Could you tell us a little about yourself – how you ended up starting Influence Tree and how important is it for you be online?
My name is Leonard Kim. I’m just an average guy who lives in Los Angeles and loves cupcakes.
Back in 2013, I cracked some kind of code. In the course of 2.5 years, my content was read more than 10 million times, translated into multiple languages, and featured in top-tier publications like Inc., Entrepreneur and Forbes.
My social media grew from 3 followers to over 100,000. A lot of people have asked me how I did it—and if I would help mentor them. And while I was humbled by these requests, I knew it was impossible to dedicate enough time to every person who reached out.
That’s where InfluenceTree got its roots. We laid out a course that teaches people how to build their personal brand, get featured in leading media publications and growth hack their social media following. Or if the person doesn’t have the time to do it themselves, we can do everything for them. With InfluenceTree, my team can now provide guidance to almost everyone that reaches out.
In regards to your question about how important it is to be online… in this digital age, it’s absolutely essential.
Let me help visualize it out for you.
Imagine you’re a consultant who wants to land that big client, but you have a competitor going for the same bid. You and your competitor have made it to the final selection.
The person hiring for the project is going to Google both you and the other candidate if they haven’t done so already. This is what they will find:
Consultant A (you) is in their 40s. They have some medium size wins under their belt. A good amount of big clients. But when you Google their name, all you see is a personal Facebook page, a Twitter with maybe 28 followers, and a LinkedIn page with 213 connections and zero recommendations.
Consultant B (your competitor) is in their early 30s. They have some small to medium wins under their belt. A few major clients. But when you Google their name, you see their own website, a professional fan page with over 500 likes, a Twitter with 2,000 followers, a LinkedIn page with 500+ connections and some recommendations and a piece in Inc. or Huffington Post showcasing thought leadership in their industry.
Consultant A may be the better fit for the project, having much more experience, but the world won’t think that way. Consultant B has created much more social proof of their accomplishments. Because of this, 9 times out of 10, they will be chosen for the position.
The right domain name is important. How long did it take you to come up with the domain name for your online business?
This took at least a month, maybe two. First, we thought of “Build my influence.” Then I thought it over and realized, wait, people are going to think they’re going to help me build my influence. Then I considered, “Build your influence”, but someone had already reserved the name on Facebook. So I started to think of other things that could relate to influence.
A tree takes time to grow, but if nurtured and cared for, it can reach great heights, much like the easily recognizable, 300-foot tall redwood tree.
A personal brand is the same. It is lifelong experience that takes much nurturing and caring for, but when done properly, you can grow to become legendary.
When did you get an idea to launch your personal website, LeonardKim.com?
Never thought I’d make a brand, or that anyone would ever read my content. Back in 2011, I started this lame WordPress blog that got about 30 views on three pieces of content. And I’m pretty sure those were the people I forced to read it. These discouraging results convinced me to give up on that project.
Then on May 15, 2013, I started writing on Quora. It was here that I stumbled upon success by creating writing that worked. The problem then, was that I didn’t have a website. So I did everything I could to get my site launched, and in December 2013, LeonardKim.com went live. By the end of 2013, I had two million views on my content.
Now, you’ve successfully established yourself as an expert in the brand strategy world. What drew you to this area of knowledge?
Back in 2005, I worked in sales, but held no interest in the field. In 2009, I switched to marketing, where I was met with failures on every project that I undertook. When I finally started investing into my personal brand, I found the success and passion I had been missing. I attained 10 million views on my content in only two and a half years, and created an inbound network of leads that continued to open up opportunities. It was then that I realized, if I could create this kind of success for myself, why wouldn’t I be able to teach others to do the same?
The founding of InfluenceTree also stemmed from all of the people who continually asked me to mentor them. I needed a platform that would help me reach a wider audience, but would still address the personal brand development strategies that I had identified.
You also have an articles page (or if we can call it a ‘blog’) included within your site, so tell us – do you enjoy blogging? How much time do you spend writing?
I enjoy writing, but I wish I had as much time to write as I used to. Before, I was writing every single day. Now, with all the responsibilities I have, I can only craft about 10 articles a month.
