Episode 233

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Today’s episode is a twofer – and both topics are going to benefit your shop. The first is the idea of collaborating with your prospects to create content that is valuable for both of you. From there you can leverage that shared experience to create new opportunities for your agency. The second is how you can write that book you’ve been thinking about, despite how overloaded your calendar and life can be.

My guest is James Carbary, the owner of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast-first media company. James was with us once before back in Episode #156 where we talked about James’ approach to networking. And in the latest episode of Build a Better Agency, we dive even further into his creative collaboration methodology as we discuss the writing process and major talking points of his new book, Content-Based Networking: How to Instantly Connect with Anyone You Want to Know.

James asserts that when you partner with your prospects to produce content that will serve their organization’s business goals, you can connect and create the foundation of a relationship. That relationship will serve your agency in a variety of ways, ranging from referrals to a new client. On top of that, the content is also useful to your audience, so it’s establishing your position of authority, as Stephen Woessner and I detail in our new book Sell With Authority.

As if that wasn’t already a value-packed episode, I also asked James how he, as a busy agency owner, found the time to write the book. He reveals all of his shortcuts and secrets and you’re going to want to hear them all!

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Owners | How to grow your agency using content collaboration with James Carbary

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • If you decide to go with a different keyword, make sure to have the keyword listed in at least one bullet point.
  • The concept of James’ new book, Content-Based Networking: How to Instantly Connect with Anyone You Want to Know
  • How content collaboration serves your agency’s biz dev efforts
  • James’ framework for content-based networking and how to apply it
  • How to write and publish your own book
  • How to use your book as a biz dev tool

The Golden Nuggets:

“By adding value in a way that is tangible and has nothing to do with your product or service, that maps to genuine relationships, which ultimately leads to new business opportunities.” @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “Content-based networking is a way for agency owners to reverse engineer the relationships they need to achieve their goals and dreams.” @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “As agency owners, the lifetime value of a customer is significant. So, they are worth a significant amount of work on the front end.” @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “Doing multiple collaborations with a prospect is a huge catapult into relational equity.” @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “You will never be able to predict the byproducts of writing a book.” @jamescarbary Click To Tweet

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid sized agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. This is Drew McLellan from Agency Management Institute. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Super happy to have you. Really glad you are back. If this is a regular routine for you, I hope we are doing something interesting while you’re listening, whether it’s walking the dog or on the treadmill or on the subway, whatever it is. Thanks for listening and squeezing us into your day. I know that’s not easy. And if you are a new listener, welcome. Our purpose is pretty straightforward. I want to help you grow your business. I want your agency to be stronger, more profitable, more sustainable, more scalable. And if you want don’t the road, that it is more sellable. That’s why we’re here every single week. And this week’s episode is going to be a twofer. So we’re going to talk about two different topics, both of which are super important to you as agency owners and leaders. And I will talk a little bit more about that in a quick second.

But first I want to remind you that if you have not joined us in the Facebook group just for podcast listeners, I would love to have you do that. Head over to Facebook and just search for Build a Better Agency Podcast group. You have to answer a couple of questions so I know that you are really an agency person. And then come on in and join us. It’s very early stages so it’s not as chatty in there as I want it to be. But we are starting to get to know each other, we’re starting to have some conversations, and hopefully that’ll grow over time and we can build a community of agency folks who listen to the podcast. So please come join us and do that.

All right, my guest today is a guy named James Carbary. And James was on episode 156. We talked about value add in relationships and how to build relationships that then build your business. And that’s sort of the core of how James has built his agency, Sweet Fish Media, over the years. James is an AMI member. I’ve known him for several years now. We have attended a baseball game together in my quest to get to every major league ballpark in existence. So we know each other both personally and professionally. Great guy but also a really smart business man. So James has recently written a book and I want to talk to him about the content of the book but I also want to talk to him about how he got the book done. Because a lot of you talk about wanting to write a book but not having time. So I want to really probe into how he got that done because maybe that will be helpful for you.

