Copy Weekly

#16 Positioning a Podcast: Actionable Insights from Industry Veteran Alban Brooke

Brad Smith
February 16, 2020
71 minutes

As the head of marketing at Buzzsprout for five years and counting, Alban Brooke took the helm at the start of the podcast boom and built the Buzzsprout brand from the ground up. 

In this episode, Alban shares what marketing and content strategies took Buzzsprout from a little known platform with minimal market share to one of the most successful podcast hosting platforms available today. 

He also delves into the right mindset marketers should adopt when creating content and building an audience. 

Learn the dos and don’ts of podcast production in this can’t miss episode !

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Brad: (00:00)

Alban, thanks for jumping on. Uh, you are probably best known for Buzzsprout, but I think you still are, were, kind of like the COO of a few different kind of brands and companies. So could you explain a little bit about how that works?

Alban: (00:16)

Sure. Um, so I’m the head of marketing for a company called higher pixels. Uh, we are a web development company. We build our own Saas applications. So some of those are one’s called donor tools, one’s called string care, one is called tick, and the one that’s, um, probably the largest now it’s called Buzzsprout, which is the one that I work on primarily. And that is a podcast hosting and distribution platform.

Brad: (00:42)

Buzzsprout is pretty old too, right? It was originally started a while ago.

Alban: (00:46)

Yeah. All of these now definitely in the web years. They’re pretty old. Web years are like dog years or something. Um, but uh, Buzzsprout, it’s over 10 years old as far as like having customers who paid us money for over 10 years, um, out 11 and a half if you count the time we were building it.

Brad: (01:05)

Gotcha. I mean for podcasting, that’s pretty early cause it’s like blogging, you know, 20 years ago, right?

Alban: (01:11)

Yeah. Um, the first podcasts are 2004 and we are launching in 2008 so it’s pretty early. Um, we’re maybe one of the podcasts OGs now for sure.

Brad: (01:23)

Do you have a tattoo on your chest or you know,

Alban: (01:26)

I’ve just got, I just got like a big microphone chest piece.

Brad: (01:32)

Um, so let’s, let’s talk a little bit about, cause you guys do a bunch of other types of content, but you also do a lot of like, you know, traditional old school stuff like, uh, events and what in the early years, what was like, you know, more useful, more impactful versus kind of what you guys are focusing on now? Oh, man. So the early years are this, the timing where you could call it, we would call it the magic beans where we were like, we built Buzzsprout there. We had some friends and people that used it and a lot of churches and nonprofits were finding Buzzsprout and we thought like, Hey if you build a great app, people will come.

Alban: (02:06)

It’s the field of dreams type of marketing. And uh, we thought that would happen. And we really like, we know this is like a direct quote from the founders. Like all that marketing stuff is just magic beans, all salesy and it never works. And then two guys, um, went to a big podcast conference in 2014 and they’re like, man, this is gonna be awesome. We’re gonna meet all of our customers. And they met one customer out of the entire conference and they were like, no one knows who we are. And they’re like, huh, that’s kind of crazy. And they came back and started evaluating, they’re going well the product, in our opinion was at that point better than all of our competitors or as good if we were ever in a comparison, we should have been near the top. And yet we had none of the market share. And it was in an industry that was just getting ready to pop. And so that was when I joined the team without a traditional marketing background. I was actually a lawyer at the time and we kinda just started leaning into this marketing thing going, how do we position ourselves like very old school positioning, um, finding our differentiators, um, kind of learning who our buyers were and then getting ourselves in front of potential buyers.

Brad: (03:26)

Awesome. Yeah. It’s funny cause that’s like a direct quote from every technical founder ever.

Alban: (03:31)

Yeah. Well you, you want very badly for it to be true because if feels like it should be true, but, uh, it’s everybody does that. I mean like the chef always says, if I make the best food, people will come to my restaurant and it’s just not true because I see all these people flooding into like cheesecake factory and I know that that’s not good food. And it’s just like they’re going, cause it’s got good marketing and it’s got good cheesecake. And so people would just like, whatever, I’ll spend 30 bucks or whatever other things you give me.

Brad: (03:59)

Yeah. There’s this, uh, there’s this, I’ll have to find it and posted it with along with this episode, but there’s this, I think it’s maybe a tweet like collection of tweets or an article or something about how cheesecake factory just doesn’t make sense from like the decor to the menu to like all the different random opposing food groups on the menu. And yet somehow like you’re saying, you know, it’s huge.

Alban: (04:21)

It, it’s incredible to me. The thing that blows me away the most is the menu is a book and it has advertisements in the book. So what you’ve done is you’ve spent all this effort to get someone into the restaurant to order and some way you’ve decided the best thing to do now is to monetize that by selling an ad for a funeral home and inside of the menus of the, like, where, who came up with this idea? And, but there, there’s somehow geniuses because all of them are always packed and they’re having these massive graduation parties. So there’s a, there’s something going on there that I have not fully grasped.

