Growing a Podcast from 0-10K Downloads in 1 Month: Noah Kagan Edition

Most podcasts die a slow death fueled by a lack of reviews, downloads and listeners. 

That’s because most people launch their podcasts like this:

  • They record a few episodes.
  • They publish their episodes on iTunes/their websites.
  • They post their podcast episodes on Facebook and Twitter. 
  • They wait to bask in the glory of podcasting fame. 

And then they wonder why nobody cares about their podcast. But there’s a better way. 

A way to launch an iTunes top 50 podcast and land hundreds of reviews, thousands of downloads for each episode and podcast subscribers who listen to every single word you say…in the first month. 

We know, because it’s been done...

downloads by episode

Not to mention the chance to land in iTunes’ traffic-generating ‘New and Noteworthy’ feature (which is the podcasters equivalent of landing on the first page of Google).

And in this article, I’m going to show you exactly how Sumo’s founder Noah Kagan achieved these results with his new podcast, Noah Kagan Presents.

Step 1: Set a Singular Focus

Step 2: Create a Promotion Plan

Step 3: Get Your First Reviews

Step 4: Run a Highly Targeted Giveaway

Step 5: Make Your Podcast Launch Buzzworthy

Step 6: Get Massive Results with Influencer Marketing

[Bonus] Step 7: Give Yourself a Leg Up With Facebook Ads

Let’s get it. 

Want Noah’s marketing plan, email templates, and scripts? Click here to get it.

Step 1: Set a Clear Goal (With a Singular Focus)

Sumo’s founder Noah is sort of internet famous. See?: 

noah kagan

That’s because he has an impressive track record. He’s built several 7-figure businesses including AppSumo, Gambit and the very site you’re reading on now: Sumo.

Not to mention that he’s grown his personal blog, OkDork, to 150,000+ email subscribers, AppSumo’s email list to almost a million, and Sumo’s to 700,000+. 

All this success can be attributed to one thing...

A singular focus. 

“Have one clear goal for your business and make it visible DAILY.”

Noah’s “one clear goal” for his podcast launch was 100,000 downloads per episode within a year of launching

This doesn’t have to be your goal -- come up with something unique and important to you, but make sure you’re only setting one clear goal. 

That must be your singular focus. 

Then, create a plan to reach it. 

Step 2: Create a Promotion Plan

Podcasting isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. It’s a long term play. 

Noah’s podcast launch wouldn’t be his podcast launch without quant-based marketing

Quant-based marketing is creating a plan to work backward from your goal by taking iterative steps to break it down into manageable, repeatable steps

Then create an action plan to achieve your goal. It’s what helped:


To take advantage of the quant-based marketing power, you need to break your one clear goal into manageable chunks. This should be part of a detailed year-long roadmap.

how to start a podcast

Click here to get Noah's podcast marketing plan and use it as your own.

After you’ve set your detailed roadmap with your one clear goal in mind, choose 3 key performance indicators (KPIs) to show you whether you’re on track to reach your goal

In podcasting, those might be:

  1. Reviews
  2. Subscribers

After you’ve set your KPIs, create a list of everything you could do to reach them to create an action plan of how you’ll reach your goal. 

Then, decide from that list which actions are the lowest hanging fruit: which would have the highest impact for the least amount of effort?

Noah worked backward from 100,000 downloads per episode (his goal), to set an action plan that would make success inevitable. From his KPIs, he tackled the following:

  1. Giveaways 
  2. Creating a VIP launch team
  3. Influencer marketing

Notice how Noah didn’t add 100 other things to his plan. He focused on his one clear goal (100,000 downloads) and the three ways he’d reach it. 

That doesn’t mean he didn’t send out a single Tweet or Facebook post about his podcast launch. He did. But he didn’t try to divide his focus between 1000 different things. 

Step 3: Get Your First Reviews

If you were to arrive at a party and see that you were one of only a few people there, would you stay?

Probably not. There’s no social proof at the party to convince you it’s worthwhile. 

This is what potential podcast subscribers experience when they show up at a podcast that has no reviews. 

Your first reviews will help set social proof and set the groundwork for the next steps.

