Kathi and Tonya Kubo, expert in lots of things, are talking about how to build our followers from zero in the first episode of this exciting December series. Maybe you are wanting to write a book and you’ve run into that first brick wall called platform. And now you are asking: just how do I start growing a platform and building an audience? Don’t miss the start of this great new series to find out how and:
- What is so important about understanding who our audience is
- What type of connection should we be trying to establish
- Practical exercises for figuring out who our audience is
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December Special Offer:
What if you were able to suddenly create a life where you not only looked forward to writing each and every day, but a life where you actually have the time and ideas to write, and could build a following of readers hungry for what you’re writing? And then, what if you were actually able to turn writing into a business?
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Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Tonya Kubo is the illustrious and fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group and the Clutter Free for Life membership program. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters, and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com.
Read along with the Podcast!
Writing at The Red House Podcast # 221
Build Your Followers from Zero
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to the Writing at the Red House podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread and tell tales with some of our favorite writers, speakers, and content creators, who reveal what they’ve learned to share their story of God’s extravagant love. This month on the podcast is one of my five favorite human beings on the entire planet. It’s Tonya Kubo. Tonya, I used to introduce you as the leader of Clutter Free Academy, but you are doing so much more. I’m just a tiny portion of what you are doing as you take over the world. When you introduce somebody, what you’re really doing is saying, “You should listen to this person. They know what they’re talking about.” So, explain to the listeners why they should listen to you, and why you know what you’re talking about.
Tonya – Oh. That is an excellent question. I think people use introductions for titles, right? So, my latest title, and I say latest, because who knows what it’s going to be tomorrow? I might pick up a new interest. My current title is Online Community Evangelist. I believe in spreading the Good News online. The reason that people who listen to this podcast should care what I have to say, or should listen to me, is because I believe we don’t just have a responsibility, but an obligation to make the digital space, the online realm, a better place.
Kathi – It’s so true. It is the Wild West out there, comparatively. We have to figure out how to use this new medium. It’s not a new medium, but in the scope of the world and spreading the Good News, this is a new medium. We have to figure out how to use it well and responsibly.
Tonya – All that, and. When you look at our listeners here, we believe we have a message that God has put on our heart to share with the world. Evangelism, in one way or another. We didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’d like to write a book. Maybe I’ll go with a Harlequin Romance. Let me Google that.” No. It’s deeper than that. It’s bigger than that. You want to write a book, then you run up against your first brick wall which is platform. Audience. “Holy cow! I don’t get to write my book and get it out into the world and then attract millions of people to buy it? Publishers want me to have, at least, a few thousand people who might want to buy it before they’ll give me the contract?” Then we need to look at “How do we grow? How do we get Facebook followers? How do we get Instagram followers? How do we get blog readers? How do we build our audience? How do we build our email list?” Christian writers and speakers, in many cases, you’re used to speaking in churches. You’re used to speaking to MOPS groups. You’re used to writing your blog, and you’ve got people who think the same way you do, and feel the same way you do, who read it. Then, every now and then you get the hater and the troll. Then you land on social media and it feels like a mine field. It doesn’t matter what you say, you are going to tick somebody off.
Kathi – I do it every day.
Tonya – Right. Me too. It’s like, every day, you make somebody mad. You offend somebody. You hurt their feelings. You do something. It’s the nature of, let’s talk Facebook specifically, it’s the nature of any platform where you have half the world’s population. Half the world’s population can’t possibly think and feel like you do in every area of life.
Kathi – Let’s be honest. There are people out there that are itching for a fight. They will find you.
Tonya – I was going to say, if you get invited to speak. If someone calls you. Fox News calls you to be interviewed. If you’ve watched Fox News, you have a pretty good feel for what that interview is going to be like. Name any news outlet. New York Times calls. You’ve got a pretty good feel for what that interview is going to feel like; the manners that the other person’s going to have, the tone of their voice. On social media, you put something out there and, let’s be honest, you have no clue what you’re going to get back.
Kathi – Right. Absolutely.
Tonya – I posted something a couple of weeks ago. I had a sweet aunt of mine who just launched into “It must be nice.” “Well, it must be nice.” I was like, “This came out of left field.” But it’s her response to what I wrote, based on where she was that day. Two weeks from now, she could be posting something about how cute my kids’ dimples are.
