Lessons on Business and Life from the ‘Zen Master of Marketing’

This week’s guest is a visionary strategist for the digital age. She helps brands reach the next level by leveraging digital opportunities to drive meaningful results. She is Shama Hyder (aka the “Zen Master of Marketing”), and she is a Digital Entrepreneur.

In this episode, Shama walks you through her journey as a digital entrepreneur that started back in school:

  • Why she strives to have a student mindset (no matter what)
  • The importance of the freedom to make contributions without boundaries and limits
  • The lessons she took from her parents (that you can implement too)
  • How she finds humbling moments every day and is always learning something new

And more.

Plus, Shama answers my rapid fire questions at the end in which she reveals why it’s best to close out your browser windows while working.

The Show Notes

Lessons on Business and Life from the ‘Zen Master of Marketing’

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth ongoing instructional academy plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce, that’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to the Digital Entrepreneur, the show where digital entrepreneurs share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned so we can all be better in our online pursuits. I’m your host Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital and this is episode number 37. This episode of the Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I will tell you more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later, but you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at Rainmaker.FM/Platform, that’s Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

On this week’s episode I have a guest that’s been honored at both the White House and the United Nations as one of the top one hundred young entrepreneurs in the country. She is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a best selling author, and the award winning CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, a global online marketing and digital PR company that helps turn successful companies into industry leaders. She helps brands reach the next level by leveraging digital opportunities to drive meaningful results. She is Shama Hyder, AKA the zen master of marketing and she is a digital entrepreneur. Shama, welcome to the Digital Entrepreneur. It is wonderful to have you on the show.

Shama Hyder: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you’re an award winning entrepreneur, you’ve shared the stage with presidents. We appreciate you taking the time to join us and lend some insight on your path as an entrepreneur.

Shama Hyder: This is my favorite topic so … a pleasure.

Why She Strives to Have a Student Mindset (No Matter What)

Jerod Morris: Very good, very good. Let’s start out where we always start out with our guests. I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom. The freedom to choose your projects and to chart your course and ultimately the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better. What is the biggest benefit that you have derived from being a digital entrepreneur?

Shama Hyder: Yeah, I would say definitely the freedom has been a huge part but also just the ability to make a contribution without boundaries or without limits. Really, I think as an entrepreneur it’s the limits that you put on yourself. I think, for me, that’s a very gratifying part of it.

Jerod Morris: All right, so let’s go back. Take me back to before you became a digital entrepreneur. What were you doing and what was missing that led you to want to make a change?

Shama Hyder: Well, I was in school, so I think, unlike a lot of people who sort of go from the career world, I started the company right out of school. I think, just to rewind slightly back, I finished school and I thought that I would go get a job, which is what you’re told you’re supposed to do and whatnot except for me my industry didn’t exist and the idea of social media, social media marketing is just so new. The industry really, honestly, did not exist.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Now, had you always been an entrepreneur growing up, like is this something that was just in your blood that you had always done?

Shama Hyder: I think so. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and so … Both my parents are entrepreneurs and, but I think that actually made me not want to do it as much. Because I saw them, and we have very different styles of entrepreneurship, I can put it that way. I guess I’d only seen one facet of that but yeah, I think I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and I’ve always enjoyed the idea of having my own rules and my own way to contribute to society in a way that’s not limited by anyone else.

The Lessons She Took From Her Parents (that You Can Implement Too)

Jerod Morris: You mentioned that you have different styles. How would you describe the differences in your styles?

Shama Hyder: I think my parents with their entrepreneurship, they were also very spontaneous in a lot of ways. I think some of the challenges I saw them deal with was more towards not being as organized. I’m more type A than they are.

Jerod Morris: How did you come by that? Have you just always been that way?

Shama Hyder: I think when you grow up with parents who are not type A it forces you to be type A and so yeah, I think in some ways, to make up for that, even as a kid … Yeah, so I think I got the best of both worlds in many ways.

Jerod Morris: Can you walk us through how your business is organized, because obviously you have Zen Marketing, so you have a marketing agency and you’re taking clients. Then you also are a business unto yourself with your speaking and with the books that you’ve written, how do you keep everything organized and manage your priorities?

Shama Hyder: Yeah, I think that’s exactly it, it’s priorities, it’s knowing what are the absolute things I have to accomplish today and then everything else revolves around that.

Jerod Morris: What kind of systems do you have for helping you do that and make those tough decisions?

