166: Converse Your Way to Customers with Tom Schwab

Converse Your Way to Customers with Tom Schwab

Tom Schwab is the Chief Evangelist Officer & Founder of Interview Valet, a podcast guesting marketing service helping thought leaders drive growth by leveraging other people’s audiences. We discuss the power of podcast guesting, how to use podcasts as a business development tool, and ways to guest on high-quality podcasts. 

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Converse Your Way to Customers with Tom Schwab

Our guest is Tom Schwab, CEO of Interview Valet, a brand and sales building service for thought leaders. Tom, welcome to the show.

Steve, I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me. And I’m excited for this discussion.

Yeah, I’m very curious about you and what you bring to the table. And let’s start with your journey. How did you get into podcasting? How did you discover this as a potential business and get started in putting together? You were I think you’re one of the first out of the block companies arranging podcast opportunities for guests. So how do you get into it? 

Yeah. So what we do is help people get on targeted podcast interviews so they can talk directly to their ideal customers. So it’s nothing revolutionary with that. I look at it as evolutionary. So going back in the journey, I started as an engineer. I’m a mechanical engineer by degree, graduated from the US Naval Academy. My first job out of college was running nuclear power plants. So look at things as systems and processes and that helped me in the Navy, then I got out in the corporate world, sales, marketing, ran a distributorship in the medical device industry. My last company before this was HubSpot’s first e-commerce case study and we used inbound marketing to grow from a regional player to a national leader. And so inbound marketing at that time was guest blogging.

Tapping into established audiences, get that know, like, can trust. And by about 2014, when we sold that company, I realized that blogs weren’t working anymore. And I had this crazy idea, I thought, “Wow, I wonder if you could guest blog on podcasts.” Podcasts were starting to take off, and I’m like, “That is such a richer conversation. And would that work even better?” So we started to test it. I was amazed by it, Steve. We started to see conversion rates 25 times better than blogs. But early on, I’d give my elevator pitch, and people would go, “What’s a podcast, right?” We started about 2015 and we were almost too early. But I enjoyed it because it gave us the chance to build a framework, to build a blueprint and a system that worked. So that about by the time 2019 took off and podcasts got more noticeable, we had the system that worked with that. Then Covid really helped us. We’re a remote team. Not everybody wants to live in Kalamazoo, Michigan with me. So we’ve got a team now of 30 people in Europe and North America, and we serve about 150 thought leaders at any one time, leading brands, high-level coaches, consultants, non-fiction authors. Because really, I believe today, the biggest problem we have is obscurity, right? There’s a lot of people you could help, they just don’t know you exist.

Yeah, definitely noise is a big challenge for thought leaders to get their voice heard because there’s so many competing voices as well. So Tom, before we get into all the nitty-gritty details of podcasting and how it can be used for thought leaders and for business people, let’s talk about frameworks. Let’s talk about management blueprints. So what is your favorite framework that has helped you build your business along the way?

I think the biggest thing I have to look at is what kind of communication do I need, right? Do I need a rich level of communication or a low level? Is this a relationship or a transaction? And I intentionally pause and think about that as I’m trying to decide how I’m going to communicate with someone, right? So the higher the value, the higher the impact on my life or their life, the more important it is to our lives, the richer that conversation can be. Let me give you an example, right? If I’m just buying a stick of gum, right? I don’t care who sells it, who made it, whatever, it’s just, it doesn’t change my life, but if I’m looking for a coach, a consultant, someone that’s gonna have a major, major impact in my life, I’m not just gonna pick the first one I see, right, it’s gonna take a conversation, relationships, all that, and I think you can see that not only in your personal life, but in your business life. Right, person that changes your car at the side of the road when you got a flat, you really don’t care, right? As long as they come and do the job, it’s a transaction, they’re nice, but you probably won’t see them again. Well, it’s a little bit different when you’re choosing a spouse for the rest of your life, right? It’s not just whoever comes there. And I think in marketing today, there’s this phrase that says, “You’re one funnel away.” For some things you may be one funnel away, but I think the things that are most important, you’re one conversation away. And I don’t think conversations can replace funnels or funnels can replace conversations. We just have to make sure that we’re communicating in the right way. Okay. So how do we know whom to have conversations with?

The higher the value of conversation, the higher the impact on my life or their life, the more important it is to our lives, the richer that conversation can be. Click To Tweet

So if I’m a podcast guest, how do I know which type of podcast I should go on and what the people, what the podcast hosts that I should have the conversations with and who are the ones that maybe I should not get on the show with because it’s not going to help me or it’s not going to help them or it’s not going to be really enriching the conversation between us. Is there a way, is there a gauge that you guys use for that?

