Sue is the #instagramexpert and creator of the online Instagram course “Ready Set Gram”. She’s a popular CreativeLive instructor, powerful speaker on prominent stages like Social Media Marketing World and highly sought after business coach. She’s passionate about teaching business owners and marketing professionals how to easily leverage the power of Instagram to get tangible business results.
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- Don’t be afraid to fail.
- Be that change in other people’s lives.
- Be ready and willing to take action.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:11] – Sue has been a fearless entrepreneur since she was 13
- [01:18] – Her dad owned an automobile parts store
- [01:34] – Sue loved talking to their customers
- [01:53] – Sue would hand-paint her hair barrettes and sell them to her friends at recess
- [02:19] – She graduated with a degree in nutrition
- [02:28] – Sue hand-painted clothing and boxer shorts to sell
- [02:35] – At 22, she had a million dollar business
- [03:49] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: Lead by building a community instead of leading by selling
- [06:33] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: “I was on QVC with Business #12, Treasure Tape. I was on stage for the first time ever with 7 live cameras. I was demonstrating… it’s going great and they listened to one caller. The caller basically said, ‘I don’t think I can buy this.’ And I didn’t know what to say— I was completely silent.”
- [09:43] – Watch Sue’s video here
- [10:21] – “Don’t be afraid if you’re failing – no one’s going to fire you, you’re an entrepreneur!”
- [10:48] – Own it and move on
- [11:18] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: She was invited to speak at The Brendon Burchard’s Experts Academy and a man that she met on Day Four approaches her and tells her that she should become the Instagram Expert — and at that point, she decided for herself that she would do it.
- [13:15] – There’s no greater feeling than changing people’s lives
- [13:28] – You don’t know it until you experience it
- [14:31] – You have to be the one who is ready and willing to take action
- [15:36] – Whatever it is that you do, think deeply about how you can own it
- [16:18] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “My Ready Set Gram course”
- [17:30] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Nothing”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “It is your stories, it is your experiences, and it’s your personality that are going to make people fall in love with who you are and what you bring to the table.”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “My 3 golden rules: build community… hydrate… and move your ass.”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Dropbox and Zoom
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The Obstacle is the Way – “it’s amazing”
- [21:22] – Connect with Sue on Instagram
- [21:28] – Use the #SueBMadeMeDoIt and tag Sue
- [22:02] – Check out Sue’s website for a FREE Instagram Strategy Guide download!
Sue B Zimmerman: You know that I am, JLD.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Sue is the hashtag Instagram expert, creator of the online Instagram course, “Ready, Set, Gram.” She’s a popular creative live instructor, powerful speaker on prominent stages like Social Media Marketing World and The Killer Maine Conference. That’s Portland, Maine, Agents of Change and a highly sought after business goat. She’s passionate about teaching business owners and marketing professionals how to easily leverage the power of Instagram to get tangible business results. Sue, take a minute. Fill I some gaps from the intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah. So I’d like to take you back in time because I’ve been a fearless entrepreneur ever since I was 13. It’s in my DNA. My dad owned an automobile parts store in Lawrence, Massachusetts and as a young girl, I would wake up at 5:00a.m. in the morning on Saturday just so I could be with him and be by his side and I would sweep the floor, file the mufflers, and the distributors, but what I really loved most was talking to the customers.
And I remember trying to remember their names so that when they came in the next time, I’d be able to say hi to Mr. whoever he was. And honestly, hanging out with my dad and his employees gave me a great work ethic but the bonus was I got to take home the actually model paint that was used to touch up the cars and I used to hand paint and sell them, like barrettes. I used to hand paint barrettes and sell them at recess, even though I wasn’t supposed to be.
John Lee Dumas: Of course not.
Sue B Zimmerman: Because I’ve always been somewhat of a rule breaker. Let’s just put that out there and someone who just asks for forgiveness and not permission. But anyway, going forward a little bit, I’d like the listeners to know that I graduated with a degree in nutrition from Simmons College in Boston and I had a job offer in Virginia Beach right out a college that had fallen through and I ended up hand painted clothing and then I ended up hand painting boxer shorts and when I was just 22 years old, I built a $1 million business selling boxer shorts. And this really gave me the confidence at a young age to follow my passions.
