Building a Business on the Back of Interviews
Want to discover different ways to repurpose those interviews?
To explore how he built his business through expert interviews, I interview Nathan Chan.
More About This Show
The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.
In this episode, I interview Nathan Chan, the founder, CEO, and publisher of Foundr Magazine, a paid digital magazine that profiles well-known entrepreneurs. He’s built a huge following of almost 1 million Instagram fans and 300,000 email subscribers.
Nathan shares his interviewing process.
You’ll discover how Nathan used expert interviews to build his business.
Share your feedback, read the show notes, and get the links mentioned in this episode below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Building a Business on the Back of Interviews
The Start of Foundr
In 2013, Nathan was working in IT support at a travel company. He loved the company culture, but the work wasn’t a fit. As he searched for something more fulfilling to do, he noticed that the major business magazines, of which he was a fan, were difficult for him to relate to. His life wasn’t like the lives of the people on a Forbes billionaire list.
Nathan started his magazine with about $3,000 and a goal of filling the gap between major business magazine content and entrepreneurs like himself. He wanted to speak to aspiring young entrepreneurs (he was 26 years old at the time) and provide in-depth content about what it takes to build a successful business.
Nathan says that podcasts inspired this vision for his magazine, too. Podcasts were becoming increasingly popular, featured stories about relatable people, and could cover a topic in depth.
Four months into producing the magazine, Nathan and his startup magazine faced a major roadblock. A large business magazine sued Nathan’s startup magazine for trademark infringement. Luckily, Nathan says, the rebranding of the magazine resulted in the name Foundr, which is a better fit.
Listen to the show to learn more about how Nathan responded to the lawsuit by improving the magazine’s branding.
The Business Model
Foundr has three main sources of revenue: magazine subscriptions, the membership site, and courses. The magazine subscription is $2.99/month or $21.99/year and is available through the iTunes and Google Play stores. Across monthly and yearly subscriptions, Foundr has 20,000 monthly readers.
On the Foundr membership site, subscribers have access to premium content, an online community, and exclusive training. In addition to the main revenue sources, Foundr includes a bit of sponsorship and advertising.
Listen to the show to discover the similarities between what Nathan and I do.
Nathan’s Interviewing Process
Nathan has interviewed successful entrepreneurs including Richard Branson, founder of Virgin; Steve Case, founder of AOL; Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post; Gary Vaynerchuk; Barbara Corcoran; Tim Ferriss; Robert Herjavec; Jessica Livingston, founder of Y Combinator; and others.
Much of Nathan’s interview preparation involves his day-to-day reading about and listening to the topics, brands, and people Foundr covers. He regularly looks at Facebook, reads what’s happening in TechCrunch and Mashable, and follows podcasts to see what they’re doing and whom they’re interviewing. To help find guests, he looks for people who have books coming out or otherwise need press. By consuming a lot of content, Nathan is aware of what’s happening in his space and how to guide the interview so it’s interesting to his readers.
To prepare for interviewing a specific guest, Nathan shares that he does less work than you might think. Nathan spends no more than an hour understanding his or her accomplishments, what might be interesting, or what the interview’s angle might be. He listens to at least one interview a future guest has done, looks at Wikipedia for important facts about the person, and does a Google search.
Because Nathan’s core audience consists of people who just launched or are about to launch their business, he always asks two common questions.
The first question, which Nathan thinks is the most fun, is: “How did you get your job?” The question sets a scene because every person Nathan speaks to works hard to make their own job. He finds their reactions (and confusion) fascinating. Some people laugh, while others want to know if Nathan is serious.
At the end of an interview, Nathan asks his guests to share at least three actionable pieces of advice that they learned from their journey.
For the rest of the interview, Nathan uses his angle and the conversation itself as his guide, while keeping the focus on growth and business-building.
Listen to the show to hear how Nathan prepared to interview me.
How to Attract Guests
I asked how Nathan approaches his guests and specifically how he got Richard Branson, his first high-profile interview, to say yes. Nathan says having a magazine is great for building authority, so people take him seriously.
Nathan explains that the first step to landing a high-profile interview is finding the gatekeeper, such as that person’s assistant or PR person (internally or through an agency). To find the gatekeeper, use a tool like Hunter or search on LinkedIn. You can also do a Google search for “head of PR for Virgin LinkedIn,” for example.
