A study shows that 50% of all US homes are fond of podcasts. After all, it's always a delight to tune into your favorite podcast while working, driving, or doing routine tasks. But what makes a good podcast great? Joining Ben Baker on the show today is Billy Samoa Saleebey, the host of the amazing podcast called For the Love of Podcast, a show dedicated to helping podcasters create world-class podcasts. With millions of podcasts out there, it can be easy to get swallowed up by the noise. Tune in to this episode to learn what makes a good podcast great so you’ll stand out from the crowd.
I love my audience. I love the fact that you guys come back every week. You subscribe, share and give me all sorts of comments. You are an amazing audience. Thank you for all you do. I've got Billy Samoa Saleebey on the show. He is the host of an amazing podcast called For the Love of Podcast. He and I are going to sit down and talk about what makes a good podcast great. Billy, welcome to the show.
Ben, thanks for having me. I'm super excited to have this conversation.
I've been looking forward to this for a while. I listened to your podcast fairly regularly, if not every week. I binge it. When I don’t catch a new episode, I go back and binge them. I love the fact that you were sitting there going, “Let's create a podcast for podcasters.” Sit there and say, “For those of us who geek out on this platform, who love it and who are passionate about it, get a platform where we can sit there and listen to some of the best in the industry.” The guys that are in the hall of fame, the guys that have been doing this longer than most people even realize this medium has been around and have those great conversations. I appreciate it. I ended up having one of your guests, Neal Veglio, on the show. I heard him on your show and I said, “I got to interview this guy.” That's another thing people don't realize about podcasters. We poach each other's guests.
He's great. I love Neal.
Before we get into this, it will get a lot of people to have a bit of an understanding of what brought you to this pace and time. What got you into this whole podcast arena? Give me a little history about where you came from to where you are so we can talk about where we're going.
Thank you for that. I'll say that I didn't know that I would fall in love with podcasting, but I am not surprised that I have. A bit of backstory on me, I grew up in California. I remember when I went to my family reunion when I was a kid, it was in San Diego. I would always interview people. I would ask them questions. I remember having one of those old tape recorders that you could tape-record somebody. This was back in the ‘80s. I would go around and I'd ask people questions that say, “How's the reunion going? What do you think about this?” That was the precursor of everything but the through-line in my life is I like creating experiences.
In high school, I got an opportunity in an AP English class to make a video, which was a form of experience and that led to me wanting to be a film major. In college, I studied film. I got out of film school and was like, “I'm out of film school. I should probably make a movie.” I made a movie. The movie ended up doing well on the festival circuit. We went to four continents and ten film festivals. We won audience awards in San Francisco and New York. It got picked up for distribution. After seven years of working on this film, I said, “I should figure out another way to make income,” because with independent films, there's not that much certainty. I got into the renewable space and again, I gravitated towards experience. In this case, it was training.Storytelling, at its core, is our oldest form of communication. Click To Tweet
I did well in sales. I set the company record for most sales and I’m like, “You should start training people.” I started training people. In my training, they were all about creating this experience that people walked away feeling like they've never experienced anything like that before, especially in a corporate training capacity. That put me on the map at my first company, which led to me getting recruited by SolarCity. At SolarCity, the first assignment I had was like, “We want you to create a TV show for SolarCity for all its employees.” I created a TV show called SolarCity TV. SolarCity got bought by Tesla. Tesla was an amazing place to work.
My responsibility there first was onboarding. I created what's known as Launch, which is the new hire experience for anyone that starts globally as an employee at Tesla. I was grateful that I had this opportunity, this blank pallet to make this experience what it was. We did test drives of the vehicles. We did go into the factory and doing a factory tour and all these sorts of things that would make it super memorable. I left corporate life in 2019 and I said to myself, “What's next?”
In my twenties, I made my movie. In my 30s, I did the corporate thing and now I'm in my 40s, what am I going to do now? I had multiple people say, “You should start a podcast.” I said, “Maybe I should start a podcast,” and so I did. In September of 2019, I started Insight Out, which is my first podcast. It is a show dedicated to hyper-successful people and their insights. What are those life-changing breakthrough moments that have made them who they are now? We dissect those. We talk about how those could be applied in the lives of the people that listen to my show.