But in the beginning what I want to talk about is his topic of his book which is all around the idea of collaborating with your prospects to create content that is valuable for both of you as a way to get to know each other. And it’s a really interesting concept. I think it layers very nicely with the concepts of Steven’s and my new book, Sell with Authority. So if you’ve read that, I think you’re going to find James’ comments particularly pertinent to that book. Whether you’ve read it or not, it doesn’t matter. James’s book certainly stands on its own in terms of being a great strategy for growing and building your agency. So without any further ado, I want to welcome James to the show and get right to the questions because I think we’re going to run out of time. James, welcome back. Glad to have you.

James  Carbary:

Thank you so much Drew. I have been looking forward to this for a while so super pumped to be back on the show.

Drew McLellan:

Me too. We have a lot to cover. Because want to talk about is, I want to talk about the content of the new book, which is really kind of a continuation of the conversation we had back in episode 156 where we were talking about building relationships and how that builds your business. So I want to talk about the content of the book and the framework inside the book and all of that. But I also want to talk from your perspective as an agency owner of why you wrote a book, how you got it done given how busy you are like every other agency owner, and some of that things that you sort of thought through about how to use the book as a biz dev tool rather than … Because I’m assuming, you did not write the book to leave your agency and become a best selling author, right?

James  Carbary:

Correct.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It is a means to an end. All right, so let’s start talking first about the book. So the book just came out, right?

James  Carbary:

Yep. January.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And so content based networking is in essence … What are you telling us? What are you recommending to us?

James  Carbary:

At the end of the day, content based networking is a way to reverse engineer the exact relationship that you need to pursue your goals and dreams. And so in my context, as I’m sure a lot of agency owners context, that meant for me I wanted to grow the business. I wanted new customers. And so we started using this methodology before we had a name for it. And it’s really content collaboration with the exact people that you want to know. So we started B2B Growth over four years ago now. And I thought man, if VPs of marketing at B2B tech companies with 50 plus employees are the people that are buying our service, how can I reverse engineer relationships with that exact persona? And so we started B2B Growth, we started interviewing VPs of marketing at B2B companies with 50 plus employees on the show and started talking to them about them, not us, not our podcasting service, not all the stuff we could do for them. We kept it on them. What are experiments they’re running? What are challenges they’re facing? What are ways that they’re growing their businesses and really just created a platform to share their stories. And through those collaborations we ended up building a lot of relationships that ended up mapping to new business for us.

Drew McLellan:

So inside the book one of the things you do is sort of outline a framework of how to do this. So let me go back to … Do I have to be producing some sort of content? Whether I’ve got an active blog, I’ve got a podcast, I’ve got a video series or whatever. Do I have to be producing some sort of content to lay this framework against?

James  Carbary:

You can do it in a couple of different ways. I think the folks that I’ve seen be the most successful do have some sort of ongoing content platform that they’re using whether it’s a podcast, a blog, a video series. But then you could also do it in one off things too. Like more of kind of a project based thing. So I’ve seen companies do this with really elaborate, very high end production value on something like a documentary and then featuring different people in the documentary that are people that you want to know. And so obviously collaborating with them, featuring them in the documentary is a way to build those relationships. I’ve seen people do this with books actually. So kind of almost crowdsourcing a book. So that would be like a one time asset that you create. So to answer your question Drew, most of the time it’s some sort of an ongoing content platform that you’re building as you go that really doesn’t have an end to it.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So walk us through the framework of how you prescribe sort of delivering against this strategy.

James  Carbary:

So it’s a three part framework and the first part of the framework is your goal. So figuring out what is it that I actually want to do here? And I see so many people that are not clear on this step. So for me, when we started using this my goal was I wanted to grow the business. And what I realized and what my goal really was, was I wanted to build relationships with people that could buy my product or service. And so once I had clarity around that I was able to go on to step two of the framework which is people. And people, now, how do I actually engage with those specific people? So if my goal is to grow the business and I know that now I’ve got to get a good handle on who are the people that can actually help me do that, what relationships do I need to build to be able to achieve my goal of growing the business and get real clarity there. So I see a lot of people make the mistake of … And it’s something that you and I have talked about a lot. But not having a clear picture of who your buyer is or who the type of person is that you want to know.