Brad: (04:58)

Yeah. Uh, that’s super funny. Um, so you got into like traditional marketing and positioning, which I think is a good thing cause I think that that’s where the root of all actual good digital stuff comes from is like 1970s marketing, like the classic fundamentals. Um, so where did you begin? Did you, I mean, how do you even begin? I think the good news is you time to market unintentionally or intentionally and that you are the crest of a wave. So how do you have, do you position yourself in a, in a market that’s just starting to take off?

Alban: (05:31)

Yeah, so, well one of the things that I think was really lucky for us is that we’re a bootstrap company that has a handful of apps. And so because of that, we never, we did not have to time the market. Um, we were podcasting, we were in a very bad time to launch. A lot of people who launched at the same time died. Um, you either wanted to be Lipson or Blueberry that launched the very, or you want it to be someone who launched in like 2014 when it was easy to get customers. Start getting customers or since then really, um, but we are in this like the dark ages of podcasting where we were overshadowed by the big players and the, there were a ton of customers to be had yet. Um, we were lucky that we had positioned ourselves a little bit more for the NGO, the nonprofit church space.

Alban: (06:23)

Mmm. And if we had been VC funded, you know, you can’t handle like 3% growth each month and go, what, how do we triple this and how do we get it to 20% growth a month or else it’s not interesting. Um, so we’re really lucky that we basically got to live at 3% growth, um, you know, each month for something like five years. And then when the market started to work and they go, Oh, we really should invest more in marketing. Um, that we were able to lean into that. Um, so the way that we kind of came around the positioning was, I mean, I would just say it was honest that we had donor tools for nonprofits do track donations. And, uh, we had a website builder called insights, which had just a ton of churches, nonprofits on it. And so they were the customers that were asking for what would become Buzzsprout.

Alban: (07:15)

They were saying, uh, we want to get podcasts or audio online. And when they were asking for that, we look at that their businesses or their nonprofits and said, well, nonprofits are characterized by a bunch of 17-year-olds who are giving you 20 hours before they go off to college. Like they want to get this on the resume and they’re barely going to be useful unless you can put them on a task quickly that they can pick up and then get to work. And so we said what happened was like a nonprofit or a church would start a podcast and then the person who started it would leave and they would have no idea how to get back into it or do anything with it. So we approached it from has to be easy. It has to be simple that the church secretary can run this or the 17-year-old tech wiz who’s helping your nonprofit can do it. Um, anyone should be able to come into Buzzsprout and quickly get a podcast up and running without a bunch of technical know-how.

Brad: (08:16)

Yeah, that’s super interesting cause I’ve never even thought about it until now, but a church is basically like a publishing company or like a media company. Like that’s literally, that’s all they do now. I’m really gonna offend people. That’s not all they do, but that’s, that’s like a core thing of a core fundamental is that they have to push out so much content on a daily, weekly basis, um, to, you know, to bring people together and all the other things that trickle down from that

Alban: (08:41)

you’re backtracking from your original statement.

Brad: (08:43)

Im backtracking really hard.

Alban: (08:47)

So yeah, if you think about it, most churches are creating all the content. Like a sermon is being prepared every week is being put out there. And, um, one of my favorite stories from the beginning of Buzzsprout was somebody reached out from a church and said, Hey, is our podcast successful? We wrote back and we were like, you know, we don’t know how would we measure success? You know, it looks like you’re getting like 25 downloads an episode. Does that seem good? And she wrote back and was like, Oh my gosh, this is amazing because it’s a church of a hundred people and that means, and on average we have like 30 people who don’t attend every week. Right? Those are the people downloading it and they’re able to stay plugged in. And uh, so it was interesting for us to think about, you know, it was a really nice place to start because there were a lot of people who had the content ready, understood the value prop and uh, we’re willing to pay a little bit of money to keep the community connected a little bit longer.

Brad: (09:45)

Yeah. That’s super interesting. What would the, uh, what would the VC pitch look like if you were like, Oh yeah, we’re going to go sell to nonprofits and churches? They’d be like, uh. How did you find people with money?

Alban: (09:55)

Hey, there is a large, there is a large VC nonprofit, uh, space and it bums me out so much. So we see this when we do competitive analysis for donor tools as well. Um, some of these, like we just track your donations and help you get, um, all your tax receipts in order and we help you coordinate with people. They’re charging hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month. And if someone’s doing like, Hey, we’re helping get vaccinations in Haiti and you’re like, Hey, we’re willing to partner with you but we need 300 bucks a month to get our ROI. Right. You just, you’d feel super, I’d feel super scummy like charging that cause you’re going, I’m trying to make a massive profit off your org nonprofit. That’s not the right thing to do.

Brad: (10:42)

Yeah, no. Uh, well not to some people I guess. Um, so now fast forward a little bit to today. How are you guys splitting up your own kind of like budget and how you think of things in terms of like, you have to do stuff like events to, for different reasons, right? Like events are great for like sales, for meeting people, for branding, um, content-based stuff. We talked a little bit earlier about, you know, about this that’s going to be cut off, uh, about like, um, essentially like investing because it’s not something that’s gonna pay you back this month or this quarter. It’s something that’s gonna pay you back a year from now. So how do you, when you’re looking at like this landscape now of like, how did you get the word out? What, what does that look like for you guys currently?

