Cart Icon

Benjamin Shapiro

Benjamin Shapiro is a brand development and marketing strategy consultant turned podcaster. He runs the MarTech Podcast, which is short for marketing technology.He initially started the podcast as a side project, to help onboard new clients. But it has since blossomed into a bonafide business leading him to start his own podcasting network.

Side project gone wrong
Side project gone wrong

Side project gone wrong

Ep
99
Sep
21
With
Benjamin Shapiro
Or Listen On:

From side project to bonafide business

Benjamin Shapiro is a brand development and marketing strategy consultant turned podcaster. He runs the MarTech Podcast, which is short for marketing technology.

He initially started the podcast as a side project, to help onboard new clients. But it has since blossomed into a bonafide business leading him to start his own podcasting network.

Benjamin and Chris discuss the inner workings of podcasting, how to make sense of marketing analytics and how to build meaningful sponsored content that aligns with your brand.



Episode Links
Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by
Appearances

Episode Transcript

Benjamin:
Generally, if you're constantly talking about yourself, people are going to get tired of hearing it because people want to learn about a wide variety of topics not just you. So, you can't be too self-serving. So, you have to sort of sprinkle in your like, here's what I'm doing content occasionally and have the most of the content be educational.

Greg:
Hi, I'm Greg Gunn, and welcome to The Futur podcast.
Today's guest is a brand development and marketing strategy consultant turned podcaster. He runs the MarTech podcast, which is short for marketing technology. Now he initially started the podcast as a side project to help onboard new clients. But it's since blossomed into a bona fide business and podcasting network. He and Chris discussed the inner workings of podcasting, understanding marketing analytics and how to build meaningful sponsored content that aligns with your brand.
I learned so much from this conversation. And if you're at all interested in marketing, I really think you will too. Please enjoy our conversation with Benjamin Shapiro.

Chris:
Can I just call you Ben or is it Benjamin?

Benjamin:
Ben is fine. I generally write it Benjamin just so people don't confuse me with the political podcaster. I am not him.

Chris:
For half a second, I didn't think you were him. I was like, oh my god, this is going to be a very interesting conversation.

Benjamin:
There's an interesting theory about how my podcast grew, whether people were just looking for the other Ben Shapiro and they found me and said, oh, maybe he does a marketing podcast too. I don't think that's what happened. But I'll take what I can get and political preferences aside, he's definitely polarizing.

Chris:
He is very polarizing. So, for people who don't know you from the other Ben Shapiro, this is Benjamin. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Benjamin:
Yeah, absolutely. Hi, I'm Benjamin Shapiro and I am a podcaster. I have been running the MarTech podcast, which is my company's flagship show for a little over two years now. And it has grown from a side project that was meant to be a lead generation tool for my consulting business into really the cornerstone of the business and what I focus on, on a day-to-day basis.
And I've put my consulting practice a little bit on the backburner. It's kind of a side projects only for consulting or advisory work and now I just produce podcasts professionally. I also do the voices of Search podcast, which is a search and SEO content. So, really, it's a network, small but growing of professional marketing podcasts.

Chris:
So, when did you make this shift from it being a lead generation tool to being your full-time thing?

Benjamin:
Yeah, it was a side project gone wrong. I'll give you a little bit of the long story where one of the sort of critical turning points in my career was I had worked very hard to become the head of a marketing department at a startup that was like my career goal. And I did it a couple of times. And after the second time, I was the head of a VC back startup, I flamed out.
Relationships weren't going well. And the company was growing but not at the pace that my CEO and the venture capitalists really wanted to. So, I stepped away to run my consulting practice about five years ago. And that business was built on really my personal network, reaching out to the people that I knew, cultivating professional relationships and helping people build their marketing programs, their foundation, their marketing strategies.
And so, that was a great business that I ran for about three years. And in my third year, I decided that I wanted to cultivate another growth channel that was not just personal networking, not connecting with the people that I already knew in LinkedIn. I wanted to find net new leads and expand the scope of my business.
And so, the reason why I'm telling you this story is that the podcast was originally meant to be a way for me to make relationships and meet new people that were marketers to potentially have them be my clients, to have them hire me to help them build their marketing foundations and growth strategies.

Chris:
Right.

Benjamin:
And so, my plan initially was, I was going to take three months and just see if I could build an audience. And after three months, we had a couple thousand downloads a month. I think we were like, 3, 4000 downloads a month, which totally exceeded all my expectations. I thought 1000 downloads a month felt like a lot when we first started.
And so, I said to myself, I'm not ready to start trying to monetize this content. I'm not ready to start putting ads into it. I feel like it's growing at a pace that I would stunt the assets growth. What I'm going to do is only work half time as a consultant. And I'm going to dedicate half of my time for the rest of the year, just to growing the audience to see if I could get it to the point where I could monetize it as a secondary source of revenue.
And so, the model kind of changed three months in where I was saying to myself, because I didn't really have a team at that point, let's see if we can both be a consultant and a podcaster and make money off both lines of business. And at the end of 11 months, it became very clear at the end of 12 months, it became very clear that the podcast was going to be more valuable than my consulting business, that it would have a higher ceiling for net revenue generation.

Chris:
Okay, so a bunch of questions there for you. So, you talked about, I'm going to focus on growing my audience. How did you do that?

