Breaking out of the Box through Podcasting with Tony D’Urso 

January 27, 2021



If you are not changing, then you are not growing. That is why it is important in business to learn how to be innovative and continue to provide something new to your consumers. But how do you make that change desirable, in a way that doesn’t scare them away? In this episode, Ben Baker invites Tony DUrso of VoiceAmerica to talk about how we break out of the box and get people to see us in a new light. Having written a book that took him in a complete direction, he shares how we can get people to know us and embrace us doing something different from what we've always done. Ben then takes us into podcasting and how he engages with his audience, offering some advice on responding to feedback and making your super fans feel special that they become champions of your brand.

Check out Billy Samoa Saleebey’s Podcast, “For The Love Of Podcasting” at


Listen to the podcast here:

Telling A Unique Story: Guiding Businesses To Break Out Of The Box Through Podcasting

With Tony DUrso

I've got Tony D’Urso. He is amazing. You're going to love what we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about how do we break out of the box and get people to see us in a new light because Tony has written a book and it takes him in a complete direction. He and I have to have this conversation. Welcome to the show.

Ben, thank you for having me on your show. I am honored to be here and I'm honored to speak with your guests. I hope I can, by the time this is over that some people have some new ideas, maybe some a-ha moments, maybe something that would inspire or spark them as well. I look forward to seeing what we can do with this.

Before we get started, let's talk a little bit about you. Let's get a brief history because you and I are both authors. We're both radio people but give people a little bit of a history of who you are and what brought you to this moment? When we start the conversation, people, at least aren't coming from a disadvantage.

I'll try to truncate it. I am Italian. I was born in Sicily, Italy. I grew up in Chicago but sometimes my Chicago comes out and I've been in Los Angeles most of my adult life. I have worked in the corporate world as a Corporate Level Executive for 31 or 32 years. I've done a lot and I've helped make a lot of people a lot of money. I focused on promotion and marketing. I brought in so much money for the companies wherever I worked. The one thing I noticed was my income would get pegged. You're making six digits but you're not going to get into a higher realm because you're working for someone and your income is pegged. I took the opportunity in the year 2007 to form my own company and do exactly what I was doing for others but now it's my company. That was good.

Unfortunately, in the seven years, there were four major federal regulations, new protocols and new this and that which changed my income. I had multiple clients. One client was making $1 million a year on sales. That's the revenue and they canceled. Why? A new federal regulation came in and they have to retool how they do marketing. Everything changed. I got so tired of this four times in seven years that I looked for something that I could do myself and I kept hearing the word podcast. When I found out I was like, “I’m Italian, I can do that. I can talk.” I brought with me all of my knowledge of promotion, marketing, lead generation, which I used. I started a show live for one hour and I got 500,000 downloads in the first year.

People don't understand it. That's an incredible number in the first year.

Fast forward many years later, I'm at ten million downloads. What you said is true because Blubrry, which is a major podcast host, had an article 75%plus of podcasters the year before are no longer in business. There's even a word for it now called podfade. The average podcasts are maybe 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 shows or so. They stop because it's difficult to get a lot of audiences and to monetize. I teach that and I help podcasters. I've had some good successes under my belt on that. That's what it takes. There are many ideas and people know.

If you're good and if you like doing something, go for it and do it. Click To Tweet

Everyone has knowledge about something. You and I are a great case in point because we've talked about this. We both podcasts. We both work and help entrepreneurs but we do it from a different angle because there's room for everyone. Even though I podcast and help with entrepreneurs and I bring wisdom, advice and guidance to small business owners, all these shows aren't the same. They're different.

I started listening to a new show called For The Love of Podcast by Billy Samoa. He had a great episode and they were talking about the number of podcasts. From 2018 to 2020, podcasts have almost doubled but the vast majority of them they're ghosts. They make 7 or 8 or 10 episodes and they're gone. The reason for that is everybody says, as you said when you started, “I'm Italian. I can talk. I can do a podcast.” It's not that easy. There's a lot that goes with it. Being in front of the mic is the easiest part of podcasting. There's the marketing, there's the technical part of it. There is editing.