Kathi – So, it’s really interesting, because what we’re talking about this month is, how to grow your audience. I think so much of that is understanding who your audience is. It’s so true. When I talk to people, when I’m coaching people, and I say, “Well who’s your audience?” and they’re like, “Everybody. Everybody reads and everybody needs Jesus.” If you’ve listened to this podcast for any amount of time, you know. Don’t say that. I think it’s interesting. When I was at a conference several years ago, they said, “The very most important thing you have to do is to brand yourself.” I thought that was interesting, because a lot of the people there, I think, were going to go down this road of branding themselves and trying to become something that they thought people wanted, without actually doing the work of understanding what a brand is, and all of this. You say, “Branding doesn’t matter right now, in many instances.” Can you explain a little more about that?
Tonya – Oh, that’s rich. I want to go in ten different directions, but we do not have enough time for that. I think when people hear the word branding, “What’s your brand?” They want to show you their logo. Nobody cares about your logo. Nobody cares about your colors. That is not to say that those things aren’t important aspects of the overall professional package you put out into the world. I’m not discounting the value or the influence of brand, color palate, any of that stuff. I’m not telling you not to have a website. I’m just saying I’ve never heard anybody go, “That Beth Moore. Did you see her logo? I took one look at that logo, and I just had to sign up. I had to go buy her books, because that logo.” Nobody establishes a relationship, or a fanbase, with a logo, or with color palattes.
Kathi – By the way, huge fan of Beth Moore. Have no idea what her logo looks like. Not a clue.
Tonya – Neither do it. ‘Cause it doesn’t matter. Right? When was the last time someone came up to you and said, “Kathi Lipp! That Clutter Free Academy logo!”?
Kathi – Not a one. Now, eventually, after we established Clutter Free, and did all the work, it was important to have a logo so people could know they were ending up at the right place.
Tonya – Right. That’s what it’s for. It’s to help people come back to the right place, to help people recognize you. When we talk about branding yourself, we’re really talking about making a decision on the emotional connection your reader is going to have with you.
Kathi – Okay, give me an example of that.
Tonya – So, your brand is fun and practical. I can go a million and one places to find out how to organize my drawers, but I know, if I go to KathiLipp.com, if I go to Clutter Free Academy, I’m going to find a practical way of organizing my drawers that I can do in fifteen minutes. Everything that you put out there is helpful hints and how-tos. It’s fun. You never make me feel bad about it. I never feel guilty.
Kathi – There’s no reason to. It’s just stuff.
Tonya – There’s no, “I can’t believe I let my drawers get like that!” No! You’re like, “Drawers get out of hand. Here’s what you should do about it. Set a timer. Go do it.” So, with my brand, and this wasn’t something I orchestrated. That’s the other thing. Parts of our brand can be engineered and parts cannot. I think that’s what you were alluding to. People go, “I want to be perceived as this, so I’m going to build this whole castle so that everybody things that I am.” But if you’re not, the castle’s a house of cards. So, in my case, I’m bold. I’m bold in all the ways. I’m bold in color. I’m bold in stance. I have strong opinions that are occasionally weakly held. I am not afraid to make strong, declarative statements and to live with the consequences.
Kathi – That’s true.
Tonya – Because I do that, so many people who follow me, go, “You just so much bigger than I am, Tonya. You’re so much bolder. You’re so much more confident, assured, etc.” They follow me because they feel “If Tonya can boldly stand on that statement, she’ll back me up if I boldly stand on that statement and somebody calls me out on it.” I give the impression that I can hold the belief and the confidence for you until you have it for yourself.
Kathi – Okay. You are saving space for people. You’re saying, “This is an okay place to plant your flag.” Okay, very cool. Now, it’s very interesting. You and I have talked through this a million times. People approach their business in two different ways. Some of them launch it without a plan. They’re just in there, paddling around, trying to figure out what it is. Then, other people are building the castle. They’re spending all their time on the castle. I’ll tell the story. I’ve probably told this story on here before. I was at an organizational conference, and the instructor was talking about this guy who came up to him and showed him his day planner. He had all these tabs and color. I know. You know what? I’m not mocking because I just bought one today. It’s so pretty. It makes me so happy. It gives me such hope for the future. This guy goes up to him and shows him this planner. It’s got all the tabs and the cross-indexing and stuff like that. He says to this guy, “Wow, Bob. That’s very impressing. Very cool.” Then, later on, the instructor meets a bunch of Bob’s co-workers, and he says, “Wow. That Bob. He’s so organized. He’s so on top of it. He must get a ton done.” All the co-workers look at each other and he says, “What?” and one of the guys says, “Well, Bob spends all of his time saddling up. He spends a lot of time organizing. A lot of time planning. A lot of time putting things into the system and into the calendar, but never actually goes anywhere.” You say that can be a real hinderance when it comes to talking about brands and your business.
