The Journey of Building a Podcast

“We’re starting a podcast!” said just about everyone during the pandemic. Podcasting has taken the world by storm in the last few years, some projecting over a half-billion listeners by 2024. During a period of uncertainty amid a worldwide pandemic, people searched for new ways to connect with the world. For some, podcasting helped fill that gap. So what’s the deal with this magic medium?

For starters, the surprisingly simple format of podcasts capitalizes on inefficiencies within traditional media, such as TV’s high attention requirement. Easy-listening podcast episodes, in contrast, are a great option for spicing up the menial tasks in our lives, like the morning commute, household chores, or waiting in lines. They also give access to authentic, real-world conversations on hyper-specific topics you might not find on your favorite streaming platform. And I think I saved the best part about podcasts for last: they’re almost always free.

I’m sure most of you reading this have at least considered starting a podcast of your own. If you’re thinking now’s the time to take that leap, here are some things to consider before you lay down a few hundred bucks for a new mic.

Step 1: Who is your audience?

If you’ve ever recorded a video of yourself, you probably know that without an audience, you’re just speaking to a computer screen. That’s why it’s important to understand who is going to tune in before you turn on that webcam or microphone.

For many subjects, your audience is a natural extension of the topic. Want to start a podcast about rock climbing? Your target audience will probably consist of rock climbers. But let’s say you’re breaking into the true crime genre—who will your audience be then? Hopefully the answer isn’t criminals; so in those cases you may need to do a bit of research to discover how many potential listeners are in your market, and just how many competitors have already saturated the space (in the case of true crime, the answer to both of those questions is a lot). Whatever your topic, it’s important you build a connection with your audience and understand how they think, then make content that’s relevant to them. When RevRoad and CBVault teamed up to launch The Midnight Founders Podcast, entrepreneurs and founders were the obvious choice.

Remember that most audiences also appreciate consistency, and it will help you too. If your followers can depend on a certain time of the week for a release, it’s easier to work your content into their schedules so they can make a habit of listening on a regular basis! Also, if you record at the same time each week, it’s much easier to coordinate schedules, invite guests in advance, and make preparations than if you’re just playing it by ear. For our podcast, we followed this advice carefully—recording every Wednesday afternoon and launching a previous episode that same midnight (an ode to our title). You might say we have distribution down to a science!

Step 2: What makes your podcast unique?

There were over 4 million podcasts as of March 2022 as identified by The Podcast Index. When anyone with an internet connection and a microphone (and yes, that includes many pairs of Apple earbuds) can start their own podcast, how do you expect to stand out from the crowd? This isn’t a question you can simply glance over during the planning phase—you need a hook to get people to listen. Don’t expect to replicate the strategies of big name podcasters and draw the same kinds of crowds within the year. Think of something that no one else has.

For some, that hook is exclusive guests who won’t speak to just anyone. Other podcasters concentrate on information or stories that have flown under the radar. However, what seems to be a popular hook that keeps listeners coming back for more is personality, the general feel that the hosts and guests exude. The right tone will draw out an emotional response in your viewers, whether that be rolling on the floor laughing, sitting on the edge of their seat, or lost in a sea of ideas. 

On The Midnight Founders, our hook has always been focusing on founder stories, startups deep in the building phase of their lifespan, as opposed to those who have already achieved their financial goals. That way, we get to give and receive advice related to real startup experiences with those who are living it, down in the trenches of entrepreneurship life. 

When users can really resonate with your podcast’s tone, it even becomes possible for your viewership to feel connections to people they’ve never met. Thanks to our “Where can we find you?” segment, we’ve had cases of our audience reaching out to our guests to take those connections into the real world. We’d recommend taking a similar approach at the end of each episode, letting your guest share their favorite platforms and build their audience as a thank you for being on the show.

how to start a podcast step 3: who will host it?

Step 3: What form of podcast will you make?

