Get Interview Connections with Jessica Rhodes

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TSP 099 | Interview ConnectionsEpisode Summary

TSP 099 | Interview Connections

Today’s guest on The Successful Pitch is Jessica Rhodes who is the founder of Interview Connections. She’s an entrepreneur that found a niche of helping people get booked on podcasts as a guest. She also helps podcast hosts find the best guest. She talks about how she figured out that that was what she was really passionate about. When she had her why, she took off. People really know that they can trust Jessica to find them the right guest, very similar to how investors trust Judy Robinett and I to find them the right startups to put in front of them to hear a good pitch.

Jessica has great insights today on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, how to get someone to pitch you in the right way. Most importantly, the catalyst connector that she is, talks about the chemistry that is so important in matching up people. Whether it’s getting somebody on the right show or in the case of a startup, getting them in the right room with the right investor.


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Get Interview Connections with Jessica Rhodes

Hello. Welcome to The Successful Pitch. Today’s guest is Jessica Rhodes, who is the founder and CEO of Interview Connections, the premier guest booking agency for podcasters and guest experts. She literally is the person that gets me on this amazing podcast. She’s an entrepreneur herself. I wanted to have her on because she knows how to rock the podcast from both sides of the mic. I have found a lot of startups who can get themselves on a podcast, get tremendous social proof for investors that what they’re doing is newsworthy and interesting.

Jessica is also the host of Interview Connections TV where each week she helps her viewers rock that podcast, as I’ve mentioned. She host three podcasts herself, Rhodes to Success, The Podcast Producers and The Parenting Rhodes. She was selected by Apple as a How to Podcast show in iTunes, and has a whole syllabus for a course about podcasting from Western University in Ontario. Jessica, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, John. I’m so excited to be here.

You are the expert on podcasting and entrepreneurship in particular. You grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. I want to hear how you became you, from a standpoint of how did you decide what problem you were going to solve and decide that podcasting and getting people on shows was the answer.

My dad is an entrepreneur. It’s in my blood in a way. When my husband and I started a family and I was pregnant with our first child, I was very committed to leaving my job and being a stay-at-home mom. My husband, being a nonprofit, one nonprofit income was not enough to support a whole family. I was talking with my parents who are both really supportive of me being that home mom. My dad said, “Why don’t you start a virtual assistant business and you could work from a home office, create your own schedule.” I really had no idea what that entailed. I didn’t know anything about the online business world. I was working in nonprofit, running a door-to-door field campus. I barely knew what Twitter was. Getting into online marketing and podcasting, this was all a whole new world.

TSP 099 | Interview Connections

I started as my dad’s virtual assistant and I was doing a lot of different tasks.

My dad said, “Listen,” because he was so supportive of me wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, “I’ll help you.” He has written a lot of books about business. He has several businesses. He’s a business coach. He said, “Read my books. I’ll be your first client.” I started as his virtual assistant and I was doing a lot of different tasks. I was doing his Pinterest marketing, creating infographics, client support work, general VA work. Then, in about April 2013, he said, “Why don’t you start getting me on podcasts? When I get interviewed, it’s a great way for me to get exposure to new people, connect with new followers and fans.” I said, “Sure.” I started just researching for business podcasts and really just figured it out as I went. He started referring a couple of his friends to work with me as well. As I was pitching podcasters, as I was making these connections, I started having hosts ask me about what I did.

I wasn’t really thinking like an entrepreneur at that point because my dad was basically my only client. I had a couple other VA clients, but I really felt like I got an at-home job. I didn’t think about myself as this authority figure and this expert. I was just doing something and somebody was paying me to do it. I started to get this light bulb where I wanted to make more money in my business. I wanted to be more efficient with my time because my son was a little baby, and he was starting to nap less. I’m like, “If I’m going to make any money, I need to change something.”

I talked with my dad. I realized that out of all the VA tasks that I was doing, booking podcast interviews was something that people were really interested in. I was getting a lot of interest and it was something that I enjoyed a lot too. He helped me figure out how to niche down and start and have my main service be podcast interviews, and booking podcast interviews, finding podcast guests, and eventually also getting people on shows.

What you said there about niching down is something I really want to dive into, because I work with clients all the time and I tell them, “When you’re going to pitch an investor for funding …” One investor said to me, “Don’t try to boil the ocean. Start with a cup of water.” People forget that Amazon just sold books. When you are a specialist and have one thing that you do really well better than anybody else, then you can expand into other things, that really separates you from everybody else and all the other, at that time, VAs. You’re the specialist in getting people on podcasts. Your network becomes really valuable because you know how to do it.

