“When you clearly define the products or services you offer, it makes it easier for you to become known for something.” – Wes Gay
Wes Gay is my guest on the Brand New You podcast.
Wes is the chief guide at Wayfinder, a StoryBrand certified agency. He is a TEDx speaker, a Forbes contributor, and a certified StoryBrand guide who helps brands use the power of story to create a clear and compelling message for their employees and customers.
Wes didn’t always run a successful agency, in fact at one point, his career didn't look so bright.
Early on, Wes held various roles working with churches. While the work was enjoyable, he didn't love where his career was heading, so Wes decided to go back to school and get a master's degree, which is what he was doing when he got fired in early 2016.
At the time he and his family were living in a house the church owned with an almost 18-month-old and a second one on the way. The church asked him to find a new place to live.
He had about three weeks to find a new place which was not enough time to find another house, so the family moved into his mother-in-law’s house.
He did find another job at a different church (that paid less), but unfortunately two months after he started, they decided to terminate the position.
He was given three month’s severance, five weeks before his second child was born.
After being let go a second time, Wes’ life kind of went into a spiral. Like many others in this type of situation, he applied for everything he could. Submitting as many as 40 to 60 applications to search firms, churches, and even multiple Chick-Fil-A positions.
Wes was receiving no offers, and starting to feel the strain. He couldn’t find work despite doing everything he could. Nothing was working out.
In fall of 2016, nearly six months after being let go from the first role, Wes received an email about a copywriter certification being offered by Donald Miller, the founder of StoryBrand. The investment was $5,000.
Having already maxed out one credit card, he quickly dismissed the idea of becoming certified until he got a call from his wife who had also read the email.
Like the support I received from my wife after being let go, Wes’ wife told him to go ahead and do it. So, he did.
He put the $5,000 on another credit card and headed to Nashville for StoryBrand copywriter training.
StoryBrand is a seven-part marketing framework for creating marketing and messaging that compels people to act.
More often than not, companies use vague and confusing language when describing their products or services, and as a result, their message is confusing.
As a potential customer, you have no idea what they do, what they sell, or even how they can help.
StoryBrand gives businesses (and even personal brands) a clear path to decide what to stay in their marketing and messaging that will matter to the people who hear it.
Full disclosure, I am a certified StoryBrand guide. You can learn more by reading the book, “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller.
STARTING A BUSINESS
After the training, Wes got home and started interacting in the StoryBrand Slack channel answering questions and providing value based on this newly minted certification.
Having not worked in this capacity before, Wes struggled with imposter syndrome as he got started. Would people really listen to me, he wondered?
The question was quickly answered while he was sitting on his mothers-in-law's couch on a call with a potential client.
He had just quoted the client a price for his services, an amount he made up on the spot, and was shocked when they said, “Yes” almost immediately. The price he quoted was nearly a month’s salary at any job he’d ever had.
Looking back, what this taught Wes was that while he didn’t quite have the authority on his own, having just started his business, he could delegate his authority to his StoryBrand certification.
Wes believes one of the biggest frustrations people feel when making a career pivot is they know they can add more value, but the problem is how they are viewed by those around them.
When working at the churches, Wes was the IT guy/tech guy. Those around him knew him through that lens, which in their mind was the only value they thought he added.
Once Wes was able to change how people saw him, it made it much easier for him to pivot.
Defining Your Business
One of the biggest temptations new business owners discover is trying to be everything to everybody. In the beginning, every client looks like a rent payment and living expenses.
As a result, you become tempted to do things that are outside of your expertise to secure a new client.
Wes recognized this quickly and decided to adhere to some advice he had heard at an event where an executive spoke about how everything in life falls in one of three buckets.
- Things you can control.
- Things you can influence.
- Things you can neither control nor influence.
As Wes started his business, he modified the three buckets and applied them to his business.
- What I will do?
- What will I not do?
- What are the things I can influence?
When evaluating a potential client, Wes always asks himself these questions when deciding how to proceed.
Early on, Wes relied on the StoryBrand Slack channel to not only find clients but to find what he refers to as gatekeepers.
“Gatekeepers are individuals or business you can partner with for referral sources. Gatekeepers can bring clients to you, and you can provide clients to them.”
Wes believes, clearly defining your product offering gives you two distinct advantages.
- You know when to leverage your gatekeepers.
- You can become known for something.
Gatekeepers help you by providing solutions for the things you will not or cannot do on your own.
Becoming known for something (which I detail in my book CareerKred) will help you get referrals because people will know how to introduce you and your company to others.
As an example, which of the following would make a better introduction from a referral.
“Hey, you should really talk to Wes. He’s a nice guy and does good work, but I'm not really sure what all he does.”
“Hey, you should talk to Wes. He understands the StoryBrand framework and is a great copywriter. He really helped us rewrite our website. You should call them about your website.”
Obviously, the second introduction is preferred and to get there your clients need to know you for something.
Wes puts out a fair amount of content, as you may expect since he's a writer, but he does it with the mindset of always providing value to his target audience.
He believes in giving his best stuff away, like free insights and free help. He has never been concerned about giving too much away information because he knows not everybody you give free things to is going to have the time or the desire to do the work themselves.
Wes' advice when it comes to content is to be generous and give stuff away.
Wes has gone from being a StoryBrand copywriter to a StoryBrand guide, and now is running a StoryBrand certified agency called Wayfinder.
He decided to go this route after reaching a fork in the road. He could continue being “a lone ranger” guy, knowing it would take time and energy to build his personal brand to the point where he could capture more prominent clients or bigger companies.
Or he could transition to an agency where he would able to expand and offer more services with less effort as he built his business and brand. The more he considered it, the decision became a no brainer for him.
At Wayfinder, Wes and his team help their clients communicate complex ideas, simply.
He uses the StoryBrand framework as a foundation to help his clients first develop a message guide focused on their ideal customer. Once the message is clear, Wayfinder helps their clients in other areas as well.
- Website development
- Website copy
- Lead magnet creation
- Email copy
If you'd like to learn more about Wes or Wayfinder or both, check out the following links.