So you go from goals into people. Once you’ve got the people nailed down and you know, okay, this is the type of person I want to connect with, then you go to content which is the third part of the framework, and you figure out what is the type of content that I can create? Is video best? Is audio best? Is a written blog series best? Is a series of photos that I do on Instagram going to be the best type of content collaboration? So you’ve got goals, you’ve got people, and then you’ve got content. And that’s really the three part framework for being able to execute this strategy.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So I set my goal but odds are for many people listening, they may already have the content. They may already have the podcast. I guess a book probably they wouldn’t. But whatever, a video series. So I know what I want to do and in most cases I’m going to assume that people are saying I want to sell more of my stuff, whatever my stuff is. And so what you’re saying is next, is I need to identify … In AMI language, I need to go through the sweet spot client filter and identify exactly who my ideal target is. And then I need to figure out how I can collaborate with them on whatever platform or framework of communication I’ve already built. So in your case it was, I know I want to build my business so I need more customers. I know exactly the profile of the customer that we seem to delight over and over. They stick around for a long time. They are happily giving us money every month. They don’t deviate from our norms too much. They sort of follow our path so they’re easy to serve.

Now I’m going to invite them. In your case, I’m going to invite them to be a guest on the podcast. I think that is probably where a lot of people go, “Hmm. I don’t know how to do that.” I have a brand new show or I want to write this book and I want to interview these people but they don’t know me from Adam. Or we have a blog but odds are they’ve never heard of us. So how does someone go from the little bit of an imposter syndrome that I think everybody suffers from sometimes to actually connect with these perfect strangers who are both perfect and a stranger, right?

James  Carbary:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

And get them to be interested in participating in this collaboration?

James  Carbary:

Yeah. This is a great question Drew. I think one of the things that I talked about a lot in the book was this idea of personalizing your outreach. And so for the longest time when I was doing this strategy, I wasn’t doing a lot of personalization, honestly. And I would find our buyer persona and I would have the same kind of … It was very short messaging and so I think that was effective. I would say, “Hey so and so. Saw that you were featured on the Inc 500 list last year. Would love to have you share your story on B2B Growth. Up for it?” So it was like a two or three sentence email. It was very short and I think that’s an effective way to go. Not droning on and on about how great you are and then asking them to be a guest on your show. Instead of being very short and almost causing some intrigue so that they’re like, “Huh, I’m curious. I want to hear more. What’s the show about? Who have your past guests been?” But don’t dead with that. Let them ask that. Because likely, if they respond to you in that first email, they’re likely going to end up collaborating with you. You’ve got them to engage with you. That’s the hardest first step.

So one is really being thoughtful about your messaging. The tightness of that messaging, the brevity in that messaging is really important. But I think probably the more important thing is doing a little bit of digging. Finding if there’s an article that they’ve written on LinkedIn recently that you thought was really fascinating. If they’ve contributed to either something on their own blog or another blog. Maybe a site like Business Insider or Entrepreneur. Depending on your persona and what they’re doing. If you found a piece of content that they’ve written, a conference maybe that they’ve spoken at, something along those lines. If they’ve written book, that’s an easy one. But finding something about them that they’re clearly passionate about because they’ve created content on it already. And reaching out to them and saying, Hey, I saw this article that you published. Part of the article was about this, this and this. And I thought that was fascinating. I would love to have you talk about that with our listeners on our show.” One, it shows the person that you’re trying to reach out to that you’ve done your homework and you’re coming at this from a real journalistic approach.

Drew McLellan:

You can assume the content.

James  Carbary:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

As opposed to the generic, I love your work or I love your podcast. Because I don’t know about you but when I get that I’m like-

James  Carbary:

You can smell that stuff from a mile away. You can smell it from a mile away.

Drew McLellan:

Right. You’ve never listened to my podcast because the guy you just suggested would never be a guest on my podcast. So again, actually consuming what they produced and having a comment or two about it.