Benjamin:
Yeah, I think of growing a podcast audience and really, this goes for any content asset. There are nuances between whether you're doing video or writing a blog or whether you're doing podcasts. But the kind of general themes are the same. Virality, organic, paid, partnerships, and a missing one, but let's just call it luck for now until I think of what the actual name is. So, I'll go through those one by one.

Chris:
Okay.

Benjamin:
Organic. That is the amount of content you produce is searchable, crawlable, findable mostly through search engines. If you're writing a blog, or you're creating videos, those pop up and all the search indexes. If you're creating a podcast, there's the podcast app stores.
And so, getting your show title right is one thing. But what matters probably more is getting the episode volume to be high, producing a lot of content and then titling those contents for what people are searching for.
And so, at the MarTech podcast, one of the things that I feel like we got right was originally we started off as a daily show, and I was doing like hour long podcasts, and that we'd see that the content consumption went down after like 25, 30 minutes. So, people basically were done after 30 minutes. They got out of their car. They were done commuting. They were off the treadmill. And they were ready to go home. They stopped listening.
And so, I broke the podcasts up into two parts. And I would do the first half of the conversation in the first 20 minutes and the second half in the next 20 minutes and I'd publish the second half the second day.
And we found that the percentage of content consumed went way up and went from, let's say, 50 to 100%. It's actually probably closer to 40 to 80%. So, people were now getting through most of the episodes and the downloads increased. So, it's not like somebody was listening to one episode and said, "Okay, I'm done." They came back and listened to the second episode.
And because I had more episodes, the episodes led into the second marketing channel, not only did I have better organic traffic, more people were finding my content because there was more of it. But because there was more content, and there were more listeners, there was more shareability and that gets into virality.
So, virality, you have the people that are listening to your show. You're asking them to share it. Everybody that's listening to this podcast, do Chris a favor, he's a good guy. He works very hard on this podcast, share it with five people that you know that listen to the show and help him grow so he can make better, more consistent content.
It's not only that the people that are listening to the podcast are going to share it. It's also the people that are going to be your guests. And that's really where we focused is building mechanisms to create the assets, share the links, remind our speakers that they should promote their content as well as we're going to.
Maybe the biggest thing that we got right and people don't think about this for podcasting is the paid channel. I discovered early on before it was really a team that was helping me build the business that advertising where people are consuming your content is a great idea. And this goes back into like CPG brands want the end caps when you go into a supermarket. They want the thing that's in front of you when you first walk into the supermarket because those are the things, the items that people are going to grab the most. It's about visibility, right?
Well, the same methodology goes for us. We wanted to untested advertising in podcasts. And so, the tool I use to advertise, unfortunately is no longer around, but it allowed me to buy remnant inventory for $1 CPM, and in podcasts, that's dollar per 1,000 downloads.
So, I was getting the spot at the end of a podcast for $1 per every 1,000 downloads. And I would generate about one net new listener per dollar. So, my CPA was about $1. And so, I put $10,000 into advertising my show in these remnant inventory podcast advertising channels. And that got about 10,000 listeners.
Now, I had organic and I had virality working for me. Those things take a long time to grow and I didn't want to wait that long. So, I put my money where my mouth is and paid to acquire some users.
And then the last thing, partnerships, I'd call this a partnership, meeting other podcasters, other people that are in your same professional network, working with them doing value exchanges within your organization, within your industry, that's another way to sort of build credibility, take advantage and meet other people's audiences.
And that really has to do with, in this case, hopefully having something valuable to say, helping you create a piece of content and also offering people space on my podcast, giving them access to my listeners as well.
So, those are really the four ways that I thought about growing our podcast. If there was any sort of secret sauces, yeah, we paid. We marketed our podcast. We found a paid channel. And we bought our first 10,000 or so listeners.

Chris:
A lot of the things that you're saying sound very common sense, but just because it sounds like common sense doesn't mean that people are doing it. A lot of this is just about making sure that people who are looking for your content can find it. And this is true whether you're doing YouTube content or podcasting.
Now, you said something that was kind of interesting to me because I didn't know this was possible. Do you have analytics that can tell you how deep people listen in? Because I just see downloads, that's all I can see.

Benjamin:
There's a couple different sources to get podcast analytics. One of the things that's helped us monetize in a different way than the average podcaster is I think the average podcast sells their inventory for 25 to $50 CPMs and we're like 10 to 100X somewhere, two to three orders of one to two orders of magnitude better than that on a per download basis.
And the reason is we not only understand analytics, but attribution. So, a couple of different sources if you're a podcast creator, you get your podcast download data from your host. So, that's Libsyn. We use Art19. And that tells you essentially what IP address downloaded your content. Now, a download is not a listener and a listener is not a listen. That is a file that has been put onto a device essentially, that's what a download means. And they'll tell you where in the world those downloads are and what type of device downloaded them. Was it from an Apple device? Or did use Overcast or some sort of other downloading mechanism?
And that's good sort of high level, like how big is your podcast? Generally, you could look at downloads as a proxy for podcasts size. It can be faked. You can buy downloads for next to nothing. There's a million people on LinkedIn that says they're professional podcast toasters, and they will go fake downloads for you. And you can sell downloads that are not real, because they're not listeners. They're not listens.
Other sources of data, you could look at Apple and Spotify. They give a little richer data. I don't know if that's the right way to say it, but some more data. And Apple will tell you the number of devices which I do not trust for a second because it makes no sense that you could get tens of thousands of downloads and tens of devices, I just don't buy it for a second that Apple's device count is correct. But it will tell you of the people that they are tracking, how far did they get through the piece of content. So, you can get a sense of where people are dropping off. And you can figure out how long your content should be.
We use another tool called Podsights, P-O-D-S-I-G-H-T-S. And they do something really interesting. They take the IP address and they map that IP address to a non-personally identifiable identifier, non-PII data called a made a mobile app ID.
And so, basically, what they can do is say, okay, we know what your IP address is that download the podcast, we're pretty good at figuring out what households those are coming from. So, if you make the assumption that only one person per household is listening to your podcast, you have a pretty good sense of how many people are actually listening to your podcast and then they have a technology that allows you, for us when we're working with our sponsors, we not only understand who the people are, how many people are actually listening to the podcast, but we can give our sponsors a pixel, a tracking pixel. And we can say, of the people that listens to my podcast, here's how many got to your website. And so, we can actually do more direct response attribution than the average podcast.

