Lots of brands have podcasts, but very few podcasts succeed in delivering business results. Why?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Unthinkable Media Founder Jay Acunzo breaks down his formula for creating wildly successful podcasts for businesses like Drift, Divvy, Wistia, Flipboard, The Content Marketing Institute and Social Media Examiner.
Listen to the podcast to hear Jay describe the exact steps in his podcast development process and learn who podcasting is - and is not - right for.
Before we get started this week, I want to do a quick PSA. If you are somebody who has an Amazon Echo, I have an Alexa skill. Big news! So, if you want to hear me in your living room every week, not sure why you would, but if you do, you can go into your Alexa, hit skills, and search Inbound Success, and it should pop right up.
With that, I just want to make a quick introduction of my guest. Jay Acunzo has a really long and interesting resume. He's the founder of Unthinkable Media, which helps start-ups and challenger brands establish B2B podcasts.
But he's done so much more than that. He spent time at Google, at HubSpot, and he was involved with Next View Ventures. Jay, you've got a long resume. Actually, I think I'd love for you to tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself.
Jay and Kathleen recording this episode
Jay Acunzo (Guest): I'd be happy to. Thanks for having me on the program. So, the what is fine. Like you said, you summed it up nicely.
The why, I think is where everything comes from, and the reason I do what I do is I like to make people feel stuff with the work I create. So, I like to create stuff, and I like to hand it over to other people to feel the same things I was feeling while making that stuff. It just so happens that the Venn Diagram overlap of that is a great and driving career in marketing today.
It's not just media companies that need that skill. Whether it's launching dozens of side projects throughout my career, or one of the things I'm most proud of is the genesis of Unthinkable Media, my podcasting business, was my own show, which is called Unthinkable, and that's a very highly produced narrative style podcast, and I know we're going to get into podcasting today. But, that is my digital baby. The most fun I've ever had producing anything is to tinker and figure out how to tell stories that make people feel stuff about their work, because I just think too much B2B content doesn't actually match how we feel about our work day-to-day.
The content is boring and dry and commodity stuff, but we don't want boring and dry commodity careers, and I'd argue we rarely experience our work like that. So, I'm trying to bridge that gap, and bring more emotion and entertainment value to great B2B content, because quite frankly, that also drives results. It's good for the audience, it's amazing for the audience, and it's just as good for the business.
Kathleen: Amen. I totally agree with you. And I love that the thread that has sort of bound your career together is content. Whether that's acting as Vice President of Brand and Community at Next View, or being Head of Content at HubSpot, or working in digital marketing at Google, you've had such an interesting path to get where you are, and for me it's fascinating, because when I look at your history, so much in the world of digital marketing, and specifically content marketing has changed in the time since you've been doing this.
The State of Content Marketing
Before we dive into what we're going to talk about today, I just would love to get your take on kind of where you see content marketing now, because man, there's a lot there.
Jay: Yeah. It's funny, we like to talk about the, I think the symptoms of any sort of market changes - or better than market changes, world changes - the way humans act and the changes therein.
Now, paying attention to the people is far more important than paying attention to the industry for example, but we like to talk about the symptoms or the industry's reaction to the fundamentals instead of the fundamentals themselves.
I like to focus on the latter. I think the fundamental shift we're living through, and the symptoms are things called content, and inbound, and influencers, and ABM, etc. but, the fundamental shift we're living through is that it used to be the case that marketers had to acquire attention, a few different channels existed, and you would jump out seven to eight times and hope that that added up to a purchase moment. But, you would mostly interrupt people, and mostly say, "Look at me" and then describe the value you could provide those people, but it was about acquisition of someone's attention. That was the marketing mandate.
I think the big shift is that today, you have to hold attention.
I think great marketers care more about subscribers than impressions. They talk in terms of minutes or even hours of a consumer's month, every month, instead of seconds. So, we're seeing this shift towards holding attention.
What I do just happens to be great vehicles for holding attentions, which is creating shows, delivering speeches, writing books, but there's myriad ways to do that.
I think that's where we're at. We're at this moment in time where we can continue glomming onto all these trends, and tactics and techniques, or we can look the shift in the eye and be like, "Okay, if that's what's happening in the world today, if that is the backdrop of everything we're doing in marketing, how do we actually address it more directly and build back up more original thinking, instead of trying to shoehorn old tactics into a new world?"
It used to be that we had to acquire attention. I think the new mandate today, as a marketer, is you have to hold it. Do that and the rest of the job gets a lot easier.
Kathleen: That's a really interesting observation. I have done a couple of podcasts recently where the subject of what constitutes really magnetic content has come up, and a lot of times, the people I speak to talk about having a point of view, or sometimes it's being funny, sometimes it's being controversial. Often, when you say that, the response from the person asked to create the content is, "I'm not comfortable." Or, "It's scary."
