Jason Terry on Bringing Your Whole Self to Digital Networking
CEO & Founder
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Jason Terry, Principal of Blue Gurus, deepens his professional relationships by sharing personal stories, hobbies and goals with his connections to promote engagement and camaraderie on LinkedIn.
“People want to do business with people they like, they want to hear what's going on in your life. That's the whole social media part of it, right? But you can always tie it to the business.”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders. One conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning into another episode.
Hello, listeners. Welcome back to Enterprise.ing Podcast. Wonderful to have you here and it's wonderful to have my old pal Jason Terry here in the house. Jason, welcome to Enterprise.ing Podcast. So happy to have you. I want to tell our listeners that Jason Terry is the principal of Blue Gurus, where he helps companies and organizations to tell their stories through blogging, website development and LinkedIn training. So glad you're here, Jason. Thank you so much.
Jason Terry: Thanks for having me today. I appreciate it.
Alana Muller: Well, I want to start by having you tell our listeners about Blue Gurus and what inspires you to do the work that you do.
Jason Terry: I love that question. I get to tell it a lot because a lot of people ask the question why the name "Blue Gurus." My previous work shirt was purple and it was hard to find XXXL tall shirts in purple. Blue's my favorite color, so that was going to be part of the name. At the time, I started Blue Guru in 2009 and at the time "gurus" had more of a helpful mentor kind of thing to it. Now, it's been kind of abused a little bit.
Alana Muller: It's been co-opted, yeah.
Jason Terry: It's been co-opted, but Blue Gurus, it rhymes, there's all these things, and it makes people like, "What is Blue Gurus? I think I've heard of that," and all that kind of stuff. That's the reason behind the name. The reason behind the company is that rolling back, I have an IT background, so I have a computer engineering degree, and so I've been a programmer and all this stuff for 15 years of my professional career. I was part owner in a IT-managed services company here in town for eight years and took over sales for the last 24 months, basically 18 months. I never sold before, really, in my life. I really didn't even like the idea of a salesperson and that pushy idea that came with that, and so I took over the sales department for the company, and doubled the revenue in about 18 months.
Alana Muller: That's amazing.
Jason Terry: But I promise, it's not a brag thing. It's so crazy.
Alana Muller: This is not a humble brag, this is like a, "I can't believe it myself."
Jason Terry: It is not a humble brag. Right. The encouraging thing I try to talk to people about is, look, all I did is I did what I said I was going to do. I was honest with people, I made the process fun and interesting, I wasn't pushy about it, and it just worked because people, especially in the world of IT, which is not a sexy thing, right, it's like, "Oh, we finally have the mechanic, right? We can trust that this guy's going to tell us how it needs to be."
Alana Muller: Totally get that. The thing is, I know so it's easy for me to say, but you have your authentic, you have a personality that brings people in, and even back to the name, it just makes people smile, and it gets the conversation going, so that makes complete sense that you were able to dig in, and get people to participate.
Jason Terry: I did that for eight years, primarily focused on the small-to-medium-sized business market, so I had lots of relationships with lots of companies. That makes it easier when you're starting a business because you already have a customer base installed. I switched from IT services to marketing related-stuff because what I learned during that 18 months was it's all about two things, it's all about who you know, and it's all about staying top of mind with those people, and it's still true today. I've been doing this for 14 years. I walk into tons of companies, and they say 80 to 90% of our business is either repeat business, or referrals from existing customers. Then my follow-up to that is, "Well, how are you doing on LinkedIn? Because that is your professional tie to all those people that are your best referral sources and how are you staying top of mind with them?" Almost always, it's cricket, cricket, and it's a huge missed opportunity. Yep.
I had success in those 18 months. I was blogging before anybody. It wasn't even a WordPress website, it was Google's Blogspot, or I don't know, Blogspot, something like that. I was using LinkedIn, 25% of the city of the Kansas City metro was on LinkedIn, so not everybody was there, and I was telling my stories every week of what we were working on, what we were trying to do way before this whole content marketing thing started to happen. It's been an uphill battle the first four years to get companies to understand, look, they want to know what you're doing and they want to work with companies that they like to associate with, that have good products and services, give back to the community, all this stuff. Why are you not telling your story so people can hear it? That's why I started Blue Gurus, was to help companies with their marketing message, specifically focused on storytelling and LinkedIn.