Tonya – Yes! So much of your brand is how people respond to you. So, if you’re not putting anything out there because it’s not pretty and it’s not perfect, nobody can respond. You don’t know what lands. I’ll be honest. I spent two and a half years with the whole, “My brand is evolving.” Somebody would say, “What’s your brand?” and I’m like, “It’s evolving.” The person who designed my website was ashamed with the fact that they were doing my website, because they were like, “Yeah, we don’t really know what we’re doing yet.” I’m a big fan of imperfect action. I’m not saying that people have to be me. There are nice, happy places between me and Bob who’s always saddling up. I’m like, “Let’s throw it out there.” The faster I get it out there, the faster I can see what works and what doesn’t. Then, I can make the tweaks I need to make, then I can put something back out there. I’m comfortable with risk. I’m comfortable with doing that. Other people, they need a little bit more security. They need a little more stability. If they are people who do not have certain skill sets, they might have to outsource. They might have to pay for graphic design. Who has money to have a new logo designed every year, just because their brand is evolving?
Kathi – That’s why I think, if you feel this great need to have a logo, I say start off with a friend, your college student, or Fiverr. At some point, yes, you will want to get the expensive logo done, when you know what you’re talking about. I think a lot of people go into, especially the Christian market, saying, “This is what people need to hear.” Either it’s not, or somebody’s already saying it, and they’re saying it louder. So, you have to figure out what your particular tweak, your particular angle, your particular brand on it. You can’t figure that out in a vacuum.
Tonya – Exactly.
Kathi – So, here’s my question: How do you even know what your brand is? How do you get to the place where you know what your brand is?
Tonya – That is a really good question. The trite answer is, “You’ll figure it out.” Or, “Here’s an online assessment. A. B. C. D.” There’s a million of them. “You take it, and it will tell you.” The truth is, you know your brand by paying attention to what people notice and appreciate about you. Part of branding, and I know that you know this, Kathi, is that, so much of your brand is about attracting the right person and repelling the wrong people.
Kathi – Nobody wants to repel anybody, it feels like, but you have to.
Tonya – We’re Christians, we love everybody. We don’t want to repel anybody. Again, for me, I have people say, “I listened to you the other day on a podcast, and I could never do what you do. I just don’t agree with it. It doesn’t make sense.” And I’m all “I’m probably not for you.” It’s interesting, because people will want to push back on what you teach, and what you train. I say this because I think every listener needs to be prepared for that. Somebody, somewhere, is going to push back on your teaching. Whatever it is.
Kathi – I think there are a lot of people who want to listen to you because they know better. You know what? If that works for you, you can listen to me all day long. I’ve had people hire me as a coach and want to spend the time arguing. I’m like, “Wow. That’s a really interesting way to spend your money.”
Tonya – Exactly. The thing is, if there’s something, and we talk about how we, as Christians, don’t want to repel anybody. We want everybody to love us, but there is something freeing to know that when somebody pushes back and says, “What you said doesn’t work.” Or “You know what? You said this, but John Doe over there says this. Why should I listen to you?” There’s a lot of freedom in going, “You know? I’m probably not the right person for you, then. My message isn’t meant for you.”
Kathi – Right. So, to establish your brand, you have to be bold enough to say, “My message is for you, but my message is not for you.”
Tonya – Right.
Kathi – Ugh. So, I think one exercise that people can do is to write down the type of people that their message isn’t for. In Clutter Free, my other brand, ‘cause I have Writing at the Red House and I have Clutter Free. Clutter Free, if you want to be super-regimented, I’m probably not for you. We have a lot of people who are super-organized and want to tell us how to be more organized. I’m like, “That does not work for my person.” It was very interesting. I get pitched all the time for podcasts. Somebody said, there was this Bible, where there were all these cross-references and cross-indexes and things like that, that will help people discover the Bible more deeply. I said, “I’m not opposed to that. I want to learn how to do that.” But I got the stuff, and I said, “This is too overwhelming for my person.” I’m like, “No, I’m not going to talk about, or advertise it. They need something simpler and plainer.” So, knowing who it’s not for. If you’re having a hard time figuring out who your person is, I bet you can come up with a list of people, words, you could even put names where you say, “This is not for them.” My best friends in the world, Clutter Free isn’t for them. That’s okay. They don’t struggle with organization and things like that. We’re not going to worry about them, but we are going to double down on the people that need us.