Let me do a little exercise with you because I’m fascinated to hear your answers on this, as it relates to you as an entrepreneur. One of the things that investors will often ask people pitching them for money is, what’s the why behind your why? In other words, why are you so passionate about helping people who need to get on podcasts do this? It’s going to be more than just making money for your family because there’s a passion there. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s your why behind the why?

The why behind the why. The main reason, the why behind the why, I started to figure out back when I was niching down from being a general VA into podcast interviews, when my dad asked me, “Okay, out of all these tasks that you’re doing, what do you enjoy the most? What’s the most profitable? What’s in highest demand?” The reason I said I enjoy the podcast booking the most is because I’m bringing people together, like I am a connector. Some people call me a matchmaker for podcasters and guests. I absolutely love seeing the relationships that come out of an introduction that me or my team made. It’s so, so fun to watch.

I think it was in Chicago for Podcast Movement, I brought clients out to dinner. Two of my clients, they didn’t know each other before then, but they both came out to the client dinner. They are now accountability partners. Every Monday, they’re talking and it was just so great. I just love that. They are now such good friends and helping each other. That’s just one example of relationships and friendships that start because of how I brought people together. That’s really my big why. I’m sure there’s ways that I could be making more money or other businesses that I’m more profitable or something or easier, maybe not as labor intensive. John, I love bringing people together. I’m an extrovert too. I like to talk a lot. I’m pretty social. I love this business.

It comes across in your voice and it comes across the way you treat your clients, since I’m one, I know firsthand. I can’t emphasize that enough to everybody listening to this, how important it is that your personal passion come through when you’re pitching. Let’s give an example of that. Before we jump into that, I want to talk about what you’ve done for me personally, which is you’ve gotten me on some amazing podcasts as a guest from EOFire to even introducing me to someone who hosts a podcast about 3D printing. While you said, “You’re not the right guest for that podcast, she also happens to write articles for Inc Magazine and is interested in interviewing you.” I almost fell off my chair. Talk about relationships.

Now, I have a quote from Inc Magazine calling me The Pitch Whisper, which I ended up putting on my cover of my book. I’ve become great friends with her. The relationships, the way I see you, Jessica, because I’m all about helping people craft a tagline, something that makes you memorable, like if I’m The Pitch Whisper, you’re the Catalyst for Connections. You bring your special sauce, your chemistry. You know whose personality is going to click with who. Who’s going to be a good guest? Who’s going to be a good host? I think that little alliteration, Catalyst for Connection, takes it to another level of, “Oh, you have the magic alchemy to make that magic chemistry that happens between people, whether they’re dating or just really liking each other as friends and business come to life.” That’s really your secret sauce from my observation and experience.

I would definitely agree with that because it’s hard to explain to people. Obviously I get asked by potential clients or new clients, “How do you find the shows? How do you know they’re a good fit? How big is the audience?” I’m like, “I don’t know how big the audience is. I don’t know these certain things, but I know. I’m the connection catalyst.” I can tell when I look through their website, when I listen to the show, when I read their About section, I learn about the host. I can tune in and know pretty easily if two people are going to be a good match for each other in an interview or as friends or what have you.

That’s really what it’s all about when you’re pitching an investor, is you have to have that chemistry with them because they’re not just giving you money. They’re becoming a part of your culture and either it’s a good fit or not. That is so key to be able to tell upfront. Let’s talk about your expertise in pitching people to get them on podcasts and why it’s so important to have somebody else pitch you as opposed to you pitching yourself?

TSP 099 | Interview Connections

When you have somebody pitch you, when you have a booking agent who is representing you, it shows that you are at a certain level of success.

Number one, having somebody else pitch you is just good positioning. A lot of entrepreneurs forget that. They say, “I know I could do this pitching myself.” Of course you could, this is not rocket science. I’ll be the first to admit. It does not require a super advanced degree to be doing this. You need some persistence, some tenacity and some sales skills. Of course, you can do it yourself but it’s not worth your time. When you have somebody pitch you, when you have a booking agent who is representing you, it shows that you are at a certain level of success. If you are running a business and you’re spending time researching for shows, writing pitches, doing follow ups, that shows me that you’re not very busy in your business, which means you’re not very successful. People want to interview and be associated with people that are successful. It’s good positioning. Also, it’s hard to say what’s so great about yourself. It’s good to have a booking agent.

