James Schramko has been podcasting for a decade. Charley Valher helps people with their podcasts for a living. Both have learned lessons along the way that they could have used when starting out.
In this specially-requested episode, James and Charley share what they wish they'd known. Listen in and set out on your podcast journey several times wiser than they were.
02:24 – Nine years and several podcasts ago…
04:22 – The trouble with co-hosts
08:36 – Working with others and who does what
11:59 – What is the payoff you’re after?
16:34 – A fiercer field of competition
19:48 – It’s more than knowing what to talk about
22:49 – Being an artist versus making money
28:17 – Just how important is promotion?
30:56 – They don’t have to listen on your platform
33:18 – Why an email list deserves focus
34:56 – A podcast is not a sales tool
37:06 – Owning your podcasting racecourse
39:10 – What’s your podcasting host of choice?
40:20 – Podcast sites and SEO value
42:02 – Making your show share-worthy
44:15 – The bare minimum equipment you need
46:51 – Playing for the long game
Gain a sharp content marketing edge with James’s help
Hear from James and Charley in person at SuperFastBusiness Live 2020
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 707. And in this episode, I’ll be reflecting on what I wish I knew when I’d started a podcast. This is a special request episode – a member of our community, Scott Desgrosseilliers from Wicked Reports, sent me this exact question because he’s starting his podcast. And I thought I’d bring along a special guest, Charley Valher from ValherMedia.com, to share his list, because he’s helping businesses set up podcasts on a regular basis and also fine tune and grow them. So he’s really been interested in this. We’ve had him as a previous guest on the show, and we’ve always had tremendous feedback from the episodes. In fact, Charley, the last episode we did inspired a few of my clients to start a podcast, so this will be a really relevant episode for us.
Charley: The same thing I felt as well, James. And people came to me and asked questions about the podcast we did, like, quite a few, which is delightful. I was thrilled to hear people were starting to think about it. So, very excited.
Nine years and several podcasts ago…
James: Perfect. So, for me, just for context, it’s a long time since I set up my podcasts. The quick story is, a fellow by the name of Timbo Reid had a very successful podcast in Australia called Small Business Big Marketing. I was a guest on his show. And when I was invited to be on his podcast, I didn’t really know what that meant. I knew they were recording it from a radio studio, but I didn’t know if it was live or pre-recorded. But they guided me through it. I was a guest on the show. It was pre-recorded; it had really high quality for the sound values. It went out to air, and we had an affiliate offer to sell some of my DVDs. And it sold really well.
And Tim approached me after that, and he said, “Hey, Jimmy… Jimmy James,” that’s what he calls me, “would you like to do a podcast together?” And I said, “Sure.” And we started Freedom Ocean. And it’s still up there on iTunes, you can go and check it out. And we ran that podcast for several years. It was an amazing podcast. But he sent me over how to set up a podcast. I gave it to my team, and we figured out how to configure the plugin that goes on WordPress, it was PodPress, Blubrry PodPress, or something to that effect. And we set up our hosting with Amazon S3. And we started broadcasting FreedomOcean. And we also came up with a jingle, and it had a specific format where we’d go through. So that was really my introduction to it.
Now, after doing that, I retrocast my then podcast called Internet Marketing Speed, where I already had audio interviews, but I hadn’t put them on iTunes. So I retro-submitted it, and it backdated all the episodes, which is a good tip. If you’ve got audio and you haven’t been on iTunes, you can actually make it appear as if you’ve been there for a lot longer.
And so then I changed Internet Marketing Speed into SuperFastBusiness a few years later. I started several other spin-off podcasts. I had Think Act Get with Ezra Firestone; we also did the jingles and the special segments. We had Kicking Back with Joel Ozborn, and I had Sales Marketing Profit with Taki Moore. So I had all these podcasts going, and they were great.
The trouble with co-hosts
Over time, the co-hosts didn’t work out the way that I had hoped for the long, long run, with Timbo finding other focuses and, eventually, not really enjoying the premise where he was the guy asking the questions, and I had all the answers. And you can only do that for so long, until you probably should know the answers. And I’m pleased to announce we will be recording some more content with Tim.
Ezra just got really busy. I mean, he built his empire from a few hundred thousand into a $65-million empire, and his energy had to go to where it needed to go. But we’re going to record a podcast soon, another Think Act Get episode, that’s coming up shortly. So that’ll be a great rerun.
And then Sales Marketing Profit with Taki, again, Taki went on a global tour, and it became a little bit difficult for us to schedule calls.
And then with Joel, Joel’s always traveling around as well. So I picked co-hosts who had a little less availability than I did.
So I’ve just doubled down on SuperFastBusiness. We do two podcast episodes a week. This is one of them. I don’t really have a show jingle other than the intro and the outro. And I don’t do a specific format. That’s obvious to the public. And we don’t have sponsors either. So we’re a little bit unusual there. We still use the same setup that I’d learned from Tim all those years ago. We’re still on Amazon S3. And we still make a lot of sales. And if you look at the time period of the first episodes to now, it’s spanning about 10 years. So that’s my little intro. Charley, why don’t you give us a little tour of your podcast backstory so we know where we’re at?
Charley: What a journey, James. And I think I’ve listened to all of those podcasts. I remember Sales Marketing Profit, particularly at a time in my life it was really beneficial. But I think the thing that’s really interesting there is, or pointing out, that you probably wish you knew earlier, is that co-hosts can be unreliable for the long game, like having a co-host can actually be really difficult. And if you’re considering that, maybe hear this story.