Shama Hyder: I want to say pen and paper is sometimes the best. You think it’s tools but it’s not, right. You can have tools that help you focus or support your productivity but at the end of the day it’s really you rolling up your sleeves and saying, “This is what I’ve got to do.” I think certain things that do help, like there is a tool I use that’s like a thirty minute timer on my phone and it’s great because I’ll do … I think it’s also known as the Pomodoro effect where you take, you focus on something for thirty minutes and you go do something else. That certainly helps and try to focus in on things that need me. But of course you only work in such, my schedule, there’s not always a set schedule because the media might call and they might be doing a story on something and they want me in or a client says “Oh, we’ve got this great opportunity, can we brainstorm?” In so many ways, yes I can have a framework for my schedule, but I have to stay flexible as well.

Jerod Morris: What kind of role have some of the digital products that you’ve created like the eBooks, what kind of role have those played in the growth of your business?

Shama Hyder: Yes, well I’ve got two books out in bookstores. One is called The Zen of Social Media Marketing, which is now in its fourth edition and Momentum, my second book, which is about marketing in the digital age that just came out a couple of months ago. And both have been, say, pretty crucial in helping with business development and building a thought leadership platform, and both of them came about from market demand. I wrote The Zen when people really … there were no books on social media, where people really needed some insight on what it meant to do, to use Facebook or to use these platforms and tools for business. Being able to create something based on market demand has always, I think, been a key to success.

How to Maintain a Trajectory of Success

Jerod Morris: One trend that we have seen is a lot of people who are in client work will end up starting another portion of their business around digital products, whether it’s courses or membership sites. Do you have any plans to do anything like that or are you going to stay on the same trajectory that you’ve been on?

Shama Hyder: I think there’s always possibility. For me, what’s more important is, “How do you stay relevant, right, to your audience, and how do you constantly give them something they want?” If that looks like digital products, then it will be digital products. But, I’ve never been one to say, “Okay, this is the way we’re going to go and then everything else gets forced around it.” It’s much more, “Let’s keep listening to the audience. Let’s see where our clients want. Let’s see what the audience is asking for,” and then create around that.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Shama, tell me about the milestone or moment in your career as an entrepreneur that you’re the most proud of.

Shama Hyder: One moment that I think that for me was really sort of a personal like, “Oh, wow,” moment was visiting a client’s Christmas party A client invited us to a Christmas party, we’d been working with them for two years at this point and we were handling all their digital marketing and attending their Christmas party from the year prior, it had seemed like the company had tripled. All these people and their families and the CEO, I remember was talking to him and he said yeah, ”We’ve grown so much with your help in the last two years. These are all the people that we’ve now been able to hire.”

What was great about that was just to know, sometimes I think that you do, you see the impact on bottom lines, but you don’t see the full societal human impact, right? How we were helping with the marketing and helping this company grow, they in turn were able to hire these people and then, of course, there were these kids and families that were impacted by that. For me, that was a really touching moment in terms of what we do and the effect it really has.

Jerod Morris: Boy, that had to be just a great moment. To just see there and see, yeah, the impact that you had and the help on real people, like you said, because sometimes we can lose sight of that fact. That had to be great.

Shama Hyder: Totally, and it was. And we’ve had moments like that and I’ve had moments like that, being able to see how what we do impacts people.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. All right, let’s take a quick break. When we come back I will ask Shama about the most humbling moment that she has had as digital entrepreneur.

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How She Finds Humbling Moments Every Day and is Always Learning Something New

Jerod Morris: All right, so Shama, tell me about the most humbling moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur, and most importantly, what you learned from it?

Shama Hyder: I think I have humbling moments everyday, honestly. I don’t know, really it’s not like one like “Oh my God, I was so humbled,” but everyday I think I learn something new and for me it’s a mindset, right, to always stay in that kind of student mindset of there’s … I feel like things make you humble when you get to a certain point or like, does that make sense?

Jerod Morris: Totally.

Shama Hyder: Right, like there’s some place for you to fall from? Or there’s some place to be like “Oh wow, I really thought I was going in one direction and this opened my eyes.” I think I always come from that perspective where I’m a student. I learn so much from my employees all the time because, let’s face it, I’m younger than all of them, most of them. For me it’s always been a process of being a student and learning so I don’t know if there’s one experience that I would say, “I was really humbled by it.” I’ll say that everyday there’s at least ten moments in a day where I’m like, “Oh, well I don’t know it all, good thing I didn’t think I knew it all.”