Alana Muller: I love that. Okay, well, that leads right into the next thing I want to talk to you about. Generically, it's how do you actively manage your network? I'd love for you to couch it in terms of LinkedIn, because you and I have discussed this before, but one of the things that I always tell clients, especially when I'm talking about networking and how to maintain a professional disposition is I say, "If you're going to do any social media at all, please, please, please do LinkedIn and be active, be a participant," so talk a little bit about, again, how you actively manage your network, but wrapped in the shroud of LinkedIn and why that's an important tool for professionals today.
Jason Terry: I remember the days, many people listening to your podcast will remember the days when we were going to chamber events, luncheons, different group meetings on a weekly or monthly basis for networking coffees, all the stuff, and it's a lot of work. The reality is if you're trying to stay top of mind with that network you have that you're always fostering and growing, it's really hard work to keep that pace up, and then along comes social media, which allows you to connect to those people and now stay more top of mind. With a simple update, you can potentially hit hundreds of people in your network by telling them a story with a LinkedIn status update.
I noticed within a period of months how much more traction I was getting and how many more referrals I was getting back to the IT managed services world. Because of my use of LinkedIn, I was staying top of mind. What I do for today, here it is 2022, it's built into my DNA. I meet somebody for coffee or whatever, I get introduced to somebody probably once a week as my goal now. I have a fairly established network here in Kansas City, but you never know everybody, so you always want to meet good people, so I still make it an effort to go weekly to meet somebody for coffee, or a happy hour, or whatever that is. Immediately after that, usually in the parking lot, I'm using the LinkedIn mobile app to send them a connection request, and I customize the message. I don't ever send the canned message. That's one of the things I teach companies.
Alana Muller: Good. Yay, bravo. Yeah.
Jason Terry: Oh, and people are like, "Why should it matter?" Well, it really matters. That's one of the things to dig in, but I don't want to spend 15 minutes about some of these things, but I always customize the message. Then after that, because I've done that, my most focused effort, because I'm like many people, I've got lots of things to do, I'm delivering service to clients, I'm doing the books, all these other things, I don't have hours and hours to play around with social media. But once you've invited this group of people and you continue to invite these people over the months and years, you now have this potentially captive audience where you can then do a status update, let's say, on LinkedIn, and if they log into LinkedIn the next time they'll see that.
Instead of six months between chamber events that you saw that person and met them and we all have the stack of dusty business cards and then you don't talk to that person. Now, you can potentially keep them top of mind by saying, "Hey, here's going on in my business." Talk about three different buckets about what's going on with clients, what's going on in the industry of marketing, what's going on in the community in terms of giving back, those kinds of stories that I tell. We'll talk about content more on this call, I'm sure.
But by doing that, I now am keeping top of mind with those people, and I cannot tell you myself because I eat my own cooking in Blue Gurus, but my clients, I cannot tell you how many times somebody's connected with somebody on LinkedIn, they are part of this content messaging thing that happens now, and six months, a year later, somebody comes out of the woodwork and says, "Hey, I know somebody that needs help with LinkedIn. You want me to do an introduction for you?" I haven't talked to them literally in a year, but they feel like they know me, and they're talking to me all the time because they see these status updates from me on a weekly basis.
Alana Muller: Yeah, I mean, I talk to people about that all the time. With the advent of social media, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Insta, whatever it is, I do think that people get a sense that they have kept up with friends from afar even though they haven't. What I love about the LinkedIn component of that is that you really can maintain it on a professional basis. They know what's going on with you, they know what your challenges are, they know what you're excited about, They know what your successes have been. They know potentially how you can help them and how they can help you. It's all, again, couched in that good professional quality conversation, so I think that's so cool, and the fact that you're staying so active on LinkedIn allows people to connect with you in a way that feels very personal even if you haven't touched base with them in six months, a year, two years. I mean, I talk about the before time and after time when it relates to COVID, so I mean, even that, I think LinkedIn is sort of a savior in terms of having kept us connected to people even when we had to be isolated.
Jason Terry: Absolutely.
Alana Muller: I want to dig in a little bit more. I want to circle back to a different kind of digital media and that is blogging. You are the professional. I have to tell our listeners that I am a very long time subscriber to the Blue Guru's blog. I want to know from you, if you would, where do you come up with your topics? Which, by the way, I have always found innovative, timely, relevant, all the right stuff. I want to understand from you, how do you decide what types of information you're going to share with your community? Because you chock it full of good, useful information that, frankly, is free to your readers and super, super helpful.
