Jessica Rhodes is the founder and CEO of Interview Connections, the premier source for booking outstanding podcast guests. The Interview Connections team of Booking Agents works with podcasters to find and book guests for their shows. They also represent dozens of highly qualified guest experts to connect them with podcast hosts for interviews.
Jessica is the host of the weekly web TV show, Interview Connections TV, she’s the host of the Rhodes to Success and she is the co-host of The Podcast Producers, a ten episode audio series about the art and business of podcasting.
Jessica is the author of Podcast Interviews – 5 Proven Strategies to Help You Use the Power of Guest Interviews in Your Podcast, available on Amazon Kindle.
Jessica’s Challenge; Make an investment that scares you.
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Watson: All right. So Jessica, thank you so much for coming on, going deep with Aaron Watson
Rhoades: Aaron, Thanks for having me.
Watson: It is a treat to be speaking with one of the heads of a podcast empire. I don't know if many people are aware that this exists and that might not even know if they're not in the podcasting game, but interview connections is one of the biggest PR firms behind the podcast movement, the growth of podcasts and all the work that you put in to educate people on how to podcast on guests, on all this other great information. So that's kind of a real brief summary, but to just kind of kick things off, how do you pitch interview connections? Or how do you explain your company and what you do to someone if they've never heard of you before?
Rhoades: Yeah absolutely. Well, interview connections is the leading guest booking agency for podcasters and guest experts. So we have been around for four years. We work with entrepreneurs who want to be a guest on podcasts, and we get them booked.
We find shows that are a good fit for them, and we get them booked for interviews. And we also work with podcast hosts and we find guests for their show based on what their podcast is, who they want to be interviewing, and we find people that are a great fit for their podcast and we reach out to them and we get them booked for an interview.
So we bring people together for interviews.
Watson: Absolutely. Um, another guest on this show, Brent B sure talks about he's an investor and he talks about the opportunities that exist in almost any industry. The biggest opportunities are often complimentary and not necessarily in the limelight. So an example of that is a company that makes the barrels in which you age a whiskey.
It's much sexier to say like, oh, we've got our own whiskey. We're competing with Maker's mark and Jamison all these others, but having the barrel making company is very secure. You can have a lot of clients, there's probably not quite as much competition and there might be less sizzle, but you're still eating steak.
And this interview connections, connecting people in the podcasting world, you have your own show and that's a part of it as well, but this is that same sort of complimentary service within the growing ecosystem of podcasts. So I'm curious. As you started the company, did you think about it in a similar way to that?
Or how did you decide that there was a real market for this type of service?
Rhoades: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question because I see a lot of people starting businesses based off what they want to do and what they like doing. And, they often don't think about, do people actually want a need what I want to do and what service I want to provide.
So I started my business, actually, I was a virtual assistance, so I was doing VA work for entrepreneurs. My dad was my first client. He's an entrepreneur, he's a business coach and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. So I started by doing virtual assistant work for him. And then it was referred to a couple other entrepreneurs and among all the different tasks that I was doing for my clients, booking podcast interviews was one of them.
This was back in 2013 and podcasting was really just starting, you know, podcasting is 11 years old now. But back then, it was just starting to get popular with small business owners and entrepreneurs, and as I was pitching my dad and some other of my, on some other clients for interviews on podcasts, I was getting interest from podcasts hosts. You know, they had never been pitched before. So people were like, oh, this is so great. You have a guest for me. This is Awesome. I just have to find my own guests or you get people on shows. This is great. I never get interviewed. And so it was really fresh and people were really, really interested in what I did. So I actually had a couple of podcasters that wanted to interview me on their show, which was super eye opening.
Rhoades: Because at that time I was not getting out in front of the microphone. Like I was booking interviews. I was not podcasting. I wasn't, you know, trying to get exposure for myself. I was just behind the scenes, but I started to see how wow, okay. People are really interested in this. When I reached a point in my business when I wanted to start scaling and making more money and really like raising my revenue without necessarily just charging more hours. I looked at all the tasks that I was offering and decided like, what was the most scalable, what was in most demand and more and more people were expressing the interest in being interviewed on podcasts and getting on shows and finding guests for their show.
So I basically took all these tasks I was doing as a virtual assistant and I just niched down and created interview connections. And we connect people for interviews. So I just got super niche and started the, and started a business based on the round. The one task, the one service I was providing that was in the most demand.
Watson: And you mentioned in that answer, that your dad was an entrepreneur and one of your first clients, did you kind of spit ball with him? Did he mentor you on the mechanics of starting a business? Is that, is that where the inspiration came from to make that leap/
Rhoades: Yeah, hundred percent. My dad has been, he's been instrumental in teaching me how to start and grow a business.
