Have you ever wondered how to launch a successful podcast?
And not just any run of the mill podcast… we’re talking about a successful podcast that people listen to, review and recommend.
Maybe you could be the next Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, or NPR.
If so, this one’s for you...
In this article, we’re going to show you:
We know, because it’s been done…
I’m going to show you the step-by-step process Sumo’s founder Noah Kagan used when he started his podcast, Noah Kagan Presents, and grew it to 10k+ downloads in the first month.
Let’s dive in.
Sumo’s founder Noah is sort of internet famous:
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 now: Sumo.
Not to mention that he’s grown his personal blog, OkDork, to 133,638 email subscribers, AppSumo’s email list to 850,000+, and Sumo’s email list to 455,405.
All this success can be attributed to one thing...
A singular focus.
Pick a clear goal for your business and make it visible DAILY.
Noah’s “one clear goal” for starting his podcast was to achieve an average of 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.
Podcasting isn’t a “quick win” - you won’t go from zero to Tim Ferriss in a couple of weeks. It’s a long-term play.
Noah’s podcast launch wouldn’t be successful 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 processes that you can use time and time again.
Create an action plan to achieve your goal. It’s what helped:
Sumo’s Instagram following from 0 to 50,000 in 90 days and to 100,000 followers in eight months
Julien grow SleepSumo.com from 0 to -10,000 monthly visitors in 30 days.
To take advantage of the power of quant-based marketing, you need to break your one clear goal into manageable steps. This should be part of a detailed roadmap.
Here’s how Noah broke down the goals for the first 12 months of his podcast:
After you’ve set your detailed roadmap (as above) with your one clear goal in mind, choose three key performance indicators (KPIs) to show you whether you’re on track to reach your goal.
In podcasting, those might be:
After you’ve set your KPIs, create a list of everything you could do to reach them.
Then, decide from that list which actions 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:
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 make it a part of his strategy, instead he just shared it across his profiles as he does with other content every day.
When most people think about how to start a podcast, they think about audio equipment, editing software and coming up with a jazzy name—all of which are important. But one area often overlooked is reviews.
Think of it this way…
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 create social proof and show people your podcast is worth subscribing to.
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.
Pro Tip: When Noah first launched his podcast he had 5 episodes ready to publish in the first week so people had more content to listen to and base their reviews on.
You already have an audience.
Friends, family members, coworkers, employees, and your professional network are all untapped assets you can use to your advantage. And you need to ask them to support your podcast launch.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to lack the confidence to use your network. Your network wants 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 and supplied a swipe file containing copy Billy could use to share on his social media pages.
So Billy posted it on his Facebook page:
Get your network involved and get that initial boost of subscribers and reviews.
If you have any influential friends or family members in your podcast’s target industry, ask them to share your podcast with their audience.
Getting a dozen or so reviews when you launch your podcast 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 altogether.
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:
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 required a review for entry.
If you have a large list, you could also think about segmenting your subscribers based on their likes and engagement with your emails to increase your chances of success.
Pro Tip: Try emailing your LinkedIn contacts to increase the number of people you reach.
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.
Well-executed giveaways are highly valuable for any launch strategy. Hence why Noah included a giveaway as part of his podcast launch strategy. With his giveaway, Noah landed 500+ reviews from 600 giveaway entries.
In case you weren’t aware, 500 reviews is mind-blowingly good. Most shows run for years without ever reaching 100 reviews.
But because he was asking for reviews rather than a simple social share or email, he had to do things a bit differently.
Here are five steps to running a highly successful giveaway:
Without reviews, a podcast is like an empty restaurant.
In iTunes, reviews help establish trust and if a podcast has plenty of good, 5-star reviews it must be good, right?
That’s why you should require entrants to leave a podcast review to receive a chance to win.
And it’s worth noting that Noah wasn’t asking for positive reviews. He was asking for honest reviews.
It’s easy to press one button and enter a giveaway by sending a tweet. 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.
Pro Tip: To make it easier for people to find his podcast page, Noah created a simple redirect from http://okdork.com/podcast that opened up the iTunes Store to his podcast.
If you want your audience to go above and beyond to enter your giveaway (like leaving a podcast review on iTunes), you’ll have to give away something that is:
Noah approached the people behind his favorite tools for entrepreneurs and worked with them to give away their products:
Many of the companies provided their products for the giveaway for free. They got more exposure, and so did the Noah Kagan Presents podcast.
