John Lee Dumas is a phenomenon in podcasting. Tune in as he shares the secrets of his show’s success.
Discussed in the podcast:
00:58 – Breaking the 2-million download mark
02:30 – Crucial tips for podcasting newbies
04:00 – Staying pumped after 300-plus episodes
06:10 – Happily taking the back seat
07:41 – Will the format eventually change?
10:52 – The road that John would want to pursue
14:08 – Know your customers, expand your membership
18:53 – Promoting through podcasts and social platforms
23:17 – One big mistake that John made
26:39 – Putting more thought into the content
28:52 – SEO podcast optimization
33:44 – One person had a huge impact
37:19 – Catching the slippery fish
40:15 – Do you have any copycats?
42:34 – The craziest question ever
44:35 – John’s Obama impostor theory
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Alright, James Schramko here with a special guest on the topic of podcasting and beyond that is a little bit more than just podcasting. I think there’s quite a few lessons with our next guest. Certainly about the term Americans are fond of called “hustling” which is always funny to Australians because that’s kind of what you do to someone if you steal their money. But in any case, I’ve got John Lee Dumas. Welcome to the show.
John: James, thanks for having me on. I’m excited to chat with you and your audience.
James: A lot of people have heard of you by now. But that wasn’t always the case because you’ve only recently hit stardom and you’ve had this prolific explosion into the iTunes world going from almost pretty much nothing to having lots and lots of downloads. You must be in the millions now.
John: I am. I just broke two million actually and the month of August will break 400,000 unique downloads.
James: Right. Off those downloads, how many people really listen to episodes?
John: I say between two and three people.
James: Right. So, just to put that in perspective for our listeners, I have about three podcasts, and I’m still somewhere around the 7 or 800,000 download mark in total. On an average month I’ll get somewhere around 50 to 60,000 listens. So you have a substantially massive download audience. What do you think caused that?
The Cause of Massive Download
John: I think one of the reasons is I do now have 300 and I think as of today, 8 podcasts so I mean, literally one person can go in and download 300 podcast if they want to. So, that can definitely be a reason for the inflation of my numbers.
But number two, my daily show. I do do it seven days a week. A lot of my listeners are very habitual, James. You know, they wake up, they pour a cup of coffee, they download Entrepreneur on Fire then they just get out to work and they listen to it on the way so it’s kind of become a habit of theirs and something they don’t really forget.
James: OK, a couple of points here. So, something I advise people who are new to podcasting. First thing is, if you have a big catalogue, then you will actually grow faster because people will get into one episode, they like it.
Then they go see what else you have and then they work their way through the series like what we do with TV shows, like we do with albums of artists that we like. We want to collect everything. So that’s one very important tip you’ve given away there. The second thing is, I want to talk about this metronomics sort of style that you have. You have consistency in spades. I think that might be a military background showing its hands?
John’s Military Experience
John: Absolutely! It definitely is the military. We were taught at a very early part of our military experience that we need to have systems in place and you need to really kind of keep that discipline moving forward because when you’re an officer, which I was in the army for eight years.
Four acts and four reserves and you’re training a platoon, they need to know what to expect day in and day out. It’s that consistency that really keeps the troop in line, so to speak.
James: OK, so, this is the interesting part. You may not be aware of this, but inside SuperFastBusiness, with our community there’s almost 800 members now, we have our own John Lee Dumas thread where we talk about you.
John: I did not know that. I’m not in privy to this.
James: If you look at your analytics, you’ll probably see a few visits here and there from SuperFastBusiness. Now I told people that I was going to be having a chat to you and in this market, in the Australian audience, we have a pretty good percentage of members.
Probably more than half the members but we have members from all around the world. The thing that comes up often is that every single show is exactly the same format. Is that true?
James: Identical. OK, so this could possibly be the big talking point. It’s something that you are able to wheel that out over and over and over and over again. I mean over 300 times. One of the questions is, how do you stay pumped or excited about continually doing the show when you have exactly the same thing every single time?
John: I mean, when I ring somebody up on Skype, and James Schramko answers, how can I not be excited?
The Cheesy Show Intro
James: That’s almost as cheesy as your show intro. When I heard your show intro, I thought it was a parody. It’s like World Wrestling Federation or a circus ring master. It’s so over the top that I thought it must be a joke but apparently it’s serious. Tell me what was the background to that intro and why do you think that’s so successful?
John: You know it’s just one of the things that my podcast is all about having fun and just kind of having conversations about people’s journeys and not just talk about business business business but talk about the failures, and the flops and the mistakes and then get up to those a-ha moments but then the flops again and keep kind of going back to that whole entire journey which has the ups and the downs.