As I started to do that show, I was like, “I love this.” I connected with it so much that I want to do a show dedicated to podcasters. I created For the Love of Podcast, which is my opportunity to meet my heroes in the podcast space. Jordan Harbinger, Dave Jackson, a lot of people in the podcast Hall of Fame, Todd Cochran, Cliff Ravenscraft, many people that otherwise I wouldn't have access to. That led to my company, which I now operate, which is Podify, which is a production company. The through-line and to get into our conversation about what makes a good podcast great is that I'm a firm believer and the details matter.
Thinking of all the little things and creating an experience that the audience will remember. Usually, they remember something that's a peak and something at the end. It's called the peak-end rule. They remember a highlight, something that stands out within the tapestry of whatever it is, their experience. It could be a party, it could be training, it could be anything, it could be a movie or it could be a podcast and then they remember the end. They remember how they felt at the end emotionally. As we get into our conversation, it's like, “How do people feel after they listened to your show? What's emotionally how they connect to that show into your show at large, not just the episode?” Connecting on an emotional level happens when we interview people and we get to those real human emotions. That's my story.
The two words that came to bind our experience and storytelling and the intersection of the two of them is where the magic happens. I want to talk to you about how has the experience and storytelling coming together led you through your life. You had the movie and then you got into training and sales and now into podcasting. There seems to me that real thread that goes through it. There's something to explore there. How has that intersection of experience and storytelling motivated you moving forward?
Storytelling at its core is our oldest form of communication. Let's be honest about it. Before there were telephones, a fax machine or the internet, even writing, there was verbal communication and more specifically storytelling. The reason storytelling is powerful is it goes back to what I mentioned, which is emotion. We pass down information from generation to generation around a campfire. For multiple millennia, that's how we communicated. That's how we shared knowledge and information.
To me, the best storytellers are the ones that can help people understand exactly what it felt like to be experiencing, whatever that story is about. They don't give every detail, but they give the right details. They give the details that they can relate to on a neurological level. An example would be I walked into the room and I immediately smelled movie theater popcorn. If you're listening to that story, you're going to think of movie theater popcorn. You're going almost to smell movie theater popcorn. It's details like that help to bring a story to a life where you could tap into an emotion. Even if somebody can't relate to the entire story, if they relate to those moments within the story, they're going to have an emotional trigger and you're going to light up the parts of the brain.
If it's something like a motor thing, “I opened the trunk.” You start to think about when I opened the trunk, what that feels like. The best storytellers were able to capitalize on the details without giving every single detail. They give enough to bring you all along this journey so that your brain lights up throughout the entire story. To the second part of your question, which is the experience and how these things intersect, I think that we are so immune to the same. What I mean by that is our brain prevents us from noticing something similar to something we've experienced before. I'll give you an example. Have you ever driven from point A to point B and then you got to your destination said, “I don't even remember driving?”
Half the time, you sit there and like, “How did I get here?” You know you got here safely.
Why does that happen? Your brain is on autopilot because you've driven for years. You may be driven that exact path before. Your brain ignores it. It's not new information. I'm a big believer in the power of surprise. I'm a big believer in the power of doing something that people will remember because it's different, it’s novel and new. What I always try to do is surprise people. Whether that be at a podcast or my training, I'll give you an example.
In my trainings, they weren't somebody standing in front of a room speaking for an entire day lecture style. Instead, we would do activities. We would do like an American Idol where I did sales training, where I'd say, “I want you to present,” whatever it is they're presenting, “We're going to have Randy Simon and Paula,” because those are the judges of American Idol, “We're going to give you feedback in the form of like we're the judges and you're a contestant on American Idol.”