I think there's a level of complacency in creating that kind of 'check the box' content that's really dry and factual and informative, but when you ask people to start to make it more interesting and emotional...
On your website, it talks about getting people to feel emotions, and I think a lot of content creators are really nervous about that, either because they're afraid to be vulnerable, or because they're afraid that in having a point of view, for example, they're going to turn some people off.
You work with a lot of B2B brands. I'd love to hear what your experience has been when you start working with these content creators and getting them to get more engaged?
Working With B2B Content Creators
Jay: Sure, and I think when you address the fundamentals instead of the incremental, or the superficial, or the conventional, it starts to sound a lot less scary, because all the sudden it doesn't feel like a leap.
You're like, "Okay, if that is the starting point, then logically, in my world, let's create a show, versus pieces of content." Because we know the first principal insight here, we understand where we're all starting, which is to hold attention.
Okay. Now, if I reason from that, every step I take is one step at a time.
I'm no longer taking this mental leap between publishing articles that rank on search, and creating an amazing podcast or video series.
That seems like a giant leap, so it's all about, like when I work with brands, I'm like, "This is the backdrop. If you do not accept that, we should not speak. If you're just interested in acquiring a bunch of people, if you're just interested in giant download numbers, for example on your podcast, we're not going to talk, because podcasts, quite frankly, aren't really great for growth. They don't rank on search that well. They don't actually get shared on social. The surrounding content that you create as a result of the show is what actually does that stuff. So if you just want empty reach, or if you want reach, which is important, if you want productive reach, create other types of content."
I'd lay out what I feel is the reality, and then I'm like, "Let's walk step-by-step to where I'm already at mentally." Which is make a podcast.
Why Brands Should be Podcasting
Jay: To make it less scary, I don't just get on a stage and say "Make a podcast." I don't just talk to a prospect and say "Make a show." I say, "This is where we're at today. Now let's talk about all the myriad ways that this matters to you, and if we're still on the same page, let's talk about all the myriad ways to execute on that, to capture those benefits, and then let's pluck out one that I am saying I can offer to you, which is make a podcast, right? And if you're with me the whole way, it's logical the whole way."
I think that's the first thing I'd say in response to that question, is if it feels scary, you haven't actually taken the time to think through all the points, all the logic you need to get from where you're at to where you're trying to go.
I don't think people take risks. I don't think these entrepreneurs that we laud - being in venture capital, I was around dozens and dozens of entrepreneurs - they're masters at seeing the world for the way it is today, not peering around corners, and they're masters at understanding how to mitigate the risk.
But the media dialogue paints innovators, creators, entrepreneurs, as people who take risks, and then we disassociate ourselves, saying we can't do that. I actually think if you want to make something not seem scary, you have to come up with the logic in your mind for why it's not. That's the only way anybody's going to act.
Kathleen: Yeah. That makes sense.
So, I feel like there's two different pieces to this, because one piece is the actual format of your content. In this case, we're talking about podcasting, as opposed to maybe blogging or creating videos, although you can have a video podcast. That's another subject. When you look at the format for content, you work with a brand, you're obviously a big believer in podcasting. That's what you've really built your business around, at Unthinkable Media. Is there any type of business for which podcasting is not a good format?
Jay: Type of business? No. But, if you dig into the business, and they give you the right reasons why they shouldn't launch a show, sure.
Most people who are selling something like podcasts are going to be like, "No, every business should launch a podcast. By the way, I sell services to help you create a podcast."
Sorry, that's a load of crap.
All of these things, whether we talk about blogging, or social, or podcasts, whether we talk about strategies or approaches rather content or ABM, all of these things are tools.
To say to somebody, "Hey, you shouldn't use a hammer," period, blanket statement, is not true. You don't have enough context, unless you really deeply get to know that person and what they're trying to build, you can't say with certainty this tool makes no sense for you, or this tool is absolutely for you.
So you can't make these blanket statements.
What I start to do is think about where are you at in your embrace of content marketing? Do you have, I think there's some criteria up front.
On my website, I very clearly articulate the three reasons why we are good fits to work together. Because I want to qualify out people that make no sense to work with me. The first is, you've already found some success through content, but you've already built up a little bit of an email list, or a little bit of a social following, or you have some traffic on your website, or you have an event series that's doing pretty well. Because into that flow, into that audience, you can insert a show, because I don't think a show is good for net new audience. Like I mentioned before, all the other types of content out there are.
Everybody interested in this topic should to read a piece by Ben Thompson. He writes a blog called Stratechery. It's a terrible name, but he's one of the smartest tech analysts out there.
Kathleen: Is that like the technical version of strategery?
Jay: Strategy and technology. So it's like the strategy of technology. Stratechery.
But, he's got a wonderful piece, it's a little bit old, called Grantland. Grantland, one word, and the Surprising Future of Publishing. He delineates why certain types of content are great for reach, and discovery, and net new audience, and a show or a podcast is great for residence and depth, and holding attention. It's very smart the way he lays it out.
