Marketing for Humans

If you want to reach more of your audience, and you’re allergic to “business tactics” and selling feels sleazy, I know where you’re coming from!

Colin, 10 Years Ago:

I was so excited the day I left my safe job as a financial literacy guest speaker to work for myself and build a business where I could have a wider impact.
A week later, I had a rude awakening… I didn’t like running a business very much.
I wanted to speak to audiences and have a big impact, but now I had to spend time on things like branding, pitching, marketing, and selling to get there.
Those things make me feel salesy, uninspired, easily-distractible, and sleepy.

Colin, Now:

This year I celebrated 10 years running a successful business – I know this works!
It’s because, over time, I have been able to reimagine these “tactics” in human-first language that remind me running a business or growing a program is really about supporting other people and finding “win-wins” by working together.
At the 2023 HEFWA Summit on the beautiful University of Oregon campus, I gave a talk on what I’ve learned. I want to share the quick-version of these concepts here, then offer you a free resource too!
(These are my takes, based on working with lots of programs, and please remix them so they work for you!)

Here are four Business Tactics REIMAGINED:


Branding = Clarity

Creating a brand is about being curious and really listening to your audience as individuals with problems you can help with.
Your brand isn’t just a logo – your brand is how the people you’re trying to reach describe what you do and what you are like. Not sure what they’d say? Ask them! “What do you think I do?” “What qualities would you use to describe me?”

Pitching = Stories

Pitching means recruiting others to your vision, and using real-world success stories to bring your numbers to life.
Data only tells, but Story sells. Stories create an emotional connection and move your listener to act. Enhance your quantitative data with stories of students who improved their finances and you’ll move funders & higher-ups to want to support you. Ask them to set small goals, check in on them, and if they make an improvement, now you have a story!

Marketing = Showing Up

Sending out mass emails may be easy, but each recipient is an individual who wants to feel like you’re speaking right to them.
Don’t wait for them to come to you. Go where they are, and show them you care, then invite them to follow-up with you (and make it easy by inviting them in the presentation/conversation, not after). Guest speaking will guarantee good attendance and you can make a real connection with them even if you only have 5-10 minutes.

Selling = A Next Step

People will only act on your advice if they know you, they like you, and they trust you. So focus on that before you ask them to do anything.
Earn their trust and then offer them an easy next step (so easy that it’s more tempting to do than to avoid.) A “sales funnel” (yuck) is really just a journey, and it feels a lot less gross when the only thing you’re “selling” is that they take a next step to improve their situation. Each step moves them further along their journey to knowledge and financial success.
I don’t know about you, but Having a Clear Message, Telling Stories, Showing Up for Your Audience, and Giving Them a Next Step feels a lot more relational and genuine and fun to spend time on!
Putting even one of these into practice WILL lead you to more visibility, more funding and more impact. 🎉 🎉
Those are the four concepts I’ve reimagined in a way that works for me and makes marketing and business stuff more meaningful and enjoyable.
Now here is my Free Offer to you: Take advantage of my training module Serve More Students, and use code HUMOR to get it for free! I give you simple exercises and actual questions to ask your audience to help you apply each of these to your own work. I also share some real life examples of people who have done this successfully that I know you’ll relate to!
(Click the link here or click the image below.)

Keynote Speaker for Half the Price


Recently, I spoke at two universities in the same day. Both of them were able to successfully host a well-attended, positive, and engaging financial keynote event for their students at half the typical price for a professional speaker.
If you’re seeking greater visibility with your ideal audience but have budget constraints for a keynote speaker, I have a solution. If you collaborate with another organization in your community, and both of you partner to book me for each of your audiences, you’ll receive my speaking event, personal attention, support, and extensive resources at half the price.
I’m currently booking for spring 2024, and there’s already significant interest. If you’re interested in discussing how I can serve your students and highlight the value of your programming, please book a call using this link.


This year my clients have talked a lot about want to increase metrics that show they are reaching more of their audience.




I’ve been deliberately designing and delivering content that makes this happen in interesting ways. I’m particularly thrilled about the impact I’ve been able to have this year, emphasizing the importance of financial knowledge, courage and mental health – because you need all three in order to:

1. Spend differently from your social circle.
2. Discuss money matters with parents, friends, or romantic partners.
3. Set ambitious goals for your future.
4. Acknowledge mistakes and seek help from a financial counselor.
When I ask students which of these actions seems most uncomfortable, the top response is asking for help and seeking financial counseling.


As a keynote speaker I create a safe space and motivate students to tap into the existing resources you may offer. The results from this year’s speeches are pretty exciting:
– At Southern New Hampshire University, 20 students booked coaching sessions at the end of my presentation!
– At New College of Florida, I coached a financial educator to open her presentation with a personal story about her passion for financial literacy, resulting in 8 students booking appointments after just 10 minutes!
– At Muskingum University, a financial literacy coordinator made a charming and relatable “About Me” video that helps students feel more comfortable booking a 1-on-1 session with her.
– At my virtual talk for TIAA-CREF, I created a highly-engaged environment that generated over 300 chat comments in an hour and 100+ feedback form submissions offering positive reviews and valuable insights.
– In my events I get large numbers of students to download and start their first budget, and set a personal finance goal for themselves, right there in the presentation.

If you’re interested in discussing how I can serve your students and highlight the value of your programming, please reply here or book a call using this link.
If a half price keynote sounds good to you, I have email templates and proven success strategies I can share with you to easily make that happen!
Looking forward to collaborating with you.
Best regards,

Want even more ideas? Grab a free copy of this guide!

Public Speaking is an Inside Job

After I gave a training on pitching your work to clients, a graphic designer named Todd came up to me.

“Here’s my problem… When I’m presenting work concepts to clients, I get rattled. I feel like they’re judging me, and they think graphic design isn’t really that important. It’s arts and crafts. I up feeling like they’re the adults in the room, and I’m the kid who needs to prove myself.”

This is very relatable!

Here’s what I said to Todd, something that all of us need to be reminded of, in order to show up as authentically and effectively as possible….

Or if you’d rather read, here’s the blog version….

I said, “Todd, the fact that you refer to your work as ”arts and crafts” is really harsh and unfair. I bet you don’t really believe that either. Chances are someone gave you that impression, and you’ve been repeating it in your head.”

He nodded.

“Insecurities feel true because they feel FAMILIAR, not because they’re accurate. From my perspective Todd, you come across as a talented designer I’d be lucky to work with.”

“And you don’t seem like a child. I mean, you have a beard.”

We laughed and left it there.

Todd’s example reminds me that public speaking is not just sharing your knowledge, it’s being your genuine self as you do so. And you can’t fully show up in an authentic and effective way when you’re doubting yourself.

You have to practice thinking “What I do MATTERS, and my client / listener / audience doesn’t want me to FAIL — they want me to HELP.”

The more you can click into that perspective, and be kind to yourself, the more deep and powerful connections you’ll create and the more impact you’ll have.

Public speaking is an inside job.


Colin “1000+ Speeches But Still Learning” Ryan

I have a free resource for you!
Now is a great time to work on your public speaking skills, or to prepare your team for upcoming presentations!
My mini-course Complete Speaking Confidence will help with the mental game of public speaking – if you want to silence an inner critic, erase public speaking nervousness, and know exactly what your prospect/client/listener hopes you’ll say, reply with the words FREE CODE and I’ll give you the code to access the course for free!
Oh, and if you would like help crafting your story, asking engaging questions, creating a killer workshop plan, or solving any public speaking challenge you’re facing, just reply here with the area you want to work on.
I’m here to help!