Alban: (11:24)

Yeah, so we did a ton of experimentation and then things they hit, we would just continue to double down on. So Mmm. I’ll maybe bucket it in different ways. Um, live events are a piece. Um, they are really hard for us. We’ve never even gotten close to a positive ROI. If you told me how to run a live event and make money for my career, I would like go work at a restaurant again because there’s no way that I was going to be able to get that to work. But what it does do is it gets you on the ground floor and really connect with real people who will tell you to your face what’s good about your product, what’s not, what’s confusing in a way that you can’t get via email. So that’s super valuable. Obviously the branding and the connections, I mean we met at trafficking conversion like you meet people at events and that’s really valuable.

Alban: (12:15)

Um, the best marketing channel for us ever has been content marketing and I think of content marketing, uh, maybe a little bit of a different lens. I think you know pretty typical is you want something with high volume keywords, like lots of people are looking for it and intent you want to actually, you could get a lot of people to come to your website if you said like naked photos of celebrities but then no one’s going to buy anything from your website because it doesn’t offer that.

Brad: (12:42)

I would buy that.

Alban: (12:44)

I hope not. You would need to, you need to have like some sort of keywords that people are, when they’re coming to the page they go, ah, I understand you offer the thing I need and now I will buy. Um, so mostly there’s just this overlap of those two. Uh, the way we looked at it always was there as a third circle and that is valuable things that are valuable to my existing customers.

Alban: (13:09)

And then I wanted the like overlap of all three of those. And I was willing to give up on high volume to get value for existing customers because I really think we’re living in a world now where people do not appreciate word of mouth anymore. Mmm. Marketers do not. We think that everything’s happening in Google analytics and on Google ads and I’m spending money on Facebook and I’m getting back a little more, were failing to capture the stuff that we cannot capture. We are not appreciating, which is all these private conversations between friends and people getting recommendations. And what our content has allowed us to do is we are actually marketing to our own customers and able to tell them, uh, we’re gonna make you more valuable, decrease our churn. We’re going to make something that’s helpful for new people and we’re going to empower you to tell everyone about us.

Alban: (14:04)

So when someone reaches out and says like, Hey, what’s the best microphone for a podcast? They go, Oh, I’m on Buzzsprout and they’re awesome at putting out content. They did a big review of all these microphones. Now we don’t sell microphones, but now you’ve sent that article on to somebody who I know will be in the market for podcast hosting in a couple months. Um, so it was not a framework that I fully understood when we started, but has, uh, become we’ve developed over the past few years.

Brad: (14:35)

Got it. And how do you fight? Cause the problem is always, um, you do have to hit a certain volume of quality at a certain point. Uh, and you do want to see like if you invest X, I want to drive Y. So if you increase X by 10%, is that gonna increase Y by 50%? 100%. Like how do you balance like the whole quality quantity issue? So there’s, you know, there’s a bunch of ways to go about it, but, but still maintain that core kind of concept that you’re talking about,

Alban: (15:02)

well I know that I know which side I’m falling on and it is on the quality, not on the quantity side. I think that if there was a perfect medium, we are too far on the quality. Like, um, one of the founders, Kevin and I think we are both more on the perfectionist side that we probably should be. Um, so I get overly worked up if I see some typos on the site and I’m like, God, I can’t believe I missed that. And so I know we lean more that way and we will actually miss big keywords that we could work if we that we could, um, rank for that we don’t because we don’t feel like we have the right answer to it. Um, so we haven’t found the right rubric for doing it. It’s only our own intuition, which is we need to provide a lot of value. And I want to write hopefully the very best thing on the web that’s so much better than everything else that for years nobody will want to put in the work to top it. And for years I can rank for tons of keywords and drive a ton of people, um, to this blog post that’s espousing our ideas.

Brad: (16:14)

Yeah. That’s I like, it’s a really good point. Cause there are a few ways, there are a few ways to do that, right? Like I almost think of that as like a moat, like back to the old Warren buffet, uh, idea about like investing in companies or businesses that have this competitive advantage. So like from a content competitive advantage, you could do it a few different ways. You could go super longer. You could bring in more experts. You could do different media types. Like how is that similar to the way you think about it when you, when you’re describing to them like that?

Alban: (16:40)

Yeah. So standard like content analysis where I’m seeing what kind of content is working And uh, almost always we land on writing blog posts to begin with and then we end up fleshing that out. So now we have, um, the first thing we ever did was all the blog. We basically were trying to hit every podcasting keyword that was out there. And then, so we, we overly focused on podcasting stuff. Um, then we would go in, we got into podcast episodes and we brought in a guy who’d done podcasts for years and he started creating all these episodes about it and he had all the topics lined up for him. So you basically got to cruise through years of content and create podcast episodes for it. And now we’re getting into more video content. So we get to create, um, what would be like our video spin on the same topics so that we’re able to have this complete coverage.