Work with relevant brands that have their own fan base to make this even more rewarding.
Note: 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.
You could Tweet your giveaway or post it to your Facebook page, but if you don’t have a large following, it’s probably not going to do much.
And if you’re only sharing with your own audience, you’re missing out on opportunities to reach new people.
If your partners promote the giveaway (and therefore your podcast), you’re able to reach audiences much larger than yours...
...expanding your reach and increasing social proof:
More exposure for them through the giveaway + them promoting your podcast to their audience = a win/win.
The influence of partners you’re able to cross-promote with might depend on your own reach and email list size, but even if you only have a few hundred people in your audience, you’ll still be able to find a partner.
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 this email to the giveaway partners:
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:
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, by providing them with a social image and social copy:
Pro Tip: 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:
You may not be able to drop $10K in advertising or email 150,000+ people, but that’s okay.
Outline your promotion strategy and show how it’ll benefit your partners.
Even if you run your giveaway for 10 days and emailed your subscribers on Day 1, remind them when there are only 48 hours left to enter.
So follow-up with your email subscribers to remind them there are only 48 hours left to enter, like Noah did with this email template:
And do it again when there are only 24 hours left:
Pro Tip: 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 discover the urgency. They won’t.
Ever wonder why people love early releases and VIP events so much? It’s because it makes them feel special. 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 launches.
You want your podcast launch to be buzzworthy, too. So trigger some exclusivity to get your audience primed for your launch.
Here’s how you can do just that:
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:
And do everything in their power to make your launch a success.
Noah compiled a list of VIPs by surveying his audience across social media and his email list. The survey served a couple of main purposes:
One of the questions on Noah’s survey was whether they were interested in being a VIP for the show and mentioned they’d receive some special perks for taking part.
About 2,300 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.
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 (like this email Noah sent, that you can use as a template for your own VIPs):
Or early access to episodes and more information than you’d give the general public:
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 eager to share your episodes once you launch.
But you still have to make it worthwhile…
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.
So Noah gave his VIPs a compelling reason to participate by offering to mention them in one of his podcast episodes:
That’s a pretty sweet deal on top of the early access to information and behind-the-scenes sneak peaks.
Pro Tip: 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.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or you’re a well-connected veteran like Noah:
Influencer marketing is a game-changer.
And Noah used this tactic extensively with the launch of his podcast and you can too.
One of the lowest hanging fruits for influencer marketing is interviewing influential people.
They’ll want to share the interview with their audience:
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.
Pro Tip: 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. A couple of reasons:
Noah did have some popular guests on his show. But he didn’t just bring on the Tim Ferriss's and Brian Deans of the world.
He also looked at his connections who had audiences but weren’t as public as others. For example, Noah reached out to some NPR producers:
And landed an awesome interview about how to make a podcast.
Bonus: You get to learn from smart people for free.
Say you don’t want to interview influencers. Or maybe your podcast isn’t 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.
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 I'm going to tell you how you can do it...
Start out by making a list of people you want to reach.
Pro Tip: You can often find subscriber numbers of for an individual/brand on their website:
And when it comes to finding opens and conversion, you could check some email industry benchmarks:
These influencers should have:
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.
There are two types of people in the world:
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 first. Build a relationship before you ask for a favor. Most influencers spend time on Twitter, so start connecting there by:
But remember, you need to do more than just send a couple of tweets to build a real relationship. Think about how you can do one percent more and actually help them. For example:
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 aka Most Valuable Player.
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.
Making it simple and specific resulted in influencers emailing their lists:
But emailing is a big ask, and most influencers won’t promote that way (though you can still ask if you’re feeling lucky…). 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:
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:
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.
Most of the strategies in this case study are free.
But we all know that money makes most 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 need a huge amount of money to make these ads effective.
Noah used Facebook ads to give his podcast an initial boost that paid off by helping him hit the #40 spot in the iTunes chart. He did so with two methods:
Remember how I said you should interview influential guests to get more downloads for 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 guests’ audience by targeting those who “Like” the guests’ Facebook page:
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.
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:
Pro Tip: Steer clear of using "share on your Timeline to enter", "share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries" and "tag your friends in this post to enter" as these types of promotions are not allowed by Facebook.[*]
Also worth checking any giveaway restrictions in your country or state.
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:
You can do the same when you start a podcast. Even if you can’t spend thousands of dollars, if you spend a couple hundred you can still get good results.
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.