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Podcast Marketing for Agency Growth with Ben Shapiro (Part 1)

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How to use podcasting and use personal branding to build growth within your company.

Mentioned in this episode:

Strategy Call
Martech Podcast

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Podcast Marketing for Agency Growth with Ben Shapiro (Part 1):

Full Transcript

Liston:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host Liston Witherow and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston:
Today I’ll be talking to Ben Shapiro. Ben is my informal mentor on growing this podcast and working on this podcast. He’ll be talking about how he’s using podcasting and how he’s using personal branding to build up the cache of his own company. Before we get to Ben, I do have a favor to ask you if you get anything out of this podcast whatsoever, tell someone. Don’t keep it a secret. Share it with the person or people you think would benefit from it the most and also if you need help thinking about how to scale sales at your agency or professional services firm, feel free to apply for a free strategy session with me. Go to liston.io/strategy. You can fill out an application. I have some time blocked off over the next couple of weeks where I can talk to the people who I might be able to help. So if that’s interesting to you, go to liston.io/strategy. Now, without further ado then how are we today?

Benjamin Shapiro:
Liston. It’s great to be on the Liston.io show. Man, I’m psyched.

Liston:
It’s good to have you here. I have to say that you haven’t publicly taken any credit for what’s going on with my podcast, but I think you should take some. So I just wanted to take a moment here to acknowledge that because of your urging, I have spent quite a bit of time, energy, and money in growing this podcast, so thank you.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Well, I hope it’s generating a great return. You mentioned in the intro, which was very kind, that I was an informal advisor to helping you grow the podcast and I feel the same way we met through your cold outreach. I actually looked back because I’m starting to do some of that myself and with somebody that’s on my team was giving examples of people that do a good job of cold outreach and we didn’t know each other six months ago and now we’ve met each other, talked a couple of times, have bounced a bunch of ideas and I consider you my informal growth sales advisor as well. So it’s just nice to be able to connect with people that are like-minded and I’m glad to hear that the podcast has grown well and you’ve helped me out a ton. So, happy to be on the show.

Liston:
Awesome man. Well I’m really happy to have you here and I know the listeners are going to get a ton out of this today. So just by way of introduction, tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your company and what you do.

Benjamin Shapiro:
My name is Benjamin Shapiro. My company’s name is Ben J Shap LLC and I’m the host of the MarTech podcast is the top ranking podcast for the keyword MarTech on Google and in iTunes. Actually today we cracked the top 100 for business podcast.

Liston:
Oh, awesome.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Yeah, I know. I’m super psyched. I’ve actually only been doing the podcast for about six, seven months. So it’s a content strategy and a content business that I run that does lead generation for my consulting practice and it’s also my longterm strategy where eventually I want to build up that podcast audience to the point where I have a stable revenue stream coming from podcasting and my consulting business as well. So serves multiple purposes for me.

Liston:
I’m curious, let’s just get nerdy right off the bat here. Now I’m just prying for my own purposes. How do you know that you are the top ranking podcast for the keyword MarTech?

Benjamin Shapiro:
A couple of different reasons. First, you just Google MarTech Podcast and what comes up we’re the first ranking keyword, and if you do it in private mode, you don’t get Google changing the search results to understand what your needs are. They don’t look at your search history. It’s a private browsing. So from an SEO perspective, we’ve built enough content up over the last six months, and I say we because while it’s my show, I’m the producer, the director, the host, whether it’s through Upwork or whether there’s other people that are helping me, there’s my editor, four or five people that actually work in the production of the show and I just don’t like taking credit for everything. So we built a lot of content by transcribing all of the podcasts that we’ve recorded, by writing show notes and trying to title things in a way that feed all into MarTech content and Google sort of gravitated to our blogs for MarTech podcast and then the same thing when you look in the app store and you just search for the term MarTech. We just show up first.

Liston:
Let’s take a step back now. I know your whole story obviously, but for the listener, why did you start this MarTech podcast? You’ve been doing consulting, you’ve been really successful at that, and rather than growing in agency, you’re now focused on personal branding and you’re focused on getting this podcast out into the world. Why that strategy? What was your thought process?

Benjamin Shapiro:
I’ll take it a step back before starting the MarTech podcast and just give a quick recap on how I started getting into consulting. So my background was in marketing. I worked at eBay for seven years in business development and SEO. I left to run my own startup. My girlfriend at the time said she was open to taking a promotion to fiance, but I had to go get a steady paycheck, so I gave up the dream of running my startup, which honestly it was just treading water and went in house and ran the marketing department at early stage startups for roughly five years. So I’m in San Francisco, in Silicon Valley, lots of the traditional VC backed tech startups and I got really tired of the grind of the early stage tech startup. When you’re not the founder, there’s not a huge carrot in front of you. At least that’s what I found.

