IAM1811 – Direct Response Marketing Expert Helps Businesses Grow

Podcast Interview with Diane Conklin

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of CEO Chat Podcast + I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless interviews Diane Conklin, an internationally known author, entrepreneur, coach, consultant, speaker, copywriter, marketing and business growth strategist, and implementation specialist. Diane is a direct-response marketing expert who specializes in helping business owners achieve rapid, strategic, and leveraged business growth through Complete Marketing Systems.

Throughout the interview, Diane shares her expertise and insights on direct response marketing, providing valuable strategies and tactics that can help businesses grow. She discusses the importance of creating complete marketing systems that drive results and maximize return on investment. Diane's innovative marketing strategies and campaigns have earned her the title of Glazer-Kennedy Marketer of the Year.

Listeners can learn more about Diane and her work on her website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, where she shares further valuable content and resources related to marketing and business growth.

Overall, this episode offers practical advice and strategies from a leading direct response marketing expert, making it a valuable listen for entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses and achieve rapid and strategic growth through effective marketing systems.

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Diane Conklin Teaser 00:00

I would say have more fun, be a little less serious, be a little less uptight about things. Let go of those. We tend to run our businesses like this, right? Let go of the wheel a little. Let it go. It's okay.

Intro 00:13

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Grist values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:40

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit over 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on the visibility game, a.k.a. Marketing, Advertising, PR, and Sales. I often say the name of the game is being found and these tools will help you to do that. We have heard the philosophical question, if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If there's a really, really great product or service and no one knows about it, how great is it really? What impact does it ultimately make? This is where we will go into this month looking at visibility, branding, marketing, public relations, sales being the lifeblood of businesses building, meeting companies and so much more.

This is probably one of the most exciting and probably the most excruciating topics, but we hope this month to demystify and maybe even vanquish that fear and help and arm you with the tools to be able to increase your visibility. So buckle up and sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Diane Conklin of Complete Marketing Systems. Diane, it's great to have you on the show.

Diane Conklin 02:10

Thanks Gresham. I'm happy to be here and happy to have a little time to share with your folks. So looking forward to rock and roll.

Gresham Harkless 02:16

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you taking out some time to rock and roll and before we jump into the interview to hear about all the awesome things that Diane's doing, I want to read a little bit more about her so you can hear about some of those awesome things.

Diane is an internationally known author, entrepreneur, coach, consultant, speaker, copywriter, marketing and business growth strategies and implementation specialists. Diane is a direct response marketing expert who specializes in showing business owners how to have rapid strategic leverage business growth through Complete Marketing Systems.

Diane was voted Glazer-Kennedy's Marketer of the Year for her innovative marketing strategies and campaigns and has been a contributor on CEO blog nation. So super excited to now have you on the mic Diane, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Diane Conklin 02:55

I am ready. I'm happy to be here and it's always an honor to get to talk to somebody else's community. So thank you very much.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:01

Absolutely. Pleasure's all mine, but what I wanted to do just to kick everything off, was to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started what I call your CEO story.

Diane Conklin 03:11

I've been in business for 30 years. So that just means I'm old. I look pretty good for being a hundred. But actually, it's an interesting story. I have a master's degree in exercise physiology and I was working in the field and always had that feeling that I wanted something more. I got a letter in the mail, actually from Robert Allen and he was doing this series. So I jumped on that thing for 97 bucks and he got me stirred up.

Long story short, I worked for a guy for a year, actually for no pay because I wanted to learn direct response marketing. I wanted to learn information products. I wanted to learn the event business. I was in my thirties, by the way. So that's how I got started. It's not in my educational background, but I love business and all things marketing as much as I love the fitness industry. So the rest is history.

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Gresham Harkless 03:55

Nice. I definitely appreciate that. I appreciate you telling a story of about how you took that opportunity to work for free so that you can learn because I think so many times people want to zoom to the end of the finish line and hear all the awards and all those things.

