David Siteman Garland was a podcasting pioneer with his show, The Rise To The Top, which started back in 2008. Over six years and more than 500 episodes, he interviewed entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, and Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos.

In 2013, he pressed pause on the podcast to focus on optimizing his online course program. Those efforts paid off — the business grew 469 percent in three years and landed on the Inc. 5000 list in 2017. After a five-year hiatus, he decided to launch a new podcast for his business.

Reflecting on his early days of podcasting and what he’s learned from starting fresh, David shared some thoughts on podcasting for business.

When you think back, what made you first fall in love with podcasting?

Podcasting was how I built my original audience. The show was new, fresh and different. And back then many of my guests weren’t often interviewed on podcasts (it was a relatively new medium) so they often shared our interviews on social media, through email, etc.

My original podcast was a broad entrepreneurial show. I was able to build lasting relationships with many of the guests, which was great for a nobody like me!

Honestly, it was also a bit of a stress bomb as I didn’t have a team yet and at one time I was creating shows five days a week with zero help. It was a minor miracle I made it through, hah!

I stopped in 2013 to really focus on business growth and focus on my Create Awesome Online Courses program (which launched in 2013).

You launched a new podcast early in 2018. Why’d you decide to hop back into podcasting? And how has the first year been? 

Podcasting, like many things, has massively changed and evolved since I first got started with it way back in 2008. I decided to add the podcast back this year for very different reasons compared with when I first started.

We have a very consistent posting schedule with a new show every Tuesday at 9 AM central. And we have editors (and my team) that do everything for me. All I do is record and send it off with a couple of notes and write a quick email about the show. They take care of the rest. The current show isn’t a broad entrepreneurial show. It’s LASER-FOCUSED on online courses, online business, etc.

It’s not strictly an interview show. Sometimes I bring on guests, but there are also solo shows where I share advice and experience, shows where I bring on students to share success stories and inspiration and coaching sessions where I bring on students to talk about their struggles and we try to work through the challenges (these are super-duper popular and really raw).

Audience growth was a huge part of the former podcast. The goal of the show now is not necessarily as an audience builder, but it is to provide great content for my current subscribers and students. And if new folks discover it, GREAT!

Even though audience building isn’t a big focus, how do you think about listener growth? Have you seen a business impact yet?

Our growth comes organically through my website, advertising, etc. And then those folks end up being introduced to the podcast. Meaning, our growth specifically drives towards our email list and then at a later point we let folks know about the weekly podcast.

We also post episodes each week on a variety of social media including, Facebook, Instagram etc. and in both my paid and free Facebook group which definitely drives some new folks. I’m sure some folks find us organically via iTunes, etc. but it isn’t something we focus on.

In terms of monetization, in 2018 the podcast “generated” well over 6-figures in measurable sales. This came from two sources:

  1. I often plug our free webinar training at the end of the podcast at CreateAwesomeOnlineCourses.com which leads to trackable sales.
  2. I also often do some light direct selling on the podcast and have a special link for podcast listeners to enroll in Create Awesome Online Courses.

What’s your advice for the business owners out there who are thinking of starting a podcast?

The short answer: this depends — big time! And in many cases, “YES you should totally start a podcast” is awful advice.

Here are a few things to think about:

1. If your goal is to BUILD AN AUDIENCE, there are MUCH more efficient ways than a podcast (not to be covered here, but there are tons).

2. If you have unlimited time and want to do one as a hobby, cool… but if you are reading this, I bet you want it to have some kind of business purpose (and just fun and giggles).

3. If you have this checklist in place, the answer might be yes:

☑ You are clear on your audience and know exactly the types of people you attract and want to attract
☑ You are VERY clear what your business does
☑ You are making sales (funnels and marketing setup…and profitable)
☑ You have systems in place for running your business
☑ There is a clear goal with the show
☑ You have some money to spend. You don’t go from being a business owner to a full-time podcast producer and editor, so you need to outsource.

Where do some podcasters go wrong? How can new podcasters avoid these mistakes?

I’ve seen WAY too many people “start a podcast” and go nowhere. It becomes a distraction from real work, and there’s no clear plan. They interview random people (or even specific people). They think one day it will somehow lead to a business. And a magic audience will appear.

That’s why you want to think carefully about the checklist I mentioned above and how podcasting will fit in with your business.

And here comes one more truth bomb: creating a podcast is relatively easy (when you know what to do). Building a profitable laser-focused business? Much harder. Which is why, unfortunately, you see folks starting a podcast but get confused — a podcast is not a business. While there are a few unicorns who maybe have pulled this off, the reality is, in my strong opinion, a podcast comes maybe later — if at all.


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