But, that's the reality. It's like if you haven't had success with content marketing already, if you have zero audience, do not start with a podcast, because it's going to be just such an uphill battle. Start with a blog, start with social, events, whatever.
The second thing I say is, if you're ready to basically create an unassailable asset with compounding return, instead of yet another podcast.
This is a big epidemic, especially in B2B. People are - every podcast in B2B, I'm kind of going to paint with broad strokes here, but let's go on attack mode for a moment - they all sound the same. They're all talking topics with the experts. You know, brought to you by, insert competitor here.
So, if your show, this is a good example. You talk topics with experts.
Kathleen: I do.
Jay: What if you had this concept over the top of the show, that delineated why it was different than everybody else? Right? So, if somebody said it out loud, and it was white labeled, they'd be like, "Oh, I know exactly whose show that is."
And if a competitor tried to copy it, it would be like you can call them out. Everybody who sells marketing software can write 10 tips and tricks for lead gen on Twitter and not get called out, but your show has this elevated IP to it, or a hook that gets people excited to listen now and subscribe over time.
So, that's the big first piece of a show, which is a show level concept.
The second piece is an episode level structure.
So, you can kind of break up these component parts of Q and A, Q and A, Q and A, and then ending with a lightning round, and instead try to think about, "Well, how can I better create an experience to hold attention?"
The third piece is talent.
How do I improve my ability to hold attention? How do I improve my ability to be on a microphone? Because that's what podcasting is in the end. So, that's it. Those are the three pieces. If you want to create an unassailable, original version of those three pieces, you'll also work with me.
The last thing is the hold attention thing again.
I say, if that's your goal with a podcast, not reach, we can talk. So, I don't have to go out there and say, "This is a podcast. It's bad for FinTech." Or, "It's bad for B2C." I can't make those blanket statements. What I can do, is try to dig into those businesses I'm talking to, and also articulate up front where I tend to thrive as a service provider.
Kathleen: Great. I love it. And I will confess that it's funny, I jumped on the podcasting bandwagon a few years ago. This is not my first one.
I had a podcast before this, and it was fine, I mean, it was okay. It was not great. It was way too general, and we sort of just did the podcast to do a podcast. We didn't think a lot about it, because we were like, "We've just got to get in there and do it." Right?
Kathleen: It was like a podcasting land grab at the time. I learned a lot from that, because it didn't have - it's funny the way you talked about it - it didn't have a really clear structure. There was not any consistency from episode to episode. It wasn't specific and focused enough.
It's very interesting to see what works. I certainly wouldn't say I'm an expert at this point. I think I still have a lot to learn, but it's been a fascinating journey, just even from there to here.
Jay: Well, I'd also add that sometimes it's fine to just self-express. It's amazing. It's amazing that we can self-express. You want a podcast. You don't want to think through all these different parts and pieces. Great. Just launch one. Just have fun with it.
Or, you have existing fans, and you want to serve them through a different medium. Great. Just launch a podcast. You don't have to think through it as much, because they already give you the benefit of the doubt.
So, I argue that all these things I'm talking about would help in both of those cases, but they're not requirements. But, then I talk to my clients, and it's like they want actual results from their show.
Jay: Too often, what happens is, it's a pet project for a marketer or worse, an executive who asks for it. And then, I kind of point this out, I'm like, "You don't have a show-level concept. You sound like every other competitor. You don't have an episode structure. There's no IP here, and you can't repeat them with high quality and more efficiency and speed. The talent is lacking, because you haven't worked on the skillset, so who is this for?"
And it's, "Oh, it's for our customers. It's for our prospects."
"Well, every action that you're talking to me about maps to it being just for you, right? Because you haven't figured out if they want a podcast. You haven't figured out what concept they want, or what problem you're solving, or journey you're taking them on, etc, etc, etc."
And at the end of it, it's like, "So, why did you want to launch a podcast?"
"Oh, I guess it looked like fun."
I'm like, "That's wonderful. That's amazing. I love this era we live in. So many side projects have been helpful to my career. Launch something for fun. But, you're telling me this is for work, and then when I dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, you have no real strategy. It's just a tactic that you glommed onto, right?"
You have no real strategy. It's just a tactic that you glommed onto, which is only okay in a certain number of scenarios, so make sure it just maps to the goal you have.
Kathleen: I think that's spot on, because it all depends on what your goal is, right? I'm somebody who learns by doing, so I always look at my first podcast as my podcasting 101 class.
Kathleen: It was messy, people will find it online at some point and be like, "What was she thinking?" I kind of had to do that.
Now though, what is interesting to me is when I started this one I really wanted it to be very much for the longterm and I took it a lot more seriously, and what I have learned is that even just doing it at the level that I am, it's time consuming.