Alban: (17:34)

The nice thing about blogs, I mean, written content is so nice because it’s so easily editable. And so you write it, you realize you did not hit the searcher intent. You can rewrite it and you didn’t get it this one time, you rewrite it and you add in some other stuff and it works. Okay. Now I know it works. Now I can create these heavier assets of a recording or a video which just can be so much heavier. Yeah. Then that it can last for years. And uh, the next best thing that your competitor can do is copy your exact video, which is already got a ton of links, comments, views, shares. Um, so it is kind of, you’ve started to build up this content moat.

Brad: (18:19)

Yeah, for sure. I think too that the cost of failing is so much smaller. So like, you know, half a day you could throw a blog post out and if it doesn’t work, I mean it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world, you know, you just keep going or keep refining it like you said. And then also too, like, you know, uh, it, it provides like the backbone for everything else and it’s, it always surprises me how little text translates to how super long the video. So like on the internet, two minutes is like a really long video, you know, cause no one has an attention span anymore, but that’s like 200 words. So if you’re adapting 2000 words to 200 words, it’s going to be really easy to get like the main crux of that whole thing and boil it all down to that. So, and then you could splice one most of, you know, five different ways if you want it to.

Alban: (19:05)

Yeah, exactly. It, it is really, it’s been very nice for us to be able to start in that, you know, lightweight environment and kind of leverage up into stuff that’s a bit harder. Um, we’re getting it now and into, you know, what does it look like to package all this content into coursework courses and actually provide that for free for customers. Um, which is something like an undertaking that would’ve just spelt so daunting to me. I mean, we just put out a how to start a podcast video series that is over an hour of content now and it’s fully like, it was scripted, produced, edited. I would never have done that undertaking years ago when we created a page on that and it was read over now three quarters of a million times. Once that hits some point you go, okay, we, we understand this, we know what we’re, we’re going now I could take this page, turn it into a script, turn it into video and make that someday into a course. Um, so it’s really nice to have that as a testing ground.

Brad: (20:06)

Yeah, definitely. How much of your time internally, now you said you still start with like kind of written text content, how much of your time or whatever resources is still going to text versus audio and video stuff?

Alban: (20:21)

Personally, I’m doing a lot less of the customer facing text. Um, so we have one in house, full time writer. Um, we’ve got one in house guy who does podcasts and video. We have a contractor who does some video production stuff for us and you know, since I oversee the marketing team, I end up kind of jumping into all sorts of different types of projects. Um, I’m the only one who really works on like our ad spend. So I invest quite a bit of time in ads. Um, you know, anything that is going to last a long time. So our email drip campaigns, things like that get a lot of my attention.

Brad: (21:03)

Gotcha. For ads specifically, are you doing mostly like bottom of the funnel, PPC ads or also like content distribution type ads, like Facebook ads or other stuff like that?

Alban: (21:14)

So we don’t do anything on Facebook. Um, that is probably just due to my own ignorance about how it would work. Like we’ve tried it and it didn’t work and, uh, have not circled back to it. Mmm. You know, we, it’s so nice that Google, I mean, what they’re providing and why you spend so much money there is because it’s intent-based. And if someone’s searching for, I want to know the best podcast host right now, well, I really, really want to be in front of you because you’re about to make a decision between me and a competitor. And so I’m willing to spend a few dollars rather than 1 cent. Um, but then as far as content distribution, what we’ve actually found to be more valuable than doing like a 1 cent click through on some ad network has been, we’re writing the content, we’re trying to rank number one and even if we are, we will now spend 5 cents on that keyword that no one else is willing to bid on because they don’t see the ROI. And we will get it for almost nothing. We get to have two listings for this keyword that’s pretty obscure, but now we have more possibility possible times to interact with future customers.

Brad: (22:29)

Definitely. That’s awesome. Do you do any, um, retargeting with that kind of stuff so you get people, let’s backtrack a little bit. I think you also have like a decent freemium component, right? Where you do get a lot of people, you have a free option, but then you do get a lot of people upgrading. So I guess it definitely makes sense to like, it’s, it’s a, it’s a lot easier to get blog views, those types of people into like a free plan obviously. Then like an expensive paid plan out of the gate.

Alban: (22:55)

Yeah, that’s, that’s a good point. So we are, we have our main plan and almost everyone ends up on is 12 bucks a month. So there’s not a huge barrier to entry, but there is a free version and that free version is all the features, everything that comes in the paid version. The only deal is your episodes are only live for 90 days and you can only upload two hours of new content each month. So you could basically have a podcast forever on Buzzsprout with them, all these pro features, but it would just cycle through only your last three months of content would ever be live. Gotcha. What happens is pretty often as people put their content in and once they see this stuff getting a little older, if they’ve been successful, which I think most people get podcasting within three months when they have this light bulb moment of this is going to work for me, I see the value.

