Nailing It 17: How to Tell Stories To Grow Your Business with Greg Koorhan - Stephanie Campanella

Nailing It 17: How to Tell Stories To Grow Your Business with Greg Koorhan

Stephanie Campanella
May 14th 2019


Steph: Well, hey everybody and welcome back to The Nailing It podcast. I have a special guest here today, Greg Koorhan. He is an awesome human being and this is his official bio just so that we make sure that we tell you exactly who this guy is, all right? Greg is an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of Crossbow Studio, an independent film and video production company specializing in uplifting stories that inspire, educate and entertain. He also runs a digital marketing firm focused on helping you generate leads for your business by creating compelling content aimed straight at the heart of your audience.

He’s an author of the number one best selling book. ‘Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me How To You storytelling to connect with the hearts and wallets of a hungry audience’. As a speaker and coach Greg is happiest when he is sharing his 30 plus use of storytelling, marketing and brand building experience to help you shortcut the process of finding your voice and re writing the future of your business and life. When Greg is not helping clients share their unique story and building their business, he’s either hosting neighborhood movie nights or writing and developing his next big film project.

Steph: Well hello and welcome to The Nailing it podcast Greg.

Greg: Hey Steph, thanks for having me.

Steph: No worries man. So what we’ve got is we’ve got like the quick 10 basically, which is the quick 10 questions that we’re going to get from you so that our audience knows exactly who you are. And then we’re just going to talk about this awesome book that I have in my hot little hands and I’ve got some post-it notes to go over.

So in a nutshell, in your own words, what do you do Greg?

Greg Koorhan: At its core, what I do both in our production company and through the digital marketing agency, I help people connect to their audience through storytelling. I use storytelling to help them stand out from their competition and build a brand that grows an audience like their ideal audience, not just a wide audience, and therefore their revenue.

Steph: So you teach them to go deep, not wide.

Greg Koorhan: Correct. That’s exactly right. I help them find where there’s … When people build a brand, the only examples they have are these large brands, right? Like Nike or Coca Cola.

Greg Koorhan: I know. But that’s not the example that you need to hold up. So I help people kind of dig into what is the core of who their audience really needs to be or is if they already know it, and then to reach them.

Steph: And how long have you been doing this? I think 30-

Greg Koorhan: You were laughing when I said 30 years. It has been so … But just few decades.

Steph: How did you get into this? How did you start all this?

Greg Koorhan: I stumbled my way into advertising and marketing way back in the day. Picture Mad Men, That’s what it was like.
We were making stuff up. I was working for the big brands, giant brands like Toyota and Hewlett Packard and those kinds of companies. And it wasn’t until 2005 when I kind of set off on my own, formed my own company, which was basically a production company, a video production company because that’s my passion, is filmmaking, but we also did digital marketing at the same time.

That was the shortest I’ve ever gone through my history. It’s a very long route.

Steph: How have you found clients, or how have clients found you?

Greg Koorhan: Most clients have found us because we started to build a reputation in a couple of key niches, if you will. We started honing in on them early, early on, and truth be told, we picked the wrong niche early on. We went pretty deep word spread because of that, right? You do a good job for one client, the word travels pretty quickly. And it wasn’t until the last, I would say, five, six years that we’ve kind of repositioned, kind of refocused on what we’re really good at rather than serving whoever comes through the door.

Steph: You made a point there about you with the wrong niche.

Greg Koorhan: Yes. Because we were chasing the niche because we thought that they were, right for us. When you’re a marketing company, you can kind of say, “Well, I help architects or I help lawyers.” Or whatever. But after a little while, when you do a lot of work in the niche, you start to really think, “Hmm, do I really need to sell more soap or insurance.” Whatever it is with the companies that we’re helping.
And for us it became a lot more important about the person that I served and the people that I helped. Because you work so closely with them. Some of the people that had the right mindset, that were open to learning and growing together, those were the people that I wanted to work with. I’m sure you’ve been in a position where someone is hired you for your expertise and then they micromanage you or they tell you what to do. Right? That ever happened?
Nobody’s got time for that.

Steph: No. So instead of focusing on a niche like Architects or Lawyers, you really focused on a certain person or Client Avatar.

Greg Koorhan: Sure. Absolutely. I have an exercise in the book you could go through.