I think you're right. For a company to make an investment of people's time, especially the audience you work with - high growth startups, challenger brands - these are companies that the time value of money is quite large.
If you're going to have people working on these things, you have to make it worth it. There has to be some measurable ROI.
Even just with my podcast, I probably spend four to six hours a week between production and show notes, a half to a full day.
Jay: I think about it like if you're going to go for a run, I'm going through this right now, I'm trying to get in shape, I have my first kid on the way, and I'm like, "Oh my god, I better get my ass in gear 'cause eventually it's going to drop off, so I'd better be in shape."
So I'm going for runs in the morning. Now if I wanted to be, I don't know, if I wanted to be more in shape, but I still only have 30 minutes, I think my reaction, my brain, is usually, "I wish I had 60 minutes." But I could do more or do different or more variable things within the 30 minutes I do have, right? I could run in a different way. I could up more hills. I could do speed bursts or whatever. There's other ways I can use the time I have.
When I talk to most clients, they have similar things. They're like, "Well, I'd like to make this better, but I only have so much time." I think about, okay, if that's the case and it's the Inbound Success Podcast, so it's like, why is that important? 'Cause we want our listeners to have success with inbound, great. Do any other shows do that? Sure.
Kathleen: A lot.
Jay: Right, so is there a different name you can put on the top of it or a different tagline that just articulates how we're different?
Or could you even save time on the execution of it and say we're going to give you five minute tips and no one else does that?
What is it that makes you thinking only game in town instead of yet another?
I think about it not how do I get more resources to do that, I think about if I only have 30 minutes to run or I only have four hours to produce a show every week, what could I do, how could I rearrange the use of that four-hour period? Or how could I rearrange the structure of the show that I'm doing and not add any time to my plate?
It doesn't have to be talking to bigger experts, and on the other end of the spectrum, it doesn't have to be creating a show like NPR with field reporting, music, and narration. I think there's just a lot of different ways to come at it.
I've seen that opportunity, and I'm like, okay, this is something I should get out there and start teaching because I've been thinking about it so much in a marketing context and exclusively so. It's not a side project for me. It is now my business in addition to public speaking. It's like there's so many mental processes and frameworks you can use to use the time you have to still make a better show.
That, to me, is a really exciting opportunity.
Kathleen: I have so many questions for you.
Jay: Hit me, let's do it.
Kathleen: Okay, I'm going to try to mentally arrange this in order. I want to start at the beginning.
You work with these clients and the first hurdle that you need to get over is convincing them that podcasting is the right format and that there's value in it for their business. Or maybe the first hurdle is creating content in and of itself, although you did say, I thought I heard you say, that if they're not already seeing success with content, they're not a good fit.
Jay: Bingo. The first thing for me is figuring out where I fit in their journey.
I never want to get into the conversation of why a podcast, ever. I want to find my true believers, because I'm a solo practitioner with some great freelance talent that I work with. I'm not building a scaling agency with a million dollar marketing budget and trying to get whatever, a hundred million dollar revenue every year. That sounds nice, but that's not what I'm building.
I don't have to go and win over skeptics. I have to rally my true believers.
So I can talk about things, like the new marketing mandate or why shows are great, and do a little hashtag, "Make shows, not pieces," and just start getting out in the marketplace and talking about this and win over those people that already believe what I believe, that, hey, we need to do a better job of this stuff, feeling emotion, creating entertainment value, holding attention, all that.
The people that are already thinking it but lack the words or the services or the home base for that, they'll come my way.
What I never want to do is be like, here's why a podcast matters, and have somebody be like, "Well, I don't know, we have a blog."
Kathleen: That would be terrible client for you.
Jay: That's the first hurdle. That's the first hurdle.
Developing Your Podcast Concept
Kathleen: Once you start working with these clients, they are your true believers, they've recognized that podcasting holds an opportunity for them. I assume, maybe wrongly, I don't know, but I assume that the next step would be to try and figure out what is this podcast going to be about, what's the concept?
Walk me through how you work with clients on that?
Jay: It's about distilling their brand values into the show level concept.
The analogy I always use is like if you are most B2B marketers, you're like Tony Stark who becomes Ironman in the Marvel universe. Tony Stark is a billionaire, genius, philanthropist, clever guy. If you put a microphone in front of him, he's probably going to be really good as a host, and you need nothing else on your show. But if you send Tony Stark alone, no skills, out into battle, he's going to get crushed against the competition because he has no real superpowers.
That's like putting a microphone in front of you and talking. There's no real superpowers. You're going to get crushed by the competition. But when he steps into the Ironman suit, now he's a literal superhero.
What I do is I try to say to them, "I'm going to build you your version of an Ironman suit, and you as the host are going to step into this vehicle that I've constructed for you, and you're going to have superpowers."
Sometimes I play Tony Stark and I'm the host; oftentimes, I'm coaching the host on the other end.
