How to Build a Perfect Podcast

Last year I was interviewed on exactly 103 podcasts and tele-summits. I can tell a good one from a bad one pretty quickly. For example, recently I was interviewed by a “productivity expert.” The host had done 8 interviews that day, and I was his last. It was 1 a.m. local time, and it was obvious that he was “sleepwalking” through our interview.

After I had explained the need to Control your morning, Conquer the chaos of the afternoon, and Concentrate on what counts if you want to have a Perfect Day, his follow up question was: “Craig, can you explain the 3-C formula of your book?”

Yes, it was that bad.

On the other hand, the great interviews I’ve done with James Schramko, Sean Croxton, Brian Murphy, and Dr. Lauren Noel all have had 3 things in common:

1) Research – The good podcast hosts took the time to read my book, review my recommended questions, and research me. When the hosts did no research, they sounded foolish (and that’s being polite). Good podcasters care about the quality of the interview, rather than just “racking up another show.” On the other hand, a bad podcast feels like an impersonal speed interview. “Answer these template questions. We’ll be done in 20 minutes. Thanks. Bye.” This approach might be interesting for robots, but not for listeners that want to eavesdrop in on an entertaining conversation.

2) Conversation – Neither the host nor the guest should ramble. Keep the banter going. Talk for no more than two minutes and then let the host (or guest) have their say. Tell stories, but don’t hog the mic. On bad shows, the hosts spend more time telling their own stories then asking me about mine. It seems weird to be interviewed and then to sit there and listen to the host rant and rave.

3) Relationship – Most of my best shows have been with hosts where we’ve had a longstanding personal relationship. It’s not necessary, as you can connect quickly with 5-10 minutes of pre-show chat, but podcasts are better with friends. The podcaster also needs to have a strong bond with their listeners, and should be an Authentic Audience Advocate. The best hosts deliver the best, most applicable advice for their audiences (hence the pre-show research). These hosts do it for the audience, not for glory.

Those are my thoughts from the guest side, but I also wanted to give you insider tips from the podcast host side. For that, we go to Jordan Harbinger, host of the Art of Charm show, which gets about a million downloads per show. His ad revenue is reportedly in the six figures each month, but he invests a lot of his revenue into editing and improving the quality of each show.

There are over 300,000 podcasts on iTunes, so to stand out and have a good show, you need 3 things (according to Harbinger): Connections, capital, and personality.

Harbinger interviews his guests for an hour and his team edits those down to shows of about 40 minutes. He does one or two main shows a week and one Q&A-style episode of 15 minutes. Keeping your shows short allows people to listen to all of them and keep up with your schedule.

If you’ve done any research into starting a podcast, you’ve probably been told that being featured in the iTunes New & Noteworthy section is important for getting traction. It’s one of the best ways for new listeners to find your show.

Harbinger has specific advice for achieving this goal. He recommends interviewing four thought leaders (with large audiences). You should then release those four interviews on four consecutive Sundays (getting the thought leader to help you promote the podcasts) so that you have the best chance of being featured in New & Noteworthy.

I’ve been trying for almost a year to get featured on Harbinger’s show. But it’s not easy. I’ve had intros from Joe Polish, Garrett Gunderson, and even a podcast-booking service. But so far, no luck.

Harbinger screens potential guests with an extensive questionnaire (I’ve only made it this far). He then does a pre-interview to check out the potential guest and get comfortable with them. That allows his podcasts to feel like a coffee shop conversation.

Other podcasters, like Dov Baron, describe his format as “two blokes having a pint in a pub.” (I’ve been on Dov’s show and it was fun, just as advertised.) Others, like David Ralphs’ show, “Join Up Dots,” come with scripted sections and music, and David’s was also fun, unique, and top quality. Both Dov and David are consistently ranked at the top of their respective podcast categories.

That said, Harbinger warns against being formulaic, asking the same questions all the time, being cheesy, forcing humor, using inside jokes, and taking live questions. He also recommends having the ummms and uhhhs edited out of your show. (James Altucher also does that.)

Harbinger also warns against doing video podcasts. Of course, your mileage will vary. Lewis Howes does a video show and is successful. And there will always be an audience for cheesy shows. With over 46 million podcast listeners in America alone, there’s an audience for everything. You should do what is right for you and your show.

Other tactical tips from Harbinger include the recommendations to maximize your personality, create a character diamond (i.e. customer avatar of your best listener), treat it like an interesting coffee shop conversation, mix it up once in awhile, talk to the guest not the audience, and to just be natural.