James: Well, I mean, if it happened once, you’d say, okay, small scenario. You know, I think the one with Tim and I, that changed dynamic for a couple of reasons. In his case, he was doing a lot of keynote presentations at the time. Fair enough. But I think the real challenge there was two, underlying. One was, it came at a time when I transitioned away from an affiliate program, and that show used to carry affiliate links for Tim, and it was financially beneficial for him. And me, I was making sales. So we were both making sales, but a lot of my own customers were recycling back through the show and then buying and then I was sending affiliate commission. So it seemed inefficient for me. That’s one of the things that led to me not having an affiliate program, aside from other things like brand aggregation, fraud and theft, and administration hassles. So there’s a few grenade of things that caused me to not have the affiliate program. But then it didn’t work out so well for Tim. So if you do have a co-host, it has to work out for both parties.
The other thing with Tim was the premise. The premise set it up where Timbo had all the questions, James had all the answers. And I think that made it a little bit hard after a couple of years. Like, he’s constantly having to play the character of the guy who doesn’t know the answer, on behalf of the audience, but he probably did know a lot of the answers, and, you know, he had to sort of drop down a level. And he didn’t want to be the dummy anymore, and I totally understand that. So that was a difficult premise.
“Make sure the premise is sustainable.”
So, a couple of things we’ve already identified. One is, I didn’t get started on iTunes until afterwards, until someone externally prompted me to do it. I could have done it earlier. So I was a bit slow to start. Two, if you have a co-host, you’re going to have to check that it works for both of you in terms of scheduling, availability, and that your goals are matched. And the third point is the premise. Make sure the premise is sustainable. So the premise with Ezra and I was totally sustainable, but his availability was not. An interesting thing with the Taki podcast, it probably worked really, really well for Taki, because he got introduced to my audience. I didn’t end up with too many of his customers, but he ended up with a lot of my customers. So I think the scales were tipped a little bit out of balance, and the person with a very strong sales and marketing front will capture the energy from a podcast. And I think that was probably Taki, not me in that case. So, very interesting points so far. Tell me about how you got started in podcasting, Charley.
Working with others and who does what
Charley: Some great points, James. And some similarities. My first show had a co-host. And what was really challenging in that environment? Well, for me, in this example, he was working with the travel schedule. This person did so much more travel than I did. So I often felt like, in some weeks, it was like, we were just trying to cram it in. We were trying to make the best of it.
James: I know you’re quite particular, you’re a fussy cat, aren’t you?
Charley: We’ll call it a regimented cat.
James: You’re systemized. You show up early, everything works, every box is ticked, you’re a cross the T’s, dot the I’s systems guy, and I imagine cramming is not in your vocab.
Charley: Even one of the dynamics of how we used to record – if we were going to make a podcast episode, I would probably spend an hour before it preparing and making sure that I was happy with my content and my points and what we were going to be covering, where this other party, while they were very good off the cuff, was probably less prepared. But that’s how they made great content. So a lot of interesting things I learned in that experience, in like, the ways people record is different. And the way people like to work is different. One’s not better or worse. But if you’re working with another party, you’ve got to make sure that they gel up really well. And I think that’s particularly important if you’re going to be, I suppose, co-hosting a podcast together.
James: Yeah, that was an interesting one. Like in my case, Tim used to prepare the episode topics.
Ezra used to prepare the show notes before we recorded, and he was really good at it. But then when he got really, really busy with work, it became harder for him to do.
Taki, he’s very good at drawing out a one-page case study and mapping it out quickly. He’s excellent at those diagrams and turning intellectual property into concepts. And he also provided a good framework for the case study podcasts that we had, which were, by the way, some of the most effective selling podcasts ever known to man. That format works great. And if you go and listen to those episodes, you’ll see how they used real customers, real examples. Just proof on proof on proof.
But in all of those cases, my partners were the ones preparing, and I was the one doing the production. So we would take the finished recording, and my team would edit, top, tail, format, ID tag, artwork, upload, manage the sites, do the plugins and all that stuff. So we did all the tech and systems, and my co-hosts were doing the show note prep. And that worked really well for us, because I could pay my team to do the stuff that had to get done. And I’m probably more suited to things that happen in real time than deep, deep preparation, just because I cover a lot of ground and I can move quickly. And I’m not the type to sit down and spend one hour planning a podcast. It’s just not the way that I work.
Charley: Well, it’s just another unique style, and the way that works best for you. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong option. But I think you need to be aware of how you like to work.
James: Well, if you both not prepare is, it’s going to suck. That’s really the point here. At least one of you should be good at the prep. And one of you should be good at the post production, or get someone else to do it. Do you know anyone who prepares and syndicates podcasts, Charley?
Charley: I might know a guy. I might.
James: We’re joking here. Charley does that for a living at ValherMedia.com. So if you’re listening to this, and you get all inspired to start a podcast or you’ve already got a podcast, but you’re struggling, then if that’s the friction point in you getting to market, no longer. That can be solved quickly.
So what else did you discover? You had someone who was fairly unavailable and was causing you to have to cram the process. What else happened?
What is the payoff you’re after?
Charley: Well, I think one of the things I looked at with podcasting is like, I had an experience where I noticed that podcasts were influencing my buying decisions. I noticed that if I was listening to podcasts, that I was buying the books that they recommended; I was looking at the products and services they recommended; I was buying from these providers. And then when I went on a podcast as a guest, I had the easiest couple of sales I think I’ve ever made in my life.