Many people are surprised when they find out that some of the most downloaded podcasts in the world are long…like really long. The #1 Podcast in the world, The Joe Rogan Experience, frequently releases episodes that exceed 3 hours in length. And his podcast isn’t an outlier either; it’s not uncommon for other podcast fans to sit through two, three, or even four hour sessions in their entirety.

However, the question is whether long-format podcasts are right for you as you’re starting out.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before diving straight into a three-hour session:

Can you keep people engaged long enough to take on a longer format, or should you play it safe with content that’s short and sweet? 

When it comes to stories, many people like shorter, more digestible segments that mimic television formats they’re normally used to. If you’re having a conversation, also remember that it’s a lot easier to go completely off the rails within a three-hour block than it is in just 45 minutes.

On The Midnight Founders, my co-host Jake McHargue from CB Vault and I decided to aim for around 40 minutes per episode so they could easily fit within a daily commute. We’ve found that this length is long enough to cover the meat of our various topics, while short enough to remain interesting and on-topic throughout.

Do you have a team prepared to record for long stretches? Is your guest willing to sit down for three hours straight?

Pay close attention to the resources you have at your disposal and avoid spreading yourself too thin, especially if you’re going it alone. Prepping for long-format podcasts obviously takes much more time than short-form episodes, so be ready for a hefty time commitment on- and off- record if you’re going for full-feature content, and don’t expect every guest to forfeit their entire afternoon for you.

Audio or video?

When choosing a format, either video or audio alone, don’t overlook the cost of video equipment. In order to capture high-quality video at a flattering angle, you may need new cameras, tripods, lighting, or even a videographer/editor to ensure the recording is smooth. You also need to start a YouTube channel or other platform to house and play these larger video files. And lastly for video, you must consider whether your host has the charm you’re looking for. Many people freeze up when they know they’re on camera, while audio is much less intimidating, leading us to our next point.

Step 4: Who is going to host it?

So you and your buddy are thinking of starting a podcast together, but can’t decide who should be the host. Maybe you’re both equally outgoing and want to take up the mantle, or both equally shy and can’t decide who to pass the buck to. Then you get an idea: what if you both bite the bullet and host the podcast together?

While the world of podcasting is filled with tons of multi-host programs, keep in mind your coordination must be on point to really pull this one off. Without proper preparation, it’s easy for hosts to accidentally interrupt or talk over one another, leading to either one personality dominating the conversation or just total chaos and narrative dissonance. Even Jake and I found this balance tricky at first. One of us would often ask a question that led the conversation in a totally different direction than the other was planning. While we eventually found our groove, it’s up to you to decide if the benefits of co-hosting outweigh the difficulties. You could even try using a single host and switch off until you find the best fit for the position. Then after more practice, you could consider joint hosting.

Step 5: What is your podcast’s “personality”?

As mentioned earlier, many podcasters rely on a unique personality to keep listeners coming back for more, week after week. But how do you discover your podcast’s personality before you’ve even started? You can’t just turn on your mic and wing it, can you? While many podcasts “find their voice” through trial and error, moving toward what feels best over time, it’s smart to go in with a game plan and an atmosphere you want to foster on set.

First, consider your subject matter and shoot for a mood that coincides with the topic. You probably don’t want to be cracking jokes during a serious discussion about history’s most brutal dictators.

Second, prepare a set of questions to ask your guests beforehand, especially when you’re just starting out. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget your notes sheet at home, and you don’t want to be coming up with all your discussion topics on the fly; trust me.

Third, while I recommend keeping your notes sheet close, it’s also important to venture off the script when it feels right. Listeners can tell and are normally turned off when an episode feels forced or unnatural. Guests will open up more and often give their best material when the tone is conversational as opposed to a Q&A. 

Finally, it’s helpful to have a set question that you ask your guest at the close of each episode. The audience and guests who know your podcast will cling to that consistency every week. Several questions include:

  • “What has your success allowed you to do?” 
  • “What is one nugget of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs?” 
  • “What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done as a founder?” 