To find that person’s email address, both Clearbit (a Gmail plugin) and Hunter enable you to work out the syntax of the address. For example, it might be the first letter of the first name, the full surname, and @virgin.com or their full name followed by @virgin.com.
If you don’t get an email response, try the phone, which is what Nathan did to get the interview with Richard Branson. Nathan left a lot of voicemails before he finally reached someone. Although Nathan recalls stumbling and being nervous during the two-minute conversation, he made up for it by following up with a strong email.
In his email, Nathan tried to communicate a mutually beneficial exchange of value, which he believes is key to getting people to say yes. He played on the fact that Richard’s first business venture was a student magazine. Plus, Foundr’s audience is aspiring novice entrepreneurs and startup founders, and Nathan knew Virgin wants to help the leaders of tomorrow.
The Richard Branson interview put Foundr on the map. The issue was free and available everywhere. It allowed Foundr to get more interviews, and over time to build a reasonably sized audience.
Listen to the show to hear more about Nathan’s call with Richard Branson’s gatekeeper.
Around each interview, the Foundr team builds podcasts, blog posts, email blasts, Instagram quotes, and a magazine feature.
After Nathan does the interview, he puts the file in his Dropbox. He has a Zapier plugin that notifies someone on his team to assign that interview to a writer, who will research and write a 1,000- to 2,000-word magazine feature based on the interview.
Foundr books the front cover stories at least six months in advance because it takes time to pitch and schedule interviews with hard-to-reach people. Then the team produces interviews and stories for the weekly podcast so each magazine issue and the podcasts reflect a theme or topic.
The podcast content is repurposed into a blog post and email copy that subscribers receive once a week. By pulling content from the podcast, the content for the blog is different than what’s in the magazine.
Listen to the show to discover what they promote with their social content.
Nathan decided to publish Foundr the book in response to readers who were looking for a print product. The book distills the best words of wisdom and actionable items from Foundr’s content into a 250-page hardcover coffee table book. Topics include hiring, raising capital, idea validation, and more.
Although Nathan is based in Australia, his audience is mainly in the United States. He’s self-publishing the book and printing it Canada. They put the book on Kickstarter with a goal of AU$50,000 and ended up raising more than AU$200,000.
After Foundr completes the campaign and fulfills the backers in April, they’ll put it on Amazon, Shopify, and in bookstores. As this is Volume 1, Nathan thinks he may put a new one out every couple of years. Nathan says he got the idea from Harvard Business Review. They pull their content, curate it, and put it into print books, and their content is amazing.
Nathan says if you’re considering a business based on interviews, it comes down to the Oprah strategy.
Oprah is an extremely talented entrepreneur, Nathan explains. When she started her show, the audience watched because of the people she interviewed. As time went on, her audience watched her show because they wanted to find out what she had to say. That’s what you can do to build authority.
When you build any brand, you need to have great ambassadors, he continues. You need to align yourself with influencers in whatever space, market, or niche you’re serving. Doing interviews and having a mutually beneficial exchange of value is a great way to build authority and credibility, whether yours is a business or personal brand.
If you’re ever thinking it can’t be done, it definitely can. Nathan says he had no connections and knew nothing about entrepreneurship. He built his business from a passion and love for the craft.
Listen to the show to learn about Nathan’s experience at Social Media Marketing World.
Listen to the show!
Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:
- Learn more about Nathan on Foundr.com.
- Email Nathan@FoundrMag.com.
- Follow Foundr on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.
- Listen to the Foundr podcast.
- Explore Foundr V1.0.
- Check out Foundr on iTunes and Google Play, the membership site, and courses.
- Read more about Richard Branson, Steve Case, Arianna Huffington, Gary Vaynerchuk, Barbara Corcoran, Tim Ferriss, Robert Herjavec, and Jessica Livingston on the Foundr blog.
- Explore TechCrunch, Mashable, and Wikipedia.
- Learn more about Richard Branson and Virgin.
- Check out Hunter, Clearbit, Dropbox, and Zapier.
- Explore Kickstarter, Harvard Business Review, and Oprah.
- Watch our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show on Fridays at 8 AM Pacific on Huzza.io, or tune in on Facebook Live.
- Learn more about Social Media Marketing World 2017.
- Read the 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
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What do you think? What are your thoughts on building a business on interviews? Please leave your comments below.