What does it take to be successful in doing B2B podcasts? James Carbary delves into why selecting the right guests to be on your show would be beneficial in the long run. He shares the story of what their company, Sweet Fish Media, is all about. Correcting the notion that you should focus your show on your expertise rather than your buyers’ expertise, he insists that consistency is key, not just in podcasting but life in general. James also talks about how proper engagement on LinkedIn is important. Learn more about finding the right guest, right engagement, and eventually, better business.
James has a company called Sweet Fish Media and what do they do? They produce in market podcasts. They work with businesses all over North America to be able to help them produce and market business-related podcasts that allow them to get noticed in a more positive way. James, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on board.
Thank you so much, Ben. I appreciate it.
Where are you coming from?
We are in Orlando, Florida, right next to Mickey Mouse.
This is all about how are you different? What makes you unique? What makes you special? Why do your customers come to you and why do they keep coming to you? I want to know what’s the story of Sweet Fish Media. Where did the name come from? What's the philosophy behind the company? Who are your customers? Why do they come to you? Why do they keep coming to you?
We're a podcast agency. We work specifically with B2B companies. A lot of innovative B2B companies are working with us to have us produce their show. They’re Prezi, Terminus, Ipswich, Helix Education and a lot of cool innovative B2B brands that are trying to do marketing differently. The reason they work with us is because we have a clean process for taking a podcast from nothing into existence and then maintaining that on a weekly basis. We've got some shows that we do daily, others that we do twice a week but most of our shows are weekly podcasts that we're running for our clients.
We have a clean process for making that happen that allows them to not invest a whole lot of time on their end. They can do the interviews and then we take care of everything else. The strategy that we deploy for podcasts is more for business development than anything else. If they stick with doing their podcast for long enough, reach is going to come but that doesn't happen overnight. One of the main drivers of ROI for podcasting that we found is in guest selection. When you can target the right guest to be on your show, you can build relationships with people that can buy your product or your service.
Not because they listen to the show but because they were a guest on your show. For example, in 2018, we've closed ten deals. Five of those deals had come with guests that have been on our show. Three of those five were guests on our show. It's a long gameplay. When you can build relationships with the right people by first asking them to be a guest on your show and then nurturing their relationship from there, business comes from it. That's why a lot of clients are using us. We've also got some clients that are having us repurpose their audio content into LinkedIn content. It’s getting enormous reach on LinkedIn. One of our clients in that, we do a daily show for, In the first 60 days of their show, they got over 800,000 views on their LinkedIn content. Between business development and then reach through LinkedIn, those are two key reasons why people keep coming back and having us produced a show for them.When you can target the right guest to be on your show, you can build relationships with people that can buy your product or your service. Click To Tweet
For people who don't know, I've been doing the show since June 2017. As much as I love it, it's a lot of work. There's a lot of work in doing a weekly podcast in terms of scheduling the guests. Doing the interviews, making sure that your guest is taken care of, doing the edits, making sure that the webcast is converted into a podcast, making sure that it's up on social media. Making sure that it makes it to iTunes and SoundCloud, there's a lot of work involved.
Sometimes you wonder, “Is that the best use of your time?” I love interviewing people. I love talking to my guests. I love spending time with my guests online but if there are ways that you can take the backend process and be able to hand it off to a professional. Someone who knows the industry and knows how to take that material and get it out and disseminate it in a more effective manner, there's value there. I love what you're doing and love being on your show. I got a lot of reach when I was on your show.
One of the things that I'm fortunate, we were able to rank for the keyword B2B in the Apple podcast ecosystem. Because we started our show years ago, there weren't a lot of podcasts focused on B2B and there are a lot more. Getting early to a platform and going all-in on it. A lot of our show titles have B2B. Our description has B2B all over it, our show title has B2B and so we're fortunate to have grown a pretty significant reach there. We're also drinking our champagne with LinkedIn content. I get a lot of reach as we've been going all-in on LinkedIn as well. We are getting a lot more ears on our show that way. I'm glad that your episode was able to get into a lot of ears because what you had to say was great.
The one thing that you said that resonated with me is the consistency of the brand. It doesn't matter where the brand is or how it's touched and consumed. It needs to be consistent and if you can maintain that consistency whether it be Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, on your own website, etc. The more consistent that information is and the more consistent the message is, the more people are going to sit there and go, “I've heard that somewhere before.” “I've seen that logo somewhere before.” “I've heard about this brand somewhere before. Maybe it's time to pay attention.” It used to take seven times to get people's attention. It's probably more like twenty or 30.
It’s so noisy.
There's so much noise. Tell me a little bit about the process. Tell me about when you're bringing on a new customer, what are the things that you do to help them succeed? What's the process that you go through to be able to make sure that a new client is successful within their genre and that they can meet their goals?