When I have a conversation with a new client, I say, “Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your story. What are you an expert in?” I hear things, just like you can plot taglines in people, John. You can see what makes them unique. I do that with my clients too. They’ll say something about their story. I’m like, “Oh, that’s something that a podcaster is going to be super interested in.” I can hear and know what is going to make them unique, because we book 400 interviews a month at Interview Connections. I know what pitches and what kinds of stories and guests podcasters want and which kinds of guests podcasters are like, “Okay, I’ve had enough of that already.” We bring this level of expertise to what podcasters actually want. Also, the connections too. We are already connected with thousands of podcasters that know us and trust us. When you’re doing it yourself, you don’t have all those connections.

I love what you said right there about knowing and trusting because that is what people have in the back of their head when they’re hearing any kind of pitch, a pitch to get somebody on the podcast, a pitch to fund your startup. The first one is, do I trust you? That’s a gut thing. Then it goes to the heart, which is, do I like you? Then it’s, do I know you and trust you to bring me good people?

That’s what I do in Crack the Funding Code with Judy Robinett, is we bring good people to the investors and they trust us. In this case, you are the trusted person that vets the guests. You are not going to put somebody on the show that’s not ready for that level of expertise to make sure that they are a good guests and give the audience some great takeaways and all that good stuff that makes for a great guest.

Let’s talk about the importance of getting on a podcast, regardless of the size of who’s listening. You alluded to it at the beginning there about social proof. Just like you said, if you have a booker booking you, it shows you’re successful. Getting on a podcast, what does that do for your credibility? Do you think in the world as social proof? How is it tying with social media? All that good stuff.

There’s a lot of benefits to being on a podcast. Number one, what people don’t talk about a whole lot, I just did a video on this. There’s a huge benefit for your SEO, for your search engine optimization. When you’re on a podcast, most likely you’re having a backlink back to your website. When you’re on a podcast, they’re putting your website link on their show note’s page. If you’re getting interviewed consistently, you’re continuing to get more links back to your website. That’s what’s going to bring you higher up in the search results. Regardless of how big the audience is to that podcast, you’re getting higher up in the search results.

Corey Coates and I just talked about this on my podcast, the episode that just came out today, about show notes. A lot more people prefer to read and will find your blog post to your show notes than will listen to your podcast. It’s great to have your link in the show notes and be on a podcast because it’s kind of a double whammy. You’re getting interviewed. People listening to the podcast hear you. But then you’re also in this blog post on the show notes page. My most viewed post on my blog website has 1.7000 views but only 200 downloads on the episode, on the podcast. A lot of people went through and read the content, but a small fraction of them actually wanted to hear the episode. That was a little bit of a tension.

People consume content the way they want. Some people don’t have time to read and they’d rather listen to it in the car or at the gym, and some people say, “I’d just rather scan the article for what I need from it not take the whole twenty minutes to listen.”

My point is, it’s repurposing content. You’re hitting two birds with one stone. You’re being on a podcast, but you’re also getting this content about your expertise is being written up in a blog post as well. The other thing is, a lot of the success stories and the ROI that happens with podcast interviews, it’s not because 200 people joined your email list the day your show came out. It’s because one person, two people, three people reached out to you and came to your live event or purchased your book, and then became a client. You don’t really need a huge audience to see results. You just need to be in front of the right audience.

I have a great story, John, that I would love to share, if we have a minute. Yann Ilunga hosts the podcast 360 Entrepreneur. He has some very complementary topics. He did the Podcast Success Summit. I had him on my podcast for an interview back in May. He gave me chance to plug his Success Summit and he was selling tickets for like $97. I think the idea was the Summit, you see it all free for a day and then you can pay a $100 to get the whole thing downloaded. Within 48 hours after his interview on my show went live, he sold five tickets at a $100 each. He made $500 in less than, I think it was like between 50 and 75 downloads at the time. Five people out of an audience of say 60 people. He didn’t need be to have an audience of 10,000 downloads. Because he was in front of the right audience, he had five people take action, and he made $500 for that 30 minutes he was on my show. I would say that was worth his time.

I love it. That’s a good ROI. That’s for sure. Let’s shift gears a little bit. Because you have such an expertise in virtual assistance, a lot of startups are looking for a virtual assistant on a part time basis to help them grow their business, where they can’t afford somebody full-time. What advise do you have for someone who’s an entrepreneur of when should they get a virtual assistant? How much should they pay them? What should they give them to do?