Benjamin Shapiro:
It’s a lot of like, I hope my ship comes in, in five years and you’re putting a ton of extra hours and it’s super high pressure and I was just struggling. I was having a hard time rationalizing, putting in the extra effort without actually owning any of the assets and not to say that working on early stage startup isn’t great, but it was just time for a change for me. So I got into professional services into consulting really because I was just looking to take a little bit of a break between my, I’m using air quotes, which people listening can’t see.

Liston:
It’s great on the radio.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Yeah, air quotes. My real job and I was taking on short term projects until I found what I wanted to do next. And those short term projects either got extended and extended and extended or I just ended up finding more work every time I needed to.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And the next thing you know it’s been three years doing that. So I hit a point in my consulting business where I realized that I can have predictable income over a long period of time, but it’s challenging to deal with the ups and downs of, you’re on a project or off a project, you’re on a project or off a project. And so I wanted to try to build some sort of a secondary stream of revenue that I could monetize that would help me with lead generation. And it got me thinking about what a content strategy would be. And honestly, the reason why I got into podcasting is because I’m not a great writer. I know good content when I see it and I’m probably a better editor than I actually am a writer. My last startup was a video guitar lesson website. So I had done enough video production to know that it’s expensive and time consuming and I just operate better talking and I enjoy the conversation.

Benjamin Shapiro:
So I decided that I was going to create a content asset around marketing content in podcasting because I felt like I could do a good job at it and produce a lot of content in a short period of time. So I set up some goals and said I want to try to get to 10,000 downloads. And I had time because I had just rolled off of a project and was going to take on building a content asset before I tried to take on more paid work because I have an anchor client that allows me to take the projects that I want to. And so that’s really how I got started in podcasting. It was meant to be lead generation for my consulting business and a monetizable asset that I would have to sort of invest in over time to get to the point where it can make a reasonable amount of money.

Liston:
And so you said something interesting there. You said you started the podcast as a way to attract clients for your consulting business. So create market awareness, build trust, credibility, but also to monetize. So do you see your podcast as a new source of revenue to diversify your income beyond consulting? And how do you think about that?

Benjamin Shapiro:
Yeah, that’s the longterm plan for me because consulting has been volatile. And I’ll preface this with, I am primarily a one man shop. I have a couple of people that help me hourly. I would love to bring them on full time, but consulting hasn’t been consistent enough for me to take on that overhead. At the end of the year, I have a pretty good sense of what I’m going to make, but I can’t tell you quarter to quarter.

Liston:
Right.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And so sometimes I’m working on two projects at once and sometimes I have three months off and I’m now to the point where I have one anchor client which I know I’m working for them next year, which allows me to deal with the volatility pretty well.

Benjamin Shapiro:
But yeah, the content asset was meant to be something where if I can build it up and build a following, my thought is I’ll have a more predictable lead stream for my business. I haven’t done a great job of that so far because I’ve been focusing on audience growth. But eventually, when you hit a tipping point with audience growth, if you can get to that point, if you stay with the show, you can start having a little bit more of a predictable business because you can build in advertising revenue and generally that tends to be a more steady stream than consulting, which is a little bit more on again off again.

Liston:
Right. Okay.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Can I interrupt you and tell you a funny story?

Liston:
I would love it if you did that.

Benjamin Shapiro:
This actually might be better suited back when we’re talking about how I got into podcasting. The actual real way I got into podcasting, I went to my friend’s birthday party, had maybe one too many beers, got in a Lyft, sat up front and started talking to the Lyft driver about where he was from. Because I’m a talkative guy and I was like, “Tell me your life story.” And he goes off on this story about how he escaped from North Korea twice and defected to the United States and now he drives a Lyft and an Uber in Silicon Valley.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And so his story was so incredible to me that I just needed to hear the whole thing. We ended up connecting after getting out of the car and he said he wanted to tell other people to his story and I said I would help him because I was in marketing. That led to the first podcast that I ever made, which is a series called A Long Road Home. So prior to starting the MarTech podcast, I had actually already done a podcast production purely as a passion project. There was no intent of monetization for the A Long Road Home series. It was just something that I thought needed to exist and was there to fulfill some of the creative juice. It was a creative outlet for me. So before I started the Martec podcast, I had already done a different show. And then when I got to a point in my consulting business that I felt like I needed to build more content, do lead generation, that led me into the MarTech podcast.