James: So podcasts convert well.
Charley: Hugely. So I was feeling this impact of like, desire to have my own podcast so I could replicate more of that. I wanted to be influencing people on, you know, what books they should buy, or potentially buying my products and services, or having that effect in a way on other people. And it made a huge difference.
So from there, I started a show. And I’m going to highlight some points along the way. I started a show with a friend with all the best intentions. We had a great time doing it. We really, really did. But looking back now, I very much know, we started with vague goals. We started with no real end in mind of what it needed to look like for it to be a success for each of us. And I wish we had spent more time on that, because it would have had a huge, huge difference in probably what we focused on. So a vague start and vague goals on what we wanted from the podcast; we just kind of thought it was going to have some benefits.
James: So why did you start it, if you didn’t have a very clear intention?
Charley: It was interesting. It was to have those effects I mentioned earlier. So I was kind of vaguely wanting to make more sales; I was vaguely wanting to be persuasive and generate leads. It’s because I wanted to be seen as an expert. Like, I wanted these things and vaguely addressed them, but didn’t necessarily take those goals and then turn it into, this is what I need to have in a podcast to actually produce that. We just kind of got started and hoped that would happen.
“What does success look like when this podcast is going well?”
James: Right. So the advice you’re giving someone if they’re thinking about a podcast is, like, pull out a piece of paper or a spreadsheet or a whiteboard and write down, like, what’s the point of this podcast? What is the primary reason we’re doing this? What would be a great outcome? What does success look like when this podcast is going well? How will we be able to tell? I think that’s probably leaning on some Dan Sullivan stuff there. But I like thinking about the outcome in advance, starting with the end in mind.
Like, for me, when we looked at all our traffic sources, all our conversion sources, and whenever I asked or polled my audience, where they found out about me, it’s just podcast, podcast, podcast, podcast. The podcast is a wonderful education tool. It’s to educate, motivate, inform people and lead them to the point where you’ve done a full demonstration, they know, like and trust you, and they’re ready to take the next step if they feel that the stuff you’re talking about is right in their wheelhouse.
Charley: Yeah, on point. I’m a big fan of Dan Sullivan as well. I love some of his work
James: I like that – I love some of his work. Not all of it.
Charley: Not all, but some of it.
James: I found the course, I have a lot of physical folders. I just did one year, I’ve got four massive folders with about, I don’t know, dozens of different fill-in-the-blank templates and sheets. It was a bit clunky. And I think it’s definitely good for people who are extremely poor with their time management or focus and need some help, especially if they’re in a physical office, like a financial planner. I think a lot of the tools and systems we’ve been using online are already pretty good. So that was interesting. But there are some terrific tools in there. One of the things that they do is they’ve got a tool called WinStreak. And I have, independently, for the last seven years now, been updating what I’ve done every day, publicly in SilverCircle, actually. And you see that, Charley. And I found that to be a tremendous benefit. But that’s nothing to do with podcast. So let’s get back on the topic.
With the podcast you had with the co-host, you realized it was a bit vague and mushy. Were you in the right market? Did you have the right show premise? Were you getting an audience? These things probably started to pile up on you.
Charley: Well, I mean you just touched on and twisted a few knives in different spots there. So I’ll go a little bit deeper.
James: I just got a new knife set, too, Japanese steel. So I hope you’re not too wounded. Maybe I know the challenges that come with podcast. It’s not exactly on the mark, right? You know, we’re surrounded by podcasters in my community. And these things come up all the time. And I’ve been a victim of the premise; I’ve been a victim of the difficult co-host availability. I’ve not been a victim of the too-rushed, because that suits me. Although I will say, if I do prepare, and I put more effort into something, it’s always better. There’s no doubt about that. The prep will make it better.
A fiercer field of competition
And I’d say that in the time I’ve been podcasting, it’s most certainly gotten fierce for competition. And you really have to be better than you needed to be three to five years ago, or seven years ago, or eight or nine years ago, or 10 years ago. I mean, I used to be in, like, the top five in the Australian iTunes charts all the time. I think I’m in the top 50 now, or even the top hundred. There’s just so many people podcasting that you have to be better to stand out.
Charley: Well, I think you just nailed something there that is very relevant, on the idea that podcasting has become a lot more competitive. There are a lot more podcasts, and leaning into that is there’s always room at the top. So if you are going to have a podcast, like, I think you should be aiming to create something great in your segment or in your niche. Like, going into this with being average, or being like every other show, is probably not going to lead to the results you want. That’s something I see commonly.
James: You know what I’ve said to people on a regular basis, when they’re talking about, you know, I’m going to start a podcast. I say to them, “Listen, please just use your iPhone and make daily videos for a while first. Just start with that. Just get up and running. It’s much faster, easier, lower barrier to entry. You will get a result. People want to consume videos. Just start with that. If you can dial that in and get that cooking and you’ve run out of bandwidth on the short video thing, by all means go for a longer-form podcast with the bigger setup and production costs and higher values.”
“A podcast is a commitment.”
I think it’s, in terms of dominoes, it’s much easier to get going with short videos than to start with a podcast. A podcast is a commitment (there’s a tweetable – my team will probably pull it out). Starting a podcast is a commitment. It’s a time, energy and financial commitment. If you get it right and it rolls big, it will be all you need to generate you as many sales as you want, as it has been for me. This is the single most reliable conversion source in my catchment, because I figured out how I can get paid to talk, which is my dream come true, really. And it’s so leveraged. A couple of hours a week, like, less than two hours a week of my time, generates my whole business. And I think that’s very hard to find that kind of leverage anywhere.
