Episode 156:

Building genuine relationships in our industry is one of the best parts of being in the business. The point is not to build transactional relationships that will end in a big “payoff” for you. When you focus on real relationships, you wind up bringing people into your life who you actually want to work with, and when you’re really fortunate, end up being good friends.

I firmly believe in this philosophy and the value of those relationships, both professionally and personally. These days, relationship-building often starts online.

James Carbary has raised LinkedIn updates and interactions to an art form. I wanted to explore his strategy and the benefits he’d seen in this episode. James generously shared some great tips on how to create good content that gets noticed and builds both engagement and relationships online. His LinkedIn prowess grows out of his larger interest in fostering genuine relationships.

One of the more fascinating projects James has going on are the B2B Growth Dinners he has launched.  It may be coming to a city near you and if so – be sure to participate. James’ idea was to create an opportunity for six strangers who all worked in tangential fields to have dinner and get to know one another. No agenda, no 30-second elevator pitch. He owns/runs an agency, but James’ passion and gift is as a relationship builder. So, we had a lot to talk about!

James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor to the Huffington Post and Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show, a daily podcast dedicated to helping B2B marketers achieve explosive growth.

 

 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • The power genuine relationships have to enrich your life and build your agency
  • Repurposing content to fit the platform you are presenting it on
  • How to create a community of people
  • Working with engagement groups on LinkedIn
  • How to post on LinkedIn for maximum organic views and engagement
  • Why to have conversations over a meal
  • Using LinkedIn to define your brand and attract clients you want to work with
  • How podcasts help you build a relationship first, add value, and find ideal clients

The Golden Nuggets:

“I've always been a relationship guy. Podcasting has been a phenomenal way to create relationships with people I may end up doing business with some day.” – @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “I think people can feel it when you're being genuine and not just trying to convert them into a new piece of business.” – @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “Being vulnerable in sharing your story and what makes you uniquely you – and how that shapes how you do business – leads to more and deeper engagement with your audience.” – @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “Spending a few seconds putting articles with clickbait headlines into your Buffer queue is not engagement. The amount of effort that you put into it is directly correlated to the results that you're going to see.” – @jamescarbary Click To Tweet “I developed b2bgrowthdinners.com to answer the question, ‘How do you create a genuine community with people who are in the foxhole with one another and want one another to succeed?” – @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, Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner, and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. I’m excited about this conversation because I think it’s going to bring you some new tools and some technique around LinkedIn that I think is interesting and fresh, and actually can really change the amount of exposure that you get on LinkedIn. So let me tell you a little bit about how all of this came to be.

So our guest today is a guy named James Carbary. And I met James probably about a year ago, maybe even a year a half ago when he invited me to be on his podcast. And we had a great conversation. We actually talked about podcasting and the power that it can have for a business. And after that we connected on LinkedIn, but we didn’t really have much interaction after that. And I noticed that he was showing up on my LinkedIn feed all the time and not only was he showing up, but his status updates or his posts were getting thousands of views and hundreds of likes.

And I was like, “What is this guy doing?” And so at the same time that I was pondering that question, I was teaching a workshop in Orlando, which happens to be where he lives. So I reached out and invited him to grab some coffee, which was awesome because I love when I meet somebody online or in our sort of digital world, and I can actually translate that and hang out with them in person. So we met and had coffee and get to know each other a little bit. And he’s had a fascinating life and some crazy jobs, which I am definitely going to ask him about. But we get started talking about the LinkedIn strategy and he was very generous in describing to me exactly how he got those kinds of results. And I knew I needed to get him on the podcast because I wanted to talk about that.

But as I got to know him better, I also realized that he’s done a lot of pivoting in his life in terms of changing careers and all of that before you launched his current agency. And I want to make sure we talk about that as well. And one of the other things that I really appreciate about James is he’s a great connector and he delves into relationship and finds great value in them. And so I want to talk about that as well, in terms of business outcomes, not just that it’s a nice thing to do, although it is a nice thing to do. But I want to talk about it terms of how that translates to business. So we have a lot to talk about, so let’s quickly turn the mic over to him and welcome him to the show. So without further ado, I want to welcome James Carbary to the podcast. James, welcome.

James Carbary:

Thank you so much, Drew. I’m really excited to be here, man.

Drew McLellan:

So I am super excited to introduce my audience to you and to talk about some of the things you’re doing, because I think you are looking at the business world in a really fresh and interesting way. But before we get into that, I want you to tell everybody a little bit about your background. Like how did you get to the point where you’re running the agency that you’re running today?

James Carbary:

Yeah. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share that Drew. So I had a bit of a weird career up to this point. I got out of college, had no clue what I wanted to do. Worked for a couple of big corporate jobs, oil and gas company in Oklahoma City, big insurance company in Oklahoma City. And through a very strange series of events ended up doing helicopter logistics for NASCAR with a company based here in Orlando where I am now.

Drew McLellan:

It’s really interesting, so many agency owners have a helicopter logistics background. So common among you people, I wonder why that is.