Liston:
Oh, fascinating. Okay. I know that you’ve grown your podcast really, really quickly and I’ve been very open. I copied you and really giving some monthly updates and I know you’re not the only person to do this, but you inspired me to give a little bit more, let’s say breaking the fourth wall, right? So I’m telling people what’s actually happening behind the scenes and trying to be as open as I can about that, without revealing too much. I know that you’ve talked publicly about growing your podcast. So my first question for you is if someone else out there is, say, an agency owner or even an independent consultant, anybody who has expertise in an area, how can they think about starting a podcast and then actually getting people to listen to it?

Benjamin Shapiro:
So there’s some foundational pieces at first, right? You have to have something, an angle or a hook that is unique to you and feels authentic. So for me creating the MarTech podcast, fortunately for me, nobody had created a podcast that was just purely titled the MarTech podcast. There were other pieces of content that were MarTech related, but I’m trying to come up with something that is both broad, very obvious what you’re covering and then also easily describes the type of content you’ll be covering, I think is something that’s very important. It’s actually one of the things that you and I had talked about when you were creating this show where yours is obviously titled the Liston.io Show and it’s more about you building your personal brand. My advice for people that are starting is to call something that’s a little bit more on the nose, the sales consulting podcast, and you have a different agenda with developing a personal brand around your website.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And it totally makes sense for me, but my strategy was, I would almost called it the marketing podcast, but I felt like that was a little too broad and it would get lost. And then I saw that no one else was building MarTech content. So I focused on that. I also think that the format is really important and you can have different content franchises within a podcast. I do a couple of different things. I do these interviews with subject matter experts. Listen, you were on my show talking about sales for consultants and how they can think about sales and we broke that conversation into two discrete parts. And so I generally publish those on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The first half of an interview, which is the prep for all of the meat which comes in the second half of the interview, which is the next day.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And the reason why I do that, is it allows me to say, “Hey, if you want to hear the second part of this interview, you should subscribe and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow.” So it gives people a reason to subscribe, even if they’re a first time listener to complete that. But each piece of content does provide some value. And so that was the first series where I call those subject matter expert interviews. I do another series that’s called a career day where I’m talking to people that aren’t necessarily experts in one subject, but have had an interesting career arc or are visible and they walk me through their career and so I publish those on Thursday. Every couple of weeks I do a week long series where I will take Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and I’ll publish a shorter episode across each day. And so what I’ve seen is that A, my audience likes understanding what content they’re getting on a specific day.

Benjamin Shapiro:
I see that Wednesdays are generally my best days when I have my subject matter interview because people are listening to both parts of the interview if they’re already a subscriber on Wednesdays. But if we publish a week long episode, people will follow through the entire week. So I guess really what I’m trying to say is come up with a format or multiple formats that you can do consistently, right? If you’re constantly creating one off pieces, it’s really tiring as a content creator. If you have a playbook that you’re repeating, like when I work on my podcast, I have the intro and outro that’s already written and all I’m doing is plugging in the person’s name, title, a sentence description, and I already know what I’m saying. So it doesn’t take me long to get ready for the interview. I just really have to skim over somebody’s LinkedIn profile and then I’m ready to roll.

Benjamin Shapiro:
So I don’t spend a ton of time in advance prepping for the interviews. Everything just happens in real time. But being able to create content that you can reproduce at scale on a regular basis allows people to know what they’re getting, focus in on the actual content and what people are saying as opposed to try to digest a new format. And also being predictable. Publishing at the same time, at the same day also allows people just like TV shows, people know to tune into, I don’t know, HBO at nine o’clock, too listen to John Hoffer whenever those shows are published. And so being routine and predictable is also very important for setting up early on.

Liston:
So one thing that a lot of people said in the early days of content marketing, the early days being within the last 10 years.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Was that like six months ago?

Liston:
Yeah, right. Seriously, that’s the way the Valley moves anyway, but one thing that a lot of people may hesitate with is they think they need to do a single format. Now, listeners of this show are very familiar with the two part format that you’re describing, which don’t worry, Ben, we’ll leave them with a cliffhanger somewhere in this conversation for part two, but I also record solo episodes. I’ve also been doing monthly updates of my business on the first Monday of every month. My feeling is that’s like a variety show, right? People can tune in and get something not totally different, but it mixes it up a little bit, gives them some variety so that they can hear different things and maybe have slightly different experiences. Some people may to that though, feeling like, well, the listener doesn’t quite know what to expect and when. Have you found that to be a challenge at all?