Charley: That’s just one of the attractive features. And that’s certainly something that drew me to podcasting as well, is the leverage. I think it’s very high leverage. And I do agree – for a lot of people, doing short videos may be a better option for them because they’re not, let’s say, prepared for the long game, or the schedule or the amount of recording or things they may have to learn. Short videos, it’s a much quicker path. You can be up and running in a couple of days, or a day even, depending on what you’ve got. With podcasting, it can take more time to get that traction, more time to get used to it, so to speak.
James: Okay, so we’re listening to this, we’re thinking about a podcast, or we just started one. And we’re already like, ‘Okay, gee, I gotta make sure I’ve got the right premise; I’ve got a co-host that’s available; we have to figure out who does the prep, who does the set up and the post-podcast.’ I mean, there’s a lot of post-podcast options now. And you’ve definitely delved into this. Like, it’s not just publish a podcast on the blog. Now you can syndicate the podcast; you can buy traffic to the podcast; you can pair off opt-ins and cheat sheets per podcasts. I mean all these things are happening in your ecosystem; a lot of them are happening in mine, going beyond just the recording.
It’s more than knowing what to talk about
I think when people think of a podcast, they’re just first thinking, oh, what do I talk about? But it’s so much deeper than that. Like, what do you talk about that’s actually going to drive your customers forward, that will creatively satisfy you, that you can do at a reasonable quality level, that you could sustain for the next 10 years and not fizzle out? They’re the deeper questions. Is the premise good enough to stand out? And, you know, is the dynamic with your co-host exceptional?
So here’s an example. SuperFastBusiness doesn’t have a dedicated co-host. It’s really just me, right? Except I bring on special guests. And something I feel that I’ve pioneered, to a large extent, and I haven’t really seen other people do this much, is I bring the same guests back over and over again. Because after falling over with one, two, three, four co-hosts, I figured, you know what? I’ll just run my own show. And if someone wants to be my co-host, instead of setting up a brand new show – so in the old days, I would have set up a podcast chat with Charley, just you and I – no, what we’ll do now is, I’ll just bring my co-host back over and over and over again. I’ve had some people back 10, 12, 15 times. And people can dive into the related topic around those. So we’ve created a little mini-series off the main show. Think about it kind of like a Marvel concept, where you can have spin-off shows with the different characters, and the core is the same, but you can go down whichever rabbit holes you want. And that’s where we’ve ended up with SuperFastBusiness. So I’ve solved the problem of the co-host by just being the mainstay. Now, it may not work for everybody, but it certainly worked for me. And occasionally, and it’s rare, but I still do solo shows. And I think it’s okay to have a solo show, if you’re strong enough to carry it.
Charley: So many good points, James. And just to back you up on a point, the multi-guest thing, I’ll admit I got that from you, because you did a fantastic two-part episode, I believe it was with Diana on community.
Charley: You actually did a two-parter. And that was the first one where I was so hooked into the first episode, I was actually, like, hanging for the second one.
James: Well, you know, when I do two episodes, I get about three times the listens.
Charley: Yeah, I’ll bet. And I can back that up with what we’ve done. Because I took that idea because I’d loved what you’d done to me. I thought, oh, wow, that is magic. And I think there’s a strategy in that, where the idea being that one of the things people can do and what I wish I knew earlier in the premise of this show, is doing multi-part episodes. I definitely think that if you’ve got a great guest or topic, to only have it on one episode is a waste. It’s a missed opportunity.
James: Yeah. And it’s breaking convention a little bit. You know, where a lot of the popular shows, it’s like, different guests all the time. And it’s always the same guest, if you notice – that’s like the same famous people wheeling around from podcast to podcast, and that gets boring.
Charley: Some sort of syndicate going on.
James: Yeah, and I don’t like the shows where it’s the exact same questions every single episode. I think that gets a bit tiring, too. For anyone who’s over and above average intelligence, they’re just going to be unchallenged by it. I like to see if you can mix it up a bit and keep it fresh.
Being an artist versus making money
So let’s talk about the evolution of Charley. What else did you learn along the way? Because you’ve had a few goes at this.
Charley: Yeah. This wasn’t my first or even second rodeo. I like to think I’ve put the reps in. I’m not someone who came into this world with a successful podcast or getting success from podcasting. It’s something that has required some persistence and experience. I’ve got some runs on the board and also some disasters. But it’s all been invaluable learning, which puts me in a unique position at the moment. So I would say, you know, next on the list in these podcasting errors, and what I thought about, is a mistake I made, was that I made the content I wanted to make instead of the content that the audience wants.
James: Ah, so you were an artist.
Charley: A little bit. I hate to admit it. Yes, I was.
James: You know, it’s funny. From my perspective, I was never the artist. I started my podcast to make money. Like, I’m very clear on that. The reason I started my podcast was to get an audience so that I could make offers. And because it started with Tim, and we’d already made money from my affiliate promotion of my product from his podcast, it made a reasonable argument that together, if we made a dedicated podcast, we’d sell a lot of product. And we did, it was really the driver. And it’s continued to be so now. Not even directly through the show – like, there’s not calls to action all through the show, there might be one or two. However, people generally subscribe and they end up on your email list. And eventually, when you just even announce there’s a new show, you can carry a call to action in the signature file. So you go from educate to motivate. And I’m using a Dean Jackson sort of terms here, I’ve spent a week with him. And then now you turn into the call to action and turning that prospect into a customer. So that’s what we’re activating now. And the podcast is the carrier of the education that leads people to be ready to buy.
