What is Personal Branding and Why is it Important? — Ramon Ray

Personal branding and content marketing are both key components of small business growth and development. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, area director for the UGA Small Business Development Center, welcomes Ramon Ray, a serial entrepreneur, motivational speaker, event host, and a leading expert on personal branding and small business growth. Ramon is also the founder of ZoneOfGenius.com and SmartHustle.com. Today, he is going to share valuable information on what it takes to succeed in business.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome into The Playbook, Ramon.

Ramon Ray:
Hey Mark, I’m excited to be here in Mark’s Playbook. Thanks for having me here. It’s good to meet you some time ago-

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Ramon Ray:
… and thanks for letting me have some value to your community. I appreciate it.

Mark Collier:
Well, thank you, man, I appreciate it. I mean, what your subject matter expertise lies in, Ramon, is so very important to all business owners, I believe. But before we get into that, tell me a little bit about your background and your history and what led you up to the business that you’re in today.

Ramon Ray:
Sure. I mean, I had a long stint right in my early college years of working at the United Nations.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic.

Ramon Ray:
And I did that, Mark, just to get a job to get some money. I applied for the secretarial administrative support type position, and I got that job. And we were still using white sheets to correct manual typewriter, still that timeframe when that was cool. We had some carbon copy things to do. Not that I’m that old, I’m almost 50. So I would spend some career doing that, and then the entrepreneurial bug bit me.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Ramon Ray:
I think sometimes it was like asking somebody, “Why do you like strawberry ice cream?”

Mark Collier:
Yeah.

Ramon Ray:
I don’t know if there’s an answer except God or how we were created, but that thirst of liking to create.

Mark Collier:
Yeah.

Ramon Ray:
Knowing that I had a skill and a talent, that I could monetize it, that just excited me. So that led me to the path of having a technology consulting business, very small, just me, which I dissolved. Then I started a blog, smallbiztechnology.com, and sold that after 20 years. So that in 2019 in the event business, and sold that a few years after I started it some time ago, and then smarthustle.com and recently sold that and launched zoneofgenius.com. So kind of that’s here I am today, a person with, I’d like to think beyond the academic experience, but like you, real world experience-

Mark Collier:
I love it.

Ramon Ray:
… in what it takes to grow a small business.

Mark Collier:
I love it, man.

Ramon Ray:
Wasn’t that helpful?

Mark Collier:
All right, So let’s get down to the meat of it, man. Personal branding is so very important. So let’s begin with, what is your definition of personal branding and why do you believe it’s so important to business owners?

Ramon Ray:
Yeah. I think there’s two things that come to mind with me in a framework that I often share and I think one is, ask for a smile before you ask for a sale. That’s the aspect of, it’s not yeah, the sale’s important, but I can’t get Mark’s money. I could, but ideally, I couldn’t get his long-term money unless I was his friend or had him smile or laugh or like me. My friend John Jantsch, I’m sure the book Duct Tape Marketing, right?

Mark Collier:
Yep, yep.

Ramon Ray:
He talks about no, like, and trust.

Mark Collier:
That’s right.

Ramon Ray:
So that’s one framework of ask for a smile before you ask for a sale.

Mark Collier:
Got it.

Ramon Ray:
And then the second part of that, kind of the cousin to that, and I talk about this in my book, Celebrity CEO, that the cousin to that is the aspect of build a community of fans. They haven’t bought from you yet, but they’re just fans. They like us, they clicked on, they commented, they came to our webinar, Build a community of fans and nurture them to a sale.

Mark Collier:
There you go.

Ramon Ray:
So my point being personal branding is what do people know of you? Because the small business owners, Mark, we can pretend we’re Starbucks, Coca-Cola, BMW, but myself, Mark, I don’t kid myself. People are coming because of Ramon. I’m not Mercedes. That’s just it.

