Steve Gordon | The Real Way to Monetize Your Podcast

If you’re a small business owner or professional service provider – you need a podcast. It’s a powerful tool to reach your target audience and let them get to know you. But that’s just one of the many ways – most of which you probably haven’t considered – podcasts can help you grow your business.

It’s time to reconsider your view on marketing with podcasts. One of the biggest misconceptions? The larger your audience, the more money you make. I’m going to talk about ways to monetize your podcast even with a tiny audience and create a high ticket sales opportunity with every guest you have on.

Tune in to discover…

  • Why the podcast sponsorship model doesn’t work
  • The three types of people you should interview
  • How to turn podcasting into the ultimate networking tool
  • The biggest myths about monetizing podcasts
  • And more

Listen now…


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Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon and in today’s episode we’re going to talk about how to monetize a podcast, even if you have a small audience. Now I have to tell you, our 12-year-old son is a complete geek of all things Apple. He’s absolutely desperate for an Apple Watch right now. And yet, mom and dad aren’t all that keen about him getting that at this age. We want him to learn the value of things and we’ve pushed him to earn money to buy what he wants.

And as a 12 year old, of course he has different ideas about how to make money and how much money a particular job of, I don’t know, say sweeping the garage is actually worth. And I can tell you it’s not worth the $285 that Apple wants for a watch. Although he may think so.


And the funny thing is is that I find most entrepreneurs who want to do a podcast, they don’t understand how much the podcast could be worth and they don’t know how to use it to make money. So in today’s podcast, we’re going to cover three things. We’re going to talk about the myth of podcast monetization. We’re going to talk about how to monetize a podcast even with a very, very tiny audience. And we’re going to talk a little bit about how to use your back catalog and use that as a secret weapon for long-term selling. So by the end of our time together today, you’re going to know exactly what to focus on to make real money with a podcast as a part of your marketing.


So let’s start with this idea of the myth of podcast monetization. When I speak to a business owner about creating a podcast, the first thing they say is how fast will we build that audience? And I understand why you would want to ask this question. Podcasting is kind of an internet marketing tool. And so in theory, it’s infinitely scalable and having a big audience is a lot better than having a small audience, right?


You Don’t Need a Big Audience to Make Money


And that’s where most people get trapped. While an audience is an advantage, a podcast is unlike any other form of Internet marketing and scale isn’t necessary. The truth is, scale is often a really big distraction from making real progress in generating real bankable revenue from podcasting as a strategy. Now, most people go down this route of “I need a big audience” because they think that the way to make money is through selling sponsorships and getting paid that way and it all sounds so glamorous.


People will just pay us and we’ll have this podcast and we’ll get money in and everything will be wonderful. But I think you should stop and you should just stop thinking about it all together. I think you should forget about selling podcast sponsorships. The reason we get trapped into this thinking that we need a big audience is that we see podcasts that we listened to running ads for sponsors and it seems like easy, easy money. You build up a big audience by the weekend or something and then you send some emails to sponsors, they send checks in, you retire early, everything’s great.

Now, when I first started this podcast, I was in a mastermind group with Jordan Harbinger, and if you don’t know who Jordan is, he was a guest on the podcast, I guess about a year ago and he has built two enormous podcast audiences. I mean big time.


And his advice to folks in our mastermind group was don’t start a podcast if your goal is to make money from sponsors, don’t start one. It’s too hard. It’s too difficult. Now to put the revenue potential for sponsorships into perspective. I want to share with you some typical sponsored ad pricing.


So typical pricing is around $18 per thousand downloads for a 15 second, what they call a pre-roll ad, at the beginning of a show. And you can probably expect to get paid about $25 per thousand downloads for a 62nd mid-roll ad that happens kind of in the middle of the show. Now let’s bring this into focus. Rob Walsh, who’s the VP of podcaster relations at Lipson, and they’re the 800 pound gorilla in podcast hosting. They’ve been doing this for a long time and they have a lot of data.