So I kind of want to start off on that cheesy, kind of funny, kind of not so serious note, and I know you guys get a lot of the same stuff for ThinkActGet. You know you get a lot of feedback about. It just doesn’t fit your show and just really not the kind of vibe that people expect to come from and that’s exactly what I’m going for.
Taking The BackSeat
James: Yeah we do. And we do get that as a positive. Just in case the listeners are wondering. People say about me for example, that Ezra, my co-host brings out my funny or more human side because with my other business stuff, I can be quite to the point. I’m very direct in business. Now, so this is really one of the pivotal points. That’s the exact same recipe, over and over and over again as the creator.
You’re excited because you feed off the energy of the star or the guests right? So one of the other things that was sort of put to me is they feel that you give too much power to the guest and that John Lee Dumas has taken a backseat to the show.
John: Yeah, purposely. Because I don’t really have a ton to give. You know, I really have my guest on for a reason because they’re successful, they’re inspiring entrepreneurs. Up until 2012 in September, so the latter half, the latter quarter of 2012, I really haven’t been an entrepreneur in any way, shape and form.
So I need to take a backseat when I do have guests on that have been there, done that. They do have experience. They do have lessons learned and mistakes to share and a-ha moments to divulge to us. I take that backseat happily and it’s really kind of enjoyable for me to hear the kind of goal that they are just very forthcoming with.
James: Yeah you seem to be able to get the strong stories out. Obviously you have so much structure there. Then there’s people like me who say “Hey John, do you want to get on to Skype and have a chat.” I have not prepared you with any questions. I have not sent you a schedule in advance. I barely turn up on exactly the right time.
Now we all have our own different styles. My goal when I’m interviewing you is to try and ask you stuff that no one else is asking and that’s why these questions might even sound a little bit difficult.
But here’s another big one for you. Do you think your format is likely to change? Do you think what got you to where you at now with the big downloads is going to have to change to get a stickiness with your audience because anecdotally, a lot of my community have listened to it. Gone through a few episodes and then unsubscribed because it’s too frequent or too same same.
John’s Business Model
John: Absolutely! I think that’s where my business model comes in and it’s so successful because every single day, I release a new podcast with an inspiring successful entrepreneur that really has a massive audience of their own. And then they’re sharing that interview with their audience. So seven days a week, James, a whole new set of eyes and a whole new set of people are being exposed to Entrepreneur on Fire for the very first time.
Some of those people are becoming subscribers, and some of those people are not. And that proportion that keeps the snowball effect rolling seven days a week. So people drop off, new people come in and fill their space. And this is perpetual movement and you know, my numbers speak for themselves.
I mean it was 200,000 three months ago; 300,000 last month and on August, we’ll break 400,000 unique downloads. So something’s working, something’s sticky enough and I don’t see myself changing my format anytime soon but I’m always open to the changing of the entrepreneurial world. Because if you don’t, if you’re not like willing to be flexible and be agile, then you’re in a lot of trouble.
James: Well I think this is good. A lot of the people by the way, when they post that question, they were saying, “John should not change the format because it’s working,” and you know, you could look at it different ways. In my case I have probably, a similar number of pieces of content to you from just SuperFastBusiness.
However, I have a much lower downloadship and I don’t have a lot of other people promoting my show and I’m kind of like Robinson Crusoe promoting my show. Maybe just the fanbase doing it and the occasional guest like yourself. Or if I do, like a little flatter image, you know something in the show and people will, you know if I say Dan Norris, and then I’ll go, “Hey Dan! You got a mention in the show.”
I do want to credit him though because he’s the first person who interviewed you way back in my community and that’s how I became aware of you and you asked me to be on Entrepreneur on Fire which was a tremendous experience as well. Especially to see your mechanized machine behind the scenes. I had a true appreciation to that.
The Difference Between John and James’ Shows
John: Well, thank you. I think that kind of shows the difference between our shows where you probably have a very consistent, very loyal, very sticky listener base which in a lot of ways is much more valuable. I mean, 60,000 people that are really loyal, really sticky, you know is probably worth two times that number of people that are kind of like just funneling in, funneling out.
James: I agree with you. I would have the smaller audience and the people who don’t leave. And just to give you some metrics, my business is now generating more than $2 million a year and 90% of the business is repeating referral customers.
John: Huge! Congratulations!
James: It’s a very small customer base. I only have about 22,000 people in my entire database. But those people buy every product that I have. And it’s just interesting. You know, I can learn a lot from what you’ve done because no one’s really done the same thing that you’ve done before.
There’s people out there with huge audiences who are only now tapping the monetary flywheel. You know I guess examples all of this is you and we’ll talk about your monetization model in a minute.
James: There’s Pat Flynn who I’ve never actually met and I asked him to speak to me on a podcast and he said he would but at some time in the future because he’s so booked out. Which is, I thought very funny for a passive income business model that you’re so busy you can’t get to a show in a couple of months.