“The podcast is the carrier of the education that leads people to be ready to buy.”
So for me, it was always about the business side of it. And it’s only in the last few years where I turned out my creative side a little bit. Because I’m so stable and steady, I could actually relax and find out, hey, maybe I am actually a little bit creative, you know, new surfer James, work less make more James version of me is more into doing projects that I feel really excited about. Some of the very best podcasts I’ve ever done were in the recent sort of batch, where I’ve just zoomed right in on things that really interest me, that might have been a little bit outside my lane a few years back, where I was very dry. When I get those 10-year reminder posts on Facebook, I’m looking at what I used to post – not as interesting, not as engaging, and not as much creativity or storytelling. So those elements are where I’ve really had to color in my black and white podcast and make it stand out again.
Charley: That’s a really interesting point. And I think this is something people can overlook, is that after you’ve put in a duration of time in podcasting, where you’ve built the trust of an audience, I think it’s okay to branch out a little bit. But I think in the earlier days, or when you’re starting out, so that’s when you’ve got to be particularly focused on making great things for the audience. And I’m not saying your newer episodes haven’t offered value for your audience, James, they definitely have. But I’m not certain people taking that approach in the early days would get them the results. It’s like you’ve earned the right to be able to introduce different things, or things you’re more interested in that you believe will serve them. You’ve got that experience.
James: It’s really risky in the beginning. Well, what I found out, and occasionally when I’ve promoted something as well, I found out that my stock value was significantly higher than what I might have thought it was, and it will weather a storm better. Or you can make a misstep or go down a different path, and there’ll be more tolerance of that. And even your devout audience, they’ll give you the feedback, too. They’ll email you and say, “Oh, that was a little bit strange.” Or, “Wow, I really like the direction you’re taking this.” You know, they give feedback because they know you. Like, after a few hundred episodes, people will get to know you. After a thousand, they’ll know you quite well. I was trying to calculate this in a previous episode. If someone had listened to say, a thousand podcasts that I probably recorded, and if the podcasts were only half an hour each, that would be 500 hours. On a 40-hour workweek, if that’s all you did, it’s going to take you a long time, like 12 weeks, 13 weeks, to listen to every podcast I’ve ever recorded. You’d have to know someone pretty well by that sample size.
Charley: Yeah, definitely.
James: I think there’s a few listeners who claim to have listened to every podcast I’ve ever recorded. And I think that’s phenomenal. Like, that is dedication.
Charley: That is a raving super fan.
James: The other thing that I’ve noticed is there’s a lot of re-listens. A lot of episodes get multiple listens. So when I dig into the analytics, there’s some stickiness to it. Like, people listen over and over again. So one lesson that I would say I wish I’d known in the beginning is try and focus on classic content that will be evergreen. It will last a long time. And so I learned this many years ago, but I really try hard when I’m recording a podcast to avoid things that are time-sensitive. Especially the occasional guest I have might be an author, and they have a book launch, or they have a particular promo, and I do whatever I possibly can to eliminate and detune the time-sensitive nature of it, and to make it listenable in three years from now or five years from now. So I say to them, listen, people listen to our podcast for years. So please don’t put a squeeze page link that’s going to be up for the next two weeks. Because you’re missing the point. We might get a couple of thousand listens initially, but then we’ll get a couple of thousand over the next few years. So make it last.
Charley: Yeah, evergreen is important. I will second that.
James: Right. So what other lessons have you learned along your way?
Just how important is promotion?
Charley: Well, I want to shift gears a little bit. We’ve spoken a lot about the content creation side. But I think there’s a whole bunch of lessons in the promotion side. And the one I want to open up with and discuss is that, you know, when I got into podcasting, I thought promotion might be like, 20 percent of the work, maybe. You know, you just put it on social and it kind of works or people naturally find it in iTunes. And maybe that was true in the early days when there wasn’t as many podcasts. But overwhelmingly, across my own show today, and across the shows we do for clients, we certainly see that promotion of the podcast is about 50 percent of the work. It really is. And I would take that type of consideration into your show. So just making the content, you know, that shouldn’t be what you spend most of your time on. It will actually take about 50 percent to promote it well and actually see that growth.
James: Right. So it’s basically doing more with less. If you focus on the promotion side, then you just have a good kernel of a podcast. It will perform better than a high-frequency, less-promoted podcast.
Charley: Definitely. I would think for many people on some shows I’ve even come across, instead of doing two episodes a week, and I suppose post-promoting them poorly, in all honesty, they would be far better off doing one episode a week, and then making sure that they also turn it into a blog post. They do a couple of different social posts designed for the social channel they’re posting on; they do a proper email; and maybe they make a content upgrade or some sort of framework or download that can go with that episode. Executing that well would get a far better result than just publishing more episodes.
James: Yeah. I know that’s on our agenda for the future, is to focus even more on dialing in better emails, better headlines, more storytelling, more promotion of the posts. And I think we’ve definitely started. Even after talking to you, Charley, we pre-promote some episodes that are coming and we retro-promote ones that have been in the past a little bit better. And we’ve worked harder on our copy and picking the right angles, and been taking courses with the team on social media, emails, storytelling, just trying to get that spiced up a bit. Because we were a little bit pedestrian in the past, very mechanical, and we’re making it more alive. And my team are really good at adapting to that in-house, but we only have the capability to do our own show. I mean, we’re a mini-force of publishing, a team of five, with a couple of podcasts, and then videos every day, plus our membership training and content and a few content sites that we run outside of the online business space. We are busy. So we can’t do anyone else’s show, but you can.