James Carbary:

So common. So after putting guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart on helicopters every week I did that for about three years and it was a smaller business. And was just very grateful for the opportunity, but ultimately wanted to move on and move into either doing my own thing or a company that had a little bit more growth opportunity. So tried my hand at building a software company, failed miserably in that. And I thought, okay, I’m going to go back. I worked for a nonprofit for a bit and worked for another tech company and said you know what? I had just gotten engaged when I got let go from a tech company that I was doing business development at, and I thought, man, I just got engaged.

I got let go from this job. Like if I had been dancing around this doing entrepreneurship for long enough, I was like you know what? If I’m going to do it, I need to do it now before I get married, because I know this is going to be a lot of eating dirt and a lot of crappy days.

And so earlier I can get started in that the better. And so very, very grateful that I did that. I started our agency really is just a blog writing service and outsource blog writing service for the first, probably 10 months. And then pivoted into what we’ve become now, which is a podcast agencies focused specifically on producing shows for B2B companies. And so that’s a little bit of the journey.

Drew McLellan:

So talk a little bit about the pivot. So you were basically creating content.

James Carbary:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

Mostly written content. Well, what was the writing on the wall or what was the sign to you that you needed to A, pivot and B, from what I understand kind of abandoned the original model.

James Carbary:

Yeah. So I think for me I had no clue what I was doing. I had never read an agency. I didn’t know how to price what we were doing. I had never worked in an agency. So really just coming in super blind. And as it turns out, I was pricing ourselves just way too low and-

Drew McLellan:

You and everybody else.

James Carbary:

Yeah. So I get about 10 months in to the business and I just realized, man, I’m barely making ends meet. We’ve got, I think at that point we had 30 or 40 clients but they were all paying next to nothing. And so I was like, I got to figure out something here.

And so I started looking at the clients that we had had the best results with, that we enjoyed working with the most. And one of them was a nonprofit based in Houston. It was actually a church plant in Houston. It’s a newer church and we were producing really great content for them that was locally focused. And so things like seven date night spots in Rosenberg, Texas. Well, content like that will go viral in Rosenberg, Texas, because there is only 40,000 people there. And they all care about where the best dates spots are. So I was like, okay, if we could do this for every church, we could do this for a church in every part of the country. We could stack up a bunch of clients that we really enjoy working with. And so I thought, okay, how do I reverse engineer relationships with churches that would be interested in doing this?

And so I was like, okay, I had done a podcast before. And every person that I ever asked to be a guest on our show always said, yes. And so I was like, okay, if I want to build relationships with church planters because I want to ultimately do business with them, first, I need a relationship with them. So I’m going to start a show called Plant Better, which was all about how to plant a church successfully. And I’m going to reach out to successful church planters and ask them to be a guest. And I did that. And 80% of them said, yeah, I’d love to be a guest. And I thought, well, that was a really easy way to do business. So I scheduled all the interviews, had all the conversations. Lo and behold again, in my ignorance didn’t realize that most church plants would not have the budget for content marketing.

And so I figured that out pretty early on, but the truth still remained that, oh my gosh, I was just able to connect with the exact people that I wanted to connect with very, very quickly all by having a podcast that allowed me to do so, and kind of ask them to be a part of, and really adding value first by saying, hey, I want to share my platform with you and collaborate with you to create content that highlights your story. And so it’s very flattering obviously. And I still have a lot of those relationships from that show today. And so I’ve always been a relationship guy. I love genuine relationships with people. And to me podcasting has just been a phenomenal way to create those with people that I maybe I end up doing business with someday because I branded the show around the niche that I’m focused on. But for me, it’s more about the relationship.

And so that’s how we ended up getting into what we did. And that was kind of a little light bulb moment. I remember being on a flight from San Diego going, oh my gosh, this is it. Like it did work with church planters, but every B2B company has an ideal client. And if we could produce a show for them that allows them to connect with that ideal client, we could actually have a pretty nice business doing that. And so that’s where we’re at today.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I love that methodology, Steven Wesner coined the term Trojan horses sales, and that’s what podcasting, or really any sort of cornerstone content where you invite your prospects to be a part of content, where you’re putting the spotlight on them.

James Carbary:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

And I think it’s brilliant.

James Carbary:

Yep. It’s content, people ask me all the time, though James how long do you think this is going to work? The mediums are going to change. And if I do a good enough job advocating for this model a lot of people are going to do it. And if you and I both know, Drew, marketers ruin everything. And so we will eventually ruin this strategy as well. But I don’t think the concept of content collaboration is going to go away anytime soon. The idea of collaborating with your ideal clients with strategic partners to create content with them, that paints them in a good light. And so then the game really becomes if you can build a legitimate audience and have something of value to offer, then it’s going to get harder and harder for people to tell you no because you’ve got an audience of people that they want to reach.

