Troy Broussard: Hello and welcome back to Mike and Troy’s Top Marketing Strategies Podcast. This is Troy Broussard, and Mike Pereira is off for the week; off playing around. So it’s just me here today and we’re going to do things a little bit different.
Mike and I created a course a few months ago called Building Authority Sites and part of that course was dedicated to interviewing some different personalities in the industry that created authority in a very different and unique way, something that would illustrate, in our course and training, how authority online can be achieved in a lot of different formats.
Well, one of those people was David Garland, and David of TheRiseToTheTop.com is a very unique guy that has built up a large quality authority site and audience with a very unique perspective and angle, leveraging the authority of authors. Now you know us, Mike and I love leverage however we can save some time and effort, so this was a great interview for me because it was neat to see how someone could take a very different perspective on building up their authority by piggy backing on the authority of others through an interview process and this is something that David Garland has really become the master of. He’s interviewed hundreds of people on The Rise to the Top and used that perspective to launch his own career online.
So what I’m going to do today is present you with interview recorded earlier last year. David and I are friends. I met him at Ryan Lee’s DotCom Expo. When I spoke there, he was also speaking on the stage and we formed a great friendship and I really appreciate him reaching out and doing this interview with me, and I hope you enjoy it as well.
David Garland Interview
Troy Broussard: Hello and welcome. This is Troy Broussard and today I’ve got a great content-packed interview for you that I personally am really looking forward to and I know you’re going to love it. I’ve done lots of interviews in the past, both receiving and giving them, so I’m pretty comfortable with them. But today, my guest has built his entire business around creating awesome interviews. In fact, he’s even got a product called just that: Creating Awesome Interviews. So the bar’s been set pretty high and hopefully we won’t disappoint you here today.
Now, my guest today is, shall we say, a bit of a new era internet veteran and here’s the reason I say that. What I mean is he’s a relative newcomer in the sense that he started out in just 2008, but don’t let that fool you because he has rapidly built a huge authority site and has a tremendous following online, clearly becoming a marketing veteran in this short process. He’s interviewed hundreds of the top internet marketing gurus, some of the top authors, entrepreneurs and big thinkers of all times, such as Tim Ferriss of the 4-hour Work Week and ABC Shark Tanks star, Barbara Corcoran. He’s had regular columns and appearances on a variety of media sources, including ABC, CNN, CBS, The Wallstreet Journal, The New York Times and many others.
So in just a short time, he’s amassed a huge following of over 250,000 monthly visitors, he’s a published author, he’s consulted for major companies including Google, and he’s a paid speaker. In his spare time by the way, he’s a fitness model. So who am I talking about? Well, I’m joined here today by David Siteman Garland, creator of TheRiseToTheTop.com. So David, thanks so much for making some time for us here today in this short holiday week, we really appreciate it.
David Garland: Oh, first of all, that was a heck of an intro Troy. I’ve got to give it to give you points for it, and don’t be nervous. I don’t bite too much when it comes to being on the other side of the interview, if you will. So, I’m excited to be here.
Troy: Yeah, cool. So we’ve got kind of the role reversal thing going on. I was feeling like I’m a little bit David Carradine in a Kung Fu episode here. You know, the student becomes the master or something. [laughs]
David: Oh, it’s perfect. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it man, for sure.
Troy: Cool, all right. Well, what I wanted to jump into here is, as you know this course of ours is all about building high quality authority sites rather than the traditional chasing your tail type of stuff that people go out and go after a hundred mini sites and all of that. You see it all over on the internet and this is really the opposite about that, and I was very interested in interviewing you because you’ve done exactly that with The Rise to the Top.
So you’ve done it with a unique twist as well and that’s really building authority with interviews and leveraging the authority of your guests. I was wondering if you could tell us how you came up with that strategy, and when you started it, what encouraged you to go that direction.
David: Yeah, great question. You know it’s funny, we’re a hundred percent in the same boat, and obviously with the people who have taken this course as well, where I’m just not a huge fan of having two thousand niche sites that each make a nickel or something like that and they’re trying to screw Google over or whatever they’re trying to do with those sites. I love the authority site model. Let me explain a little background on this.
