I think a crucial misstep in nearly anything business related is lack of planning. I’ve made the mistake multiple times. I get an idea, I launch, I figure out how it will support me financially later.
It goes into a credo that became popular as starting an online business became easier: move fast and break things. Except moving too fast hurts you and wastes time. In the immortal words of Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy: “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
So when you’re thinking about your podcast, going a little slow to smooth out the process with help you earn money faster. When it comes to finding your show’s focus, there are 5 questions you should ask. That’s what we’ll cover in this episode.
1) Why Am I Starting a Podcast?
The book Start With Why has had a considerable impact on me because I always focused on the “what” and “how” first…but the “Why” is definitely the most important.
It will help you define what Andrew Warner of Mixergy calls your show’s higher purpose, and what Tom Webster calls your “red thread.”
For this question, you need to dig deeper beyond, “I want to start a podcast,” or “I want to talk about X.” Your higher purpose should be about what your audience gets out of your show.
My higher purpose has changed a few times over the years as my audience, and the times, changed. At first it was to show small business owners, specifically developers, how other developers built a tool or a business…both the success and the failures.
For most of the first season, the analogy of the Olympic gold medalist came up: we only really see the athlete compete and stand on the podium. We don’t see the years of sacrifice, training, and pain (both physical and mental) they went through to get to that moment. It’s the same of most successful businesses.
But as I evolved, and my audience evolved, we wanted to hear from other business owners…not just developers. So the mission and higher purpose of the show changed to “helping small business owners leverage tech.”
But then I noticed there’s been a common through line in the guests that didn’t necessarily align with that mission: I was talking to small business owners and creators about building a good, sustainable business.
And now that I’m in the content creator business myself, I feel I can best serve my audience by talking to more people about that. So the “why”/higher purpose/mission of How I Built It is now:
I help creators and small business owners unlock revenue through the power of creating engaging content.
This still gives me a lot if wiggle room: I can talk to a freelancer about executing on their content strategy.
I can talk to a YouTuber about their process and getting their channel monetized.
I can talk to an agency owner about how they’re using TikTok to generate leads.
The mission for this show is a little easier (and perhaps clearer): show podcasters there’s more to monetization than just sponsors, and give them the blueprint to make money with their podcast.
Your mission – your higher purpose – should be the thing that helps you get your audience from Zero to Win…over the life of the show and the life of an episode.
Answering this important question will help you more easily answer the next four.
2) Your Show’s Topic
Something that’s kind of in-between questions 1 and 3 is, “What is my podcast’s topic?”
It’s kind of in between because you don’t explicitly answer it in either. Talking about your show’s higher purpose tells you what you want listeners to get out of the show.
Question 3 (spoiler alert), who are you talking to, more specifically targets a segment of your listenership.
But what you will talk about is something different. These questions will help, but I think there are a couple more to give you a solid foundation:
What do I like talking about? For a while, everyone wanted to start a true crime podcast because they thought that’s how you make money podcasting. But unless you’re willing to be an investigative journalist and invest TONS of time, research, and money into a show, it’s a bad bet. Podcasting can be a grind, and you need to enjoy what you’re doing. I recommend making a list of your areas of expertise, as well as hobbies. Once you have them, you can answer the next question:
What do I want to be known for? This is crucial because it will determine which of the monetization methods are best for you. If you own a SaaS product, you want to be known as an expert to the audience your SaaS serves. If you help a specific group of people, group coaching or a Cohort-based Course could be your path to making money.
Taking these topics and applying your higher purpose should give you the answer. Then you’ll be ready to answer the million dollar question.
3) Who Are You Talking To?
This is the million dollar question because defining this clearly will help you determine, ultimately, how you’ll grow your audience and make money from your podcast.
The idea of an “ideal customer avatar” is something common in marketing. You basically define your customer in terms of a real person you’re talking to. Here’s an example:
I sell affordable noise cancelling headphones to parents. My customer’s name is Molly. She is in her mid-30s, works from home part time and has 4 kids, 2 at home. After getting the two kids down for their naps, she likes to unwind with some distraction free alone time. She’ll pour herself a drink, grab the baby monitor, and go out on her porch, but some headphones on, and enjoy music…or silence.
And one more:
I coach podcasters to help them make money. My customer’s name is Nick. He’s in his early 30s and has been podcasting for a few years now. While he freelances as a copywriter to support him and his wife, he’d love to ditch freelancing and make money with his own content, including his podcast. He’s ready to spend the time and make the investment to turn his podcast from a money suck into a money maker.
Doing this exercise can help you get a good feel for the type of episodes you want to create. If I were creating a podcast for Molly, I’d make it a short, relaxing show of daily affirmations. If I were creating a show for Nick, it would be…well this exact show.
When you’re starting your podcast, you first ask what your higher purpose is, then you more clearly define who you serve. My higher purpose happens to define who I serve as well – small business owners and creators. And Nick is the perfect personification of that higher purpose.
4) What is the Show’s Format?
OK! You know your purpose, your topic, and who you’re talking to. Now you need to figure out the best way to deliver that topic to your listeners in a way that promotes your higher purpose. There are lots of ways to do that.
We aren’t going to belabor this point (at least not on this episode), but the main podcast formats are:
- Solo Show
- News / Headline
- Host / Cohost
- Heavily Product / Fiction / Story Teller
Pick the one that works best for your higher purpose, your topic, and your audience.
OK now…let’s answer the title question.
5) How Will Your Show Make Money?
This question feels a bit premature if you haven’t even launched yet…should you be thinking about making money?
Plus, is there even ways to make money besides sponsorship (did you listen to the intro?!)
But having a plan from the outset will make it easier for you to implement as your show gains an audience.
And while we’ll cover lots of ways to do this in the coming weeks, a few preliminary questions to ask are:
- Do I plan to have sponsors?
- Do I plan to sell products or services directly to my audience?
- How does my higher purpose and topic lend itself to making money through the podcast?
Knowing all of these things in the beginning let’s you create a roadmap to monetization. And at the risk of burying the lead, the one thing you can definitely do at the outset is start building your list.
Set up a landing page, have a clear CTA, and promote that page everywhere: in your trailer, in every episode, and on social media.
What if You Already Have A Show?
I know what you’re thinking: what if you already have a show? Is it too later? Definitely not!
Like I said earlier, I’ve pivoted my primary show several times. Growing and evolving is an important aspect of podcasting — a beautiful thing about a non-permanent medium.
Plus, if you already have a show, you probably have an idea of what resonates with your current audience. I recommend you check your stats, see what did well, and see how you can focus your show around those types of episodes. And of-course, build that mailing list if you haven’t already.
The SMASH Framework
Now, moving forward, this show will loosely cover my SMASH framework (something you can get for free at makemoneypod.com/smash), which are the 5 aspects of podcast monetization I’ve seen:
- Affiliate Links
- Selling (a product or service)
- Helping (courses, consulting, coaching)
The PDF will help you figure out at this point what works best for you; but this show is all about laying the ground work first. In the upcoming episodes, we’ll talk landing pages, mailing lists, and calls to action.
But for now, I want you to think about the questions above. You can get the article version of this over at makemoneypod.com/001.
But that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening to Make Money Podcasting, presented by Nexcess and Podcast Liftoff. For all of the show notes, and to subscribe, you can head on over to makemoneypod.com/001. If you liked this episode, share it with a friend! Until next time, I’m Joe Casabona and I can’t wait to see what you make.
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