And so that idea of adding value first, I think, is so powerful. And if you can figure out your way of doing that, how can you add value to your prospects for forever trying to extract from them at all then you’re going to be in business for a really long time.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think the whole idea of thinking of yourself as a media channel, or as a meeting company, gather an audience, and that then is pretty easy to attract other people who want to talk to that same audience. And so now all of a sudden you have something to offer them that is not about sales, and it’s not… So as you say, it allows you to create a relationship. And then from there you get a sense of A, is this somebody I would want to work with?

And B, is this somebody that we could actually help in some subset of your desks, from what I’m hearing you say. The answer is, yes, I’d like to work with them and yes, I can help them. And so now I’m going to approach that in that way, which feels a whole lot better than cold calling or sending a bunch of emails or doing whatever. Now, I’m saying to someone I know in like, yeah, I think I can help you.

James Carbary:

Yep, exactly. And just to give some real tangible numbers to prove that it works. So with our own show, our show is called B2B Growth. And we feature CEOs and senior level marketers of B2B companies. In the last 18 months, I think we’ve done $167,000 in revenue, directly from guests that we featured on the show. And one of our clients is a character development company. And so they partner with athletic departments in high schools and middle schools. And so their buyer is an athletic director or a head coach, and they’ve done $120,000 in revenue directly from guests in the last nine months. And so the whole build a relationship first and add value upfront it just works.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And the other part of it which people don’t usually talk about is it’s a great screening mechanism too. If you spend an hour with somebody and you spend some time prepping, you spend some time on the post end of, again, whether you’re interviewing them for a blog or a video or a podcast, whatever it is, you get a pretty good sense. At least you get the spidey tingle of ew, this is not somebody I’d want to work with, or you know what? I could have talked to him or her for another hour. I love that conversation. I would like to lean in a little bit and see if maybe there’s a chance for us-

James Carbary:

Some synergy here. Yeah. You’re exactly right. I don’t even know that I’ve necessarily processor or thought about that, but you’re spot on there that I do get that spidey sense when I’m interviewing someone.

And I think, oh my gosh, I would have a lot of fun working with these folks. And I think people can feel that when you’re coming at it from that genuine place and not just trying to convert somebody into a new piece of business. And that will ultimately prevail. As buzzwordy as it is, the more authentic and genuine you can be the more success you’re going to experience, especially with a strategy like this. And that’s one of those things that’s really hard to fake. And so the folks that are really doing it from a good place, I think will end up seeing a lot of success with it. And the folks that aren’t necessarily after the relationship, they’re just trying to get a quick win and looking for a hack. They’re going to end up doing things where other people can see that and they’re going to see right through it and it’s not going to be nearly as effective for them.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I agree. So one of the other things that I think you’ve done that’s been really interesting is that you’ve been playing around with how to add extra value to your podcast guests, and other people in your circle. And using LinkedIn in a really interesting way. Can you talk to us a little bit about a strategy behind that [crosstalk 00:15:07]?

James Carbary:

Yeah, so we’re obviously with B2B growth being a daily show, we’re producing a ton of content in that medium. But there’s still a lot of people that don’t listen to podcasts. Obviously, nobody listens to this-

Drew McLellan:

What?

James Carbary:

Isn’t that camp. But a lot of folks that are not consuming podcasts. And so I started thinking about where can I repurpose our content from the show into platforms where more people are hanging out and just started seeing this resurgence of people on LinkedIn. Seems like probably in the past eight or nine months, just a lot of content creators, creating content native for the LinkedIn platform. And I thought, what if I could take the content from our show and put it into long form status updates that I saw performing so well on LinkedIn in a way that-

Drew McLellan:

I just want to interrupt. The other thing I’m noticing on Linkedin, and I’m curious if you’re noticing it too. I’m noticing people are actually engaging more on LinkedIn. It feels a little more Facebooky.

James Carbary:

Yep, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Than it has in the past. In the past it was just people would just post article after article after article, but there was no conversation. And now all of a sudden I’m seeing a lot more conversation.

James Carbary:

I think the reason for that drew is because when you just post an article, you’re expecting someone to click the link, go out of LinkedIn, look at the content and then make their way back to that status update to actually comment on it. But that’s way too cumbersome. And people just aren’t willing to do that. So instead, if you can take that same article or what I’ve done with a podcast interview, and I don’t tease it out. I don’t force you to consume the entire piece of content to be able to engage with it.

So what we do, what we’ve trained our writing team to do is to say, hey, listen to this episode, take three or four key takeaways from it. Roll that into a LinkedIn status update. So there is real value tangibly as someone who’s scrolling through their feed. So it’s not like, oh, we’re going to tease this episode, click the link to listen to it. And in our context with podcasting people just aren’t going to do that, they’re walking from meeting to meeting. They don’t have 15 minutes to listen to an audio episode, but if you can truncate that into three or four tangible pieces of quality takeaways that they can consume right there, and you can do that in 1300 characters or less, which is the cap on LinkedIn status updates, then people are going to go, oh man, that was really, really good. I’m going to comment, I’m going to like this, or I’m going to engage with it because I actually got something from it.