I construct, given what I know about the brand and the competitive landscape and, most importantly, their customers, I construct the show level concept, the name, the tagline, the hook, how it's different.
I create something called an empathy statement, which is a brief description of writing from the customer point of view, a description of the journey they're going on and why they would want to subscribe.
I also do something called a show cross, which is like if this show meets that show meets that show. It's very TV pilot approach.
Kathleen: Kind of like it's Airbnb meets Tinder.
Jay: Yeah, it's very common in tech. For a while in venture capital, when we were hearing pitches, it was we're the Uber for X.
Kathleen: It's a great way to explain your concept to an audience that might not have any basis from which to understand the market.
Jay: It's shorthand, exactly right. Or if you don't know the inspirational sources on the receiving end if you're my prospect, I can say it's this show meets this show meets this show, which means this trait and this trait and this trait combined. That's really what it is.
I have this document, what they call a show bible. Those are some of the component pieces of the show bible that I then create, and it contains things like the show level concept and the description they're in, and then the episode level structure.
Those are the two pieces. Those are the sort of Ironman suit-esque pieces that I then use to insert either myself or my client because they're going to host into an actual show construct.
That's like the first step is we want to document what the hell this is and who it's for and how it will sound before we actually create a single thing.
We want a strategy.
Kathleen: You mentioned having an empathy statement, and I love the name of that. Do you have an example of what that might sound like or is there one that you could provide that I could include in the show notes?
Jay: My own show, I don't want to give away too many of the client shows, like behind the scenes. That's something that's for them.
I'll give you my show Unthinkable. Let's see if I can remember it. It's a lot longer than what I'm about to give you. It's like three paragraphs, and I don't want to give you that.
It's something like, "In our world today, we are drowning in best practices, conventional thinking, and trendy new tactics. It's like every single one of these things is a spoke on a wheel, and this wheel just keeps spinning endlessly. It leads straight to the one place we don't want our careers or companies to be, which is average or commodity work. In order to escape conventional thinking and think for yourself, we need to learn how to think for ourselves. We need to learn how to vet all the advice out there and question it in order to hone our intuition and do better work."
"In Unthinkable, show host, former Google brand builder, public speaker, Jay Acunzo, takes you on a journey to the far reaches of the business world to dig up stories you've never heard and ideas you've never considered. We're going to showcase examples of work that seems crazy until you hear their side of the story. It's all in an attempt to help us all do what we want to do, which is bridge that gap between average work we're doing today and it's something exceptional in the future. It only seems unthinkable until you hear their side of the story."
That's like an empathy statement. The whole goal is to get you nodding, which you were so that's great, you're a potential listener, and if you agree or you're excited and amped up, maybe you'll go and click subscribe.
Now, I may put that nowhere publicly, and I kind of butchered it 'cause I'm doing it off the top of my head, but I may never publish that. But it informs everything else that I create as a North Star, and that's why it's so useful for clients I work with, upfront in the documented IP, because it is the North Star, it's from the perspective of the customer what we're trying to do.
Kathleen: I am so impressed that you just reeled that all off the top of your head. Even if it wasn't verbatim, it was pretty good and it was kind of long. That's good.
Jay: I was not joking when I say I obsess over this stuff. This is my world.
Kathleen: Damn, A plus.
Jay: Thank you.
Kathleen: No, that's really good. I like it a lot. Am I correct that you phrase it as a we statement or as a first-person statement?
Jay: We're going on a journey together, absolutely.
That's the other thing, too. Whether or not you write "we" or "I" in your articles, social, whatever - I think you should, but it's one man's opinion and doesn't apply everywhere - voice is undeniably a person speaking to you.
Not every article has a byline. Not every social post comes from a face. Sometimes it's a logo.
But every voice is unmistakably "this is a person speaking to me," so you're going to name yourself on the show. You're going to have a relationship.
I like to say that podcasting, or voice and audio, it's intimacy that scales. Everybody feels like they have friends in their pocket when they listen to podcasts or that they're in the VIP section.
But like I said, everybody feels that way, right? So it feels one-to-one, it feels intimate, but it scales better than one-to-one coffee meetings or one-to-one relationships, and the benefits are similar.
You feel like you've gotten to know this person to the point where if they ask me to do something next, I'm more likely to do that because I know I can trust them than if I were to say read an article or get a popup served to me or an ad alongside content I actually want.
To me, that's the beauty of this medium. It's this powerful first-person voice that you get to know.
Kathleen: It's been fascinating to me. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but obviously I have my own. Even though I know there are listeners out there, I still get a kick every time some stranger says, "I listen to your podcast."
Or even sometimes friends of mine that don't work in marketing, because I have a podcast about marketing, but sometimes people I know just in my regular world say things like, "Oh, I listened to that episode you did," and I'm always thinking, "Oh, wow, that's so cool that somebody sat there and listened to a half an hour or 45 minutes of a conversation I had."