It's like a 55-point checklist. I'll save your readers a bit of time. I won’t go through everything but one of the most strategic things we do is we get aligned on who it is that they are trying to do business with. Who are the decision-makers that can make a purchase decision for their product? The mistake that I see a lot of podcasts making is they try to brand the show around their expertise, which is okay if you depend on your show to get an enormous amount of reach. You're depending on turning your listeners or your viewers into clients at that point. If you can get enormous reach, awesome, but most companies, they don't have massive email lists. They haven't spent a lot of time building brand and so it's much tougher for them to get an audience.
To get into a faster path to return on investment through a podcast is saying, “We're not going to brand the show around your expertise. We're going to brand the show around your buyers’ expertise.” With our show, B2B Growth, B2B marketers are the people that buy our product or service. The CMO, VP of Marketing, they're the ones saying, “Yes, we're going to hire Sweet Fish to produce our podcast.” I didn't start a show about podcasting because our buyers don't know anything about podcasting. That's why they pay us to do it for them. I created a show where I could highlight smart B2B marketers that I ultimately want to do business. I make them the hero of the content. We ask them, “What's the topic related to B2B marketing that you think our readers would get a ton of value from?” They come up with the topic, they tell us what the three to five takeaways are going to be, so we work that same process for our client.
If somebody's trying to reach IT directors, we're helping them brand the show so that IT directors are the star of it. We're helping them name the show, come up with a cohesive brand between the headline graphics, the logo, the quote graphics and the web page on their site. When they go and ask an IT director at a company that is a target account for them to be a guest on their show, that person can click the link and say, “This is a good-looking show. We want to get part of this.” We're working through that process and making sure their show is in iTunes and Stitcher. It's crazy to me how many people launch podcasts and don't even put it in Apple podcasts, which is where the lion's share of podcasts are consumed. Making sure that all the different podcast channels are launched and ready, that's a few of it. It's like a 55-point checklist that we go through. The biggest thing is making sure that we brand the show around our customer’s ideal buyer instead of branding it around their expertise, which is a common thing that I see a lot of folks doing.
That's the thing for most people sell what they're good at instead of understanding what their clients need. That's the problem. If you sell from the position of what do my clients need? What are their pain points? What are their challenges? What are the things that are missing in their lives? You build systems, processes, and things to take care of that. You’ll succeed. It's all about you and it's all about your company. It's all about the widget that you've created. It's a long uphill battle because people may not care. They probably don’t care because there isn't brand awareness. It’s far easier to solve other people's problems than to make them aware of a solution to a problem they may not even have. That goes way beyond the podcasting world. That goes into Business 101, but it's amazing to me, how many people don't get that. Especially how many new companies don't get that. That's probably why there's such a high failure rate of new entrepreneurs. Because they're fixated on the widget that they're creating that they're not fixated on what their customers’ problems are.
To your point earlier, Ben, talking about the consistency of it. I feel like a lot of people talk about it, but it's worth harping on. I won't start a new marketing initiative unless I know that we've got the bandwidth to execute on it consistently. The progress that we've made, we're getting over $60,000 a month on B2B Growth, but there's no way we were getting that on day one, even year one. We've been doing it for years and it builds. I was on an interview right before I hopped on this one. We see the result of something so people see where we're at with B2B Growth.
They expect to be able to start it and start where it's taken us years to get to. To build all the relationships we've built with guests and all of those guests sharing their episodes. It's easy to look at where somebody got on and think, “I want to do that too.” The consistency to get up day after day and pull that off is hard. That's why consistency is such a huge unlock. If you can flip your mindset to where you can be consistent, whether that's eating right or doing a podcast, blogging, posting on LinkedIn, life. If you can stay consistent, you will win and there's an enormous upside there.
People look at Gary Vaynerchuk as this amazing machine that probably makes $40,000 to $50,000 every time he's onstage. He's everywhere. You see him everywhere, but he wasn't always like that. He started doing interview podcasts at maybe twenty or 25 people listened to. He did hundreds of them before he got on the big stage and before he started getting his voice to a point where everybody wanted to listen to it. He got his message to a point where it was honed into enough where people were willing to listen to it by the thousand. They say, “Overnight success takes ten years.” It's the hard work that most people don't realize that creates success. As we say it over and over again, it's consistency. It's showing up week after week. It's doing the same thing over and over again but try to be a little bit better every single time.
