Quick Disclaimer: If this is the first time you’ve read something I’ve written, then know this: I don’t write to please or have you become a fan of my writing. I write to share with you what I know gets results. I show you what to do and how to do it. I’m writing with this purpose in mind. If you are looking to get lost in a story of inspiration, pick up a Dickens novel- he’s good at that.
If you have a podcast or are thinking of starting one, being ignored is probably one of your biggest fears. I know it was mine. A podcast is A LOT of work. The planning, the scripting, the recording, the editing- the whole production takes a lot of time and effort. And doing it with that sinking feeling that no one will listen to your show, makes it that much harder.
Doubt will kill your podcast but so will not having a plan of action. This is what this post is about- a plan of action. Our plan of action. The one we implemented with our podcast, The $100 MBA Show. A podcast that has seen more success than even our closest friends and family ever thought we’d achieve. What kind of success you may ask?
This part of this post is particularly hard for me to write. I need to share the specifics of the success of our podcast so if any of them match your meaning of success, then you’ll have reason to keep reading. I need to impress you (brag), so I can impress upon you that what I’m about to teach you works. So let me get this over with and if you are still with me afterwards, I promise it will be worth your patience. Let the bragging begin:
- Apple chose The $100 MBA Show as an iTunes Best of 2014 podcast.
- When The $100 MBA Show launched on iTunes, it held the #1 spot in Business’s New & Noteworthy for 5 straight weeks. An almost incredible feat given we launched during the same time as hit shows like Startup from This American Life’s Alex Blumburg.
- As of December 2014, the show gets over 14,000 daily listeners.
- The show receives an average of 10 genuine iTunes reviews a week ( we love you).
- We figured out a way to have a daily podcast with out hating the grind of it. It’s a lot of work. A LOT. But I enjoy my work and not everyone can honestly say that. Even many entrepreneurs.
- We never had to contact a sponsor. Sponsors came after us.
- In less than 4 months we reached over 1 million downloads. Something that can take many successful podcasts a year to do.
- Doors have opened. People that ignored us last year are reaching out to us to collaborate. All of sudden we matter. I’m still unsettled by this one.
- Our business tripled in growth since the launch of the podcast.
- We made so many great, real friends with both our guest teachers and listeners of the show.
Ok, that’s over. But seriously, if any of those things are things you value, things you would like for your own podcasting experience, then keep reading. Beans will be spilt. I’m sharing the very best lessons I learned along the way and showing you how you can craft a podcast with meaningful results.
I should take this moment to say that this post is not for someone who is looking to start a podcast as a hobby project with no real regard for how well it will be received by its audience. If you’re creating a podcast for you, and you alone, then here is an interesting video you can watch instead. If you are still reading (and not watching that video) then let’s begin!
What’s the point?
Why are you creating a podcast? If you already have one, why do keep working on it? What are you doing? Really, I’m asking what the heck are you doing? What’s the point of all this work? What are you trying to achieve? What’s the end goal?
Answering this question, asked in several different ways, is CRITICAL to your success. I begin with this question because if you can’t clearly answer this question, there is no reason to move forward. Answer this question right now. And “I’m doing this to have a hit podcast” is not an answer. Why do you want a hit podcast? What are you looking to achieve with that success?
For us, the answer to this question was: The point of The $100 MBA Show is to consistently serve our audience generously. So generously they fall madly in love with us. Only then can we continue to serve them in other ways. Those other ways may be for free or for a price, but the point is I’m trying to earn the opportunity to delight them all over again. You see, that’s what we do. That’s what a business is by the way.
After answering this question it became clear to us that The $100 MBA Show was going to be our business’s most important product (more about why I call it a product later). The podcast was going to be where people decide to trust us or trash us.
Once you answer this question, you’ll realize what creating a podcast really means for you and this post just got a whole lot more interesting.
Why your show? Why you?
Why does your market NEED your show? Why should anyone care? There are over 300,000 podcasts on iTunes, why you? Why don’t I just listen to the tried and true top podcasts in your category?
If you are an interview podcast, why would I listen to your podcast when I can hear all of your guest’s stories on any number of other podcasts? What is your differentiator? Are you really that entertaining or funny? What do you bring to the table that others out there don’t?
I mentioned earlier that doubt can kill your podcast but doubts can also raise profound questions that need answering. Hence the direct questions above. If you can provide honest answers to those questions, then you’ve taken control and are on your way to a meaningful show.
Answering these questions will ground you and force you to focus on using your strengths. For me, I’m not the best interviewer. I’m not nearly as witty as I think I am. But I know how to teach. I can confidently say I can teach the pants off anyone in the podcasting world (not that I would want to do that literally- it sounds so creepy when it’s written out). I am a trained educator. I did it for over 13 years. I know how to put a lesson together and ensure learning is actually taking place. With these years of experience, I can break down complex ideas and convey them into digestible short chunks. I realized that this is the best thing I can offer to the podcasting space and knew I had make it a part of the show.
Your Audience is The Show
Without an audience, there is no show. It’s kinda like that old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest there is no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?” Your listeners make your show matter, they make it exist. That was huge, so let me say that again. Your listeners make your show matter, they make it exist. If your audience loves your show and listens to it faithfully then you got a successful show on your hands. Everything else doesn’t matter.