So now, I enjoy the freedom of choosing what I do every day. My three daughters are out of the house. My oldest has graduated and my twins are in college but my husband and I look forward to moving into Boston very soon and we love spending time at our house on the cape and like you, by the ocean that really charges my soul. Yeah.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. So no more burbs for Sue. You’re moving into the city, huh?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah. I need to step out to where the restaurants and the actions. I need action.
John Lee Dumas: I love it. And I also love that you ask for forgiveness, not permission. My kind of gal. And Fire Nation, Sue and myself have shared many stages together from Social Media Marketing World to most recently Agents of Change in Portland, Maine, which Rich Brooks puts on every single year in the great city of Portland. Love that. And Sue, you’ve really established yourself as an expert with a specialty. So kind of expound upon where you really consider your area of expertise and then give us a unique tip, Sue. Something that we don’t know in that area of expertise that we should know.
Sue B Zimmerman: I teach business owners really how to leverage the power of Instagram marketing by telling their visual story and the way that I got into this space was because I had a retail store. Like many of you, I have always been a small business owner selling primarily consumer products and when I discovered the power of Instagram from my store and had tangible results, I knew that I really wanted to start teaching it.
And so I believe that everybody has a digital story and that when you get really hyper focused and you’re so good at this, JLD, in your content, in your content, in your content, your verbal content, your written content, and literally who you wanna serve and you know every single nuance of your ideal customer, you can attract them and not only attract them but you can build an amazing community on Instagram. And this has happened to me in spades by using a unique hashtag that we can talk about a little bit later.
But when I say unique hashtag, it’s the opportunity to build a community on Instagram. And it’s just I love that the whole essence of what Instagram has become since I’ve been teaching it for the past four and a half almost five years now and I love that they’re constantly upgrading it, I think, upgrading it so it’s a more user friendly experience for the user.
John Lee Dumas: So let’s drop that value bomb. What is the unique tip that we don’t know that we should?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah, so I think what a lot of people don’t know about Instagram is that they lead with selling instead of leading with building that community that I just talked about. And so, for me, it is always taking people to a positive, mobile friendly experience with the one URL, which is the opt in, which is a custom bitly link or UTM where we can track our success and build that relationship over time by nurturing them through an email sequence. Because I find that so many people on Instagram are there to make money first and not build relationship and community.
So I challenge the listeners to really take a step back and understand that getting people to that opt in can literally help you grow your business to make more money.
John Lee Dumas: Boom. Sue, dropping the value bomb. Now, I kinda let you talk about what you’re great at, Sue, and I’m sure you’re felling pretty about yourself, rightfully so let’s kinda shift the tables here and go to your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. Take us there. Tell us that story.
Sue B Zimmerman: I’ve had many business. So I’ve had many bad stories but I think the one that really stands out when I heard you like, “The worst entrepreneurial moment,” I’m like, “Okay, let me get the worst one in my brain.” Okay. So it’s when I was on QVC. Okay. So I was On QVC with business No. 12. It was called Treasure Tape and this was my double sided tape that was used to embellish real photos, folks, not Instagram photos, for people that loved to scrapbook.
So we had our tape. We had our beads called beadlets and I was on QVC and as anyone knows about QVC, there has to be a wow factor to get on QVC. And if anyone saw the movie, “Joy,” this is exactly what happened. So I was on stage first time ever in front of a live camera but there’s not just one. There are seven live cameras in front of me and I was always supposed to be looking at the one that had the red light on it. So that in and of itself was a challenge as I –
John Lee Dumas: Terrifying.
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah. Terrifying lights, bright lights. I had my host, thank goodness. And I was demonstrating. I was there to demonstrate and so what happens on QVC is I’m demonstrating, it’s going great, and then, they say, “Let’s listen to what one of the callers has to say.” So the TV, one of the seven TVs lights up and you listen and she asked this crazy, stupid question that had nothing to do with what I was doing and she basically said, “Oh, I don’t think I can buy this because I’m really afraid that the beads are gonna spill all over the floor and I’m gonna have to pick them up and I’m not gonna know what to do,” and it wasn’t even a question. It was just a statement and I didn’t know what to say.