That's the thing that is so key to it. As you do it more and more, you get better and better at it. I was talking to a guy about this idea of not letting perfection inhibit progress. This idea of if you wait until everything's perfect, you're never going to put out anything into the world. If you never put out anything in the world, you're not going to experience the momentum to keep putting stuff out. It's in the consistency of putting out content and putting yourself out there that opportunities are going to come. If you keep waiting until the audio is right or you got to edit that glitch out and say, “I’m busy so I'll get to it next week.” You never get it done. The CEO of that company that you've been wanting to work for never has the opportunity to see the video pop up at this LinkedIn feed. You never get that opportunity. You don't know because you let perfection stop you and that's a huge lesson that I have been fortunate that wasn't something I struggled with. I don't feel like I've ever let perfection stop me from putting stuff out. I've known early on because of mentors, “Get it out there.” I see a lot of people struggle with that and it keeps them from achieving a lot of what they want in life because they're too afraid to not be perfect.
Seth Godin says, “Always be testing, always be shipping.” There's always going to be another reiteration. Especially in this digital world. When I first started in direct mail years ago, you produced 500,000 of something. It was there. It's out there. If there's a mistake on page one, if the headline on the cover page that has a spelling mistake, there's 500,000 of these things out there. It happened to me. In the digital world, you can tear something down now and put it up fifteen minutes later and almost nobody's going to notice. Going forward, no one's going to notice. It's always there. Don't let good get in the way of great is probably the best way to put it. That's a great philosophy. You talk about LinkedIn. LinkedIn is your buddy, is your friend and is your passion. Tell me how do you use LinkedIn to be able to support not only your objectives but your clients' objectives?
LinkedIn is fascinating to me because there's so much opportunity when you write content that is native to the platform. I was phoning it in. I was using a tool called Buffer and loading up articles that I was curating. I was like, “This looks interesting, this looks interesting,” and I was loading it into my LinkedIn account. It was automatically posting once or twice a day. I was getting anywhere from 50 to 200 views on a post and was like, “This is what LinkedIn is good for.” I wasn't getting any inbound from it and wasn't thinking much about it. I started seeing a guy named Josh Vector post these longer status updates and I could tell he wasn't automating them. He was like natively writing them inside LinkedIn.
He was doing a lot of things that were different. He wasn't putting links in the update itself. He was putting links in the comments and I noticed guys like Guy Kawasaki doing that and other people and I was like, “There's something here.” All these posts that I'm saying on LinkedIn are getting a lot of engagement. These people don't necessarily have huge followings. I started looking more into it, realizing that if I wrote long-form status updates native inside of LinkedIn and I put the link to those podcast episodes or an article or whatever in my first comment instead of putting it in the status update itself. My first post ended up getting 3,000 or 4,000 views as opposed to 50 to 200.If you can flip your mindset to where you can be consistent, you will win. Click To Tweet
You get that reach with something like, “I want to figure out how to do more of this.” I started creating a lot of content for LinkedIn and I started putting together engagement groups. Some people pooh-pooh on this idea. I was on a thread, “They don't feel authentic.” “You're engaging with each other to trick the algorithm.” I don't look at it that way. I've put together a few different engagement groups. I limit them to twelve to fifteen people that are posting consistently on LinkedIn and they're posting about things that I enjoy their content and I want to engage with them.
Is it consistent with your brand too?
I don't want to depend on the LinkedIn algorithm for me to see their content. Instead, I bring them into this engagement group. These are people that I've already vetted for quality. They're inside the engagement group. They put their links to their updates inside. There are twelve to fifteen people to engage with it as well. There's no requirement for anybody to engage you in what you want to engage with. The more you engage with others, the more engagement you're going to get. The cool thing about LinkedIn is I tried to post five days a week on LinkedIn. I'm getting visibility there but then every time I comment or like somebody else's post, it shows up in my network feed. If I comment on my buddy Dale's status update, it shows up, “James Carbary commented on Dale Dupre's update.” It shows its update and it shows my comment there below it.
If I'm commenting on fifteen or twenty posts, each one takes me less than 30 seconds to do. That's a lot of what I call micro-posts. It gives me an enormous amount of visibility. LinkedIn isn't any network. These are people we've had on our podcast, which means they're ideal buyers for me. For other companies, these could be potential investors. These are our employees. These are our existing customers. This is hyper-targeted. This isn't your grandma and your great-aunt Betty. These are targeted potentially profitable relationships that you're nurturing its scale by being active on LinkedIn. Every in-person meeting that I've had, they talked about, “James, I've seen you all over LinkedIn.” People will ask, “Do you close business? These views, are they vanity metrics?”
Two of our biggest customers that pay us a lot of money every month have come because they saw me on LinkedIn over and over again and they're like, “We want to work with you. You're clearly doing something right because we're seeing you every single day. We want you to help us do the same thing.” That's a significant portion of our revenue. It didn't happen overnight, it happened after people were seeing it month after month. LinkedIn, there are tons of opportunities there between writing content natively to get the platform using engagement groups to get your stuff out there and sharing valuable content. Many people don't share stuff that is all that valuable. You can use all the engagement groups in the world. You can format your posts, put the link in the right spot and all this stuff. If your content is not valuable and doesn't help people, then it's not going to work. If you got something valuable to say and you've got a unique thought or perspective on something, you can put it out there. When you follow those rules, you're going to optimize that piece of content to get a whole lot of reach.