Jerod Morris: I think that’s probably an indication of why you’ve been successful because obviously those moments of humility are also paths for learning and opportunities to learn. I think the fact that you view it that way is a great sign for your continued growth, because that’s what will keep you learning and growing, so that’s great.

Shama Hyder: Thank you, I certainly think having a student mindset no matter what you’re doing is the way to go. You know, and when the clients … you can always tell the difference from the clients who are, I love that our clients are like this, they want to learn. They want to grow. They’re curious, and I have a lot respect for curiosity. I think it keeps you from ever thinking that you know it all, because the moment you do I think is when you have that really humbling moment.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Shama Hyder: I just prefer to always keep myself in that mode.

One Word that Sums Up Her Status of Business Today

Jerod Morris: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s fast forward to now. What is the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today?

Shama Hyder: Growing. I mean, really, it’s growing. And maybe, you know what would be fair, I would say, if I was going to be really specific, I’d say “momentum,” which is the name of my second book. I think part of me writing that and choosing that name was because I feel like, as a company, we have a lot of momentum right now. We’re one of the top social media digital PR agencies in the country, if not in the world, in terms of just being how early we started on to this path. I’m really excited with how much momentum we have and where things are going.

Shama’s Biggest Recurring Pain Point Right Now

Jerod Morris: Very cool. What is your biggest recurring pain point as an entrepreneur right now?

Shama Hyder: I would say a reoccurring pain point, and this is just something is constantly, especially in our industry, keeping up. To be totally honest that’s a challenge for anybody in this industry, but it really is when you’re looking at things and you’re saying, “What changed while we were sleeping?” That’s the joke at the office, right?

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Shama Hyder: I think … and it’s a challenge I love, but it is definitely a challenge to be able to keep you and to know what’s changing, how do we … We have to stay a step ahead for our clients. To stay relevant is the only way that we’re going to be useful to them.

Jerod Morris: How do you do that with so much information out there? How do you make sure that you’re getting the right information and finding out what you need to stay relevant?

Shama Hyder: I think, at this point, I’m very lucky that because I’m an investor in things and I’m, I write for multiple columns and I do a lot of media, that things find me, which is a great place to be.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Shama Hyder: I think that’s a nice thing is that I’m able to get sort of what I would say is the early scoop or the insider, the early invites and things to know what’s new.

Jerod Morris: That’s good.

Shama Hyder: Or what’s around the bend, yeah.

The Most Satisfying Part of Her Job

Jerod Morris: You mentioned earlier how rewarding it was to be at that Christmas party and see the impact that your work was able to have on real people, on families, I’m curious what element of your work on a daily basis gives you the most satisfaction? Like the actual just getting down, doing the work, what part of it do you enjoy the most?

Shama Hyder: For me, it’s honestly one of my favorite parts, is the strategic part, working with our clients, coming up with campaign ideas, talking with the team, figuring out how we’re going to help our clients move the needle, whether it’s with their social media campaigns or influence their marketing or digital PR campaign we’re launching. Like, these are all the things that really get me excited at the end of the day.

One Recommended Tool

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Let’s open up your toolbox if we can, and I’m curious what is one technology tool that contributes the most to your success as an entrepreneur? I know you mentioned earlier the app that you have that helps you keep track of your time and keeps track of your priorities. Are there any other technology tools that really stand out as helping contribute?

Shama Hyder: I’m a big fan of Slack. We use that. It’s a communication tool, which I’m a huge fan of that. Just allows me to keep in touch with our team. Our team is all over the US. Our clients are global. We have clients from Lithuania to Hong Kong, so definitely a huge plus in that way.

Non-Tech Ways to Keep Yourself Grounded

Jerod Morris: In addition to pen and paper, which you mentioned earlier, are there any non-technology tools that contribute the most, that help you out?

Shama Hyder: Non-technology tools aside from pen and paper, I would say that I have some favorite apps, things like that but you know my dogs, they’re pretty non-tech. They’re great because they remind you what life is really about.

Jerod Morris: Exactly, exactly. That’s why I like asking that question.

Shama Hyder: It’s not Instagram Stories.

Jerod Morris: Right, right. No, that’s wonderful. Okay, so earlier I asked you what’s the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today. You said growing and momentum, we accept both of those.

Shama Hyder: Okay.

Jerod Morris: When we talk again in a year, what would you want that one word to be?

Shama Hyder: Wow, I think that would be a good word. Why not aim high, right?

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What will it take to get there for you?

