This is a follow up story for Influence Podium. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Marti and I run Influence Podium – a content creation agency that helps B2B companies become media companies. We first help our clients craft a strategic narrative that will create a category and then create a content flywheel to win on brand and drive inbound opportunities.
Our clients are seeing a lot of success with two main content channels: CEO Thought Leadership (leveraging the personal brand of the founder) and B2B Podcasting (starting a podcast and repurposing its content).
We’re crossing $40k MRR this month and looking to hit 7 figures ARR by end of the year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
We’ve grown since our last Starter Story, but slowly. We had to let go of a few early clients that were not ideal and were grandfathered at lower pricing. This initially lowered our MRR, which was scary but opened up our team’s bandwidth for more ideal clients. We now manage fewer but higher-paying clients, and that puts us in a better position to scale in the near future.
From a marketing perspective, our main channels are still the services that we offer ourselves: our own LinkedIn and Twitter content and our podcast. Referrals and relationships also play a big part.
Right now, referrals are coming organically from good work, but we have to do a better job at incentivizing them and being more systematic with them. While I’m not a big networker, our podcast has been very helpful in building solid relationships by spending 1-1 time with interesting people in the industry.
The biggest change we’ve done this year has been our positioning and strategic narrative – we believe PR is dead and, in five years, every B2B company will become a media company and create great content to own their category and win on brand.
Don’t grow too quickly if you don’t have to. Take your time to hire the right person and put some clients on your waitlist or raise prices.
We’ve added more storytelling to our marketing, and that has helped us increase by 85% our qualified opportunities.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
We’ve faced three main challenges this year:
By Q2 of 2021, we were growing quickly and needed to hire fast. Because we “didn’t want to let the train pass us by”, our hiring process wasn’t as refined as it had been in the past.
This led to some rushed decisions and a hire that didn’t work out well – it made us lose clients, we had to fire our employee (my first layoff), and we lost money and time. As the founder, this was all my fault.
When the story above happened, I stepped in as another Account Manager to fill in for the laid-off employee while simultaneously running sales, finances, operations, etc. After a few months,
I started burning out and my team noticed. Running the company felt like a weight, and it took some reflection and tough conversations with myself and with the team to get back to feeling at 100%.
While all this happened, I realized our messaging wasn’t what I intended when I started the company. By Q4, I sat down at a small wine bar in Miami and wrote for hours about the vision I had for the company until I found the strategic narrative that I thought we needed. After talking to my team and customers, I knew this was resonating and we needed to double down.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Following the above challenges we faced, here are some lessons I learned:
- Don’t grow too quickly if you don’t have to. Take your time to hire the right person and put some clients on your waitlist or raise prices. You’ll make less money now, but it’s better than having to fire the wrong hire and losing money and time later.
- Telling the team I was burned out and having that tough conversation was the right choice. They already could tell, but now they knew that I trusted them and that I was able to be vulnerable with them. It also made it easier for them to come to me for personal issues because I took that first step.
- Be self-aware of your ambition/comfort ratio. As a self-funded founder, growth often comes down to asking yourself: do I want to continue growing this business or am I comfortable here? Being very ambitious can mean a huge workload, headaches, cashflow issues, and even burnout. Being too comfortable can mean boredom and slowed or even negative growth. It’s a personal decision, and a question I deal with that I don’t have the answer to yet.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
After a period of slowed growth, our next 6 months will focus on increasing our topline revenue without sacrificing the quality of our clients or making the same hire-too-quick mistakes from our past.
We will continue to help B2B companies build media arms, and we expect to see the market naturally understand how important it is to have a content flywheel in a world that is getting noisier and attention is harder to come by.
Our goal is to get to $1-2M in revenue with solid margins in the next 2-3 years and then solidify ourselves in that range. We are open to a potential acquisition if a partner that can help fulfill our mission approaches us, but we are also open to continuing to run by ourselves.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
Business-related: Shoe Dog by the founder of Nike is a mix of business advice with a biography that entrepreneurs will appreciate.
Mental health-related: Everything’s Not Okay by Nick Boynton is a personal story by a retired hockey player and the mental health issues he dealt with over his career.
Non-business related: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson is a fun book that tells a wild story that won’t leave you indifferent. Hate it or love it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I’d start by saying don’t compare your MRR to other founders. I get why we all do it, but the truth is you never know the circumstances: they might have co-founders, they might have raised more money, they might have rich parents, they might have more experience… they also might just simply be growing faster than you. Try to run your race.
I also think it’s important to ask yourself why and how big of a business you want to run. Why do you “need” to hit a certain milestone? I’m not saying don’t be ambitious, I’m saying be ambitious for a reason – one that makes sense to you.
Finally, there’s a difference between ideal revenue and non-ideal revenue. Non-ideal revenue is easier to come by, but it comes with more headaches and it also goes away easier. Ideal revenue is more sticky and your team (and yourself) will appreciate that you optimize for it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re always looking for Brand Managers that know B2B content marketing, talented ghostwriters, and great video editors. These can be full-time or contractor positions and you can just email us at [email protected] if you’re interested.
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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