Chris:
Wow, that was a lot of information. The process is obvious, you know what you're talking about. When you're talking about the pixel, that would that only be picked up if they landed on your page because you can't do it through iTunes, can you?

Benjamin:
No, it is not through iTunes. Basically, you have to know the mobile app ID to see if the person using that device or somebody using that device is using another known device that's related to that account. There are services. LiveRamp is one of them. There's a company that got bought by LinkedIn. I don't remember the name of it.
But basically, if they know your IP address with a high degree of certainty, they can understand who that is and then they understand the different devices that that person uses. And so, you can basically give them an IP address and they'll say, okay, that's Ben Shapiro's home. Maybe they don't know that it's me specifically, but that's device number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 is at home and he also has device 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
And so, they basically create these tracking profiles. And then we give a pixel that tells us if somebody's using one of those profiles that downloaded a podcast, does that person actually show up on somebody else's website?

Chris:
I get it. Because I was going to ask you how do you make money doing this because you're walking away from your consultancy or putting it on the backburner and doing this because financially makes sense. And I love that and I think our audience is going to really want to figure this part out. And you're starting to pull back the curtain a little bit here. So, if say on the high end, an average person is getting 50 bucks per 1,000 downloads. So, if they have 10,000 downloads, they would make, like $500 per ad insertion?

Benjamin:
Yup, not a ton. Not a ton.

Chris:
So, you're saying you get in orders of magnitude more than that. Were you saying two, three, 10X or?

Benjamin:
When we hit 10,000 downloads and I will preface this. This is not a brag. It is not a humble brag. This is what we talk about on the MarTech podcast because content monetization is really important to marketers.
So, I am saying this as a business owner and a podcaster, not a look at how much money my show makes, which obviously gets a little bit awkward at times, but hence me practicing.

Chris:
Not for me. You don't have to preface it.

Benjamin:
I feel a little weird sometimes people are like, hey, why is this guy talking so much about how much money he made and it's revenue, it's not profit. We invest most-

Chris:
You and I were on the right channel and right wavelength because they talk about what we make all the time.

Benjamin:
Okay, cool.

Chris:
So, feel free, yeah.

Benjamin:
I just don't want the listeners to be like, this guy's bragging, what a jerk. I'm not bragging. When we got to 10,000 downloads per month, we were 11 months into content production. And I said, "Okay, we're going to start selling our advertising." We use Art19 as our host. And the reason we use Art19 is because they do something called dynamic insertion. And what dynamic insertion is it allows you to take all of the ad units from your old episodes and put in new ad units.
And so, we can sell our ads on a weekly or a monthly basis instead of just saying a sponsor is going to be on my podcast for one day because I mentioned them in one episode, I'm going to say I'm going to put you in every episode for a month.
So, we sold our inventory at 10,000 downloads. We had two spots that was an A and a B spot, so we can sell to advertisers at once. We have a pre and post roll, the beginning and the end of the episode.
So, four ad units total and we sold those for $25,000 for the first quarter of the next year. So, we started selling in November. Before December was over, we had sold out all of our Q1 inventory that was $25,000 of revenue.
So, if you're thinking, hey, it's $500 a month for 10,000 downloads, that'd be $1500 a quarter and we sold for 25,000. And now we are about 10x that size.

Chris:
So, the answer dynamically placed in using some marking software. He's like, here's an ad spot. Here's an ad spot. So, you cue that out, right?

Benjamin:
You go through all of your content once and you say here's all the ad spots and then you fly the campaign and you say replace all of the old ad spots with this new spot.

Chris:
Right. And then depending on how popular, whatever, they can buy different ... So, I think you were saying you were doing a daily podcast?

Benjamin:
The MarTech podcast is actually seven days a week. We only publish new content five days a week. So, depends what you consider, yes, we publish content seven days a week, but we've got enough evergreen content that we're taking content from two years ago and republishing it this year and it still feels fresh.

Chris:
Well, okay. So, do you have a surplus of episodes to release, then? Because you're recording more than you're releasing?

Benjamin:
We generally record content six to eight weeks in advance. And so, we always have six to eight weeks of buffer. So, if somebody cancels, we're not like, "Oh, no, what are we going to publish tomorrow?" It's like, "Oh, we got to find an extra guest within the next two months," and so we've built up that content archive. So, we did for a long time record more content than we needed. But yeah, we generally have a six to eight weeks' worth of padding.