Virtual assistants, otherwise I call them Vas, are very, very helpful because there’s a lot of tasks in your business that are not worth your time, but you don’t necessarily want to take on a full time W2 employee in your business. There’s this amazing movement in this country where people are very entrepreneurial, people are starting their own businesses. A lot of people are starting virtual assistant businesses. Where they’re either doing it full-time as a full-blown business or they’re taking on clients on the side, managing social media accounts, creating graphics while being a home-based stay-at-home mom. The first thing you want to do, when you think you need a virtual assistant, you probably do. It’s like if you’re thirsty, you probably should have been drinking already.

It’s too late. Yes, you’re already dehydrated.

TSP 099 | Interview Connections

If you’re feeling like, “I think I’m busy. I think I need a virtual assistant. I think I need some help,” you do.

If you’re feeling like, “I think I’m busy. I think I need a virtual assistant. I think I need some help,” you do. The next thing you need to do is, before you start putting out the word, “I need a VA,” you need to know what tasks you need done. I’ll give you a quick tip, something that I did. To write down a list of everything you do takes a lot of time. In addition, you’re doing your work, you’re also are writing it down. I use the voice memo app on my phone. For two days, I said everything that I did. Literally turned on the voice memo app, checked email, dealt with this billing issue. I just did that. Then I sent that audio recording to and they transcribed it for a dollar a minute. I probably paid $3 to transcribe it. Then, I send that to Kate, who is now my executive assistant. When we are talking, I said, “Kate, this is everything I do. Can you help me with this?” She goes, “Yes, I can take all of that off your plate.”

Depending on what you need done, you probably want to work with somebody who has experience as a virtual assistant because while you may pay a virtual assistant with experience more per hour than you would somebody who is just getting started as a freelancer, the person who’s just getting started as a freelancer, you’re going to pay a lot more in your time telling them what do to, telling them how everything works.

There’s the gold right there. Jessica just gave it to you everybody. Pay somebody what their worth. If they can do something in half an hour for twice the price versus somebody for half the price that takes two hours. You come out ahead and you’re more productive, which is the whole point, yes.

I just definitely recommend people to find a virtual assistant by way of referral, somebody that can say, “Hey, I know this person is good. I’ve work with them.” Most of my business mistakes come from hiring virtual assistants or people that weren’t quite right, because you can definitely waste time and money by bringing somebody on your team who’s not a good fit. That’s also stressful, having to deal with that. Sticking with referrals is sure fire, it’s better.

That’s one of the key things startups have to do, is create a great team, and that’s one of the key factors that investors look at when they decide which startup to fund. Who’s on the team? How well do they get it long? All that stuff. If you’re going to use that same criteria for finding a tech person or somebody for your advisory board, referrals and warm introductions are everything. You need a warm introduction to get a virtual assistant. You need a warm introduction to get in front of the right investor. It just continues and continues.

Let’s go back to you being such a catalyst connection expert. What tips do you have for people who are trying to find someone to join their advisory board, trying to figure out if this investor is the right person for their startup, or if this VA, virtual assistant, is that right person. Do you have any tips on how to measure that chemistry besides just start from a referral, that helps a lot. Is there something else that you look for in people’s characteristics?

It’s such a good question and it’s so hard too when it’s a virtual working relationship because you can’t be in the same room with them. For me, the judgment of that chemistry starts from the moment you interact with them. Whether it’s them responding to a post about you looking for somebody or if it’s you reaching out to them via Upwork. The moment you guys first start connecting, how fast do they respond to your emails? How did they write their emails? Are they professional? How did they treat you as their client? How friendly are they? Some people are super buttoned up and they don’t want to chitchat or anything. I know for me, I need somebody that’s going to be friendly because I’m super talkative. If I have somebody that only wants to do business and nothing else, it will probably be too awkward. I need somebody who’s going to be responsive. You have to know your personality and what would work well within your team dynamic.

It is like the million-dollar question, John. You have to be listening to your gut the entire time. You know that old tip, hire slow, fire fast. It really, really is true. You don’t want to make a decision too fast. Having conversations, getting on Skype, Skype video, just getting to know them. As you’re having a conversation, again, listen to your gut. Do you think this is a good fit? For a virtual assistant and somebody that you’re thinking about working with you, don’t just say, “Great, we’re working together and indefinitely.” Start with the project. Say, “Okay, I’ll have you start by doing this.” Have there be an endpoint. Then if they do a couple of projects that’s going really well, then you can say, “Great. Now, let’s commit to working together for a while.” It’s like dating before you get married. Ask them out on a date. See if it goes well, ask them out on another one, and don’t commit too soon. Then, if it doesn’t go well, stop it fast. Get rid of them because red flags rarely go away.

[Tweet “Hire slow, fire fast.”]