It is, there's a level of intimacy I think in both directions because I feel so much closer to those people that listen than I might to somebody else I just met.
Jay: Exactly, and that to me hints at how you should measure shows, especially early on.
Measuring the Success of Your Podcast
Jay: I can talk your ear off about how to plug a show into a marketing strategy and then measure the subsequent strategy. What I can't tell you is how many leads did this show generate? I know ways you could try and track that, but they're ineffective, like tracking links.
However, I do know that in this world of crazy endless noise and worse sameness from everybody in your niche, if you have human beings coming up to you saying, with passion, "I love your show" or "I have a question for you," and then they talk to you like they've known you for years, or paragraphs of email, or an original thought shared on social or in the comments about what you're doing, I know for sure that is a project worth pursuing more.
I can't tell you the exact ROI, I can just tell you that that's a reaction you don't get from other people you're trying to serve anywhere else, and so you should keep going.
What I tell my clients we're going to measure early on is something I made up, 'cause if you don't have an acronym it doesn't exist in marketing. The acronym is URR, unsolicited response rate.
If you're putting out these episodes and you're getting absolutely no qualitative and more importantly visceral response from what you put out, you need to rearrange or rethink what you're putting out, because that's the whole point of the show, is to get somebody passionately involved in you and your brand over time.
You're holding a lot of time today, but hopefully that persists over time. That's the point of a show versus a piece. If you're not getting any reactions, that a signal that what you're doing isn't landing.
I like to test this stuff to ensure that the idea that I'm putting in a show works. I'll send a tweet and look for a response, write an article, maybe put it in long form fashion versus a tweet on LinkedIn or Facebook, but I'll post a bunch of stuff, strongly worded ideas, and I'm testing. Does anybody care about this concept?
Then I pluck the concept or the idea or the value from the medium, and I'm like "I'm going to up level this into an episode, because look at this visceral response."
I do this with my newsletter a lot. When I get replies, I'm like "I'm going to save this, mark it in a Gmail folder, 'cause this could be an episode or a chapter of a book or a bit in my speeches."
I'm looking for unsolicited responses to what I put out the door as a sign I'm on the right path and that's going to cause me to lean in with more confidence.
Kathleen: That makes sense. Now let's say somebody has started doing their podcast, they're getting some URR. Do you have any strategies or insights into the best way to do what you just said, which is to level up, to get the podcast in front of more people?
Does it have to do with how you promote it? Does it have to do with the format of your show notes?
What have you observed works really well?
Jay: Historically, when we're in acquire mode, the medium is the delivery vehicle and you stop there. It's like the marketing channel is the blog, and so I write an article, and that's me doing the marketing.
Now I think really smart marketers realize, well, when we publish the article, yeah, some people are going to find it organically on the site or visit the site, but really we need to now go out organically on the site, or visit the site. But really, we need to now go out where they live and we're going to post it on social networks, we're going to take little quotes from it, we're going to maybe create versions of this for the right social networks so it's endemic or more native to those networks, with a link back to the original.
We know now, I think most of us anyway, that you can't just put it through the channel and your job is done, even though there is discovery to be had on that channel itself.
It's the same with podcasting. It's like, yes, there's going to be some people that maybe discover you through their podcast player of choice like Apple Podcast or Spotify, but you have to market it. It's a new product, you're marketing a show, and so, you have to atomize it.
I think this is where a lot of marketers are falling flat. The podcast works really well when it's central to your content marketing. It's very poor if it's a sidecar.
So when it's central, you're like a journalist doing a recording of an interview. You have endless content bottled up in this recording that you can excerpt and publish into text, put on social networks as quotes or little audio-grams.
You need to take tangents. I want you to learn or string together multiple episodes and talk about the lessons, or write a big new piece and instead of doing original interviews, you're quoting past interviews from your podcast.
Basically, endless amounts of content should cascade down from your show. What most people are doing, instead of that visual of cascading down, they're sticking it on the side of their strategy, like this is an appendage, this is a side project for us, and they're not rating it for endless amount of content. So there's wonderful benefits to be had for marketing efficiencies if you make your show more of a centerfold, or centerpiece rather, than your little sidecar, side project.
How to Do Podcast Show Notes
Kathleen: Yeah. I'm interested to get your take specifically on the topic of show notes because I've seen them done so many different ways.
I see some podcasts that do very short, almost like outlines, that are bulleted, of here's what we talked about, here's the key links. Boom, here's the player, go listen.
There are some like mine where I have the full transcript, and feel free to tear my approach apart by the way, I'm totally open to it.
There's others that write a truly original article that synthesizes everything that was discussed, and I'm sure there are hybrids of all of those.
Is there anything in particular that you believe works really well, or doesn't work really well?