It’s not what you write, it's how you comment. If you say, “Nice post” or “Hit the like button,” there's no value in that. If you say, “I liked your post because of this,” or “That was insightful. Have you thought of this?” All of a sudden, you're adding value to somebody else's content. What you're doing is you're stirring the pot and your creating thought process. You're getting people to stand up and think of a different way. That thought is related to you instead of clicking on the heart or hitting the like button. Nobody cares. That's the vanity metric. “I got 187 likes on this thing.” Who cares? Why did these people like you? Were they too lazy to comment on something and they hit the like button instead? It comes back to consistency. It all comes down to personal brand. It comes down to being able to have your voice out there. The more you can create your voice, the more valuable you become.
It's baffling to me too because when it comes to commenting on stuff, you've got trolls and people that are spewing nothing but negativity. It's baffling because when you go and look at these profiles it's like, “You work for a company that has total access going and viewing your activity.” All this gross like, “What are you saying to people?” “Why are you saying the things that you're saying to people?” Because people see that. That's on your permanent record.
It doesn't reflect on you, but if you work for say IBM, it’s reflecting on IBM because you're probably doing it on your work account during work time.
With LinkedIn, it's not like you have a work account. You are your work account. It's crazy to me that people don't put that thought into it. Even when you're commenting on somebody's thing, that comment is going to show up in people's feeds. “Ben commented on this post.” Be thoughtful about that. I love your point about not saying, “Nice post.” Trying to be thoughtful about the comments that you're leaving because it's a micro version of you posting your stuff. You're going to get a lot more reach posting your content. There have been posts where I've gotten ten or twelve likes meaning that the whole lot more people than that saw it than I did on stuff that I was posting where I was getting a little visibility, so I agree with you.If you wait until everything's perfect, you're never going to put out anything into the world. Click To Tweet
Let me ask you one last question. When you leave a meeting, when you sign off on a phone call, when you get in your car and you drive away, what is the one thing you want people to think about you and Sweet Fish Media?
My personal why is I want to inspire, equip people and to love the people in their lives better. I would want people to walk away from an interaction with me knowing that, “He cared about me.” I try to be inquisitive. I'm curious naturally and I try to be an intentional encourager. I would want somebody to walk away feeling, “He cares,” and I would want them feeling encouraged either in something that they said and an idea that they got my thoughts on. I try to be intentional about when I see something in somebody up calling it out and telling them why that's incredible. I want that to be an extension of the business as well anytime someone interacts with our brand. I want them to think, “They care.” That article that they put out to that LinkedIn status update. That was valuable. They care about adding value. I want the same thing. I want to add value in a lot of different ways. Encouragement is one of those things for me. Personally, that is big. That is my probably much longer answer than you wanted.
Not at all. You authentically care. You want people to succeed and you want people to be their best. What you can do to help people be that way is what you're about. That’s huge. Thank you so much for your time, James. I appreciate it.
I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. James is a great guest. Monday to Friday 9:00 to 5:00, what do we do, we help you tell your story. We want to be your partner to be able to allow you to allow your customers to understand what makes you valuable to them. Help you tell your story in a compelling way so people listen. They understand and they engage and that's what this is all about. When people engage, when people trust, when people understand, you stop being a commodity and you start being a valued partner. Every Wednesday at 10:00, this is the Your Living Brand.
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a done-for-you service that guarantees new relationships between B2B companies and their ideal clients. He’s a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show: a podcast dedicated to helping B2B executives achieve explosive growth. When James isn’t interviewing the smartest minds in B2B marketing, he’s drinking Cherry Coke Zero, eating Swedish Fish, and hanging out with the most incredible woman on the planet (who he somehow talked into marrying him).
Where James Carbary began… He was working for a tech start-up in 2014. They were selling their product only to the government, so the sales cycles were long. He couldn’t close enough deals to make the investors happy and as funding dried up, he was laid off in late 2014. While he was with them, he was studying marketing to help the company grow. James kept hearing people talking about content marketing and coaching people on how to do it. The problem was actually finding the time to do the marketing.
So James thought he could offer a done-for-you solution for companies, “a business owner might spend four hours trying to craft a blog post, because they’re not a writer, that’s not their strength.” He thought what if they spent 15 minutes talking to someone from our team? Then we record it and send it to a professional writer to have it written in their voice. That’s how James started Sweet Fish Media with his two friends.
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