In 2008-ish – I started the site in 2008, but before that I had this obsession with who we call experts, thought leaders or personal brands. These are people who have taken their expertise and passion and really developed it online. Those are the people who I’m obsessed with. The Gary Vaynerchuks, the Seth Godins, the Tim Ferriss’s and people like that.
I was thinking to myself, and this is going to sound a little crazy, but I want to be one of those people. I want to take my passion and expertise, especially for marketing and entrepreneurship – and now what I do is help experts, personal brands and thought leaders – but what I did was say, “Okay, I want to build a following. I want to build a fan base. I want to build connections. I want to build relationships. I want to turn this into an unbelievably cool business – a lifestyle business. But I’ve got no idea what to do.”
I didn’t have any existing fan base or connections, but I did have a track record in marketing. I worked for a hockey league that I had co-founded and different things like that, so I had some knowledge, but I didn’t necessarily have a fan base. So a lot of people said, well Troy not shockingly, you’ve got to start a blog. Get a blog going and do all that stuff and create content.
I said, “Well, I understand that. I want to create content. I want to blogging and all that stuff. I want to write.” But I was thinking of a way that could accelerate the process, if you will.
So I love blogging. Blogging’s amazing. I continue to do blogging as well. However, I realized, and don’t ask how I knew this, because I don’t have a good answer. It was more like an intuition. It was a gut, but now I know the answer, but I’m saying back then it was a gut.
I said “You know, it would be crazy if I called up people like Tim Ferriss or Seth Godin or emailed them and said ‘Hey, can I talk to you for one hour and you tell me everything you know?’” That would be crazy. That’s just not going to happen, okay?
But I said, “You know what? What if I created a show – and that’s the key four-letter word here – I would create a show, and its purpose was interviews with thought leaders, experts and people like that.”
What I would get from that is, number 1, I would get to learn. Number 2, I would make connections in the space and build relationships with these influencers and big people. And also, I was very confident that I could leverage these interviews to create a fan base far quicker than I could if I was “just blogging” by itself.
So that’s really where the idea came from. I was saying, “Okay, everyone’s going blogging right now or maybe even a little video blogging, but I want to do interviews. I want to have these authentic conversations with people and build the brand that way mixed in with blogging.” And that’s really how it all began.
Troy: Okay, that’s cool. You mentioned on a couple of things that I thought were really interesting there: the obsession with experts. I think that the choice of words you use there – obsession – is really interesting because I think that everybody that I know who has been extremely successful online or business in general, entrepreneurs of any level, all have a sort of obsession with what they do.
There’s a passion and a level of obsession, and I think that going after the experts is awesome because it just shortcuts the learning curve so much. So I think that you really struck gold right off the bat and I commend you for that because the business has just seen crazy growth over the past two or three years with your site so that’s incredible.
David: Yeah, it really has been. If you think about it, it’s almost like the perfect storm of content. We don’t need to go over how important is and showing your expertise and position and teaching people, right? However, people are going to say what are the keys to having an online business or a successful authority site or brand? You’re going to say you need a point of view, relationships with key people, awesome content, great products and all these different things, and interviews are that perfect storm. You can take a lot of those things and combine them into one. It’s just amazing what you can do with them.
Troy: Yeah, absolutely. Especially in the building relationships side because anybody knows that that is really the success to catapulting forward. It’s not the latest trick that you learn off of some $27 ebook, it’s not the latest tactic de jour. None of that is what really makes marketing successful. It’s the relationships. It’s the relationships that you have with your list and other people in the industry. And I think that’s really intriguing the way that the interviews leverage that because at the same time that you’re conducting that interview, you’re creating that relationship and getting your foot in the door for some other potential exposure down the road. So I think that’s great.
David: Absolutely, so important.
Troy: So let me tell you a little funny story here. I had this next question all lined out and you talk about the timing of things, it’s just hilarious. I was sitting there and doing a little prep work for the interview, and I was doing that, I get this alert in Outlook that I’ve got this new incoming email and I check it out, and lo and behold, it’s an auto-responder message from you yourself.