Alban: (23:50)

Then they go, okay, that $12 is actually going to be nothing to maintain this back catalog. And so it makes that decision very easy. Um, so that was something, another thing that I would say we were just kind of lucky to have fallen into that was something we launched with and it made it easy for anybody to say, I want to make sure that I’ve got, um, you know, it makes it easy for them to take the step from I’m reading about how to start a podcast, do I’m just going to sign up for an account and get on an email list and learn more from us, um, over the next few months before they even make a decision.

Brad: (24:23)

Yeah. Got it. That makes sense. Um, flipping or switching gears a little bit, what’s,

Brad: (24:31)

how should people who are doing podcasts balance calls to action? So how, I’m sure you have seen a bunch of different varieties of podcasts on a bunch of, a variety of people doing this cause it’s depending on the company, depending on is joining on the why they’re doing it. It seems like it seems like a much less effective conversion tool. Like than text content, then something that’s on the site and it’s easy to transition. It seems more of a branding, longterm, deep engagement type play. So how, how do, how do you recommend, especially like more, you know, more on the business end of the spectrum where it’s, it’s, there’s no simple, you know, easy conversion path otherwise.

Alban: (25:12)

Right, well think back to our, our jokes about, um, cheesecake factory. You got someone in the door, you got them to a table, you got them drinks, you have a waiter waiting on them, and then you put down and say, let’s make the decision. And then what did you do? You put ads there. How is that the best monetization of this person’s attention? The only thing I can really think is, do you actually want them hanging out at the table for a longer as they drink more? But if you’re trying to sell something, you weren’t sure you were going to make the sale. You should never be putting other people’s ads, barely making any money off of it, in front of your people. And so most podcasters have this idea, like the calls to action will always be checkout Casper mattresses and why don’t you check out me undies?

Alban: (25:59)

They’re super comfortable. The calls to action should almost always be do something for this person you’ve built a relationship with or maybe for years. And uh, so if you’re a personal, you’re just a person trying to do a podcast, well the call to action should probably just be, you know, support me on Patrion. Give me a couple dollars and I’d love it if you take care of me and maybe I can mention you in episodes. Um, if you want to use your podcast to, like I said earlier, kind of get down to the ground floor. The thing to be telling people is click the link in the show notes. It goes to a Google form. And tell me about this podcast. Tell me what I should be talking about. Tell me what’s working, what’s not. Um, you’ve got to a feedback mechanism in there. And uh, for most brands I would say what you’re doing is, this is actually a preview of a talk I’m going to be getting at a podcast conference in a few months.

Alban: (26:56)

But if you’re a business B2B, what you’re you need to do is you’re not, your podcast gets, on average, the average podcast gets 134 plays. Okay? In a world where the average podcast is getting 134 plays, how the heck you get a positive ROI? Even if you 10 X that, how am I going to get a positive ROI? Well, the answer is this is not a top of the funnel thing. Like you said, this is taking existing customers and turning them into super fans. The people who write blog posts out of the goodness of their heart, the people that cannot stop annoying their friends, telling them to move off of one software platform to the other. Like I have friends in all sorts of different areas. They’re like, Oh, this is the very best SEO platform. Get rid of the one you’re on. Get on this new one.

Alban: (27:47)

And podcasting, what you’re doing is you’re actually trying to find those types of people and make them real super fans. So what does that mean for your call to action? That means your calls to action should all be focused on deeper engagement with the small audience that you have. Uh give me feedback so that I can talk to you about the things you want. Um, maybe go to my site and take an action. So on our podcasts we do mention Buzzsprout but we rarely are saying go sign up today and get a free account. We’re more trying to get you to really see us as an industry leader and really make you successful so that the call to action is just so blatantly obvious. Like you need to start a podcast and you’ve been, we’ve been hanging out now for six months. As you listened to my show, you’re going to go there. Uh, whether I recommend it or not. Does that make sense?

Brad: (28:42)

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think I feel the same about text content even though it tends to be a lot more, uh, overt adventure. I feel like it should be more subtle in that if you set it up properly, if you set it up like, like the old school copywriting problem, agitate solution, the solution should be obvious by the time they get done with it. You don’t have to like beat them over the head with a banner app or like a, uh, you know, 10% off coupon type of thing. Cause cause then it does turn into like a transaction and depending on the business, uh, most transactional sales are quick to come and quick to go. So that’s not always like the best way to build like a longterm brand or customer base or whatever.

Alban: (29:19)

Yeah, exactly. I wish I could find this quote for you quickly, but now maybe I’m not going to be able to, we, we had someone reach out, um, I think to our podcasting course and her exact words were something like, I can’t tell you, I’m basically speechless right now. How valuable this was. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to learn how to start a podcast and all of them degenerated into a marketing funnel. And you just told me how to do it so you can rest assured when I launch it will be with you. And the thing that really stuck out to me was like degenerate it into a marketing funnel, right? Because her experience had over and over been, I’m going to teach you everything, I’m going to show you how to do it. Here’s step one, here’s step two for step three and beyond, sign up here and join the email list.

