Do you love podcasts? Of course, you do. And you’re not alone. About 48 million people listen to them each year - up 6 million from last year. One-third of Americans (ages 25-54) listen to podcasts monthly, so they’re not just for nerds anymore. It's not too late to jump in the game. The time is now. Want to start a podcast? How do you do it? How much does it cost? What equipment and technology will I need? How do I land the best guests?
If you don't even know where to begin, fear not. Nathan Ellering and Jordan Loftis of CoSchedule are here to talk about the early days of the Actionable Marketing Podcast (AMP) and lessons they learned along the way.
Eric: Podcasts. I know you love them, enough to listen to ours at least. Thank you for that. You and 48 other million people are listening to them each year. In fact, one-third of Americans ages 25-54 listen to podcasts on the regular. The numbers show podcast listenership is on the rise and it's not too late to jump in the game. Have you thought to yourself, "Maybe I should start a podcast, but how do I start? I don't even know where to begin. How much is it going to cost? What tech do I need? How do I land the best guests?" Fear not, all those questions will be answered.
In this milestone episode, we kick off our third year of the Actionable Marketing Podcast, and I brought on hosts you've come to love listening to week in, week out, Nathan Ellering and Jordan Loftis of CoSchedule. We'll talk about the early days of the podcast, talk about the lessons they learned along the way, a few embarrassing startup stories and, most importantly, tips we both can learn from as they unceremoniously pass the podcast host baton to yours truly. I'm Eric Brand and Buzz Manager at CoSchedule, and it's going to be one heck of a show. I can't wait to turn the tables on Nathan and Jordan. All right, let's get AMP-ed.
All right. Welcome to Nathan and Jordan. Guys, thanks for being on the Actionable Marketing Podcast.
Nathan: Thank you, the tables are turned today for sure.
Eric: They are. We flipped the script. How many marketers does it take to host a podcast? Apparently, three of us. That's being conservative, am I right?
Eric: As some of the listeners know, I will be taking over the podcast so this is a fun transition episode where I get to glean as well as have our audience get to glean all the knowledge you guys have taken in and learned over the past few years.
Jordan: This is not going to be a very long time.
Eric: We just got to fill 20 minutes, Jordan. I know we can do it.
Nathan: We'll do our best.
Eric: That's really the focus of the podcast today. I get to talk to you guys about–if you're out there–if you're a listener and you're considering starting a podcast, it's now the time. I want to ask you guys a couple of questions about how things got started with AMP and all the fun things. I'm excited for our conversation. I nerded out a little bit and I did a little research here did some study on podcasts and the future.
They say one-third of Americans ages 25-54 are listening to podcasts monthly so it's not just for nerds anymore. Everyone is doing this. 48 million people in total are listening to podcasts, and that's up 6 million from last year so it's growing. The time is still now. You can still get one started and I think the opportunity only increases. With that, now that I've established credibility that it's still a good time, Nathan, I know you are the OG or the original host of this, and I want to know how and why in the world did this podcast all get started here at CoSchedule.
Nathan: That's actually really interesting to think back, and I think you could answer that with another question of, "Why not?" When I'm thinking about our blog two years ago, that was insanely popular and it still is really, really popular, but it was like, "We need to do some things to supplement this. We need to diversify all of the things that we are doing to reach new audiences. Really, it was an idea to just have a new channel to be able to reach a new audience. Not only that, but we know that there are a lot of different ways of learning.
Our blog posts are extremely long form and, sometimes, people just don't like reading. Listening to podcasts in your car as you're driving gives you an opportunity to learn auditory and just make the most of your commute. Those were a few of the reasons it was a very simple idea, and that's the reason why we wanted to get started with the podcast. You had asked some things about "how". We started as simple as possible. We talked to some of our really smart team members here at CoSchedule.
Our audience obviously being marketers, we just talked to our marketing team and thinking they would have really interesting things to share with our audience. That gave us an opportunity to learn and, as we started to talk to those people, then we would start talking to our customers who are also marketers, and just kind of give them that platform to share some of their stories. We knew that we had some really smart people who use CoSchedule as a tool, and it gave us an opportunity to build relationships with those people.