And in the back of their they’re going, man, I need to subscribe to that show because there’s really some good content that’s being shared there. And so I think that take on content creation and creating it native inside the platform, as opposed to linking outside. Plus obviously LinkedIn wants people to stay on their platform longer. And so they’re going to, I say penalize, but they’re going to restrict the reach of your posts that link to external content. So even when we’re linking to our podcast, I’m putting it in the first comment of the post. I’m not putting it in the post itself. I’m spacing my posts one or two sentence paragraphs, which a lot of people harp on, but the reality is it just makes it easier to read on mobile, which is where most people are consuming LinkedIn. So there’s all these different factors that go into creating content on LinkedIn that I think when you start to embrace those, you’ll start to see immediate uptick in the engagement, like you said. And then there’s some other things that we’ve been doing to boost engagement as well.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And that’s where I want to get to next. But first let’s take a quick break and then we’ll talk about what you’re doing with some of your guests.

One of my favorite parts of AMI are our live workshops. I love to teach. I love to spend two days immersed in a topic with either agency leaders, agency owners, or AEs in our AE boot camps. But most of all, I love sharing what I’ve learned from other agencies from 30 years in the business and all the best practices that we teach. If you have some interest in those workshops, they range from everything from money matters, which is all about your financial health of your agency to best management practices of agency owners, to new business, to a bootcamps, and a plethora of other topics. Go check out the list and the schedule at agencymanagementinstitute.com/livetraining. Okay, let’s get back to the show.

All right. I am back with James and we are talking about podcasting and creating content and creating relationships before you pitch a sale. And now right before the break, we were talking about LinkedIn and how it seems to have a resurgence of not only a volume, but more engagement. And James was sharing his strategy for doing that. So you’ve loaned that out beyond your own sort of status updates. And I know you’re doing something where you’re gathering groups of people together to try and help them merchandise and maximize the value of LinkedIn. Can you walk us through that?

James Carbary:

Yeah. So we started doing these things called LinkedIn engagement groups, and this isn’t… I definitely didn’t make it up myself, but it’s been happening for a long time.

And I think with the resurgence of the type of content that’s being shared, I started seeing more and more people talk about these engagement groups. And I thought, okay, there’s something happening here because I keep seeing the same in my feed. They have hundreds and hundreds of likes and comments on their stuff. Like what is happening here? The content is good, but what on earth are they doing? They don’t have massive followings. And come to find out, oh, they’re in an engagement group. And essentially what it is it’s a group of like-minded folks where you post links to your status updates in a LinkedIn message thread and other people in the group commit to engaging with that content if they think it’s helpful. And by doing so, it shows up in their connection’s feed.

So if they like or comment on something, it’ll pull up in all of their first degree connections feeds, giving more reach to that original post. And then the upside to them is that when they go to post the link to their status update, everybody in the group agrees to engage with it. And so I was a part of one that had a lot of people in it, and I just noticed that it was very noisy. I wasn’t able to keep up with everybody’s content. Not all the content was really aligned with what I am all about and what I talk about. And so I thought you know what? All this is a LinkedIn message group. I’m just going to start my own. And so I went to some folks that I am very aligned with and 12 to 15 folks and just said, hey, would you want to be a part of this thing I’m putting together, some former guests on the show and just the community that I’ve started to build.

And we’ll engage with each other’s content when we think it’s helpful and hopefully it’ll give everybody a boost. And so did that with one group, it went really well. Tried doing it with a couple other groups where it didn’t actually go so well. And I think there’s some value in the lessons learned there, where if you do decide as an agency on our listening to this. I want try to start putting these engagement groups together, make sure you’re targeting folks that are already active on LinkedIn. So I was going back to a lot of our former guests that just aren’t that active on LinkedIn for, I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why folks aren’t that active there. And by doing that it was like me and two other people that were frequently every day putting links to their status updates, but nobody else was creating content that regularly.

So they weren’t getting a whole lot of value from it, so they weren’t engaging. So it ended up just being a very dead group. And so I learned from that and said, okay, now every group that I create, you’ve got to be creating content that aligns with the type of message that I’m putting out as well. And you’ve got to be creating regular content. At least one to two days a week you’re putting out content on LinkedIn. And since I kind of shifted and made that, your refocused those groups, they’ve been tremendously beneficial for me. They’ve I think over a 90 window last year, I had like 1.4 million views on my content. But at the end of the day, drew, if your content’s not good and it doesn’t engage people, there’s no number of engagement groups that’s going to fix that.

They give you kind of an initial boost. They’re not a cure all for bad content, but they are a match that can light good content and put it on fire. And the way the LinkedIn algorithm is working right now, they are rewarding content that gets early engagement. And so I don’t know how long LinkedIn and all social platforms are notorious for changing their algorithms. But as of right now, if you can get 10 to 15 likes within the first hour of your post going live and some comments on there then LinkedIn sees that and goes, oh, we want more people on LinkedIn to see this because clearly it’s getting good engagement and then it starts to expand. And so being a part of these groups and doing this kind of stuff it always draws out a certain level of groups of folks.