Jay: I think of two of the most popular shows in the Apple Podcast charts. Bill Simmons, who's a sports columnist and CEO of theringer.com, and Reply All, which is the most popular show made by Gimlet Media in New York. They're a private company that makes narrative style podcasts.
So Bill Simmons show is Q&A, interview style, very lightly edited, with sponsors. He uses a paragraph form show notes section. It has some links at the very bottom for stuff they talked about or sponsors, but then the actual paragraphs above are timestamped pieces of the interview. So you can kind of scroll to the thing that you maybe want to hear, and I find that very useful.
Kathleen: So it's not the full transcript, just-
Jay: Not the transcript, just a summary, yeah. Now, that's me as a consumer judging, subjectively, that that's very useful for me. Right?
But then there's Reply All, which I listen to just as much as Bill Simmons' show and that I rarely miss an episode. Unlike Bill Simmons, instead of a Q&A, it's highly narrative. It's still very chapter, just like Bill Simmons, very broken up, so you can consume bits and pieces. But you probably want to consume the whole thing to know what's going on, right? There's context at the beginning that maybe makes the end make more sense because it's one story. Their show notes are like two lines and any links that they mention. Right?
So is there a right or a wrong way?
It depends on the style of show you have. That's what they think. It depends on the time you have, it depends on what you find your audience wants.
So I'm telling you right now that the complete opposite of Bill Simmons' approach, in that I get almost no information from Reply All, I find just as useful because for them, I'm like, do I want to listen? Let me get two more lines of context to whet my appetite, to tease me to see if there's a good story.
With Bill Simmons, I'm like, do I want to listen? Let me get some of the chapter breakdowns and timestamps, see if I want to go through this long interview or not, what do they talk about?
So it's really about self-awareness here. You need to know your show, what kind of show is it, what's inside, and know your audience and how they actually want to interact with your show.
So I think there's ... Again, they're all tools, you can use them in any different way you want and I can't give you the answer because you have to go investigate.
Kathleen: Yeah, man, I wish I believed that two lines and a couple of links would do it because that would save me about three or four hours a night.
Jay: Well, here's something that could help.
Every month, the most transformative thing I've ever done for my shows is every month, I do five to six one-on-one video calls with my listeners. I ask them a bunch of questions. The first half, first 15 minutes are me asking them questions. Second 15 is me trying to add value, talk about anything they want, even if it's just catching up socially.
The first 15 minutes, I change what I ask based on what I'm trying to learn, or what I learned prior. So I'll ask things like, okay so how often do you listen? Once I understand they listen frequently, I might then focus those questions, if I were you, on like do you ever read the show notes? Why or why not? Do you read the show notes for any shows? Why or why not? Which are the ones that you do read? What kind of show is that?
It's like I'm going to start to have these one-to-one interactions that will compound in value the more I have them, so that I know with certainty, hey it's actually this kind of list that I need to, bulleted list of links, or I need to write paragraphs, or I need the full transcript right in the show notes.
The only way you're going to be able to tell, I think, is to ask the people you're trying to serve.
Kathleen: The first five people will talk in the next two weeks.
Jay: That's awesome.
Kathleen: Done. Yeah, no, it's something I'm really curious about.
I mean, honestly, that's why I do this podcast. I always say even if nobody ever listens, which I hope is not the case, but even if nobody ever listened, I learn so much every week. So selfishly, I love talking to people like you who have insights that I can use to help me do this podcast better, or be a better marketer.
I love it, it's so interesting to me.
Jay: Awesome, awesome.
Kathleen: All right, so we've talked a lot about what makes podcasting work, both from the macro level, and we've dived into some details. I want to shift gears for a minute and zoom out again.
Kathleen's Two Questions
Kathleen: You've been involved in the world of inbound marketing and content marketing for quite some time, and there are a lot more players now than there used to be. There's a lot of companies creating content, a lot of individuals creating content. Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound really well right now?
Jay: I love what InVision is doing. They sell prototyping tools for product designers, so the people who develop the front-end websites for Airbnb, and the experience that you have on mobile for Netflix, and apps that you use like Instagram. People that are designing the experiences of the most important screens in our lives use InVision.
Most companies would just go out and start bragging about that. Number one market leader and you know, they'd create a bunch of case studies. And InVision does do some of that, but a few years ago, they noticed that every one of their customers were asking, or responding, to the questions that their case study interviews gave them in the same way.
So they talk about InVision's tools, they talk about how great it was and how, you know, all the usual case study stuff of like InVision transformed my business, and yaddi yaddi yadda. Same thing that every one of the customers on their competitor websites were saying about competitor tools. So not differentiated, in other words.
But then, they asked these product designers where does product design fit in the business world? Why is this an important business function, as your brand or in your niche? And everybody, to a man or a woman, got defensive about the place that the product design profession held in technology. They started defending why they mattered and why they needed a bigger seat at the table and all these things.
