Ep. 53: So You Want To Start A B2B Podcast?
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Joey: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to The Good Stuff and The Noise, your source for the strategies to be the good stuff in this noisy world. I’m your host Joey Held.
Kim: [00:00:06] And I’m your host Kim Mackley. Here’s The Soundbite from our guest James Carbary, a B2B podcasting guru and CEO of Sweet Fish Media.
James: [00:00:14] The trick with LinkedIn content is actually to not summarize the post. Instead, you want to give as much value as you possibly can inside the post itself. So instead of saying, “Hey in this episode you’re going to learn James’s three tips for having a podcast, you know, that actually gets you ROI, you’re going to learn why he started Sweet Fish Media. You’re going to learn da da da da dah.” Instead if you just shared those three tips that I talked about in the interview for how to get ROI from your podcast, it’s going to do much better in that environment because you’re not forcing people off of the platform to go listen to an episode. You’re actually allowing them to engage right there inside the platform, and that engagement is what allows LinkedIn’s algorithm to kick in, and spread your message organically because it sees, “Oh man people are engaging with this, they like it, we’re going to put it into more feeds.”
Kim: [00:01:05] We’re going to talk shop with James about B2B podcasting and share notes about how to measure the ROI of creating a high quality podcast.
Joey: [00:01:12] A podcast about podcasting – how meta. After you’re done with this podcast-ception, go subscribe to The Good Stuff and The Noise on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and leave a comment while you’re there. If you’re in the mood, you can also give us a shout on social at any time at @heyINKco.
Kim: [00:01:25] Seriously come say “hi.” We love to hear from you guys. And with that, let’s start the episode! .
Joey: [00:01:31] Huzzah!
Recorded Episode Start – B2B Podcasting Chat with James Carbary
Kim: [00:01:41] Today we’re joined by James Carbary, founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands, and cohost of the podcast “B2B Growth.”.
Kim: [00:01:48] Hey, James!
James: [00:01:51] Hello! How are you guys?
Kim: [00:01:52] Very good! Welcome.
James: [00:01:52] Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be here.
Kim: [00:01:57] We’re excited to have you. Podcasting talking about podcasting.
James: [00:02:01] So meta.
Kim: [00:02:02] Right? So, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company and what you’re doing?
James: [00:02:06] Yea! So, we started Sweet Fish about three and a half years ago. Pivoted about a year into the business into what we’re doing now which is producing podcasts for B2B companies. And lovin’ life. So, I live in Orlando, and we have a fully remote team, and it’s really exciting to live in a day and age where you can run a business from anywhere. So I’m waking up every day super, super grateful for the reality that is my world.
Kim: [00:02:37] Nice, nice. What’s the best part about it today?
James: [00:02:41] Oh, man. Today, I am hopping on a plane to go meet some former guests of our podcasts and a customer in Seattle. And my sister is a flight attendant for United, so I am very fortunate to be able to fly for super cheap. And then, and then, from there I’m going to see a buddy of mine in Minneapolis, so that’s the, I don’t know, the kind of freedom that comes with entrepreneurship is super fun like that.
Kim: [00:03:13] Absolutely. And you mentioned a pivot. Can you tell us briefly about – ?
James: [00:03:17] Yeah! So we – when I first started the business we were writing blog content for small to medium-sized businesses. And it’s just, you know, a very loud space. There’s a lot of, kind of, outsourced content creation teams out there. And I just – I don’t think I priced the service right. And so, we were just having a really hard time keeping our heads above water based on the pricing. We were getting a lot of customers, but our pricing was really low. And I was on a plane back from San Diego when it hit me that you know that the strategy that we were deploying for a podcast that we were running at the time, we were launching a podcast for the – for the purpose of business development with our guests, not necessarily to grow a big audience. And it was through that kind of epiphany of like, “Oh my gosh. What if this thing that we’re doing for ourselves – for this niche market that we’re trying to serve – we could do this for any B2B company in the world.” And that’s when I decided to pivot the business and focus solely on, you know, producing podcasts that can be used as not just a content engine but a business development tool, as well. So, that is how that happened.