We tapped into some pop culture. We tapped into something that they wouldn't have expected would happen but because of that, it made it memorable. That also made it entertaining. People remember things that surprised them. They forget things that are the same. Our brain triggers when we see something new because it's protecting us. If it's new that could put us in harm's way. That's why our brain is wired, such that the new and novel things get noticed and the same get missed. The more we can create those pattern interruptions and those new things, the more we're able to grab attention and entertain people.Our brain is wired such that the new and novel things get noticed and the same things get missed. Click To Tweet
To take it one step further, it's about making things relevant to your audience. When you're doing this, whether you're disrupting or interrupting, you're doing all this type of things. If it's not relevant to the audience in front of you, if they don't emotionally connect with it, if they can't smell the popcorn and bring a memory back of when they were a kid, having that first bag of popcorn themselves, they're not going to internalize it. Stories are amazing when the people who listened to the story, listen to them, understand them, internalize them and retell them in their own words. That's when the magic happens.
The magic is not telling the story. It's having the story retold by somebody intelligent in their way. I love where you're going, but to take that one step further, and I want your viewpoint on this. To sit there and say, “How do we sit there and take that training, that podcast or whatever and realize that there's 1,000 people or 100,000, 1 million people that are going to listen to it over its lifetime and make sure that it's resonating with them so they can attach it to their emotional relevance.”
People are going to listen to a podcast for 1 of 2 reasons. They want to be entertained or they want to be educated. I don't think they're mutually exclusive. You can get both. For me, one of the things that will allow people to want to retain it, retell it or feel it more, you get the best of both worlds when you both educate and entertain, which is why I took the approach I took with training. I call it edutrainment because you're training people and educating people at the same time.
The stories resonate when they are relatable and when they're memorable. When they're relatable, they say, “I've been in a similar situation.” Even if it's not the exact situation, they get it. They feel it. They connect with it. They want to tell it if it's something that, as I said before, super important that surprises them. We want to unload the cognitive burden that exists when we are surprised and the way we do that is by telling other people about it.
It's like for the same reason that video content and memes get shared, it's because it's new or it's novel. We feel this duty or obligation to share it with other people because we're so blown away by it, we feel this insatiable need to tell somebody about it. It's because our brain is like exploding with excitement, exploding, curiosity and wonder, we have this urge that we want to share it. That coupled with the fact that we in some way take ownership of what we're seeing. We're like, “We saw something that's new. We want to share this. In some way, we get recognition because we share this.” This ties back to the topic of the conversation. Podcasts that get shared are the ones that grow and build an audience are the ones that have organic word of mouth. Organic word of mouth happens when the audience feels a duty or an obligation to share it because it's so special. It's so unique. It's different or in some way, you know that it would benefit those other people that you're sharing it with.
That’s the beauty of this medium. It's easily shareable. It's easy to take those little a-ha moments, internalize them, get excited about them and be able to share them with other people. That's the magic of podcasting. I want to talk to you about this because podcasts, first of all, people think it's a fairly new medium and it's not. Second of all, it's not as easy to do as most people think. Many podcasts fail, the ghost cast rate. The number of podcasts that never make it past a tenth episode is horrific. Of a million podcasts, I'm sure there are 600,000 or 700,000 of them that have never made it past the tenth episode. My question is, how do we help people create that podcast that has relevance, sharable, resonates with a specific audience and is not another vanilla conversation that's out there in the marketplace?
It's a great topic of conversation. There are a few things that I think of as you shared that. First and foremost, you said definable audience or defined audience. I do think that at its core, it is critical. Understanding who your listener is. I call it the listener avatar. Your listener avatar should be very specific. It's, “How do you define this human being that's going to be listening?” When I say human, I mean a singular person to the point where you can name that person and say where they live, what gender, what they do for a living and what are their psychographics? What do they eat when they wake up in the morning? What's their day look like? When do they listen to podcasts? Why do they listen to podcasts?
Any number of things can go into this listener avatar and successful podcasts know their audience. That's one big piece. Beyond that, it comes back to expectations. The problem most podcasters have is they don't realize how much work it is. To your point, it's so much work that when they realize how much work it is, they say, “This isn't for me.” When I go back to this word expectations, why are you doing the podcast? What is your intention behind it? Is it for business development? Is it for awareness and brand recognition? Is it to be the next Joe Rogan? What is the reason? Most people don't fully know why they're doing it, to begin with. As they start their journey, they should take stock of what the purpose is and know what success looks like.