Benjamin Shapiro:
Yeah, they’re right, at first. I’m going to preface this question with in the second interview we’re going to talk about the amount of money we’re spending and how to grow a podcast audience and what it costs. So listen to the episode tomorrow we’re going to get there, but for today, the strategy that I implemented is, I had one format initially, which was the subject matter expert interviews and I would launch the whole interview just on Tuesday. And then I realized that I wanted to break those up into two pieces to up my subscriber rate. That worked. My subscriber rate went from 70% to 90% as soon as I change the format. So I started off with one format and then I broke those episodes into two.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And then I realized that I wanted to produce more content, but I just didn’t want to do other subject matter experts. So then I added another format on and now I’m adding a third one. And then there’s also the week long segments. You develop these things over time, and honestly it’s about experimentation. You can have your staple piece of content and make sure that people understand what it is and that your download metrics are growing, that people are getting through most of the content that they’re subscribing, a little bit about how to look at those metrics. Whatever your host is will tell you your download rates. If you look on Apple Podcasts, there is a beta product that does podcast analytics and that will tell you the number of devices and the percentage of content that someone is listening to when they actually engage with your content.

Benjamin Shapiro:
So for me, the average subscriber rate when you first start’s about 60% you’re going to do your initial email blast to tell everybody you have a podcast, expect it to start 50 to 60%. It’ll grow to 70 ish percent if you publish once a week over the first two months and then as you continue to grow, it gets up into the 90s if you’re producing really good content. In terms of the amount of content consumption, what you should expect, or at least what I’ve seen with my content is that people will listen to, first off, the ideal length of content is 20 to 30 minutes. That’s generally what I feel like people have in terms of their commute time and if you’re creating 20 to 30 minute episodes, you should be getting 60% listener completion in the first week and that’ll grow up to 90 depending on the format of content.

Benjamin Shapiro:
At first, you’re going to start with the back end 60 and 60 in terms of subscriber rates and completion and as you continue to publish, your listeners become a little bit more sticky and they start buying into what you’re saying and you build a little bit more credibility. So they listen longer and they subscribe more often. And so your rates go up to 90% subscriber rates and 75 even up to in some cases, over 100% content consumption, which means people are actually going back and re-listening the content, which is pretty cool.

Liston:
Yeah, I have a couple episodes that have over a hundred percent consumption, which blew my mind at first.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Yeah, that’s wild.

Liston:
I will also say that the iTunes connect analytics tool seems quite inaccurate from my seat at least because the number of devices it’s showing me represents a very small fraction of the total number of iOS listens I’m getting.

Benjamin Shapiro:
Here’s how I rationalize that. I totally hear you. Either those numbers stink and they’re directional and it just gives you something to tell you whether you’re going in the right direction or not. I think of it this way, where your iTunes listeners are somewhere between 40 to 60% of your downloads, right? Between the iTunes desktop and people listening in their app. Apple owns over 50% of the podcast market. And so when I’m looking at the number of devices, those are not people, those are devices, and they’re not listens, they’re devices. So I look at the number of devices that are listening to my show in a month and then I look at how long that people are listening. So for me, I think the average listener, 90% of the people that are subscribers, the average listener listens to a little over an hour of content a month.

Benjamin Shapiro:
And my episodes are roughly 22 minutes, let’s call them 20 minutes each. So if they’re listening to an hour, that means if you assume a device is a person, each person is consuming three full episodes, right? And so that tells me what my listens are for Apple, which is somewhere between 40 to 60% of my downloads. So, that gives me a sense of what my total listens are. It’s three X times the number of devices. So if I have 500 devices, I get 1500 listens out of Apple and that’s 50% of my total downloads. Let’s assume that it’s also 50% of my total listens. I get 3000 episode listens a month. That’s about what I would guess. And again, this is stuff is all directional, right? You just want trends going in the right way is you’re never going to be able to track exactly how many people are listening.

Liston:
No, I totally agree.Just for me, for whatever reason, it’s off by more of a factor of 10 so I can’t quite figure it out. We don’t need to dig into that. I do think that it’ll be interesting to talk about what you’ve actually done to grow the podcast in part two of our discussion. So if you’re not subscribed to the Liston.io Show, please do hit subscribe tomorrow. Ben and I will pick up this conversation where Ben will talk about exactly what he’s done to grow his podcast, how much it’s cost. I’m asking him to bring his books out, give us exact numbers. We’ll see how far I can push him, but tune in tomorrow to the Liston.io Show for part two of my discussion with Ben Shapiro.

Benjamin Shapiro:
I’m giving you the secret sauce tomorrow.

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