There is putting the show together. It's getting the right guests. It's all the stuff that goes around with it. That's the challenging part of podcasting. The majority of people that try to get into this don't understand that. It is an amazing community and there are great podcasters out there that are willing to share everything. It's not a competition because the more people that are doing great things in podcasting the better it is for the industry. That's an amazing thing. That's why I love having other podcasters on my show because it elevates us all. We all get better because of it. Let's get into this because that's the one thing with podcasting is that we all get to a point where we get known for something. Sooner or later, we become a person of X, “This is what you're known for. This is the type of show you do. This is the type of client you work with. These are the type of ideas that you come up with.”

The people who know you love that and they rely on you about that. The problem is when you try to do something different, go in a different direction and bring something new into your mix, it becomes a real challenge. People get to sit there and say, “That’s what it is.” Everybody wants to listen to the Stones’ music 50 years ago. If the Stones came out with something brand new now, I'm not sure how much people would embrace it. When Billy Joel decided to get into classical music, nobody wanted to listen to it.

Everybody sits there and says, “I want to listen to the classics. I'm comfortable with this. This is what I go to this person for it. That's it.” We all need to sit there especially now where the world has changed, it's changing, it's going to change. As companies and people, we need to be able to change along with it. The conversation I want to have with you and I'm going to let you take over is to sit there and think about how do we enable people to know us, to do something else, to embrace us doing something different than what we've always done.

The dichotomy here is that in most fields, such as podcasting, author, writing books, people get into this niche and they're cemented and regimented in that. To juxtaposition the opposite way, actors are the complete opposite. No actor wants to get in a box of a certain type or stereotyped as a specific type of actor. They'll do comedy. They'll do horror. They'll do a thriller. They'll do the bad guy. They'll do the good guy. When you write a book, as a case in point, I've been told multiple times by a publisher that deals with New York Times Bestseller saying, “Tony, you only want to do fiction or you do nonfiction? You can't do both. As you speak to people on a professional level, you have an entrepreneur, you interview some of the most famous well-known high profile people in the world. You can write a fiction book.”

I did and I believed it. I've got all these great ideas. There's more than a 1 or 2-dimensional side of me and my new concept here is, “Be like a diamond.” A diamond has multiple facets. It's still a diamond and a gem and actors understand this. You've got actors, they are director, they're a producer, they do this movie, they do that, they'll do commercials. They're ambidextrous and they can do all these things. You say that to an author's like, “No. You've got only to do one thing.” I bought that and it's like, “No, that's wrong. Be a diamond. Create another facet that glows, that shines brightly. It's still part of you.” What got me to understand this was my publisher that I'm working with is a best-selling author.

LBL Geoffrey | Memories Through Sound

Imen of Atlantis

She does children's books, nonfiction, technical books, stories and I was like, “This is great.” I went ahead with my coauthor and we put together a book, which became now a series. There are 8 or 9 books projected in it. We've done about six books already called Imen of Atlantis. It’s like, “That's fine. I can go back and do a fiction.” If you've listened to any of my shows at, I interview entrepreneurs and small business owners. I was like to instruct or teach something. There are some takeaways in the book but that wasn't why we wrote the book.

The book has nothing to do with the current madness that's going on in the world though you would read it and you would think that we're trying to parallel something that's happening but it happens to be a coincidence because we didn't try. We wanted to write a good story that would entertain people because we need a break from our attention. You can't talk business. My wife taught me that. On December 26, 2020, we will be together for 28 years. Many years ago, she asked me only one time. She goes, “Tony, do you always talk business?” I was like, “That was profound. Do I always talk about business?” I had to stop and think about that. It's that way of being an author or doing a show. We both have basic roots of helping entrepreneurs and businesses but we do them in different ways. There is more than a two-dimensional side to someone. If you're good and if you like doing something, go for it, do it. Built or cut another facet of your diamond, polish it up and become known for something else as well.