He said that a podcast episode that’s been live approximately 30 days, averages 141 downloads across their system. Out of all of the podcasts that they host and they host a lot of them and they host a lot of the big ones. On average, a podcast episode gets 141 downloads after 30 days. If you have over 3,400 downloads, you’re in the top 10%. If you have over 9,000 downloads in those first 30 days, you’re in the top 5%. And if you have over 50,000 downloads per episode, again, after having it live for 30 days, you’re in the top 1%.


So if we do the math on that. Your average, you’ve got 141 downloads per episode over the first 30 days, you’d produce $6.60 per episode and you’re not going to attract a sponsor at that level anyway. So you’re not going to make any money.


If you’re in the top 20% you’re getting 3,400 downloads per episode in the first month after an episode is released, your earning potential is somewhere in the neighborhood of $146.20 cents per episode, or $584.80 cents for a weekly podcast that puts out four episodes a month.


You make basically $585 in a month. So the money from sponsors doesn’t even really get interesting until you get into that top 1% with over 50,000 downloads per episode in the first month. And at that elite level, you’re earning around six figures a year, right around $100,000 a year from a weekly podcast where all four episodes together are getting a combined 200,000 downloads in a month. That’s a lot of downloads.


There are easier and faster ways to make money than selling podcast sponsorships. So after hearing this, you may be thinking, “Well, why would I bother doing a podcast at all?” I’m a big believer that podcasting is just getting started. This medium is still in its infancy and it offers unique and powerful advantages over other marketing methods, especially if you’re selling something expensive that requires your clients to have a high degree of trust before they buy.


Now, most all service businesses fall into this category. You’re selling something that’s expensive and it requires a lot of trust on the part of your clients for them to buy. So as we go through the rest of this episode, we’re going to dive deep into how you can make money with a podcast even if no one is listening.


All right. Now let’s talk about how you monetize a podcast with a tiny audience. Back in late 2016 when I was contemplating starting the Unstoppable CEO Podcast, which is my second, I hesitated for a couple of months because I didn’t have a plan to get out and launch it and get on to the new and noteworthy list in iTunes, which everybody says that’s the whole key to having a successful podcast. And as I reflect back on that, now that we’re two and a half years in, that delay was just stupid. It was a complete waste.


When I finally got my head on straight and just launched the thing, we didn’t make new and noteworthy. We consciously decided to ignore that, but I’ve still made serious money from our podcast. It’s resulted in dramatic business growth and it’s spawned a new services and other things and we’ve done that even with a really small audience.


Where the Real Money Is


Now, the big money, I find, is in the relationship. In most businesses, all of the real money is in your relationships anyway and your relationships with future clients, your relationships with influencers and referral partners, and as cool as all the latest funnel hacks and ad platforms and all of that great stuff is, that’s super cool, the idea that you can put up some webpages and hit a button on Facebook and suddenly money comes out the other end is fantastic, but the fact remains that most businesses get 60% to 80% of their new business from relationships and word of mouth.


The money is in the one to one relationships, not in the download numbers and not in your automated funnel. And podcasting is one of the few ways that you can create those relationships with time leverage. If you approach podcasting the right way, it’s a powerful tool for forging these really strong business relationships without spending tons of time networking.


So why focus on relationships over audience growth? Two words, speed and simplicity. Building a large audience that you then hope at some point to convert into clients takes significant time and it’s a complex task and there are a lot of parts of the audience building process that you don’t control. So if we think in terms of podcasting, getting on new and noteworthy in iTunes requires that the people that work at apple in the iTunes department pick you. You don’t have any control over that. Yeah, you can influence it maybe, but you really don’t have any control over that.


If we think about building an audience through search engine optimization, you’re relying on Google sending people to you. You have very little control over that whatsoever. But by contrast, if you’re focused on inviting people that you want to know or you want to do business with to be guests on your podcast, going from zero, absolute starting, to getting results is fast and you control most of that process.


So what types of podcast relationships should you focus on? Well, there are really two types of relationships to focus on. If you want to quickly monetize your podcast, the way to do it is focus on interviewing potential clients and interviewing referral sources and influencers. And there are good reasons to open relationships with both types of people. And in a few minutes we’re going to talk about when you open them, how you can actually move them from a stranger that you just met to a trusted friend and do that in the matter of about an hour. Spending some time with them as you do an interview and how you can do that with each type of person and do it really authentically.


