Zach Benson is the CEO and founder of Assistagram, an agency focused on growing Instagram accounts to reach millions. In addition to running Assistagram, Zach is also an accomplished speaker and social media trainer for international brands including Ritz Carlton and The Four Seasons. Prior to starting his entrepreneurial journey, Zach was an award-winning dancer and finalist on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
What does Assistagram do?
Assistagram is an Instagram marketing agency. We help our clients build large Instagram followings that turn into real leads through a few different methods, including influencer marketing. Our focus is on gaining real followers, not just vanity metrics. So we work really hard to get actual people who are relevant to a client’s niche to follow them.
Was there ever a moment where you almost gave up?
In the early days of Assistagram, I was taking on pretty much any client I could get and undercharging just for the experience. It was fine until my biggest client, worth nearly $3K, bailed all of the sudden. My income plummeted. I thought I was going to have to shut my business down and do something else, so I reached out to a friend and asked if he could get me an internship at his company. He thought that was ridiculous! Why would I give up all my freedom for an internship? Honestly, I’m so glad he refused. I refocused all my energy on Assistagram and I’m proud to say that it’s thriving.
What are you most proud of?
The work we do at Assistagram is really powerful, in my opinion. We help people build their brand so that they can do more of what they love — whether that’s speaking, writing, or selling products. Good things happen when you have a bigger following. You get more opportunities, meet more people, and can share what you do with a larger audience. I’m proud to help people accomplish that.
Is there anyone who helped you get to where you are today?
My community. I was adopted from South Korea to Iowa when I was 5 months old. I spent most of my life in Iowa, including my college years, and I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in that area. During the pandemic, I’m giving back to the community that supported me by doing social media work for hotels and restaurants where I grew up. And, my parents. I had such a good model for integrity and honesty just by growing up with them. They always keep their promises and are simple, stress-free people. I really try to live my life like them.
What advice do you have for others who want to do what you’ve done?
Playing hardball isn’t the best way to land big clients. Early on in my career, I thought I needed to make every sale the biggest sale possible. So I pushed my clients into contracts they weren’t ready for. I got impatient. And a lot of them went elsewhere because I didn’t try to build trust first — I just went for the sale. So now I focus on building a long-term relationship over closing a short-term sale. If a client wants to start small, I start small, knowing that if I do well they might sign on for more work later. Not everyone’s ready to go all-in from day 1, and that’s okay.
What’s a motto you live by?
“The biggest risk of all is to not take one.” I heard that from the president of my college and it really stuck with me. I realized I didn’t want to live my life with regrets. That’s when I decided to make dance my career. Worst case, it didn’t work out — but I wanted to at least give it a try. While I eventually had to give up my dance career due to an injury, I’m so glad I got to do it while it lasted.
Be sure to follow Zach on Instagram!
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