Charley: You want help with that?
James: So the promotion side of it, what should you have started if you could pick a couple that were essential?
Charley: Oh, really good one.
They don’t have to listen on your platform
James: And just to add to that, you told me to put the whole thing on Facebook native. So we now natively upload our podcast on the platforms, as well as iTunes. I’m happy to take a lower count on iTunes, because that’s really just a vanity metric, as long as I’m getting a count on our other distribution platforms, so that was a hat tip to Charley.
Charley: Oh, thank you for that, James. I’m glad it’s yielding some results for you, and I’m fairly certain it will. So leading in, or leaning into that, I should say, one of the things I really noticed is that in the beginning, when I was promoting the podcast, we would perhaps be trying to drive people to iTunes; we were trying to drive people to the website; and we were basically going on all the social platforms and putting links to our website and putting links to our iTunes. And I noticed pretty quickly that these social media platforms don’t tend to like you taking people off their platform. They don’t.
James: Oh, they hate it. And, you know, some of the platforms, we make sure we put a link in the comments instead of in the body post, because it will significantly handicap it.
Charley: Yeah. So I like the idea that you can get your content out there in the place that people want to consume it. And in all honesty, I don’t mind if people watch my podcast on Facebook, or YouTube, or LinkedIn, or on iTunes. Like, I actually don’t mind. I’m not set on them consuming in any one area. What I want to see, though, is more people actually consuming it. So with social and promotion, I think one of the best things you can do is go native. I think you can make sure that you’re putting your podcast native on these platforms and allowing people to consume those on the medium itself. So, full episode on Facebook, full episode on YouTube. What you can do to be giving the social platforms what they want has definitely yielded a better result for us. And what we tend to find is people may discover you on Facebook or YouTube, they may watch an episode there, but a lot of people naturally transition over to the audio apps, because that’s where they do listen to podcast. So it’s a discovery tool, more than anything.
James: Interesting. Yeah. So what steps would be involved in making sure we get this up and running? So, it’s particularly addressing the question we got from Scott. What should he tell his team to do or plan for the podcast when it goes live?
Charley: Yeah, so some great questions. And I love the thinking Scott’s put into this. So some things I would really look at is going, besides many of the things we’ve covered in here, be native on the platforms.
Why an email list deserves focus
And then something, which you said to me, and I wish I’d actioned earlier, because you had such a good result, is focus on the email list. Put some attention on the email list. Because I’ve seen, in the shows we manage at our own show, when we do put attention of making that something from there, bringing people back to the podcast, and I suppose building that fam, is certainly enhanced. So I would certainly put some attention on that as well.
James: Right. Yeah, I think email works so well. It’s the number one, in fact it’s double my social media and double my Facebook or any paid ads. Like, it gets double the revenue from just my email sequence. So my goal in the business is definitely to start a conversation. And email is the place where we can have a conversation with someone. And through a lot of extra work, cleaning up our email lists, getting them deliverable, we’ve had sensational open rates now just for our house list. It’s up around 35 percent in Ontraport; we’re very happy with that. So most people on our email list want to receive our emails. And it usually starts with a content upgrade. So converting a podcast into an email is and should be a primary goal, I believe.
“The value of the asset of having an email list is very, very worth it.”
Charley: Yeah. So in my own show, you know, going back for there, I was not an email guy. I’ll be honest – I liked ads, direct response. I loved it. That was my take, is like, I would much rather remarket to someone with ads than use an email list. My opinion on that has drastically changed in recent times though. I’ve seen that shift. So I think, for people, yes, you can definitely sell directly from your podcast. But I also think the value of the asset of having an email list is very, very worth it and will be a great thing for your business in actually producing sales as well.
A podcast is not a sales tool
So, in retrospect of looking back, I don’t think starting a podcast with the idea of just selling from the podcast is a good idea.
James: It’s not a sales tool. I mean, if you speak to Dean Jackson, he would tell you it is an educate-and-motivate tool. It’s one of the conversion tools in the process to move someone into being ready to be the customer. So podcast, it’s in the convince phase; it’s profit activator number three, in his vocab. But it’s educate and motivate. He talks about, what do they need to know before they believe that you’re the person who can support them? So that’s where a book, that’s where a podcast can help, but it shouldn’t be where you make sales.
Now, there are exceptions, of course. We see famous podcasts where all of their revenue is from advertising. These people also sell info products. But if you look at their pie chart of income distribution, it’s all coming from sponsorships, and they don’t sell many info products. In fact, if they only sold info products, then they would definitely be very small-time players in the market. It’s all coming from the noise they create from having a podcast. But that’s more of a publishing model, where they’re trying to make the podcast the moneymaker. But I’d say that’s the exception and not the norm. Most of the people you and I are talking to, Charley, especially guys like Scott, or me with SuperFastBusiness, and you with the partners that you’ve attracted, you’re using the podcast as an education and motivation tool. The offer, that can be made in the email that goes out, as part of the integration of converting people from a podcast into an email subscriber. And maybe you can do it natively on social media with some clever ads and some remarketing, but the idea is, move people into email where you can have a conversation or a chat, where you can have a conversation.