Chris:
Okay. So, 11 months in, you're already hitting these numbers. That's fantastic. And you've not actually been doing this for that long. I think it was in 2018 you said?

Benjamin:
Yeah, I think it was March 2018 we started.

Chris:
Right. So, not a lot of time and you're jamming. So, if you don't mind sharing, what are your numbers today? How many downloads are you getting a month?

Benjamin:
Yeah. The goal for this year is to get to 100,000 downloads per month, we still have some room to go until we're there. We've been hovering around 60,000 downloads a month. We've been in the high 50s for the last quarter.
And I think the actual audience size which is what matters, is depending on what metric we're looking at, whether it's this month or whether it's total audience size is somewhere between 5000 and 20, 25,000. We know we've run campaigns that have gone a quarter and we've seen them reach 20, 25,000 people. So, I think that's probably the max audience size.

Chris:
Okay, so there's probably a bunch of my listeners who are tuning in and like what are these two guys are geeking out for podcasting? I know, I just want to make an appeal to your own self-interest here because I think it's the dream of most creative people to be your own boss, to be the author of your own destiny, to be able to make content that you love and feel connected to you and make money.
That's the key here as why I'm spending so much time talking to Ben about it is because we can all make content, but very few people are actually getting paid for it. And that's the critical part.
So, this is wonderful because we have a podcast. I think we're doing pretty good. We only do an episode a week and I think we are an average between 30 to 50,000 downloads per month, and we don't monetize any of it. So, Ben, help me out here. What do I need to do?

Benjamin:
What do you need to do? Well, first off, congratulations. Thirty to 50,000 downloads a month is an astounding number. That's wonderful.
It comes down to understanding who your audience and who's trying to reach them. For me, for the MarTech podcast, we talk a lot about the different technologies that marketers use. And so, that inherently leads marketing companies, mostly B2B SaaS companies, to want to reach our audience. If your audience is creatives, you need to think about who are the people that want to reach creatives.
I will give you the best marketing campaign that we've run, what was most successful, and actually, fortunately, it was the first marketing campaign we ran to try to find sponsors. We went and found a list of marketing events, obviously COVID-19, there's not a lot of in-person events that are happening right now. But back in the day, 2018, people would go in person to meet each other to talk about marketing.
And so, what we would do is look for these events and find the sponsor list. And then we would find who is in charge of the marketing department for those companies and reach out and say, "Hey, we saw that you were a sponsor of this marketing event. We think that you'd be a good fit as a sponsor for the MarTech podcast, which can do the same things that the marketing event does in the sense of help you build awareness in the marketing community, but we can also do a better job, giving you some attribution and helping you make a more meaningful impact with the MarTech audience.
And here are some stats about the show. We've got 10,000 downloads and 80% of our listeners are subscribers and people listen to 25 minutes per episode or they listen to an episode a week or what," I don't remember exactly what data we had included in there. And then there was a screenshot of like where we lived in the App Store rankings.
So, the reason why I'm telling you this is if you understand who is going to be interested in reaching your audience, it's really a question of just putting an email in front of them and asking them for a meeting. The second component that is what do you have to sell them. And for me was, we can do a couple different things. We can do advertorial content. We have sponsors of our show pay to be guests on the show.
For the record, the advertorial content is consumed more than the non-advertorial content. People that are listening to the show like our sponsored content better than they-

Chris:
Wow.

Benjamin:
... want a non-sponsored content. And the reason for that is I'm probably preparing more for the interview because they're sponsors and I wanted to go great. But just generally people like the sponsored content. And we also do it in a little bit of a different format as well. You can sell advertising. And then if you use the services like Podsights, you can also do things like retargeting the audience.
So, one of the things that we do is when someone listens to our podcast, we can go to the sponsors and say, "We know that 2500 people listen to your podcasts. I'm going to go on to Facebook and create a look alike audience based on those 2500 people and then create a Facebook ad to get more people to listen to your content, but you have to pay for it." Now, my sponsors are paying for my marketing.
The other thing that we do is we say, "Hey, look, if you want to market to these people directly, we will sell you access to the mobile app IDs so you can do your direct response campaigns and market to them Facebook or programmatic advertising, whatever you're going to do."
So, those are really the four products I would think about or at least what we do is advertorial content, post read advertising, content syndication and retargeting.

Chris:
Hey, there's no coincidence that your podcast is called MarTech because it's marketing technology and you're talking about all these different ways. This is totally on point here.

Benjamin:
It was kind of a lucky thing to bounce into. I'd never really planned on being the marketing technology podcast or like I said, it was meant to just find some consulting clients and it just kept building and building and building and the next thing you know, here we are.

Chris:
We'll be right back with more from Benjamin Shapiro.
Good design work should clearly communicate a message. The same is true for good designers. So, why present flat lifeless product ideas? Put an interactive prototype in the hands of your manager, client or CEO and watch their eyes light up as they buy into your vision.
Framer is your secret weapon. Start from scratch or import from another design tool, drag and drop powerful interactive components, set of transitions and create your own stunning animations, all without code.
It's rich, realistic prototyping made easy. Sign up for free or get 20% off any paid plan by visiting framer.com/thefutur. That's framer.com/thefutur.

