’s why they seek advice and assistance. If you’re not an expert then you have to read InsuranceNewsNet and you have to attend seminars and learn how to do your job better. But if you are an expert, then you should now claim this position and status of being an expert.

So how do we claim this position? You need to publish or perish—POP. How do you publish? I’ll give you three different headlines: 1. “The 10 Secrets of…” 2. “The Seven Myths of...”and 3. “Insider Tips Which You Must Know Before You…”

So you might have, “The 10 Secrets of Financial Stability,” “The Seven Myths of Insurance,” and “The Seven Things You Must Know Before You Speak to Another Financial Planner or Insurance Agent.” 

FELDMAN: How does one who has never written before or doesn’t feel comfortable writing go about creating a book or reports? 

GOLDMAN: First, we want to do a brain dump. Ask yourself 10 question and you just start talking into a recorder. Get an hour’s worth of recording done (it’s OK if it’s choppy) and then you have it transcribed. Once it’s transcribed, you simply get it cleaned up, organized and written. Basically, you either you learn to write or write a check. Being published (in any form) is almost a requirement today for being a ‘trusted’ expert.

Once you have assembled this information, repurpose it into an e-book, PDF, or publish a physical book that you can give to all of your clients and prospects. We want lead generation, lead development and lead conversion. For lead generation, we want to offer free information—so you have your free e-book. Some people are auditory, so you also want to have a free audio, which you can put it into an mp3 player. Responders get a free mp3 player.

I’ve seen a website increase its sales more than 30 percent by simply taking their information—hypnosis for losing weight—and used a picture of a cheap mp3 player and said they would send the information on this player

So you take your free e-book and create a cover, which is maybe a hundred bucks or so. You can put it all over your business cards and put it on every ad with a CTA—a call to action for everything. You put it in your direct mail and you drive them online for quid pro quo. I give you something; you give me something. Most insurance reps have a glorified brochure. Instead, the idea is to get prospects to raise their hands and ask for free information.

Once you get that name and contact information, you can start lead development. You can use an auto responder, which is a series of anywhere from four to 14 follow-up emails, spread out over a period of time. You have one message that’s going to be emailed to them immediately and then another one that they’re going to get the following day—one a day for four days. Eventually, you spread it out over every three days, four days and then once a week and then you’ll have them covered for the next two months. And then you’ll touch them forever, for the rest of your life, a minimum of once a month and it could be as much as once a week. 

FELDMAN: So once you have your information product (book or report), how do you market it? 

GOLDMAN: Let’s talk about some of the different elements of developing an irresistible message. If you’re not persuasive, it doesn’t matter whatever else you’re doing. Most insurance marketing is terrible. You cannot bore a person into buying no matter how hard you try—and man, I’ve seen how hard they try in the insurance business.

Step one is the “hungry fish”—the who. You are not in the business of insurance—you’re in the business of selling insurance. The best way to sell insurance is be clear about your who, which is all about hungry fish.

Now the whole goal of that outbound activity is to get hungry fish to raise their hands. Let’s go through the type of messaging, so we need a person to raise their hands. Actually, you need hungry fish and “irresistible bait” (step two). So, for lead generation, we want to get a person to raise their hand, and the irresistible bait for those hungry fish is to get a person to say I want more information.

See the old way was buy or good-bye. The new way is just to say maybe. The old way was here’s what we do. The new way is here’s how to do. The old way was either buy or good-bye. The new way today, people want to keep you at arm’s length and so they just want to say maybe. They just want to check you out.

Step three is the “big zig.” In today’s markets, the way that you’re going to have your big zig is by having a compelling story. If everyone else is zagging, how are you zigging? By becoming an expert and having some personality becomes part of your big zig.

Your big zig must have a 10 on the wow factor. Most insurance is really boring. But you can still provide a story and be interesting without violating any of the federal regulations. So, for example, Steve from Steve’s Uptown Restaurant was bald and so he said that bald men can eat for free on Tuesday nights (the slowest night of the week). If you’re 25 percent bald you get 25 percent off. If you’re 50 percent bald, you get 50 percent off. If you’re 100 percent bald, you get 100 percent off.

So what happened is that he showed his warts. He shared his vulnerability. In the world of insurance, you want to show your warts a little bit and show your vulnerability. Don’t be like Mr. Braggadocio, Mr. Oh-I’m-So-Great.

No—it needs to be more like Avis, “we’re No.2, we try harder.” L’Oreal, “we’re more expensive but we’re worth it.”

I’m a guy just like you and so by showing your warts you can start to tell a fun story. If you’re a guy who loves home brewing, go after people who are home brewing. If you’re a guy who does volunteer fire department work, approach volunteer firefighters across the country. You’ve become an expert and having some personality becomes part of your big zig. 

FELDMAN: How do you become memorable in a world full of competitive noise? 

GOLDMAN: Have stories and emotions. Here’s a quick story. A guy weighing 425lbs. was attending Indiana University. He was a mess. His family told him unless he did something he was going to have a heart attack, so he decided he was going to start taking the stairs and walking to class.

He even used to pick his class on whether he could fit in the bloody seat! Remember, we all run from pain or run to pleasure. He got to a point where he knew he had to do something, so he decided to only have two sandwiches a day, a 12-inch and a 6-inch. He lost 50 pounds, another 50 pounds and then another 50 pounds.

His roommate was so inspired by him that he did a story in the school paper and then an editor from Men’s Health magazine picked up the story. What is the name of the franchise? Subway. What’s the name of the guy? Jared.

So, Subway had a campaign—seven sandwiches with less than six grams of fat. That’s cool, but it’s not so interesting. So then they ran a picture of Jared holding his old pants. Their lawyer was worried about liability, so they said this worked for Jared but you should check with your doctor. Their sales took off 22 percent and the next day they get a call from the Los Angeles Times, Oprah and David Letterman.

Their phones lit up and let’s look at why. No.1, they had a promise of overt benefits. Are seven sandwiches with less than six grams of fat a promise of an overt benefit? No. Eat that food and lose weight? Ah, that’s the promise of an overt benefit and it’s simple. And it’s surprising. Were seven sandwiches with less than six grams of fat surprising? No. McDonald’s got harpooned by Subway.

Most people in insurance like to tell you the different types of annuities and types of programs that are available, but they’re not telling you what is surprising. They haven’t pressed that curiosity button.

People need a reason to believe. As we do our messaging, people want a proof of concept. What’s a proof of concept? It is something that has to pass through the sniff test. What you saw is Jared Fogle. He looked just like me and you. Here’s a guy who’s not some beautiful model, just a regular guy.

So when you’re selling insurance, you want to have something that people can say, “Oh, I can see myself in that.” There are three ways to have people believe you. No.1 is testimonials; No.2 is research; and No.3 is demonstration.

When you have testimonials, you can use the legal disclaimer that this is not necessarily standard performance. If you have research, then simply tell them about it. And say that you can’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll have these results as well, but the research clearly indicates it. Then, No.3, is to demonstrate how the process works.

In Jared’s case, he had these big, fat pants and he demonstrated the big zig, which was believable because he looks just like me and you. And those pants, you can’t buy them because they were all faded and all worn. So by having that before and after story, we hit the emotional hot button. Before and after is totally what it’s about. By telling stories and having a reason to believe—you can have a big zig in the market.

To find out more about Jon Goldman and Brand Launcher, visit or email [email protected].

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