But the place people start is usually by industry versus by mindset.
Where are they in their journey?

The people that I help the most are a year into their business or three years into their business and so they understand where they sit in the market and have a core offer in place.

Steph: How did you validate the niche? What were the signs that you stood out?

Greg Koorhan: The biggest sign that I had was the type of people that I’m most attracted to and that are most attracted to me, when I was describing them, the person I was talking with turned around and said,
“That’s you.” It was me, x number of years ago. So I realized,
“Oh my gosh, I’m trying to invent this thing over here when in fact it was my journey.”

I knew that journey better than anybody because I’ve been on it.

Steph: You’ve done it.

Greg Koorhan: So today I attract usually small business owners that are creative in some way. They don’t have to be filmmakers like me. They could be an author, a coach or a solopreneur that’s building a business. They’re as passionate about their craft as they are about serving their audience. That’s really the people that are most attracted to working with me, and in fact, it just plays into, I did a lot of thinking on what am I about? What am I leaving for the world? And I realize that I’ve got a firm belief that our society, not with standing, creative folks should be able to have a sustainable business based on their craft.
It’s the same, like other people might want to serve teachers because they too, they give such a value to the society, but they’re underpaid. I just happen to work in the area of artists and authors and those people who are creating worlds of their own, that I just believe that they shouldn’t have like a day job and then they do their stuff on the side.

They actually can build a sustainable living from their craft. And that’s when I really started leaning into my own passion, which is filmmaking. And so now I’m kind of doing more and more and more of that.

Steph: Yeah right. But you’ve come from that sort of marketing and element and then you’re going, “oh my God, I’m so in love with film making and the entire process and I want to lean more into that.” So then you’re sort of, correct me if I’m wrong, you’ve sort of stepped away from that agency side and you’ve gone, “Right, I’m going to help people do this.”

Greg Koorhan: In a way, yes. What I’ve been doing is just taking on those clients that I’m excited about working with. I still have some legacy clients but I’m super choosy now.

Steph: Of course, Yes.

Greg Koorhan: That’s really what it is, it’s not a snobbery, it’s just that I want to choose who I spend my time with, in that because if they’re a drain, if the client doesn’t want to learn or grow or actually move their business forward in any way and they just want to pay money for a list…. I would rather be spending the time on my own film projects.

Steph: Was there a point where you were moving down this sort of individual, “This is who I want to work with.” Was there a point when you were like, “Oh my God, I don’t think this is working and I should go back and serve like these …” Or you’re like, “No, I’m good. I’m just going to keep going forward.” Has there been any bumps in the road?

Greg Koorhan: There’s been plenty of bumps in the road, but never retreats.

Never retreats, so I’ll redirect. Like I said before, my path is not a straight one but I’ll redirect quite a bit and I have. But if I give it a go and I have a plan and I execute the plan and it doesn’t work, I learn something from it. So then I’ll just redirect.

Steph: I love the way you phrased it. You’ll redirect and you’ll retreat. Just talking to you. I’m like visualizing this sort of like, “Retreat!” And it’s the 1900s and everyone is on horses and running out to battle… Retreat!

Outside of work, where do you like to spend your time?

Greg Koorhan: It’s all in film and filmmaking. If I’m not watching them, I’m making it, I’m writing it.

Steph: Behind you there’s hundreds of movie posters – I can see ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, I think that’s ‘Silence of the lambs’ there.
You’re a big movie buff.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah. I just collected a bunch of those posters. I’m also obviously a complete geek. So yeah, but I’m a movie geek.

Steph: Let’s talk about habits. So obviously running a business and being your own boss, no one’s going to walk in right now and go, “Greg, you had a report to do, why haven’t you done it?” Being your own boss, what are some things that you’ve had to realize, or some tactics that you’ve learned on the way that have helped you to succeed.

Greg Koorhan: Sure. The three biggest things that I’ve kind of learned the hard way and put in place that have helped me move the needle the most. There’s a lot of activity I can be real busy, right? It’s easy for a solopreneur to be.

Steph: Oh, it’s so easy to be busy, right?

Greg Koorhan: Yeah, it’s so easy to be busy and be of the mindset “I can get nothing done, right?”

Steph: “I can’t come to lunch. Super busy.”

