Two Skills That Will Grow Your Podcast
June 21, 2021
Can you grow your podcast quickly without relying on quick fixes? Sure. It's just about choosing the right skills to learn.
I'm a huge fan of transferrable skills.
When I ran my digital agency I was the person who knew plenty about plenty and could talk knowledgeably enough on marketing or design or coding or user experience or app development to be able to 1. sell those things and 2. manage them successfully.
I'm no specialist in any of them, product marketing seems to be my specialism, but I have enough quality knowledge from years of experience to be able to connect the dots and importantly, to be able to apply knowledge from one skillset to the requirement of another situation.
My skills are transferrable.
Once you learn how to do something, you see its application in all walks of life and you see how that thing connects to the other things around you and how it can be applied to make those better, too.
In short: by learning the skills to achieve outcomes and not just the outcomes themselves in any given process, you can deliver yourself quick wins but with the underlying knowledge to be able to rapidly pivot, meaningfully assess & measure and apply those skills forever, to anything.
In fact, there's a famous Italian proverb dedicated to this mindset:
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
You don't have time for quick fixes.
A quick fix is rarely that.
Because it doesn't usually work.
When it doesn't work you enter a cycle of dejection and hunting: you feel dejected about the thing you've spent time and heck, maybe even money, on and you immediately begin searching for the next silver bullet that will give you that “10x” boost you need.
When you employ a quick fix you usually do so without any strategy, either. So you end up changing something or a range of things on a whim – or on instruction from someone – without any real thought to the consequences and without even really listing out what you did change, when and why.
That's dangerous because you can't go back. Well, you can… but only for a while; until you've implemented so many small quick fixes that what you started with is so far away from where you are now that you become even more dejected that your passion has become an unrecognisable behemoth full of patchwork and filler.
Thus, the “quick” fixes actually sap more and more time as you unravel each of them, trying to overlay a new one every time you see a shiny new idea that will “grow your podcast easily”.
“I wish I'd started earlier.”
I've just gotten back into bass playing. It's been about 10 years since I really played properly and you know what, I got back to a decent level pretty quickly.
I had the muscle memory and I knew my way around the fretboard again instantly. I was a tad slow, but that's ok – the basics were there and getting back up to a decent level didn't take half as long as learning it from scratch.
I was able to dust off a skill I'd spent years learning and apply it pretty quickly to something today.
But I had a level.
I couldn't get any further than where I'd gotten 10 years ago.
I could learn a new song (quick fix) but might only know how to play that song. I wouldn't know the tonal structure of it, I wouldn't know why it was composed that way and I wouldn't be able to take that song and improvise around the chord sequence enough to enjoy making it my own.
But I'd know the song. That's it. I'd just know the song – an exercise in repetition and simple mimicry.
I pondered this as I began to feel myself getting back to my previous playing level and decided that I had two paths to choose from: I could keep learning songs and feel good about being able to play them or I could take the harder path and go back to basics – I could pick up the music theory studies that I hadn't touched for over 20 years (!) – I could learn the underlying skills required to be able to play the song but also to understand the song and why it worked.
That's what I did. I chose the harder path and picked up music theory again.
Fast forward a couple of months and I've never been as proficient around a bass fretboard as I am now – I can still play the songs I could've just learned to copy (quick fix) but now I know why they work, how to extend them and how to apply the harmonic qualities of those songs to either writing my own or learning other songs.
I wish I'd started earlier.
Discomfort isn't permanent, skills are.
I'm not going to use the “You never forget how to ride a bike” example (crap, I think I just did) but you know it. And you know why it's true.
Once you have it, you have it and you can do it. Will you always be excellent at it? Nope. But you'll have a level that you can apply no matter where you are and no matter why you need it.
The same should be said about your podcast growth skills.
What if you pivot your show into a YouTube channel? Or a blog?
You might have to start from scratch in growing that channel but if you've built your podcast on quick fixes then you'll only be able to build those things on quick fixes, too.
Quick fixes fall into three categories:
The first is the genuine quick fix: something that's wrong or a major barrier to success. Fixing these aren't going to help your show to grow, but they'll stop it from growing if you don't fix them. Examples might be broken RSS feeds, poor show names that don't align with your audience, bad audio quality, etc.
The second category of quick fix is the “exploit”.
These are usually sold by gurus who teach you a rapid growth trick that exploits an algorithmic issue with a tech platform, for example, “Get in New & Noteworthy with this one simple trick”.
They're cool and all, but don't last.
A great example was back in the day you could post your hosted MP3 file's URL to Twitter (the one you get from your podcast host) and because of how Twitter pinged the file, it'd count as a download. I tried it myself to see if it worked – it did (it was called “Twitter Bombing”) – but we podcast hosts and the IAB clocked it and stopped counting them as valid downloads (because they weren't).