Writing is definitely something I’m passionate about. I used to write stupid poems when I was 17. Someone even read one of those poems and hated it so much, he crumpled up the paper and threw it away. It was a sad day, but I stuck with it. I never knew it would pay off, but I’m happy it did.
If you had to pick the top three reasons for your success what would they be? And why these three?
When you are authentic, you resonate with people. Don’t put on a mask and be someone you’re not. Doing so, you not only lie to yourself, but also the entire world. This will cause long-term damage and jeopardize your reputation. Instead, talk from the heart. You make more connections than you can ever dream of.
2. Take action every day
Sometimes it is hard to keep moving forward, especially when you’re not seeing the fruits of your labor. But don’t be discouraged — keep moving forward and everything will work out for you. Once you get to the tipping point, your brand will continuously progress, with less effort on your end.
3. Continual improvement.
Don’t ever think you are the best at what you do. Each day, we either grow or die; we improve or deteriorate. That means you need to continually learn, practice your craft, and look for points in which you can improve what you do.
If you had to pick the top three things people do wrong, the things holding them back from success, what would those be?
1. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Let’s say you want to fake it ‘til you make it. One guy buys into what you’re selling. They cut you a check for $50,000 to do something that you’ve been pretending to be an expert on.
An exciting moment, right?
But there are constant downsides to this.
You can try and learn how to do it on the spot, but chances are, you won’t be able to figure it out because you faked it from the get go.
So this is how the story ends.
You will try to deliver, but you will miss your mark.
Your client will bad mouth you to everyone he knows.
Your reputation will become tarnished.
And your client may even sue you for what you’re worth.
Recovering from a hit on your reputation is, by far, the worst thing you can encounter.
2. Being cocky or arrogant.
The other day, I spoke to a lady who explained to me how she chose her primary doctor. She asked one doctor to define a medical term, and he told her his office wasn’t “Medicine 101” and refused to answer her question. She walked straight out. The next doctor tooted his own horn and boasted about being the best at what he did. She felt he was too full of himself, and continued her search.
She then spoke to a doctor who answered her questions and concerns, and told things as they were. His team was also caring and thoughtful throughout. You can imagine which doctor she chose.
3. Holding back knowledge.
A lot of people feel that if they put all their cards on the table, someone will steal their idea. In reality, when you hold back knowledge, you discount yourself. There are no real benefits to hiding your hand. Put your all into each piece of content you make.
Ask yourself this question: Would I charge someone $10,000 to consult them on “this”? If the answer is yes, you have amazing content that will generate business for you.
If they can afford your services, more than likely, they do not have the time to go out there and implement your strategies. Instead, they will refer to you as the expert that you already are, and will hire you for the project.
Or if they do try to implement your strategies and fail, they will be back to hire you to do it the right way for them.
How would you suggest people avoid these mistakes?
Be authentic, have a sense of humility and don’t hold back.
Here are the facts: Ninety-five percent of businesses fail within the first five years. That means you have a 1 in 20 shot of making it. You need to do everything you can to increase that probability. No one will ever care about your business unless they know who you are. Here’s an example: (you can try it too!) I just Googled “spatula”. And on the 33rd page, I found this site: https://www.gertens.com/cart/big-green-egg-grill-spatula.html
But why would I buy this spatula over either the cheapest spatula I can find? Or an OXO brand spatula? Or the first thing I see on Amazon or in Target? Or one recommended by a friend?
Let’s say you had a personal brand, like Martha Stewart. When your audience trusts you in the kitchen, they will buy the spatula you make instead. Why? Because they believe in your recommendations, even if it’s for a product that you made yourself. If you’re going to build a business, you need to dedicate at least 50% of the time in building your personal brand as well, or you’ll be part of the 19 out of 20 that failed, rather than that lucky 1.
You’ve got a pretty good thing going, obviously, but if there’s one truth of the internet, it’s that things change. Where are you going from here?
One thing that doesn’t change in life is your personal brand. How it is perceived, maybe, but your brand lasts your entire life. Think of famous Presidents, notable figures in society, or even entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
I will continue building relationships and growing out my personal brand, and I want to help others do the same along the way. If you feel that you may need help in growing your personal brand, feel free to learn more about my company, InfluenceTree, and let’s see if we can work together.