But I think we sometimes don't realize that it starts at the very beginning stages and you have to learn and then you start to execute and start to get those awards after the fact.

Diane Conklin 04:16

And, I think so many people forget that, right? We hear all these stories about go from 0 to 7 figures in nine minutes and all. I'm exaggerating, of course, but, we hear all of those stories, and that's great. But what I often tell people is this, stop comparing your behind-the-scenes footage to everyone else's highlight reel. The bottom line is, it takes you as long as it takes you, and there's nothing wrong. But if it took you a year to make your first six figures, so what? That's more than 96% of people in the world do.

So, I think we get so caught up in that instant gratification that we forget that there's no such thing as an instant success. You didn't see the 20 years that people work to build up to that. So just remember that. I think that's important.

Gresham Harkless 04:53

Yeah, it's absolutely huge and it's so funny that, your background was in that fitness industry because you hear a lot of that in the fitness industry as well. So you hear the 32nd abs, you just do 32nd of ab workouts per day and you'll have the six pack and the seven pack or the eight pack.

But I think so many times we forget about the process that it takes to get to where you want to be.

Diane Conklin 05:08

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Gresham Harkless 05:10

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So I wanted to drill down a little bit more, hear a little bit more on how you work with your clients. Can you take us through a little bit more about Complete Marketing Systems and how you work with clients?

Diane Conklin 05:17

Yeah, so, we basically have what I call a framework, right? There are 4 steps to the framework and this is everything that we do. People say, are you a coach? Coaching is part of what I do, but it's not how I identify. So, the 4 things really are strategy. So, we really look at how we strategically engineer your particular growth pattern, right? And it's gonna be different for every business. I very much get that certain things in business can be cookie-cutter. But I think when you get into a coaching program, if you get into a cookie-cutter coaching program, you need to really be cautious because what works for your business doesn't work for somebody else's. What works for your business today may not work tomorrow or next week or next year. So we really look at strategically how do we engineer that growth?

Then we put together what I call an action marketing plan. And, it's amazing to me that people throw mud on the wall and forget that they need a little bit of a plan, right? You don't need a business plan, but you need a marketing plan. You certainly need a 90-day plan. Then what we really look at is how we implement this. How do we really focus? How do we really implement what we've planned so that it works?

Then the big key is once we implement it, how do we leverage that? We leverage it with three things. Systemize, automate, and delegate. Those are the three basic ways you leverage. There are lots of subsets inside of that.

Then finally, the fourth step, the fifth step really, which I'll give you a bonus one, is really about optimization, right? How do you all, as you're going through doing all that, as you're systemizing, as you're leveraging, as you're working on this, your growth plan, as you're implementing, how do you optimize it along the way? How do you keep getting better, doing things better that are already good? And better the things that aren't working quite as well. So in a nutshell, I know it's kind of like, wow, what is she talking about? What does she really do?

But that's what we do inside of looking at any business growth or any coaching situation or any done-for-you kind of thing that we do. That's where we start.

Gresham Harkless 07:03

Yeah. I appreciate you sharing that. Of course, who doesn't like bonuses? So I love that extra bonus piece as well, too. And I feel like especially like that optimization piece, it sounds and I don't want to put words in your mouth, especially as business evolve as that growth, starts to really churn, so to speak. And different tools that are out there, I imagine that you have to continue to look at what you do, because it doesn't sound set it and forget it for the next, 20 years, 30 years of interview business.

Diane Conklin 07:26

This ain't Ron Popel, not set it and forget it. You and I think that's the thing that makes business challenging. Some people would say hard, and I think it's the reason that business isn't right for everyone, right? That what it is, it's a constant sort of looking at what did we do? What worked? What didn't work? What should we change about this? Can we test this headline? Can we test this ad? Should we test this photo?

To me, that's exciting for a lot of people. It's exhausting, but look at any aspect of your business, you're constantly reevaluating and part of the way that you do that is by measuring and too many people in business today simply don't measure what they're doing. So they don't know how do you make a business decision? Do we continue doing this or do we stop if you don't know what your numbers are?