But first I want to talk about how you find influencers to become podcast guests and how you find potential clients to become podcast guests. Now, one of the easiest ways to begin profiting from a podcast is to use it as a means of connecting with the influencers in your industry. So on this podcast, on The Unstoppable CEO, I’ve connected with business celebrities like Dan Sullivan and Perry Marshall and Steve Sims and former Fox News anchor Clayton Morris. And that’s just a few of the people that we’ve connected with. If you’re listening to this, and I didn’t name you, I’m sorry, but you know, we’ve interviewed a 150 people at this point.


So, it’s been amazing to me the number of people we’ve been able to connect to. And I still view us as a very small fish in this pond. It’s unlikely that I would have ever connected with any of them without having this lever of the podcast because it gave me something to invite them to. And so when you have a podcast in your arsenal, you’ve got something that gives influencers away to do what they already want to do, to promote themselves and to promote their business.


It’s a powerful and very easy way to be helpful and give value right at the start of a relationship. If I had just met any of these people in the old way of networking, maybe I got to have coffee with them, right? We had one of those coffee dates and at the end of that I would be absolutely perplexed about how I could help somebody like Perry Marshall or Steve Sims or Dan Sullivan.


Networking on Steroids


But because I have this platform, I don’t have to really think about how I’m going to help them because right out of the gate they know how I’m going to help them. I’m going to share them with everybody that I know and I’m also going to give them a place to come demonstrate their expertise that they can then come and turn around and share with all the people that are in their world. So it’s got intrinsic value to it.


Now, I get asked this all the time, how do you find these influencers? And I always tell our clients, start with the people who might naturally refer you. So if you’re a financial advisor, look for the CPAs and attorneys that you would normally try and network with. If you’re an architect, look to the builders or the land planners or the engineers that are already referring you and start there and then work your way out.


One of our clients specializes in digital marketing for eCommerce businesses and he targets other experts in eCommerce because in their network they have clients that will ultimately need my client’s services. And so it makes sense. It’s not the most complicated strategy in the world, which is one of the reasons I like it. I think it’s simple to execute, but it’s also a really, really powerful way for you to open these relationships.


So let’s talk about how to book prospects as podcast guests. I believe that one of the single best uses of your podcasts is to open doors to meeting future clients, particularly clients that you would have a difficult way of getting access to. While all of your competitors are out there, they’re trying to storm the castle gate, they’re cold calling, they’re trying to network their way past the gatekeepers, you show up very differently.


You show up not as a salesperson, but as a journalist of sorts, a partner, a person of value with an opportunity to promote that client’s business without much effort on their part.


You, frankly show up as an authority because you’ve got this platform that most of your competitors aren’t going to have, and this is especially effective when you’re targeting entrepreneurial companies where the CEO is the owner and will welcome the opportunity to promote the business.


So let’s talk for a minute about why a podcast works as a way to build business relationships. The podcasting medium works so well for building relationships, and I think it’s better than most anything else you can do in marketing. It’s better than blogging. It’s better than traditional networking. It’s better than social media because you’re talking to someone directly that you want to do business with. It’s much more intimate. You’re giving them immediate value. You’re edifying them, they feel good about you and this new relationship that you’re creating.


All of that gets done without the pressure of sales. So you build the relationship first, then you explore opportunities where you can add value with what you sell. And to me it’s a fundamentally different approach to marketing and to selling, frankly. I think it’s a much more authentic way. I have found over the last two and half years that we’ve been doing this podcast, and when I had my first podcast back in 2012, it was such an easy way to open up relationships and they either led to business opportunities or they lead to massive referral opportunities.


I tell the story often about the launch of my first book, unstoppable referrals. We were unknown at that point. We had a few clients locally. I had managed to get just a few clients outside of our local area, but we were small. And it was basically me and my assistant Lauren and I wrote that book and, we have a tiny little audience of around a thousand people, and sure we could have launched it to those thousand people and it would have helped.


