Copy Weekly

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

Brad Smith
January 30, 2020
46 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.

Subscribe: iTunes | Spotify | Google Play

In this episode of Copy Weekly, 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!

In this podcast episode, you’ll learn:

  • How the podcasting industry has changed over the years
  • How to structure calls to action for a podcast audience
  • How to advertise your podcast
  • How to make your podcast stand out in a crowded medium.

Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

Watch

Listen

Read

Brad: (00:00)

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

Alban: (00:16)

Sure. I’m the head of marketing for a company called Higher Pixels. We are a web development company. We build our own SSSA applications. Some of those are Donor Tools, String Care, one is called Tick, and the one that’s probably the largest now is called Buzzsprout. That 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. They’re pretty old. Web years are like dog years or something. Buzzsprout is over 10 years old as far as having customers who have paid us money for over 10 years. Eleven and a half if you count the time we were building it.

Brad: (01:05)

Gotcha. I mean for podcasting, that’s pretty early. It’s like blogging 20 years ago, right?

Alban: (01:11)

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

Brad: (01:23)

Do you have a tattoo on your chest?

Alban: (01:26)

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

Brad: (01:32)

You guys do a bunch of other types of content, but you also do a lot of traditional old school stuff like events. What in the early years was more useful or more impactful versus what you guys are focusing on now?

Alban: (02:06)

So the early years are the time where 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.

It’s the field of dreams type of marketing. And we thought that would happen. And we know this is 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 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. It was kind of learning who our buyers were and then getting ourselves in front of potential buyers.

Brad: (03:26)

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

Alban: (03:31)

Yeah. Well, you want very badly for it to be true because it feels like it should be true. But 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 Cheesecake Factory and I know that that’s not good food. They’re going cause it’s got good marketing and it’s got good cheesecake. And so people would just be like, “Whatever, I’ll spend 30 bucks on whatever other things you give me.”

Brad: (03:59)

Yeah. There’s this collection of tweets or an article or something about how Cheesecake Factory just doesn’t make sense from the decor to the menu to all of the different random opposing food groups on the menu. And yet somehow, like you’re saying, it’s huge.

Alban: (04:21)

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 somehow you’ve decided the best thing to do is to monetize that by selling an ad for a funeral home inside of the menus. Who came up with this idea? And they’re somehow geniuses because all of them are always packed and they’re having these massive graduation parties. So there’s something going on there that I have not fully grasped.

Brad: (04:58)

Yeah. That’s super funny. So you got into 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. It’s like 1970s marketing, like the classic fundamentals. So, where did you begin? How do you even begin? How do you position yourself in a market that’s just starting to take off?

Alban: (05:31)

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 did not have to time the market. We were podcasting but we were doing so at a very bad time to launch. A lot of people who launched at the same time died. You either wanted to be Lipson or Blueberry that launched at the very start, or you want to be someone who launched in like 2014 when it was easy to get customers. But we were in the dark ages of podcasting where we were overshadowed by the big players and there were a ton of customers to be had yet. We were lucky that we had positioned ourselves a little bit more for the NGO, the nonprofit church space.

Alban: (06:23)

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. So we’re really lucky that we basically got to live at 3% growth 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,” we were able to lean into that. So the way that we kind of came around the positioning was, I would just say it was honest that we had donor tools for nonprofits to track donations. And we had a website builder called Insights, which had just a ton of churches and nonprofits on it. And so they were the customers that were asking for what would become Buzzsprout.

Alban: (07:15)

They were saying, “we want to get podcasts or audio online.” And when they were asking for that, we looked at 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 their 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 what happened was like a nonprofit or a church would start a podcast and 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, it has to be easy. It has to be simple so that the church secretary can run this or the 17-year-old tech wiz who’s helping your nonprofit can do it. 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 a media company. Like, that’s literally all they do. Now I’m really gonna offend people. That’s not all they do, but that’s like a core thing of a core fundamental. They have to push out so much content on a daily, weekly basis 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 and is being put out there. And one of my favorite stories from the beginning of Buzzsprout was when 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 we would 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. On average we have like 30 people who don’t attend every week.”

Those are the people downloading it and they’re able to stay plugged in.

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 were 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 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 VC nonprofit space and it bums me out so much. So we see this when we do competitive analysis for donor tools as well. Some of these, we just track your donations and help you get 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 going 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,” I’d feel super scummy charging that cause. You’re going, “I’m trying to make a massive profit off your nonprofit.” That’s not the right thing to do.

Brad: (10:42)

Yeah, no. Well, not to some people, I guess. So now fast forward a little bit to today. How are you guys splitting up your own budget and how do you think of things in terms of, you have to do stuff like events too, for different reasons, right? Like events are great for things like sales, for meeting people, for branding, and content-based stuff. We talked a little bit earlier about essentially 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 this landscape now, get the word out? What does that look like for you guys currently?