When I actually started my business and he said, Hey, I'll be your first client. He said, you have to do everything. I say, you have to read. He's written a lot of books on marketing and business building. I had to read his books. He's done weekly videos for years on marketing and business building, I had to watch all of his videos. So I had this like crazy. Course like, you know, schooling on business and marketing. So he really taught me, he coached me. Um, it's funny for the first couple of years, it was like everything that I did, every question that I got from a client, I was like, “dad, what do I say to this? What do I do here? What do I do?”
And then as I grew, I was able to start, you know, figuring it out on my own, but I actually joined. He has a paid mastermind program. That's his core businesses, coaching business owners. So I actually joined that and paid for it. Like I joined his group and, and started investing in my own business education and, and joined the group that he had put together
Watson: What was, I don't know if it's one thing or a few things. You had a question, basically everything that came across your table, but was there one area in particular that was, or has been the toughest obstacle to overcome? Because everyone kind of has natural talents and proclivities. You can have picked some things up more quickly, but has there been anything that was a real sticking point that was harder, a harder hurdle for you to overcome?
Rhoades: I guess, like my biggest question that I, that I worked with in the beginning was like, just how to work with clients. Before I started my business, I was working at a nonprofit, environmental group, directing and door to door canvas. So I really was the whole like invoicing clients, you know what to do if a client cancels what to do, if a client asks for something that you know is not right.
Like all the client issues was new to me because before I'd never worked with clients before, like I worked at an, a nonprofit, like we did community organizing. So the whole dynamic of having clients and being a business owner was just super, super new. So that was something that was a big stepping, you know, just like an obstacle to overcome and to figure out in the beginning now, like to answer your second question, I guess, like the biggest sticking point to overcome.
Rhoades: I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses and my strengths are about, you know, visionary. I'm great at sales. I'm great at marketing. I'm great at like seeing this future that I want to get to, but like reverse engineering, this small steps that I need to take to actually get there is not my strength.
I'm not very good at like small planning. Like I do not have a business plan and so that's something that is a challenge for me that I constantly need to, to work on and overcome is like not being the best at like laying out this small individual baby steps. Cause really, you know, when we end, it's funny.
Cause like when we listen to podcasts and we talk about business journeys, we talk about these broad brush strokes of like, and then I did this and then I did this. But within each of those steps that we share about, there's like a thousand individual steps that we take to get there. And those steps, it's not always easy to figure out what they are or like how, at what pace you go through all those little steps.
Watson: Yeah, absolutely and it's always kind of a magic formula balancing act between the really in depth detailed business plan and kind of flying by the seat of your pants. There's something of a Goldilocks zone in there, both based off your personality, but also just maybe the business you're running and the environment that you're in.
Uh, so I think that that's really helpful cause I know that there's, you know, the, the, the school of thought I friends, you know, they went to business school and I've seen these massive, like 30 page business plans and that works. They've, you know, one friend started a brewery in Arizona and that it was an incredibly detailed, precise thing, but that's also related to how much money he was trying to raise and all this other stuff.
And then there's other people who they just kind of start with the idea and they pick it up and run with it as fast as they can. So I think that that's really helpful for people, but. To that end on working with clients. I have a couple of questions there that I'd love to jump into. Um, the first is you're, you're setting up these interviews and you're part of that is also building a relationship. You're building relationships with clients. You're building relationships with podcasters that they trust you to provide them with quality guests. Um, so do you. Or how do you coach your clients to be great guests on podcasts? Because I know for me, it was a learning curve to become comfortable hosting.
It took a lot of reps, but as a guest, You can correct me if I'm wrong, it might or might not get those reps or that trust right off the bat. You're kind of expected to show up and perform. And you might not necessarily have the experience of, you know, tens or hundreds of episodes under your belt.
Rhoades: Yeah. That's such a good question because yeah, I guess not everyone who is successful and has a great story is a great guest. Not everyone is a good speaker. So I mean, number one, Number 1 and have I have known that I don't, I'm not interested in being someone's coach or media consultant or media trainer. So the first thing I have done in my business is I make it so people have to apply to work with me.
So if somebody is really not ready to be on a podcast and really rocket as a guest, I don't take them on as a client now, not everyone is perfect when they first get started on being a guest on podcasts. A lot of people are not very coachable. So what I've kind of done, I've avoided clients that would need a lot of coaching and training.
So, I mean, that's number one is people apply to work with us. So I don't typically take on a client that I know is not ready to really be a great fit.
Watson: Uh, how do you assess for that?
Rhoades: So I have this form that people fill out, they give me, you know, their websites. They tell me what expertise they are. I mean, number one, like for example, I was on a prospective, um, client call and I said, okay, who is your target audience?