Alban: (30:11)

Yup. And like whenever I see that I go, Oh, there’s no other value. Like you’re asking for me to pay right now because you know this at the end of the row, this is about the end of the relationship. That’s what it feels like. It may not always, it’s not always true and it’s so nice to operate in a world where you can just have confidence. If I can make someone successful, they will in turn repay that and we’re able to think about content and that with that mentality. And there’s also, I’m not a, I’m totally for supporting the podcasters who are on my competitors platform because maybe some year down the line they will be asked which, who’s good and they will say, Oh, I’m on this one, but I also like this other one. Or if they ever have a problem, we would be at the top of the consideration list to move. So, um, as far as content, I know one thing we’ve done differently is we are perfectly happy to recommend our competitors for things they are better at. And if you’re trying to solve a podcasting problem, we’ll tell you how to solve it with us. But we’ll also tell you how to solve it, um, with our competitors as well.

Brad: (31:20)

Yeah, that’s interesting. I think some brands, uh, and like text content, alternative keywords are pretty common. So like this brand alternative, this brand versus this brand, like everyone’s searching for that kind of stuff anyway. Um, and some people are like hesitant to, to either do that type of stuff or be truthful I guess in that type of content. But it’s only, I mean, to me it’s like only beneficial at the end of the day cause it’s like not, not everyone’s going to solve the same problem or issue the same way. Uh, and so certain people that could be, it might be a good fit for us or that brand are definitely not going to be a good fit for another brand. And that’s just, that’s like how life works and you should probably just, you know, own up to it and say that as opposed to like trying to just, uh, act like it doesn’t exist or act like people aren’t already interested in that type of narrative or conversation.

Alban: (32:09)

and you hear it from client services people all the time. They say, wow, the smartest thing I ever did was fire X client and move on from this bad relationship. And why do we not feel that that’s the right thing to do early on? Like create some type of a filter where you’re saying if you are person X, you’re a great fit for my competitor. If your person, why you’re a great fit for me and put that out there early so that I’m like the people who would be fits for your competitor are with them and everyone who’s a great fit for you can actually trust like, Whoa, you just recommended your competitor if you wanted this feature set, that’s pretty cool. And so they feel you have much more trust and co uh, you know, you’re much more trustworthy with the people you actually want to keep around and you already got rid of all the bad clients who would have hated your product anyway.

Brad: (33:00)

For sure. Definitely. And then there is like this weird phenomenon in sales too where it’s like the less you want to say all the more the other person wants it. So it is, it is kind of a weird thing where it’s like you’re helping, you’re helping to avoid bad scenarios, but then at the same time like by not appearing super desperate, uh, it makes whatever the lead and prospect have more urgency to like actually want to pursue a relationship with you.

Alban: (33:22)

Yeah. That was actually my number one piece of dating advice for, uh, getting together with my wife.

Brad: (33:30)

Act like you don’t care?

Alban: (33:31)

No. Just like when you want anything. If you like, you’re the person who’s like, I want it 100% then the other person does have to be like, Oh my gosh, you must be a psycho if you’re like chasing me this hard. So you’ve gotta be like a normal person. Um, I think, you know, I mean obviously that’s totally true in sales. We do it all the time and support where someone writes in and they’re like, you’re charging me $12 but this new competitor just launched it and they’re only $5 you should only be $5. We say, you know, here’s why we think we’re different. But literally it’s not very hard to switch. So we’re, if you do think it’s the right pick for you financially, we will help you move and like we will make sure it goes smoothly.

Alban: (34:18)

Well, I wasn’t saying I wanted to move, I was just saying I prefer it to be cheaper. Yeah, we understand. It’s, you know, we have a larger team. We’ve been around longer. We have more features, so it’s, we can’t work at those prices. Um, but let me know if you want to move. No, no, no. I never want to move Buzzsprout is great. But, uh, thanks again for explaining it. And as soon as you take that posture of it’s okay if you leave, people will go, yeah, well I wasn’t trying to start a fight. It’s okay. I’m happy. I just wanted to check. And it makes sense now.

Brad: (34:46)

Yeah. It’s like the minute you become defensive at all is when you become like an internet meme with this whole conversation. That’s just like everyone, yelling at each other.

Alban: (34:55)

Yeah. You’re the people that sit there and delete and police their reviews are always the people who get like flooded with thousands of bad reviews. So, uh, yeah, you’ve gotta be able to take a couple lumps on the internet.

Brad: (35:09)

Um, so podcasting is starting to kind of explode a little bit. What’s, I think there’s a few interesting trends that I’ve seen anecdotally that I’m trying to like test and I’m one of those is like a higher volume approach, um, with a few different ideas. But what other trends have you seen or are you looking at that like seem to be sticking out in terms of what people are doing that cause it? Cause everyone, I feel like everyone, every journalist, everyone has like a podcast now. You know what I mean? So like what, what is it that’s actually now it’s becoming like blogging in that sense where everyone’s, everyone’s doing like the bare minimum. So you actually have to like invest a little time energy into it now.