Eric: That's a perfect blueprint because I think, for some people, it could be a little intimidating like, "Who am I going to interview? How do I get people to come on my show?" and I think it's smart, like, "Hey, let's start with these wickedly smart people that are around you, cut your teeth there and then get some experience with some of the customers who, hopefully, you have some good relationships with." Once you've got your feet wet, you can start to set in your sights for some of those larger fish that you like to hunt down. I love the advice. I got to ask: I love the name, but what is in the name, the Actionable Marketing Podcast? Why that?
Nathan: Again, this is super-fun to think back two years, and it actually started as the Actionable Content Marketing Podcast, and that was really because we were doing tons of content marketing. For me, basically, just being content marketing team-focused and focused on that blog, social media and all the stuff that comes along with that, that's what we were talking about all the time, but we actually decided to change it to Actionable Marketing Podcast because we know that people who do content marketing do that as one part of marketing.
That's not all they do, and we knew, again, these people we were talking with and even our team members, the customers that we were talking with, our vendors that we wanted to feature, of the tools that we use here at CoSchedule. Those people do so much more than just content marketing so we really thought that that limited us so we just chose marketing. The reason for actionable–it stems back to this idea of CoSchedule content, having a standard of performance.
Something that we want to do is not just give you some information that is somewhat helpful; we want to make sure that you can actually act upon it. Because of the way that this stemmed from that blog, at first, one of our standards of performance for blog posts is that they're absolutely actionable. We really liked that word and so we wanted people to listen to our podcast and leave, actually knowing what to do once they got done with their commute and they were jazzed to get into work to get to work right away and actually know how to begin executing whatever the topic of the podcast was.
Eric: Yeah, that's beautiful. I think it's so true, right? What can I take–if I'm going to invest 20-25 minutes, what can I take and go, do and implement right now? That is so true with everything that CoSchedule does. I can definitely feel it from our blog, even to the presentations and keynotes that Garrett, our CEO, gives. It's always about packing as much information and actionable takeaways, which so totally makes sense for this podcast so I love that.
I love pivoting, like, "Hey, we're going to talk more than just content. There's a lot more topics that we can cover that marketers are going to be interested in learning about," so good stuff. I'm going to put myself in the listeners' shoes right now. They have been contemplating, starting a podcast, they're liking what they're hearing from you, Nathan, they can see, "Hey, this is maybe something I can do." Either of you guys, where in the world did you begin, though?
Nathan: Where we began was extremely simple. Something that our CEO and co-founder, Garrett Moon, talks about all the time is that the simplest approach is the best place to start. I think, with anything, that's like, "Man, how do you actually start a podcast? How do you keep that thing going? It's such a commitment. It's easy to psych yourself out and think it's harder than what it actually is, and so really embracing what startups and agile communities call a minimum viable project is how we start out.
It's like, "Well, what do we really need to do this? We need a microphone and a room and people to talk to, essentially," and that's all you need to get started. Embrace the idea that you don't have to over-complicate it; you just need to start and ship and then learn as you because, if you don't start, you'll never learn so don't let the fear of getting started prevent you from actually starting your own podcast.
Eric: Yeah, that's great advice. I love the story that you share about the first time you did your episode and you let your parents listen to it and then they had to get all the way through the episode before they realized it was even you on there.
Nathan: That was legit. Listening to yourself at first is the weirdest thing. Jordan, what was your experience with that?
Jordan: Anytime that I hear my voice recorded, I'm like, "Man, I sound like a 12-year-old chipmunk. I hate it so much."
Nathan: You do sound like a 12-year-old chipmunk.
Jordan: That's what I hate. No, it's funny. I think everybody's had that experience. It's sort of like watching yourself on video or something and you're horrified at first but then you get used to it. My very first episode, I remembered–it was super noisy here at the office and I couldn't find a call room to have my first interview with. I was already nervous because it was my very first one so I drove home and I thought, "Well, I'll do it at home," but we had a daughter at a time. I have more kids now, but we had a daughter at the time who was two, and just the loudest human on the planet so I was like, "This is great."
I took a comforter and I went in the little room underneath our stairs because there's no vent in there either, and I had this comforter over my head, and I was talking to some big-time marketer. They had no idea I'm under my stairs right now just hoping that my daughter doesn't come stomping down and just ruins it all because I had this thing in my head where it's like, "We have to be super professional and it has to be this big, orchestrated deal," but the truth is you can just be underneath your stairs, talking to someone, and you can publish it.