Greg Koorhan: Yeah. I’ve missed plenty of life because I’ve made myself so busy. But really the things that have settled down is the first one, I’m a night person.

Yep, I’m a night owl. So I’m usually working late into the night and not paying attention to the time and suddenly it’s dark and I realize, “Oh, oh, wait a minute, I haven’t gotten up from my desk in hours.” But the thing that has helped me the most is putting in a morning routine, like getting up early, like an early morning routine. Getting up early and getting my head squared away for the day. So that’s number one. That helped me write that book because I didn’t have time. I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t have time to squeeze it into the day, so I kept setting the clock 30 minutes early and then 30 minutes earlier than that and then for another couple of weeks, 30 minutes earlier than that.

So I kept just backing it up until suddenly I had an early morning with time to write the book. And then I got the book done. I had a plan. I had this major plan to get the book done in 90 days.

Steph: Wow. A 90-day plan.

Greg Koorhan: It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen. I’m saying it right now. Totally failed. But it took like five months to get the book written.

But still it’s written. It didn’t exist before and now it’s done.

So that was number one: To help me keep things moving.

The second thing is, not two depend on my own willpower first thing in the morning. So put priority things in order. What are the three big things that have to get done? The money tasks is what I call it, right? Prioritize those tasks. And that’s already on my desk waiting for me in the morning. So I do it the night before. So when I come in in the morning, it doesn’t matter how groggy I am, I go, “Oh, what are we doing?”

There’s the three things, and I do that before the phone starts ringing. I don’t even answer the phone until about 11:00am anyway. So it’s like I get a good three to five hours in before I’m interrupted. And if I’m true to my list, those priority tasks are done and the rest of the rest of the day-

Steph: You’re winning.

Greg Koorhan: I’m winning, I’m winning.

Steph: Anything after your big three you’ve won the day.

Greg Koorhan: Exactly..

Steph: Because you had a plan.

Greg Koorhan: That’s number two.

Steph: Sweet.

Greg Koorhan: The third thing is even if I don’t get those things done to move something forward, even small steps. So keep some momentum every single day no matter what. That’s the thing. No matter what it takes, you’ve got to move something forward every day so that you feel the momentum and you feel successful.

Steph: So no matter how small the little task might be-

Greg Koorhan: Yes. It doesn’t matter.

Steph: Respect that you still did it and you’re still moving forward and don’t throw everything out because you didn’t get something really big done and you’re in the wrong direction.

Greg Koorhan: Yes, because you can get so depressed. You can be so depressed when you go, “Oh my God, I got nothing done today. I started out-”

Steph: “I’m a failure.”

Greg Koorhan: I’m a failure, exactly. And that doesn’t do you any good.

Steph: Yeah. That’s some heavy mindset stuff there.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah. And I’ve spent a lot of years being depressed about not moving things forward.

Steph: Yeah. Yeah, totally.

Greg Koorhan: And when those things started to click into gear, you realize, “Wait a minute. I’m …”

Steph: I am moving.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah, I am moving. I am winning.

Steph: I’m growing. Oh man, I mean I put so much pressure on myself all the time.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah, don’t you? Right?

Steph: And my husband’s like, “Steph, you’re doing so well. Stop beating your own self up about not doing this thing.” And that is a perfect practice. Groggy Greg gets up and follows what boss Greg did for himself yesterday.

Greg Koorhan: That’s right. Exactly.

Steph: And you work your way in the dark and the morning and just see the three things and everything else in the day that you’ve got is pretty much-

Greg Koorhan: Icing on the cake.

Steph: Yeah, icing on the cake. Oh man, tick that. That is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Awesome.

Greg Koorhan: Anyway, that’s what I feel is most important.

Steph: Yeah right. I love it. I want to talk about your book.

Greg Koorhan: Sure.

Steph: ‘Don’t sell me, tell me’. I’m big into storytelling.

Greg Koorhan: I think you’re good at it too. You did it without even knowing.

Steph: Oh good. Okay. Because I didn’t realize I was doing it. I didn’t actually realize I was doing it until I sort of met you and you were sort of like blatantly pointing it out, you know, like-

Greg Koorhan: Not subtle here.

Steph: I’m going to read an extract here because I think it’s a ‘deer in headlights’ moment.