How would you do that? I've got my own ideas as well but I want to delve into this with you because you have people that listen to your show for many years now to the point where you have ten million downloads. They expect you to be a certain way. They expect you to do certain things. They have a certain view of you. How do you get that loyal audience to embrace a side of you that they've never seen before without becoming uncomfortable? It's not like you're going out doing something nefarious. You're creating a different set of ideas but it's being able to introduce a different side of you when everybody has always thought of Tony as X and now it's Tony X plus Y. How do you help make that transition in a way that an audience can sit there and say, “That's interesting, I'm willing to go down that journey with Tony?”

Contrary to popular belief, I don't push things in people's faces. My shows, my podcasts are all about the guest. If there's something that's appropriate, I do chime in as I did in this show. I talked about that I've been married. It depends on what's coming up in the conversation but I generally focus on my guests. When I came out with the book, I did a couple of commercials. For the past month, I didn't do any commercials. I told people that it was coming on a couple of commercials. if you listen to my shows, there are no commercials on my latest book. I have sponsors slots and I have this consideration of what would be too many commercials. I don't put any commercials on especially with the holidays coming up, lots of sponsors want to promote their stuff.

To take this a different way, it's about introducing things slowly. It's sitting there going, “By the way, here it is. There it is. Take a look at it, touch it, feel it, poke it a little bit, see how you embrace it. I'll leave you alone with it. I'll come back to you in a little bit and see how you feel about it.” It's not about being, “By the way, now we're pushing this. We've pushed this field for the last five years. Now, we're going in this direction.” That's too confusing. If we look at it and go, “We're still doing this. This is still us. The brand is still the same. This is another facet of who we are and this is something else that we're also interested in. Maybe you'll be interested in this as well.”

It's about building up that level of trust and reducing that level of fear and anxiety because people don't like change. They're comfortable within their box. They don't touch the sides. They don't touch the top. They're comfortable doing what they do and that's about it. It's a matter of sitting there going, “Let me introduce you to something slowly.” My question to you is when you're getting feedback from your audience on something that you're testing something that you want to send out there, how are you listening? How are you responding back?

For all you podcasters or going to podcasts in the future in the audience, the one thing that I'm podcasting is you don't see your audience. You don't know who's listening or not. Are they listening to all or part? How many are listening? Do they listen to it live? You do know if they've listened to it live but that interaction, that engagement, the best way you can tell is, “Did they buy from my sponsor? Did they go to my site and go click on whatever that I'm offering?” It's the only way because a majority don't engage. I've run into people that say, “Tony, I've been listening to you for years. I love what you do.” It’s like I didn't know that. I had no idea that this particular person was listening to me and loved my shows.

When you have a podcast, you want to keep improving yourself and keep it at a high level of professionalism. Click To Tweet

You don't know that. You have to gauge it based on, did they engage in an action or buy? That's not always easy to do. When you do get a review or a message, you have to realize that it's a small fraction. It could be multiple and 10% of your listening public. It's always hard to engage. When I introduce something like this, which I don't introduce much other than this book because normally over the past many years, I haven't sold anything. I've promoted my guests and sponsors. That was it, though here and there I've promoted. I do promote my book, which I give away free, which I don't even know how many people have taken. It's hard to tell.

I've created my brand of what I think is my level of professionalism. I roll with that. I love it when I see people saying that they love my show or they engage. I had a sponsor who books another episode, what does that mean? Nobody said gave me any numbers or statistics but that told me that the sponsor got something valuable from being on my show before and they booked another show. I was like, “That's great,” because otherwise, you don't know. That lends to the podcast fade because you don't know how effective you are because nobody's out there telling you.

It's a nice segue because podcasting, along with a lot of other things is we hear the good, we hear the bad but the majority of the people remain silent. I don't care if it's a podcast, I don't care if it's marketing or direct mail, everything, let's face it. A direct mail campaign that does well gets a 5% response rate and an email campaign gets less than a percent and it's doing well. That means the vast majority of people that you're communicating with either are not interested now, are looking but not engaging, are thinking about it but not ready to engage. It’s because there are all different factors that happen. All we can do is to keep engaging with people. That's the consistency of the message and the brand that leads to engagement overall.