Kim: [00:04:25] Rock on! So what does your team look like over there? What goes into creating these – what goes into creating your product?
James: [00:04:32] Yeah, totally. So there’s 29 of us now, and so we’ve got a lot of copywriters on our team that take the audio content and turn it into written content. Both, you know, blog content, as well as LinkedIn content. So we’ve gotten really good at writing long-form LinkedIn status updates.
[00:04:51] So, there’s just an art to writing LinkedIn content today that helps you capitalize on the way that LinkedIn’s algorithm is working. And so a lot of our – a lot of our clients are getting, you know, hundreds of thousands of views on LinkedIn, totally organically, with no ad spend because of the writing that we’re doing for them – from their – turning their audio episodes into LinkedIn posts. And so, so we’ve trained our writing team how to do that, and then we’ve got audio engineers, we’ve got graphic designers, we’ve got folks that do, kind of, the administrative stuff – getting the audio plugged into the website, getting it distributed through all the different podcast channels. So it’s turned into a fun little operation.
Kim: [00:05:38] And you guys are all remote?
James: [00:05:40] We’re all remote.
Joey: [00:05:41] Cool. And I’m just curious on the LinkedIn front – when you’re doing these longer-form posts, are they, like, straight transcripts of the episode, or they, kind of, summaries? A little bit of both?
James: [00:05:50] Yeah, not at all. It’s actually not – I’ve found – we’ve never really done transcripts. We’re starting to experiment with it a bit. I just know that as a consumer of content I never read transcripts, so I never really believed too much in doing them. I know that there’s obviously some SEO benefit. But, that – which is why we’re starting to experiment with it now a bit. So we’ve always – we’ve always basically given the audio to our writers and we have very, very competent writers. They’re all based in the US. And we say, “Hey, listen to this and turn it into a really quality blog post.”
James: [00:06:23] With LinkedIn – the trick with LinkedIn content is actually to not summarize the post. Instead, you want to give as much value as you possibly can inside the post itself. So instead of saying, “Hey, in this episode you’re going to learn – you’re going to learn James’s three tips for having a podcast that makes, you know, that actually gets you ROI. You’re going to learn, you know, why he started Sweet Fish Media, you’re going to learn da da da da dah.” Instead, if you just shared those three tips that I talked about in the interview for how to get ROI from your podcast, it’s going to do much better in that environment because you’re not forcing people off of the platform to go listen to an episode. You’re actually allowing them to engage right there inside the platform, and that engagement is what allows LinkedIn’s algorithm to kick in and spread your message organically because it sees, “Oh man. People are engaging with this. They like it. We’re going to put it in a more feeds.” So, that’s the trick there. And what we’re really capitalizing on when we write content for our clients.
Kim: [00:07:33] Nice! So full circle, you’re back to content marketing.
James: [00:07:28] Right? Exactly.
Mya: [00:07:32] Mya has a question here. I have a microphone today, Kim. Aren’t you proud of me?
Kim: [00:07:36] I am! Good for you, Mya. You’re taking over.
Mya: [00:07:44] James, since we’re on the topic of social media. That’s some great advice about LinkedIn. What are your thoughts about, sort of, “how to” and best practices for promoting on other platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Any thoughts there?
James: [00:07:58] Yeah. So I haven’t – I would say, we’re not doing super well on Twitter for our own show. You know we kind of set it and forget it. You know we’ll put it into a tool like SocialOomph. But with Twitter’s change and not letting you post the same content twice… but I’m not really super heartbroken about that because I don’t know that a lot of folks are paying too much attention to Twitter anymore. I know I’m not. It’s – I think, you know, maybe they’re on the rise again with this change. So I’m not really focused a whole lot on Twitter. Instagram I’m starting to pay a lot more attention to. And so starting to create content not just for the feed, but creating content for stories based on certain episodes. Now you can’t, you can’t swipe up. So those images on Instagram stories aren’t clickable until you have 10,000 followers, which is something that, you know, probably, you know, the marketers listening to this know, but a lot of folks as I’m promoting our show on my own Instagram account, they’re like, “Oh you should do the swipe up thing.” I’m like, “Oh well, you can’t do the swipe up thing unless you have 10,000 followers.” So that’s a bit of a downside. But there’s so much attention in Instagram stories right now that I think there’s just enormous opportunity for more B2B folks to play there. And I used to tell myself like, “Oh, no. We sell B2B. Like, B2B folks aren’t on Instagram.” But I think it’s getting to a place where humans are on Instagram and humans are ultimately, you know, the folks behind these B2B companies and more people than you think are actively consuming content on Instagram.