The more reviews you have, the more reviews you’ll get. Here’s how to get that momentum going initially so the rest of your launch is more effective. 

Start Email Marketing From the Beginning

Getting a dozen or so reviews shouldn’t be impossible if you use the audience you already have

Yup, Noah has a big email list. So you could write this off as something you could never do, skip away from this article and give up on your podcast all together. 

But that’s just an excuse

It doesn’t matter if you have 100 email subscribers or 150,000 like Noah: email marketing is non-negotiable if you want to get meaningful exposure to your podcast. 

Noah emailed his list when he launched and then again when he made #40 in iTunes:

podcast email example

The call to action in the email asked readers to subscribe and enter his giveaway (don’t worry, we’ll get into that in a minute) which requires a review for entry.

Don’t get tripped up on the size of your email list. Even if you have a hundred people on your list, that’s still 100 people who could potentially be reached.

Get Support From Your Existing Audience

You already have an audience

We all have untapped assets we can use to our advantage. You, me, and even your younger brother who spends 4 hours per day playing 'Mass Effect'.

These are your friends, family members, coworkers, employees, and professional network. And you need to ask them to support your podcast launch. 

One of the biggest mistakes most people make (yes, you) is that you lack the confidence to use your network. But they want to support you.

So get that boost of initial reviews by engaging your existing audience

Noah reached out to his network to ask them to support his launch in specific ways. 

Instead of just emailing Billy and asking him to share the podcast, Noah was specific. So he posted it on his Facebook page: 

social proof

Encouraging his audience to listen, subscribe, and leave a review. Some, Noah asked to share on Twitter: 

podcast 2017 planning

Get your network involved and get that initial boost of subscribers and reviews. 

If you have any influential friends or family members in your network, ask them to share your podcast with their own audience

If not, you can still benefit from this. Ask them to review your podcast. 

Step 4: Run a Highly Targeted Giveaway

In Growing a Site from 0 to 10k Visitors in a Month, I showed you how Julien ran a giveaway to get over 2,200 email subscribers in under a week. 

That’s because he’s smart. Giveaways are highly valuable for any launch strategy. 

Hence why Noah included a giveaway as part of his launch strategy to reach his one clear goal

With his giveaway, Noah landed 500+ reviews from 600 giveaway entries. 

podcast reviews

In case you weren’t aware, 500 reviews is mind-blowingly good. Most shows run for years without ever reaching the 100 reviews mark.

But because he was asking for reviews rather than a simple social share or email, he had to do things a bit differently.

Get Participants to Leave a Review

Reviews are a podcaster’s bread and butter.

Without reviews, a podcast is like an empty restaurant or that sad party with nobody there. 

In iTunes, reviews help your podcast get “ranked”. They’re what landed Noah Kagan Presents the #40 spot:

itunes new and notable podcasts

And what can land you in one of the top spots for your category (or at least, in New and Noteworthy).

That’s why your entry option for your giveaway should be to leave a podcast review. 

Note how Noah wasn’t asking just for positive reviews. He was okay with people being honest. 

Noah’s giveaway required the person to go above and beyond in terms of their actions and pushed for more engagement.

It’s easy to press one button and Tweet out a giveaway. It’s not as easy to visit iTunes from your phone, search a podcast, subscribe to it and type out a thoughtful review. 

That’s why you need to make your giveaway worthwhile. 

Give Away a High Value Suite of Products 

If you want your audience to go above and beyond to enter your giveaway (like leave a podcast review on iTunes) you’ll have to give away something:

  1. Highly related to your podcast topic. No iPads or Amazon gift cards. This will just leave you with tons of low-value podcast subscribers who don’t care about what you do. 
  2. Valuable. Your audience needs to feel the effort is worth the prize.  

Noah’s podcast is about growing successful businesses. 

What’s more targeted than a group of SAAS products to help an entrepreneur do this?

Noah approached his favorite tools for entrepreneurs and worked with them to give away their products:

how to start a podcast

Many of the companies provided their products for the giveaway for free. They got more exposure, and so did Noah Kagan Presents. 

You can find instructions on how to approach companies to give away their products for free in Growing a Site from 0-10K: Noah Kagan Edition.

