Episode 19: Brandon Lee, Founder & CEO, Funnel Amplified

Brandon sheds light on how social media has changed the way we do business, he shares tips on founding a startup based on his own experience and a lot more


This week on The CoSell Show we are excited to have Brandon Lee, the Founder, and CEO of FunnelAmplified.

 

Topics Covered:

    1. How social media changed the way we do business

    2. Why networking with a “me” approach doesn’t work (and what works better!)

    3. Tips about founding a startup from someone who has experienced every up and down that goes along with that journey

 

More Questions for Brandon?

Brought to you by our host: Taylor Baker for CoSell.io

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Follow Along With The Podcast Transcript

Taylor Baker
Hello listeners, and welcome back to The CoSell Show. I'm your host, Taylor Baker, and today we're going to talk about how social media has changed the way that we do business, why networking with a me approach doesn't work, and what works better, and tips about founding a startup from someone who has experienced every up and down that goes along with that journey, Brandon Lee, the founder and CEO of FunnelAmplified. Welcome, Brandon.

Brandon Lee:
Thank you, Taylor. I appreciate it. Glad to be here.

Taylor Baker:
To kick things off, can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your current role at FunnelAmplified?

Brandon Lee:
Oh sure. I fell into this peer-to-peer marketing model in 1997. I didn't know the word content marketing, but we started doing content marketing for professional service organizations like animal hospitals and wealth advisors and insurance agents and real estate agents, and we wrapped it around this whole concept of using content from people to people to build relationships, to generate revenues and renewals. I've been doing various versions of that since 1997.

Taylor Baker:
Wow, that is amazing. You are kind of on the ahead of the curve there with content marketing.

Brandon Lee:
Yeah. It didn't feel different or weird. It just felt very natural to me. Honestly, the story was I sat in an airplane and pulled the American Airlines magazine out. I kept looking at it, and I was in grad school so I thought I was all smart. I looked at it and I went, "Okay, American Airlines doesn't do this magazine." I looked and I saw they had like American Express Custom Publishing or Meredith Custom Publishing, something like that. I went, "Why did they do this?" It was about entertaining. It was about building relationship, and honestly from there and the whole concept of using content to strengthen relationships for new business, referrals, and renewals came about.

Taylor Baker:
Well, can you tell us a little specifically about what you guys do at FunnelAmplified just to make sure all of our listeners know?

Brandon Lee:
Absolutely. Thank you for that. I mean if you think about the funnel, and every business has a funnel, whether it's a structured funnel they talk about or not, a funnel is basically how do you take strangers and move them into becoming a visitor of your brand in some way, shape or form? Then how do you take visitors or people that are aware of your brand, and turn them into more of a relationship, and at some point you want to turn that relationship into a paying customer? Now, when you get into the HubSpots and everybody and they have great models, they start going into more things about onboarding and delighting and renewing and upselling and all that, which is fantastic, but to not be that complex, it's basically looking at taking strangers and introducing them to your brand, building a relationship with them, and eventually generating revenue out of it. FunnelAmplified is a centralized platform that provides content from the company to individual sales people, executives, customer success people, so that they can use content to build relationships for new business, referrals, and of course renewals.

Taylor Baker:
That is amazing and we are definitely going to get into that a little more later. Before we dive too deep into that side of things, we do have to ask one of our favorite questions here at the CoSell Show. What is something fun about you that our listeners cannot find on the old LinkedIn profile?

Brandon Lee:
Very nice. I have three things I'm passionate about. One is I am married for 21 years, and my wife and I just really still enjoy our friendship and our relationship. We have five children. They are fun, and we have a great time. In fact, as we're recording this, our two oldest who are in college are home. We have all seven of us together. I'm very grateful and excited for this week to have the whole family together. Then the one thing that LinkedIn doesn't tell you, and maybe every now and then it does, but I have been a Manchester United English Premier League fan since 1983, and they're having a miserable year this year. I'm still a true fan and have been since I was 13 years old.

Taylor Baker:
Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

Brandon Lee:
My pleasure.

Taylor Baker:
To scooch on back over into the business side of things, with FunnelAmplified, everything you guys do, I really am just curious why do you think amplified content is especially important in the SaaS and tech space?

Brandon Lee:
Yeah. You're going to hit a passion point for me. I think that as I've watched what the internet has done to business, and I say that really from an agnostic standpoint, what it's done good, what it's done bad, just what it's done to business is that we've moved from in the nineties it was kind of an SEO era, right? It was moving into late nineties early two thousands it was a SEO area. Everybody had a www, and it was all about using old school media, like TV, to drive traffic to it. Then we moved into this SEO thing. Google started happening, and all of a sudden we can all get access to any information we wanted at the snap of a finger. As we moved from the SEO era, we moved into the email era, and again I'm not saying any of these are dead, but just the evolution. Then we moved into the inbound marketing, marketing automation, social media era. I think what all of this has kind of moved us back to is relationship building.