James: [00:09:39] So between LinkedIn and Instagram, and our podcast, those are really the three channels that I’m most focused on. So to answer your question, you know, doing the LinkedIn long-form status update game is how we’re approaching that, and then trying to get really creative with how we develop Instagram stories content is what we’re doing on that side.
Joey: [00:10:07] And to get back to how, I guess, how we kind of met you is our co-founder Kari met you at a dinner and said you’d be great to come on here. And she told us to ask this question because she thought the answer was great. How many downloads make for a worthwhile B2B podcast?
James: [00:10:24] Zero. You do not need a single download with a B2B podcast for it to return – for you to get a return on your investment because of what I alluded to earlier. The fact that I think so many B2B marketers are obsessed with downloads and listens and views and they want these massive numbers. But the reality is in B2B, one decision-maker can make all the difference in your business. So if you close that seven-figure deal because you have a genuine relationship with the decision-maker at that company, you don’t need a thousand people to listen to your episode. And so what we’ve done with podcasting is essentially flip it to where it’s not about listeners, it’s about the quality of guests that you can attract on the show. Now obviously as your show gets, you know, more and more downloads, it becomes easier to attract higher quality guests.
James: [00:11:23] But I think a lot of time people think about like trying to get Gary Vaynerchuk or these big names on their show. And I’ve interviewed a lot of the big guys. I’ve interviewed Simon Sinek, I’ve interviewed Gary V, I’ve interviewed Jay Baer. Noah Kagan. All these big names. And their episodes get downloaded no more than my other episodes. Just because when you chase thought-leaders to try and build audience – those thought-leaders are thought-leaders for a reason because they’re creating their own content. They’re not – they’re not promoting these shows that they’re on. And so I don’t focus on audience growth a whole lot. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a little bit more lately, but for the first two – two and a half years of our show, I was only focused on bringing my ideal clients on as guests on our show. And because podcasting is new enough, it’s still, I mean, it’s very much an ego-play to ask somebody to be on your show strokes their ego. Who doesn’t want to have the opportunity to share their voice, to share their message. And it’s one of those mediums that, unlike YouTube, they can share the link to it on their LinkedIn profile, or in a in a post on social. And nobody can see how many times it’s been downloaded. So unlike a YouTube video where it shows right there like, “Oh, this has only been viewed six times.” And people can see that is kind of like, “You know, I don’t want to be associated with a show that’s only got six or seven views on YouTube.”
James: [00:12:54] With podcasting that number is hidden, so there’s this allure to, like, “Oh we don’t know how many times this has been downloaded, but it’s a really good piece of content.” So it makes the person look good. And I think with the rise of personal branding and executives understanding how important personal branding is – I think they’re looking at it like, “Oh this show is branded well. The past lot, you know, the line of guests looks good. Sure. I want to be associated with this show.” Because they know they’re going to be able to talk about it on social. They’re going to be able to tell their buddies at Duke, “Hey, I was on this podcast.” And because there’s value in it for them, because it’s going to make them look good, they will say yes. And I think that’s, kind of, the underpinning here is thinking, “How is this going to add value to the person that I’m asking to be on the show?” And so for you as the podcast host, or the person producing your show, you’ve just got to make sure that the the podcast’s web page is really clean looking, that the episodes you’ve done prior, maybe with existing relationships or existing customers, are well produced, have good quality conversation, good flow to those conversations, because they will go back and listen to one or two of your former episodes. But if you’ve branded the show well, you don’t need a single listener.