The team at InVision sort of realized, like, oh okay, we're not and the business of selling tools and empowering product designers to do their jobs better. We're in the business, at InVision, of giving these people, that clearly need it, an identity.
We're going to give product design a community and an identity because if we do that, now, businesses will think more highly of product design, give them a seat at the table, let them do better work and be more strategic, and also probably budget for what they're doing more, or hire for it more. And then, we can sell them tools, right? It's a lot easier to sell companies who believe in product design tools if they first believe in product design, right?
Jay: Yeah, and it seems like such a leap from a case study to a film, until you hear that logic behind the scenes.
This was an episode of my show and it's called The Pike and the Minnow, if anybody wants to listen to it, on Unthinkable. The Pike and the Minnow.
We go into the making of this project and why it was strategic and safe, not this giant leap, not risky or scary. That's just one small example of how they've transformed how they do marketing based not on a trend, or a best practice, or a precedent, but based on getting more fundamental insights about their audience. Like they need an identity, and no one else is addressing that insight we have.
If we start there, we'll rally thousands of people around us, and lo and behold, I think they had something like a thousand live screenings and in 450 locations worldwide throughout a year. They doubled their user base and I think to date, I want to get the number right, I think to date they've raised $155 million in VC-
Jay: So they're the best funded company in their space and they have a lot of competition. And it had nothing to do with having some clever new hack, growth hack, it had nothing to do with new technology or best practice that's been around for decades.
It had everything to do with the fact that they just informed all of their work with this more fundamental insight of what the customer was actually going through, and they addressed that instead of the kind of conventional layer that everyone else around them was trying to address.
Kathleen: That's so fascinating. I cannot wait to check that out.
Yeah, some of the most forward-thinking brands that I've kind of observed seems to have also a real focus on building community. I mean, there's just something so lasting there.
But InVision, I mean, wow. That's a product we use and I didn't know about the movie, it's something I definitely have to check it out. But what a interesting approach to demand generation.
Jay: A hundred percent.
Kathleen: Talk about way down the line, seeing dividends.
Jay: Well, the thing is, they saw dividends that month. The month they would have ... So they made the film, then they would do these offline screenings, and in the room where these high-value prospects, like NBC, who you can't cold call necessarily, and they invited them into their office to show the film, and demo their products, and talk about design and where it was heading. In that room was NBC and all these other people, companies around NBC's office that were invited in.
So if you're going to go check out the story, you can check out the story I did on my show, but you will not be able to find this film anywhere on the internet. You can find a bunch of little bits and pieces like teasers they made, but the film was only ever debuted offline, in full, because they wanted to build community. Because they were building on that first principle insight of giving product design an identity, so they didn't want to share it publicly with the world.
This is only for the product design world.
Jay: Imagine that, right? You invest all that time and energy into building a film. A film, not a case study, not a cool video, not an interview series. A film with real production value and tons of work and time and budget, and then you never release it publicly, or online.
Kathleen: That is so fascinating. All right, I'm going to put the link to-
Jay: It doubled their business.
Kathleen: ... your episode in my show notes because I'm sure people are going to want to hear that.
Jay: Sounds great.
Kathleen: All right, second question, and that was a really good answer by the way. Second question is, digital marketing is changing so quickly, it's so technologically driven these days too, how do you stay up to date?
Jay: I spend a lot more time than probably seems healthy, at first glance to other people, talking to the people I'm trying to serve.
A way I have an advantage is that most of my business is public speaking, so I'm on stages, at events, networking, talking to people ahead of time, and afterwards ... But then I do try to have a process to it.
I have my newsletter, it goes out once a week. I tell a new story every Monday morning and I call it Damn the Best Practices, is the name of the newsletter. I get responses to that and I try to engage and keep those people in mind. I have those one-on-one calls that I try to do at least a couple times a month.
I spend very little time in the marketing echo chamber and I find that if you spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the consumer you're trying to reach, the people you're trying to resonate with, the ones you're trying to serve.
Back to the beginning of the entire episode here, when you asked me what I'm all about, the people I'm trying to make feel something when they consume content from me, if I just focus 100% of my time on that, and that tends to give me the answers that I need. Right?
So if I have to be on Instagram instead of Snapchat, I'm going to learn it from talking to people that I'm trying to serve. If I need to shorten my podcast episodes, I'm not going to read an article how long should a podcast be. I'm going to talk to the people who are actually listening to my podcast, or I'm going to build an audience so I can ask them next.
So I think we spend too much time obsessing over the echo chamber, which is fine, but that's just a starting spot, it's a starting place. It's a proxy for what all of this is really for, which is serving your customers. So why not just spend more time talking to them?
Kathleen: Well, fingers crossed, a few people will email me or tweet me, and say they're willing to talk to me about the podcast because I love that idea and I'm really excited about it.