Jason Terry: I appreciate that and thank you for being a longtime subscriber, for sure. I think it starts out with the motivation. You have to ask yourself the question, "What's the point of the stories that we're going to tell? What's in it for the customer/the audience/your vendors/your peers/whatever?" For me, I learned this from my grandfather, you take care of business with your heart and your hands with the relationships around you. That has been a life thing for me, so when I was starting this whole storytelling thing, it's always been about educating people. You mentioned the pandemic. One of the things that Gina Stuelke at Kenton Brothers challenged me with was, "Hey, we want to get into video. You should be doing video," so of course, I started a YouTube channel, and I've done a YouTube video pretty much every week for the last two years now. A lot of the things that we're talking about today are in videos that are three-to-five minutes that teach you how to do everything that a lot of the things that I do in my training and other things like that.
The way I come up with that content, knowing that the heart is to help because here's what happens, once people understand that you're giving them a ton of value, they feel like, "Oh, this guy could come in and give us focus stuff and get us off the ground running right now." I don't give every single thing away in my content, but I give a lot of it away in little bits and pieces. Here's the way I come up with it and is I tell everybody, this is the easiest way, because this is the number one thing that people struggle with in social media is how do we come up with content?
Quick aside, the mistake that a lot of companies make that I see is they will either outsource to ghostwriters, or they'll buy industry-standard content, and it's not about their people, it's not about their company, and it's a huge disconnect. There's someplace for some of that. I'm not saying all of that's bad, but the most valuable stuff, people want to do business with people that they like. Mick and I always have said that. Mick Johnson used to work with me for nine years until he's with his wife's business now, but the point is that people want to work with people that they like, and so the way you influence people is by staying top of mind, giving them value being, and being fun while you're doing that, right?
Here are the two simple things that I do. I always, every time I sit down each week to come up with a YouTube video, well, first of all, I keep a Google Drive document with ideas. I have primed my brain when I hear a nugget of truth out in the community, or at a client, or whatever, I'm very quick to, "Oh, that's a good story title," or, "That's a good article title," or, "That's a good video idea," and I will throw that into that Google Drive of just ideas for the future. That's a discipline you have to develop when you're going to start telling these stories. You also have to be disciplined to get your camera out and take photos of stuff, or you have no pictures to capture any of this.
But the simple answer is I sit down at my desk and I look at my calendar for the last week, maybe two, and I look through all the stuff that was going on, and then if that hasn't generated an idea, because I might think about, "Oh, I was at that blogging client, and they talked about Father's Club that month, and I totally need to do that on my stuff with my social media," because I do the website and blogging with Father's Club here in town. They're not for profit. That's one of the ways is looking at the calendar. People miss that all the time, "Oh, my life's boring. I'm not doing anything interesting." I challenge it because every time I've sat down with somebody, and looked at their calendar with them, I'm like, "What's that about?", and they tell me there's three stories that come out of that one thing that happened on their counter. I'm like, "Come on." You just have to understand how to turn this into a story, right?
The other thing I tell people is, "Hey, get your phone out and look through your photo gallery for the last two weeks."
Alana Muller: Oh, great idea.
Jason Terry: Inevitably, oh, my gosh, inevitably I could do it right now, and there's going to be maybe a bottle of bourbon that I shared with a peer group, or there's a whole bunch of things, a funny dinner and there was something funny that I could tie it to the business that happened at the dinner place, or whatever. There's all these ideas that come out of the photos of your life because I believe the story you're telling should be your authentic story about you.
Again, if people want to do business with people they like, they want to hear what's going on in your life. That's the whole social media part of it, right? But you can always tie it to the business. You can always tie it back to the business. I've done blogs and videos on scuba diving trips and talking about leadership and you have to all depend on each other to be safe when you're scuba diving, whatever, there's always a way to tell a story, and so the calendar and the photo gallery are such great ways just as one person. Imagine if you have a blog team internally at your company and you have five people that are doing that on their calendar and their photo gallery, ideas are coming faster than you can even get them out there.
Alana Muller: I love it. Well, I have to say that I've got a big writing deadline coming up, and I need a bunch of content ideas. You just helped me. I really appreciate that. I love the idea about going back to your calendar the last week or two and then that idea of coming through just the photos you've taken in the last week. So cool. Great, great idea.
I want to ask you a slightly different question. I know that you are motivated by a call to serve, and I mean, even in our conversation today, you've referenced the service mentality a few times. With that as the backdrop, when it comes to relationship building, what are some ways that you seek to achieve mutual benefit from your professional interactions?
Jason Terry: People ask me this a lot, especially when they're coming into this the KC metro market and they're trying to break in and get to know people and get to know companies and groups and all that stuff. They're like, "How do I go about doing this?" I'm not sure everybody likes my answer, but it's worked for me and it's worked for a lot of the people I've taught about this stuff.