James: [00:14:18] I always say, “Your grandma can be the only one listening to your show, and if you get the right guest on, and build a relationship with that guest, and end up doing a deal with that person, it pays for itself ten times over.” So, we’ve had one of our customers – I was at dinner with them at one of our – the B2B growth dinner that I met Kari at, we actually did another one of those in Denver, was meeting up with a customer said, “James, 10 months into our show, we’d done $260,000 in business from the guests that we featured on the show.” And I just thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s incredible. They paid us way less than $260,000 to produce that show for them.” So that’s my take on B2B podcasting, and why you don’t need downloads because it’s all about guests and the relationships that you build with them.
Mya: [00:15:10] James, I have another question there on audience – sorry, guests – inviting, sort of, your target customers as guests. Is that- am I characterizing that correctly?
James: [00:15:22] You are. You are characterizing it perfectly.
Mya: [00:15:25] So I suppose, how do you – what are the topics you go for if the idea is to, sort of, show your value to that guest? How do you toe the line between having them as the expert?
James: [00:15:38] That’s a good question. So the process that we use actually makes it, you know, because with B2B Growth we do a daily show, and people are like, “How the heck do you pull off a daily show?” It’s because I’m not doing – I do zero prep for any of our podcast interviews. And we’re doing a really quality daily show that is, you know, getting downloaded over 60,000 times a month. And the reason I’m not able – or I don’t have to do any prep is because we put that on our guests.
James: [00:16:08] And so whenever I reach out to a V.P. of Marketing, a CMO, maybe a CEO at one of the Inc. 500 fast-growing companies, I say, “Hey, this is what the show’s about. We’re talking about B2B marketing. We’re talking about B2B growth. What is something that you could share with our audience that you think would add value to somebody listening to a show like this?” They come up with a topic because we’re reaching out to really smart people. They’re potential clients for us, so they’re not dummies. And they come up with that topic. And then the follow-up question is, “Okay, what would be three to five talking points that we could touch on throughout the interview that you think would add value?” They have just come up with my outline for me. So all I have to do either is have a couple of e-mail exchanges leading up to the interview where they tell us those talking points, or in the pre-interview, we talk through it and it takes about five minutes for them to tell me their three to five talking points because they pick the topic because it’s something they’re passionate about – people don’t tend to have a problem coming up with those talking points. And I jot those down on my little notepad right next to my laptop, and then we hit record and it’s off to the races. And I’m really just leading them to tossing up softballs, really, to say, “Hey, you know, offline you mentioned this is one of the keys to your success, or the strategy that you deployed to execute this particular campaign. Tell us more about that.” And then I let them run with it. And we keep our interviews tight, between 12 and 15 minutes, so it ends up being, like, really action-packed content that is attractive – ends up being attractive to a whole lot of listeners, regardless of the fact that that wasn’t really my goal in the first place.
Joey: [00:17:55] That’s really cool. As far as, I don’t want to say, “recruiting guests” because that makes it sound like you’re, you know, running some sorta shady operation.
James: [00:18:03] We call it “guest prospecting.”
Joey: [00:18:05] “Guest prospecting” Where do you look for these guests? Like, where do you find them?
James: [00:18:09] We use LinkedIn Sales Navigator. And so this is, you know, for us we’re – you know, we look at – we either use LinkedIn Sales Navigator based on the ideal customer profile who we’re going after, so, you know, we’ll say, “V.P. of Marketing, CMO, CEO, at company in these three industries that has, you know, between 50 and 500 employees.” And we’ll pull up lists based on those buyer personas. Or we’ll identify conferences where we know our ideal buyers are speaking at. And so we’ll look at the speaker line up, and we’ll have – we have folks on our team that build lists based on who’s speaking at those conferences. Those are always really effective lists to go after because if somebody’s speaking at a conference, and they’re your ideal buyer, they’ve already raised their hand saying, “Hey! I care about my personal brand.” Because they wouldn’t be speaking in a conference if they didn’t have some sort of interest in building their online profile.