People still get value from it because, ultimately, it's about the content. It's about what gets shared and how it connects with people, and it doesn't have to be some Hollywood-level production. As long as it's clear enough and the audio isn't so distracting that people can't understand it, honestly, it's all about the content and being able to deliver that in a helpful way, hence our name, Actionable Marketing Podcast, actually giving value that people could put into practice and write when they're done. That's what we've always focused on and, as long as we've done that, we've done our job.
Nathan: When we started this podcast, there was no sound room at all in the office that we were in here in Fargo, North Dakota and, for the first year and a half, however many episodes that is, every single thing that I recorded was from my basement at home. I was sitting in an easy chair and that was it, talking to people like Andy Crestodi, Gini Dietrich and a bunch of other big names like, "Are we doing a video call?" "No, we're not. Absolutely, we're not doing video. You have no idea."
Eric: I'm picturing some taxidermy on a wall on the background and a La-Z Boy recliner just recording. It would fit the Fargo theme, potentially, though.
Nathan: I was wearing flannel at the very least.
Jordan: I would have looked like Harry Potter under the stairs.
Eric: Hopefully, our guests–if anything, you don't need to have these really high standards as you heard from Nathan and Jordan. It's just about just doing what you've got. If it's having a mattress to soak up some sound or in your parents' basement or in your own basement, you can get things started. Don't psych yourself up. I'm spoiled here. I have a sound room and so, obviously, use what you've got, but great advice. Let's talk about production. We talked about–it's pretty simple but there's obviously a little bit of technology involved in making this get off the ground and produced et cetera, so I would love for our listeners if you gave some advice on, "What does it take? What are we talking about from a cost perspective and who helps produce some of this stuff?"
Nathan: With the tech, it's just an opportunity for you to get over-complicated. When we were researching this from the beginning, I found so many things like people talking about the optimal mics and whatever. We just had some mics laying around the office, and that's what we used. That's actually what we still use. We haven't even bought new mics for this. They're the same exact mics that we've always had. We just had them laying around.
All I'm saying is all you need is a mic, pop a filter for that mic, an internet connection, Skype–we use Ecamm Call Recorder–there are a bunch of different call recorders out there–and a quiet room. Then, for the other tech side of it, for hosting, we use Libsyn, Liberated Syndication. Basically, every podcast out there uses Libsyn. It helps you host and shares out to places like iTunes and Spotify automatically when you want to ship an episode. That's how we did it. It's really, really easy to think that you should do more but, again, the simplest approach is the best place to start.
Eric (Program): You've got more podcast strategy and shenanigans coming your way in just a moment, but I have some fun news I have to announce. You can now catch the Actionable Marketing Podcast on Spotify so, if you're like me, you can jump between your curated '80s one-hit-wonders playlist and then catch our show when you've heard Toto's Africa just one too many times. Also, I'd love for you to do me a favor. When you get a free moment like right after this, I'd love to see a review and rating from you on Podcasts on iTunes. Leave your rating and your review and send a screenshot to me at email@example.com and I'm going to hook you up with CoSchedule care package. All right, let's get back to the show.
Eric: Yeah, I like that. Sometimes, you just hit the Easy button and get things done. There are tons of technical resources needed to pull this off. I want to hear some stories. I think if we think about growing a podcast, you want to–the big hope is to get that first big fish, to reel in that first big name because, as we know, I think once we get that name, you can say, "Hey, so-and-so, this big fish was on my podcast. Do you want to come, too?" How do you snag that first big fish? Do you have some stories about how you got that?
Nathan: When we started out, like you're hearing, it was pretty scrappy and I didn't actually know how to interview people. I talk to people every day, and there's that side of knowing how to interview, how to rate questions and whatnot, but if you haven't actually done it, it's kind of a nerve-wracking experience. What I did was I just started with our team members who I was already really comfortable with, and I told them, "I'm going to be really awkward. Just go with it."
It gave me a chance to work out the kinks. Otherwise, if you got on the phone with someone you didn't know and they're just very confident, more confident than you or something like that, you might get psyched out a little bit. Starting with the easiest thing made everything else doable. Again, I had to do it to learn it so if I wouldn't have started there, I wouldn't have known what to do. Start with your friends, start with your coworkers, start with people you know or people who know you and go from there.