James  Carbary:

Yes. And when people hear that, they’re like, “Oh, James, that’s a lot of work.” But my thesis is, I just think relationships are so powerful and especially us as agency owners, the lifetime value of a customer is significant. And if you can genuinely build a relationship with somebody that can spend tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars with you, it’s worth going through the process of doing that work on the front end. Really studying them. Seeing what content they’ve put out. Seeing what they care about. Seeing what they’re passionate about.

Drew McLellan:

Well, there is nothing about biz dev that isn’t a lot of work.

James  Carbary:

Yes. You’re exactly right. You’re exactly right. So the more research you can do on the front end, I think it brings people’s walls down significantly. Because it’s obviously very flattering for someone to reach out to me and comment on an article that I wrote for Entrepreneur or a chapter that I wrote in the book or a podcast interview that I did on episode 156 of the Build a Better Agency Podcast. When people don’t those things, I pay attention. And the likelihood of me engaging with them as opposed to the person that just send me the email that you alluded to earlier that just is very much being sent to the same hundred-

Drew McLellan:

Right. It’s cut and paste.

James  Carbary:

Right. Yep. And so it feels like oh, of course. But for some reason people keep doing it and they keep expecting-

Drew McLellan:

Because it’s fast.

James  Carbary:

Yeah. It’s fast. They want to hit the easy button. And unfortunately, if you’re really trying to build genuine relationships with people that can move the needle in your business, there’s not an easy button. And I talk about that in the book. Like if you’re looking for a quick hack or something that is fast and easy, this is not a strategy that’s going to be your cup of tea.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Really your strategy is a 2020 adaptation of that famous Zig Ziglar quote. And I’m going to not get it exactly right. But basically he said, “If you want to accomplish everything you want in your life, help other people accomplish what they want in their life.”

James  Carbary:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

Right?

James  Carbary:

You’re exactly right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

James  Carbary:

You’re exactly right. And what I love about this, Drew, is everyone says add value. Everyone’s like, “Oh, you got to add value, you got to add value, you got to add value.” But what I think a lot of people mistake … They hear that and they think that their product or their service … They think that’s the value so they lead with that. So they’re like, “Oh, well we can build this app for you in less than 90 days and da, da, da, da, da.” They drone on and on about either their creative work that they do that they’re trying to sell you on, the fact the they build websites. They’re leading with that as opposed to something like this, a content collaboration. Something that has nothing to do with the value that they provide as an agency, as a business. This is totally different. Because even if your show doesn’t have a big audience, it’s still a third party piece of content that that person can share on social and show to their existing audience, “Hey look, I’m being interviewed about my expertise.” So it’s a way for them to easily create content on somebody else’s production dime.

So that’s what I love about it is even if you have an audience of six people and it’s four people from your team, your mom and your grandma, that is still inherently valuable to them because it’s a piece of content they can use for their platform. So they can send it to their email list. They can post it on their LinkedIn profile. And so I think by adding value in a way that is tangible and that has nothing to do with your product or service, that maps to genuine relationship which ends up mapping to business opportunities in a much smarter way than leading with your pitch or how you can help somebody because of the work or the expertise that you have.

Drew McLellan:

So true. I was talking to another business owner not in the agency space and he was saying, “I got invited to be on this podcast but they have a really small audience so I said no.” I literally said, “If someone has a podcast and their mom is their only listener, I am happy to be on it.” And he’s like, “Why? You’re so busy. Blah, blah, blah.” And I said, “Because I could care less … I’m happy to be on a podcast that has a big audience obviously. And I’m happy to be introduced to a new audience.” I said, “But the biggest value for me is to show my audience, look, I’m being sought after to be on other platforms and other shows because I have something to say.” So for me it’s about reinforcing their buying decision as opposed to finding new customers. When I can do both, that’s awesome. But I’m happy to be on any show because of exactly what you said. I can leverage it through our channels and it just demonstrates that I’m getting the message out near and far. Right?

James  Carbary:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

James  Carbary:

Yep. That what you have to say is quality enough that other people are asking you to talk about it.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Because I think a lot of people listening are like, “I want to go after a big fish and I have a very little pond. My show doesn’t have a lot of listeners or my blog post, we don’t get a lot of traffic.”, or whatever it may be. But it really is, I want my audience to learn from you and of course I’m going to give you all of these assets to do with as you please as well. Yeah.

