Sometimes it's the unexpected things that can truly revolutionize a business.
Two years ago, my CEO Josh Dorkin and I started a simple podcast to teach people about real estate investing. Starting with just a few hundred listeners per week, this free interview-style show has grown to an average of 45,000 weekly downloads. To put that in perspective, this is more than the capacity of most of the Major League Baseball parks in America. In total, the show has been downloaded more than 4.8 million times, and it's growing exponentially every month.
While those number may be astonishing, it's nothing compared to the way the podcast has actually helped BiggerPockets grow, both financially and in membership. In the two years since we started it, nothing (and I mean nothing!) has had a bigger impact on the growth of our company. Here's how.
1. Traffic generation
Let’s cover the obvious one first: Podcasting can help you reach new audiences.
I don’t know exactly where they come from, but I know they come. I’ve asked hundreds of new members to our site, “Where did you first hear about us?”
Seven times out of 10, it’s the same answer: the podcast.
When we launched our show in January of 2012, our total website traffic climbed 46 percent in just two months (and the website was not small to begin with). Of course, not all of that can be attributed to the podcast (January is always big in the real estate investing space) and you can’t necessarily expect the same results, but the data speaks for itself: Podcasts deliver traffic better than almost anything else I’ve encountered.
2. Build real relationships with your audience
"I feel like I really know you, Brandon!"
I hear this line uttered dozens of times each month when I meet with members of our site in the real world -- and I totally get it. After all, before starting my own show, I listened to a hundred hours of Pat Flynn on the Smart Passive Income Podcast, so, of course, when I met Flynn in real life at a conference last year, the first thing to slip out of my mouth was, “I feel like I really know you!”
Podcasts have a way of building relationships without the two parties ever actually interacting. It may be a one-sided medium, but the feeling you get after hours of listening to a person talk is one of friendship.
And the fun part is, when I meet fans of the show, I feel the same way with them. I feel like I really know them. After all, for anyone to put up with a hundred hours of me talking, we must have quite a bit in common.
This connection has helped bring our customers closer, and as a result, we've been able to better understand what they need, so we can develop products that matter to them.
3. Increased conversions
On our site, we offer both a free basic membership as well as access to some pretty nifty tools through our “Pro Membership.” As all good marketers should, we ask each person who upgrades some basic questions to try and determine patterns. One of those questions is simple: "Do you listen to the BiggerPockets Podcast?"
What kind of percentage would you expect to say “yes"?
We’ve discovered that 95 percent of our pro membership upgrades have listened to our podcast. Can you believe that number! Now, we hardly even mention the pro membership on the podcast, so why do podcast listeners convert so well?
I believe it’s because of the trust built through the podcast. When people feel like they really know me, my ability to share the benefits of our pro membership skyrocket. People know that they are not being "sold" but rather "encouraged."
And if you think about it, that makes total sense. After all, would you rather buy something from a friend or a stranger?
3. Better public speaking skills
When I go back and listen to my first few podcast episodes, I cringe. Seriously, it’s pretty painful.
I stumbled around trying to find the right words to say, and you can clearly hear the monotone reading of a pre-planned script whenever I talk. I was terrible. We typically had to stop recording a dozen times each show, making editing a pain.
Today, after 113 shows, nearly every podcast recording is flawless because podcasting is a learned skill. The more you practice, the better you become. But the benefits of podcasting extend far beyond just sitting behind a microphone in my dark office. I've found that my past fear of getting up and speaking in front of crowds has been eliminated.
Today I speak fairly often in front of large groups, and I don't even break a sweat. My palms are dry, and my heart is steady. My public speaking skills have improved tenfold -- due entirely to my experience on the podcast.
4. Direct learning from influencers
Books are fantastic learning tools, but as we all know, they are one-directional. You can learn, but you can’t ask questions directly to the author. And unless you are an influencer yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pick up the phone and chat with “the elite.”
However, as a podcaster, you instantly become part of the media and can ask for exclusive access to pick the brain of any influencer. After all, you are giving the influencer something they desperately need: an audience.
Because of the podcast, I feel comfortable calling up almost anyone to get them on our show and dive into their thoughts and ask them all the questions I had while reading their books. (Donald Trump, if you are reading this, we need to talk!)
In the past few weeks, we’ve had Grant Cardone, author of The 10X Rule, as well as Jay Papasan, co-author of The One Thing -- people who wrote the two most influential books I read last year. In a few weeks we are releasing an interview with David Allen, the productivity genius behind Getting Things Done, and today I’m recording a show with Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited to learn from the master of organizing a business to run like a well-oiled machine.
Talk about drinking straight from the fire hose!
It’s not just famous authors either. I am able to dive into the business strategies of some of the smartest real estate entrepreneurs in the country and learn directly from them in a way that I could never do before. Each week I learn something that helps me grow my own real estate business while forging relationships that will help me grow to reach their level.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever rub shoulders with (and learn directly from) such great men and women, but thanks to the podcast, it’s becoming a daily occurrence.
5. It's just beginning
The final way podcasting can help your business reach new heights may be intangible, but I feel it in every bone in my body: this is just the beginning.
Podcasters today are getting in on the ground floor of a complete shift in the way news, entertainment and education is delivered to consumers.
Podcasting has been growing steadily over the past few years, but I believe podcasting will soon overtake radio as the listening preference for most Americans.
To be honest, the only reason I ever listen to the radio anymore is because I'm too lazy to plug my phone correctly into my car, but as automakers and smartphone makers find better ways to work together, the laziness factor disappears, and podcasts will take off exponentially. Just last week at the Apple "Spring Forward" event, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple's car-integration dashboard, CarPlay, is coming to “every major car brand.” Imagine what that will do for podcasting over the next decade!
The only question is: Do you plan to be a leader in this growing medium or chasing it once the ship has passed?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you have a podcast? Thinking about starting one? Let me know in the comment section and let's talk!
Related: 5 Steps to a Successful Podcast