We still use SEO, we still use email, we're still using content, we use inbound, we use landing pages, we use social, but at the heart of it now is we're really getting back to human to human relationships. In order to help amplify that, to build it faster, to tell more people who you are, what you know, what you believe, you need content. Content does it faster than we can do in our own human one on one conversations, or even one to a group of people, because content lives 24 hours a day. We can publish it into different social medias or different blogs or be a guest blogger and all those things. Even like this, I get to be a guest on your podcast and kind of tell my story and talk about my business.

Taylor Baker:
In this day and age where technology is sort of king, and our relationships sort of do live and die by the internet, how do you still facilitate and continue to have those human connections with your clients and your customers and honestly your own family members?

Brandon Lee:
Yeah, I think it's a good question. I think every business has got to adapt it you know differently. One of the things that I like to say is that nothing has changed. We just do it different, right? Nothing's changed. It's just different. What I mean by that is interacting with other humans has always been the same. If you're a giver, people like you. If you ask good questions about people, people want to be around you. If you serve people, they want you around because people like to be served. If you're other oriented, you get invited into things. The opposite is true. What I like to say to people that don't get the internet, and I've got gray in my beard, I'm 49 years old, I get to talk to kind of the older crowd at times.

Brandon Lee:
Like even in the old school stuff, if you went to the networking event in your town, right? You were an insurance agent, you owned a printing company, anything like that. Back in eighties and nineties, you had networking events, and you'd go to the networking event to meet people and build relationships. If you showed up at that networking event being me oriented, all you did is talk about you, all you did is try to sell your product, and all you did was me, me, me, me, me, you would end up in the corner by yourself. No one would want to talk to you. Nobody would care about you. You could walk out and go, "Networking sucks. Networking doesn't work." It's no. It's not that networking doesn't work. It's you didn't work the event properly, and you isolated yourself. Nothing has changed. It's just different. It's the same exact thing that we do online. If you talk about yourself, if you only create content that's like, "Hey, look how awesome we are," nobody cares.

When you show up consistently with content that's, "Hey, maybe this'll help you. I found this article. Here's what I think. What do you think?" Go respond to other people's content, read blogs, watch videos, see their social post and comment, encourage, tell people what you think. Well, it's building relationships.

Taylor Baker:

Wow. That is a really good way of looking at that. Social media was founded on the notion of connection and it just, I think, got a little muddled in its growth. I like kind of bringing it back and looking at it in that perspective.

Brandon Lee:
It's, as I said earlier, we have five children and four of them are teenagers, and so we get pulled into conversations a lot about how technology and technology addiction. I'm like, yeah, whatever. Right? Nothing's changed. It's just different. I have this photo that is from like the 1930s, and it's a train in New York city. Every single person sitting in their chair on their commute to work has a newspaper in front of them. They're ignoring everybody. They're reading their newspaper. They're doing their own thing.

Now, what is the difference with somebody that's got their phone? Maybe they're reading their phone, they have their headset in, and they're doing their own thing, but they're surrounded by lots of people? I mean, it's the same. It's just different.

Taylor Baker:
So obvious when you say it out loud, but no one's... I've never thought of it like, "Oh no, we've always had some distraction. It's just different."

Brandon Lee:
The phone, the internet, it's just a tool. It's a medium. How you use it, whether it's for business or personal relationships, it doesn't matter. How you use it comes from the heart in my opinion. Do you use it to be other oriented? Do you use it to be a giver? Do you use it to serve people? Do you use it to add value to the people around you, business or personal, or do you use it to just absorb and suck and be me oriented?

Taylor Baker:
Maybe it's just my generation I guess as everyone I know on social media is just like me, me, me, me, look, I just got married. Look, here's my dog. Everything is so cute. I say that as someone who just posted a very cute picture of my dog. I think that is lost a little bit, the servitude side, but I think in business specifically it might be a little easier to kind of hone in to like what you can offer other people through the internet.

Brandon Lee:
Well, your questions started with content, whether it's SEO, it's social content, it's your podcast. Why is content so important? Well, it's an extension of who we are. The type of content we create, in my opinion, is an extension of how we go about doing our life or doing our business.

It ends up being, are you a giver? Are you adding value, or are you consumed by the me monster and just create everything that's me, me, me, me?

Taylor Baker:
Food for thought. How does FunnelAmplified interact with partnership relationships?

