I promise you this article isn’t about podcasting.
I’ve made over 100 changes to my podcast, The LEADx Show, even though it only launched five months ago. I’ve changed the mic, changed the recording software, changed the entire show format, changed the type of guest I’m inviting, even added a co-host once a week and started doing Facebook Live video streams.
Why do I experiment and change the show every…single…week?
Many podcasters out there would probably be pleased with the results I’ve had. After five months I’m now getting 100,000 downloads each month. I’ve had on top guests like Captain Sully Sullenberger and Dan Pink. I get fan email each day saying it’s their new favorite show and it’s helped them to get a raise, get a promotion, to start a new career.
I’m Not #1
But here’s the problem: I’m not listed in the top 100 iTunes chart. In fact the real problem is I’m not #1 of all podcasts on the planet. Yes, yes, I know that means nothing. It’s just a vanity metric. Those rankings can be rigged. It’s about helping just one person—I even wrote a book about that!
And yet that little voice continues, You’re not at a million downloads a month yet. Look at all those people who have a bigger audience than you. Shut up, it’s about quality and serving a niche! You shut up little podcast man.
So every week—OK, I’ll just admit it—every day, I try to make the show better.
(Hang with me, I promise this really isn’t about podcasting…)
What Are Other Podcasters Doing?
I tap the purple iTunes icon on my iPhone and look at the top 100 shows under business category. I scan the entire list. I’m looking for new shows. There’s one! I listen to their last episode. How are they opening? How are they closing? What are they doing different—BETTER—than I am?
I scan their show titles. What hooks are they using? Are they stuffing with key words? Do they put their guest’s name in the title?
Then I go follow the podcast host on all her social media channels and look at the feeds. How are they promoting their shows? With images or no? Link to iTunes or link to their page? What are they doing different—BETTER?
Studying your competition is actually the worst way to innovate. The breakthrough stuff always comes from tangential spaces.
Bing Watching Late Night TV Shows…The First 10 Minutes Only
Three days ago my GF and I watched several episodes of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and several episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which I had saved on the DVR. We weren’t watching for fun. I was studying.
We just watched the first 10 minutes of each show. How do they open their show in the first 10 seconds? How long is their opening jingle? How are they immediately adding value before introducing the guest? Did he identify the guest by name or do they tease with credentials? Do they tell the viewers who is coming up later in the week (Jimmy Fallon always does, Colbert usually doesn’t)? How long before the first commercial break? How do they “read on” their guest? What can I learn by their interviewing technique?
Stories Are Powerful
Lately I’ve been thinking about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey work. People love stories. They love the hero’s journey. Is there some way I can make every show a hero’s journey? Is there some way to frame myself or the audience as the hero? Is there some way to always interview the guest in a way that they are the hero and we are learning of their journey? Just writing that sentence right now gave me ideas…
I already always start by asking my guest to share time when they failed early in their career. I hear over and over again that that’s people’s favorite part of the show. That’s how the hero’s journey begins. An ordinary person sets off on a course but ultimately fails. It’s only after they recruit friends or find tools or get powers that they can suddenly defeat their enemies and win. Maybe my second interview question should be asking who are the people in your life to help you get to where you are today? Maybe I should ask guests what has been their highest high? You should ask them was the last time they really celebrated something? Or maybe all that is just too theoretical and people want answers. They want advice.
My mind racing…
When it comes to media there have been three forms that have proven to be popular: news, entertainment, education. And educational programming is the smallest slice of the media market by far. How can I make my podcast more topical? How can I make it timelier? Or weave in events of the day or at least the week?
How can I make it more entertaining? I am not funny. If there’s one thing I know I’m not funny. How can I be funnier?
This is the first year in a long time that James Altucher hasn’t written a book. Instead he’s doing standup comedy three times a week and he’ll tell you himself it’s terrifying. My friend and marketing guru, Dorie Clark, started doing and studying standup about a year or so ago. Is it becoming a thing or am I just now aware of it? I started watching comedy specials on Netflix not to laugh but to learn. How do they tell stories? How do they setup jokes? How many minutes go by and between the punchlines?
How can I make my show funny every seven minutes?
This still isn’t about podcasting.
Throughout my entrepreneurial career I’ve used a mental tool I call exponential thinking or even magical thinking. Here it goes for my podcast…
What would it take in order for every single listener to go onto iTunes and hit the subscribe button for the LEADx Show?