I lead with a couple of things. First of all, I lead with the relationship matters more than a check or expectations of business happening. When I sit down in terms of the mutual, I look at a new meeting, like a coffee meeting as an opportunity to offer them free consulting. I kind of have that background with it and marketing. I'm kind of like the big guy that owns a truck that you want to have come over and help you move, right? It's that kind of a resource, so I can sit down with pretty much anybody in business and teach them something about what's the thing that's taken them the most time on their computer, or what are they struggling with on LinkedIn, or whatever, and I look at that time to give them a lot of ideas and value in that initial meeting.
Then because of that investment, and it's an honest, genuine, I think people are fascinating, and I mean, of course, I've met with people that are all about themselves and take the whole time to talk about themselves, and I just don't spend a lot of energy on those people. But most of the time, the people that I'm meeting with, or got referred to meet with are great people that have very interesting backgrounds, so I'm starting with that. This is a long-term play. I am looking at all of these relationships, including the ones that happen in October of 2022 as a potential 10-to-15-to-20-year relationship. If that's the idea, I start slow.
It's like, let's invest in some time and energy on your background and who you are and what makes you tick and some of my story, too, and let's figure that out. I know for a fact that what happens after that first meeting with somebody in terms of mutual benefit. A lot of people are like, "Oh, refer me. Who can you refer me to? Who can you refer me to?" There's lots of answers to that. Don't ask me that. Just go look at my LinkedIn account and who I'm connected to and tell me the one company you want me to refer you to and why and we'll have a conversation about that.
Alana Muller: Love that.
Jason Terry: It shifts the focus on them. They've got to do a little legwork and they've got to come up with a reasoning behind it, and that makes me comfortable to do more of an introduction, if that makes sense, after the conversation.
Alana Muller: Of course, yeah.
Jason Terry: Instead of just, "Pick your brain and tell me the top three companies you want to just refer to me, even though you just met me." That doesn't make any sense.
Alana Muller: Right. Yeah, I totally agree with that, and the idea of that, I mean, sometimes we have to do a little heavy lifting, and what you're describing is, "Just do this one little thing, and then I will sort open this opportunity for you," so I think that that is a wonderful idea. Wonderful idea.
Speaking of great people, what I'd love to know from you is, tell me about one person or one interaction that resulted in a breakthrough for you, either personally or professionally?
Jason Terry: I thought about this a little bit. We'd talked about a couple of topics we might talk about and this was one of the ones that I kind of was noodling a little bit. There's a lot of people that have had a huge impact on my professional career here in Kansas City for the last 25 years, but the one that just kind of bubbled to the top was Jason Moxness. A lot of people know Jason Moxness. The story starts with my attorney at the time, Mike Jones, he's been the attorney for Blue Gurus forever. Mike Jones introduced me to Jason Moxness because he was needing help with a website. This was 14 years ago and I had just started the company and so I didn't even have an office space, which I still don't, I still have to work out of my house because I'm at the clients' 99% of the time, I'm out onsite at my clients' most of the time.
We did this website project together and fast forward the story, it turned into joining a peer advisory group together, which still meets to this day. That turned into, at the time, he was reporting to Pam Berneking at Alterra Bank and they became a blogging client of an LinkedIn training client of ours for years. He became the market president for Core Bank and became a blogging LinkedIn training client for years. Again, we're in that peer advisory group, we go to the lake together, the peer advisory group guys, Trista, my wife and I moved into this neighborhood, Parkers, right by Shawnee Mission Park. Jason and his wife Paige happened to live in Parkers. The story I love to tell is I trust these people with my wife and my checkbook. That's the litmus test of how much you trust somebody.
Alana Muller: Your wife and your life basically, right?
Jason Terry: That's right. My wife and my life. Jason absolutely hits on all cylinders for that. We share stories, we share life. He's a stretcher bearer for me and I am for him as well. We share faith, we share lots of things, and so he was an easy one to just bring out and talk about.
But I think it's interesting, if you think about this 25 minutes that we've been talking, you're hearing from me, it's all about true investment in an authentic relationship. I've got three different peer advisor groups that I either manage or I'm a part of that I've been pouring into for years. These are people, people that'll be with me till the end, that group.