We need to be able to sit there and of the people that are engaging, of the 5%, 2% or 3% that bless their souls that leave me comments on iTunes or email me or you'll do whatever. Stop me in the street and tell me that they listen to my podcast, I always say, “What do you like about it? What would you like me to do better?” We all need to not be afraid to ask, “What can we do better,” because we can't serve our audience no matter what that audience is whether we're insurance brokers whether we're a retail location whether we're podcasters unless we understand what our audience likes about us and what they don't like about it. We'd need to be constantly listening.

My question to you is over the many years in the ten million downloads that you've done, you've done something right. You're resonating with people because they listened to you week after week, month after month, year after year. What do you do to be able to reward the people that do engage with you and that are your super fans? We all need to think of our best clients as super fans and help them feel special. What do you do in order to make your super fans feel special, to make sure that they become champions of your brand?

It's a great question that a lot of podcasters would want to know. I don't know of anything that I give to the audience other than I work and I have a mentor, a world-class well-known radio personality who listens to my shows and gives me amazing help and information to be better. Over the years my shows have gone better. Not to be silly or weird but my clientele or my guests have changed in what I asked them, how I asked them and I bring on high profile well-known world-famous guests that have quite the pedigree and a lot of people have heard them in the entrepreneur and small business circles. I have quite a good cadre or cache of guests that I bring on to exchange with my audience because there's nothing that they pay me. I don't ask for anything.

I work to improve myself in how I deliver my show, how I present my show as well as the guests that I bring on. I wanted to make one comment on what you said earlier. Everyone in the audience, if you think about it, there's a TV show or a Netflix or YouTube host or podcasts that you like, you listen and you tune in. I have multiple shows like this that I tune in every week. I can't wait for the next episode of XXXX but I don't buy anything from their sponsors because they're not what I particularly need. That could be a food item. I don't buy it but I'm a diehard fan of many shows that I listened to.

LBL Geoffrey | Memories Through Sound

If you think about that in the terms of podcasts, there are people who love my show. I don't know that they love my show. They may not engage with my sponsor but they'll tune in week after week to hear that show. I want to mention that in terms of what people get and what you can expect from people, to comment on that. When you have a podcast, you want to keep improving yourself and keep it at a high level of professionalism. A mentor is useful and needed in something like that.

With every episode that I do, there are two things that happen. It goes out on social media. I'm relentless at answering every single comment that goes out on social media to be able to gain some type of engagement between my audience and myself. I also have a survey that goes out to every single guest post-interview that sits there and goes, “What did you like about the interview process? What didn't you like about the interview process? What could we have done better? What have you seen on other shows that you've liked that we could incorporate?” I have gotten some phenomenal ideas and it's not just podcasts. Every single company has got to be out there asking their guests, “What can we be doing better? What are the things that we're doing well?”

Complacency is dangerous. Whether it comes back to our initial question of, “How do we break out of our box?” The box that we live in is complacency. We get comfortable doing what we do. We don't take voice lessons. We don't improve ourselves from don't listen to other podcasts. We don't go on other podcasts. We don't try different things with our shows because we get comfortable doing what we do. The more that we can sit there and say, “That was a good show. What could I have done better? That was a good email campaign. What could I have better? That was a good meeting with a client. What could I have done better?” Not just look for, “What we can do better when we do terribly but we need to look better for when we're doing better.” I want to talk to you about mentorship because I think mentorship is important. What are the things that your bencher works with you that enables you to elevate yourself and elevate your show? It's that reflection that helps you be better.

I have three comments on that. One is every time I do a podcast, I am zoned in that everything is set up, is organized and I give it my all. I want it to be the best interview I've ever done. Hopefully, for you in the audience to check out my show, is a simple way. I'm also on the Apple Podcast. I'm everywhere that podcasts are. I strive to make that each show the best. Regardless of who I've ever interviewed. This interview is important to me and I treated it with dignity and respect. Number two, in terms of the podcast and the mentorship, my mentor listens to a show and I don't ask him anything. After a while he hears shows, maybe now it's a couple of times a year, he'll call me up and he'll fill me out because he's easy-going and doesn't want to say something abrupt that I should change something.

