Here’s a question I bet you’ve never asked yourself: 

Are you an “influencer” or an “influential entrepreneur”?

A lot of people don’t even realize that there’s a distinction between the two, but trust me when I say the difference is major!

There’s a reason that my clients are influential entrepreneurs and why I stopped working with influencers.

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that influential entrepreneurs are in it for the long game, they have a purpose, they care about the connections they make, they know what their strategy is.

So how do you, and why should you, make that shift into becoming an influential entrepreneur?

That’s what I’m diving into in today’s episode of The Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast as I break down what sets influential entrepreneurs apart from influencers, and explain why (in my opinion) influential entrepreneurs are more successful in their marketing.

Tune in and let me know what your thoughts are over on Instagram (@emilyhirsh)!


Subscribe To & Review The Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast

Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of the Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast! If this podcast has added value and helped you in your business journey, please head over to iTunes, subscribe to the show, and leave us an honest review. Your reviews and feedback will not only help us continue to deliver great, helpful content, but it will also help us reach even more amazing entrepreneurs just like you.


Emily Hirsh: 

Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re all doing fabulous and having a good week and momentum, getting stuff done, feeling good, and if you’re not that’s okay too. Sometimes we have those weeks. This week I have felt amazing, so productive, and it’s amazing when you have a baby (my baby is three months), how when you have such limited time to get things done and actually literally have your hands because you’re otherwise holding them – and I do wear him. He is starting to like his carrier, for those of you who will tell me that suggestion. I know all about the baby wearing, but sometimes he just wants to be held there or he needs me to lay down to nurse him – when I don’t have my hands for like 25% or more of my day makes you so much more productive.

I recently read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, and he talked about how when you put constraints on your time it makes you more productive. I feel that is so true, and kids are such a massive constraint on your time. Not in a bad way, just you’ve got to spend time with your kids, you’ve got to take care of your kids. That’s part of being a parent. And so it makes you so much more productive with your work. I often have thought I actually had this thought today when I was walking, I was like, literally, what did I do with my time before I had kids? Why was I not more productive? Because I can’t imagine today not having kids and like all the time I’d have, but you don’t really realize it till you get it. 

So anyways, today’s episode might be a little bit of a rant, but not really. It’s just about what’s going on in the influencer world and in the digital marketing world in the last, by the time this episode comes out about four to six weeks of time. I want to talk about it because I think that  it’s kind of, I’ve just been watching. A lot of watching and watching how people react and respond – people with platforms, people with an audience, and how they are showing up. Then I’ve watched it, how their audience then responds, and I honestly have to stay off social media. Like I have these times where I’ll re-download it  on my phone, especially if I’m just laying there nursing and give myself like a chunk, but every time I don’t feel good about it. I’m admitting that I’m still doing that, but I don’t feel positive because there’s such just negative energy right now on social media, and you can just get wrapped up in reading all these comments of people just shredding apart these influencers who have disappointed them, and it’s just been interesting. 

So what I want to reflect on and what I’m calling this is influencer or influential entrepreneur and kind of the difference between the two, and I want to define both of those. What’s really interesting is – so we work with what you would qualify as influencers. Now, I believe our clients are the influential entrepreneurs, and I’m going to explain what I think the difference is there. About a year ago, I actually did a podcast where I’ve seen behind the scenes of the influencer industry and it’s not good, and we’re changing gears, we’re going to make a change. Like, I can’t share too much because I couldn’t – I was behind the scenes of some of these really big influencer’s businesses and we don’t want to work with him anymore basically. 

So a year ago, I went through a transition in my business where we actually fired probably about five to seven big accounts because they were treating my team so poorly that I was then losing really valuable team members who just couldn’t deal with it anymore. Just the demands, the communication, the lack of organization that led to the unrealistic demands. And a year ago, I just had to make a decision, like I know this is not me and our delivery because I have amazing team members who keep going through this same cycle of coming in. This was a year ago, so I want to clarify that, like I’m talking about it afterward. We’ve completely a hundred percent resolved it. I mean, if you listen to my podcast you’ll hear the points if you go back a year of like struggle, and I talked about it a lot and how it was a hard time. 

There was a time period where I was like, “I don’t even want to work with influencers anymore,” because I put this label.. Here’s what I realized: there is a label on big influencers out there that I don’t think represents my clients today anymore, but they still are technically classified as that. I think we should kind of redefine the difference because I see a massive difference in my clients today compared to those few clients that we started signing a year ago that were those big influencers who are now getting torn apart for either their response to Black Lives Matter or coming out with being completely inauthentic with their content and basically lying about what their life was because they’re now getting a divorce when they were trying to teach about marriage.