When they look in the future, if I am successful or better yet when I am successful, I would have achieved X, Y and Z. That X, Y and Z needs to be something that you feel confident you can achieve. You also have to be ready for it to take longer than you think it will be achieved. One big misconception is that you start a podcast and then soon thereafter, you can monetize it and somehow make money on advertising. Rarely is that ever the case. Unless you have a built-in audience or following because of social media, you're a television star, then that's different. If you're an average, normal person who doesn't have a large following to get that podcast, to be able to have the download numbers to make money, it takes some time.
One thing to consider is the more defined your listener avatar is, the easier it is to monetize and make money. You could go to a sponsor and say like, “I have a vertical farming podcast. My audience is vertical farmers. I have a guest that was on my show. He has a podcast about vertical farming.” The point being is that's a very niche-oriented podcast. To the root of your question, you need to have the right expectations going in. You need to know who your audience is and you need to understand that based upon your expectations and your audience, what that timeline looks like could change and you have to be prepared for that.
The last piece I'll share on this is anybody going in with like 6 months to 1-year vision is unaware of how long-term podcasting needs to be. I'd say 3 to 5 years is the bare minimum. You should be thinking about doing your podcast. I say that with one small addendum, which is, I also think you could test out different concepts. You could do a podcast for 5, 4, 6 episodes, see how it goes, see if it sticks, it resonates, you like it and then pivot. I don't think there's any problem with testing, but I do think if you're going to do a podcast or you going to be a podcaster, you should be a podcaster for a long period before you throw in the towel or simply don't try it at all.
There are different paths you can take. You can take the trial and test it out a pathway or you can take the more intentional and very thoughtful approach where you're going to plan and talk about what it is you want to do and then go for it. I think either way can work. It depends on your personality. If you're a planner and the type of person who can be thoughtful, then you could do that approach. If you're more like somebody that wants to experiment and test different things, then you can try the test route.
My podcast is coming up for a few years now. If you go back and you listen to my first ten episodes, they're horrific and all of our episodes are probably horrific. We all go back to our first episodes, you listen to them and you go, “Oh my God.” I'm sure a few years from now, I'll go back to these episodes and say, “I could've asked a way better question. I could have got on and we could have talked about this instead of that. It would have been so much better,” but we learn. We're always learning.People are going to listen to a podcast for one of two reasons: they want to be entertained or they want to be educated. Click To Tweet
The one thing that you talked about that is important are goals need to be individual. We need to have goals that are relevant to us. I will never be Joe Rogan. I will never be Tim Ferris. I will be Ben Baker. You will be Billy. We're all going to run our podcasts our way. We're all going to have success in our mind and that's the important thing. I want to talk to you about metrics because they're all out there. Everybody's looking at their metrics and everybody's sitting there going, “I'm successful based on this metric.” What are your viewpoints on looking at metrics over the first 6 months to 1 year?
Many people battle and struggle with this idea of that metric is somehow the definition of the success of your show. We're all challenged that “conventional wisdom” does not represent your show. The reason why is that the show's quality is almost not relational to how many downloads you have. Meaning, there are phenomenal shows, brilliant shows that there is very little in the way of downloads because there is a lack of marketing and promotion that's been done.
Because of that, that particular show doesn't get the same volume. There could be an average or even below average show that has brilliant marketing, promotion, social media following or what have you and they do very well. This is a great segue way that you made because I do think we as human beings often play the comparison game. I'm not doing as much as this person or I'm not as big on LinkedIn or I don't have the same Instagram following. I don't have a YouTube channel like that person. My podcast isn’t getting the same downloads.
You can't compare yourself to other people. You can, but you shouldn't. Here's why it's not because it's apples and oranges. That's true. The reason why is you have to compare yourself to yourself. You have to compare what you're doing now versus what you did last week or last month. To me, the number one thing that people should be looking at is not what their downloads are, but what are they doing? How are they allocating their time?
One of the things that I learned from Mark Asquith, who was a guest on my show, he said that most podcasters spend 90% of their time on the content and 10% of their time in marketing. He advocates for reversing that. Spend 10% of your time on the content, 90% of your time in marketing. For somebody interested in download numbers, that's fine so long as that 90% of your time is spent on getting those download numbers.