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Gresham Harkless 08:07

Yeah, absolutely. That's why I love that. You have that framework and, especially attached to the strategy because I feel like you said, people are just throwing things against the wall and they're not really executing from a framework standpoint or even understanding the strategy that they're trying to execute.

Diane Conklin 08:18


Gresham Harkless 08:19

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So what would you consider to be what I like to call your secret sauce? This is the thing that you feel like sets you apart personally, or it could be the business or a combination of both that makes you unique.

Diane Conklin 08:28

Yeah, I love the question because that's a term that I use a lot. I think for me it's, most people have this ability to either do one of  two things, they can see the big picture or they can see the details. And I think one of the things that sets me apart is I can do both. So I can look at the big picture. If you tell me what your business is, I can say, wow, I can see this, right? I see a 1M dollar business, or I see this being franchise or see whatever. And then there's the first five things we need to do. I think that's a big part of it.

I think the other piece is this idea of always starting with the end in mind. That strategic piece is something that I'm known for is strategy, strategy, strategy. Why are you doing what it is that you're doing? What do you want out of it? It's not the easy answer of I want to make money. That's when you start from there, when you start from this piece of what's the result, then the strategy, you can build the strategy. And if you are always looking at what's the end result that I want, then you know in the zigzag, because it's not a straight line of business and life.

Are we on track or are we not on track? And I think that those are probably the two things that I would say in a 30-second snippet that sort of set me apart.

Gresham Harkless 09:34

I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Diane Conklin 09:42

I'm just going to say it's the big D word that nobody wants to hear, but I'm very disciplined. I run my life, my business life on my calendar, and I'm very focused, whatever the calendar says is what I'm doing. So, the discipline, the boundaries, is another way to say that some people like it. Some people don't. If you don't like it, I'm not your gal. It's just that simple.

Gresham Harkless 10:03

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget, and you might have already touched on this, but this could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice, it could be around marketing and strategy, or it might be something if you were to hop into a time machine, you would tell your younger business self.

Diane Conklin 10:17

You know what? This is gonna surprise you. I think I would say have more fun. Be a little less serious, be a little less uptight about things. Let go of those. We tend to run our businesses like this, right? Let go of the wheel a little, let it go. It's okay. Have more fun. I'll be 58 next month and I think that's just a key thing that I think, like everything, it's balanced. I'm not saying go play seven days a week, but, have more fun in your business, have more fun with your clients, have more fun with your team, because, ain't none of us getting out of this thing alive anyway.

So you might as well have a little bit more fun, smile a little bit more. And, being an entrepreneur, especially if you work from home, like so many of us do, is it gets lonely. I think sometimes reaching out and remembering that you've got friends and business friends and some of that, and just having fun with them. Letting people hear from you and see that side of you that isn't always that serious business side would be the thing that I would say.

Gresham Harkless 11:08

Yeah, absolutely. I definitely love and appreciate that. So I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We are hoping to having different quote and quote CEOs on this show.

So Diane, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Diane Conklin 11:21

To me, being the CEO, is, at one level, it's being the business owner and then it's taking because so many people don't own a business, right? They own a job. Then the next level of being a CEO is being the person who really is the visionary. I love Richard Branson, he says the visionary in your business should have a clean desk and I think that's really the role of the CEO, is what is the vision? What are the next things? Where do you want the company to go? It's not doing the day-to-day things, right? It's the oversight of and having people who are in those key positions that are reporting to you kind of thing.

Being a CEO isn't necessarily where you start in your business. When you first get started, you are the worker bee maybe right? Depending on your business. Sometimes you're going to be wear all kinds of different hats, right? But I think elevating yourself, especially if you're a solopreneur, if you're an online marker, somebody who's working with a team that's maybe distant and virtual, I think elevating yourself to that position of more hands-off more, there's really three or four things that you're probably good at that you should be doing in your business. And that's it.