Work directly with relevant brands with their own fan base to make this even more lucrative. Here’s how. 

Build in Virality By Getting Giveaway Partners to Promote

You could Tweet your giveaway or post it to your Facebook page to promote your giveaway, but if you don’t have a large Twitter or Facebook following it’s probably not going to do much.

On the other hand, if your partners promote the giveaway (and therefore your podcast), you’re able to reach audiences much larger than yours: 

meetedgar twitter

Expanding your reach and increasing social proof:

meetedgar tweet

More exposure for them through the giveaway + them promoting your thing to their audience = a win/win. 

Many of the companies Noah worked with for the giveaway had their own audiences they could promote to. This was intentional and strategic. 

He sent out this email to the giveaway partners.

noah email example

He asked them to promote the podcast and the giveaway, and made it a no-brainer by giving them swipe file copy for them to share via email:

how to start a podcast

Email is the most valuable method of promotion across the board, and for your giveaway partners it’s no exception. 

Noah also made it easy for his partners to share on social media and maximized social post potential by providing them with a social image and social copy:

noah email example

Which led to more of the partners sharing it with their audiences on those platforms. 

Protip: Notice how Noah didn’t just ask them to promote in his email? Instead he told them “WIIFM”: “what’s in it for me?” by showing them that he’s upholding his part of the bargain, too:

noah email example

You may not be able to drop $10K in advertising or email 150,000+ people, but that’s okay. Outline your promotion strategy and use social proof to show how you’ll benefit them

Build in Scarcity For More Entries

You’re a procrastinator. 

It’s not just you. We all are. Your audience is too. 

So that means that if you send out an email to your list asking them to join the giveaway, and the giveaway end date isn’t for a couple of days, they’re not going to enter right away

They’ll overestimate their memories and leave the email in their inbox because “they’ll enter later.” 

Except they never will, which is why you must remind them. Remind them late, and remind them often. 

Send Reminder Emails for 48 and 24 Hours Left

Even if you run your giveaway for 10 days and have already emailed your subscribers on Day 1, you have to remind them when there’s only 48 hours left. 

When we send out sales emails at Sumo, our recap emails land us 10x more sales than the original email.

So email your subscribers to remind them there’s only 48 hours left to enter, like Noah did with this email template: 

NPK contest ending email

And again when there’s only 24 hours left: 

email example

Want to save time? Click here to get a FREE swipe file with email templates like these, Noah’s marketing plan, and more.

Protip: To use scarcity to its full potential, use your email subject line to communicate how long they have left to enter. Don’t rely on them opening the email to understand the urgency. They won’t.

Step 5: Make Your Podcast Launch Buzzworthy

Ever wonder why people love early releases and VIP events so much?

It’s because it makes them feel like a special snowflake

Like they have something others don’t. It triggers the feeling of exclusivity which is powerful in marketing psychology and makes the product “buzzworthy”. 

This is why influencers often have launch teams to assist with their book or product launches. 

You want your podcast launch to be buzzworthy, too. So trigger some exclusivity to get your audience primed for your launch. 

Compile a VIP List

One way Noah triggered exclusivity was by finding VIPs for the launch. 

Being a VIP makes people feel more involved. When people feel involved, it gives them ownership. People who feel a sense of ownership act

VIPs are far more likely to:

  • Share your podcast
  • Subscribe to your podcast
  • Review your podcast

And do everything in their power to make your launch a success

Noah compiled a list of VIPs by surveying his audience. The survey served a couple of main purposes: 

  1. To learn what people wanted out of Noah’s podcast
  2. To build a list of raving fans (that’s the VIP list):

podcast survey

Want to run a survey, too? Click here to get a copy of Noah’s survey to use for your own audience.

One of the questions on Noah’s survey was whether they were interested in being a VIP for the show. About 2300 people filled out the survey and a portion of them became VIPs. 

You don’t need a huge list of VIPs to make your podcast buzzworthy. Even a few strong advocates and launch partners to help you get the word out can be powerful.

Give Your VIPs Sneak Peeks

VIPs for your launch can be a powerful tool to make it buzzworthy.