They’re just gaming the system or they’re just hacking this or there’s negative Nancys everywhere, I think. But if you’re putting out content that you really believe in and you think is helping people, you want that to get in front of as many people as you can. And I just feel like engagement groups are a channel that allows you to do that. And if your content is not good, the market’s going to tell you that it’s not good and nobody’s going engage with it. So that’s kind of how I think about engaging groups and some of the benefits that we’ve seen from doing them.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting. It goes back to sort of your content strategy in general. If you’re just creating content to create noise, to create activity, then the results you get are going to be sort of akin to what you deserve in that stance. And when you are actually creating content to be helpful, to be intentionally useful then a marketplace, regardless of what platform to your point, I think engages in that. And it’s interesting. So you and I talked about this when we met in Orlando.

And so after we talked, I gathered up 12 agency outlets. We’re all pretty active on LinkedIn, and we decided to give that a try.

James Carbary:

Love it.

Drew McLellan:

So for example, just to put some numbers on this for the listeners. So I shared a text only status update that was maybe 600, 700 words. So meatier then, I had ice cream a lot. And shared it. So again, guys, here’s the recipe for this. You create a LinkedIn message and you invite everyone. So you create a group message for everybody. So I emailed, everybody said, hey, I want to try this experiment. Do you want to participate with me? Everybody said, yes. So I put them on a message group. So I wrote the status update.

I shared a link to the status update in the message group. And then those 10 or 11 people all went and either liked it or commented on whatever. So prior to this experiment, my average number of views on a post would have been about a couple hundred? Right. That post alone was almost 5,000 views.

And by the way, most of the views were second circles. So they were not people inside my circle. They weren’t inside somebody else’s circle that was connected to me. And while the engagement group, certainly that the spark that sort of put a post in front of everybody. As soon as that happened and other people who are not inside that message group started also engaging in the conversation, liking it, commenting on it, which just obviously exponentially expanded-

James Carbary:

The reach of it.

Drew McLellan:

So then we did another experiment where I included a link to a podcast episode outside of LinkedIn. And that only got about less than a thousand view. So to your point, LinkedIn is paying attention to whether or not we’re keeping folks inside the platform or sending them out. And then I did one where I put the link in the comment per your suggestion, and that was somewhere in the 3000 view reach. So clearly the status only where you’re just talking and you’re not linking seems to be what they liked the best.

If you link to something inside like an article that you’ve written, that’s on LinkedIn, that does better. And then if you actually put the link in the body of the status and take somebody off LinkedIn that doesn’t perform as well, which you know what? 1,000 views of a podcast episode is still awesome. So the point of this is not to get as many views as possible with no intentionality around it. What are you trying to do and understand that you have these choices. And so you can maximize your reach, however you choose to, it starts with what are you trying to give the audience? And what are you trying to get the audience to give you in return?

James Carbary:

You’re spot on. I love that you’ve done some experimenting with it. I’ve heard several stories similar to that. That’s my story and in a lot of ways, I was getting a couple of hundred views per post, just linking. I was really just kind of phoning it in, using buffer, curating articles that I thought were interesting. And if I’m honest articles that I thought had sexy headlines, and I would throw those into my buffer queue. I was getting anywhere from 50 to 200 views. And as soon as I started, it’s funny how this works too, because it’s the amount of effort that you put into it is directly correlated to the results that you’re going to see on the back end of it. Right? It was very easy for me to scroll through buffer, add a few articles to my queue and kind of set and forget my social media content strategy for weeks and weeks.

Whereas now it takes me 15 to 20 minutes every day to thoughtfully think about like, okay, what am I going to write about today? But the results are absolutely worth that 15 to 20 minutes. Two of our biggest clients closed in January of this year that were directly… That pointed to LinkedIn, hey, I just kept seeing your stuff show up in my LinkedIn feed. And this isn’t just a random collection of people. Like these are your investors. These are customers. These are prospects. These are your team, your internal team. Like this is a network that you have crafted over your 10, 15, 20, 30 year career. And this content that you’re putting out is getting directly in front of them. Some people have done a better job of building an email list than others.

But I don’t have a massive email list. And so LinkedIn for me it seems like every sales conversation I’m on, every strategic partnership call that I’m on. People always mentioned, oh, man, I saw your post the other day about, dah, dah, dah. That was so good. And it’s just like, man, this is real. It’s easy to look at a view count and go, oh man, that post did really well. I got 5,000 views or 10,000 views or whatever. But when you start to think like, those are all people that… Those are very strategic relationships. So it’s not just a view, that’s a human on the other end of that.

It’s consuming what you’re putting out there. But then to your other point, drew, and something that’d be interested in hearing your take on something I found is the other upside to engagement groups is that it forces you to more actively engage with other people’s content.

And when you do that, it’s almost like micro posts. So I know that when I commented on your post from, I think it was yesterday where you were like, ” Hey trying to figure out what I want to talk about on my next solo episode, here are three options.” Well, I comment on that thing. One, I want to engage with your content. And I have an opinion and I have a thought, so I want to share that. But I also know that when I comment on that, it’s going to pull up in a certain, not all of my connections are going to see it, but a lot of my connections are going to see that I commented on it.

