Why No One Should Ever Start A Podcast

Published on
April 26th, 2019
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"Now that podcasts are all the rage — do we recommend that you start one? Not at all."
At the time of this writing, Brad Farris and I have recorded over 300 episodes of the Breaking Down Your Business podcast. The episodes have been released weekly through iTunes for over five years.
But now that podcasts are all the rage — do we recommend that you start one? Not at all.
How much business has the podcast brought us? None whatsoever. Do we get a lot of feedback since we ask for it at the end of every episode? Nope. Sure, we have 62 iTunes reviews and we’ve made several top business podcast lists like Forbes’, Inc. Magazine’s and Small Business Trends’. We know people like it — we just don’t know why.
How the podcast started: I run The Founding Moms, a global collective of offline masterminds and online resources for mom entrepreneurs. Brad runs Anchor Advisors, a small business consultancy in Chicago that helps businesses make better decisions and grow with confidence. We first met after sitting next to each other in the back row of an auditorium at a business conference (we both got there late). We chatted about how we were both been thinking of starting a podcast. Since Brad had studio space and I was planning on recording in my bathtub (which sounded worse), we joined forces, hoping that our podcast would help grow our respective audiences. We were wrong.
We are the Car Talk for small business. We shout so much — at our listeners, at our guests, and at each other — that people think we’re married (we are not). Our favorite question to ask guests is, “What’s your PROBLEM?” (for what it's worth, “ask” is a polite way of stating what we really do). Guests bring on issues that they’re having in their businesses. We solve their problem with business advice. Then we wrap up with practical, actionable advice on a small business topic or an emotional discussion that ends in tears, hand-holding or, most frequently, more shouting.
Turns out, launching a podcast is as much work as launching a brand new business. Even if you're simply building off an existing brand, it still takes recording and editing and show notes and marketing to reel listeners in. Oh, and the whole valuable content thing is really important. Once we figured out that we needed a website and got through the how-to’s of uploading to Libsyn, we had to turn our attention to the number of “ums” and “ahs” that we said every 60 seconds. The learning curve was substantial. And that was just the internal stuff.
Then there’s the marketing. We’re still trying to figure that out. Podcasts are easier to promote now than they once were because people actually know what they are. That said, most people try new podcasts that their friends recommend to them. How to you scale that? And, as you probably know from listening to podcasts yourself, if an intro is two seconds too long for your patience, you'll quickly move on to a different podcast. All the marketing in the world won't matter if that podcast content isn't right for you.
On top of all of that, we want feedback. We need feedback. It’s the tried and true way that co-hosts know what their listeners like, what’ll keep them coming back, and it reinforces what we’re doing to begin with. We ask for feedback in every single episode. We provide phone numbers. Numbers to text. Email addresses. Smoke signal systems. Yet, no one bites. It’s maddening.
We did get calls from TV producers who wanted to turn us into a reality show. We’ve had glorious sponsors and speaking opportunities come our way. Once in a while, one of us will bump into someone in a coffee shop and that person will talk about how they just loved that marketing episode or the one on sales. It’s gratifying, but every time it happens, we convince ourselves that person was an outlier.
So why do we do it? For many reasons. We’ve helped a lot of people solve real problems that they’re having in their businesses. We’ve helped thousands of listeners who tune in every week. And we help ourselves — it’s the most cathartic thing we do each month that helps us to move forward. We may not be millionaires at this point. And we certainly don’t have our marketing strategy down. But we love being vulnerable and honest and open about how hard it is to be a small business owner. If it resonates with folks, we’re grateful.
So what should you do instead? It’s way easier to be a guest on a podcast than it is to host a podcast. You can piggyback onto all of their marketing and let your brilliance shine to their audience. By guesting on a number of podcasts you can reach a much larger audience than you would by building your own podcast. And if you’re a good guest, maybe you can become a “regular” and slide in the podcast back door.
P.S. If after you read this article you’re still not convinced that you should avoid starting a podcast, Brad’s favorite tip is to go ahead and record 10 podcast episodes. Then throw them away and start all over again. Your first 10 will be terrible no matter what. Once you hit episode 20, head over here and leave us feedback.
By Jill Salzman with loud opinions from her co-host Brad Farris.
Comments (5)
Sunwoo Yang
Wait. The podcast brought in zero business for you guys? What's your product/service that you're selling?
Jill Salzman
@sunwoo_yang It brings us very little direct business. Podcast ads/sponsors, sure...but not at a volume you'd think. Brad consults with clients looks to grow their businesses. I run an organization and sell membership for mom entrepreneurs to build better businesses. Listeners follow us, they listen regularly, but we've each seen little in the way of adding directly to our client/member bases.
You should check out the Value For Value concept. John C Dvorak and Adam Curry (aka The Podfather) started doing that 10+ years ago with one of the first podcasts ever: No Agenda. Voluntary donations only, with level-ups. For instance, you become a Knight when you donate $1000, including a ring and sealing wax! Believe it or not - they hand out a handful of Knighthoods per episode (twice a week), and that's without the countless $50-100 donations they receive per episode as well. You can do the math. They quit their other jobs and have lived off their donations ever since. With that said - it is indeed like running a business. If you wanna do it right (i.e. at least twice a week), it's going to be a fulltime job. But it can be a lucrative one.