Telling your story builds on your theme. Most companies when they start to develop a brand, think about their logo or their business cards or maybe their website. But as we’ve seen, your brand is actually tied closely to your values. And by nurturing your values you develop a theme, and out of your theme grows your story.

I’m reading Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million Dollars in No Time Flat by Michael Masterson

And Michael mentioned a similar concept – people go into business and feel a business card or creating a logo means you have a business – but none of that is true.

Greg Koorhan: Correct. That is correct.

Steph: I think that’s textbook crap. Start a business, pick a name, create a logo, put a website together. It’s like this ‘business’ checklist. But that’s got nothing to do with it, right?

Greg Koorhan: Yeah, and not when you’re starting. I know plenty of people now that will sell without a website or I haven’t had a business card in years. It’s not necessary. I think where we get hung up is those things are important at a stage, like there’s a place for them. Right?

Steph: Let’s not completely ignore them.

Greg Koorhan: Exactly. But they don’t define your brand or your brand values. The reason I wrote that book is because after years and years and years and years, too many to talk about here, I realized that most businesses, small and large, but this applies 100% to a small business. A solopreneur or one employee, 10 employees, 20 employees even easily.

Most businesses brands are tied to the CEO, the founder’s core values. If that person is bold, their brand is going to come off bold. If they are more of a thinker type, more like a strategic thinker, that’s the way the brand will come off, no matter what you put on your website or what color is in your logo.

So getting clear on what your vision and your voice is and what you value most, that’s the most important work to be done to build a brand. Because by doing that, that will make your marketing 10 times more effective. Because you don’t have the money, we’re going back to the huge brands like Nike and Coca Cola.

You don’t have that kind of money to push, “Red is our color”, right? You could spend $1 billion, and you got that red, that’s Coca Cola, right?

Steph: Yes.

Greg Koorhan: So you don’t have that. So you have to push your differentiating factor and that comes from the inside. That comes from you, your vision, your values, and your voice.

Steph: Oh man that’s fantastic. That was phenomenal.

Greg Koorhan: That’s what the book is about, and then the rest of the book, once you kind of get clear on what that is, then you can build a theme around it. And then I just applied my filmmaking, my understanding of what … the greatest storytellers in the world are coming out of Hollywood. So they can keep you focused for two and a half hours on something. If you’re having struggles getting the attention of your customer for 30 seconds, there’s something to be learned from them. So I applied that same … I kind of broke it down as simple as I possibly could, how to tell a story and where to fit into that story. Where you fit and where the customer fits into the storytelling process. Because a lot of people think storytelling is just….

Steph: Mickey Mouse.

Greg Koorhan: Yes, And there’s a difference between making stuff up and storytelling.

So you’re not making stuff up, you are finding that connection and relating it in the way that your audience is going to best remember it. That’s going to connect with them on an emotional level. That’s what storytelling does.

Steph: There’s another point here I wanted to make, “Once your ‘About’ page story is written, I encourage you to turn that into video. Doesn’t have to be long, a short video telling you your story instantly allows more of a connection to be made.

I want people to watch me or to watch my customers or whatever. I want them to watch them everywhere they go, and I want them to digest the content everywhere they go, because whatever suits them, yeah? I want them to be engaged.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah. And you don’t know, that’s the thing, you don’t know how they are going to want to be engaged. Right?

Steph: Yes.

Greg Koorhan: If they’re scanning through their feed on Facebook or whatever and your face pops up and you start talking about something they’re interested in, that’s awesome.

That’s way better than writing a nice paragraph on your ‘About’ page and hoping that they can find you.

Steph: Oh my God. Yes.

Greg Koorhan: And video has the added benefit of getting them to know you. I’ve had people literally, I’ve had people call and say, I decided to go with you because I liked what you wrote. Okay.

Steph: “I’ve read that 400-word paragraph on that page, and I instantly connected with you.” Said no one ever.

Greg Koorhan: Well, I mean that’s the thing maybe. But it’s more likely that they’re going to watch you and they’re going to feel that connection. I’m sure that you felt this. Because you do a lot of video, right? So I’m sure that you felt this. Somebody has watched the thing, they contact you and they act like they’re your best friend. And they know you, they know what you’re about and all the stuff and you’re like, “Can I get your name?” Because you don’t even know who they are. But they know, like, and they trust you. Right? They were probably watching you in the middle of the dark of the night.