David: Oh, nice! What did I have to say for myself?
Troy: [laughs] Now, that’s the funny part. That’s the hilarious part. Because here I was going over the questions and one of the questions I was going to ask – and I’m not going to now, we’re going to skip it – but I was going to ask you what was one of the biggest mistakes that people make in this interview process and setting this all up. And it’s just hilarious because I open this email and here it is. It’s your second video introduction email for your CreatingAwesomeInterviews.com product, so I’ll give you a little plug there.
David: Oh, I appreciate it.
Troy: Yeah, no problem. So it was for video two where you’re talking about the top seven mistakes that are commonly made and I just started laughing because later on in the email, you go on to say “And the worst yet, this is probably the most common one I always get asked in my own interviews.” So we’re going to skip over that question, but I thought I’d mention it anyway because I thought it was kind of funny.
David: Yeah, by the way, I’m obsessed about giving away free cool stuff, so if you head over there, I’ve always got something cool. It might be a webinar, a four part video series, or a mini course. I’ve always got free stuff for you so check it out.
Troy: Cool. So how about this, man? I’m going to crank it up and I’m going to give you a tougher question now because you were kind of a smartass with me and you didn’t even know it. [laughs]
David: Yeah, perfect! And by accident! I was on auto-responder smartass. Hard to do.
Troy: Yeah, it’s pretty intuitive actually. So I know that I personally learn a lot from mistakes of others and hopefully try not to repeat those mistakes myself. I’m curious if you wouldn’t mind sharing with us and opening up a bit and tell us maybe some of the top two or three mistakes that you made when you were first launching your business and site. Things you hope that maybe others could avoid in doing the same process.
David: Yeah, great question. First and foremost – and you’re going to hear this, I guarantee you, over and over again so it’s one of those things where if you keep hearing it, pay attention – when I first started, I did not focus as much on an email list as I should have at all. I had an email signup, where you could subscribe via email to RSS and all these different things for the show and I don’t have to tell you that email is the most intimate form of currency. Period.
Troy: Yeah, absolutely.
David: I don’t care what anyone says on it, and you said this earlier when we were talking here, it’s that list and your relationship with the people on that list. It’s that simple.
So something that I would do a little bit differently if I would have gone back was really focus stronger on list building earlier on in 2008. I picked it up later on but there was a couple of years there where my list building probably wasn’t as strong as it needed to be.
So advice there for people who are thinking hey I want to do an authority site and dominate and maybe do interviews or whatever it might be, get those darn emails. And I’m not talking about opting in to see our free content. I’m talking about just encouraging people to sign up for your email list. There’s a lot of different ways you could go about that. That’s a whole other subject there.
Another one is hard to say that I would do differently. I’m not a big believer in going back and doing things differently, I’m a big believer in figuring things out as you go. That’s how you figure it out, you know what I mean?
Troy: Yeah, I personally don’t even support the concept of regret, personally. I think that we make the best informed decisions as we go and hindsight is always 20-20. You can always do things a little different, so yeah, I agree man.
David: Yeah, but it’s great because I get asked this question all the time too. This is a great question and I think the way that I always try to frame it in my brain when answering it is think “Okay, not that I could go back and review this, but what would I tell someone?” You know what I mean? Like don’t do this.
The other thing is that people struggle with not being specific enough with the direction of their expert brand, personal brand or thought leader brand, which is really what I focus on, and myself included. So early on, I started with entrepreneurship and marketing in general, and now it’s very specific where it’s focused on helping experts, personal brands and thought leaders, right? That’s exactly where its focus is, especially to dominate online. That’s a hundred percent where it’s focused, right?
And there were times when my brand was a little bit all over the place. I would interview a tech startup, then a corporate entrepreneur or something like that, then a physical product followed by a digital product. It was almost too wide early on. But that then allowed me to get narrower, meaning I figured out what I really liked and what the audience really liked and all those things combined. So the advice that I give to people when they think of adding an interview show to their content mix or into their sites is really the more specific you can niche down, the better that you’re going to be.