But because two years earlier, I had had a podcast called the Small Business Marketing Show, and I interviewed 52 people on that that all had a network and an audience, and when I went back to them, because I created a relationship with them, I went back to them as the book was getting ready to launch. 15 of those 52 agreed to help me promote the book.


And together they sent 5,268 people in one week, the week we launched, to that book who got that book. And it changed our business overnight. And so, that’s the power of this. I never expected that. But that’s the power of building relationships this way. Now, when I look at all of the relationships that I have created over 25 years doing it the old way, none of them created anything close to that kind of result. None of them in aggregate over 25 years. So to me, this is one of the most powerful methods that you can use for just creating opportunity for yourself out of nothing.


So let’s talk for a minute about which markets are best suited for podcasts. And while I do believe that podcasts work in most markets, where we’ve seen the best success is when an expert, a consultant, a trusted advisor, or an agency, uses a podcast to connect with other entrepreneurial businesses.


Will it work to target big corporations? Absolutely. We have some clients doing that and doing it fairly effectively. But you’ll likely use it to target allied influencers in that case. And so you’ll target people who can refer you into those corporations often rather than the execs themselves.


Will it work for business to consumer markets? Absolutely. Again, you’ll likely target influencers who can refer you to the clients that you want, but not in all cases. So we’ve got one of our clients who sells business to consumer and he actually interviews his clients and other people, other consumers who are influencers in his community and the clients tell their story of success and it can be very, very effective. And of course they share it with everyone that they know. So there are a lot of uses in those situations.


But the one that’s easiest is when you’re in an expertise based business and you’re looking to sell to other entrepreneurial businesses, it’s usually very quick to get results. So how do you connect with guests? What connecting with guests is really easy. We always recommend you start with the people that you already have a relationship with because they’re going to be eager to help you. You have a relationship and there are almost always hidden business opportunities inside your network and this is a great way to go activate them.


The Target 100 Process for Landing Great Guests


And there are really two tactics that we employ with our clients around this. The first is what we call the target 100 process. And this is just building a strategic list of the influencers and the prospects that you want to reach. Naming them by name, putting them on a list and making it easy then for you in an organized way to go target them. The last thing you want to do is to show up and say, well, who am I going after next? But by building the list up front, it makes it easy.


The second is to use what we call the network multiplication question, which you ask at the end of each interview and it goes like this: “Hey Bob, who do you know that would be a really great guest for the podcast? Can we brainstorm two or three people right now?” And all of a sudden, every time you do an interview, your network is growing and you’re getting these natural referrals. It’s super easy. Effortless, almost.


Now as you’re doing that, one of the things that I’ve noticed is to make these relationships really last for the long term, you need to create a wow experience for your podcast guests. The purpose of the podcast is to really develop this strong bond that will support doing commerce and do it quickly.


And you know, I’ve been on close to 50 podcasts as a guest in the last few years. None of them have focused on the relationship beyond the time that we were in the interview. And the truth is, I recently went to inventory all the podcasts that I’ve been on, and I’ve forgotten about a half a dozen of them because the podcast host didn’t invest in creating a memorable experience and then they never followed up. And one of the things that we quickly realize that we needed to change in our own podcast and for our clients is, this experience that the guest has, we needed a way for them to not only have a really great experience that would be memorable up front, but we also needed to build in a way that we would be top of mind over the long haul.


So what we did is we created what we call the Wow Kit. And the Wow Kit is a box that we shipped to the podcast guests, whether they’re a guest on our podcast or on the one of the podcasts of our clients. We shipped this box out in the mail to them and it arrives by priority mail. It’s got all these high quality handouts in it that answer all of the questions that the guest is likely to have and it helps them prepare for the interview so they feel really good and confident about the experience, which is important. We want to create that feeling in them.


But it also includes a little Trojan horse gift and we’ve used different things over the years. Currently we’re sending a high end brand of a coffee mug and it’s got the podcast logo printed on the front and this little gift isn’t going in the trash.


This is something, I hear it all the time that people love this particular brand of mug when they get it or they’ve always wanted one and they’ve never purchased it ’cause it’s a little bit expensive and we know that those get used. We get actually pictures on social media where people will share it and show it. So we get a little bit of a word of mouth that way.