It’s going to give your content more exposure, but it’s also going to give me more exposure because it’s going to say James Carbary left a comment on Drew McLellan’s post. And then it’s going to show them my comment directly under the post itself. And so in doing that, I’m almost writing a micro posts without having to actually create a status update that day. And so when you’re an engagement group and you’ve got three or four people sharing statuses every single day, that’s an opportunity for you to create micro content on three or four different people’s posts, giving you that much more exposure while helping the people in your engagement group get more reach with their content as well. So it’s really like this double-edged sword that’s really cool.

Drew McLellan:

Well, what I like about it is it’s really about building your brand. It’s really about walking out who and what you are and what you’re… So in your status updates, but also you’re right in the way you engage with other people’s content. And to answer your question, absolutely, when you’re in one of these little groups, that’s the deal, right? If you react to my content, I’ll react to yours. So all of a sudden you’re having interesting conversations and you can’t help, but reveal yourself in those conversations. And so for people who are listening are going, oh my God, I don’t have time to do this. We’re not talking about 12 hours a day. We’re talking about-

James Carbary:

No, not a lot.

Drew McLellan:

… You write a status update and I’m not as religious as James is about doing it every day, but you do it a few times a week. So that takes you 15 or 20 minutes that day.

And then I probably spend, I don’t know, maybe 20 minutes a day on LinkedIn. So I’ll pop in a couple of times throughout the day and see that somebody else has shared a link. And so I go to like it. And if I have something to add to the conversation, I add a comment. So we’re not talking about a huge investment of time here guys, but what you’re doing is literally it’s a little like being on stage, right? So you’re putting yourself out there for the world to watch you. It’s like letting people eavesdrop on a conversation you’re having, coffee, so what. Where the whole world is eavesdropping on you and your thinking and the way that you react to somebody. And so if you are somebody who wants to teach or to drop knowledge or to encourage or whatever your personal brand is, whatever your agency’s brand is. You can really bring that to life in a very cool way in what we’re talking about. So it’s just a really interesting idea. It’s been fun to [inaudible 00:34:45].

James Carbary:

You mentioning that has made me think about an idea that I had a few months ago, really trying to tap into my personality and how I was crafted and specific skillsets that I feel like God’s given me. And it was in encouragement. I feel like that naturally I see really great qualities in people and I’m very open with sharing with them. Hey, I love this about you. And so I started a hashtag called cooler than James, and basically started writing status updates about people in my network that I was just really impressed by because of the style of content they were writing or this initiative that they started or whatever the case may be.

And so I would write up a little status update, put hashtag cooler than James on there. And it was a tangible way for me to start expressing more of who I am. And the more that you can do that, the more you can share, like I’ve shared my backstory and how I was raised by a single mom and what that taught me about business. And the more vulnerable you can get in sharing like your story and what makes you you, and how that shapes, how you do business that’s powerful. And that’s what engages people. I have so many people reach out to me, one-to-one messages after finding out that I was raised by a single mom. James my dad left when I was really young too. That message spoke to me in a really powerful way.

I never thought about thinking about it in the way that you’re thinking about it. That stuff is like fuel. When you get messages like that, you’re like, oh my gosh, I got to keep sharing more of who I am, because if it’s actually helping people then who doesn’t want to do more of that. So anyway, a little aside there, but just a little-

Drew McLellan:

Well, but honestly, I don’t think it’s an aside. So I have always said back when social media was sort of a baby and everybody was should I create two Facebook profiles, a professional one and a personal one.

I’ve always been of the opinion you are one whole human being, so that whole human being. But I was my mom’s primary caretaker for the last five years before she passed away in November of 2016. And I made a conscious choice to sort of live that journey out loud. And mostly I did it on Facebook, but I made those posts public.

And my mom suffered from dementia and so I wrote a lot about that experience. And I did it for a couple reasons. One, I did it because I needed to process and I’m a writer. And so that was for me to process that. Two, I knew there were a lot of other people who are walking that path out and I thought maybe I can be helpful in letting them know they’re not alone. Some of the things they’re experiencing, other people are experiencing.

And I also wanted to celebrate my mom and I wanted to celebrate the relationship that we had. And as my mom got more and more ill, and as I went through now in the last year, how many ever months, the grieving process of who’s my best friend. I made a conscious decision to do all of that more publicly than some people probably would choose to do. I made that decision because I thought maybe what I’m going through can be helpful. Maybe other people and the connections that I’ve made… I wrote a piece on the first anniversary of her death that I get emails every day from people that I don’t know. Saying, I forwarded this onto somebody or this, I can’t tell you what this meant me because of what I’m going through.