James: [00:19:11] And so, so going after them with an opportunity to be on a podcast, and you can say, “We can even talk about the same thing you talked about at XYZ conference,” ends up being really effective. We go after, like, the fastest-growing companies lists. So Deloitte every year comes out with a fastest-growing company list. Inc. does the same thing. So using those lists to prospect for guests is another smart, I think, smart thing that we’ve done that has yielded a lot of results. And then the network I’ve built in the process – my business partner is also a co-host, as well as a guy that we just brought on, Rex Biberston – and the network that we’re building with the quality of people that we’re reaching out to is just unreal when you look up and go, “Oh my gosh, I’m friends with all these people that run insanely fast-growing companies.” And through that friendship, through that relationship that we’ve built through the show, you know, a lot of these folks end up becoming customers.
Kim: [00:20:09] Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. You know, you mentioned the “zero downloads,” and so, what metrics and data do you use to prove value then?
James: [00:20:19] Yeah. So the biggest one is, you know, how many of your guests have turned into a customer? What is the revenue that you have generated from a guest that you first connected with by asking them to be on your show? Now that’s a metric that I think is tough for a lot of marketers because it takes time, right? Like most of our clients are seeing those first deals pay off, you know, within anywhere from six to 10 months of starting their show. And so to stick with something for that long, you know, takes a little bit of dogged persistence, but knowing that you’re doing it the right way, you’re building quality relationships with people that can end up giving you a lot of money, you just have to be able to play that long game and know that it’s coming on the other end of it. The other metric that we’ve been looking at recently given the success we’ve seen on LinkedIn is just the reach that we’re getting on LinkedIn. Some people say it’s a vanity metric. But, you know, in the last eight or nine months, my content on LinkedIn has been viewed well over 2 million times, and we’ve closed well over a hundred thousand dollars in new business solely from people that have seen my stuff on LinkedIn. So where people are like, “Oh, you can’t measure views. That’s a vanity metric. I don’t care about how many views your content has on LinkedIn.” Well, I care because the more views I get on LinkedIn, it means more dollars in our bank account because these folks are coming inbound saying, “Hey, you know I saw so-and-so comment on your post the other day. Saw what you guys do. Super interested in having my own podcast. Can we talk?” And so because of the amount of deal flow we’re getting from LinkedIn, I very much care about the views – that number of views that I’m getting on my content there.
James: [00:22:10] So, between, you know, the revenue that we’re getting from guests and the views on LinkedIn that I’m getting on my content each week, those are the two metrics that we look at.
Kim: [00:22:33] Nice. Do you guys keep track of your prospect batting average?
James: [00:22:26] So, not necessarily percentage. I can tell you this year, I was just looking at the number, I think the first – of the first 18 deals that we’ve closed in 2018, I think 13 of them were guests on our show at one point. And so it’s – that has not always been the batting average, so to speak. It took us a bit to really refine who that – you know the guest – we had to get really strict with who we allowed to be a guest on our show, which is tough because as the show got more popular, we ranked for the key word term “B2B” in iTunes pretty early on, so that allowed us to really have the growth from an audience perspective that we have today. And because of that, I’m constantly getting barraged with emails with people trying to be on the show. But if that person is not an ideal client for us, you know, I can no longer say “yes” to everybody, like I, like I used to. Even though I knew that this was our strategy going into it. I wasn’t as tight with it. So as we’ve become more tight with saying, “Hey, only ideal clients can be guests.” Unless, you know, you’re like a close friend of mine and, you know, I really care about the book that you’re launching or whatever. I try to – try to keep a pretty tight fist on that.
James: [00:23:43] And so combined with a couple other, kind of, changes we’ve made in our business – we’ve adjusted our pricing a bit to make it a little bit more palatable for folks. We started engaging the sales conversation immediately after the interview, which I hesitated to do for a couple of years because I thought it was too bait and switch. But it ends up, you know, being a really natural conversation that has – that has expedited that. So we’ve made a few changes in the business to increase that batting average, but I, you know, I’m obviously bullish on it because we’re doing it every day, but that’s how we’re measuring and the numbers that we’re seeing.