But what that means is they’ve got this reminder of this experience that they had with us and it’s going to stay in their world. They’re going to drink their coffee in it, they’re going to, if they drink something stronger sometimes, they’re going to drink that in it, right? And it just gives us a really great way to have that guest fondly remember their experience on the show and remember the relationship. And we get to own some real estate in the guest’s world. And the impact of that on top of mind awareness is enormous over time.


So we’ve done all of this. We’ve created a podcast, we’ve got guests on, we’ve given them this wow experience. How do we create sales opportunities? Well, the way you create sales opportunities out of a podcast is by being really helpful as the podcast host. So where we want all of this to go is we want to make money from the podcast and now that you’ve created this strong relationship, you’ve got enough rapport and relationship to dig deeper and find out what exactly that person is trying to accomplish. What their bigger, better future looks like. And then once you know that you have the roadmap for finding ways that you and your business can add value and help them achieve that bigger, better future. Faster, cheaper, and more easily.


Now if you’re trying to just storm the front gate, you’re going to have a real fight on your hands to get that kind of openness.


And when you do this through a podcast interview, you’re already friends. And so at the end of the interview it’s no big deal to say, “Hey, I’ve learned a lot here about what you’re doing, but I’d really like to know what are your big picture goals over the next three years? Where are you trying to accomplish?”


And they’ll tell you. And it’s just such an easy and natural turn to the conversation, to focus on their goals and they want to do that. They’re happy to share. They’re usually pretty excited about their goals and they’re excited that you’re interested. And what I’ll usually do is I’ll ask if I can come back to that guest in a few days with ideas and with potential connections that might help them. One of the great byproducts of doing a podcast is my network is constantly expanding and I’m bringing very valuable people into it because I’m interviewing them on the podcast. So I have a lot of connections at my disposal.


Now, I can’t always add value by selling that prospect something. But more times than not, there is a genuine opportunity for me, or if it’s one of our clients, for them to come in and help that guest with a service that they provide. And it’s the most natural and authentic and stress free method of selling that I’ve ever used.


So how do you use your podcast to create massive referral opportunities? Well, this is the other big opportunity to monetize your podcast and it’s through referrals. When you connect with influencers, you build strong relationships that are going to drive direct one-to-one referrals, and those are really, really good. We get those all the time from people that we’ve interviewed, and you’re also going to create opportunities to add value to that influencers network, so that referral partner’s network or to their audience by sharing your expertise in the form of a presentation or maybe a reciprocal interview.


And that presentation might be an in person presentation or a webinar. It might be on a big scale or it might be on a small scale. But they’re all good. In just the first three months of last year, we generated 2,606 leads from webinars that were hosted by just three of our podcast guests. That’s a pile of leads. I don’t care what business you’re in.


The Money Is in the Relationships


In most businesses you can be super successful with this if you have an influencer arrange a small presentation or a lunch and learn for their clients, even if you get just 10 or 20 of the right people to show up. Again, you’re looking for the right people, not the masses.


So the point of all of this is that you don’t need a big audience to make a podcast drive real and meaningful revenue for you. The money is in the relationships. Focus on the relationships. While everybody else is trying to do this massive scale thing, go the other direction. Focus on where the money really is and the money is in the relationships always has been. It’s in creating a real deep, meaningful relationships with other people so that they trust you because that’s the precursor to doing business.


So you want to be able to create those relationships easily with influencers and potential clients who appear as guests on your podcast. Small audiences focused around your topic are far easier to create and far more profitable so that you don’t go get distracted by this lure of building a big enormous audience. If it happens, great. It’s a great byproduct. But you don’t need that and you have very little control over that. It might happen. It will likely take time. And if you focus too much on it, you’re going to miss the real opportunity that’s in front of you to make money now.


So, if this is a topic that you want to learn more about, we have actually put together a short little training video about our podcasting process and you can kind of walk through and see all the different stages that it we take people through and you can go watch that and there are likely some things that you can learn there. And there are a few things that I wasn’t able to cover in this episode.


You can find that over and, again, if this is something you’re interested in, I think that’ll help you a lot. So go check that out at


Until next week, stay unstoppable.

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