Right now, for example, what I do is interview experts, thought leaders and obviously personal brands, and I interview these people to share their tips, strategies and on their story of how they became who they became, like how they get traffic and all these different things. It took me a while to get to that point of being so specific. So that’s another piece of advice for people: just really see what you can hammer down and drill down a few levels.
Troy: Yeah, that’s great stuff. Especially the email stuff and it’s funny you say that because I did the exact same thing. Mike and I both in 2010, when we first launched the business, we didn’t even focus on email growth at all. It was a big mistake, so yeah, I definitely share that.
I think sometimes, and our business is a services-related business, you really get caught up in just running the business aspect as opposed to growing the business aspect. So yeah, I totally know where you’re coming from there.
And it’s great advice about getting real specific. I think that we all share that process because when we first get rolling, we’re trying to figure it out ourselves, like you said. It’s good to have that wide net so that you can narrow it down, but at the same time, the quicker you can define who you are, what you are and who your audience and demographic is, the quicker you’re going to get that message to them for sure.
David: Very true, and it’s all an evolution so it’s good stuff.
Troy: One of the other things we teach in this course is about how to be prolific in your marketing and it’s something that you’re extremely good at. You’ve got your name and brand out there everywhere with major news networks and highly respected publications like The Wall Street Journal and when we see accolades like that, I know that the common reaction is just “Wow, that’s just way beyond what I could do.”
But you and I both know it starts with some single actions and growing it over time with a lot of dedication and devotion there, and I’m just wondering if you can remember one specific decision or action that you took that broke you out of that comfort zone and really started you to build up that exposure.
David: That’s a great question. Yeah, you know there are a couple of interesting things is that media exposure is important. There are a lot of different ways to market and promote. There are many, many different ways, and media exposure is one of the very interesting buckets, especially if you’re bringing people into your site and hopefully getting them on your list.
So for me, there were a couple of interesting ones. One of the bigger ones was a New York Times article. It was a funny thing how that happened. I was on Help a Reporter, the free email service where they send out three emails a day with reporters looking for stories. They’ll say, “We need someone to be speaking on this.” Now realize at the time I was really focusing strong on online marketing for entrepreneurs. I hadn’t gotten as specific as I am now, but online marketing for entrepreneurs was still pretty darn specific, right?
So I saw a query from a reporter, if you will. It didn’t say who it was from or anything, it just said “Hey, someone’s doing an article. They’re looking for people who are solid with online marketing entrepreneurs.” And so on.
So I emailed the article and it ended up being for a New York Times article that they were working on. What happened was I actually did not get quoted in that article. They were like, “Oh you know, we can’t really use you for this.”
So I was like, fine, but I realized I have a show and a lot of people that I’ve interviewed and if you need other people for quotes that I know, I’ve got a pretty good network that I’m developing right now of entrepreneurs. So if you need an entrepreneur for something, come back to me and I’m happy to set up a connection.
What happens there is you start going from story-pitching guy to a trusted resource for that reporter and what happened was then that reporter came back. I sent a few people over there, there were a few stories done, and then later on, she came back to me, did a big piece and mentioned my book and a lot of different things that were in The New York Times.
The lesson there, if you will, is not only paying attention to opportunities that you can pitch yourself, but also viewing yourself as a gateway for traditional media to reach other people that you’ve connected to or influence. I think that’s a good way to look at building some media exposure over time.
Troy: Yeah, that’s a very interesting tactic and I think that it really comes down to the fundamental issue of providing value and giving first and looking to put something into a relationship. I think that is so fundamental to the whole online success process.
Here you are, you’ve got this response back and you’re thinking, “Oh crap, I’m not going to get the interview. They don’t want to use me.” I think 9 out of 10 people would just say okay, whatever, and not even respond back. But to take it to the next step and say “You know what? Maybe I can see how I can help this person out and who knows what it’s going to turn into.”