So I, me – can you believe this? I was completely silent. I basically froze. I kind of smiled up at the host and thankfully, the thing about QVC is that the host is who people wanna tune into. That’s who they know, like, and trust. I’m just a demonstrator on her segment. So I looked at her. She’s like, “Oh, honey. Don’t you worry. This comes with a bead tray. That will catch the beads. You won’t have to vacuum your beads. Watch what Sue’s gonna do next.”
So I smiled at her and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. I couldn’t even talk.” This was my turn to shine on air and say something profound and exciting about my craft. So that’s what happened and so what did I do? I smiled because I have a nice smile and I looked at her. I stayed calm because that’s what we do and I let her take the lead. I let her take the lead because that’s what people wanted, her. And so end of the story, after all that storm, at least it was a huge success. We hit our numbers and I was invited back to come again. So that was –
John Lee Dumas: Is there a video of this out there somewhere?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: Where is it? Where?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yes. I have it. I have it on a DVD.
John Lee Dumas: Oh, my God. Get that upload to YouTube tomorrow.
Sue B Zimmerman: Okay.
John Lee Dumas: Send me the unlisted or even if you wanna make it private video link. I must watch this and I must share this on your show notes page.
Sue B Zimmerman: Okay. You’re gonna die when you see it. You’re gonna be like, “Oh, my gosh.”
John Lee Dumas: I can’t wait.
Sue B Zimmerman: “She looks like she’s 18.” You’re gonna be like, “Sue looks so nervous,” and I was.
John Lee Dumas: Are you committing right now to Fire Nation, to make this happen?
Sue B Zimmerman: Oh, yeah. Oh, of course I am. You know I am.
John Lee Dumas: Ooh, girl.
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah, deal. Done.
John Lee Dumas: Done.
Sue B Zimmerman: I love it. Yes.
John Lee Dumas: So what’s your biggest takeaway? What do you wanna make sure that we get from just that frozen moment in time?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah, because I think a lot of freeze. You freeze in your business. You’re paralyzed. You’re afraid of failing.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. I’ve frozen on the podcast before.
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah, you’re afraid of failing and you know what? No one’s gonna fire you when you’re an entrepreneur. It’s your show. It’s your business and you make the most of it. When I was done with the segment, I told her how nervous I was. She’s like, “Yeah. I could kinda tell.” And I just told her that I thanked her for stepping up and answering the question that wasn’t really a question and I owned it. You own it and you move on and you learn from it. I’m happy to be teaching this.
John Lee Dumas: Nobody’s going to fire you, Fire Nation, when you’re an entrepreneur. That’s why it’s the best in the world. So Sue, let’s do a little bit of a shift to another story. One of your greatest aha moments. Now, just like you’ve had a ton of flops that you had to choose from, you also have a lot of great ideas that you’ve turned into success that you have to choose from. So what’s the story that you have for us today? Take us to that moment.
Sue B Zimmerman: Okay. I love telling this story. So my whole life, I’ve been pretty much a consumer product person playing small in and around the Boston area expect when I had that first business in Virginia. And so I was invited to go to Brendon Burchard’s Experts Academy five years ago and I went with the intention, JLD, of teaching retailers how to do social media. That was my big brilliant, I’m gonna make money in my sleep course idea. And so b ci taught social media when I wasn’t at my store on the Cape in the summer running that store. That’s what I had done for eight years and so that’s what I thought until day four of this event.
I’m sitting at a networking. Kind of like everyone’s having drinks and we’re just chatting and this guy, Don Krother, who’s good friends with Jeff Walker and has been around the block for a while, he looked at me, introduced himself, and said, “Hey, I’m Don Krother. This is what I do,” and then I shook his hand and I said, “This is what I do.” And he’s like, “What’s your favorite social media platform?” I’m like, “Instagram.” And he’s like, “I don't even know what Instagram is.” And he said to me, “You should be the Instagram expert. The Instagram gal,” and I’m like, “Light bulb moment. Malcolm Gladwell, tipping point. That’s me. Always has been.”
