Profile Picture
The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Ep. 123: James Carbary

James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media and also serves as the Executive Producer. He discusses personal and corporate branding and how digital content is imperative to building and sustaining a strong brand. James is a contributor for Entrepreneur & Business Insider, and an author of Content-Based Networking: How to Instantly Connect With Anyone You Want to Know.

Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the podcast for senior living with Josh and Lucas. This is an exciting episode that is going to be a little bit different than our typical shows. Today, we’re going to talk about marketing, branding and developing and networking relationships in a digital realm. And we’ve got on James Carberry. He’s the founder of Sweet Fish Media out of Florida, and he has been a big mentor to me in this category. Welcome to the program. 


James: I am super excited to be here, man. I, you were, you were actually in the book that we’re going to be talking about later in the episode. So it’ll be really fun to jam on this stuff with you guys.


Lucas: Well James, you and I met on LinkedIn, just like Josh and I met on LinkedIn. And I personally have been able to develop so many really close relationships starting on a digital platform. And if it wasn’t for those digital platforms, Josh and I may have never met, you and I may not have not ever have met, even though we were in the same arenas, so to speak. You and I lived in the same town; Josh and I work in the same industry, but because of these digital platforms, we’ve been able to develop these relationships. You’ve written a book called Content Based Networking, and the subtitle is How to Instantly Connect with Anyone You Want To Know. Your primary role at sweet fish. Media is developing podcasts for B2B companies. Talk to us about why you wrote the book.


James: Yeah, so we wrote the book because a few years ago we realized that the traditional sales play in business is to send someone a cold email or to call them cold and go from, hey, you don’t know who I am, to, do you want to demo my product or buy my service? And that just seemed like a really massive gap that didn’t sound logical to me. It didn’t sound like how actual relationships work. And so I started thinking like, how do we reverse engineer building genuine relationships with the people that we want to do business with? And so we started a podcast, we started B2B growth and we started inviting our ideal clients to be guests on our show. And at that point I didn’t care if six people were listening or if 600 people were listening because my whole intent was I wanted to connect with people that I knew could potentially buy our service in a way that was natural and genuine and in a way that highlighted them.


And so by inviting them to be a guest on the show, I was able to point our spotlight regardless of how small it was at the time, I got to point our spotlight on them, make them the centerpiece of our content strategy by asking for their insights, their wisdom challenges that they had overcome as a B2B marketer and in doing so, we ended up building this catalog of incredible content with our ideal clients, building genuine relationships with them in the process. And lo and behold, they ended up doing business with us. So we built a seven figure business on the back of this strategy, what we call content based networking of just using content collaboration as a way to build genuine relationships that then mapped a new business. 


But what we found is like, you can use this for a ton of different things. So we’ve used it to recruit great talent on our team. We’ve used it to build really strategic partnerships with referral partners. There’s so many different ways you can leverage the relationships that you build with the guests you feature on your show. And I just hear so many people not wanting to start their own show or do their content because they don’t think that they’re, they have a big enough audience to start. And I just want to shout from the mountaintops that you don’t need any audience to start. You just need to start and you need to get really clear about who is the exact person I want to connect with. 

So for me as an entrepreneur, it was our ideal customers. Maybe that’s something different for you regardless of who you are as a listener. Maybe you’re just graduating college. Maybe you’ve been in the industry for 10 years, but you want to build relationships with, you know, operators like Josh or like other vendors in the space like you Lucas, like there’s so many different use cases because when you think about the value of relationships, relationships are oxygen in business. And so regardless of what you’re trying to do, whether you’re getting a job, you’re trying to find investors, you’re trying to find customers, there is a relationship out there that can map to that result. And so using content collaboration as a way to reverse engineer those relationships at a moment’s notice, I’ve just, it’s been life changing for me.


Lucas: One of the pillars of our mission at Bridge the Gap is influence. How does this leverage influence? And also how does that play to this other big buzz phrase that people are trying to learn and trying to figure out which is personal brand?