Brandon Lee:
Yeah, that's a good question. We're more of an internal partnership, and then we look to kind of the whole conversation we've been having is how do we serve our partnerships? I have a personal value statement that is everybody around me wins, and I bring that into the company. As a very tangible example, we just announced a partnership with an awesome company called UpContent, and they're a content curation software platform. Really awesome for content creators. When you need curated content, this tool makes it so much easier, so much better, so much faster.

We've developed a great partnership with them and integration, and we have been promoting the heck out of them. One, it's great for our customers. Two, we want to see them be successful, so people around us win. Three, part of that value ends up coming back to us, and we end up winning as well. It's not totally altruistic. We know that when you give, you get, and so our internal partnership with them, our strategy is find good partners that add value to our mutual customers. Then promote them, serve them, and be good partners. In exchange, there'll be good partners for us.

Taylor Baker:
Absolutely. How did that partnership with UpContent come about? Did you seek them out and see that they could add value to your clients, or what was sort of the origin story of that particular partnership?

Brandon Lee:
You know, I think it was a combination of a couple things. Our antenna was up. We were already thinking about curation. A lot of our customers are really strong content creators, but they still struggled with consistency. They struggle with what so many companies struggle with is how do we create that much content all the time? We knew that was a challenge for our customers, and we wanted to go solve it for them. It was good for us if we solved it.

Taylor Baker:
Thank you for sharing that story. I know that you have a really interesting past with working in startups and founding companies, so I really kind of want to dive into that a little bit. You are currently in your sixth startup, and you had emailed me saying that you've had three exits and two shutdowns. You have a pretty good experience in the startup world. What are some of your main takeaways you've learned?

Brandon Lee:
Companies are like children. They're all different, right? All of our kids look alike, look similar, but they're all totally different. Businesses have been that they kind of take on their own life. I have had companies that took off within like six months of launch, and I've had companies that just seemed like every day was a challenge and an obstacle. A few key things I say is learn fast, fail fast, get more money than you think you need, and get more advisers than you think you need, because this game isn't easy. It can be fun, but it's definitely not easy. My most successful companies were successful from the inside out, and it was where we were very intentional about the culture. We were very intentional about serving our team members, because when we served our team members well, they turned around and were motivated and excited to serve our customers well.

I know that is very like it sounds like a wonderful Disney movie, when you can have the strength and the courage afforded, the fortitude, to really influence your culture that way, it has awesome effects. It may not initially, but when you fight hard to maintain that, it pays off. The hardest part is staying true to who you are, staying true to the culture of the business you want when you're not experiencing the outcomes, but when you're true to it and you keep fighting for that internal culture, success really does come from the inside out. Sometimes it just takes longer than you want.

Taylor Baker:
That is a really refreshing approach honestly. I feel like, I've read a lot of stories lately about these mega-companies where there are big sort of like the faceless corporate side of it are taking home these massive Christmas bonuses are huge salaries and you know, you trickle on down the line and the people that are actually working boots on the ground, whether in the offices or even in factories are making minimum wage. It's really refreshing to hear your perspective of sort of you treat your employees well, and they're going to want to work there. They're going to want to provide more value to the company and want to provide more value to the customers.

Brandon Lee:
When you treat people well, they want to be around you, and when they want to be around you, that's a good thing. You treat people bad. They don't want to be around you.

Taylor Baker:

The golden rule is to treat others like you want to be treated, but I feel like that is that's sort of forgotten.

Brandon Lee:
One of the things that... This is more than the dad mode in me, but I bring it into the office a lot too, is that what we see on the internet is everybody's projected selves, whether it's a company, whether it's the individual, it's the way that they want to project themselves into the world.

Our tendency is to compare our true selves. to other people's projected selves. The way that looks in business is you look at somebody that may be a competitor or they might be in a similar stage, and on social media and their content it makes it look like, "Oh my gosh, they're just killing it. They're growing. Everybody they talk to says yes and write some checks," and they've got this wonderful life and you're over here struggling. Well, the way they project themselves, it just may not be true. We can't let that comparison own us, because that comparison will just... It'll steal every ounce of joy and energy and belief that we have in ourselves and in our own companies.

Taylor Baker:

I've been around a lot of very broken people because they think what they have in their real life isn't good enough because they're comparing it to all these, like you said, projected versions of other people's lives.

Brandon Lee:

No, and you know, Taylor, I'll go back to what I said before is nothing has changed. It's just different. I mean every generation struggles with that. I think it's just part of adulting.

Taylor Baker:
definitely. I want to again ask another a little bit more about your cool founders side. It's one thing to work at a startup, but it's another thing entirely to found and run one. How can a budding entrepreneur determine if they are truly up for the challenge of founding and running a startup?