And I came home from that conference I put my iPhone in the tree because I had no idea even what a selfie stick was or the tripod that’s wrap around tree. Right? I’m in the woods. I put the cell phone in the – and this is on my YouTube channel. You’re gonna love this. And I declared myself as the Instagram expert and that I was gonna teach entrepreneurs all over the world how to use Instagram to have success and I manifested where I am today.
And that has changed my life because now, instead of selling products, which I love, my tunics, my beach bags, my jewelry, and making money selling products, there is no greater feeling than changing people’s lives and having them have more success in their business and making more money than the feeling I get doing that is – You don’t know it until you experience it. I never knew – like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, “The more you help others, the more you feel better.” All those little quotes I would read, I didn’t even know that that feeling existed until it did and that has been the gold and that has been the shift in my legacy and who I am and what I do.
John Lee Dumas: My favorite part about this story is, Sue, this is exactly what I’ve been preaching for years in thousands of EOFire episodes and you’re a living, breathing example of this. All the time, people are emailing me and messaging me and saying, “John, I just feel like I just missed the boat. I’m so disappointed. What do I do now? I was too late to X, Y, or Z.” I’m like, “Step back. Take a deep breath and then look around because guess what? Snapchat, Instagram, Instagram stories, Anchor, Blab, there’s just always these new things that are coming and they’re just waiting for people to step into that void to fill that need and to become that expert. You just have to be someone who’s ready and willing to take action.”
And I love when Gary Vaynerchuk rants about all his mistakes with SocialCam, which I didn’t even know existed, and what he did with that but he even though that flopped, when Snapchat came up, he was able to crush it from day one because of the experience he had from stuff like social cam. So whatever you’re doing today, Fire Nation, chalk it up to experience and just know that I need to keep my finger on the pulse because I can be that next expert in X and Y or Z if I take action, if I put my clients first, my viewers first, if I produce content with a value first focus.
So that’s my big takeaway, Sue. I’m gonna challenge you one concise sentence. What do you want Fire Nation to take away from that aha moment you had?
Sue B Zimmerman: Think deep about how can you own it in a way that is all about your experience, your stories, and your character and bring that to the table. Because honestly, JLD, I knew Melanie Duncan was doing Pinterest and Amy was doing Facebook but there was no person teaching or face behind the platform, like you just explained, Gary V did with Snapchat and I knew that if I got in there fast, like I was the first one, even though I didn’t quite know exactly how I was gonna do it, I just stated that I wanted it and I did it and I figured it out.
John Lee Dumas: Sue, what are you most fired up about today?
Sue B Zimmerman: Honestly, I’m most fired up about my, “Ready, Set, Gram,” course, my flagship course that took many iterations to get to where it is today. My very first online course, it was called Instant Results and it was $1,000.00 Instagram course that didn’t sell on its own. I had to really get on the phone to hustle hard and make sales and we did very, very well. We were close to six figures with that course but I didn’t feel right about it because it was too big. It was too robust. No one was going through the videos. We looked at our stats and no one was watching and consuming the content and doing the work. My, “Ready, Set, Gram,” course, which is under three hours, we have had 400 people who have invested in, gone through, and now, we’ve got so many great testimonials with results. And so I’m really, really proud and fired up about this course because we’re getting ready to launch it again in December.
John Lee Dumas: “Ready, Set, Gram,” Fire Nation. Just Google it and guess what? It’s gonna pop up because Sue knows what she’s doing. And we are going to crush the lightning round but take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors. Sue, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yes. I am prepared. I’m gonna blow up.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Sue B Zimmerman: So nothing really held me back because this is the life I’ve had and I only know. I’ve never worked for anybody else so it’s in my DNA. I’m the entrepreneur that’s always been.