It's interesting, I asked myself the question probably seven years ago, where is all of my business coming from? I was just curious because it came up with some other clients, how are they getting their business? I was kind of surprised to realize that more than 50% of the business for Blue Gurus was coming out of either the companies in my peer advisory groups because of that long-term trusted relationship stuff, or referrals from those companies in my peer advisory groups that were not asked for, so it's never been a pushy, "Hey, give me five referrals a month," or any of that kind of stuff. Let's throw business cards at each other. I trust Jason Terry, I know he knows what he's doing, these people need help with LinkedIn training, I'm going to refer him, and he'll take good care of them, and they'll be happy, and everybody's happy. That's been interesting to me is that when you invest in the relationships, the referrals just happen.
Alana Muller: Yeah. Well, and I mean, just listening to you, the relationship that you've built with Jason Moxness, it's just really beautiful. I knew that about you, that the two of you were close, and that you can trace back the evolution of the relationship, and how close you've become, and that it really is in every facet of your life. I think it's really lovely. It's a wonderful way to think about building a life, literally, so I think that's great. Thank you for sharing that.
Just kind of a fun twist on the question now, and that is, if you could meet with anyone, one person for a cup of coffee, I don't care if they're not living, fictional, or nonfictional. Who would it be and why?
Jason Terry: I hadn't thought about that one. It'd be Gary Vaynerchuk. I have a quick answer to that.
Alana Muller: Oh, love it. The wine guy Gary Vaynerchuk or the video guy? I mean, which guy are we talking about?
Jason Terry: The video social media guy that's very mouthy and lots of F-bombs and all that stuff.
Alana Muller: Yeah, he's hysterical.
Jason Terry: I'll tell you what, all these years, I don't know if there's anything he's said about social media relationships, staying ahead of things and putting in the work, I don't know if there's anything he's said that I don't completely agree with him on. I love his energy. I love how far ahead of the curve he's always been and continues to be and how honest he is about you don't just get the corner office after working at a company for 18 months, right, you got to put in the work and get the experience and all these things, so yeah, I would love to sit down and just ask him, because I've heard so much of his stuff, I think the questions that I would want to talk to him about are what does he think the next 10 year, well, and what is he going to do in retirement? What is that like?
Alana Muller: I can't even imagine a retiree Gary Vaynerchuk.
Jason Terry: I know.
Alana Muller: That would be like the next evolution. I can't even imagine, right?
Jason Terry: He'll have some crazy answers that's going to be amazing, right? That's why I want to, 'cause he's going to buy the sports team. Is it the Seahawks? I can't even remember. He's going to buy a sports team and then he is going to retire and all this stuff and I'd love to sit and talk to him for 15 minutes about some of that stuff.
Alana Muller: Super, super fun. What's currently on your nightstand?
Jason Terry: Well, I've got a book that a client gave me that I'm reading. I love that question and I'm going to switch it on you. I think what anybody listening to this podcast, if they ask themselves that question, what's on your nightstand, that should be something that you're including in your professional headline on LinkedIn, so if you happen to go to my-
Alana Muller: Ooh. What a great idea.
Jason Terry: ... Yeah, so if you happen to go to my LinkedIn account, linkedin.com/in/jasonterry, you'll see that I've got two to three business things first, professional storyteller, principal of Blue Gurus, whatever. But then you'll see LEGO investor, you'll see scuba diver, I've been scuba diving for over 20 years, and you'll see kind of musician because I never talk about religion or politics on social media, I happen to be a worship leader at my church, and I lead the congregation by singing and playing guitar once a month. A lot of people don't know that about me because I never lead with that. That'll come up once I get to know people, and the whole faith thing, it's off-putting to half the people. That's just one of the things that's important in my life.
The answer to the nightstand story is whatever you're going to say there should be in your professional headline on LinkedIn because that shows up in search results, it's one of the first things that people see about you, and it's the opportunity to start a conversation and start building that relationship before you've ever even met them.
Alana Muller: Okay, so I have to tell you, best answer to what's on your nightstand question ever, so thank you. That was great.
Jason Terry: Thanks.
Alana Muller: Jason Terry, so delighted to have you on this podcast. Tell our listeners where they can go to learn more about you and more about Blue Gurus.
Jason Terry: Well, you can go to bluegurus.com. All of the stories and the links to all my videos are all on my website and you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. If you just go into YouTube and search for "Blue" and then "Gurus," G-U-R-U-S, you'll see my channel and you can subscribe and get my weekly content.
Alana Muller: Loved having you on. Great to see you, Jason. Thanks for being on Enterprise.ing.
Jason Terry: Thanks, Alana.
Alana Muller: Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website, enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders one conversation at a time.
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