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In the week before the 100th episode of the Web.Search.Social Podcast, my friend Alisa Meredith suggested that I should write an article about what I’ve learned. I put together some thoughts and asked my co-host, wife and business partner Carol Lynn to do the same. She provided her lessons in the context of content marketing.
I want to take a different approach and put my list of ten lessons in the context of business and productivity.
So here are the 10 things I learned about business and productivity from 100 episodes of podcasting.
#1 Being Forced To Stay On Point Is Good
Running a podcast is different that other business processes in that there is an expectation of consistent deliverables. That means that we have to be on our game regularly. That’s a good thing.
I belong to a networking group called BNI. As part of my membership, I attend weekly networking meetings where I have to present a 60 second description of my services before my peers. That process rattles a lot of people. When I tell them that our group generates roughly 2 million dollars in referrals each year they love the idea of participating, but when I tell them that they have to stand and talk about their business that becomes a deal killer.
Granted, many people feel uncomfortable talking in front of a an audience. But other people say things like “I don’t know what to say.”
You mean you can’t talk about your business for 60 seconds? If that’s true then that’s a problem because you don’t know where your next opportunity is going to come from.
Having to go to my BNI meeting every week forced me to understand my business and have a plan. On the flip side, if the people of my group don’t understand my pitch, then that’s a red flag that my pitch will certainly not be understood by total strangers.
Similarly the podcast has forced me to plan, prepare and understand what my business is trying to accomplish. When I fall short, the audience responds.
The lesson is to not make yourself so comfortable. If you aren’t practicing your craft and making your pitch to the world, then you’ll never close the business you want. Growing a business is hard work and requires a constant “sharpening of the saw”, as Steven Covey would say.
#2 Don’t Follow The Rules
You can throw a stone in any direction and hit a podcast training course. Producing podcasting courses has become its own mini industry, but they all root back to some core principles.
Those principles state that podcasts should be constrained to a format and length and conform to certain standards of language. That means no potty mouth. Ever.
My friend Mike Brooks and I talk like sailors when we’ve had a few drinks, but on his podcast, he swears by the rules of the Podcast Gods which states – no cursing. Furthermore, if there is cursing and the episode has the dreaded explicit tag, it’ll be doomed to fail.
I’m not suggesting you turn your marketing into a blue comedy routine, but sometimes the rules are meant to be broken.
For example, when we did an episode exploring the business and marketing of Kim Anami, it was hard to speak candidly about her course called The Well Fucked Woman without using the work “fucked”. It was also pretty difficult to talk about her holistic sex and relationship company without discussing some of her practices and philosophies. As a result, there were lots of words that necessitated the explicit tag.
It was our most listened to episode thus far. It was also an episode that had amazing listener feedback. In fact, we have yet to receive one complaint or criticism about that episode.
Should we have followed the rules? Fuck no.
The lesson here is that the rules of your industry probably exist for a good reason, but not all rules are valuable and not all rules should stay rules. Not to mention the fact that the rules that apply to others may not apply to you.
#3 Spend Money Wisely
When we started our podcast, we decided to buy a mixing board that was a level below the one that was recommended to us because we wanted to save a bit of money. We also opted to skip purchasing a compressor/limiter. Without getting too technical, a compressor/limiter allows simple control over sound so that you keep the sounds you want like talking and eliminate the sounds you don’t want like breathing and fan noise.
After a bunch of episodes, we decided to get the compressor/limiter and throw it into the mix. Unfortunately, we discovered that we could only run 2 of our 3 microphones through our board and compressor/limiter.
So we ended up having to buying a new mixing board which could have been avoided if we thought it through initially.
I’m sure that as you read this, you have versions of this story. Everyone does.
The lesson is that spending wisely will always win over spending cheaply.
#4 Make Other People Sound Good
A lot of podcasters record their shows and publish them as recorded. We don’t. We edited afterwards to take out unneeded pauses, unwanted tangents and the litany of “ums” and “ahs” that challenge all of us.
We’ve heard back from almost all of our guests telling us how happy they were with the end result.
Some time ago, we had on a guest that we very clearly disagreed with, but even he had a pleasant experience with us and was happy with the end result.
The lesson is that it makes you look good to have others around you look good. It elevates them and you simultaneously. And if that happens, then you have just gained a new advocate.
#5 Be Fearless
This is a lesson that I learned not too long ago from my friend Ian Anderson Gray. He posted a video where he talked about all of the excuses he was making for not posting videos to his YouTube channel and decided to be fearless and focus on the reasons why instead of the reasons why not.
It was that kind of motivation that inspired me to ask a film director with a new film on Netflix to be on our show. I would never have done that before running this podcast. I certainly wouldn’t have reached out to the woman who trains women how to lift objects with their vaginas, but we covered that territory already.