Focus on giving your listeners what they want. Study what they are dying for and give it to them. Don’t waste their time with anything other than that. They may not be giving you money to listen to your podcast but they are giving you their time, so don’t waste it. Too many podcasters get caught up doing things they think are necessary when in fact, it’s just filler. If a listener wouldn’t care for it, cut it out of your show. If your show is exactly what your listeners have been looking for, they’ll share it with everyone they know would feel the same. How’s that for a marketing strategy to gain targeted audience members?
Not sure what your next episode should be about? Ask your audience what they are struggling with. That’s the show- serving your audience with what they want or need. Where do your ideas or innovation come into play? That’s all in the delivery.
Take a look at our list of episodes. Every single one of them comes from a need or want our audience expressed. Why would I go through the pain of guessing what my listeners want to listen to or learn? I read blog post comments, Amazon book reviews and forum entries. Google “your market” + blog, i.e. wedding photography blog and read what your audience is dying to understand or master.
A Podcast as a Product
A podcast in my opinion is too large of an undertaking to be approached as a side project. Even if your podcast only publishes once a week. You must approach your podcast like it’s a product you are selling in your business. Instead of selling your product in exchange for money, you’re exchanging it for listenership. Or what I prefer to call, trust.
Like a product you should have a launch plan in place. Launching properly is particularly important with a podcast given iTunes’s 8 weeks of New & Noteworthy. In your first 8 weeks, iTunes gives you the opportunity to earn a spot in their primely located New & Noteworthy section, where you can gain plenty of exposure.
If you want to take a look at the launch plan we implemented for The $100 MBA Show, check out this blog post I wrote for The Productivityist. Oh, and that post I wrote, was a part of the launch itself.
My friend and fellow podcaster Michael O’Neal from the Solopreneur Hour podcast introduced me to this term- Prodcaster. It’s a morphing of the words broadcaster and podcaster, and the point is to strive to be a pro. Bring your “A” game because all the top podcasters are. Some of the biggest radio networks and shows have moved to the podcasting platform and they come with a wealth of production experience. They ain’t playing around.
Get serious about production. I’m lucky enough to have Nicole Baldinu, my business partner and the President of Business Republic Media. She produces all of our media including The $100 MBA Show. The show sounds the way it sounds because of Nicole and quality sound really matters with a podcast. Having a great production is what takes you from a good podcast to a great one.
Invest in a quality mic. Take a some voice lessons. Yes, voice lessons. I did. And rehearse. I never record a show cold. I rehearse the show a few times before recording and often do more than one take of sections of the show for Nicole to choose from when she’s editing. Some might say, that rehearsing makes one sound fake and winging it is the way to go. I personally disagree. I used to say that to myself but got real and acknowledged it was my justification for being lazy. It’s not about the material. You may know the material well, but do you know how to deliver that material effectively? The point of rehearsing is to know the delivery of the material so well that it becomes natural.
Your podcast is a product, remember? So the same rules of a product’s branding come into play with your podcast. Is your brand being presented consistently on your show, the show page and show’s cover art? Are you consistent about your messaging? Are there some forms of consistency with your show’s format?
In every episode I welcome our listeners with a outrageous business-centric catch phrase, introduce myself and The $100 MBA and then tell listeners what they will learn today. Every episode. But it stays fresh because the content differs every time- different catch phrase, different lesson to be learned.
Make your show your own. We didn’t want some cookie cutter, gimmicky theme music for our show. So we reached out to Matt Giovanisci, one of the most creative people I know, to create our theme song. The song is an icon of show and if you are a listener of the show, you probably hear it playing it your head right now.
Have a clean and esthetically pleasing cover art. Avoid clutter and hard to read messages at all costs. Your cover art should inspire people to click and learn more. Here a few of my favorite cover arts that do the job very well.
Your Biggest Challenge
Staying focused and consistent is going to be your biggest challenge ahead. Once you launch, your audience will have an expectation. An expectation of quality and consistency. Having a publishing schedule can help tremendously. This can just be a Google calendar with your publishing dates scheduled in.
Publishing your episodes has to be treated as a “can’t miss” task, like walking your dog or taking medication. You simply have to do it. No questions about it.
Always have a buffer. Be at least two weeks ahead. You don’t want to be chained to your mic. We dedicate two days a week to The $100 MBA Show where we batch record and edit all our episodes. We get 8-9 episodes done in those two days because that’s all we do during those days. By simply only focusing on the podcast on these two days allows us to concentrate on creating the best show we possibly can.
If you don’t want to be ignored then you need to be worth being paid attention to. At the end of the day when people ask me why the The $100 MBA Show has done so well, I can only reply, “It’s a good show.” There is no getting around that. At the end of the day, if you want any level of success, your actual content must be valuable.
Your show has to be serving your audience in a significant way. It has be doing that in a way that is professional and entertaining. It has be done consistently. This is the secret to the success of any podcast. No one seems to be saying this in our space. I’m not sure why. I guess I just started that conversation right now.
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