Somewhat ironic but he’s just recently tapped his audience with a product and from his income report, I think he did, I think he made 50 grand or something, profit from it, something like that. So it’s interesting to watch these big, big numbers audiences now start to turn that into money and to see how it translates and I think there was a lot of buck back from his audience where you know, “Shouldn’t everything be for free?”
Are you finding that when you pitch products to your huge listenership, let’s take those numbers again, if you have 400,000 people listen to the show; one would think that you could put out an offer and turn a percentage of those to cash?
John: Yeah you definitely would think so and that’s definitely the road I want to pursue at some point. I mean monetization has always been the plan and the ideal for Entrepreneur on Fire. I started with my first monetization back in March 2013 so I did wait a solid four to five months before I really turned it on.
And that was purely on the sponsorship side and you know, that’s been a five figure plus number on a monthly basis ever since I did turned that on. So I could have started that sponsorship model a lot earlier but I really wanted to hold off until it got to numbers that really made it worth diluting your podcast with sponsorship.
So, for me that number was five figures a month so I hit that, brought in the sponsors back in March of 2013. And that was my really only major monetization model for a long time until actually July of this year.
I know you and I have talked briefly about this change because I sought your advice because you really are the King when it comes to masterminds and things along those lines. I launched Fire Nation Elite on July 1st which now has 90 members. Each of those paying $165 per month.
James: Nice! And you had a sift through and interviewed those people was application process right?
John’s Upcoming Product
John: I do have 15-minute chat with every single member that applies for Fire Nation before they come to the door and that was just much for me, James, as for the process because I really wanted to get to know my customers who are really looking to interact with my brand. Take things to the next level and it’s been a huge learning experience for me.
We’re actually shutting the door at Fire Nation at a hundred people because we really think that that’s the perfect manageable thing. We may replicate that with another mastermind and bring that up to a hundred and I probably won’t use the same 15-minute chat model.
Maybe I will at some levels but not probably to that degree but you know it was really huge for me to learn so much from my audience during those talks and I actually use those talks to set up my next leg of the business which is going to be digital products.
James: Right. Well, this is really interesting. You know I was just thinking, man we should just talk about this offline but we should talk about it online. You know if you’re happy to share it with us.
James: Because I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve got a lot of students… absolutely the first point that listeners should take from this and I think it’s probably going to be one of the most valuable podcast I’ve done for a while, is firstly, knowing your customers is paramount.
So we just mentioned, I have a fairly small database compared to a lot of other marketers but with reasonable revenue and a very good profit margin because I know my customers back to front, inside out.
I know their problems, fears, frustration. I know who they are, I know their names, I’ve met most of them face to face. So that’s one thing and that’s because I go to local meet ups all around the world, most capital cities and I like, I literally fly to places and meet people and that’s super, super important step to growing your business. Get out and meet people and I’ll be hoping that you’re going to come and meet us too in Sydney next year.
James: So, that’s the side of it. Next element is, my experience with people with cap memberships and it can be a little bit disappointing because you’re actually sometimes putting an artificial limit on the income that you can make which can have a negative motivating effect because you know that no matter what you do, you can’t make more income or get better return.
It’s almost like selling time for dollars where you can’t make more than that. If you sell one an hour for a thousand dollars, like you’re not going to make more than a thousand dollars and you have to work that hours, so sometimes we put a constraint to the wrong part of the membership so there might be another metric that could be the cap rather than a strict number of people.
To give you just by way of contrast, I have around a 20-minute to 25-minute interview with members who come in on a $1,500 per month on a program and I’ve actually decided not to cap the numbers.
I’ve actually decided to increase the numbers because what I found is that it actually helps the members because they got more resources. More access to a bigger customer base, more people that they can sell to, and it is actually a benefit to the membership to have more numbers than what I thought we might need but I comfortably ran it for three years at a very steady number of about 30 people. But I think it’s a 50 to 60 person membership is going to actually be more powerful.
John: That’s a really interesting feedback. And yeah, you’re right. This is something I had a conversation with you prior to me launching something.
I really look forward to continue talking to you because I do look at you as really the subject matter expert in this area because you’ve done it on both a micro and a macro level because I know you have another mastermind with seven or eight hundred people that’s also running very fluidly and to me, you know that’s kind of where I’m at.
I’m like you know, I really want to have this mastermind be incredibly valuable and it just seems with what we have going on in the Facebook group, it’s so active, it’s so engaging, there’s so much going on that kind of more than a hundred people seems like overwhelmed and so it’s like, “Should we just cap it at a hundred and then just recreate the exact same thing?” almost like a franchise model so we’re not really limiting numbers, we’re just limiting what could be an overwhelming situation.