Imagine if you'd built your numbers on THAT quick fix – bye bye sponsors.
Lastly, the third category of quick fix is “mimicry”.
This is where you see someone doing well and think that you can copy exactly what they did to have the same level of success.
That happens a lot in podcasting.
Everything is “on Fire” because of John & Kate's work with EOFire – they did and do well, but they did that because they were original – copying that isn't going to work.
Similarly, copying the steps that someone has taken to become successful without copying what they do can only work if you have the same level of motivation, the same resources and the same type of audience that they have, otherwise, the variables between you mount up and culminates in a lack of results.
In short, you're going to be uncomfortable with quick fixes because regardless of what you implement, it will be new to you – if it wasn't, you'd already be doing it.
If you're going to be uncomfortable anyway, why not spend that time learning something for the long-term rather than trying to “patch up” a solution?
What should you learn?
There's so much! That's not flippant, either.
I mean it – there's a LOT you can learn to grow your podcast but, like my bass playing, the very first set of things you should learn are the core, foundational basics that everything else builds upon.
Those are 1. finding out what people really want and 2. being able to articulate what they want in such a way that they're willing to take some action.
Audience research and copywriting are the two most valuable and fundamental skills that you can possess and they are the most transferrable, too. If you learn these here in podcasting, you'll apply them in anything that you undertake from this day forward.
Audience research is the process of figuring out what people want from you and how to test your ideas without the bias that you naturally bring to the table when discussing your passions.
How many times have you told someone about your podcast only for them to say it's a great idea but to never actually listen?
Why does that happen?
Because of human nature. It's easier to tell you, once you're in “pitch mode”, that your podcast sounds like a great idea and that sure “I'll have a listen” because that won't hurt your feelings and it's of no consequence to the person you're talking to for them to lie about that.
For you, though, it's a really badly missed opportunity to gain some actual feedback about what they would listen to and why they'd listen.
This is a skill I learned in the tech world building Captivate and Poductivity. I learned it from a book called The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick and I learned it in about 2015. The book keeps getting more and more expensive because it's that useful.
By taking a day to read it you can fundamentally change the way that you have conversations about your projects and apply the learnings instantly to whatever it is that you're building.
I've done it so many times for so many projects including all of my tech products but also, all of my podcasts and I've done it without people knowing just by having quality, unbiased conversations.
When people tell me “It's like you're in my head with this content!” it's usually because I have been. And not in a weird way, in a Mom Test way!
Copywriting is the art of writing copy that makes the person reading it feel like you're talking specifically to them about the very problem that they're having in such a way that they believe wholeheartedly in the solution you can provide.
The best in the business is Ray Edwards and he has a great book called How to Write Copy that Sells that you should buy.
You can't write copy without understanding your audience but once you do understand them, you need to really know how to write meaningful words that entice people to do the very thing that you want them to do – in our case as podcasters, that's usually to try out one of our podcast episodes.
The thing to remember with copywriting is that no one is as passionate about your podcast as you are and sadly, you can't stand in front of everyone and tell them about it in your passionate, practiced pitch voice.
Learning how to articulate what we do, how we do it, why we do it and what they'll get from it means that our written word – whether that's a sponsor kit, episode title, Tweet or episode notes – has maximum effect and will begin to convert readers to listeners.
The interesting thing with this approach, too, is that the vast majority of podcasters are simply not doing these two things and if you spend time learning the basics of them, you'll see very quick results but also you will have built a baseline skillset that can be applied to anything that you do, ever.
This is how I've built my businesses and my podcasts. Those two skills are at the core of everything I've ever done and they should be at the heart of your podcast's growth plan, too.
Holler at me on Twitter at Mark.Live/Twitter if you need a hand, I'll be around.
Your next steps
I teach podcasting a lot, and usually for free. So, here's what I'd recommend you do next:
- Watch my free podcasting tutorials on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/rebelbasemedia
- Learn how to launch your own podcast the right way, for free (plus a comprehensive download-and-keep crib sheet): https://www.podcastsuccessacademy.com
- Ask me anything at all about podcasting over on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/MrAsquith
P.S. you can start engaging with your listeners using AWeber. It's free, no credit card required: https://www.MarkAsquith.com/AWeber
This is The Podcast Accelerator, helping busy podcasters to grow their audience in specific, actionable ways.
I’m your host Mark Asquith, The British Podcast Guy and CEO and co-founder of Rebel Base Media, the podcast tech company that creates the Podcast Success Academy, Podcast Websites, Poductivity, Rebel Base Studios & Captivate.fm, the world’s only growth-oriented podcast host where you can get your first month of podcast hosting for just one dollar and transfer an existing podcast in, completely free.