Kim: [00:24:20] Well, it sounds like you’re having a good year and that’s awesome. I want to go back just real quick. You mentioned having – the importantance of having a really well branded podcast as being a huge part of the battle. Do you have any tips or best practices for branding and podcast branding? And what we should be looking like visually?
James: [00:24:40] Yeah, I mean, design stuff is so subjective, but, I don’t know, I see folks that – I see folks put up a podcast logo that looks like a fourth grader designed it. And I don’t know how to coach against that other than, “Come on, man. That looks awful.” But if you – so, invest in quality design. If you don’t have design internal, you know, find a freelancer that, you know, that you really like their portfolio and invest in getting a quality logo for that.
James: [00:25:24] The other piece to it that I don’t actually talk about this often, but if you’re producing a show and you’ve got a sizable number of employees, getting those internal employees to leave a review of your show in iTunes. And you don’t want them lying and saying, “Oh, I listen to every” – you know, if they don’t listen to every episode, don’t say in the review that you listen every episode. But, you know, saying something like, “Really excited for the show.” Like, you don’t want to be inauthentic, but the more reviews your show can have, the better. And it looks that way when a potential gas goes and sees, “Oh man, this show’s got 150 reviews.” Well, if your company has 200 employees, you know that’s just low-hanging fruit. You should at least have all of your internal folks, you know, leaving a review, and then go as far as to say, you know, customers, friends, that would be willing to leave a review would, you know, is super helpful and gives the guest, you know, “Oh, people are interested in this.” So having the more reviews you can get, the better. I think that plays a bigger role than I originally thought. And then the logo, and the web page, I try not to make web pages for our podcast too busy. But, you know, the logo, a simple description of the show, and then we use a tool called Smart Podcast Player for all of our clients, and it’s a WordPress plugin that just is a really clean looking player that you can embed on your podcast page that, you know, cleanly organizes the content in a way that just looks really, really good. It’s – from a design perspective, it was just really well designed.
James: [00:27:12] So those – that would be my tips on branding the show well. The other thing about – I forgot one thing – is the name of the show. That’s arguably the most important part of branding the show. I see a lot of folks trying to brand the show around their own expertise. And that’s great if you’re expecting the show to get a lot of listeners, and that’s going to be how you get ROI from the show. But for B2B companies, unless you have an enormous brand coming into it, you want to brand the show around your ideal buyer. And so I could have started a podcast called “The Podcasting Show,” but that’s about me, and I don’t care about – I don’t care about me. I care about connecting with ideal buyers. So by branding our show “B2B Growth,” it positions me to go out and ask B2B marketing leaders, who are our buyers, to be the expert guests on our show. So that’s one little, you know, one extra tidbit for how to think about branding the shows in the name, making sure that the name is centric around your buyer.
Kim: [00:28:19] James, that’s all we’ve got for you, but that was an action-packed podcast episode. Thank you so much for dropping all that knowledge on us. And just telling us about what you do and how you do it. Is there anything else we should have asked you but didn’t?
James: [00:28:34] I don’t think so. I think we talked about – we talked about LinkedIn, B2B podcast strategy – I could obviously talk about those things all day, but you guys did a great job, I really appreciate being on.
Kim: [00:28:45] That’s nice. Thank you! Where can our listeners find you and Sweet Fish on the interwebs?
James: [00:28:51] You can go to sweetfishmedia.com if you’re interested at all in doing a podcast. We’ve got a 26-step process right there on our site that you can sign up for. It’s a PDF that’ll walk you through if you want to do it do it yourself, everything you need to know to get your podcast up and running. Then I’m all over LinkedIn. My last name is C-A-R-B-A-R-Y, so you can just look up James Carbary on LinkedIn and you’ll find me there. And then like I mentioned earlier @JamesCarbary on Instagram. I’m starting to get really active, trying to be more and more active on Instagram as well. So would love to connect with any of your listeners that want to connect.
James: [00:29:31] Boom. Alright, James. Give us the The Final Word.
James: [00:29:33] Love people as intentionally as you possibly can, and things are going to end up in your favor.