James: Yeah. So I think it creates influence because you can’t create influence. I don’t, I think it’s real. I think it’s impossible to create influence unless you are doing something that influences and by creating content with-Creating content where you’re not the hero of the story, where it’s the person that you’re interviewing, that’s the hero of the story, I think is a tremendous way to build legitimate influence because you’re, you’re shining the spotlight on the practitioners of your industry. And so many people get into content creation because they want to build influence, but all they want to do is talk about themselves and their expertise. And there are certainly exceptions to every rule. And you look at a lot, you know, there, there are some creators out there that where they brought an audience from somewhere else and they’ve been able to build a massive platform because maybe they were already famous before, or maybe they just have really, really unique insights. But the reality is I’ve, I’ve found that it’s much easier to build a platform and to build influence whenever you start talking to the actual people that you want listening to the show. 


So if you want somebody, if you guys want operators in senior living, listening to this show, you got an interview with some operators about their challenges, their struggles, what they’re doing to overcome them, innovative approaches to problem solving. The chances are very high that other operators are gonna want to listen to those conversations. So that’s how I think it builds influence. And then that influence obviously segues into personal brand because you can start using that content on platforms like LinkedIn, which I think is an incredible personal brand play to just repurpose the content exactly like you guys are doing honestly, and using it on a platform like that. And people start to follow Lucas because people want to follow humans way more than they want to follow logos. And I think what you and Josh are both doing is incredible in that regard, like building true personal brand on a platform like LinkedIn.


Josh: Well, James you’re super intelligent. I mean, I love how you’ve actually, formulized what I think Lucas and I figured out accidentally. And so it just shows how well-intended you are, but it seems like these principles really transcend industries. I mean, it obviously you’re, you work in a lot of spaces, a lot of different brands. We’re here in the senior living space, which is, is not a, a really old industry, no pun intended. It’s still, it’s still growing and this type of marketing approach, I think Lucas and I agree, it still feels a little bit revolutionary. I think other industries have maybe adopted it a little bit quicker than I have. What’s your take on that?

James: Yeah. I still don’t see a lot of people doing this. We’re obviously working with a lot of brands that are doing it because they’re, they’re either seeing their competitors do it. And they’re like, Oh, we got to keep up. Or they’re hearing folks like you and other industries do it. And they’re, and they’re like, Oh man, this would revolutionize our industry, but I still think we’re early days. And, and what I love about this so much is like, even if, and I know that Lucas is like-mindedness, we’ve talked about this before, but so many, so many companies approach other companies in their space as competition. But when you’re doing this, if there was another media property putting out great and senior living, I know because of having a conversation with Lucas and, and, and how highly he speaks of you, Josh, that you guys would want that, you would welcome that you would look at those other people that are creating content in senior living if the content was good and you would say, yeah, come on. Like, we want to have you on our show to talk about what you’re doing. And then, you know, they’re inevitably going to bring you on their show to talk about what they’re doing. 


So there’s so much opportunity for collaboration and togetherness with this play, as opposed to, oh, well, we’re, we’re competitive with this other show. That’s doing this thing. And that’s, I just liked that more. I think we can go a whole lot further, a whole lot faster if we go together. And so I think mult, you know, I know Lucas has said to me in the past, like if there were 10 shows, if we woke up tomorrow and 10 different people decided to start shows in the space that only helps us, it gets more ears and eyes on content for this space. And the fact that we’re however many episodes you guys are in now we’re, it’s only going to apply uplevel the whole industry and celebrate the industry more if more people get into this space. 


So that’s, that’s another, another thing that I think about a lot as it relates to this strategy is like, there’s no, welcome. Like bring more people into it. Like, it doesn’t even matter that we’re the, some of the only ones doing it right now, because it’s only gonna get more fun as more people join the party.


Josh: You’re exactly right. And I’m so glad you brought up that point because you’re, you are what you heard Lucas say, I’ve heard Lucas say many times, and I can still remember the first time someone came up to us at a conference and said, you guys were the only podcast in senior living. Hey, did you hear who started one? And we’re like high fiving. And Lucas is like, yes, we’re so excited, but it’s really, I mean, as simple as that sounds, I think it’s very counterintuitive to what our human nature wants us to do, right? Because we want to immediately either bring somebody else down, put ourselves up, talk about ourselves or anything like that. So I love that you brought up that point and Lucas is definitely a champion for that. 