I think that’s a terrific approach and something that I see in all the great marketers. Ryan Lee is definitely like that. He just goes out of his way to see how he can help. I think that when we approach stuff that way, it’s just amazing what kind of doors open up for us.
David: Yeah, and you could really deal with anything. I think the key is that as you gain experience doing this, building your site , reputation, credibility and all that stuff, you can start to have a better understanding of what people’s motivations are as you go in. How can you help people very specifically?
With reporters, it’s helping them with a story, possibly getting them sources and saving them a bunch of time going through a bunch of crappy ones. For an authority figure or someone that you’re trying to get an interview, talk or connection with, you have to immediately think “What can I do to help this person right away. Can I promote their books? Can I promote their products? Can I do something?”
I don’t care how big it is. It’s just trying to do the best of your capacity. I don’t care if your list is ten people. If you say to someone with genuine intentions that you’re going to help promote their whatever to those people, that’s how you build relationships.
There’s always a give opportunity that you can do. It’s just finding where that is with each person. I think that’s the trick, if you will.
Troy: Yeah, absolutely. And not only that, I also think finding it within your own repertoire of skills as well. Because I think a lot of people when they’re first getting started think they don’t have anything they can contribute, but there are so many different ways that you can provide value, even when you’re just starting out to help somebody else in exchange for an interview or offer to provide services to them that you offer. There are so many other things that you can do to break the ice and I think a lot of people miss that because they put themselves in a position that they’re really not in. Yeah, I totally second what you just said there.
David: Yeah, totally agree.
Troy: All right, so here’s a random thought of the day question here for you. What’s going on out there in technology and internet promotion stuff that you see right now that’s really piqued your interest? Something you’re not into yet but are curious about?
David: Oh man, that’s a good question. Let’s see. Something that I’m not quite into, and it’s not new per se, but it’s new to me – meaning I haven’t done it personally – so the next thing for me is doing continuity program or a membership site. That’s something.
I’m all about diversifying income. It’s a big thing. I’ve got products, services and other different things like that, but doing a membership site is something that is very important on the radar screen right now that I really am paying attention to.
Honestly, for me Troy I don’t try to be that prolific. I don’t necessarily try to predict what is coming next in marketing, internet marketing or anything like that. I want to pay more attention to what’s going on.
And Gary Vaynerchuk taught me this a long time ago from Wine Library TV and he said he wants to be like a linebacker. He wants to read and react. He doesn’t necessarily want to be the quarterback and set the plays. That’s how I feel.
So for example when I have a product that’s coming out or something new, I want to check in and see what are other people doing that I trust and know well? What are they doing to promote their products right now? Is it webinars? Is it a video series? What’s going on?
I don’t necessarily want to be the person to say hey, I’m going to make up this new method and go for it. It’s just not necessarily one of my interests. I want to see what’s going on more and then see if that fits into my model. That’s always been my mantra for building the brand.
Troy: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really smart. I think one of the things a lot of people have this conception that it’s a million dollar idea, and we all have these ideas that could easily be million dollar ideas, but it’s really not about that. It’s about taking action and making it all happen. So it’s the refinement and that process of analysis and looking to something else rather than trying to go out there and be the next Facebook. Just look at how you can go out and create something that you can take consistent action and build up over time. I think that makes a lot of sense.
David: Yeah, it’s all about execution. At the end of the day, that’s what it is.
Troy: Absolutely. All right, David, I really appreciate your time here and if you’ve got just a couple more minutes, I’d love to ask you one final question for us today.
David: Absolutely. Happy to help.
Troy: Okay, cool. I think many of us get held back, or to be more appropriate, probably hold ourselves back by self-imposed limitations or just false beliefs that prevent us from taking our business and life to that next level. Successful entrepreneurs have mastered that. That’s one thing that you see time and time again.
As you look back on your own rise to the top, and that’s clearly what you’ve been on for the last few years, can you perhaps tell us what the biggest surprise is that you’ve maybe had to unlearn. Something that you used to believe that was holding you back and had to let go of in order to take your game up to the next level.