And there’s a humanity. I don’t care what we sell. The humanity in who we are as people that also shows up in how we work. And so I think to the extent that you’re comfortable, and I’m not saying you have to bare your soul, and I’m not saying that for everybody that’s the right choice. But to your point of sharing who you are and what you’re about, and using that to support and serve other people at the end of the day, also supports and serves our businesses. Because you know what? If somebody thinks, oh my God, that Drew is so modeling, or whatever his thing is, I’m probably not a great fit for them anyway. Right? So again, part of what I love about your LinkedIn strategy and what we’re talking about now, which is you’re a whole human being share the [inaudible 00:39:26], is it’s all about defining your brand.

And it’s all about attracting the right fit clients and repealing the people who are not a good fit. And the sooner in the process you can do that, the better for you.

James Carbary:

Yeah. I was just on a conversation this morning with a managed IT service provider, which how many of those are there in every state? Like they’re on every street corner, but these guys were telling me one of the things that their owner is really passionate is children’s charities, charities focused on helping kids. And they have now started, so they give 10% of their profits to children’s charities, and word has started spreading and now their favorite clients. And honestly, the clients they enjoy working with the most are like-minded in that way. They’re on boards of children’s charities. And it’s not that they’re, I doubt they’re turning away business from folks that don’t.

But I said, well, how are you guys acquiring customers? How they care about that? He said, honestly, it’s coming to us because word is spreading that, hey, these guys give 10% of their profits away every year to these three or four children’s charities or whatever the case may be. And so it’s bringing the type of partners that they want to attract to them because they’re wearing kind of what they’re passionate about on their sleeve and they’re letting people go and it’s a part of their brand.

And so I just think that what you said right there, Drew, I think is just really, really powerful that I hope people really start to embrace.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day in our business it is about the relationship. And if agencies think about the clients that they are excited to go see that they are most excited about the results that they look forward to serving. At the end of the day, the ones that they go out of their way for, they go the extra mile for, at the end of the day it’s the people that they liked the most. So why not attract people who are most like you and that you are likely to like. That’s just good business [crosstalk 00:41:40].

James Carbary:

Yeah, it really is.

Drew McLellan:

… Making work more pleasant.

James Carbary:

It really is. You’re spot on, man.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m curious podcasting will eventually turn into something else. LinkedIn will turn into something else. You’re somebody who is constantly sort of keeping an eye on trends, and you’ve obviously by the way, you’ve pivoted your business, you’re willing and ready to make your business change as trends change. So what are you keeping an eye on right now? What do you think is next, what have been thinking about?

James Carbary:

Yeah. So the thing that I’m thinking a whole lot about, drew, is community building and how do I… A lot of what we were just talking about? When you start thinking about your business relationships, almost like friendships, these are people that you’re serving or they’re serving you. They’re your vendors. How do you create a genuine community of friendships with people that are like in the foxhole with one another, that want one another to succeed and how do you foster those communities?

So we’ve started doing something with our podcast guests and with our listeners. I just put up a Google Form and bought the domain, B2Bgrowthdinners.com and started promoting it on our show. That, hey, if you want to get together with like-minded people in your city, go to B2Bgrowthdinners.com, put in your name and your email, and I’m going to email you whenever we’re in your area. And we’re going to get 5, 6, 7 folks together, grab dinner, and just zero agenda. There’s no sales conversations happening here. It’s, hey, you’re in the B2B space or you wouldn’t be listening to our show. Let’s talk business, but let’s also talk family and life. The thing that you just shared about your mom. I wasn’t aware, that’s the first time, we were relatively new friends.

And so I wasn’t friends with on Facebook whenever that was happening. But stories like that coming up, there’s creating an environment where those kinds of conversations can be facilitated, I think is insanely powerful. And it can end up leading to business results. And like, so I don’t want to people listening to this to go, oh, froofy community. But one, it makes business more fun when you’ve got somebody that you’re a group of people that you’re in the foxhole with, they care about your success, you care about their success. But it also, hey, these could be people that you end up working with.

Drew McLellan:

They’re a referral sources.

James Carbary:

Or referral sources, exactly. And so that’s the thing that I’m putting a lot of attention on, because I think that’s one of those tried and true things, Drew, that’s never going to go away. I think we were designed for relationship and desiring real, genuine relationships with other people.

And so I think trying to figure that out, maybe B2B Growth Dinners is something that works in the short term and we’ve figured out another way to do it. But just the people, it’s been interesting the response. You put out, you spend weeks and weeks and weeks on an ebook or on a white paper, putting together a webinar to generate all these leads. And you put it out into the world and it’s like, nobody wants it. And I’m guilty, I’ve done that so many times. But I did something like this and people are throwing their email addresses at me because they’re longing to be a part of a community, they’re longing for relationship. Not to say that they don’t have friends, but when you can create an environment in an inside of a niche, hey, you’re going to be connecting with other people that are interested in B2B.

But we’re going to go deeper than B2B. We’re going to talk about life and family and kids and what you’re struggling with. And people long for that. And so to put something out into the world that is facilitating that, I have found from a lead generation standpoint, if you want to take it back to that. It’s like, man, people are throwing their email addresses at me, way more so than the ebook that I put together last year that took me, God knows how many hours to put together. And so that’s where my eye is at. That’s where I think a lot of, I don’t know, I just think a lot of business results are going to be driven with that strategy in mind. So that’s a very long answer to your question.