Greg:
Hello, Futur family. It's Greg again. And I'm here to take a quick second to tell you about Hover, one of our sponsors for this episode.
Whether you're a fledgling agency or a solo freelance designer, you want clients to take you seriously and having your own website and domain is the first important step in that process.
Luckily, Hover makes it easy for you to do just that. With over 300 domain name extensions to choose from, you can find the perfect fit for your own creative brand. Now, if you're a traditionalist, go for that dot com. But if you want to mix it up, you can always try dot design, dot art, and even dot ink, for all you illustrators and tattoo artists out there. My personal favorite dot pizza.
Hover's website is clean and super easy to use. And I know you designers out there will appreciate that level of user experience. But if you do run into trouble, they offer fantastic technical support so you've always got someone there to help you through it.
Set your online brand up for success by visiting hover.com/thefutur and get a 10% discount on all new purchases. That's hover.com/thefutur and make a name for yourself with Hover.
Welcome back to our conversation with Benjamin Shapiro.

Chris:
Okay, so we don't have the bandwidth or maybe we'll have to work on this, the desire to go out and find people to advertise and maybe because we're crazy like that. Is there an automated platform that I can just have this happen and not chasing down so much or am I going to start to fall into the lower price per 1,000?

Benjamin:
Yeah. So, there's a couple different ways or platforms you can use at enterprise scale 100,000 downloads or more. There are services like mid roll, where you can start to sell your advertising. It's going to be on a CPM basis. And then you have a middleman, who's going to take a cut for you. I think their rates are probably 25 to $50 CPMs. I'm not exactly sure.
There are some agencies that will sell content for you. I don't really know off the top of my head. I've had some people reach out and ask if they could sell our content. Let's see. RedCircle was a company that will do your hosting and do the advertising for you. They look pretty impressive. We've honestly thought about helping marketing podcasts and we'll sell the advertising for you. And that was kind of a plan for next year. So, maybe we could work together in that capacity.
But I don't think there's a great way to do it. I would just hire somebody and say, "Hey, go sell some ads for us and you get 50% of the revenue," and let them go to town.

Chris:
I see. Well, let me know if you develop that as a service and that might actually work out for the both of us because one of the things is the podcast is done at a net loss for us, whereas we have other ways of making money. That's why we're not focused on this, but we should because obviously, this is a very viable platform.

Benjamin:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay, so I have another question.

Benjamin:
That's actually a good point, though. I said what are the four ways to monetize a podcast. The fifth way is you're not monetizing the content, you're doing it as lead generation, which is what you're doing. You're building business contacts and raising the profile of your business because you have another product to sell. And that's how most B2B brands are monetizing their podcast. Very few people are trying to sell advertising in their content. It's mostly some other medium.

Chris:
Yeah, actually, the story behind us podcasting is a little twisted and it'll probably explain why we're so laissez faire about the whole thing.
We mostly make content on YouTube. And then people that said it's hard to like ... My app doesn't support it. It's a high bandwidth thing, I'm on the road. Can you just convert your episodes into podcasts? And we did that.
So, it's like minimum effort that just converted a few episodes. But as I started to do it, I was like, this is a different medium, different platform and you have to talk people through ideas, and it's very intimate and personal, as opposed to YouTube, which feels far away sometimes because of just the proximity to the screen. We started making content and we just do this because that's what people want.
So, advertorial now, I got to tell you, the few sponsored advertorial pieces we've done have felt horrible to me. So, this is shocking to me that you're like, hey, people like to advertorial stuff on our channel more than yours, or the non-advertorial stuff.
And here's the reason why, we did a deal with the big bank company, like credit card, and they had this long list of things we had to say. And it was like legal stuff and it killed my passion. It really did. It was like, I want to make great content for you guys, but you're killing me and approving and just, oh, I didn't want to get into the content making business just have another boss that pays me less. So, talk to me about the mindset that maybe I need to change or maybe structure it differently so, I don't have that same reaction?

Benjamin:
Well, look, when we're doing our outreach, we're pretty specific about who we're reaching out to. That sounded ironic for some reason.
We get to choose who we include in our outreach and their specific profile of brand that we think is going to be interesting for our audience. If a bank came to us and said, "We want to talk about Wells Fargo, for example, on the MarTech podcast, I don't care if they said they were going to pay me $10 million." Let's be honest, if they paid me $10 million, I would do it, but I wouldn't be happy.

Chris:
You would be [crosstalk 00:34:33].