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The other 99. 9% of the things should be delegated, should be having somebody else do it and that doesn't happen overnight. So again, I think having patience and working up to that. But to me, it's that piece of, what's the vision and I'm not talking about vision and mission statements. I'm talking about the big picture of where are we headed? Where do you want to be if 5 years from now, you want to sell the business? Then are you working toward that? That to me is the CEO.

Gresham Harkless 12:48

Nice. I love that, analogy. And what you said for Richard Branson I look down at my desk to make sure and see if it's clean at all. I think it's a great reminder for all of us and also awareness of the journey and the process that it takes to sometimes get there because I think so many times it may not be that like that on day one. But we can start to evolve towards that and be aware of having that vision and being able to implement that vision within our organizations.

Diane Conklin 13:10

Yeah, if I took the screen down, you would see behind me, my desk is clean and there's 1 little spot on the corner where I keep my workout log because every day I'm logging what I'm doing. But the guy that I'm working with always makes fun of me when we get on zoom calls and he's yep, there's Diane with that messy desk. And I'm like, my brain needs that clarity.

I think that was Richard Branson's point, right? Is you need to have that. The ability of not being cluttered because if your desk is cluttered, your brain is cluttered. I think the other important point is, sometimes as a business owner, you might hire a CEO. You don't necessarily have to be the CEO of your business and I think that's an important point to bring out, right? It doesn't have to be you. Because maybe you don't have those skills. Maybe you don't have those talents and it's okay not to have those skills, right? We're not all born and bred to do the same exact thing.

I think having the freedom to say, look, this is my baby. And just like I'm going to hire somebody to do the marketing or I'm going to hire somebody to do the finances, it's okay to hire somebody to be the CEO.

Gresham Harkless 14:06

Yeah, absolutely. And I think once we understand like our strengths personally and even the people within our organization, but also understand like where we see the vision, we don't necessarily have to execute on that.

We don't have to implement that personally. We can have somebody that's in place to take care of any of those things. So truly appreciate that definition and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know.

And of course, how best they can get ahold of you. And find out about all the awesome things that you're working.

Diane Conklin 14:34

Sure. I think just go out and be you, right? Do you. I think that's the thing that I would leave everybody with. Cookie cutters are made for the kitchen, where every cookie is supposed to look the same. They're not made for us. They're not made for humans and businesses. I think the more you can just be yourself and the more you just let people see you, with your hair messed up or after a workout or frustrated, or whatever it is, people will relate to that. We're so afraid to be vulnerable because after all, we're the business owner and we're supposed to button it up and all that, just be you.

I think that's the thing that I would leave people with. You will find your crowd, you will find that the people who are supposed to be attracted and you're supposed to be doing business with will come to you. Just don't try to be somebody else. I tried to model the guy that I work for the year for free for so long and it just wasn't me. Now that I'm just me, it's easier for me, right? Because you just take you wherever you go. But as far as getting in touch with me, it's pretty easy. If you go to Complete Marketing Systems, it's plural

I'm on all the social media sites. You can look it up at Diane Conklin, or you can look it up at Complete Marketing Systems. But pretty much everywhere. I'm Diane Conklin. So Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, blackberry, strawberry, whatever comes out. I'm there just under my name. So that's an easy way to find me. If you want to email, you can do

The phone number is (678) 250-6650. That's all on the website if you want that, so.

Gresham Harkless 16:00

Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much, Diane. We will definitely have the links and information below definitely for the blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, and all the different berries as well, too, so that everybody can get a hold of you.

I love that last piece that you kind of left us with. It reminds me of the quote is be yourself because everyone else is already taken. I think the more we lean to ourselves and stay true to ourselves, we start to realize that it's not just for ourselves, we get to help out so many people because we get to find our crowd as you said so well. So truly appreciate you for embodying that and doing that as well too, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:14

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Get your driven CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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