Brandon Lee:
Here's my answer and you've learned this about me, I just speak straight from the heart of what I believe. I may be wrong. I may be right. I don't know. When I met my wife and I wanted to marry her, I didn't ask anybody if what I was doing was right. I didn't ask anybody, "How do you know?" I knew, and I didn't really care what anyone else thought. I think starting a company is kind of similar. If you start asking people questions, they're going to give you all the reasons why you should, why you shouldn't, what you should be concerned about. They're going to tell you all the best ways to go grow a business. Really, if you can look yourself in the mirror and go, "I believe in this, I've done the leg work, I can see it. This is the path that I want to go on," then go for it.

Taylor Baker:
That was beautiful. I really appreciate you sharing that. I think that was one of the most charming ways to reference anything revolving business ever.

Brandon Lee:
Thank you, Taylor. I appreciate that. It's the best analogy I can think of, because when you jump into entrepreneurship, especially in this competitive age, especially if you're going into any sort of SaaS technology, you know, you look at the Mar Comm 5,000 and I mean I've, I've been watching the Mar Comm 5,000 for eight years now, And I think initially started as the Mar Comm 1000 or 500, but the Mar Comm 5,000 now is like 7,682 I think is the exact number marketing softwares in the space. It is so crowded. If you start asking people, "What do you think?" You're going to get a lot of people that say, "Man, it's so competitive you shouldn't do it." My favorite is always, "I knew a guy that started a company, and he lost everything." You get everything in between. The reality is that you got to be true to yourself. You've got to follow whatever purposes you feel like is leading you.

I've had great successes, and I've had some horrible failures and had several things in between. The success can't define me. The failure can't define me. The process of how I treat people, how I work hard, all of that is something that I can take with me no matter how much money somebody is paying our business or not.

Taylor Baker:
Everything you've said today has just been a breath of fresh air. I feel like we really need more of that in the world, and I feel like I definitely grew up in a place where you were weighed and measured by the kind of car you drove or how much money you made. That I am definitely in that as you called it adulting phase where I'm realizing how little any of that matters and how the things like my relationships and my husband and my family is really the core of it. It's you can absolutely have a job and a career and love it and provide value to other people, but it's just sort of that doesn't show how valuable you are as a human being. Well Brandon, I mean I am just fascinated by everything you've said. Do you have any final words of wisdom? Any final advice? Anything left you want to share?

Brandon Lee:

I'm not perfect in living out the things that I say, but I work really hard at it because I believe that they are the strength of growing a life. It's the strength of growing a business. It's a strength of growing relationships. As you know in this world, it's not easy to always do the right thing. My encouragement everything is everybody would be as you know, figure out who you want to be and then work your butt off to be that person despite circumstances around you.

Taylor Baker:
That's great advice. Do you have anything exciting coming up that you want to share with our listeners?

Brandon Lee:
I am most excited right now I think that a FunnelAmplified is starting to come into its own. We were early. I think social media, content marketing and personal building relationship building is becoming more and more of a challenge. My opinion is training people to use social and create content is great. However, we're not all built to be marketers. The concept of FunnelAmplified, like you invited me to be on your podcast, there's more and more opportunities coming out for me, for the company, for our team members to start sharing what this FunnelAmplified message is about because we all need to be online, we all need to be sharing content. We all need to be more consistent with it, but most of us don't have the desire to sit down and create our own content. Our focus, our mission has been how do we help companies enable digital relationships at scale? I really think 2020 is a big year for FunnelAmplified. I'm extremely excited for that.

Taylor Baker:

Well, I look forward to hearing more about what you guys have to come. I'm sure our listeners are going to have more questions for you. How can our listeners reach you?

Brandon Lee:

Of course there's the wonderful LinkedIn. You can also go by what I call our personal content hub, which is through FunnelAmplified, which is Brandon.funnelamplified.com. Actually if anyone wants to go there, I have a couple of different eBooks I've written. I don't ask you to give me your name and email. It's a giver environment, but I have one that's on trends for B2B sales success for 2020 that I think is actually really good insight into what's happening in B2B sales and where relationships are going. If anybody wants it head, on over there. It's yours free. if you want to give me your name and email, I'll take it. If you want to say engage with any of my LinkedIn posts or come see me on Facebook too, I don't care. I'm an open book. Those are the best ways and of course it's brandon@funnelamplified.com if anyone wants to message to me that way.

Taylor Baker:
Okay, well don't worry, listeners. I will link to all of that. Definitely want you guys to have access to those amazing resources. Brandon, you have been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so very much for taking the time.

Brandon Lee:
My pleasure, Taylor.

Taylor Baker:
To all of our listeners out there, thank you for listening, and be sure to tune in next week for even more exciting CoSelling content. Now, go get your partnership on.

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