But it only works if you treat them like VIPs

Once you’ve compiled a list of special people to help you launch your show, you need to make them feel more involved. 

That means giving them behind the scenes sneak peeks:

email example

Or early access to episodes and more information than you’d give the general public:

how to start a podcast

The more information they have about your launch, the more helpful they can be to help make your launch a success. 

Plus, your content is good (right?) which means that your VIPs will be chomping at the bit to share your episodes once you launch. 

But you still have to make it worthwhile...

Feature Your VIPs

Some people will want to be VIPs just to be involved. 

But most people will only want to be VIPs if there’s something in it for them.

And that’s fair enough. VIPhood at concerts or in stores usually means early access, discounts, or something compelling. 

Noah gave his VIPs more compelling a reason to participate by featuring them. 

email example

That’s a pretty sweet deal on top of the early access to information and behind-the-scenes sneak peaks. 

Protip: Tell your VIPs how they can help with the podcast launch. Noah was specific: he wanted them to subscribe and share with two friends. Specificity gets results.

Step 6: Get Massive Results with Influencer Marketing

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or you’re a well-connected vet like Noah: 

Influencer marketing is a game-changer.

Other people have the audience you want. Influencer marketing is finding those people who reach the audience you want to reach and getting in front of them.

Noah used influencer marketing extensively with the launch of his podcast and you can too.  

Interview Influential People 

One of the lowest hanging fruits for influencer marketing is interviewing influential people. 

If you:

  1. Interview influencers
  2. Interview influencers who reach the audience you want to reach
  3. Are thoughtful and unique with your interview questions.

They’ll want to share the interview with their audience:

tim ferriss tweet

Doesn’t matter if you’re not in the marketing niche. Your topic or industry does have influencers. Find them. Interview them. Get in front of their audiences. 

Protip: Find influential guests besides the people who constantly show up on podcasts. Don’t just target the people to be a guest on your show who you’ve seen on every single podcast in your topic. Three reasons:

  1. These people more expected (and less interesting for your listeners)
  2. They do so many interviews that they’re less likely to have something new to say to your audience
  3. They’re bombarded with requests and are less likely to share your interview in a meaningful way.

Noah did have some popular guests on his show. But he didn’t just bring on the Tim Ferrisses and Brian Deans of the world. 

He also looked at his connections who had audiences but weren’t as public as others: 

how to start a podcast

Interviewing influential people has virality baked right in. Bonus: you get to learn from smart people for free. 

Getting Influencers to Promote Your Podcast

Say you didn’t want to interview influencers. Or maybe your podcast is a Q&A show or follows another format. 

You should still do influencer marketing.

This will help your podcast reach audiences you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. 

Make a List of People You Want to Target

Noah took influencer marketing seriously with the launch of his podcast, which helped Noah Kagan Presents land at #40 in iTunes. 

Just because you’re not Noah Kagan and can’t just send a casual email to your famous friends to help you get the word out doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in influencer marketing. 

Sure, it's not going to be as easy for you as it was for Noah. But it’s still one of the most valuable promotion techniques available

So start out by making a list of people you want to reach. 

podcast 2017 planning

Want a copy of Noah’s launch plan? Click here to get his swipe file including this exact plan, email templates, scripts, and survey templates...FREE.

These influencers should have: 

  1. Large audiences (of a couple thousand or more)
  2. Highly targeted audiences (of people you want to reach with your podcast - your “target audience”)
  3. Websites or businesses that create complementary content to your podcast.

If you surveyed your audience like Noah did, you can include a question in that survey to get suggestions of people to interview from your audience. Work done for you!

When you have your list, you can start making connections. 

Connect Without an Ask 

There are two types of people in the world: 

  1. Those who lack the confidence to connect with influential people. 
  2. Those who get results.

Let’s make sure you’re in the latter camp, yes?

But don't just cold pitch influencers. You’ve done nothing for them, so why would do you any favors?

Connect with them firstBuild a relationship before you ask for a favor. Most influencers spend time on Twitter, so start connecting there. 

Get in Front of the Influencer’s Email Subscribers

Once you’ve built a solid connection with influencers, you can ask them to help you promote your podcast. 