Lucas: So James, let’s go back to the book just in the next half of our conversation. Walk us through some of the principles for the people that are listening about how they can apply this to their digital strategy.


James: Yeah. So the first point that I talk about in the book is that you have to get very clear on the exact type of relationship that you want to build. So many people get into this. And again, the common mistake is all they want to do is talk about themselves and their expertise. When in reality, you’ve gotta be focused on the persona of the type of, you know, who is it that I actually want to connect with? And I have to orient the show or whatever the content is. I need to orient it around that person. And so if that’s, you know, if that’s chefs, because you’re an aspiring chef, you need to create some sort of content around the best chefs in your city. Or if you’re trying to reach real estate folks, and you’re an accountant, you don’t want to create content around accountant stuff because that kind of content is going to attract your competitors, not content that is actually going to be and going to be resonating with the people that you want to work with, which are real estate agents. So you need to do your show around real estate. 


But I think getting clear on who that is, is so important. And the question I always ask folks is who is your most profitable buyer? That’s a great place to start, but every, you know, everything’s going to be different. If you’re a college grad, you’re going to be looking at what are, you know, maybe you’re thinking more like who were employers that I want to work for, where if you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you’re looking for investors, or maybe you’re looking for ideal customers. If you know that your product or service is best sold through somebody else. So maybe you’re, you sell life insurance. And you know, that it’s so much easier to sell life insurance through a financial advisor than it is selling it directly to the consumer, to your customer, then, you know, hey, I need to build a network of as many financial advisors as possible. So maybe it may be, my show becomes the savvy financial advisor or the effective financial advisor. And you just go out and interview as many financial advisors as you possibly can, because it’s going to attract an audience of financial advisors. And you’re also going to build one-to-one relationships with each of your guests who can ultimately be people that sell your life insurance. So does that make sense, getting why getting clear on who it is that you want to know is so critical?


Lucas: Yeah, for sure. And is there is- for people out there that are trying to figure out what type of content do I produce? Is there a more, is there also in lane to gain influence in a more starting from a mall, more altruistic perspective? Which is really more of the Genesis of Bridge the Gap, which shows that there’s multiple ways of doing things. Our show is more to highlight, be the tide that rises all the boats in the industry and more be informative. Now this is an earlier space for this type of content. You’re in a very big ocean. When you talk about B2B businesses and marketing and growth and sales. Is there a more altruistic approach that can also gain some influence?


James: Absolutely. I think you can, you can definitely be more altruistic and see results. You are the perfect case study for that. You guys have done that, you’ve built influence. I think you’ve done a lot of very strategically though, in terms of how you activate onsite at conferences. You’re getting visibility and awareness that most companies pay thousands of dollars for. And instead, you’re getting asked to come to these conferences because these conferences want to look progressive and they want to look relevant and having a podcast set up at their event, does that okay, well that serves you guys incredibly well because it puts you as the face kind of the face of the industry. 


I think in the book, I refer to you Lucas, as the LeBron James of senior living and it’s, and you guys have done that from a very altruistic place, but the reality is, it’s led to business results. And so I think you can do it either way. I think you can come at it altruistically, or you can come at it very strategically. What I caution people against though, when they’re coming at it strategically, like we did, it was still very genuine that regardless of whether a guest turned into a customer for us, I actually don’t care. Like I just, I want to have the conversation because at the end of the day, I know we’re going to create great content and that’s going to serve the audience we’re building. And if we get, if we get the opportunity to work with them and you know, in our context, if we end up producing their podcast, awesome, but I’m not twisting their arm. I’m not making it awkward. I’m not going to ruin a relationship with somebody in the name of trying to sell them my product or service, or make them feel uncomfortable and feel like, oh, they have to now take a sales call with us because we did this interview.