Benjamin:
If they said they were going to double pay to be a guest on the podcast, I would need to think long and hard and we would need to find an angle where it would be relevant to the audience. It is not just, hey, everybody, here's how a bank works.
The way that we do our advertorial content is not, here is what Wells Fargo is about, and here's what they do, and here's why you should use them. It would be, hey, we've got the head of marketing at Wells Fargo, talking about how they market in their business in the financial services space which is regulated.
The content would be marketing regulations week or something like that. We are not just saying, "Hey, this is what this company does. This is why you should use them. This is what their product is for." Maybe we can do that for an episode 20 minutes. But when our sponsors come on to the podcast, it is more of a positioning exercise for them that they are known as the subject matter experts in a given field.
So, for example, we have a brand that I really like called Chrono Logic. And they have this technology that you can enter your email into a form and it basically automatically books a meeting for you and the person who gave their email address on your calendar and your sales reps calendar. So, it takes all the friction out of going back and forth between like, "Hey, nice to meet you. Let's set up a meeting. Here's my calendar link. Oh, sorry, that meeting doesn't work, I have a conflict." All that stuff is automated.
And so, it improves the throughput for your leads to become meetings. We didn't just walk through what that product was and why it was important for a week. What we did was we recorded sales enablement week. And we talked about how sales and marketing teams work together. We talked about what the data is that they're collecting, and where is the biggest breakage point. And what is the biggest problem.
Well, turns out the biggest problem in sales enablement is getting someone from a marketing qualified lead to actually being an appointment on the sales team's calendar. And that's why this product matters.
So, we didn't just talk about the product, we talked about the problem in general. And that also positioned them to be experts. It made them seem altruistic because they're not just talking about their product the whole time.
And they got enough soft selling in that it was relevant. I really am proud of the content because it really does a nice job of walking the line of here's information about this new company and service that's really interesting. But also, here's the content and the context that you need to understand why this problem is important.

Chris:
So, then it makes sense to me why yours is working better because you're putting in the extra effort to make sure that there's a lot of learning happening and that you're broadening out. And I think that's wonderful.
I guess the thing is when I do an episode, it's very conversational and I get to talk to really interesting people, and the conversation goes where it needs to go. And so, in the back of my mind, I'm like, I got to bring these parts up. And here we go. Got a pitch.

Benjamin:
You say that I've prepared and I honestly don't do a lot of homework. And I'm not sure if I want to go on the record here, but I will. I do more homework for the sponsored episodes. But most of the time when I'm recording non-sponsored content when we have invited guests, they fill out an onboarding form to apply to be a guest to the podcast, which include their name, their title, the company description, some things they'd like to talk about.
And I'm basically taking that and plugging it into like a mad libs style, like plug and play insert name, company, title, topics here. And once I'm done writing that introduction or taking the information they've given me and put it into the introduction, I'm pressing record. I'm doing like five minutes of prep per episode.
I mean, you have to understand the general subject matter. I've spent 15 years learning marketing so I can have a marketing conversation pretty easily, but I don't actually do a ton of advanced prep, researching the companies and all that.

Chris:
Okay, so there's two things I definitely want to talk to you about and I'm looking at a time here. So, the thing that you had said, like you could make content to be a way of drawing clients to you establishing your authority. This is how you generate leads, right? So, it's lead gen. So, can you talk a little bit about that and how one would structure it or any differently than what we've been talking about thus far?

Benjamin:
Yeah. I mean, think there's two ways to think about lead gen. One, you are producing content that talks about your services, and why someone should work with you. And so, you're essentially trying to convert the people that are your listeners to becoming your clients. I think that gets tired real quick.
I think that depending on what your product or services is but generally, if you're constantly talking about yourself, people are going to get tired of hearing it because people want to learn about the wide variety of topics not just you. So, you can't be too self-serving. So, you have to sort of sprinkle in you're like, here's what I'm doing content occasionally and have the most of the content be educational.
Probably the more common tactic is not actually trying to do lead gen through your audience, but actually through your guests. Inviting people who are influential in the industry, but also people that you want to be your clients. And it's a nice way to start a relationship. It allows you to offer them something, have them know that you're an expert, being the interviewer, for some reason, people infer that you have credibility and are smart. That's not always the case.
But I think that that's probably the more common way that B2B brands are doing lead generation is they're going to the people they want to sell to and they're asking them to be guests and that sort of their entrance to have a relationship.

Chris:
That's fantastic. And I'm not saying to do this in a disingenuous way that you have an interest in the person you're talking to, but this is kind of a Trojan horse. You're going to have access to authors, you're going to have access to clients and people at a much higher level than you that you normally have access to because you have a podcast and you're inviting them to come on the show. And it's how I met some people that have really looked up to.

Benjamin:
Yeah. We get enough inbound requests. There's a lot of marketing companies that have PR teams that are using podcast as a marketing channel. So, they have their executives come on to shows. And that's the vast majority of the people that our guests as they find us. I haven't actually done a lot of outreach to the marketing elite saying they should be a guest on the podcast.
Maybe we should be a little bit more selective, but we've just had enough high quality guests coming our way that we haven't done a lot of outreach. So, I can't really talk to that, but it makes a lot of sense.

Chris:
So, I guess it works on both sides then. You can be the podcaster and invite people or they can come to you, but you can also go on their podcasts as well to kind of build relationships. And we've talked about that as in terms of one way of growing your audience, right?

Benjamin:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's one of the reasons why [Ariane 00:42:17], who reached out to you, Chris, reached out is that we have sort of looked at all of the marketing podcasts. And we've actually done a fair amount of homework, in this case, trying to figure out what are the shows that are a good fit and where we would have potential audience overlap. And then we reached out and tried to tell the podcast host that we're a fan of their show and we'd love to participate.
And so, that's definitely a growth channel for us. And one of the ways that we try to introduce our content to other people and try to broaden our reach in the podcast sphere.