Charley: Absolutely. And just for reference there, it’s quite interesting – in some of our shows, I’m not saying, you know, this is a bit of the exception to the rule, but people do definitely buy certain things straight from a podcast; it does happen. But I do feel the email route is the better route to take. It’s a better asset, because you own that list as well, which is a fantastic thing to have. I wouldn’t put my faith in Facebook, necessarily, considering the pixeled audience, something you own. I think they own it, and they let you use it occasionally.
Owning your podcasting racecourse
James: I got tagged in a post today from someone whose Facebook group got shut down, you know? And there’s like 16 people saying, “Hey, well, you know, James has been saying that forever: own the racecourse.” I think, look, if we record content like this, it’s going on to our machine. We own the content. Where we distribute it is another matter, like iTunes, Facebook, YouTube.
Here’s a really interesting one. I had a video podcast. It was the short videos were distributed through iTunes, and they just shut us down. And I don’t even know why. So we had a SuperFastBusiness video channel. They don’t tell us what’s not right. They just say it’s no longer accepted, and it’s dead in the marketplace. So, you know, I hope that never happens to my audio, but if it did, then I’ll still just promote it through the other channels. So YouTube, Facebook, and whatever, whatever platform comes up I don’t know, TikTok, or, you know, different platforms will come up. Or I’ll put teaser content on all the platforms leading back to my website, which we’ve done forever. We’ve always hosted on our own website,
And another fact, with SuperFastBusiness, a third of our traffic’s coming from direct branded search – like, people typing “SuperFastBusiness” into Google, and coming to our website is a third of our traffic. Sorry, not into Google, just straight into the browser bar: SuperFastBusiness. And then the other third of the traffic is coming from search traffic relating to searches in Google. And then the other third of the traffic is coming from, you know, social media, some paid ads and whatever. So I’ll get still two thirds of my traffic coming off SEO or a branded search. So I’m not really relying on related searches in iTunes, or getting a podcast booking service or any number of other things that could be sort of used if needed, or a LinkedIn navigator to go and spam people’s inboxes. So all these approaches might work. Of course, I don’t ever encourage spamming. I’m being facetious. I mean, like, a strategic approach to get people to listen to your podcast or to go to your event through LinkedIn is a very valid approach and super powerful and one that I teach for case study approaches. But that’s the slow haul. I think it’s important to own that core content wherever you’re distributing it.
What’s your podcasting host of choice?
So that’s going back to what I wish I knew when I started. I think for the last 10 years, I’ve been pretty happy with Amazon S3. And the only other one that would have continued for me for that whole time that was an option would have been Libsyn. And maybe if I was starting again today, I might have used Libsyn, because it seems like it integrates a little bit better with Spotify, and it also has some pretty good analytics. But I’m not sure. I think you were telling me, Charley, that it offers me the ability to do something that I can’t do with my S3. What was that one?
Charley: So that’s an interesting topic in itself. I really, personally, I use Omni.
Charley: Which I’m a big fan of; I really like their platform and support. They’ve been sensational for me, and where I’ve hosted the clients. It is a little bit more expensive, but I appreciate the service stuff. Because if there’s an issue with feeds or anything like that, they get back to me really quick. I appreciate that massively. The other one we do use for clients from time to time is Libsyn. It’s a little bit more affordable, but also a fantastic product and service that does pretty much everything. So for hosting, those would be my two picks. I really like them.
James: Nice. Yeah. So there you go. So now we know where to host it.
Podcast sites and SEO value
What are the essential on-site things? So, do we need a dedicated site for our podcast? Can we put it on our existing biz? Like, for example, Wicked Reports – is it sitting on the Wicked Reports forward slash podcast? Or is it on its own domain?
Charley: It’s a really good question. I think it depends a lot on the resources you have at hand. I think it’s better to be on a site than on no site. But in some cases, and for some businesses, it makes sense for it to be its own site. And then for others, it makes sense to publish on their site. So if Scott and Wicked Reports, I think, on their site, I wouldn’t do it as a separate site.
And just while we’re on sites, something I wish I knew before is that you can definitely use a podcast with an SEO strategy. I didn’t realize how powerful podcasting could work with SEO, and that would be something that if I was doing SEO as a business, I would lean into that. And I’ll just share a couple of things specifically here, is that you have the ability to create show notes for an episode that makes great content. So it can be optimized content that’s great for a site. And then the second one is using your podcast to attract high quality backlinks in the idea that you could invite people on to your podcast who you want to link from, or who have a really relevant high-DR site, and potentially getting them to link to their own podcast episode. So one of the things we’ve done in a little side project I’ve gotten is that we’ve been able to actually get really unique and high quality links from the podcast. And I wish I knew we could do that earlier. I really do.
James: Yeah. And the other one that’s worked well for us is letting people know when their show’s live. You know, just a basic thing. Hey, your show’s live. And often they share it, and sometimes they email it. Jay Abraham emailed his entire database about our episode, which was wonderful.
Making your show share-worthy
Quite often people socially share as well, and get you a bunch of traffic. And a key to that happening is to make sure it’s a wonderful experience for them, and it’s something they would want to share. I know I’ve been a guest on some other podcasts where the host was so terrible that I wouldn’t share that with my audience out of respect to their ears. I had the most dead host a few weeks back who just put me to work, you know? He was like, ‘Hi, welcome to show. Now, James, why don’t you tell us your backstory? And James, what tips would you have for people in business?’ There’s just like bland, generic, non-researched, boring questions that just left it all up to me. I did all the heavy lifting, and there was no value created by the host at all. I’ve had feedback from my own listeners. They like it when I stir a guest or challenge them on something or go deeper on something they said and work the podcast a bit rather than just let it drift along with the guest.