And I’m worried about sharing this strategy. It’s honestly, one of my fears of writing the book is like, man, this strategy in the wrong hands can ruin it for everybody. Because if you start approaching everyone with this veiled fake inauthentic approach to like, hey, I want to interview you on my show or I want to do this content collaboration with you when really you’re just trying to get something from them. People see right through that. And they’re never going to want to talk to you again. And they’re going to tell their friends that they shouldn’t talk to you either. And I just think it’s, it’s a really bad strategy to approach it that way. So I almost think by you guys going so altruistic with it, it prevented that from happening. 


Now, I think you can do the, I think you can be more intentional and more strategic. Not, not that what you guys were doing wasn’t strategic. It was just when I was doing it, it wasn’t coming from the same place of altruism is what you guys were doing it from. And they both got the results that they needed to get. So that’s I guess, a shorter way to answer your question is yes, you can absolutely do both.


Josh: Oh man. Well, I love it. You know, you’ve been very successful and you know, one of the questions I had for you, because it seems like it would lend itself- this is like very low hanging fruit for you. But when you’re talking to someone about establishing a platform for to be able to talk, to create content, does it naturally seem easier to have a guest on the show? Would you advise people to always have a guest or, or is it something that they can, they can just do on their own and talk and they just have to focus on someone else’s story? 


James: Yeah. So I, that’s a great question, Josh. I actually think you should do both. I follows, I know Lucas follows Gary Vee. I don’t know if he’s as religious about following Gary V as I am, but Gary V says, we should be saying and a lot more instead of, or. And so I think doing interviews are fantastic. Cause you can shine your spotlight on them. You can build a relationship with the guest. You’re creating an advocate for the show because every person that’s been on your show naturally is gonna want to advocate for that show because they want more exposure for their thoughts and their views. But I also think that the one of the, one of the downsides or not downsides, but one of the things that people don’t capitalize on enough is creating lots of content. I was just talking to our director of audience growth on our team yesterday.


And he was like, James, what? I’m finding that our customers just don’t create enough content. We need to be trying to get all of our customers to a daily rhythm. And he was like, I know that’s intimidating. But the reality is that’s where all the traction is. So if you can do an interview one day and then you can do a solo episode on Tuesday, and then maybe you do like a five minute thing on Friday where you share a Roundup of like everything you learned that week in five minutes, but like get creative with how you can create more and more content. So we actually do a series. We do a series on B2B growth where, you know, we do these interviews that are like 15 to 30 minutes. We’re asking our guests to share their insight. Then we do another series called Behind the Curtain, which is just our team bantering on things that we’re doing in our own business to grow the business.

That series actually performs better than our other episodes because people are super curious about like, hey, this business that’s growing really fast, like what are they doing behind the scenes? We get, we get pretty like intimate with like, hey, these are the things we’re experimenting with. These are things that are failing. This is what’s working. People love that series. And then we’ve got another series called Five Things where Logan, the primary cohost of our show, he’s our director of partnerships, he’ll go back to people that have already been on the show and he’ll ask them to come back to do like a five minute episode to share the five things that are getting them most excited in their life right now. So people will talk about their Peloton or they’ll talk about Zapier or some tool that helps them with productivity. And that episode, it mixes up your content, so it makes your content more enticing and it makes people stay engaged longer because your content is just not the same cookie cutter format over and over and over again. But then it also keeps you top of mind. 


So, the way I like to explain it is if you’re only posting content once a month and you don’t, and the topic that you’re talking about for February, doesn’t resonate with the people that are, you know, some of the people that are subscribed to your show. Well now you’ve got an entire month without being able to communicate to them, juxtaposed against someone that has a daily show. I can go three days without having an episode that’s going to resonate with one of our listeners, but on day four, something is so I’ve now only gone three days without communicating and being top of mind and being an educational resource for, for somebody that could potentially work with us as opposed to having gone two months before somebody hears from us. And so I just think more content is going to win out in the end. Then obviously it needs to be quality, but that’s, that’s how I think about that.


Josh: I love it. Well you know, I can sit here and geek out all day. You know,  I feel like I’m super jealous ‘cause Lucas gets to geek out with you more than I do. But my last question, I know Lucas probably has a couple more, the most serious question I have is how many podcasts do I have to actually do before my voice sounds like James Carbary on the microphone? That’s what I really want to know. You and Lucas are just naturals. 