Because if I'm in a book, you on podcasts, I want to put you on shows where you're speaking to your target audience. So who is it? And she was having a really hard time telling me who her target audience is. So I said, listen, if you don't know who your target audience is, I can't help you. So that was one example. Like you have to be able to confidently tell me who your target audience is. You have to confidently be able to explain what your expertise is. So that's another thing. If somebody doesn't have the confidence right off the bat, I can't make you confident I can communicate to other people why you're amazing, but you have to be able to do that about yourself first.
So if someone's like, well, I don't know, like I could talk about this or maybe I can talk about this. Like, uh, no, no podcasts. There's gonna, you know, pull you up by your bootstraps. Like you need to come standing tall, ready to teach their audience something. So I look for confidence. I look for genuine expertise and then ideally somebody that's been on a podcast before.
So if they've been on a show, I'll listen and, and hear how they are as a speaker. So I had a call once with somebody that. I was just a horrible speaker. I mean, talk about a dud. Like I was so bored, just talking to him and I'm a pretty like energetic person, you know? And I can usually like raise somebody's energy level a little bit, but it was like talking to like, it was like watching paint dry, just like talking to this guy.
And I said, listen, you're clearly very experienced. You've told me about your business success. Have you ever considered some speaking training because to really engage listeners, you have to know how to speak well, and not only, you know, have expertise, but be able to communicate your expertise in an engaging and entertaining way.
So, those are a couple of the things that we look for before bringing somebody on. But I also like, even though I don't, I don't coach and I don't do like one-on-one coaching. I do all my teaching on my podcast, on my videos, on my blog. So I put out a lot of free content to just teach my audience. And that way I can say to a client, like if they need work on something, I said, go listen to this podcast.
Watson: Yeah, absolutely. The podcast is a great resource and we'll be sure to link that in the show notes so people can check it out. Um, but you also kind of illuminated or illustrated a great problem to have that a lot of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs are trying to get to, which is having the ability to say yes or no to a potential client and having a pipeline of potential clients coming your way.
Um, and the podcast, other forms of content marketing have contributed to that strategy. Can you talk a little bit about how you've gone about building that pipeline and what strategies you've employed to target getting new clients for your business?
Rhoades: Yeah, so let's see getting new clients. Um, the first step for me was building strategic relationships with the.
Entrepreneurs who had my same target market, but weren't doing the same thing. So the first person that I really built a relationship with upfront when I first started interview connections was John Lee Dumas of entrepreneur on fire. He, when I started interview connections, he was launching Podcaster's paradise.
And so at the, at that time, I, when I started interview connections, I was just getting guests for podcasters. I wasn't getting people on other shows. And so I reached out and I had booked some of my clients on his show when I was a virtual assistant. And I, you know, I reached out to him and I said, Hey, John, like, I see you're launching Podcaster's paradise. You're attracting podcasters. I have a service for podcasters like let's connect. Um, for awhile, I offered his clients at discounts. So there was a strategic partnership there. And as he was growing and like talking on podcasts and being interviewed for articles, he would tell people, “Hey, if you need guests, you should work with interview connections.”
Rhoades: So that got the ball rolling and started getting my name out there. You know, having somebody that is trusted in the industry, refer people to me was really helpful. And then as I started working with clients, I've gotten a lot of business from like current happy clients. Like they would refer people to.
And then I, over the years I've been interviewed on a lot of shows, you know, there's so there's a lot of backlinks, so my SEO has been good. And so people will find me on Google when they're researching how to get booked. And then lastly, the best thing for lead generation has been going to conferences and live events where my target market is.
So for a while it was attending conferences and just networking in the sessions and in the hallways. And then I started getting a booth at conferences and actually exhibiting, which was a huge investment, uh, when I first started doing it. And then I saw, how big of a return that actually brings. So I've signed up a ton of clients by having a booth cause you're right there. You got your banner, people are just coming up to you, looking for information about what you do. So, that has, that has been a game changer, honestly, investing in being an exhibitor at live events.
Watson: Yeah. And that's another mental obstacle to overcome of investing the money in order to make money. Would you say it was more of a challenge starting to find the potential clients to be the guests or to find the shows on which to have them.
Rhoades: Yeah. So when I first started, I started by just working with podcast hosts who hired us to get guests for their show. I saw that as kind of, it was easier. It was something that I could wrap my head around, and not be as nervous about, cause I had to guarantee bookings from day one.