Chris:
Okay, so the other topic that I definitely want to talk to you about because I'm very passionate about myself, and you were talking to, I think, one of the latest podcasts with ATM about building community if I got the dates right. And you were asking him this question, should I jump in or not? And he said, I'm biased, but you got to just go. So, I'm curious about where you are in your thought process and what kind of commitments you've made or still contemplating?

Benjamin:
We're waffling a little bit. I was dead set that we were going to be launching a influencer-focused community. And so, we were going to go find the 10 biggest influencers in the MarTech space. And we were going to reach out and say, "Hey, we all want you to be in this group. And we're going to set up monthly meetings and create content for you and we're going to charge somewhere between 2500 to $10,000 a year."
I didn't feel like we had the product offering yet. And I didn't feel like there was enough value that we could create that would sustain that group of people's interest. And I don't want to take $10,000 from somebody who is important in the industry and not provide that type of value.
So, what we did is we said, we're actually going to do the opposite but a lot of people said we should be doing, and we're going to focus on building a smaller community, not smaller community, that's actually not true. It's a bigger community. We're going to build a broader community first.
So, we're going to create a Slack group, invite people. It's a relatively low barrier to entry to get people into a Slack group, start facilitating conversations there and be more broad and invite a wider range of people instead of just sort of 10 mega influencers.
And the reason why we're doing that is that the business plan for us is, A, we're using the Slack group in part as email capture, so we could start building our audience or at least understanding who they are, if they're listeners we'll get their email and then we could start to figure out who's actually listening to the show. It'll help us build our newsletter outreach and generally just start to have conversations, get more data about what people in our audience actually want.
Then once we have an established audience, we're going to double back and go towards the council model and try to get the 10 biggest influencers in our industry to come in and then the sales pitch becomes, instead of, hey, we're going to introduce you to the other nine people that are the mega influencers in the MarTech industry, it's, we're going to introduce you to the nine other people that are in the MarTech industry. And we want you to build a community and really get value out of that. But we're also going to work with you to create a course, a piece of content and we are going to sell that course to our community because you are big and important that people want to hear what you have to say, and then we'll do a rev share with you.
So, we don't actually have to charge either as much or at all for the council members to participate in our community. We're actually paying them. And then I feel like we'll get sort of a better return on their investment.

Chris:
I see. So, this is a little different than what I was expecting to hear. So, let me see if I got this straight. You're talking about finding 10 people who are big influencers who can afford say, for the math, 10,000 bucks be part of a group that you facilitate. And they're paying to be part of the group? Is that idea, initially?

Benjamin:
That's what the seven CTOs model is, which is great. The problem that I had with that model, there's organizations like this, there's EO and YEC. And those are generally CEOs and presidents that don't have to rationalize to their boss, I'm going to go spend $10,000. I'm integrating myself into this support community, which is, for the most part what those communities end up being.
CTOs obviously, Etienne De Bruin has been very successful building seven CTOs. And it's a model that we are going to investigate down the road. I think that with engineers, developing soft skills and having a peer group just feels like it might be more important for that group. And I don't want to stereotype or bias against engineers.
But generally, the transition to being in leadership when you've been an operator and a programmer, is a challenge. And I don't think that that's necessarily the same type of challenge that it is for marketers who are, let's just say, extroverted.
And so, my fear is that if I go to executive marketers and say, "Hey, I want you to be a member of this council. It costs $10,000." They're going to say, "Yeah, I'm in. This sounds great." Then they're going to go to their CEO and their CEO is going to say, "I'm not spending my money on this. I can't rationalize that to the board."

Chris:
Right.

Benjamin:
So, what I wanted to do was make it more of a personal thing where it is not I need $10,000 for my company to pay for this, but it is, maybe I'm going to put 2500 down to be a member of this group. But if I create this course, I'm probably going to make five grand, this thing's actually going to pay me and help me build my profile.

Chris:
Okay. Very interesting. Because at first when I was listening to you describe that, I thought perhaps you're going to invite these 10 mega influencers together, pay them, and then have them mentor and coach and share content with, say, 200 people. I was like, oh, so that's an interesting business model.

Benjamin:
Yeah, I think what it's going to end up being is we're going to try ... I think, what did we say our goal was? We wanted to get to 250 active members and 2500 members this year. So, we want to basically collect 2500 email addresses and have 10% of those email addresses actually be active on a monthly basis. Hopefully, everybody's active. But that's not reality.
And then if we have 250 active members, look, we can send an email to 2500 people every month, but 250 of them we know are engaged in conversation, so we can directly sell courses to them. And then we go to the 10 council members and say, "We want to create your course. And what do you want to try to sell to this 2500 people, and hopefully we'll make more than what their dues are for the year."

Chris:
Right.

Benjamin:
That way, it's a win for everybody. That's not the plan and we're honestly still iterating. Like we are very much thinking about what community is and how do we move beyond just we have an audience, we don't necessarily know who they are, we can track and we can market them. But we don't actually have a relationship with them outside of they listen to us. We want to be more engaging and have a better understanding of who our audience is so we can build the products around their needs.

Chris:
So, beyond revenue, what is your motivation for creating and getting into community building?

Benjamin:
I think it's just that is I want to know who my audience is. We spent a couple of years building an audience and I broadcast out into the world and my team helps me create and syndicate the content, but I don't often hear from them.
And I think that the MarTech industry is evolving and growing very quickly. And so, I do feel like extending that conversation beyond just they're listening to us, but we get to engage with them, feels like it's very important for our business, getting an understanding of who they are so we can make sure that we're not being tone deaf and not just assuming that we know who the audience is. That's obviously very important. And then from business perspective, it hopefully will provide a secondary source of revenue as well.