Alban: (35:45)

I think so a few, there’s, well I’ve got some trends that are just kind of boring. Like people are like, Oh there’s, yeah, there’s a lot more people listening on Spotify than there used to be and they’re opening the door to allow to new listeners. The average podcast episode is getting shorter. Um, the average person is doing less production value. That’s mainly because of, um, one of our competitors Anchor- launch where people just record on their phone and publish it. So it’s not the same level of production quality or audio quality that are normally in podcasting. So those are some of the trends. The things that seem to be, or maybe we want more of like what things are working and are smart to do.

Brad: (36:25)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that’s my question.

Alban: (36:28)

Okay. So the things that I would say, I’ve seen her the last years that are starting to work, uh, investment in the branding of your podcast is very important. So in the little money and get a good piece of artwork, like that’s actually really, really valuable because people scroll through all the listings and they only see the titles. And if the artwork is like just a picture of a microphone, they scroll past it. But if the artwork is something interesting to go, Oh, this must be well produced so you get a good first impression. So definitely get the artwork right. Um, bare minimum of like sound quality. It’s not all about sound quality, but I joke that it’s like body odor. If people are mentioning it, it’s not a good thing. So if people are talking about your, your great audio quality, it’s not like super impressive and uh, if it’s bad quality is probably cause it’s not, they don’t like it.

Alban: (37:23)

Um, what other things? So the marketing is still really, really hard for podcasting. You basically have to have another lead in somewhere else. And that means you’ve got, have a social media presence where you’re, uh, marketing the podcast. You are advertising the podcast in ads. So there’s a few, um, podcasts, apps that allow you to do that, like Overcast. And I think one other one just launched the, now I’m blanking on which podcast app it was. Um, you need, so you need to promote the podcast, creating written content around the episodes. So, um, some sort of, you just need some way that you can take, get people to find these new episodes because there is a serious discoverability problem in podcasting. Um, let me think.

Brad: (38:20)

The more mobile apps, like on that point like five years ago or something where uh, unless you’re, if you’re not in like the top 10 on whatever Spotify, whatever channel we’re talking about, no one’s going to find it unless you’re driving people from some other mechanism.

Alban: (38:38)

Yeah, I think that’s, that’s actually a very good point. Um, one thing I keep, I always think people should do, and I haven’t seen anyone do this, is basically go search for, if you’re a comedy podcast, go search for all the blog posts that are ranking for top pod comedy podcasts. And then I would reach out to everyone who owns those listings and say, Hey, can I sponsor this page for $100 a month and put my podcast up there at rank zero and page. Don’t say that it’s the best. Just put it on there. I think that that would blow a podcast up if you were able to do that. I haven’t seen anyone do it, but try to go sponsor all of these pages that get tons of reads and they drive tons of podcasting traffic. Um, and then once you hit some critical limit of word of mouth, you’re only going to grow faster and faster.

Brad: (39:31)

Yeah. That’s what super interesting.

Alban: (39:32)

As far as the branding, you know, doing anything you can to build yourself into your listener’s life. Um, so you’re starting to create all these cues, like be on a consistent publishing schedule if possible. Um, I’ve got podcasts, I know every Monday night it’s there for me when I’m driving home and another one on Wednesday mornings driving into work, it’s there and there’s one that comes out Sunday. So I listen to it at this time and it becomes part of my routine and something I’m looking forward to. If it was sporadic, it fits in where it fits in. Um, but you want to make your podcast an integral part of your listeners lives and uh, other things you can do, like just having a little bit of branded music or something. Um, that just makes it feel like, Hey, we’ve been here before. Um, helps build this relationship with the listeners.

Brad: (40:25)

Gotcha. I have one final personal question. I’m thinking about if you have multiple shows under one brand, do you suggest or do you see splitting those up into multiple podcasts or producing I’ve seen it both ways or producing a bunch under one? Uh, but, but having obvious like cues let people know that they’re almost like different shows in the same stream. You know what I mean? Does that make sense?

Alban: (40:53)

Yeah. So we’ve tried both ways on our own shows and we’ve seen people try both ways. Um, you know, maybe call that like combined feed where you’re putting multiple shows in the same feed. I’m of the opinion now- split them up. Um, it’s, and then do crossover episodes. So it’s obviously very, it’s a lot to get somebody on the list just to start, get to subscribe and actually get the, the podcast right. It’d be almost analogous to like, I’m actually splitting all my email up into two separate email groups and I’m saying subscribe to both email newsletters. Like, you know, that you’re adding a lot of friction in Oh, you are doing is allowing these two to operate and do totally different things. So we have three shows that all at one point could have been on one feed and were split. One was called how to start a podcast, which is a podcast about podcasting,

Brad: (41:46)

Classic marketing.

Alban: (41:48)

Then we had another one that was like podcasting tips, but the target market, there was people who were a little bit further along the journey. And then we had one where we were interviewing podcasters like famous podcasters to talk about how the shows were working for them. All podcasts, all related to podcasting, three totally different markets. Even though some people would overlap, um, when we would talk to people, they’d say, I actually was only listening to the one and I would delete the other episodes. So I’m, I’m of the opinion, split them up and then let people know about the other one by doing crossover episodes.