David: Oh, that’s a great question. Gosh, honestly, one key one was on monetizing. When it comes to monetizing your website, there are a lot of people who see it as a religion. It depends on how you want to look at it, whether you want to start with a product or a business, it doesn’t matter. You can start with a business or develop one later. It doesn’t matter.
Whatever it is, people with their monetization are very religious about it. They want to promote it to you. They want to say, “Oh, you have to monetize this way. You have to do a coaching program. You have to do a speaking program. You have to do this. You have to do that.”
And early on, I was like, there are too many options. I don’t know if I want to do this or that. What I’ve realized is that there is a monetization business model for really any person. And you don’t have to do everything. You also don’t have to make money in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, whatever that might be. So maybe you just don’t want to speak for a fee. That is just not up your alley. Well, you don’t have to.
There are plenty of ways that you can monetize or successfully run your business sales-wise without feeling you had to sell your soul to the devil or something like that. That was one of the key things that I realized. You don’t have to listen to everyone about how they monetize their stuff. Learn from the people that you admire the most then go from there and not worry about what anybody else is doing. That was one of the key things.
The other thing is, and when I was younger especially, I thought that business had to be a very specific way. I thought it was very corporate. I thought it was suit and tie. I thought it was cubicles and all these things.
Even when I got into the entrepreneurship space, I thought it was all about raising money, hiring a bunch of people and doing all of those things. One of the things that I learned and had to unlearn was that there is another tribe of entrepreneurs that I’m very proudly part of and also teach, mentor and inspire. Those are the personal brands, experts and thought leaders – these people who are building online empires with a very small team.
They might be working from home, wearing whatever they want, and traveling wherever they want. There are all these amazing things, and I think that our education system almost needs to help promote these other tribes of entrepreneurs as well. So I think that was another thing I had to learn over time.
Troy: Yeah, that’s really neat that you touched on that last point in your closing there about our education system because I couldn’t agree more on that. I think our education system is so outdated. We teach people to be good workers and pursue a dream of working for IBM and getting a pension after being there for 30 years that hasn’t been valid for 30 years.
I think that’s a really good point. I’m glad to see you echo that. I think there’s a lot that we can do, and as a responsibility as a dad, I have a fourteen year old son, a seven year old daughter and a two year old daughter so clearly, as a dad, that’s an important thing in my life: how to teach my children how to put their life on their own terms. And that’s really what you just got through saying, I think.
David: Yeah absolutely, and I think as long as you don’t let those limitations of what you think business, entrepreneurship or blogging or whatever the topic is, just think is this actually what it is? And there’s always a better path out there I think. I think that’s just important to take away.
Troy: Yeah, I was trying to remember there was a gentleman who I was listening to speak and I cannot remember who said this but it was just one of those things that stuck with me forever.
He said, “One of the best ways you can define who you are and what you’re about is by not defining what you would do, but what you wouldn’t do for money.”
And the first one on his list was he wouldn’t wear a suit for money. That was his rule. You know, he had come out of the corporate world and he’d had enough, and that defined him. I thought that was a really interesting way of looking at it.
David: I love it. I totally agree with it too.
Troy: Yeah. All right, man. Hey, I got one idea for you for episode number 500 on The Rise to the Top, all right?
David: Yeah, okay. [laughs]
Troy: So you’re a way’s away, I understand that, but you’re already in the 300s so this is one you can plan for. I’m thinking it would be totally awesome to have David Siteman Garland interviewing David Siteman Garland for episode number 500 at that benchmark point on your own personal rise to the top. [laughs]
David: Nice, that’s funny. You never know. You never know what’s going to happen by then so I appreciate the insight on that for sure.
Troy: All right, man. Hey, thank you so much for joining us. I know you’re a busy guy and I really appreciate it so thanks again. We’ll talk to you soon. I look forward to seeing you there at Ryan’s event when we speak on the stage. That’ll be a lot of fun.
David: It’s going to be great. Thanks so much, Troy. I hope everyone enjoys this content and good luck with everything you’re doing as well.
Troy: All right, thank you man.