How Ryan Deiss Escaped the “Guru Trap”

Do you own your business or does your business own you?

Roland Frasier calls it the “Dancing Bear” syndrome, or the “Dancing Bear Company.” When the bear stops dancing, the money stops flowing.

This is more widely known as being “the guru” of your business. On the outside, you look successful, but on the inside, you’re stressed, exhausted, and trapped.

Why trapped?

Because YOU are the business. Worse… you are the PRODUCT. If you are the product of your business, you can never stop working. How can you scale if you can only be in one place at a time?

If you don’t like being trapped, and one day dream of selling your company for lots and lots of money, it’s time to make a change.

You need to transition from a personal brand into a valuable and sellable company brand.

Step 1: Materialize Your Genius

The genius that’s inside your head must be extracted. It must be extracted and turned into something tangible.

You might be thinking, “Hang on. If I tell everyone what I know, won’t they stop needing me?” You’re afraid that materializing and sharing your genius will somehow diminish your value.

The truth is: it’s the opposite. By keeping your value all to yourself, you are owned by your business.

Turn your genius into an “artifact” that is easily explained and transferable.

At DigitalMarketer, Ryan knew he was onto something when someone asked for a large poster of the Customer Value Journey. Then, they started seeing people gluing these cut outs to perfectly good white boards.

A good artifact has value completely separate from its author. Transfer your genius from inside your head onto a napkin, a poster, or a stone tablet. Start by asking yourself, “What’s my 10 commandments? What’s my million-dollar napkin?”

Step 2: Prophet-ize Your Message

Prophetize isn’t a word, but here’s what it means.

Become the prophet of your message.

Become the best spokesperson in the world for your brand. When someone attempts to give you all the credit, redirect that to the artifact. Give all the credit to your team, and the power of the artifact.


Once you’ve materialized your genius onto an artifact and become the best brand spokesperson in the world, you need to motivate other people to help you spread that message.

Step 3: Deputize Other True Believers

Remember: the key to building a valuable, sellable brand is to get yourself out of the spotlight. You are not the product. The next step is encouraging your team members, partners, and customers to tell the story and teach the model of your artifact.

This is why DigitalMarketer launched its Certified Partner program. Our agency partners use our content, and teach it all over the world. You know what’s weird? Walking into an event and watching somebody talk about your artifact. You know what’s cool? Getting that brand promotion without having to step on stage.

You should also deputize your team. If you can’t make a speaking engagement, let one of your team members go in your place.

Let your customers teach what you’ve taught them. If you’ve done a good job of teaching, there

are people in that community who have great results. Reach out and ask them if they want to help out. You’re going to find your all-star students are your disciples. Some of them will help you for free too.

Which is better, one solitary human screaming about your brand, or a whole horde of believers out teaching your methods and representing your brand?

Deputizing can seem scary because… what if people leave?

Here’s the thing: you have to grow your universe. If you keep all of your knowledge to yourself, you will always be a slave to your company, and that company will never scale. Be open to freely teaching what you know to your customers and employees.

Some will eventually leave you. As they go, they broaden your universe. They work with other companies, they go to other events, and they create relationships with other industry leaders. Guess who comes along with them?

You. It’s crucial that you let employees and customers grow through the education you give them and then be happy for them when they leave. Let them leave on a great note and look for opportunities to keep working together.

What about my personal brand?

This is not about ditching your personal brand! This is about leveraging your personal brand to point it towards your company brand.

If my face is all over my courses, should I re-record it?

No, no, no. That is a product. When it’s time to create new products, bring someone else in to teach! Is your product working well right now? Yes? Don’t stop. This is about adding on, not taking away.

How do I lift up other people to take part in my aging guru’s brand?

Dave Ramsey is a great example of this. He’s starting to position his Financial Peace University away from himself and bringing in other experts to talk on the subject. Just make sure you have a brand that isn’t First Name Last Name.

Move Forward

Any time you’re feeling trapped, say this to yourself:

I am NOT my company.

My company does NOT own me.

I OWN my company!

You have genius that needs to be shared. In order to really scale, that genius must be easy to share and shared by people other than you. Shift your focus away from a guru brand mindset and implement these three steps to build a valuable, sellable company brand.

And if you’re ready for more…

Traffic & Conversion Summit 2020 is happening December 15 – 17 in San Diego. In 3 content-packed days, you’re not only going to get expert sessions from Ryan Deiss but also marketing legends like Marcus Lemonis, Roland Frasier, Billy Gene Shaw, Ezra Firestone, Mari Smith, Rachel Bell, Kevin Harrington, Kristen Bryant, Richard Lindner, Goldie Chan, Chalene Johnson and many more. Find out more here >>

Get $1,000 OFF Your Ticket To T&C!

Ready for more strategic insights from marketing experts? Then get your discounted ticket for T&C 2020 and join us in December to learn what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s actually working RIGHT NOW in digital marketing.

* If I have provided a non-business domain email address (such as, but not limited to, gmail, hotmail, etc) I am doing so in the context of it being used for my business and not personal interactions with Clarion.

Traffic & Conversion Summit is part of Traffic & Conversion Summit LLC which is part of the Clarion Events Group of companies (Clarion). We take your privacy seriously. We wish to use your information on the basis of our legitimate interests to keep in contact with you about relevant events, products and services which may be of interest to you. We will only ever use the information we collect or receive about you in accordance with our Privacy Policy. If you prefer us not to contact you about relevant events, products and services that we believe you will be interested in, you can manage your preferences via a link we will send you, unsubscribe using the link in our emails or by emailing usdataprivacy@clarionevents.com.

Bethany Cowan

Bethany Cowan is the Programming Manager at DigitalMarketer and Traffic & Conversion Summit. She works across teams to program speakers, produce digital content, and host live events. With a strong background in education, Bethany is passionate about helping marketers of all stripes transform their business.

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Get $1,000 OFF Your Ticket To T&C!

Ready for more strategic insights from marketing experts? Then get your discounted ticket for T&C 2020 and join us in December to learn what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s actually working RIGHT NOW in digital marketing.

* If I have provided a non-business domain email address (such as, but not limited to, gmail, hotmail, etc) I am doing so in the context of it being used for my business and not personal interactions with Clarion.

Traffic & Conversion Summit is part of Traffic & Conversion Summit LLC which is part of the Clarion Events Group of companies (Clarion). We take your privacy seriously. We wish to use your information on the basis of our legitimate interests to keep in contact with you about relevant events, products and services which may be of interest to you. We will only ever use the information we collect or receive about you in accordance with our Privacy Policy. If you prefer us not to contact you about relevant events, products and services that we believe you will be interested in, you can manage your preferences via a link we will send you, unsubscribe using the link in our emails or by emailing usdataprivacy@clarionevents.com.

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* If I have provided a non-business domain email address (such as, but not limited to, gmail, hotmail, etc) I am doing so in the context of it being used for my business and not personal interactions with Clarion.

Traffic & Conversion Summit is part of Traffic & Conversion Summit LLC which is part of the Clarion Events Group of companies (Clarion). We take your privacy seriously. We wish to use your information on the basis of our legitimate interests to keep in contact with you about relevant events, products and services which may be of interest to you. We will only ever use the information we collect or receive about you in accordance with our Privacy Policy. If you prefer us not to contact you about relevant events, products and services that we believe you will be interested in, you can manage your preferences via a link we will send you, unsubscribe using the link in our emails or by emailing usdataprivacy@clarionevents.com.