The question we ask each time is, “What makes you a midnight founder?” which ties into our theme nicely. We get some crazy, funny, and heartfelt stories thanks to this question.  

It’s Launch Time

At long last. The podcast is ready and you have some nice mp3 or mp4 files just waiting to hit the world wide web. But wait. How do you make your podcast launch go off without a hitch? Don’t worry, we’ve got some tips for you there too!

  • Finding good guests is hard, especially when you have yet to prove yourself as a good podcaster. Start with personal contacts you already have a report with to get the ball rolling.
  • Identify your main team behind the camera (or audio equipment) while scheduling each episode, not five minutes prior to recording. You don’t want to have your guest sitting there waiting for your team to show up.
  • Make sure you choose a solid hosting platform to distribute your episodes. We use Podbean and highly recommend it. Some other options are BuzzSprout, Libsyn, and Anchor.
  • Be patient; getting your podcast approved by Spotify and Apple Podcasts can take one or two days, and in some cases even longer.
  • We know you’re anxious to get listed and watch the viewers pile in, but hold up. Build up at least 12 episodes before launch. If you want to maintain that consistency I mentioned earlier, you’re going to need some buffer room so you’re not scrambling to record each and every week to remain on schedule.
  • Before hitting publish, put some thought into a detailed intro for each episode so listeners can preview your content before they play.

There you have it! Everything you need to know to start building your podcast. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for your big launch!

Evolution of the Marketing Process at RevRoad

Marketing teams. Some people love them, some people don’t. But every company needs one—even if it’s just one person. Whether you’ve got a team in house or are looking for an agency (or a partner like RevRoad) to be in charge of your marketing efforts, you can’t do it in the dark. Thousands of marketers throughout the years have studied and tested effective marketing strategies, and many have put together concrete plans just waiting to be executed. We’ll go ahead and call these marketing processes.

The Many Faces of the Marketing Process

One of the most difficult aspects of starting a new marketing team is deciding on the process you want to use to carry out your marketing strategy. Of course, what most people are looking for is the “best marketing process” but an ill-advised Google search into the topic will no doubt lead you down a rabbit hole of salespeople looking to sell you “the next big thing.” “Triple your leads!” “10x your Revenue!” “Live on a yacht like me in just six weeks.” When it comes to increasing your marketing productivity, it feels impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, the gimmicks from the real insight.

In reality, finding that sweet spot with a marketing process requires a lot of trial and error. This is the exact route that the RevRoad marketing team has taken since its inception in 2017. Of course, we weren’t lucky enough to land on the right marketing process from the get go, so we had to experiment for the first few years. For every new methodology we adopted, we uncovered gaps the marketing team wasn’t quite filling for clients and new needs we wanted to satisfy. We tested marketing concepts from across the spectrum, some we ended up appreciating and others we wanted to avoid.

Contrary to what the aforementioned YouTube wizards might tell you, every marketing method has its own strengths and weaknesses, and in our line of work we need to be very picky with the framework we use. That’s because these marketing processes aren’t just for us. We progress through these steps alongside our clients, because the best marketing teams don’t work instead of you, they work with you! For that reason, it’s essential we take our client’s needs into high consideration, oftentimes even above our own preferences.

Before we began this rigorous search for the right process, a few things needed to happen to get us off on the right foot. First, our teams needed to be well delineated. Though we frequently work together, the RevRoad marketing and video teams would stay separate entities. That way we could easily break up the workload required for each service, and keep projects on course without trying to make everyone a “jack of all trades.” We understood from the very beginning the value of specialized professionals for each aspect of marketing.

Second, we needed consistent feedback from our clients so we could improve on the process over time, or to know when things just weren’t working out with the current methodology. We asked “What do startups want in a marketing team?” Without asking that question, it would be easy to get distracted by a strategy we loved, even when clients hated it. 