James  Carbary:

Yeah. And there are obviously cases … You’re not going to get Tim Cook on your podcast anytime soon. I don’t want to have this blanket like everybody should do … It obviously depends, the type of people that you’re trying to-

Drew McLellan:

But I also think if you’re trying to get Tim Cook on your podcast and Tim Cook has never heard of you and you’re deploying your strategy which is, I identified my goal which is I want to grow my business, I’ve identified my sweet spot client, odds are Tim is and ego guest. He’s not one of your sweet spot clients. So actually I think if you keep getting no, no, no, no, no you need to go back and refine your sweet spot client because clearly you’re reaching out to people who, odds are, you’re not going to sell to anyway.

James  Carbary:

And I’m so glad you brought that up Drew because I feel like I have this conversation at least once a week with somebody. They start a podcast because that’s what we do so we’re talking to a lot of people that are using this strategy in the context of podcasting. And they’re like, “James, I want to get Gary Vee and I want to get Simon Sinek and I want to get all these big name authors and Donald Miller and all these different people.” And I have to ask them … I said, “Okay, that’s fun. That’s awesome. I’ve interviewed some of those people and it’s certainly cool to get to have those conversations. But is Gary Vee going to buy what you do? He runs an agency too.” And so if you’re an agency owner trying to sell your creative services … And there’s some … I get the draw to do that. Because you think, “Oh, if I can interview one of these big names and then they share the podcast with their audience, I’m going to get this massive flood of new followers and some of those could end up buying my service.” And that’s a great thought. That’s not actually how it works though.

Drew McLellan:

And I was going to say, they don’t share.

James  Carbary:

They don’t share it.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

James  Carbary:

Because they don’t need to. They’re creating their own content. They’re distributing their own content. So to share your stuff is like … One, if they even say yes to you.

Drew McLellan:

And then if they actually show up.

James  Carbary:

And then if they show up. But then for them to share it, that’s like bottom of the totem pole on their priorities, as it should be. They’ve become influential because they create a lot of content themselves and they’ve gotten good at promoting their own content. But I think what it forces people into is what you just said. Is like, that’s good for my ego but it’s not actually good for serving the purpose of me achieving my goal.

Drew McLellan:

But again, so let’s say you have someone like that on your show and they do share the content, their audience isn’t who you’re trying to sell to anyway. So in my mind the thought process that goes along with your strategy is … My sweet spot customers, we sell to worm farmers. That’s what we do. We sell to worm farmers. So if I can get a high profile worm farmer on my show, guess what? His network is full of other worm farmers. And so that’s exactly who I want to know about us and know that we’re the agency that serves worm farmers. Again, I was having a conversation with an agency owner the other day who was frustrated because they couldn’t get on stage at Content Marketing World. And I said, “But that’s you talking to other people like you. I want you to go …” And this person’s vertical is they spent a lot of time in home services, so HVAC and that kind of thing. I said, “I want you to talk about content marketing at the national HVAC conference.” One is for our ego, one is for our wallet. So decide which one you want to do.

And there’s nothing wrong with standing on a stage because it’s good for your ego and you’re with a bunch of friends and you’re talking to your friends. That’s fun and I get it. But in terms of like what you’re pursing, again, it goes back to what is the goal? So if my goal is to grow my business, who do I want that auditorium filled with? People who will buy what I have to sell, right?

James  Carbary:

Yep. You’re so spot on Drew. And I think so many people just don’t think that far. For whatever reason they’ve convinced themselves of all of these other reasons why they be pursuing those big names. The one thing that’s been helpful for me … We’ve interviewed Gary Vee. I got to interview him a couple years ago. And then I interviewed Simon Sinek because he had released a book and his publisher reached out to me about having him promote his book. Those two names are big names. They’re nice sexy names. I was not trying to interview either one of those people. But we did and what I’ve noticed is that when you have a name or two like that in your roster, the folks that you do actually want to interview, so the owner of the HVAC company in the example that you just shared, if they also know w