So I believe today my clients aren’t really in that category, but I still would call them that because that’s what people resonate with and understand, but I think there’s a difference and I’m going to explain why. So a year ago though, I went through this phase where I was like, “I’m not working with influencers anymore, we’re going to go and work with brick and mortar businesses, like I can’t do this.” These people are not real business owners. They don’t understand how to manage a team. They don’t understand how to look at their numbers in their business and really have a grasp on expenses and things coming in and going out and organizing on the backend. All they could do was be cool on the front end and create content and make people like them on the front end, but that is not a business!

So that was a year ago. Today, one of my requirements for clients that we work with, like they have to have the ability and they don’t have to do it perfect – but they have to have the ability that they’re creating a real business. What that means is, their delivery of their product is legit, it has substance to it. It’s not surface fluff where all they can do is make people like who they are on the outside and then sell something that actually is not what it was, right? So that’s one huge thing. I’ve talked a lot about your delivery, and I feel like in this space, in the digital marketing space and in the coaching space, there is a lot of room for people who have been disappointed by products and offers that looked really good on the front end and then when you got in, it was disappointing. I’ve talked a lot about how that’s not sustainable and how if you do that you won’t be around for very long. 

So it means that it means they have to know how to be a leader and at least be working on it. Nobody can be a perfect leader. I’m not a perfect leader. I’m constantly working on my communication, and the way I manage people, and the way I show up for my team and my clients. So you don’t have to be perfect, but you have to be conscious. That means you have to have respectful communication and not unrealistic demands that somebody work at 10:00 PM at night, or all weekend, or on Christmas or whatever it is. You’re not the most important thing in the world. And those people, not our current clients, but those people like that I used to – I started going that direction and I got behind the scenes and I was like, “whoa, you guys are not who the public thinks that you are and I can’t do this, like I can’t.” 

To have a real business, you’ve got to care about your delivery and what’s on the backend just as much, if not more, of what you care about on the front end. The reputation and appearance you’re creating on the front end needs to be matching that backend – what people don’t see on the front end, what people see after they pay you. You have to care about your leadership and the way you run a team, you have to care about a business and be able to make business decisions. I was blown away when I’d get behind the scenes sometimes of these, and, and not even just like when I got behind the scenes, just like I’ve been in the circle so I have talked to people who know people. It’s just amazing to me, how many people don’t…  like they’re “successful” quote, but they don’t know their numbers, they don’t know their expenses. They’ve built this house of cards that it just kind of blew up really fast because they were really good about the public appearance, about the external way that they looked. That’s what they have going for them, but then on the back end, like it’s a broken foundation and they don’t know what to do because they don’t have that skillset. 

But at the same time, and this is the crucial piece, it’s fine to grow really fast and grow so fast that you have to catch up with the growth because you don’t have the skillset yet to match your growth. I’ve been there, that’s a normal thing. But when you have an ego attached to it and you’re like, “well, I’m awesome because I have millions of fans and I grew this fast, and so I don’t need any help. I don’t need help growing my team. I don’t need help running my business. I don’t need help with my expenses. I am doing everything right, and everybody else’s wrong.” And if you have that mentality, you’re going to kill yourself. That’s what happens is they grow so fast they think they’ve got it all figured out. They don’t need any help. They don’t, not even ask for help, but they turn help down, or they turn suggestions or feedback down. If you’re a leader and you’re turning feedback down and you can’t listen to any constructive criticism, you’re doomed. Like seriously, I always tell my team, “I will never be mad if you call me out, I will never be mad. What I will be mad about is if you come back after we did something and say, well, I thought that was a bad idea, but I didn’t say anything.” I want to be called out, and if you have an ego where you can’t take that criticism and you can’t take that you need that support, like you’re going to be in trouble. 

So I’ve watched these influencers over the last month and I knew this was coming. If you go back a year ago, I didn’t know it was going to play out like this, but I just knew there is no way that this can last without people figuring it out at some point, and Iknow it might be years from now. But when I got behind the scenes, I’m like, “nope, this is not.. you’re not the same person.” 

So what’s the difference between an influencer and an influential entrepreneur? I think that the influence and the platform and the audience should be a byproduct of actually doing a good job of creating a business and having that foundation of an amazing product and a team, or at least starting to build a team and having the ability to lead and communicate and manage people. That’s a very hard skill that you have to constantly work at. Be able to manage your money and make true business decisions, have a real business set up where you know, the money coming in and you know the money coming out and you’re able to make those decisions, because if you don’t, it’s just a matter of time before it blows up in your face. That’s what’s happening. And so you build all of that and that should be your focus. And then of course, if you’re a personal brand, if you would qualify as someone who has influence and want to be that influencer, then that becomes a byproduct of having amazing content that then transfers over to what you do in your brand awareness and your visibility and publicly what you’re doing, but that’s a byproduct. 