I was lucky to–after I was done talking to the team, we had some customers at CoSchedule who were pretty in the industry. We talked to Janna from Smart Passive Income, Dustin Stout from Warfare Plugins, Gini Dietrich from Spin Sucks, Rebekah Radice, Andy Crestodina, Jess from Convince and Convert–those people were our customers and they were all people I talked to within the first 10 episodes. I think that kind of led some of the baseline for Jordan, then, to come in and get in with even more really smart marketers, too. Jordan, how did you use that to grow?
Jordan: That's one thing, is because I did get to come in later, I had the benefit of–man, I think when I started, I was in the early–I was either in the late 40s or the early 50s in terms of episode count, right around that year in. What I was able to do is essentially, one, sort of use this social proof idea, like you would be joining people–you'd sort of be in the ranks of these other marketers, so using that credibility there. What I did with my asks is I focused intently on, "How could I add value to these people?"
It wasn't just that I was trying to name-grab, but I wanted to invite people on the show who, one, I actually thought really highly of, and they had some incredible value that they brought to people, to marketers, specifically, so I thought really highly of them, and I was really curious about them, too. I actually wanted to talk to them. It was something that I would love to just get to sit and pick their brain for half an hour and ask them marketing questions, because a lot of these people were who I learned marketing from in the beginning.
What I would do is I would see, "Okay, who is it that I'd love to talk to?" and then, "How can I add value to them?" or, "How can the CoSchedule platform amplify what they're doing?" There's a lot of different ways you can do that if you have a sizeable audience or whatever. There's going to be X number of people who will hear your stuff. That makes sense, but one thing that I learned to do was just watch them and see if they had a book coming up or they were going to be launching a new product or they were even changing companies.
Whatever it was, if I knew there was a big transition or a big launch coming up, then that was really good timing because then it would give them a forum to talk about it because they're already going to be the book tour thing. They're already going to be trying to do guest webinars, guest blogging, doing all the same stuff we do because they have to talk about their new stuff, too. I'd be tactical on timing when I would ask, and that worked really well.
It was a great way to start a reciprocal relationship so it wasn't just like, "I'm trying to get you on my show to grow my show." It was like, "Hey, I'm inviting you on this show because I really believe in you as a marketer. I can't wait to talk to you, and I'd love to give you the opportunity to talk about your new stuff because I think it's going to be helpful," so how can you help them and look at timing as a chief component of that. I think that really helped us get some amazing, amazing marketers, people like Neil Patel, Michael Brenner, Rand Fishkin. You can scroll back, and a lot of the people I've talked to are the first people that I learned marketing from back when I got into the industry.
Eric: Now, I can add your guys' names to that list of elite marketers.
Nathan: Eric, you're very fortunate. You're a very lucky man.
Eric: No, it's good. This is great advice. Don't underestimate. I think you have something to offer as well to the influencers or the marketers you're looking to have on your show. It's very little investment from them. Be smart. Get them the questions in advance if you can just to give them a heads up potentially of where the conversation might go but, really, it's 23 minutes of commitment for them for exposure to hundreds and thousands of people that fit their market. Great advice, guys. I think we're–again, as I said, this is the first episode of our third year and I have to know: We are sticking with this, but maybe, Nathan and Jordan, what results are we hoping to see and why did we continue to go? Why at Episode 104?
Nathan: By the way, Eric, this is a really fun milestone to see us hitting Year 3 with this. I think with podcasts, it's easy to look at a podcast and say, "Man, it doesn't get as much traction as something like our blog." It's different and we can't compare apples to oranges that way. We're getting lots and lots of downloads. It's a really good podcast for us other than just stats, which is something that, as a marketer, I always want to look at.
The number one reason why we would stick with it is because of the listeners who enjoy this thing every single week. Those people are the ones that we do this for. Eric, you and I were at the content marketing world not too long ago. So many people–like a handful. I don't know how many–literally came up and say things like, "I listen to the podcast every single week. Love it. I've been binge-listening the past episodes on my commutes," and all of that is amazing.
It's like a way for us to show that, yeah, you might read our byline and our blog post but we're just like you; we're marketers. We're figuring it out. We do these interviews to learn how we can improve our own marketing and, if we're going to talk to these people and pick their brains, we might as well share those stories with you guys. It is all about the people who are listening to this podcast. Eric, I think the real results that we're going to see are yet to come from this and I think that's exactly why we want you to take this over because you're going to take it to the next level.