“Make sure it’s a wonderful experience for them, and something they would want to share.”
Charley: I’ll second that. I enjoy that. It’s one of the unique things about your show, and certainly something I picked up on, is that you always seem to develop a unique narrative compared to where you might see someone else. And if they say something you don’t agree with, you’re quite happy to call them out on that, or offer something different. And it’s not done rudely, and it’s not done, I suppose to make them uncomfortable. But it certainly makes very engaging and interesting content, because you’re almost like, oh, how’s he going to take that? How’s he going to respond?
James: Well, sometimes I have to distance myself from bad practice, if someone says something. I don’t want to be seen to endorsing it. But often, I know something they don’t know, and I’d love to get their thoughts on it. And also, people just have different opinions. And that’s one of the beautiful things about humans. We can have a colorful discussion and come from different viewpoints. And you know, we’re just so different. Like, I know you really like video podcasts, and I prefer audio podcasts. And that has given us, you know, some interesting discussions. Like, you said, don’t do the audiograms, but then some people say, I love these audiograms. Just like, okay, well, everyone’s different. And I guess we look at the stats and see what works.
The bare minimum equipment you need
What we haven’t talked about, and it has to come up, is if we’re starting out a podcast, what’s our minimum baseline of equipment requirements?
Charley: Great one. Do you know what, I should have put this earlier on? I spent so many hours on YouTube watching reviews, looking at different setups, going to stores and trying things. And at the end of the day, like, a basic hundred-dollar microphone would have got the job done fantastically. Like, it was a massive amount of wasted effort. It really was.
James: You know, that’s what I have in the Philippines. So, I replaced my RODE podcaster mic with a $100 European-made mic, desk stand, USB. I don’t use any apps or anything tricky. This episode’s actually being recorded on a Zoom digital recorder that I have had for about 11 years, that I used to use as the recorder for my boom mic and XLR cable, for when I was making videos. But now I just travel around and make podcasts with it. I’m not even using an external mic. I’m just talking into it just like a reporter would. And most of my podcasts are recorded with a RODE USB mic, and sometimes they’re recorded with my iPhone and the Auphonic app, with or without a Lav mic.
You’ll probably cringe, Charley. I have recorded episodes with just my iPad or my phone, with no external equipment. Sometimes the equipment you’ve got is the equipment you use, and you have to improvise. I don’t even have my laptop today, for example, so you can get by. It’s just got to be good content, and that’s the most important thing.
So basically, everyone listening to this already has enough equipment to make a podcast. But if you spend a hundred bucks, you get a USB microphone that you plug in, and you try and find a reasonably quiet place, which you can do a lot to fix up – like a rug, some soft furnishings, drapes, foam stickers you put on the wall. I’ve just got a piece of foam that I put under my microphone on the desk here, and I’m talking into a little phone booth, which you can buy in any music shop where they sell musical instruments. And it’s just a little three-sided foam box that you put the mic in and you can talk into it and it really cuts down a lot of the external noise. Not all of it, but there’s some basic equipment. A couple of hundred dollars, and you’re off to the races. And you can edit it on just about anything, from GarageBand through to all the high tech, you know, Pro Logic sort of stuff, but I don’t get involved in that anymore. I used to edit mine on ScreenFlow, if you can believe that.
Charley: Wow, take me back. ScreenFlow days. I’m glad you’ve gotten out of that.
James: Yeah. I used it because I wanted to have one tool to use for video or audio, so that I could just edit easily. I learnt the commands. Then I sat down with one of my team members and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. Can you please learn this?” And then she did, and that’s it. Never did it again.
Playing for the long game
Charley: Well, I think you’ve touched on something there, is like, I think podcasting is a long game. It definitely is. We’ve highlighted that. But it’s a really long game if you’re doing everything yourself. Like, if you’re doing the editing, if you’re doing the publishing. And it’s not a great use of your time. Like it’s certainly, these things can be outsourced. I’m a little bit biased, of course, but I just can’t look at anyone’s business and justify how it would be a good idea for them to spend time actually editing.
James: It’s not. So if you don’t have a business or an offer that’s already going okay, to the extent where you can justify the time, energy and money to establish a podcast, don’t do it. Don’t think the podcast will be the business. That’s probably my main point here. And don’t think the podcast will make all the difference. Just start with videos today, if that’s where you’re at, until you get enough revenue coming in, that the podcast can be serious enough to cut it. And I think we got to wrap it up soon, Charley.
Charley: Yeah, I think we’ve covered my list here. I’m scanning over it now just to be sure, but I think that was, yeah, the meat of it. Absolutely some great highlights and some lessons learned. And I loved some of your shares, James. I thought there was some great experience in that, and wisdom.
James: And the other thing is, occasionally it’s okay to ask people to leave a review. If you’re doing good work, you can ask for it. If you’re listening to this and you enjoyed the episode, by all means go over to iTunes and leave a review at SuperFastBusiness. That would be amazing. Remember, if you have products or services, it’s okay to put the call to action in them. You are effectively your own sponsor. And just like a radio station or TV station, when you get good content, they’re going to put advertisements in there. It’s okay to have advertisements, either subtle native ones within your own show, or overt ones. You’ve earned it, and your audience will tolerate it because it’s fair practice.
And Charley, thank you for doing preparation and coming and helping me out with this particular topic.
Charley: My pleasure, James, thank you for having me.
I’m James Schramko. This is SuperFastBusiness.com.
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