The lesson is – be fearless. Start doing the things you keep telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t do.
#6 Create Content Out Of Your Content
This is yet another of the many lessons I learned from my friend Alisa Meredith. When we published our shows, we’d create show notes that were essentially a bulleted list of topics we covered with links to any resources we mentioned.
Then I saw Alisa’s show notes. They are a thing of beauty. They are articles in and of themselves. That means that listeners can have supplemental content and readers that don’t want to listen to the podcast can still be engaged.
When I was prepping for this article, I decided to check out what other podcasters have learned. I found an article with a one line show note:
“Today we share the 10 things we learned from our podcast.”
That’s it. Nothing else. Not even a list. They had provided me with so little value that I didn’t care to listen to the episode. Imagine for a moment if they had a decent article that complemented their episode. I would have consumed both.
The lesson is that your business can save a lot of time, energy and money by mining and repurposing content that you already have. And by adapting it you increase the value you’re providing so you can appeal to a different audience.
#7 Commit To Technical Excellence At Any Level
People don’t like to listen to podcasts with terrible quality. People don’t like to visit websites that look like a bomb hit. People don’t like to eat food that looks gross.
Even if that podcast, website and food are delicious, people won’t consume it.
Even if you are working on a tight budget or even no budget, commit to a level of excellence that is comparable to your audience’s expectations. Or even better, exceed their expectations.
We have invested and reinvested in our audio quality and it has not gone unnoticed. That speaks volumes. No pun intended.
When I was doing some research, I found a podcast that had unbelievably bad audio quality. Both the host and co-host were speaking off mic – which means that they were not near the microphone when speaking. Both hosts had different levels – meaning that one was constantly louder than the other. And the worst was that the audio was fully panned left – meaning that the audio only came out of the left speaker or headphone. The right side was completely mute.
To me this shows an exceptional lack of respect for the audience.
I know podcasters that can’t afford a microphone and podcast only with the onboard mic on their laptop and they sound great. Because they dedicate themselves to excellence.
So when you write a blog, proofread it. When you print those business cards, make sure all your information is current. When you give a presentation, take the time to prepare.
The lesson is DFTBA. Don’t forget to be awesome.
#8 Listen And Give Your Audience What They Want
We’ve made countless changes to our website in 2015. More than I can even remember. Each was guided by our audience.
When they said something wasn’t clear, we clarified. When they said there was a gap, we filled it.
Think of the time and effort you can save by listening to your audience instead of trying to figure it all on your own.
Many episode ago we got into a technical discussion about DNS. Our audience revolted. They made it very clear that they did not invest in our podcast for tech talk. So you know what we did? We banned it.
The lesson? Listen. Always listen. Your audience will be more invested in you if they feel your business is adapting to them instead of feeling that they must adapt to it.
#9 Make Developing A Process Part Of Your Process
Most marketing fails because there is no process. Most businesses fail because there is no process. See the similarity there?
Pull any business or motivation book off the shelf and the one thing they’ll all have in common is that they all promote a process. All different yes, but a process nonetheless.
In our company, we live and breathe by David Allen’s Getting Things Done process, but that method does’t work for everyone. You have to find the process that works for you and your business. And not just about time management, but also about billing or infrastructure or technology or sales or human resources. Every aspect of your business needs an understandable repeatable process.
But the lesson is that a part of your process should be to constantly refine your process. What works well for you today may not tomorrow. But it goes farther than that. If you refine your process continuously, you’ll find that you ed up doing more with less.
You’ve already read how much time this podcast takes to produce in Carol Lynn’s article, but know that in the beginning it took way longer. What made the difference is that we are constantly adapting our process.
#10 Masterminds Will Forever Change Your Life
I belong to three mastermind groups. A mastermind is a group of business people who meet regularly to discuss their challenges and help each other grow. They share deep and confidential information, their failures, their financials and ultimately their desires. Typically people mastermind with others of similar industries so that they have a richer understanding of each other’s day to day activities.
This podcast, blog and business would not be possible without a mastermind. We share one with Cynthia Sanchez and without a doubt, she has influenced all the good things about this show in one way or another. That’s why we call her the mother of this podcast.
The lesson is, forge relationships with others in your industry, but not just in a “meet-over-coffee-and-exchange-business-cards” way. It take a long time to build trust and a mastermind team that works, but it is business changing and more importantly life changing.
A variation of the mastermind is the power partnership that is common in networking groups. Different industries that can be of value to each other can band together to be stronger together than alone.
So there you have it. These are the lessons that I have learned and I hope to learn more with every passing day.