John Lee Dumas: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Sue B Zimmerman: Probably from Michael Ports. I’ve been in his presence three times live and I love learning from him and how he takes the stage and teaches how to speak. And I love that he said, “It is your stories, it is your experiences and it’s your personality that are gonna make people fall in love with who you are and what you bring to the table.” And I think that that applies to every person.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Sue B Zimmerman: Okay. So hands down, it’s my three golden rules and those of you that don’t follow me on Instagram @SueBZimmerman, it’s actually in my bio. No. 1 is build community. Community trumps all. I spend at least 30 to 45 minutes a day reaching out and building and enhancing my relationships. No. 2 is hydrate because you’re probably thirsty and you’re not hungry. I have a degree in nutrition so just let me tell you, drink the freaking water all day long. Right”
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, you are chronically dehydrated right now, Fire Nation. Whether you know it or not, you are.
Sue B Zimmerman: And No. 3 is move your ass. Get out our chair, exercise, bring some blood to your muscles and your brain and just get up and make it a habit. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re not hydrating and you’re not moving your ass, you’re just not gonna make it. You have to.
John Lee Dumas: Like Sue B, as we’re speaking, I am literally moving my ass. People say, “John, how do you do 15 interviews in one day?” You’re interview No. 6 of 15 and I’m just getting going because I’m standing up as I stand up for every single interview and as you’re talking I’m just doing a little funny dance right here. I have a mirror that I can watch myself dance so I can crack myself up and –
Sue B Zimmerman: I love it. I love it.
John Lee Dumas: These hips don’t lie, Sue. These hips –
Sue B Zimmerman: I need a mirror. I have to start doing that. That’s so fun.
John Lee Dumas: It’s so fun. Share an internet resource like EverNote with Fire Nation.
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah, so I’d like to share two because I’m just that kind of gal. So for me, because I teach Instagram, absolutely all about organizing those drop box folders so you can access them wherever you are, on the go, when you travel, and know exactly what to post on Instagram and I do have a great blog post explaining to you exactly how I organize based on color. And then, I have to just say to everyone out there, my go to for crushing relationships and looking at people in the eye is Zoom. I bring people into Zoom whenever I do my 15 minute free calls and my conversion rate is just amazing.
John Lee Dumas: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah, I’m almost done with this one and I wanna recommend it. It’s “The Obstacle is The Way,” by Ryan Holiday. It’s amazing. Have you read it?
John Lee Dumas: I love it. I’ve read it and I actually just had him on the show a couple weeks ago now. No, it was –
Sue B Zimmerman: Wow.
John Lee Dumas: It was actually in real time. It was a couple months ago for his latest book, “Ego is the Enemy,” so Sue, you should roll –
Sue B Zimmerman: Ooh, I’m gonna get that one.
John Lee Dumas: Right into the book. Roll right into it.
Sue B Zimmerman: Yeah. I will.
John Lee Dumas: Ryan’s a great guy. So Sue, I wanna end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Sue B Zimmerman: Awesome. So, I would love you all to connect with me obviously on Instagram @SueBZimmerman @TheInstagramExpert and because I’m all about building community, I wanna share with you hashtag #SueBmademedoit, which is my hashtag. Whenever I do an interview, JLD, I always say to the listeners, I wanna see are you running, working out, where are you when you’re listening to this interview, consuming it, and tag me and tag you so that you and I can see that hashtag hub. Yeah. Because it really is fun to see that grow. There’s over 1,000 people that have taken the hashtag #SueBmademedoit challenge.
John Lee Dumas: Love that. Well, Fire Nation, you have your call to action. Anything else?
Sue B Zimmerman: My website for sure. SueBZimmerman.com and we have a special gift for your listeners. SueBZimmerman.com/fire and for anyone listening in, you definitely wanna download my free Instagram strategy guide that will get you going and people often say to us, “OMG, I would have paid for that. It’s so good,” and that’s what you wanna do. Right?
John Lee Dumas: OMG, Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with SBZ and JLD today so keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Sue in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore.
And of course, your direct call to action was what Sue shared about Instagram earlier and of course, SueBZimmerman.com/fire for your free gift that OMG, you’d pay for, Fire Nation so go grab it before she makes you. And Sue, I wanna thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
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