If you're spending 90% of your time on the content and then you look at a metric that is based on marketing, you're looking at the wrong metric. A better thing to look at is what is the listener engagement? What is the feedback that you're getting from your listeners? What conversations are you having directly one-on-one with people who listen to your show and they'll tell you, especially if you're good at asking and if you welcome the feedback? To me, feedback is a gift and we have to treat it as such.
When we ask for feedback, we have to embrace it. It doesn't mean we have to take it. We have to embrace it, decide if it's something that we want to act on. If we want to act on it, act on it. Somebody came on, she sent me a note, says, “I love your show. I’ve been listening since the beginning.” She asked a very direct question. She goes, “Are you going to have more women on your show?” I go, “Yes. It’s funny you mentioned it. That's something I've been thinking a lot about.” We ended up connecting. We met on a Zoom call and I said, “What other feedback do you have?” She goes, “What about how you do your ending? You don't do a dynamic ending. It's always the same. Can you do a dynamic ending where you talk about your next episode?” I go, “Great idea.” I did that.
The thing that stands out to me is that one-on-one conversation with your listener, the more you have of those, the more loyal you'll grow your community. Your community of listeners will become that much more loyal when they feel a connection with you and that happens by having conversations. To go back to the root of your question, your bottom line is marketing is crucial to get downloads and downloads only tell one story. You should look at how much time you're investing in your podcast and recognizing that there's only so much of you to go around and maybe you should outsource some of that if you can't do it all yourself.
Taking all that in mind, let's get into a corporate audience because those are the people that listen to my show. We're talking about a corporate podcast, whether it's a B2B podcast or a B2C type podcast or whatever, why would a marketing director, a CMO look at a podcast as part of their marketing mix? It's a very different medium. It's hard to measure. You're getting a very small download. It's hard to justify in terms of the ROI. There's no immediate gratification out of this. It's a long tail. My question to you is and there are lots of reasons why, but I want to hear from you is why would a CMO or a VP of marketing or something like that, take it up the food chain to sit there and say, “We need to be doing a podcast.”
It's such a great thing to have a dialogue on. The thing that stands out is that three big buckets that are influenced by a company, especially a company that is considering doing a podcast. Why would they do it? The three things are these. The first thing is, will the employees listen to it? The reason why that's important is your employees can be your best advocates. When you think about it from that perspective, if you're able to present something that would help your company believe in the mission more, have a better tie to the culture, believe in the product and service more, want to share the podcast, that's one big thing.
The next two are even bigger. Not to discount the employees, but the next two are even bigger and here's why. You as a podcaster for an organization, whether you're a VP of marketing, chief marketing officer or even CEO, and you decide that you're going to host the show. Every time you have a guest on your show, it’s a potential client. From a business development standpoint, this enables you to have conversations with people that may not even take your phone call, but because you have a podcast, all of a sudden, doors will open that you would have never guessed would have.
I know a lot of people who are using their podcasts, especially businesses, as a business development tool. That's huge. Think about it from this perspective. If I'm going to be given the choice between cold calling potential clients and trying to get them on the phone to pitch them, or if I want to invite them on my podcast to share their insights, knowledge or domain expertise, they're much more likely to want to do the latter than the former.
By the way, it's an art. You don't want to bring somebody on your show and insta-pitch them. You don’t want to pitch slap them. You got to have some finesse. You got to have a bit of grace. You got to understand that not everybody you bring on, even if they might be a potential customer, they're not going to be a customer guaranteed. You got to have finesse. What it is, it's the beginning of a relationship. As you build that relationship, then things will happen organically. They start to learn more about what you do. All of a sudden, that friendship is created and then they're like, “You do X, Y and Z. Maybe I should use your services.”The more defined your listener avatar is, the easier it is to monetize and make money. Click To Tweet
Not every podcast guest will end up being a client. You said it's long tail. It's true. If you do it long enough, you'll get clients. The third piece is this. I don't suggest that a business podcast has other sponsors unless it's like a massive entity. What they should do is use that valuable time and the valuable listenership to share their product or their service with their audience. For example, I have a show about podcasting. I also have a podcast production company that helps people make podcasts. I talk about that. I haven't done it a lot yet because my company is still new.