And thus we began our journey to find the perfect marketing method.

Act I: The Pragmatic Marketing Method

 

Our first destination involved getting certified in the Pragmatic framework, a grid where marketing deliverables are organized from the stages of Strategy to Execution. Despite all the study, we quickly realized that it just didn’t work for our clients: young companies who needed a simpler system for starting out. What works for Apple may not work for startups at RevRoad.

The problem: too complicated.

Pragmatic Marketing Method Chart
Sostac marketing method

Act 2: SOSTAC

 

Our next stop was to incorporate the famous SOSTAC method. If you’re not familiar, this acronym stands for: situation, objectives, strategy, tactics, action, and control. These six pillars were very comprehensive, which we loved, but once again, the length turned us off. This infographic should give you an idea of just how much is covered by these six topics.

While the total time commitment of this process was a bit daunting for both us and our clients, the biggest drawback is that it still didn’t cover some of the branding, website, and PR activities we commonly engage in.

The problem: too lengthy, and didn’t cover some concepts that were most important to us

Act 3: Primal Branding

 

Following the SOSTAC, we paid a quick visit to Primal Branding, which was interesting to say the least. It’s a system of giving your brand more personality, using distinct messaging to generate word of mouth and transform your brand into a belief system. As intriguing as the cultish undertones were, this system ended up being very flowery and high-level, not concrete enough for us in its application.

The problem: too theoretical and overly complex.

Primal Branding Marketing process
Story Branding Marketing Method

Act 4: StoryBranding

 

Starting to feel the effects of our maiden voyage, we stumbled upon the StoryBrand method. Based on the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller, this framework focuses on two market groups you need to look out for: heroes and champions. At this point in our journey, we already recognized many of the drawbacks we wanted to avoid, and could point several out in the StoryBrand. Here we saw the complexity of Pragmatic, the unnecessary fluff from the Primal, and the lack of certain inputs we remembered from the SOSTAC method all wrapped into one. Ouch. Thanks to some consulting sessions to help us understand the method better, we knew we were headed the right direction, but all those hours spent in meetings only succeeded in proving this just wasn’t the process for us.

The problem: too complex, took too long, and was lacking certain important inputs.

Act 5: RevRoad’s Custom Three Phase Onboarding System

 

A true collaboration between the marketing and video teams, our team members developed this idea by taking inspiration from the Marketing Made Simple Framework by Donald Miller (the same author from the StoryBrand method!) and Dr. J.J. Petersen.

We loved the framework because it honed in on something very important to us: simple, yet comprehensive marketing. We began focusing on easy-to-digest questions, carefully laid out in a Google Form and standardized to work with any company and for any marketing service. Since we do it all here at RevRoad, these questions undoubtedly had to cover each of the main pillars of the modern marketing journey: branding, messaging, web design, social media, paid ads, and PR/promotion.

While we tout this process as streamlined and less painful than some of the other methods, our new process can by no means be completed overnight. We usually spend three to four meetings collaborating over the course of a month, all the while maintaining a constant back-and-forth communication between meetings to fine tune and narrow in on each answer.

We collect the input we get from clients, as well as our team’s insights, into three distinct Phases of Brand Development. First, who you are and what you do. Second, who your customer is and why they should be interested. And finally, what channels you need to use to communicate what you do to the people who will listen.

X Marks the Spot

It may have taken a long time for the RevRoad marketing team to get to this point, but the journey and the destination were both well worth it. Not only did we land on a process that molded to meet our needs better than anything else could, we also learned A LOT during the process.