Mark Collier:
All right. No, that makes perfect sense. And I’ll tell you another thing that’s kind of leapt into the forefront, Ramon, is the use of video in business. So, that’s going to lead to my next question. I mean, video use has just exploded. Some people know how to use it right, some people not so well. But why, in your opinion, do you believe using video and business is so important? And what’s some of the best way to use video?

Ramon Ray:
Yeah. And to those who are out there, Mark, often, a question people ask me, is that, Ramon, what if I don’t like video? I don’t like how I look. And that is a real thing. We can chuckle at it, but I am sure people, I know people who it’s a serious thing. They got this here, this thing that they don’t like about themselves and they hide and I respect that. But I would encourage people who feel, or Ramon, I just am shy. I’d encourage you to try to get over it a bit.
Easier said than done. Me and Mark are probably extroverts and we can just grab a camera and go anywhere. But the reason why, because it humanizes your brand, Mark.

Mark Collier:
It does. It does.

Ramon Ray:
The conversation we’re having today, we could do it only audio.

Mark Collier:
Right.

Ramon Ray:
Sure. That could work. Or we could just have a meme up me and Mark and put, Good Morning USA, but nothing beats the smile, the head moving, hands moving. That brings people closer. Oh, I like Mark. I like Ramon. So that’s why I think video, imagine it on scale, whether you’re doing Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, any whatever the platform may be, things like this, people get to see you and check you out just a bit better than just pure audio.

Mark Collier:
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Video. I have friends of mine who do podcasts and I have friends that do video. And now that I’ve done both, I would fully agree. Video is, you’re able to deliver so much more. Like you said, the smile, the hand gestures, everything else that goes with it, so definitely [inaudible 00:05:57].

Ramon Ray:
And Mark, as you know, right. From the video, you can take audio. From the video You can take a meme. From the video can clip it.

Mark Collier:
No, that’s true.

Ramon Ray:
So video kind of is that top level thing where everything can flow from that. You can take your 10 videos and do a book.

Mark Collier:
Yeah, no, absolutely. So now we’re going to peel back a few more layers though. Content marketing. Again, let’s talk about the basics. What is content marketing and why is it so very important to small businesses?

Ramon Ray:
Yeah, content marketing, Mark, as I see it, and I love your thoughts on this. Of course, that’s the top level. Video marketing is a part of content marketing. But I think, listen, how do you raise awareness for your brand?

Mark Collier:
That’s true.

Ramon Ray:
Let me start there. You can do it word-of-mouth. You can get a billboard, you can spend what, three point something million and put a Super Bowl commercial together and whatever that is. Number of ways you can get attention and get visibility for it. But the aspect of content, this device we all have now-

Mark Collier:
Yes, we do.

Ramon Ray:
… where you’re scrolling, scrolling either to laugh, be entertained, or my kid’s sick, typing that into a search engine.

Mark Collier:
That’s right.

Ramon Ray:
Or maps or some version of it. So the point being, you want your business to be in the conversation. You want your business through SEO or through however it is. It’s social media that people are finding you. So that’s why I’m a firm believer, I think there’s a lot of different types of marketing you can do, but when I think of content marketing, Mark, I think of a good email newsletter, a blog, using social media, this rounded out of things will help keep you in the forefront of your potential customer’s mind. Then when they’re ready to buy you’re the one that’s been pinging them, putting them in email news that every day, how to be healthy, how to have better sleep. When they’re ready for the solution you offer, they’re going to buy from you, ideally.

Mark Collier:
No, that makes perfect sense. Keeping yourself relevant in your potential customer or client’s mind, so that it’s so very important.

Ramon Ray:
And can I tell you a story, Mark?

Mark Collier:
Please, please do.

Ramon Ray:
I was looking for Facebook advertiser. Thank you. I was looking for an advertiser to do some Facebook advertising just a few days ago. And he’s a buddy I know, but I’m on his email list. So going back to the aspect of content, there’s a lot of people I could have looked, but he kept providing information and value in his content.