Chris:
Yeah, I think that's one of the big drawbacks of podcasts. It's like you broadcasts out, but the conversation is not bidirectional, just because of the technology platform.
So, I have a question for you. Have you thought about doing what a few people have done, which is to video a livestream or even record simultaneously while you're podcasting so then you can establish it on a video platform like say YouTube, where the conversation that platform is built for people leaving comments and seeing who showing up each week or whatever.

Benjamin:
Yeah, I've thought about it. I think the easy answer, the one that I normally default to is I'm not that pretty. I just would rather stay behind microphone. I want to syndicate our content to YouTube. The thing is we edit the content. And you lose that ability when you're livestreaming.
And one of the things that we can do, and one of the reasons why our podcast is great, in my opinion, is that I can have a casual conversation with our guests and the rest of my team can edit that piece of content and clean it up and wordsmith it and mold it into the final product. And when you're live streaming, it puts more pressure on the guests and I just don't want to do that.
So, maybe we can clip it together. But video editing is very expensive. I think if we do anything, what we might just do is take our audio files and run them through an automatic video producer and just put it on YouTube to get the sort of extra impressions, right?

Chris:
Yeah.

Benjamin:
Took advantage of the search engine. But I don't know if I'm going to create a video show and honestly, I don't think the audience on YouTube really wants, here's just my podcast without visuals. I know what works for Joe Rogan.
But I think that YouTube content is more five-minute clips of how to do something than it is, I'm going to sit down for 25 minutes and listen to people talk broadly about whatever marketing topic.

Chris:
Yeah, because I was like, all right, we were going the opposite direction which is we're going from video to podcasting. There's different challenges obviously so it's like, why not go the other way? I don't know. And when we do podcasting, I don't turn the video camera on. It's just so you and I could see each other, but it's not for anybody else to see.

Benjamin:
Yeah, I turn the video camera on when I'm doing my podcast because I want to have that connection with the guest and have them feel comfortable and casual and honestly, I'm sitting back in my chair and I'm like peeling an orange and my wife runs into background I'm like, "Hang on a second. Hey, dear," whatever.
But I want people to feel like it's a casual conversation. And so, the video helps to do that. But publishing that video just doesn't feel like it's going to be that compelling to me. So, I haven't gone down that route.

Chris:
Well, you never know, because this was the side thing that worked out that gone wrong that went right. Well, you never know.

Benjamin:
It's on our list of experiments of convert our content into YouTube and see how it goes. And we'll test a couple different formats. It just hasn't been that big of a priority. We're still thinking primarily this year about scaling podcast growth, about selling out all of our inventory. And to me, the more natural extension is, let me go help Chris figure out how to monetize his podcast, as opposed to I'm going to be a video star.

Chris:
Right. Well, you've been very gracious on a couple of these things. If you ever needed help or whatever advice to get yourself onto YouTube, I'd be more than happy to share with you what we've learned.
Also, just like the way that we monetize our community, like I said, we make money in different ways. So, we don't feel that pressure to make money on our podcast. But we have about 380 people who are paying members of our Facebook group, and they pay us, what is it $1500 a year to be part of this group?

Benjamin:
[crosstalk 00:55:36].

Chris:
Yeah, it's not bad. And it's growing.

Benjamin:
That's awesome.

Chris:
Yeah, and what we do is we do a weekly call with them, and sometimes we invite guests, but mostly just we do weekly call and give them support. And there's like a video archive library of things that we've talked about in the past, which really takes them through a lot of different things that they're struggling with.
So, perhaps was a different model for you out there that doesn't require you to have those 10 people are going to pay you 10 grand. It could work in many different ways.

Benjamin:
Yeah. And that's really the model that we're chasing first is how do we do something that's accessible to a broader audience as opposed to just the elite influencers in our industry?
And I think that we're going to try to do both eventually. We just felt that building the audience and getting access to share content in a more intimate way than just podcasting was going to be an important selling point to the influencers.
So, if nothing else, building the lower price point or free portion of the community, the community members, not the council members, is a marketing asset for us to sell to the council members.

Chris:
Yeah, I think you talked about just having a broad audience and if the barrier to entry isn't too high and they would become a part of it.

Benjamin:
It's also a lot easier to just create a Slack group and invite some people and see if they like it than it is to build a program that you're selling to people for $10,000.

Chris:
That's true. Well, thank you so much. You've added a lot of my understanding of how podcasts work and the business side of it. I love geeking out about that stuff. Because like I said, we're a community of artists and creatives. Making money is the thing that people would just can't figure it out. I think you gave a lot of really actionable, insightful and really precise information. So, I really appreciate you coming on the show, Ben. Thank you very much.

Benjamin:
Awesome. It's been a pleasure. I am Benjamin Shapiro. You are listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to The Futur and want to know more about our educational mission, visit thefutur.com. You'll find more podcast episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos and a growing collection of online courses and products covering design and business. Oh, and we spell The Futur with no E. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Barro with intro music by Adam Sanborn.
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help in getting our message out there. And let us know what you like. Thanks again for listening and we will see you next time.

More episodes like this