Brad: (42:23)

Yeah, that’s interesting. Uh, I think it’s a good, like a, what does that call back where, uh, the issue like 20 years ago was that there wasn’t enough content in general, but the issue now is that there’s way too much. And so it’s, it’s becoming more like curation versus publishing essentially and helping people self select, I guess in terms of what bucket that they fit into as opposed to just like pushing it all on them.

Alban: (42:51)

Yeah, and you need to make sure that, you know, like we said before, you’ve got to be focusing in so far that one person listening is very, very valuable to you because, um, the listener numbers are not there. The listener numbers are actually pretty low. Even Joe Rogan, you know, there’s tons of YouTube channels that get way more views than any Joe Rogan podcast episode. Podcasts are harder to grow than anything else, I think, at least right now. Um, so you’ve got to do this multiple of number of listeners by value or the ability you have to monetize them to the ultimate value you’re going to get. And so the piece of the equation you’ve got to work on is the value to you. And so there are ways to be running a podcast that only gets 200 listeners, but every one of those listeners is a key person who could buy from your company. Well then it can do really, really well. Um, that’s why I’m just not a fan almost ever of running ads because you spent so much work getting all these people to listen to a podcast only to say, uh, I have valued you at 0.01 cent per listen. Like that’s not a good deal. You need to get a ton more value out of your podcast than that.

Brad: (44:05)

Definitely. I wish I had something planned where I could just launch into an ad right now as a joke. I’m not that quick right now. Unfortunately.

Alban: (44:12)

Casper mattresses, they’re phenomenal. I slept on mine last night. What about you, Brad? Had my MeUndies on and uh, I went down stairs and I worked on my Squarespace site and then we ate some Blue Apron and it was so delicious. So, I mean, what were you thinking about?

Brad: (44:29)

That was so good. It’s unfortunate that when the recession hits, all those companies are going out of business. That’s the, that’s the unfortunate part.

Alban: (44:36)

There’ll be a crisis in podcasting advertisements.

Brad: (44:40)

Just go to, just go to Buzzsprout forward slash Casper to learn more. Uh, well, thanks again for joining me. If anyone does actually want to learn more about you and your company, where, where should they go? Um, well Buzzsprout is buzzsprout.com um, I’m online pretty much everywhere is Alban Brook.

Brad: (44:58)

But you can find me on Twitter at Alban Brooke. My grandfather never got any of the handles before me, so that’s pretty much me everywhere.

Brad: (45:06)

That’s good. It’s a, it’s a nice, it’s a nice unique name as opposed to Brad Smith, which like there’s probably a hundred other million people out there that already have it.

Alban: (45:14)

So they’re all trying to steal it from you.

Brad: (45:16)

Yeah, exactly. I go, this is gonna make me sound really good. But like I go to like a liquor store, a local liquor store, and they say, Oh, what’s your, are you in the system? And I said yes. And they say, what’s your name? And I say, Brad Smith. And they have like 10 other people that just in this one zip code, you know, with the same exact name. So that’s fine. That was a completely useless aside.

Brad: (45:33)

But anyway, thanks again for hopping on. It’s super fun to talk to you and catch up. Uh, and yeah, look forward to hearing more about with Buzzsprout and checking all this stuff out.

Alban: (45:41)

Great. Well, thanks for having me on the show and wish you the best with the podcast.

Brad: (45:46)

Thanks dude. Appreciate it.

Highlights

How Buzzsprout uses content marketing to capitalize on word of mouth mentions. (14:04)

So when someone reaches out and says like, Hey, what’s the best microphone for a podcast? They go, Oh, I’m on Buzzsprout and they’re awesome at putting out content. They did a big review of all these microphones. Now we don’t sell microphones, but now you’ve sent that article on to somebody who I know will be in the market for podcast hosting in a couple months.

The value of written content on the path to creating more involved material. (17:34) 

The nice thing about blogs, I mean, written content is so nice because it’s so easily editable. And so you write it, you realize you did not hit the searcher intent. You can rewrite it and you didn’t get it this one time, you rewrite it and you add in some other stuff and it works. Okay. Now I know it works. 

Many podcasts employ overt calls to action. Do this instead. (27:58)

That means your calls to action should all be focused on deeper engagement with the small audience that you have. Give me feedback so that I can talk to you about the things you want. Um, maybe go to my site and take an action. So on our podcasts we do mention Buzzsprout but we rarely are saying go sign up today and get a free account. We’re more trying to get you to really see us as an industry leader and really make you successful so that the call to action is just so blatantly obvious.

A simple yet effective way to brand your podcast and increase listeners.  (39:32)

As far as the branding, you know, doing anything you can to build yourself into your listener’s life. So you’re starting to create all these cues, like be on a consistent publishing schedule if possible. I’ve got podcasts, I know every Monday night it’s there for me when I’m driving home and another one on Wednesday mornings driving into work, it’s there and there’s one that comes out Sunday. So I listen to it at this time and it becomes part of my routine and something I’m looking forward to.