Mark Collier:
There you go.

Ramon Ray:
And so when I was ready to hire, I said, “Let me try him out.” So thank you. I just wanted to add that example.

Mark Collier:
No. Most important. What do they say you have to give before you expect to receive.

Ramon Ray:
Right.

Mark Collier:
And a lot of that is wrapped up in what smart marketers do, that they give you a little bit, enough to show you what they can do, and then if you want more, you purchase it from them.

Ramon Ray:
That’s right. You go with your dollar.

Mark Collier:
I mean, the bottom line is those folks, their running businesses are not running charities.

Ramon Ray:
Not at all. I know. I’m sure not.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well, speaking of that, perfect segue to my next question. You have now launched your fifth business.

Ramon Ray:
Yes, sir.

Mark Collier:
Zone of Genius. So why is it do you believe that’s your most impactful business? And tell me a little bit about it.

Ramon Ray:
Yeah. And who knows what the future will hold in 10 years?

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Ramon Ray:
Maybe they’ll have a cure for some big disease, Who knows, but here’s the thing, Mark, and I’ve started a few businesses and I’ve worn the small business flag we do together and many of our peers and colleagues. And I think business is important. I love it.

Mark Collier:
Oh, it is.

Ramon Ray:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
It is.

Ramon Ray:
And I think what excites me, Mark, about this new path I’m on with zoneofgenius.com, is that it opens me up to the world of personal development.

Mark Collier:
Got it.

Ramon Ray:
And what we’re trying to do is to help small business owners, our tagline, Live life fulfilled, because-

Mark Collier:
I like it. Live life built.

Ramon Ray:
Thank you, I got a vote for Mark. Because you can do all the speeds and feeds of how to use Twitter, how do you do Facebook? And those things are good. I have books here from Geno Wickman and Traction and all the books that you probably know, right?

Mark Collier:
Yes, I do.

Ramon Ray:
But, yes, but I do find, Mark, what is Mark’s personal life? What is Ramon’s personal life like? That’s right. Am I fit? Am I healthy? How’s my family? My personal finances? If you choose faith, things like that is what we want to get into the mindset. And not just mindset of an entrepreneur, that’s a big part of what we talk about, but even just are you going through some childhood trauma? So is that helpful, Mark? So I hope that in this journey of Zone of Genius, that we can help talk to the business owner beyond the business end, which most of us are comfortable with, but not your soul really, but yourself. That’s what I’m looking at.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, because if you’re not taking care of yourself, your health, your family, you’re not going to have the energy or the capacity to do well in your business. So you’re spot on there, Ramon. You’re spot on there, man. All right.

Ramon Ray:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
All right. They always say, one of my favorite sayings, hindsight is 20/20. So if you were stepped outside of yourself and could talk to your younger self, younger Ramon, what business advice would you give to your younger self?

Ramon Ray:
Wow. That’s a good question. Probably a lot, but I think I’ll share the top 47. How much time do we have?
But I would say one of a few things, Mark, that comes to mind for me is to learn a bit more about finance and numbers.

Mark Collier:
Oh, absolutely.

Ramon Ray:
I’m guessing that’s a strong point of yours, maybe.

Mark Collier:
Yeah.

Ramon Ray:
For me, it’s a weak area. I’m a marketing guy. I know marketing like nobody’s business. I will own that, personal branding, video content but I just wish, maybe not to be a guru of it. I don’t want to be a CPR bookkeeper, but I think I’ve missed a bit in not learning it. Balance sheet, cash flow, profit and loss. And I can talk about it. I’m not green behind the ears. I started five companies. It’s just, I wish earlier I would’ve paid more attention to it. Things like, Mark, you’re talking to the guy who doesn’t pay the IRS until April 15th. You know what happens then. You end up owing $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $75,000-

Mark Collier:
Oh, yes, you do. Yes you do.