But video has that affect. It gets over … That’s half the issue with marketing. That’s the goal. That’s the goal. The video does it in 10 seconds.

Steph: In an instant.
OK, hot question. I’m sure people are dying right now to hear. Quickest way to just get in front of video. I mean, how to be more confident, how to get in front of video more often, and where do I share it? Yeah?

Greg Koorhan: So the easiest way, your phone.

Steph: iPhone?

Greg Koorhan: Your phone.
The cameras on these phones are so much better than they were. They’re phenomenal. That’s all you need. Get yourself into … I mean, they’re terrible in low light, so get yourself in a good light, wherever that is, outside, shade-

Steph: And I think that’s a good point. It’s not always about the camera. It’s about the lighting.

Greg Koorhan: It’s all about the light. We can talk about this for days. This is another-

Steph: This is another episode.

Greg Koorhan: Totally another episode that I can talk about. But in essence, that’s it. Photography is all about light. It’s not about the camera. The camera, yeah you can get a better lens here and there, but all you need to connect with your audience is in your pocket. Right? That phone. You get that phone out.

Just pull out that phone and record your ‘About’ page. Start there. Talk about why you do what you do? Who do you serve? Why do you matter? Why do they care? And you could start by sharing it on Facebook. It’s perfectly fine to not get it right because the reach is so low. Practice there. Share it up and you’ll start to get responses. You’ll start to get responses.

Steph: So pull your phone out, do it more often.

Greg Koorhan: Do it more often because that’s the only way to get comfortable with it.

Steph: It’s the only way to get comfortable.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah. You certainly don’t have to do it. Your first time out, you’re not shooting a Hollywood film and people don’t expect it.

Steph: Yeah. Just be yourself.

Greg Koorhan: Just be yourself.

Steph: And lastly, Where do I put my video? Where would you suggest? I’ve pulled my phone out, I’ve actually hit record, now what do I do?

Greg Koorhan: I would start with Facebook.

Steph: So just throw into Facebook.

Greg Koorhan: Just throw it up, throw it up there. A lot of people get weird about like, “I don’t know about my personal…

Steph: I know. Like seriously!

Greg Koorhan: Guess what? Everybody is so self absorbed that they’re not paying attention.

Steph: They don’t actually check.

Greg Koorhan: But no, put it on your business page. That’s how to separate it. If you want to separate it from your personal life, save that for your pictures of your kids or whatever. And on your business page, you could put it up there.

Steph: Awesome. Where to next Greg? For the next 90 days, what are you working on?

Greg Koorhan: I’ve got a large project that’s coming down the pipe fast and furious. I’ve been shooting films for years, but they’ve all been short films or documentary shots, they’re less than 30 minutes. We’re embarking on doing a full length feature film this year.

Steph: Awesome.

Greg Koorhan: Yeah, we’re in pre-production now and we’ll be shooting later this year.

Steph: Awesome. Okay. Sweet. If people want to follow you, stalk you, stalk your videos in the middle of the night, where can they go?

Greg Koorhan: They can find about me at They can find about my films, it’s probably more interesting than me, at

Steph: Sweet. All right. And I will of course put all those links down below and in the article, and in the show notes and all that sort of stuff. But man, Greg, it’s been awesome having you here.

Greg Koorhan: It’s been awesome to be here.

Steph: Yeah. And I really love spending some time with you here and just learning more about what’s going on and man, oh man, you have given the audience some serious little checklists and bonuses there so-

Greg Koorhan: Well, I’ve got an extra little bonus for you then if you’d like because-

Steph: Okay, go. Do it.

Greg Koorhan: So if you go to a I’ve made arrangements for you to get, anybody who likes it, to get the book for free. I bought the printing and if you just pay for the shipping to get it out to you.

Steph: It’s a great read, like seriously grab this offer!

Greg Koorhan: It’s an easy read. Start with story first. Build your theme around that.

Steph: Well, thank you so much, Greg. We’ll officially wrap and a big thank you from everyone listening.

Greg Koorhan: Steph, it’s been my pleasure.

Bonus: Here’s a Great short film by Greg Koorhan:

Nail The Niche – Greg Koorhan talks about how he chose and validated his niche.