How come I don’t subscribe to a lot of the shows I listen to?
If the host said, “Please subscribe to my show I’d really appreciate it.” I probably don’t subscribe. If the host said, “Subscribe and leave a review and let us know and you’ll have a chance to win an iPad each month.” I still don’t subscribe. What are the odds I would be a winner?
But what if the host said, “If you subscribe to the show and let me know I will send you $1000.” Yes, I would subscribe. What about for $100? Would I subscribe and leave a rating? Yes, for $100 I would.
NOTE: I’m not saying anybody should actually do this. If it isn’t actually prohibited by iTunes terms of service is at least unethical to be buying reviews. Remember, this is just a magical thinking exercise.
Would I subscribe and leave a rating if I was guaranteed a $10 gift certificate to Amazon? Hmmm, If I truly liked the show yes, if I didn’t like it probably not.
So is there some kind of ethical bribe that’s worth, as a perceived value, $50 or $100? I don’t know.
What else could the host say to get me to subscribe? A persuasion secret is to always have a “because” at the end of your ask. Cialdini and others point out that it doesn’t even matter what the “because” is, you just need to have one.
If a podcast host said, “Will you please subscribe and leave a review because we’re at 287 reviews and we really need to get to 300 reviews” I think I would be more likely to leave a review.
Hmmm, that has me thinking about more persuasion secrets. Our behavior is influenced by knowing what a lot of other people do. Old anti-smoking commercials screwed up when they’d say 50 million people smoke in America and millions will die from cancer. The message we got is, huh, lots of people smoke, I guess I’m in good company. You need to say how many people quit smoking in the last year, not how many are still smoking.
But I digress, and no, this article still isn’t about podcasting…
Maybe podcast hosts need to say, “Since last week we’ve had seven new iTunes reviews, and I’d like to thank Joe, and Sruti, and HepCat0502, and …” I actually think that would persuade me more than $10.
Back to Magical Thinking
Magical thinking…what value would I have to offer on my show to get people to listen to every single episode?
Years ago I paid a fortune to advertising guru and author Roy Williams to get his marketing advice on a new conference I was launching. I was trying to get busy pharmaceutical marketers to come to my event about “empowered patients.” These people were busy, they were under travel budget constraints, and I actually don’t think they cared that much about the patients.
The magical thinking advice: picture this target customer, what would you have to do to absolutely guarantee that they’d come to your event? What would make them rush into their boss’s office and say, “I have to go to this conference because…”
It took me awhile before I came up with the right answer. Give them an iPad if they come to the event? Good idea, but maybe they already have one or can’t accept the bribe. Let them meet with 10 patients who are on their drug? They already do patient focus groups. Hold the event in Hawaii and pay their way? They already go on junkets and don’t want to be away from their families.
The answer? They’d absolutely come to the event if they believed that their toughest competitors were going to go on stage and reveal their top secret marketing plans. So I convinced top executives at the top pharma companies to do presentations like, “3 Ways [PharmaName] Used Facebook To Recruit Patients Into New Oncology Trials”. And 5 of their competitors bought conference tickets to come take notes.
Magical thinking…what would have to happen on my show for someone to run into their office and say to their colleagues, “Guys, you’ve GOT to listen to this show. Like right now…come here and I’ll play it for you?”
So if this article isn’t about podcasting what is it about?
It’s about what you do to make the books you write better. It’s about how to be a better bartender. How can you improve your next sales presentation? How can you go out and nail the next job interview? How can you be a better teacher? How can you be a better parent or spouse? How can you be a better Little League coach? How can you get into the best shape of your life?
And it never ends…What are others doing? What do people want? What ideas come to mind when doing Magical Thinking?
To be honest, it’s not a great feeling waking up every day and thinking, I’m not good enough how can I get better? I’m not the best yet so I’d better get busy. From a psychological well-being and happiness perspective you should do the opposite of what I’m compulsively doing.
You should wake up and say I am worthy, I am enough. You should scream, “To compare is to despair! I’m in competition with no one but myself! How can I be better today than I was yesterday?!”
I really, really hope it works for you.
The rest of this article will now be about my podcast.
I hope you go to LEADx.org/subscribe and click the subscribe button, because…well, you know why.