Everyone should podcast because everyone is an expert on something. Click To Tweet

He eases into how do I feel about whatever topic, how I ask my questions, how I answer my questions. He gets my feedback on that and then gives me his point of view of what he thinks could be done if I so choose to improve my show or to make it sound more like this. He's got this beautiful approach and he's taken me from, “I first started, every time someone says, that's cool,” all this stuff. I don't do that anymore because I've learned, watched and listened to professional podcasts in shows on how to conduct an interview. That is a key facet. There's no set time. There's no set anything. He listens to shows. When he feels he's got something that is important, he'll call me and put it on the table and we'll discuss it. He's phenomenal that way. I knew I had three things. I only remembered two.

The key is your mindset and going into the interview, which helps make a better show and then having a mentor that's a podcast and my mentor is a radio personality. He's done live shows for a long time and he knows how to deal with audiences. He knows how to ask questions. He knows how to deal with dull moments. I let him work with what he has and led him as the expert suggests what can be done to make my show better. It's a world of difference from when I first started podcasting.

One last question and this is throwing it out to the left field. Many people sit there and say, “I'm going to create a podcast because I'm looking for an extra stream of income.” What are your thoughts?

A podcast can be an extra stream of income if you podcast about your current business, what you're doing now and use that podcast to increase the engagement and the likeability factor with your audience and that you are an expert in whatever it is. Whether it's building cars or horticulture. If you podcast about what you're already doing, a business then you're not necessarily going to take a loss if the podcast does monetize. You can use that as a promotional tool to bring in more prospects, clients and to educate prospects that you get by listening to various podcasts so that they get to know you better and want to work with you better. Those are several things. I believe everyone should podcast because everyone is an expert on something. By sharing your knowledge with others, you can resonate and create this comradery in this group with people that are like-minded.

LBL Geoffrey | Memories Through Sound


One question I ask everybody as they walk out the door in my show, when you leave a meeting or you turn off the mic or you get off stage and you get your car and you drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you when you're not in the room?

I want people to take away and how I want to be known that I bring to them some of the best material that I can find out there to make it easier for people to also be successful.

Tony, thank you for being such an amazing guest. I appreciate everything that you've done. I have been waiting for this interview. It did not disappoint.

I'm glad. Thank you. It is an honor to be on your show and I'm glad I had a chance to tell my story. I'm going to reciprocate and have you on my show in 2021.

Thanks, Tony. I'll talk to you soon.

Important Links:

About Tony DUrso

I really was born in Sicily, and moved to Chicago at 3, hence that accent instead of Italian…I had a paper route starting at 5 years old delivering the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Back then it was OK…today you’d call it child labor… I was a tad small and the cart we pushed weighed a few hundred pounds when all the papers were in there. So my older brothers and I worked together until I was 8 years old. Then I could master the giant cart myself, on most days.

I’d get up at 4 am every single day regardless of the weather. Believe me, Chicago is damn cold and I delivered papers for 10 years until 14 years old (when I went into fast food). Rain, sleet, powerful winds, snow, raining ice…it didn’t matter. I delivered the papers every day…And every week when I got paid, all the money went to my parents to help support me.

We were 6 kids (all boys) and only my dad worked. My mom ran the house. I think I remember when I was somewhere around 5-7 years old that I heard that my dad only made $75 a week. I didn’t know what that was like. I knew he needed more and hoped my few dollars a week helped…I know that when my dad retired he was making somewhere over $100 a week. The highest figure I heard was like $110 or so, but I don’t know the final.

My dad took a bus to work every day, getting up at 6 am himself…and he would walk the final 2-3 miles instead of paying 5 cents for a bus transfer…I could never understand that…It made no sense…Only after my dad passed away, did it ever occur to me that he paid for my oldest brother to live in the hospital for 7 years as a result of a horrible bus accident where he was run over…He said he had over 100 operations to save his leg…, and I can’t imagine the anguish he went through I can’t imagine how my dad paid for him back then as we had no insurance…Life was different then…So I am very glad that my few dollars a week helped somewhat…I am glad I did my part.

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