Shama Hyder: I think just doing what we’re doing. I think that’s the path we’re on. I’m really excited about how we’ve grown and we don’t do any outbound marketing. Everyone who works with us comes through client referrals or they come through our own inbound efforts and that’s really, to me, that’s really powerful.

Jerod Morris: That’s a good spot to be in.

Shama Hyder: Yeah, I’m grateful for it, yes.

Rapid-Fire Question Time

Jerod Morris: Yes. So I have a few rapid-fire questions to close out. Are you ready?

Shama Hyder: Yes.

Jerod Morris: If you could have every person who will ever work with you or for you, read one book, what would it be?

Shama Hyder: Shoot, I know this is going to sound like an unfair question or an unfair answer perhaps but honestly it would be The Zen of Social Media Marketing and we do. We ask people to read it because so much of that is my philosophy. It’s the company philosophy, so in some ways it is like understanding what we’re about and how, what our perspective and approach is on digital marketing.

Jerod Morris: That’s a good way to make sure everybody understands that, and understands the mindset and culture that you’re trying to create, so I think that’s a very fair answer.

Shama Hyder: Exactly. And it helps when someone comes in when we’re hiring and they’ve read the book. To me it’s like, “Okay they’re a step ahead. They are already familiar with this. Like, they know what we’re about to some degree.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah, so memo to anybody looking to get a job: read the book. If you could have a 30 minute Skype call to discuss your business with anyone tomorrow, who would it be?

Shama Hyder: I don’t think that’s funny because it’s not … I feel like the people who work with us find us so I don’t know who I’d want to be able to talk to. Like totally, honestly, I think it would be the person that is really interested in working with us. Like that would be where my interest is.

Jerod Morris: Okay.

Shama Hyder: That’s the person I’d want to talk to.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What is the one email newsletter that you can’t do without?

Shama Hyder: Boy, there’s so many, I like my Quora Digest. The digest I get from Quora.com, that’s like the questions people are asking and I find myself looking on it often, so, yeah.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, Quora has some great stuff.

Shama Hyder: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: What non-book piece of art had the biggest influence on you as an entrepreneur?

Shama Hyder: You know, there’s a really cool sculpture at Burning Man. I don’t know if people have seen it but it’s two … it’s kind of a wire frame of two people who are arguing and they’ve got their backs to each other but within that wire frame you can see the children within each other and they’re facing each other trying to find a solution. I always think that’s touching, like regardless of where we are as adults or we’re in our kind of cages you know, inside it makes like the soul within salutes the other souls that it recognizes. I think that’s a really moving piece of art.

Jerod Morris: That’s great. That’s a great answer. What productivity hack has had the biggest impact on your ability to get more meaningful work done?

Shama Hyder: Close out browser windows. I mean honestly it’s amazing how much we’ll get done when you focus on one thing at a time and you don’t have multiple, I mean just me closing out browser windows has been huge.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, it’s amazing how those can just accumulate. You don’t even realize it.

Shama Hyder: Well, such small things, and the other day I learned an interesting hack which I think is great. For people who play on their phones a lot or find that to be kind of, where they keep going back. Turning your screen to be a grayscale. You can do that on the iPhone, so everything’s grayed out, the colors go away and stuff and you find that you’re just, you want to play with it less, which I think in some ways can be a good thing.

Jerod Morris: That’s interesting.

Shama Hyder: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: I might have to try that. Shama, what’s the best way for someone who is inspired by today’s discussion to get in touch with you or to get more from you?

Shama Hyder: Certainly we’ve got two sites, MarketingZen.com and then ShamaHyder.com, both the sites have tons of content so if this is the type of content that you’re interested in and especially marketing, those are the places to go.

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Well Shama, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck getting to “wow” over the next year, hope you get there and yeah, really appreciate your time and insight.

Shama Hyder: Thanks so much. Pleasure to be here.

Jerod Morris: And that concludes this week’s episode of the Digital Entrepreneur. My thanks as always to Toby Lyles and our production team along with Caroline Early and Will Dewitt for helping to make this episode possible. My thanks to Shama Hyder for taking the time to join me for this discussion. I really appreciated her insight. It was great to get to talk with her and I’m sure you feel the same, and of course my thanks to you for being here and for listening. I always appreciate your attention and your support on the Digital Entrepreneur. If you ever have any questions, comments, thoughts, or anything, or just want to connect send me a tweet @jerodmorris. I always love hearing from you, and we’ll be back next week for another brand new episode of the Digital Entrepreneur. Take care.