In dating or in business. That’s great information. We’re going to tweet that out, “Hire slow, fire fast,” and all that good stuff. Next thing I wanted to ask you is, because you’re so good at this, when someone has a startup business, one of the things investors really take a deep dive into is, “Okay, you’ve gotten a little bit of traction. You have some clients. What do you do to keep those clients happy and renewing as opposed to having to constantly find new clients to keep the revenue coming in?

Client retention is so important. I put way more focus on client retention than I do client acquisition. First of all because referrals from your happy clients are way better than cold leads. Client retention is super important. We have a whole retention strategy at Interview Connections. I have somebody on my team, Sue, she’s our director of client happiness. A huge part of her work with me is implementing a gratitude program. This is what we do, when a client signs up, they get a welcome package in the mail, by priority mail. They’re going to get something two days after they sign up in the mail. It has a tip sheet, a handwritten note card, thanking them for joining. A couple little goodies just so they have something there. Then, every few months they’re getting something else in the mail, whether it’s a free book, a business book or a t-shirt, we have Rock the Podcast t-shirts. We send brownies out from SendOutCards every few months.

Yes, I just got some.

Just stuff to keep saying, “Hey, we’re really happy that you’re working with us. Thank you so much.” We started doing these awards. I don’t know if you got one yet, John. They’re just these certificates.

Yes, I did. I did get one.

It makes people smile. I think that a lot of business owners think they need to be sending out these expensive gifts. While you do want to accurately thank your clients, a handwritten note sometimes goes a much longer way than some expensive bottle of wine sent from your assistant. Just reminding people, “Hey, we’re thinking about you. We’re really happy that you’re a client.” All of that, we do that. Another part of my retention, John, is I am a content creating machine. I really focus on creating content for my clients.

For example, one episode of my podcast that I did recently was Your Roadmap To Podcast Interview Success. I tried to e-mail that link to that podcast personally to as many of my clients as I could, really encouraging them to listen to it. I’ve actually seen my client retention increase a lot since I have been focusing my podcast episodes on topics that are helping my clients be more successful with their podcast interviews. I know when they’re more successful with their podcast interviews, they’ll stay with me longer. That’s a huge part of it.

You’re giving them media training in addition to getting them booked. It’s what it looks like to me.

Exactly. That was a huge light bulb for me over the last six months or so. People pay Interview Connections to get booked, but the only reason they’re going to stay is if it actually works for them, and there’s so much more that they need. They need media training, they need to learn about marketing, they need to know about how to work with a virtual assistant because they can’t do it all on their own. I’m doing blogs, videos, podcasts, all about that. In my intake calls now, I say this directly, “I highly encourage you to become a student of me so I can teach you how to do better.” I have not had many clients canceling. The retention has gone up since I’ve really put a focus on all that.

[Tweet “How to have a gratitude program to keep clients happy and stay with you.”]

That’s fantastic. We’re going to tweet that out, “How to have a gratitude program to keep clients happy and stay with you.” It’s really great. Do you have one little last tip you can give? If someone is fortunate enough to get to work with you and you get them on a podcast that can help them with relationships and exposure and social proof, what’s one tip you would say that makes a great guest on a podcast?

Provide value. I know that sounds super general and we hear that all the time, provide value. What does that actually mean? You really have to get in a mindset of serving first and being a giver and just focus on making that podcast the best it could be. Be a giver, be someone that’s providing value to that show. I say that because a lot of people go into podcast interviews, especially when you’re viewing it as a marketing strategy for your business, and you’re thinking a lot about like, “How is this going to grow my business? How’s this going to grow my list?” You really need to flip that switch and think about, “How am I going to help the podcast grow their audience? How am I going to make this show as valuable as I can make it?” Really focus on quality, compelling content and you will attract people to you.

[Tweet “Provide value and compelling content when you’re a guest on any show.”]

That’s great. Quality, compelling content. That’s it, people. Right there. Figure out how you can give value whenever you’re asked to be a guest on anything. Jessica, how can people follow you? How can they find out more about getting you to get them on a podcast? Or if somebody wants to start a podcast and get guests, they can get you to help them make all that happen, what’s the best way to do all that?

If you go to that is my main home base on the web. It has my blog, podcast, videos. If you click on the Work With Me tab, you can learn about Interview Connections and how we get people booked on podcast.

Fantastic. It’s been wonderful having you on. Sharing your own entrepreneurial journey, how to pitch to get people to really understand why they’re the right fit. That’s the secret to getting funded as well. Thanks, Jessica.

Thanks, John.


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