But be specific with your ask. Instead of just asking for their help promoting, ask them to email out

Emails = the real MVP

I can send a tweet to my 5,000 followers and only 20 people will engage, but when I send an email to my subscribers, I’ll see 50x that. 

But, one huge mistake most people make when they’re asking an influencer for a favor is that they make the influencer work for it. 

Or rather, they try to make the influencer work for it. But they won’t. They’re busy. 

You have to do the work to get the share

Make it super simple to get that share by sending the influencer a swipe file with a pre-written email ready to be loaded into their email service provider and sent to their audiences. 

Here’s an example of the swipe file Noah created: 


Click here to get this email template PLUS the rest of Noah’s podcast marketing and launch strategy for free.

Making it simple and specific resulted in influencers emailing their lists: 

podcast email example

But emailing is a big ask, and most influencers won’t promote that way. Getting shares on social media is still valuable.

And Noah also made it a no-brainer to share the podcast on social media. Recognizing that images do best on social, he made his podcast cover accessible as well with a DropBox link:

podcast swipe file

noah kagan presents

Giving the influencer options while also being specific led to more shares, more subscribers, and more listeners for the podcast. 

But remember: the fortune is in the follow up. Noah didn’t just send them one email at the beginning of his promotion strategy to ask them to promote, and then expect them to schedule it in their calendars. 

These people are busy, remember? Instead, he reminded them to promote the podcast through an email, and made it even more of a no-brainer with a calendar invite to remind them: 

how to start a podcast

All this work paid off, resulting in influencers sharing with their audiences: 

For massive likes, traffic, fame and glory. 

You can (and should) engage in influencer marketing, too. 

[Bonus] Step 7: Give Yourself a Leg Up With Facebook Ads

Most of the strategies in this case study are free. 

But we all know that money makes everything more effective. And if you have some money to invest in your launch, Facebook ads are an excellent way to go. 

Unlike a lot of other paid promotion strategies, Facebook ads win because they’re cheap. You don’t require a huge amount of money to make these ads effective. 

Noah used Facebook ads to give his podcast an initial boost that paid off. He did so with two methods: 

  1. Promoting his individual podcast episodes
  2. Promoting his giveaway.

Promote Your Individual Episodes

Remember how I said you should interview influential guests to bake virality right into your podcast?

Not only are those influential guests likely to share with their audience, but this strategy also builds social proof. And here’s where you gotta use that social proof. 

Boost Facebook posts to the guest’s audience by targeting those who “Like” the guests’ Facebook page

okdork podcast

This ad was Noah’s highest performing promotion on Facebook and you can see why. 

Use an easily recognizable image of the guest in the ad, ideally with a picture of you next to it to boost your own profile.

Obviously you can't do this with Tim Ferriss unless he's a guest on your podcast, but you can do this with your guests by boosting a Facebook post to their audience. 

Promoting Your Giveaway 

Running Facebook ads to your guests’ audiences is a badass technique for getting your individual episodes more exposure. 

You can also take a page out of Noah’s book to run ads to promote your giveaway:

noah kagan presents

This will help expose your giveaway to audiences who may never would have otherwise heard about your podcast. 

Use the logos of the company you worked with as social proof and display them next to your podcast cover.

With the right targeting, our cost per click was $0.81. We targeted:

  1. Related industries (such as Entrepreneurship, Small business, Email marketing, Social media marketing)
  2. Highly relevant interests (such as people who “like” Tim Ferriss, TedX, Content Marketing, Gary Vaynerchuk).

You can do the same with your podcast. Even if you can’t spend thousands of dollars, if you spend a couple hundred you can still get good results. 

Get Noah’s Podcast Marketing Plan (+ Email Templates & More) FREE

You’re creating a podcast from scratch. 

You’re figuring out the technology, recording episodes, editing audio and figuring out iTunes. 

You don’t want to be one of the hundreds of thousands of podcasts that get under 100 downloads per episode

So don’t recreate the wheel. Get the launch strategy behind Noah Kagan Presents, including his marketing plan for FREE. 

We’ll even throw in a swipe file full of email templates and scripts so you don’t have to work out all the details yourself. 

Click here to get the swipe file for FREE and launch your podcast for instant success.