Yes. So the first part is, does it need a conversation? Right? If it’s very, very low value, high volume, low touch, it may not need a conversation. Right? I think of one, there was an AI tool that I saw the other day, and I think it was like $9, right? You have to load in a bunch of pictures, and then AI would give you back a bunch more headshots, right? It was a novelty thing. Half the headshots were hilarious. But I didn’t need a conversation with that. It was just a $9 purchase. It was an impulse. So to somebody like that, I would just say, you probably don’t need a conversation, right? With that, you’re one funnel away. But I would say if you’ve got more of a relationship there, start with why do you want to talk to them, and then who are they, right? You can’t say enough of the right things to the wrong people, or the wrong things to the right people, right? You don’t want to talk to everyone, you just want to talk to those people that you could add value to, those people that would benefit from it, right? There’s a great tweet out there by Ram Fishkin. Ram wrote a great book called Lost and Founder about the real side of software as a service companies. And I love how he says, “The best way to sell something today is not to sell anything, but to earn the respect, awareness, and trust of those who might buy.” So when you’re talking about what podcast you should be on, I would say of those who might buy, right? If you’re selling business consulting services, probably not good to go on a new parent podcast, right? Where they talk about your first pregnancy, right? There might be some customers there, but your chances are slim on that. So better to go where your customers are.

The best way to sell something today is not to sell anything, but to earn the respect, awareness, and trust of those who might buy. Click To Tweet

Okay, so that’s interesting. So if I’m a podcast guest, I’ve just written a book, for example, or I’m a consultant, I’m a coach, and I reach out to interview valet, how are you going to help me with getting on the right podcast? What do you want from me? Do I have to define my target market, or you help me find my target market? How does that work?

Yeah, and it’s, nine years ago, it was more podcast guessing than podcast guesting, right? There wasn’t a whole lot of data. But now, the data that we have, both in our internal database and those that we license, it’s almost spooky, Steve, how it is, right? So first you have to target, who are my ideal customers? Right, who do I want to talk to? And that could be, what language do they speak? Where do they live, right? If you can’t serve people or don’t want to serve people outside the United States, don’t go on podcasts that are in Australia, right? Different time zone. The other thing is, who are they? What do they look like? What you find is often the audience is like the host or aspires to be like the host, right? So if you’ve got a very young host, you’ve probably got a younger audience. If you’ve got somebody that I would say is more like us, more mature, I’m not gonna say old, they’ve probably got a more mature audience. Same way, if you’ve got one that’s more blue collar, they’re gonna listen to more blue collar podcasts and white collar with that. So that’s sort of the overarching, if you wanna call it qualitative, but then the quantitative, there’s amazing things that you can do now with the data of going in and saying what podcasts are like other ones.

And there’s some free tools online, there’s also a lot of paid databases, and that’s what we’re using. And so it’s amazing, sometimes people will say, “I wanna be on Harvard Business Review, right? Because all of my customers listen to IdeaCast on HBR, they subscribe to Harvard Business Review.” your chance of being on HBR if you don’t have a PhD and you didn’t graduate from Harvard, right, is probably slim to none, right, because they want to bring their own brand in there. But what you really want to do is talk to the people that listen to that. And so there are databases out there that you can go to. One of them is called SparkToro, and it’s amazing. You can go in there and say, “Of all the people that go to the HBR website, what podcast do they listen to? Who do they follow? What YouTube channels do they go to?” If there’s a conference that you go to, or all your clients go to, you could say, “Okay, of all the people that go to this conference website, what podcast do they listen to? What websites do they go to?” So with that, there’s a lot of data that goes around it, and that’s how you make the most of your time. In some ways, I look at it like fishing, right? You know that fish are in water, right? But you’re not gonna have results if you just say, “Hey, there’s a swimming pool, there’s water there, I should go fishing there. Or, I wanna catch sharks, so I’m gonna go in this lake.” No, you’ve gotta know where your ideal customers are, and data can really help with that.

That’s fascinating. I didn’t know that this information was out there. So if let’s say if I know that my audience is maybe business owners running small to medium sized companies, then there is a database that will tell me what are the type of podcasts they listen to, which are similar to my show, and then I can target those people. 

Yes, and it’s not even that they listen to it, it’s that they subscribe to it. There’s casual listeners, and then there’s subscribers. There’s a great book called Super Consumers by Eddie Yoon, and what he teaches there is that you don’t want to market to your average consumer. You want to market to your super fan, because they’re the ones that know other super fans and they buy more the product. They’re the advocates on there. So when you’re looking there, it’s not just casual people that may listen to the podcast. You want to look and say, “Who subscribes to it?” Who listens to every episode of Management Blueprint when it drops, right? And those are the people you really want to target.

So how can I find, what kind of tool is there? Can you tell us a little bit about these kind of tools and specifically what people should go and check out if they are interested?