I've always said like, you pay this much and I guarantee that I'll get you these bookings. So I started just by working with podcast hosts. Cause it was, for me, it was easier to know that I can find a guest that wants to be on your show because people love being requested for interviews. Like if you get an email and someone's like, “I want to interview you on this show. It's like, oh awesome. That's so cool.” But to pitch a podcaster, and say, “Hey, I have somebody to be great for your show”. It's kind of like a bigger ask. So I started just by working with podcast hosts. But I had, you know, coaches and people telling him, like, you've got to start getting people on other shows. And I was so nervous, Aaron
“I was like, oh, I don't know. It's so hard for me to guarantee.” Cause I just have no idea. And the turning point was bringing on an assistant who wasn't so nervous about making a guarantee. So when I hired my first guest Booker. Um, she was like, you know, she would look at the climb and be like, oh yeah, we can book them on a whole bunch of shows.
I would totally. And so that gave me the confidence. So actually building out a team around me, who wasn't like as nervous about potentially not making the guarantee happen was super helpful. Um, and so what I've learned is as long as I bring on the right clients, the guarantee is pretty easy. And people say, how do you make the guarantee?
I was like, well, easy. I don't bring on a client who I don't think I could actually get their bookings.
Watson: How does that guarantee work is so it's a certain number of shows per month, per year.
Rhoades: Yeah. Yeah. So, um, however, many the client signs up for, we guarantee that number of bookings each month that they are with us.
Um, and so we've got some clients that, you know, we'll have a book launch and they'll want like, you know, 20 interviews in a short period of time to just get a lot of buzz out for their books. So we work with each client to see how many interviews each month is right for them. Um, and then. We get them placed. And so the, the interviews don't actually get recorded necessarily that month. Cause I always tell people I'm like, I have no idea what the host production schedule is. I have no idea how that lines up with your schedule, but each month you will be connected with X number of hosts who have said yes to interviewing you or vice versa for working with a podcast host who needs get.
Watson: That makes sense. Cool. Well, this has been gracious. I want to start aiming towards wrapping up. Uh, but before we ask the last couple of questions, we needed to talk about your book as well, which is actually named interview connections and rocking both sides of the mic for both guests and hosts as well. So can you talk a little bit about how the book fits into your broader mission at the interview connections?
Rhoades: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my broader mission is to connect entrepreneurs for podcast interviews, and really help them rock the podcast from both sides of the mic, both as a host and a guest, and also have the right mindset with it.
So my book, unlike a lot of podcasting books, it's not about. Microphones and RSS feeds and download numbers. It's really about how to leverage the power of podcast interviews to grow your business. You know how to get started as a guest expert, how to leverage the power of being a guest expert on shows, get people to your website, getting them opting into.
Um, being a host, finding guests, and then I talk about monetization getting advertisers or monetizing your show through your business and then the right mindset to have. So I tell people like this is a long-term strategy. Do not start a podcast or start getting interviewed and expect to see a lot of results in the first month or two.
It is something you do have to commit to long-term. So those are all kind of the stuff that I talk about. My book I'm really direct and a straightforward person. So if you'd like advice, just the way it is, like, this is definitely a book that you'll enjoy.
Watson: Yeah, I like that. And one of the things you mentioned earlier about creating backlinks and how that helps with search engine optimization, um, I think that that's gotta be one that maybe falls through the cracks in terms of being a valuable reason to be getting on different shows and having more sites linking back to your site.
So that's, that's another just, I'm sure there's plenty, more insights in the book, but that's one that I've already written down and I'm gonna be using.
Rhoades: Oh, yeah, definitely. The SEO value is huge and that's why like a lot of people they're so focused on the download size and you just, you can't overlook the fact that, Hey, when you're on shows and they're back linking to your website, that is so incredibly helpful with your SEO.
Watson: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so definitely encourage people to check that out, uh, and also connect with you in the digital world. Jessica, what coordinates can we point people towards if they want to learn more about you and your business?
Rhoades: Yeah. Interview connections.com is the best place to go to learn about the business, to learn about me, get links to any other sites.
So, yeah, interview connections.com. And I'm also on social media, Twitter, Facebook, but you can find all those links at interview connections dot com.
Watson: Great. Well, we'll be sure to link to that in the show notes, going deep with aaron.com/podcast, the best place to find it. Uh, but as we do at the end of every episode, Jessica, I'd like to leave the audience with a personal challenge.
So I'm going to give you the mic one final time to take it away.
Rhoades: Yeah. So I would love to give listeners the challenge to just make an investment that scares them, make an investment with money you don't necessarily have yet. Um, so something that we talked about a lot about in the interview today was just like taking leaps.
Kind of jumping off the cliff and you don't really have your parachute built yet. That's every time I've done that, it's scary, but it's always led to bigger and greater growth. So I would encourage whatever that means for you and your business or your goals in life. Do something that scares the living daylights out of you.
But you know, that is what you should be doing.
Watson: And I think an important caveat to that is the investment doesn't necessarily have to be financial. It can be an investment of time, or, yeah. I love that hope people will take that challenge and connect with you, Jessica. We just went deep with Jessica Rhoades.
Hope everyone out there has a fantastic day.