The difference is the goal can’t just be fame. And the goal can’t just be, “I just want followers because I want to be liked and I want attention, and I want people to pay attention to me and give me their attention, and I’m going to therefore portray a version of myself that is not real and just say what people like and what they want on the front end, and then lie basically about who I really am and how I show up in this world and how I can contribute to this world.” The goal is not just the influence. And I think that’s the difference. And that’s what’s getting redefined right now is the people who have built successful businesses off of only influence are being destroyed and are losing followers and buyers and customers in drones right now of just people walking out because they have realized the truth. And that’s what’s going to happen.

And I’m not saying this because I actually think many of you guys following me do this, because it goes against everything I talk about, which is like playing the long game, investing in your business, being a leader, caring about your delivery. You know, not just selling an offer because you think somebody else sold something just like that, but actually caring about how you show up and how you contribute value. Because I know not only does that feel right in that feels like the only way to do it for me, but I also know that’s the only way to truly be long term successful. Otherwise, you’re building something that will be short term, it will be temporary. 

And I think what’s interesting is we talk a lot about people who like pop up and disappear because they have a really cool offer. They get attention over it and then that kind of goes away and they will, just like a fad. I don’t think we necessarily, even myself included, think that will happen to people who have multimillion dollar businesses already that look that successful, but it will, unless they get some self reflection and say, “Wow, I really have work to do. I’ve got to take two steps back before I can go forward again and figure out how to become a true entrepreneur, how to become a true leader, how to be truly authentic.” It’s one thing to be like, “I’m authentic and real with you guys.” Who cares? If you say that you have to truly be that in the way you show up. 

For me, what was so eye opening to me is when I started to see behind the scenes of this industry a year ago. I was like, “Wow. Nobody realizes that the people, the way that they portray themselves on the front end are NOT the people they are in real life, like into their teams, to their family, to whatever.”

That’s the thing that for me is such a disconnect because if you were to come and see me in my house with my kids, with my family, with my friends, at a business conference, wherever – I’m the same person as I show up on my podcast. I could not imagine being like, “okay, I’ve got to put on this persona where I’m holding up these standards so that people like me on my podcast, but it’s all not real.” Even if that gets you followers temporarily and gets people to really just eat up your content, it will not last. And so I think it’s great that this is happening right now and people are really realizing the truth, and that really the Black Lives Matter movement pushed people to show true colors, which also pushed people in other areas to also show true colors in different ways. But overall, I think it’s great. It’s going to clean out the industry and it will allow us to see the true entrepreneurs. 

So the clients that we work with, and honestly, probably most of my following because I preach these core values, I believe are influential entrepreneurs and that the influence is a byproduct of doing all the other work. The hard, boring work of creating a good product. Having systems and processes and a foundation in your business. Knowing your numbers. Knowing your expenses. Knowing your income. Being authentic, true, and being real with your following. Making mistakes, and then admitting to those mistakes and not trying to hold this perfect persona. 

So I think that if you do all of that and you have a personal brand and you are the face of your brand, the influence then becomes just the byproduct. It shouldn’t be the main goal. If it ever is the main goal, like fine, if that’s who you are fine. But it’s not going… you’re not going to have a business and you’re not going to have long term success, in my opinion. Now I might be wrong, but that’s my opinion. That’s what I’ve seen behind the scenes. And so I want to just open your guys’s eyes to this, open your eyes to these differences so you can start to look at not only your own business, of course, in this way, but also the people that you look up to because we naturally will look up to other entrepreneurs and be like, “I want their business!” But do you really? Is there really substance to that business? Is there really a foundation to that business? And should you really be taking advice or even taking tactics and external things they’re doing and implementing in your business because you might have a better way.

So don’t doubt yourself. If you are somebody who values all the things I just said, trust yourself. And don’t look at these external people and all of this noise that might fall in this influencer empty category, because you are better than that. And you will create something long term if you prioritize the right things. And I believe my following, and I know all my clients are in this place because we won’t put up with it otherwise. I mean, if we get people in who we believe have a scamming product or treat my team terribly, or, you know, just can’t show up as a leader, if there’s something wrong with the ethics, I will not work with them because I’ve learned that will kill me. Saying yes to everything will kill me and my team. And so I learned that the hard way a year ago. Now I think a lot of other people are learning it as well right now. 

So anyways you guys, I want to hear your thoughts. What do you think the difference is between an influencer and an influential entrepreneur? What are your takeaways from everything that’s going on? If you want to send me a message on Instagram or comment back on this podcast, I want to hear from you guys. Thanks so much for tuning in today, and I will see everyone next time.