Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey! My name is Marti Sanchez and I am the CEO of Influence Podium. We help B2B CEOs get placed on podcasts their target audience listens to and repurposes those episodes into LinkedIn or Twitter content to grow their personal brand and drive inbound.
We just crossed $30k MRR and are looking to hit seven figures by the end of the year. We’re a young company in our 3rd year in business, and completely self-funded.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea behind Influence Podium started back in college. I used to play NCAA basketball and we could only work a certain number of hours per week. As an immigrant who had just moved from Barcelona, I would “ghostwrite” my classmates’ papers for $10/page (money back if I got them less than a B, of course).
After I graduated, I had a short stint in finances (I lasted 30 days) until I quit and moved back to Spain. There, I went back to the one skill I knew I had -- writing.
I wrote on Quora for 6 months, got 2 million views, and a few people started reaching out to me to ghostwrite for them. They happened to be B2B CEOs, and that’s when I learned the power of content, personal branding, and inbound marketing.
The website for my freelance work is still up:
Eventually, I got too many clients, and Influence Podium as an agency was created.
Since then, we’ve helped over 25 B2B CEOs grow their personal brand and create content at scale.
It’s been a great journey so far - from being a 21-year-old writer who had no network or money to running a growing company -- and we’re nowhere close to done yet.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I remember sitting down in an old, dusty coffee shop back in Spain as I tried to decide which services should we offer.
If you don’t have a network or want to build more relationships, start a podcast. It’s the perfect “in,” the perfect excuse to have 30’ of someone’s time and not just ask “to pick their brain.”
I had three options: SEO, sales copywriting or ghostwriting.
SEO seemed to be the easiest one to find clients for. Sales copywriting seemed to be where the money was.
And then there was ghostwriting, which had neither.
But it did have one thing -- direct access to CEOs that I wanted to be like. I could pick their brain and get paid to learn from them. As a 21-year-old, I decided to bet on learning, and looking back it was the right choice.
From there, the company has evolved and matured. We still focus on creating content, but we’ve added new capabilities on top -- like helping you start your own podcast or new-age PR where we place you as a guest on relevant podcasts.
We’re still designing who we want to be as a company, and learning from what our clients need to see where we go from here next.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Looking back, I’m incredibly fortunate to live in the time we live in now. I bought a $9/year domain, a $5/month company email, and we were in business.
I would work from coffee shops in Barcelona with American clients who I had never met (I still haven’t shaken hands with clients we’ve worked with for two years).
Our marketing channels were free -- my personal brand on Twitter and LinkedIn.
My website was built by my then-girlfriend who is an amazing designer and web developer.
All in all, I don’t think our monthly costs were more than $15/month for the first year.
I didn’t have any legal, finance, or accounting understanding -- all I knew was how to write -- so I just ignored all that until the company showed proof of concept. Not sure if that’s the best advice, but that’s what worked for us.
We’ve tried to keep that gritty, survivalist approach -- even now that we have grown as a company.
I think it comes from seeing how my single mother somehow saved money, raised me, and paid a mortgage. She used to say “si no cal, no cal” -- Catalan for “if it’s not needed, it’s not needed,” and I keep that in mind at all times.
It’s not about being cheap, it’s about putting money on what’s important and living another day.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
One of the things I’m most proud of is that we walk the talk. All our clients come from my personal brand, which is what we sell to our clients too.
I have my team behind me, just like we would with a client (I’m on our Asana board as a client too).
I’m not the best salesperson, so I do everything I can to have our prospects come inbound.
Entrepreneurship is hard and it’s extremely easy to quit. Even now that I run an awesome company, with great people, doing what I love, I fantasize about quitting twice a month.
It also makes selling easier when you’re your own case study (literally, it’s on our deck) and when they ask you “does this work?” you can tell them that them being on that Zoom meeting with me is proof it does.
To retain them, I think it comes down to managing expectations and going above and beyond.
One of our core values is we over-deliver on everything we do.
This might sound cliche but we’re not the most world-known content agency. Things have now changed, but I was a 21-year-old founder with a Spanish accent living 10,000 miles away from our clients. I had no money, no network (literally had never met an entrepreneur before), any experience.
The only way we can compete is by caring more than anyone else - it’s on our DNA. We have to take our clients’ success personally, we have no other option.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we’re at what seems like an inflection point. We’re profitable and growing, intending to reach $1M ARR by the end of the year.
That said, we’re now facing a new set of challenges: how do we hire the best people, how do we keep our finances tight, how do we build the right systems and processes, how can I fire myself off sales, etc.
These are good problems to have (I would’ve killed for these problems a year ago), but they’re problems nonetheless.
However, I look at my team and see a group of people that can tackle these challenges and come out on the other side. We’re ultimately driven to continue to spread messages worth sharing, and we’ll keep focusing on that - I’m sure the rest will come if we take care of our clients.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the things I never fully realized is how much our limiting beliefs as founders impact our companies.
I’ve always struggled with a sense of money scarcity, probably driven by coming from an environment where money was, well, scarce. Among many other things, this has been shown in having a hard time increasing our prices and commanding a premium. I’ve also struggled at times with making certain investments because of “what if I lose money?” It’s a double-edged sword.
Something else: if you don’t have a network or want to build more relationships, start a podcast.
It’s the perfect “in,” the perfect excuse to have 30’ of someone’s time and not just ask “to pick their brain.” Over the last year, I’ve interviewed 40+ amazing CEOs, and some of them have become clients, some mentors, and many have become great friends.
Here’s one more: it’s harder to hire great people than to find clients.
The first challenge for us was the usual one, to find clients. However, once our content distribution was right and referrals started coming in, that became something we had (more or less) under control.
The next challenge was hiring awesome people. A new hire when you’re only 4 people becomes 20% of your company, so their impact on your culture is huge. You want to get those hires right, but you also can’t take too much time if you’re growing quickly. It’s an interesting balance.
And last one: your MRR is not your self-worth.
A lot of entrepreneurs are very competitive, I am too. And I totally understand the need to compare yourself and your business to others, but it’s too easy to tie your identity and your self-worth to how much money your business makes. We shouldn’t let numbers on a screen dictate our personal value.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Asana as our project management tool
- Slack to communicate internally and with clients
- Zoom for synchronous communication
- Loom for asynchronous communication
- Calendly to schedule 1-1 meetings internally and with clients
- Docusign for legal stuff
- Quickbooks for bookkeeping
- Hootsuite and Hypefury to schedule content
And Spotify to make the days more enjoyable!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Psychology of Money is a book that has helped me understand and rewire my mindset around money and finances.
Shoe Dog, the biography of Nike’s founder, was impactful early on as an entrepreneur.
Only the Paranoid Survive by Intel’s CEO is an old but great one too.
However, the way I personally learn is mostly through conversation so mentors, coaches, and my own podcast interviews have probably been the most helpful.
If you’re an agency owner, private communities like scalableservices.co where you can learn directly from experts and peers are extremely valuable.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Start with the purpose, not money.
Entrepreneurship is hard and it’s extremely easy to quit. Even now that I run an awesome company, with great people, doing what I love, I fantasize about quitting twice a month. Then I realize there’s nothing I’d rather do and go back to work.
But if you don’t love the purpose and the “why” behind it, you’ll quit.
I started multiple eCommerce stores, tried dropshipping… they all failed. The “why” never felt right -- I wanted to sip pina Coladas in Mexico, not to run an actual company.
Once I believed in an actual purpose, things started clicking.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for Brand Managers, writers, and video editors. Feel free to email me at [email protected] - would love to chat!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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