Before you start publishing your podcasts, Harbinger recommends choosing a category that you want to dominate. The hardest categories in which to rank are business and comedy. But you need to be in the Top 50 of a big category in order to generate thousands of downloads per episode.

According to my good friend Jason Ferruggia, host of the Renegade Radio podcast, standard ad rates for podcasts go like this:

•    $18 per 1,000 listeners for a 30-second pre-roll ad
•    $25 per 1,000 listeners for a 60-second pre-roll ad
•    Most shows do two 60-second ads ($50 per 1,000 listeners)
•    Therefore, you’d need 200,000 listeners per episode to earn $10k

“Joe Rogan does three ads per show. Sometimes four,” Jay said, “But Rogan’s show is also 3-4 hours, and he gets 11 million downloads per month and he did 15 shows in October.”

To get more listeners and make more money, you need to rank higher in your category by getting good ratings and reviews. Most podcasters include a call-to-action in their introductions and closing sections where they ask listeners to rank, rate, and review. It’s a necessary evil. People won’t do that unless they are reminded.

That said, there are other ways to monetize a podcast. For example, you could use it to attract high-end coaching clients in a small niche market. You’ll never get enough downloads to make big money with ads, but if each coaching client invests $25,000 with you (as most of mine do), then delivering the best content for your niche market is far more important than creating something for the masses (and big download numbers).

But if you want to be the next Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, Marc Maron, Jordan Harbinger, Kathlyn Hart, or Jay Ferruggia, then you need to hit your numbers. That means starting strong and doing a launch.

A podcast launch is not much different than a product launch or book launch. You need to get a lot of people to subscribe in a short time frame. “One-hundred subscribers in your first five days is a good number,” Harbinger says. In addition to ranking high on iTunes, Harbinger says that Stitcher is the only other podcasting service worth paying attention to.

Here are the best practices for the technical side of your podcast:
•    Record your interviews via Skype (although I’ve done some on Zoom and Zencaster)
•    Create quality show notes (you can find an example of the best show notes from any podcast I’ve done here => http://www.marketingforowners.com/podcast/388/)
•    Give bonuses to get them engaged, to get them to comment, and to get the audience sharing their biggest takeaways (everyone hates a dead comments section!)
•    Do a pre-interview with your guest to build rapport… then start the actual interview casually and edit things out so people feel comfortable (but start recording as soon as possible… there’s often GOLD in the pre-interview chit-chat if you make a quick connection with the host)
•    Ask your guests about their scars, mistakes, and lessons (ask your guests to agree to share everything… if they won’t be vulnerable, you won’t have a great show… check out the great job that Lewis Howes and James Altucher do with this)
•    Become a great listener, watch for cues when interviewing on when to dig deeper, and pretend you can see them — even though you’re just using Skype audio.
•    Go through a pre-show checklist to make sure your audio levels are awesome
•    And… Are you pronouncing the guest’s name right? Do you know the name of their book and website? Are you hardwired into the Internet for a great connection? Are you somewhere quiet? Are you using Skype and not a cell phone? Are you wearing headphones to see if your audio levels are good? Are you talking into the mic?

Success won’t come overnight, unless you’re Tony Robbins or Neil Strauss who launched their podcasts into the top 100 within weeks. But the podcasting world is full of (formerly) no-name success stories that simply put in a lot of time and hard work, and who interviewed great guests and delivered quality content.

Figure out the purpose of your podcast, prepare a plan, make sure everything is in place so you get off to a good start, and then just get going. Your podcast is just another way to reach people, like your email newsletter, your YouTube channel, and your Facebook pages and Livestreams. It’s all part of your Big Media Empire that you need to build in order to grow your business from 6 figures to 7 figures to 8 figures (and more) before 2020.

  • Halona Black

    I love these tips based on the perspective of a podcast guest rather than the podcaster. However I think too much emphasis is put on trying to stick out on iTunes. While being new and noteworthy a worthwhile goal that can expose you to many new listeners, I think it is more important to learn how to build an audience that will buy your products and services. Why? Because it’s great to catch people with a show or two, but it’s a lot harder to keep people interested over the long haul. If we want to create our own big media empire, we have to update our view of how media works. It’s not like buying a premium cable channel package as we did years ago when there were 2 or 3 channels we liked in the package while ignoring the rest. Your hard core fans are going to find you because they were looking for what you have to offer anyway through other means — usually through social media, another podcast, your blog, a video, etc. When they find out you have a podcast, they will hopefully sign up for updates because they like you and want to know more.

    • Great feedback, thank you!