The reason behind that podcast purely is that I want a vehicle to be able to share with podcasters how my company can help them create their podcast, do the editing, do the video, do the SEO and the web development, all that stuff. The point being is that I know that my listener is my potential customer. In the business development, the first example that I gave you, the potential customer is the guest. I'm talking about the potential customer as the listener.
If you have called it a medium to semi-large business and you start a podcast and you have enough of a brand reputation and recognition that you do get a fair number of downloads, all of a sudden, now you could talk about your latest product or your latest service. You say, “Go check this out.” You have a lead magnet or a free giveaway that attracts people to the website. You give them that, you build your mailing list. You continue to expand your offerings and give people the opportunity to participate in whatever it is that you're going to sell. Any one of those ways supports a business, but for my money, any company that's not taking advantage of this now is a missing opportunity because it's low-hanging fruit because so few companies are doing it even now.
It's differentiating yourself. It's putting yourself out there and doing something that no one else is doing. I'm going to add one more thing because what we do is, we help B2B companies from strategy, through distribution, on the podcasting, including being the voice of their podcast and training their people. It's also a way to cut up that podcast and use it for social media marketing. All of a sudden, you've got blog posts, tweets and Instagram posts. You have everything that comes out of that 30 to 45-minute conversation.
There's an enormous amount of material that you can turn into social media marketing that you can give out to all of the people who work for your company and say, “Here you want some stuff to give away for the company to be able to put on your social feeds? Here's stuff. It's branded. It's ready to go and it links back to the podcast,” so people could sit there and go, “I want to find out more. Here's the podcast. Here's the website. Let's go look at the website.” All of a sudden, that trust is being built. It's all about looking at trust and how do we sit there and go, “How do we get people to think about us long-term? How do we get people to know, like and trust us?” That's an important thing. The second to the last question is, if you were to start a podcast now, what's the one piece of advice that you would give people who don't do this?
I would give advice that don't be vague, be specific. What I mean by that is be very specific about who will listen to your show, what value you will provide to and for them and be specific about what you name your show. The name, they're going to base your show on. They're going to base whether or not they listen unless they know you somehow, but if the name doesn't connect or attract them, they're not going to click to listen to your podcast. Get specific on those things and you're bringing clarity to what your show is all about.
There are many vague, not specific and shows that lack that clarity. I'll be super blunt and transparent. I am considering my show Insight Out because I don't think it's as clear as it could be. I'm considering changing it. I don't know if I'm going to or not. I’ve been doing it for a few years, but if somebody said I could do it all over again, I would think more carefully about the name, about defining my audience and about defining how I serve that audience.
Here's the last thing that I want to ask you as I let you out the door. This is a question I ask everybody. When you leave a meeting 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 like me. I'm very much a people pleaser. I want people to say, “I like that guy,” because we have one chance to make an impression on people. The best impression we can make is that they feel connected to us as human beings. They feel like we're not anybody that's putting on a false persona. We're being genuine. We're being real. We're being human. To me, if I connect with people and they walk away saying, “I like that guy,” then that's a success.
Billy, keep being authentically you. Thank you for being an amazing guest on the show. Thanks for the wonderful insights. I look forward to long conversations after this.
Ben, it's been a pleasure. Keep doing what you're doing. I love your passion for this medium. You're bringing out the best in people, allowing them to share their stories, helping your audience grow and enrich their lives. You are doing fantastic work. Thanks for this opportunity.
Thank you very much.
Billy Samoa Saleebey is an entrepreneur, podcast host, and award-winning filmmaker (Rolling). He has led learning and development organizations for some of the most disruptive companies in the world, including Tesla, where he was Head of Global Sales & Product Training.
He is currently CEO and Co-Founder of Podify, a podcast agency that provides production and promotion services to companies and individuals who want to create a podcast.
In addition to being the host of For the Love of Podcast (a podcast about podcasting), he’s also is the host of the podcast Insight Out, where he interviews best-selling authors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to uncover powerful insights, reveal why they make an impact, and explain exactly how they can be applied.
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