Ramon Ray:
You see what I’m saying?

Mark Collier:
I’ve written those checks myself, so I understand.

Ramon Ray:
So I wish that I would’ve been just more disciplined in that area or being more, let me think. Is there a better way to structure a deal, than just slide my credit card and doing 20% interest at $25,000? So it’s worked for me. Because we all, I think what we’re weak on, we compensate with other things, but that’s the advice I’d give my younger self.

Mark Collier:
No, that makes perfect sense, man. Perfect sense. All right. Life balance, that’s one of the buzz words we talked about today. And I think you’re a family man like I am. So how do you balance your responsibilities at home and your responsibilities in business? What are some of your best tips and tricks there?

Ramon Ray:
Sure. It’s not easy, but I think that one thing I heard from Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter who sold her business to a big billion company some time ago, but is that she said sometimes I was a bad mother and a good CEO. Sometimes I was not a good CEO and a better mother.

Mark Collier:
There you go.

Ramon Ray:
And point being one or two things I’ve done, and there’s a few things, but I think one or two things I hone in on is explaining to my family, especially my children, how dad, in my case, could be mother, but how dad in my case, earns business in what I do.

Mark Collier:
There you go.

Ramon Ray:
Me on this podcast with you today explaining to my two year old, “Hey, listen, here’s why I need you to be a little quiet. I’m impacting this gentleman’s audience,” talking to a smaller kid, “so I need you to be quiet for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, so I can do what I do, then that will enable us to go play.” So that’s one thing I’ve tried, even to my wife, meaning, or it could be your husband, if they’re not in business, Mark, they may not understand. Wait a minute, you mowed Mark’s lawn. He said send him an invoice and he’ll pay you in 50 to 20 days. Why not immediate? You got to explain that to people who don’t know business.

Mark Collier:
That’s a good point. That’s a good point. Yeah, that’s a good point.

Ramon Ray:
Yeah.

Mark Collier:
All right. I like it, man. So as a five time business owner, I’m sure you’ve got some tips for not only starting a business, but ensuring longevity because what I found, Ramon, is there’s a heavy emphasis on starting businesses, but there’s not enough good information on how do you stay in business. And from my perspective, starting a bunch of businesses is not impactful if those businesses aren’t keeping their doors open. So what are some of your best tips and tricks for not only starting a business but ensuring it has some longevity?

Ramon Ray:
Yeah. Jim Collin’s book Flywheel, it’s more like a monograph. I think they call it a thin little thing. Yeah, I’d get that because the flywheel of the business, what are the key things that make it work? I think that’s one. Two, that’s a cousin to systems and processes. Understanding that. Three, being really dialed in on who your customer is. Four, follow-up. That’s another thing. It’s not Mark’s business. “Hey, Ramon, I called you about sending me-

Mark Collier:
Good point.

Ramon Ray:
… shipping me the wire hangers that I paid for.” That’s my job-

Mark Collier:
That’s right.

Ramon Ray:
… to keep in mind.

Mark Collier:
Good point.

Ramon Ray:
So those are a few things that I would say. I think your team. Do you have a team that can keep all those things I just said going? So I could mention more, but I think it sounds simplistic, but you’re right. Starting it. I could sell one cup of lemonade. I could sell a thousand cups of lemonade relatively easy. But to get Mark to buy lemonade again and again, to then have a deal with maybe a sports team to scale it more, to have the right team member that can operate on their own, that takes loving the boring stuff.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Ramon Ray, serial entrepreneur, motivational speaker, event host, and other superlatives that will go unnamed. Want to thank you, sir, for taking the time out of your busy day to come on my program and just kind of share some of your nuggets of wisdom and sound advice that you’ve gained through years of experience and running and starting successful companies, man. Best of luck to you in the future, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you at a future event.

Ramon Ray:
Indeed. Thank you, Mark. Appreciate all you do.

Mark Collier:
All right.


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