  • Cater to the size of your client companies. Lots of these methodologies work very well for grand enterprises in the process of scaling, but fall short for those still trying to find their identity. We needed something that works great with the drawing board, because a lot of times, small startups need a blank canvas and an Expo marker to just go wild.
  • Founders can sometimes be a little impatient (of course we’re not talking to you! We’re talking about the other founders…). We needed something that they could make progress on quickly, not something that felt like it required perfection. If you’re asking a founder 50 questions about their brand, and their answer to half of these questions is “I don’t know” then you understand our pain.
  • Questions should have well-defined limits. Some founders can get a little long-winded with their responses (once again, not you *wink*), while forgetting that their customers don’t often have the attention spans to read a 5-page paper on their product. Clear and concise responses is the name of the game here.
  • We needed wiggle room. Every time a client fills out these forms, a new, working document is formed, giving us the freedom to write down rough ideas to start, then brainstorm and make all the changes we want later. While every answer might not give us perfect, world-shattering insights, they definitely lay the groundwork for the bigger questions that will certainly come later on.

As you probably all guessed from the beginning, the perfect method doesn’t really exist, but what you can find is the perfect method for you. Everyone is different and every marketing team is different, which means the method that works for us might not work for your situation and vice versa. However, one thing is for sure, when you’re first starting out, it’s important to give yourself time to try, fail, and modify your way to your own unique marketing method.

Be flexible. Partner with clients who are willing to give feedback to help you improve, because when your marketing process gets better, so do the marketing deliverables they receive. And finally, never lose sight of the basics; with the attention spans of our clients’ customers shrinking every year, it’s becoming easier to get lost in an ocean of messaging. Never forget: simplicity is your friend.

“Simplicity and clarity is the ultimate sophistication.” —Aristotle 

If you have a scalable company that you need help growing, we’d love to get to know you. You can apply to join our portfolio via https://apply.revroad.com/.

Talent & Mentorship Expert Marc Liebman, PhD, Announces Retirement

Dr. Marc Liebman retires as RevRoad Director of MentorsDr. Marc Liebman, an integral team member at the RevRoad team announced his retirement earlier this month. Although we are excited for this next phase of his life, it is with heavy hearts we make preparations for his departure. He will be missed.
Marc is a mentor to many and finds the best in everyone and is generous with praise and forges friendships easily.
“Besides a confidant and friend, Marc has been one of the greatest mentors of my life,” said Derrin Hill, CEO of RevRoad. “I appreciate him revealing my blind spots on important issues. I will sorely miss his wisdom and partnership and wish him well in his retirement.”
You can always count on Marc to use good humor to lighten the mood when things get heavy. His insights into strategy are without compare.
During his time at RevRoad, Marc has facilitated key relationships, helping Roadies (portfolio companies) find the right mentors to help their companies grow. As the director over talent, he has also been integral in recruiting highly qualified team members for our Roadie companies.
“I’m so grateful for the mentor relationship Marc helped to build for Momni,” explained Karmel Larson, CEO of the innovative caresharing platform Momni. “Glen Mella is a perfect fit, and we are already instituting some of his ideas. The mentorship program is one of my favorite things about RevRoad. It is going to provide dividends over and over again for years to come.”
As Marc leaves RevRoad, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention his incredible skill in putting together processes, systems, applications, and contracts. His attention to detail is astounding. In fact, in many instances he has personally forged connections to RevRoad, with important clients and national organizations such as DECA and many other educational institutions.
Marc has also brought tremendous amounts of experience to our organization throughout his tenure. Having been in the education industry for over 45 years, many of those years as a superintendent in California, he brings a wealth of knowledge in instruction, training, and maneuvering through bureaucracies to reach the goals necessary.
He has helped us learn how teams work, how to make a difference in the education space and how to forge public/private partnership for the benefit of students, a legacy that will remain for decades to come.
Since April of 2016, Marc has been heavily involved in the Responsibility Foundation, RevRoad’s charity of choice. He first served as a Senior VP and then as a board member, and he plans to continue in these roles into the future. He also looks forward to advising RevRoad and Roadies as Director Emeritus.
Marc has tried to retire twice before, but promises it will stick this time. He plans to focus on his wife, his faith and hobbies such as woodworking, photography, and building his wine collection.