Yeah. So the one that I mentioned there is Spark Toro and that’s a great one for finding lookalike audiences. So then once you find them, then you have to use other tools to figure out the size of the audience, the engagement levels. And there’s different ones out there. There’s a great one called Podchaser, right? And it’s a paid subscription, but those will give you the size of the podcast too. And we license all of those and we talk to the host so we know what they’re looking for. That makes it easier. But I don’t wanna say that people lie, but everyone’s got a best-selling book on Amazon, right? And every podcaster, well, I shouldn’t say every, right? There are many podcasters that will say, “I get millions of downloads,” right, well, maybe they’re just rounding up to the next million, right, and we always look at it as, I don’t care what the podcast host says they get, right, we want to know what our client’s going to get, and not over the next 10 years, right, because podcasts are evergreen, but what are they going to get as far as listens in the next 30 days?

Yeah, I like that. There is an application that I’m using called Listen Notes. It actually tells me if this is a top 10%, top 5%, top 1% podcast. It gives me a good idea of whether it’s a successful podcast or not. And if it doesn’t show up on this monitor or not, not at least in the top 5 to 10%, I don’t even go there because probably they don’t get too many downloads, right?

Oh, right. And ListenNotes is interesting. If you ever hit the little button that says what their ranking means, they’re totally honest with it. But today, there are over 4 million podcasts. Less than 400,000 have actually published in the last 30 days. So when ListenNotes says, you’re top 10%, well, that’s true, but 90% of the podcasts has died. So they’re comparing you to dead podcasts. 

Based on- Top 10% means that you exist.

Correct. If they don’t make top 10%, they must be really, really small. 

Okay, that’s good to know. That’s good to know. So if I’m this business owner, or maybe I’m a thought leader and I want to use podcast as a business development tool, then what is my approach? So other than going to you guys, Interview Vallet and hiring you to find me podcast course, what else should I be thinking about using it as a business development tool? What are the ground rules for that game?

Yeah, and everything we do I share publicly, right? This is not a magic trick, it’s just a system that we’ve used and execute very, very well. But what you should start thinking about first is why. Why are you on the podcast? What part of the business development is it for? Are you looking at top of funnel? What does your sales cycle look like? You want to make sure that you give them something to do after it. So, think of how your normal sales call, or sales flow goes. If your business development is such where most people just come to the website and buy, well, maybe that could be the call to action that you use at the end. If the business sale is more like a discovery call, then at the end of the podcast, invite people to have a call with you, right? You want to make sure that there’s another step for them to take and it’s not just a conversation.

And every digital marketer, Steve, will tell you one call to action. I don’t disagree with them, but we’ve tested this on podcasts over the last nine years. And giving people three ways to say yes always converts best. So give them a small yes, a medium yes, and a heck yes. Right. So if you’re doing it for business development, maybe it’s somebody that’s not the decision maker, but they know the decision maker. So maybe you can tell them, you know, I’ve got a free assessment back here. Ten questions. Will this work for you? Well, they get the assessment. Maybe they share that assessment with the decision maker. So that’s a small yes. It doesn’t take them a whole lot of time or money. It could be, come back to the podcast. If you like Steve, you’ll like more of Steve on the podcast. The medium yes is often something that takes them a little bit more time or a little bit more money. Often that is time.

For somebody to read a book, it’s an investment of time more than money. So maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s a face-to-camera video, maybe it’s a case study that you’re showing them. And then that heck yes is, if you wanna use it for business development, and somebody hears you, and you were the answer to prayer, right? They come with credit card in hand, wanting to talk to the wizard, don’t slow them down in a funnel, right? Let them talk to the wizard. So, you could always say, you know, “Come back here, we’ve got an assessment, we’ve got a free copy of the book, and if you’d like to talk with me or any member of my team, just come back here and we’ve got all the information there.” So that’s what to do. What not to do is to put the burden on the listener to find you, or worse yet, I listen to sometimes some people and they’re like, “Oh, you can find me here on Twitter and here on TikTok and you can email me here and you can call me here” and I think they forget what this platform is about, right? The person you’re talking to is driving, they’re exercising, they’re making dinner. If you give them multiple, multiple ways to find you,it’s just going to confuse them and they’ll never catch you. 

Yeah, if you confuse, you lose. Yes. So definitely less is more, but it’s interesting that you suggest three ways. I thought that three was too much. I thought if there’s one thing you ask them to do and they either do this or not, but if you give them more, then it’s going to be hard for them to remember what to do.

I think with that, Steve, is you send them to one place and then give them three thing to do.

Okay. That makes a lot of sense. What about show notes? Do you find that people actually check show notes at all?