Tonya – Right. So, going back to that. How do you figure out your brand? One really good exercise is to write that list of people who are right for you, and who the people are who are wrong for you.
Kathi – It’s hard.
Tonya – You should know. If you know your message, right? You’ll be able to figure that out. If you can’t figure that out, now’s not the time to be investing in a logo and a tagline. You’ve got to get clear on the right and wrong person before you can figure out what tagline resonates with the right person.
Kathi – One of the things that I am really focusing on this year is serving the 500 people who need what I have to give. It’s not just, “Oh, they enjoy it because it’s funny, or fun, or they enjoy a tip here.” No. Who are the 500 people whose lives are going to be changed, either because they were with Clutter Free Academy, or with Writing at the Red House. Those are the people I need to concentrate on. It will help other people, but that helps me understand and define my brand. Now, Tonya, you have something you are giving away just this month to our listeners. Can you tell them a little bit about that?
Tonya – Yeah, so as we’re talking about how you figure out your brand, and I’m the person over here who’s kind of being a bit of a jerk, going, “Well, to figure out your brand, you kind of have to put stuff out there.” And you’re sitting at home, or you’re working out, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and you’re going, “Well, that sounds awful nice, Tonya, what in the world am I putting out there?” Well, I have a solution for you and for that problem. What I’m offering to our Writing at the Red House listeners, is a content calendar and posting prompts. That will help you create social media content. It can even be used for emails that you send out to your audience. That helps you sift the right people from the wrong people.
Kathi – It’s so important to get feedback out there. You and I can post the exact same thing, Tonya, and get wildly different reactions.
Tonya – Remember, there was one day, I was doing a challenge in the Facebook group I have, you contacted me and were like, “Can I give a little feedback on that challenge?” and I was like, “Sure.” And you were like, “So, maybe you should tell people that they don’t have to write what you write, word-for-word. My feed is full of the same post, with just four words different.” I was like, “That’s interesting. Tell me about that.” You listed off people who were not even participating in my challenge. We talked about this, and you were like, “Wait. What?” Here’s the thing, this is why I’m drawing this example out. There is a difference between being given tools and the appropriate instructions on how to deploy those tools, and seeing what someone is doing, assuming you have it figured out, and just trying to copy that into your own space. Right? You will not get the results you are looking for, if you just try to model off what you think you see. You need to know a little bit about what goes into it. That’s where the content calendar or posting prompts are a little bit different. You can get posting prompts anywhere, but understanding how to use them to make the most sense for you and your audience is what is going to get you the results you’re looking for, that are different from Kathi’s results or my results.
Kathi – Well, and that’s where branding is so important. I’m not going to use the same prompts you are. I’m not going to use the same material you are. When I know my audience, I know what they are going to react to. So, that’s what sometimes really helps me to just say, “Okay, what’s the question that Brenda would like me to ask?” and “What do I imagine her answer would be?” So, it starts a conversation, and I think that so helpful.
Tonya – It’s keeping in mind that part of your brand is also the words that you use. So, this is something we’ve talked about. Things that you’ve said, right? So, here’s the thing. It’s funny, people who know the two of us go, “You talk a lot like Kathi.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s just ‘cause I absorb it all.” You’ll say, “So, here’s the thing…”
Kathi – We both do.
Tonya – But I didn’t say that before I started co-hosting podcasts with you. I’ve just picked it up. You say, “Hey there, friend.” I used to say, “Hey, you.” Which sounds great when you can hear my voice, but when I type that out? You don’t feel so warm and fuzzy saying, “Hey, you.” Right? “Hey there, friend.” actually sounds good and reads well, also.
Kathi – The words you use is part of your brand. You develop over time, and people get familiar with your voice, and that’s what we want. Tonya, this has been so good. We are going to provide that download for you over on our podcast page. We’re going to have a couple of instructions there for you. You can go get that. That’s so generous of you, and we’ll be talking about it each week. Tonya, thanks so much for being here on the Writing at the Red House podcast.
Tonya – Thanks for having me.
Kathi – Guys, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to the Writing at the Red House podcast. I’m Kathi Lipp. Thank you for gathering with us to talk about how to share the love of God with the world beyond our table.
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