Drew McLellan:

I think you’re spot on. That’s really the premise of the AMI owner peer groups, right? Like-minded people physically come together and we’re together for two whole days. I will tell you, and some of it’s very structured and some of it there’s speakers and all the other stuff. But without a doubt, what everyone enjoys the most, what they get the most out of, where they actually learn the most is at dinner. And they’re sitting around with these people that they have over time at one point none of them knew each other and they had to do exactly what you’re talking about is come to that first dinner and get to know each other.

Over time there’s this interesting mix of conversation between what’s your daughter up to and, hey, are you going to bring your wife to the meeting next time to also tell me again, what that lead gen thing you’re doing is. And they lean into all of those different conversations because they have relationships.

They care about each other. And so I think you’re right. I think in this world of mass everything, there’s something magic about micro and small and internet and real. And I think people are hungry for that. Because we engage through screens our whole day. So to actually sit across from someone and have a drink and have a conversation, that’s golden. Right?

James Carbary:

We’re in such a good space, drew, because we’re agency owners, so we’re B2B. And so we don’t need 4 million customers to be profitable. If we had 20 great clients that like we were serving well, they got a ton of value out of what we were doing for them, we would have a great business.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

James Carbary:

So the fact that we’re in an industry, we own businesses that lend themselves towards not needing a mass number of customers to be successful, it’s like this just makes that much more sense.

And so I’m very bullish on it. You’re obviously very passionate about it. That’s a huge part of the AMI model. And I’ve actually learned a ton from watching what you guys are doing, how you guys are doing it, and allowing that to shape the community that we’re trying to build as well. So yeah, so that’s what I’m thinking about and really starting to get more and more excited about it.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I’m excited to hear how that plays out, because I think it’s going to pay off a lot of dividends, both on the personal and the professional side for you and for everybody else who chooses to engage.

James Carbary:

Yeah. I hope so.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Awesome. Hey, this has been amazing as I knew it would be. Thank you so much for being so open and sharing all of your ideas. I’m grateful that you took the time to share with us today. So I appreciate you being on the show.

James Carbary:

Thank you so much, Drew. I’ve been a long time listener. So to be on the other side of the mic and get to be a guest is an incredible honor. And so I really appreciate you having me.

Drew McLellan:

James, if folks want to learn more about you, if they want to learn more about the company, if they want to have dinner with you, [inaudible 00:49:34] in their city, how do they do all of that?

James Carbary:

Yeah, so B2Bgrowthdinners.com, like I mentioned before, if you want to connect with other B2B folks in your area. And then our podcast is B2Bgrowthshow.com. The company is sweetfishmedia.com. And then I’m all over LinkedIn, obviously, spell my last name, C-A-R-B-A-R-Y. James Carbary on LinkedIn also relatively active on Twitter @JamesCarbary, but would love to connect with anybody, especially the listeners of the show. You guys are my people, with being an agency owner would love, love, love, love to connect with anybody that reaches out.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome, James, thanks so much. Appreciate it. All right guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. You have lots of fresh ideas from this episode. You have lots of things to think about and try. I love that you listen. I love that I’m walking your dog with you. I love that we’re on the treadmill together. I love that we’re on the subway together.

I love that. What I love even more is when you shoot an email and you tell me that you tried something that you heard about on the podcast. Or you put something into play, or it showed up in a conversation you had with a client.

So make sure you’re applying what you’re hearing, make sure that this is not just me keeping you company, but it’s also me helping you stretch and grow and challenge ideas that you may have in your own head. I want to see put this to practice because that’s one of the ways that you build a bigger, better, stronger, more scalable agency. And that’s my hope for you and I know it’s goal as well. With that I’m out, I will be back next week with another guest to help you do exactly that. And in the meantime you know how to track me down. I’m [email protected] Talk to you next week.

That’s wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully you found it incredibly helpful and inspiring, and that you are ready to go out and do some great things.

I also want to talk to you about another tool that we’ve built that I would love to offer you. So, as you’ve probably heard me preach, I believe a lot of agencies chase after the wrong new business prospects. And I think we do that because we have not taken the time to clearly define who our sweet spot clients should be.

And the way you do that is by looking at your current clients and then developing out who your prospects should be based on your best current clients. So we’ve put together a sweet spot client filter, say that five times fast, that I would love for you to take advantage of and for you to use inside your shop, to figure out exactly who you should be targeting for new business. To get access to that free tool all you need to do is text AMI for Agency Management Institute, as you might imagine. AMI text that to 38470. Again, text AMI to 38470 and we will get the sweet spot client filter out to you right away.

Thanks again for listening. If I can be helpful, you can find me as always at [email protected] Otherwise I will touch base with you next week with another great episode. Talk to you soon.

James Carbary:

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Built a Better Agency, brought to you by HubSpot. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.