You're going to give it the love that it truly deserves. Let's take this thing from the scrappiness level that Jordan and I had from the very beginning of this and really see where we can go with it. That's where, I think, the future of it lies, is with someone who is very energetic, is a great relationship-builder and to use this to connect with our audience and connect with the folks who we'd love to just be partners with here at CoSchedule. I think that that is a next level.
Eric, even for you, I'm wondering. You've got the future of this thing. On behalf of Jordan, we are super excited to see you come in, like where do you see the podcast evolving to?
Eric: Leave it to the ex-podcast hosts to turn the tables and start asking the host questions. I see how it is here. That's a great question. I think, first, when we talked about taking this over, I definitely had high expectations for myself and I first go to inspiration for other podcasters that I look to as the best in the biz, and one of that is the energy that Pat Flynn brings, whether it's the tell-it-how-it-is nature that Noah Kagan has or even Amy Porterfield over that Online Marketing Made Easy. She just asks great questions and so insightful in market shares and just crushes it with being authentic.
I think I look to those individuals, I see where they've taken some of the best podcasts and I use it as my own inspiration. I don't think that roadmap has been 100% set but I absolutely think I know for sure we'll be keeping at the heart of what made the Actionable Marketing Podcast so popular, and that is interviewing wickedly smart people so continuing to find the best individuals that I know our audience wants to hear from and making sure every episode, people are walking away with something they can implement right now. Keep the fluff to a minimum. We'll have some fun. We'll have some laughs but, at the end of the day, you should be done and you should be like, "Awesome. Worth my time. I'm going to go crush it because I've got five ideas that I can go implement right now." I think that'll be at the heart of what tradition I continue to do.
Nathan: I'd say we're definitely leaving it in the right hands, then.
Eric: Thank you. No pressure and expectations at all, though, right?
Nathan: Zero. Nothing.
Eric: This is good. Before we leave then, any other advice for our listeners out there that are looking to a podcast, maybe pitfalls to avoid or anything else–these final words of wisdom that you guys sign off?
Jordan: I think the number one thing that I've learned interviewing people is try to be the listener's advocate or sit in the listener's seat. Get rid of your curse of knowledge, try to forget what you know and then approach your guest, asking the questions you think maybe your listeners would be asking and just be as curious as possible, dig in and drill down on things and don't be afraid to go off-script when that spark of magic happens and you have something really interesting come up and follow it to where it may lead in the conversation but always keeping, "What might my listener be interested in knowing about this?"
Nathan: That's really good advice for the actual interview itself if you choose to go that way. There are a lot of different ways to do a podcast like storytelling, banter with just one other person, segments or interviewing like we do. If you're going to interview, follow Jordan's advice. It's really good. I just wrote down one little point on that: advice for marketers looking to start a podcast. Specifically because the word 'start' is there, I'd say that scrappy is okay. Don't overthink it, start it and then ship something and then move onto the next thing and ship another episode.
Some of the best advice I'd ever received was that you need to do it to learn it, and that guy's been a mentor of mine for many years. That advice has always stuck around with me ever since I was a brand-new marketer just out of college. If you need to do it to learn it, you need to get out there, start somehow and then ship.
Eric: Awesome. Great advice, guys. Four big shoes to fill. I want to thank you on behalf of all of our listeners. I have listened to quite a few. Thank you for all the great interviews you guys have done and just the great work of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I couldn't be more excited to take things into your three and I appreciate the opportunity. Thanks, of course, to all of our listeners. Guys, thanks so much. I appreciate you coming on the show.
Jordan: Thanks for having us.
Nathan: Yeah. I would say, going into Year 3, Eric, you've got this. We're so excited to see where this is going to go this year and the years following. Wow, I butchered that. It sounded like I've done this.
Eric: That's a perfect way, I think, to wrap up this episode, with Nathan losing train of thought.
Jordan: The reason why we're handing it over to you, Eric, is because Nathan, I literally have no idea what he's saying anymore. We're done.
Nathan: I don't know how we got this far.
Eric: There are no more words. Thanks so much, you guys. Take care and I'm sure we'll see you around the office.
Nathan: Yeah, see you.