Show notes are great for search engines, right? Because discoverability in podcasts are still the Achilles heel, right? If somebody doesn’t have show notes, it’s hard for the search engines to find them and recommend the next podcast. And you don’t get the SEO value from it. So we pretty much tell our clients if they don’t have a website, if they don’t have show notes, it’s probably not worth your time going on there. There’s a great platform out there called Blog Talk Radio, right? You jump on the phone, the host jumps on the phone, you have a conversation, they put it up there. It’s super easy, but we’ve never seen a whole lot of results from it. It’s almost like being on the radio. If you and I were talking on the radio at 2 a.m. in the morning, right? That signal is going to reach 10 million people. Well, what’s the chances? But those 10 million people are up listening to that station at that time. So unless they have show notes and a website is pretty hard to find a long time. 

That makes sense. Ok, that’s perfect. What about video podcast? I see I see some podcasters who only do audio. I see podcasters who use different platforms. I think most of us use Zoom to record the video, but there are other platforms out there and some people swear by them. What is your experience? What is the best platform to use?

It’s changing so much, and even what the word podcast means. So pre-COVID, less than one in five podcasts included the video. Now it’s over three in four, right? Because everybody’s gotten comfortable with that. And there’s some purists that will say, well, once you add video, it’s no longer a podcast. I don’t care what they call it, right? If you see this on YouTube, is it still a podcast? If you hear this on radio, a lot of XM and Sirius radio is podcasts, right? If you see this on social media clipped, right, in a two minute part of our conversation, is it still a podcast?I don’t know. I don’t think it’s important. I think it’s just important that we can connect with our ideal customers.

So the data says today that 80% of podcast interviews are done on zoom, right? Three out of four have video, and it’s interesting, I think even the word podcast, Steve, is changing, right, I remember about 2018, Harvard University had their first conference on podcasting, and I was invited to speak there, it was a great honor, but they had a keynote speaker that talked about the similarities between radio and podcasting. And I can still remember when she said “In 1920, they called radio wireless internet. And by 1930, it was radio.” And I think it’s gonna be something similar here. We called it podcasting at the beginning because it came through an iPod, right? I think most people today probably don’t remember when an iPod was, right? So I don’t know what they’re gonna call it. Somebody’s probably listening to this in 2030 and every time we say podcast, they just laugh. But I think it’s just a neat medium where it’s easy to create, easy to repurpose into other forms and it’s a great way to connect with clients, right? Magnetic marketing. It attracts the right people and repels the wrong people.

Sounds great. So how can you guys help people? So interview Valley, you’re in the business of helping guests get on podcasts. What do you do for them?

Yeah, so early on we had a client that said, “I love working with you because you let me be the guest and you take care of the rest.” And I’m like, oh, that’s good copy, I’m taking that. But what we really do is realize that our clients are business owners, they’re busy CEOs, they’re thought leaders, they don’t have time to do all the details they make the biggest impact when they show up and perform right. So once again they’re the guest we take care of the rest. So we’re working with them to identify the right podcast, to prep them for every podcast, right? Their time is valuable. They don’t have hours to listen to all the shows. So we give them some clips from the shows. We tell them “This is the audience, this is the host, here’s all the social media.” We train them on the best practices for podcasts. It is a different medium. If you show up to a podcast interview like you’re doing television, it won’t work well, right? It’s more of a conversation. And then we also help them optimize. So we’re a people-driven company, but we make decisions based on data. So we’re always optimizing after every podcast interview, and so that not only that we’re getting them better results, but they’re also doing better interviews. And it’s a fun way to do marketing that is consistent with your brand.

So we're a people-driven company, but we make decisions based on data. Click To Tweet

Yeah, it’s great. What I love about podcasting the most is that I get to meet interesting people and great conversations. I can ask my questions. I’m very curious. I love to ask questions and they are captive conversation partners, so they have to answer. So that’s pretty awesome. So Tom, if people would like to learn more about inter-UVA, what you can do for them, how to use podcasting as a business development tool, where can they go and how can they find you?

Yeah, so I mentioned this before. Give them one place to go and then three ways to say yes. So we’ve made a page, interviewvaletwithav.com forward slash Steve, right? You can remember that, right? And there’s a assessment, 10 questions, will podcast interview marketing work for you? I wrote a book called Podcast Guest Profits, How to Grow Your Business with a Targeted Interview Strategy. You can buy it on Amazon, or if you go to that page, I’ll email you or mail you a book, right, whichever you prefer. And then if you’re listening to this and it’s like, “Wow, I’d love to talk and see how I could use this in my business, to grow my brand, grow my business.” Well, I’ll put the calendar scheduling link there. We can talk and see how you could use podcast interviews. So all of those things are back at interviewvalley.com/steve.

Wow, you really want to talk. So thank you, Tom. Definitely if you’re listening to this, definitely check out that webpage and I’d see what Tom and Interview Valley can offer you. Tom, thank you for coming on the show. I really enjoyed that conversation and I look forward to talking to you next time.

Thank you, Steve. I appreciate all you do.


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