Alban: (11:24)

Yeah, so we did a ton of experimentation and when things hit we would just continue to double down. I’ll maybe bucket it in different ways. Live events are a piece. They are really hard for us. We’ve never even gotten close to a positive ROI. If you told me I had to run a live event and make money for my career, I would 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 connected with real people who will tell you to your face what’s good about your product, what’s not, and 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)

The best marketing channel for us ever has been content marketing, and I think of content marketing through maybe a little bit of a different lens. I think pretty typical is, you want something with high volume keywords, like lots of people are looking for it. Also intent. You want to actually get a lot of people to come to your website if you said, like, “naked photos of celebrities,” 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 need to have keywords that, when they’re coming to the page they go, “Ah, I understand you offer the thing I need and now I will buy it.” So mostly there’s just this overlap of those two. The way we looked at it always was there was a third circle and that is valuable things that are valuable to my existing customers.

Alban: (13:09)

And then I wanted the 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. 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. We’re 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, “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. So it was not a framework that I fully understood when we started, but we’ve developed it over the past few years.

Brad: (14:35)

Got it. And how do you fight? Cause the problem is always, you do have to hit a certain volume of quality at a certain point. And you do want to see 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 a bunch of ways to go about it, but still maintain that core kind of concept 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, one of the founders, Kevin, and I think we are both more on the perfectionist side than we probably should be. 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 could rank for that we don’t because we don’t feel like we have the right answer to it. 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. Something 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 to this blog post that’s espousing our ideas.

Brad: (16:14)

Yeah. That’s a really good point. Cause 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 Buffett idea about investing in companies or businesses that have this competitive advantage. So, 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’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 almost always we land on writing blog posts to begin with. Then we end up fleshing that out. So now we have the first thing we ever did was the blog. We basically were trying to hit every podcasting keyword that was out there. And then we overly focused on podcasting stuff. Then we would go in, we got into podcast episodes and we brought in a guy who’d done podcasts for years. He started creating all these episodes about it and he had all the topics lined up. 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 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, 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 if 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. Then it can last for years. And the next best thing that your competitor can do is copy your exact video, which has already got a ton of links, comments, views, and shares. So 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. 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 just keep going or keep refining it, like you said. And then also, it provides the backbone for everything else. It always surprises me how a little text translates to a super long video. So like, on the internet, two minutes is a really long video cause no one has an attention span anymore. But that’s like 200 words. So, if you’re adapting 2,000 words to 200 words, it’s going to be really easy to get the main crux of that whole thing and boil it all down to that. Then you could splice it five different ways if you want to.

Alban: (19:05)

Yeah, exactly. It’s been very nice for us to be able to start in that lightweight environment and kind of leverage up into stuff that’s a bit harder. We’re getting into “what does it look like to package all this content into coursework courses and actually provide that for free for customers?” Which is like an undertaking that would’ve just seemed 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. It’s fully scripted, produced, and edited. I would never have done that undertaking years ago when we created a page on that and it was read now over three quarters of a million times. Once that hits a certain point you go, “Okay, we understand this, we know what we’re, we’re doing now. I could take this page, turn it into a script, turn it into video and make that into a course.” So it’s really nice to have that as a testing ground.

Brad: (20:06)

Yeah, definitely. You said you still start with 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. We have one in-house full-time writer. 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, since I oversee the marketing team, I end up kind of jumping into all sorts of different types of projects. I’m the only one who really works on things like our ad spend. So I invest quite a bit of time in ads. 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 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. That is probably just due to my own ignorance about how it would work. We’ve tried it and it didn’t work and we have not circled back to it. 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 one cent. But then as far as content distribution, what we’ve actually found to be more valuable than doing like a one 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 five cents on that keyword 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 possible times to interact with future customers.

Brad: (22:29)

Definitely. That’s awesome. Do you do any retargeting with that kind of stuff? 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. It’s a lot easier to get blog viewers into a free plan, obviously, than an expensive paid plan right out of the gate.

Alban: (22:55)

Yeah, that’s a good point. So we have our main plan that almost everyone ends up on at 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 all these pro features, but it would just cycle through. Only your last three months of content would ever be live. 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. 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, It makes it easy for them to take the step from I’m reading about how to start a podcast, to I’m just going to sign up for an account and get on an email list and learn more from us over the next few months before they even make a decision.

Brad: (24:23)

Yeah. Got it. That makes sense. Flipping or switching gears a little bit, how should people who are doing podcasts balance calls to action? I’m sure you have seen a bunch of different varieties of podcasts and a variety of people doing this cause it’s depending on the company and why they’re doing it. It seems like a much less effective conversion tool than text content, than 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 do you recommend, especially more on the business end of the spectrum where there’s no easy conversion path otherwise.

Alban: (25:12)

Right, well think back to our jokes about 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 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? they’re super comfortable.”

The calls to action should almost always be to do something for this person you’ve built a relationship with or maybe for years. So if you’re just a person trying to do a podcast, well the call to action should probably just be, you know, “support me on Patreon. Give me a couple dollars and I’d love it if you take care of me and maybe I can mention you in episodes.” If you want to use your podcast to, like I said earlier, 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.” You’ve got to a feedback mechanism in there. And for most brands I would say what you’re doing is, this is actually a preview of a talk I’m going to be giving at a podcast conference in a few months.