James: If you only knew how many people mention that. I must do something that I’m not even realizing, like my voice switches into like podcast mode, because I’ll be having a pre-interview and then I’ll intro someone on the podcast and they’re like, whoa, where did radio James come from? So I don’t even realize I’m doing it, but apparently I throw my voice into the radio voice hall of fame whenever I, as soon as somebody hits record on Zoom.


Josh: You and Lucas are genetically engineered to be able to do that. And you’ve at some point I’m hoping by osmosis, this redneck becomes like that engineered that well. So kudos to you guys. It’s like listening to butter over here. It’s ridiculous.


Lucas: James is definitely in there in the right lane. So rounding out the show let’s talk about-jumping off what you just said. How does that consistency play into helping people reach these goals? And maybe a pre-question to that is why do, why do most people fail at content creation? Or why do most podcasts fail after just a few shows?


James: I think they don’t have a system. They jump into it with these big ambitions and these big hopes, but they don’t actually have, they don’t have a system or a plan for how they’re going to create content on a regular basis. And so for us, we knew that these behind the curtains episodes on B2B growth were doing really well, but we were very sporadic. It was like, I would have an idea every once in a while. And we’re like, Oh, we’re going to do, let’s do a Behind the Curtain episode on it. And it wasn’t until we got until Logan and I started putting a 45 minute time block on our calendar every Friday morning that we started consistently creating those episodes. 


And so for you all, I know that you’ve got a producer that helps with this show, Sara, she’s awesome. And she’s become like a personality within the show. You guys talk about her all the time. Having something like that, whether it’s working with a partner, having someone internally, that’s helping you, maybe it’s just a time block. I know you guys have a lot of technology that allows you to do a lot of the post-production right there at your desk, like right as you finish up the recording. So all of that I would say is like, it’s part of your process. It’s part of your system that allows you to consistently create content. 


So before you hit go, you have to figure out that system and what those processes are going to be. If you want to play the long game and actually do this thing at a level of consistency, that’s going to matter, and that is going to actually move the needle towards your goals. And you guys have done that perfectly well. I mean, we obviously built an entire business around those systems. So we obviously use our own system that we’re using for customers for our content. But I think apart from that, it’s just, it’s going to be really hard.


Lucas: Well said. And so for anybody out there, especially in the world that we’re living in, where everybody now has Zoom as their middle name and digital strategies, especially in an industry for senior living where the industry is a little bit slower to adopt new technologies. Guys, this is the playbook. If you want to develop a content strategy from a digital perspective, no matter what your lane is in this business, this is a great book to read. And you also get to read about Bridge the Gap in it. We’re really honored to be in your book, James, we’re wishing you the best success, very, very much rooting for you. And how can people follow you? You put out a ton of content. How do people follow B2B growth?


JamesYeah. So you can subscribe to B2B growth in Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen. But I’m also really active on LinkedIn. So if you just search James Carbary, my last name is C-A-R-B-A-R-Y. You can find me on LinkedIn. That’s the platform I’m most active on. Or you can shoot me an email, always happy to hear from folks. And and if anybody listening to this wants a signed copy of the book, just shoot me an email and I’ll get your mailing address and send you one. So would love to send as many copies of those out as to anyone that thinks it would be helpful.


Lucas: Fantastic. I’ll also let everybody know that there’s an audio version of the book, which is really cool. I’ve listened to it three times, as well as a flip through the book. You know, I was looking for all the pictures. There wasn’t too many pictures, so I enjoyed the audio version. So for everybody, you got to listen to James. He’s had people on his show from across industries, across verticals. He’s interviewed Gary Vaynerchuk, Simon Sinek. They’ve had over a million downloads on their platform, if I’m correct. 

James: Over 3.5 million. 


Lucas: Okay. Over 3.5 million downloads on his platform. So this guy, James knows exactly what he’s talking about. You want to follow him. Thank you everybody for listening to another awesome episode of Bridge the Gap.

Ep. 123: James Carbary