At least four times per week someone emails me asking why their podcast audience isn't growing. I always reply and ask for a little more info and usually refer them to the free Captivate Podcast Growth Labs because their reply typically frustrates me.
They're usually paying a "podcast coach" to help with their growth.
And that makes me think: if they're paying someone to help, why are they emailing me asking for my help, too?
I'm not a podcast coach. I used to coach people on the business of podcasting a few years ago, but I was never a podcast coach and there really is a difference.
I've been running businesses like Captivate since 2005. My main job here at Captivate is "product owner" wherein I develop ideas, vision and work with the design, engineering, experience and marketing teams on execution.
My experience over the last 16 years in business has given me experience in just that, business. Or more specifically, growing something from nothing.
That sounds a lot like what we're trying to achieve as podcasters, too, doesn't it? We're creating something, refining it and building an audience for it that continues to develop and grow until, at some point, we can make some money from it.
But, growing a podcast is hard. It's hard because podcasting is still a developing market and not every potential listener knows that they can listen to podcasts. It's not like email or SMS marketing, or even Netflix/YouTube and the on-demand video explosion where most of your target audience know that these mediums actually exist.
But, because podcasting IS a growing market, online coaches and people looking to make some money on the side are turning, still, to podcast coaching as a way to bolster their income.
A good coach is vital, too, in any walk of life. I'm a huge fan of passing on earned knowledge and making money from that. In fact, I think that podcast launch coaches can really help people navigate through the potential pitfalls of a podcast launch and that if you feel you need one, you should find a podcast launch coach to help.
If someone has launched a podcast recently with some success, then I believe that it's perfectly fine to sell that very same knowledge to someone who needs help.
What bothers me, though, is when coaches take your hard-earned money and give you nothing in return; when they're selling something that they think they know to people who believe them.
That is wrong.
As someone who works with thousands and thousands of podcasts every day via Captivate, I also get my fair share of coaches coming to me asking for the most basic information on podcasting - even when they're the ones selling podcast coaching.
That is wrong, too.
So, I decided to put together these three warning signs for you so that you can identify whether your podcast coach is taking your money and not giving you anything of quality in return.
1. Your podcast coach once launched a podcast and that's it.
I said it earlier: if someone has launched a podcast, then they can and should sell that base-level knowledge to someone who needs it, but with one caveat: they should be honest about how far they can take you.
The problem comes from a coach over-stretching themselves and pretending that they can take you through podcast launch to growth and monetisation.
Maybe they have a track record in monetising things online and think that translates to podcasting. Sometimes it does, don't get me wrong, but more often than not it's just subtly different enough to not work for you and your podcast.
As an online coach, people often need and want to make as much money from a "lead" as possible. It's easier to up-sell you a podcast growth plan after your launch and give you really high-level information on what you could do than it is to try to find someone new to work on a launch with.
But the knowledge they have in their own field can limit how they think about podcasting and audience growth and in particular, can lead to a feeling of frustration from you six months later when your audience doesn't grow as you've been promised.
Launching a podcast is the most common piece of the puzzle. It's the thing that anyone can do (sometimes with help, sometimes without) whereas growing a podcast's audience is something that few people really learn how to do.
Before you hire a podcast coach, ask them to show you what they have grown and if your coach can only talk to you at launch level, without showing a podcast audience that they have built from scratch then it's time to fire them.
2. They're selling lots of different things, like email training or social media training, when telling YOU to "niche".
Make your mind up coaches. You're teaching people to niche but selling anything and everything to keep up your online business?
Please. Time to get in the sea methinks.
The truth is this: online coaches have to find new ways to make money every day because they trend hop.
They're launching courses about YouTube, social media, growth hacking, meditation, financial freedom, Clubhouse and all sorts of things that mean that they can continue to sell different things to the same people.
All while telling you to "niche down".
Sure, there's an argument for them saying their niche is "self-improvement" or some other broad get out of jail free card, but the fact is that they're telling you to niche because it's what they think they need to say to sound like a pro online coach.
The number of coaches online who create a "podcast launch challenge" and then email me to ask the most basic podcasting questions is embarrassing.
And I say this because my job is to be your own personal BS filter.
If your podcast coach is coaching on five different things and seems to flip and flop to the next trend, it's time to fire them.
How can you possibly stay up to date with podcasting tactics, strategies and technical developments if you're trying to do the same in email marketing, social media, blah blah blah?!
You can't. Your coach can't.
If you need a podcast coach, then get a podcast coach. Someone who lives, breathes and loves podcasting, not someone who sees it as one more trend to sell to their audience.
3. All that you walk away with each time you see the coach is a feeling of motivation, not a clear plan of action.
Most coaches work in the macro, not the micro.
They live in the realm of inspiration and motivation and they want to get you fired up enough, to fill up the tank of goodwill enough so that it sees you through to the next training session with them where they fill the tank again.
But nothing really comes from that in terms of results.
They don't know how to grow a podcast audience so they fire you up with "what could be", they make you feel great about what you're doing (rightly so!) and they give you some broad overview "actions" to undertake that really don't move the needle.
I see this all the time in Facebook groups: a guru makes a comment like "It's all about finding your ideal listener, asking them what they're struggling with and then giving it to them!"
There's nothing wrong with that except that's all they say. They don't tell you how because they don't really know and if they do, they can't be bothered spending the time telling you how because that breaks the "passive income" lifestyle.
But they can fire you up, so you keep paying until you realise that nothing is actually happening.
Of course, there's an impetus on you to do any work that you have been set (that was one of the most frustrating things about coaching people, they didn't implement the action plan that I'd given them) but there's just as much impetus on the coach to give you clear, micro and specific action steps to take - not just a motivational broad strategy or aspirational conversation about what you could achieve.
If your podcast coach makes you feel great but doesn't give you anything to action, it's time for them to leave.
Not all coaches are created equally.
Coaching is a viable way to make money and I'm not bashing all coaches or the good podcast coaches.
What I am trying to do is to help you identify those good ones and to tell them apart from the bad ones, because you shouldn't invest money in something that sucks.
Your next steps
I teach podcasting a lot, and usually for free. So, here's what I'd recommend you do next:
P.S. you can start engaging with your listeners using AWeber. It's free, no credit card required: Mark.Live/Email
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Straight-talking podcast growth tutorials for the busy podcaster
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