Alban: (26:56)

But if you’re a B2B business, what you need to do is, if 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 do you get a positive ROI? Even if you get 10 times 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.

“Give me feedback so that I can talk to you about the things you want.” 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 we’ve been hanging out now for six months. As you listened to my show, you’re going to go there 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 of an overt adventure. I feel like it should be more subtle in that if you set it up properly, if you set it up 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 beat them over the head with a banner app or a 10% off coupon type of thing. Cause then it does turn into like a transaction and depending on the business, most transactional sales are quick to come and quick to go. So that’s not always like the best way to build like a long term 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 had someone reach out, 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 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)

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 with that mentality. I’m totally for supporting the podcasters who are on my competitors platform because maybe some year down the line they will be asked 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, 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 with our competitors as well.

Brad: (31:20)

Yeah, that’s interesting. I think with some brands and 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. And some people are like hesitant to either do that type of stuff or be truthful in that type of content. But to me it’s only beneficial at the end of the day cause not everyone’s going to solve the same problem or issue the same way. And that’s just how life works and you should probably just own up to it and say that as opposed to trying to 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 you’re this person, you’re a great fit for me, and put that out there early so that I’m like the people who would be a fit 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’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 this weird phenomenon in sales where it’s like the less you want to say, the more the other person wants it. So 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 by not appearing super desperate, it makes the lead have more urgency to actually want to pursue a relationship with you.

Alban: (33:22)

Yeah. That was actually my number one piece of dating advice for 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’re the person who’s like, “I want it 100%” then the other person will 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. 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 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 if you do think it’s the right pick for you financially, we will help you move and 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. We have a larger team. We’ve been around longer. We have more features, so we can’t work at those prices. But let me know if you want to move.”

“No, no, no. I never want to move, Buzzsprout is great. But 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 everyone, yelling at each other.

Alban: (34:55)

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

Brad: (35:09)

So podcasting is starting to kind of explode a little bit. I think there’s a few interesting trends that I’ve seen anecdotally that I’m trying to test. But what other trends have you seen or are you looking at that seem to be sticking out in terms of what people are doing? Cause I feel like everyone, every journalist, everyone has like a podcast now. You know what I mean? So like, 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 invest a little time and energy into it now.

Alban: (35:45)

Well, I’ve got some trends that are just kind of boring. There’s a lot more people listening on Spotify than there used to be and they’re opening the door to allow new listeners. The average podcast episode is getting shorter. The average person is doing less production value. That’s mainly because of 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 is 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 investment in the branding of your podcast is very important. Put 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,” you get a good first impression.

So definitely get the artwork right. Bare minimum of 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.

Alban: (37:23)

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 to have a social media presence where you’re marketing the podcast. You are advertising the podcast in ads. So there’s a few podcast apps that allow you to do that, like Overcast. You need to promote the podcast, creating written content around the episodes. So you just need some way that you can get people to find these new episodes because there is a serious discoverability problem in podcasting.

Brad: (38:20)

The more mobile apps, like on that point like five years ago or something where if you’re not in like the top 10 on 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 actually a very good point. One thing I always think people should do, and I haven’t seen anyone do this, is basically go search. If you’re a comedy podcast, go search for all the blog posts that are ranking for top 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?” 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. 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 is super interesting.

Alban: (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 where 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. But you want to make your podcast an integral part of your listeners’ lives. Other things you can do, like just having a little bit of branded music or something. That just makes it feel like, “Hey, we’ve been here before.” It helps to 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 a bunch under one? But having obvious cues to 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. You know, maybe call that a combined feed, where you’re putting multiple shows in the same feed. I’m of the opinion now to split them up and then do crossover episodes. So, it’s obviously a lot to get somebody on the list just to start, subscribe, and actually get 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. All 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 their shows were working for them. All podcasts, all related to podcasting, three totally different markets. Even though some people would overlap, 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 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. I think 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 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 like we said before, you’ve got to be focusing in so far that one person listening is very, very valuable to you because 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. So you’ve got to the 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 their value to you. So there are ways to run a podcast that only gets 200 listeners. But if every one of those listeners is a key person who could buy from your company, well then it can do really, really well. 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, “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 I went downstairs and 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 unfortunate part.

Alban: (44:36)

There’ll be a crisis in podcasting advertisements.

Brad: (44:40)

Just go to Buzzsprout forward slash Casper to learn more. Well, thanks again for joining me. If anyone does actually want to learn more about you and your company, where should they go?

Alban: (44:58)

Well Buzzsprout is buzzsprout.com. I’m online pretty much everywhere as Alban Brook. But you can find me on Twitter @AlbanBrooke. 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 nice unique name as opposed to Brad Smith, which like there’s probably a hundred million other 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 I go to 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. And I look forward to hearing more about 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. 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 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.