536 episodes | 520K+ downloads

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How to Build a Loyal Community through Podcasting – @gspn
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Cliff-RavenscraftBuilding an audience to ensure your podcast is successful is a no brainer. But how you choose to go about that can make all the difference between getting a few random downloads or getting a dedicated audience of listeners waiting with baited breath for each new episode that they loyally download and listen to from start to finish every time.

Your goal should be to find those dedicated listeners that you know will anticipate every new episode – and hopefully – are excited enough to engage with you in the form of feedback. But how do you build that trust and loyalty within your audience? You start by providing them with the most valuable content you can, and then initiate and foster a sense of community and reciprocity where they feel inclined to offer the same to you.

Cliff Ravenscraft is the “Podcast Answer Man”, a highly respected podcasting consultant and coach at the top of his game. The best and biggest names in podcasting have studied and learned under Cliff’s tutelage and gone on to become some of the most respected and revered names in podcasting today.


Rich: In December 2005 Cliff Ravenscraft, together with his wife Stephanie, founded the Generally Speaking Production Network (gspn.tv). Since then, he has produced over 3,200 of his very own podcast episodes dedicated to Entertainment, Family, Faith, Business and Technology.

In December 2006, Cliff launched PodcastAnswerMan.com where he has since helped thousands of individuals and organizations launch succesful podcasts through one-on-one consulting/coaching and through his Podcasting A to Z online training course. If you were to look at the top 100 podcasts in the business category of iTunes, more than 50 of these shows were created by clients who worked with Cliff. Cliff, it is an honor and a pleasure to have you on the podcast today.

Cliff: Rich, thank you so much man. It’s an honor to be here, I’m glad we had this opportunity to connect.

Rich: You really are like the Godfather of podcasting. The list of people who have studied under you, taken your courses, and you and hired you as a consultant. People like Amy Porterfield, Mike Stelzner and some of the biggest names today all have basically studied underneath your expert tutelage.

Cliff: It’s a little humbling to me, personally. It has been a tremendous blessing in my life to just have this journey where I was in the right place at the right time and have had the privilege of having successful people consistently refer and recommend me to their successful, wonderful friends. It’s been a journey that I don’t know that I could have ever engineered it, but I’m very honored to be in the position where I am to say that’s true.

Rich: I read through your bio and I read through also your “About” page on your website and a lot of the stuff there – and so if people want to dig a little bit deeper into your history we’ll include those links in the show notes – but you took a passion you had with the TV show Lost and you turned it into a hobby of podcasting, and then you turned that into a business. I’m sure along the way you’ve worked with a lot of people who have established traditional businesses, now what advice do you have for someone with a business that is considering adding podcasting to the rest of their marketing mix?

Cliff: One of the things that I can tell you is that having an audio podcast – and I specifically target or focus on the audio podcasting, not the video side – but I believe that having an audio podcast can be one of the most effective tools for building rapport and trust from a loyal fanbase of your customers or potential customers.

The reason for this is because the average podcast listener will typically consume every, single moment of a 20, 30 or even 60 minute podcast episode without even questioning whether or not they’re going to listen to the whole thing. When they hit “play” on a show that they have subscribed to, they already know in their mind how long the episode is because they see before they hit the play button how long this episode is. But when they hit that “play” button, they intend to listen to the entire thing.

So I recommend that the best format for a show is a weekly format. There are arguments that can be made for other formats, but I believe once a week, every week giving a new piece of content for your audience to listen to. And let’s just assume that that piece of content is 30 minutes every single week. What other digital platform is out there where an audience of people will intentionally listen to you every, single week for 30 minutes every week without fail? And I can’t think of another platform out there that allows that.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense. It also brings up another questions though – and maybe you’ve heard this – people think that sounds great if they have those passionate podcast listeners, but how do I know if my customers and prospects actually listen to podcasts?

Cliff: Well one of the things you could do, it sounds to me like you’re asking this hypothetical question, it would be a company that already has some customers and possible prospects that they reach out to. They have a mailing list, for example. And one of the things you can do is just do a poll of those people that you currently have, do a survey asking how many listen to podcasts and would they be interested in a podcast from us.

The other thing, though, is to create an audience. This is what happens for most businesses and people who are out there They don’t literally start with an audience of loyal fans that are absolutely dying to get their new content. Instead they typically start with maybe 50, 100 or maybe 200 subscribers if they’re lucky and they build that.

What happens though in business, I find that with some traditional marketing – in the digital, traditional sense – a lot of businesses are used to tracking ROI on unique number of visitors on the site, what’s the bounce ratio and click through numbers on links to certain actions and everything is real traceable.

However, when it comes to the podcast audience those things are not as easily traced. You’re not going to be able to put a link in there that all of a sudden people are going to click on. You can do some creative things like use a plugin called Pretty Link, for example, where you can say, “Go to podcastanswerman.com/[insert keyword]”, and you automatically have that link forward you to somewhere else, and then that can give you some stats on how many people did that. But it’s not as easily traceable, and the other thing is that when you think about numbers on websites, people are like, “60,000 unique visitors, 100,000 unique visitors, 150,000 unique visitors”, they list these big, large numbers and then all of a sudden they create a podcast and they’ve invested all this money and equipment and time into learning how to do this production and after the first 3 months they have 300 subscribers. It doesn’t make sense to them. And then not only that, they can’t even tell if they’re doing anything.

One of the things that I try to get business owners to understand is that when you have 300 people who are listening to your show, that is 300 people who are giving you 30 minutes of influence in their lives every single week. You’ll find with a podcast audience you can trace your episode downloads.

And by the way, you’ll hear a lot of people talk about download numbers and how many downloads per month and all of those things. In my mind there’s only one statistic that matters, and that is how many downloads per episode. Because what you’ll do is you’ll see – let’s say over the last 15 episodes – you should start to see that the number of people who have downloaded each episode is going up over time. And if you take the most recent 5 episodes – add those numbers together and divide it by 5 – you’ve got an average number of people who are listening to each episode.

So you know that when you publish that next episode, this many people can be expected to download this episode. And those are typically going to be the same people week after week. And this goes all the way back to when I was listening to a podcast back in my hobby days and I was just listening to other people’s shows. I’ll never forget one I was listening to and all of a sudden they had this advertiser and I was surprised by this ad in this podcast. Podcasts typically back then did not have advertisers. So I just listened to it and didn’t pay any attention. And then all of a sudden I listened to it the next week and it wasn’t until the 6th or 7th week in a row that all of a sudden I thought, “I’m going to go check that out.”

And that’s what happens. What happens is that host of that show had gained my rapport and my trust and they got me into such a place where I am so compelled because of the relationship that has formed between me and this host, so much value has been given to me, now reciprocity is kicking in and I want to do something in return. And that’s what a podcast allows you to do, it allows you to showcase your area of expertise, to share your knowledge, your ability to add value to lives. And once you’ve demonstrated that, that’s how you earn – I believe – a lifelong loyal fan to your business.

Let’s just say you have 300 podcast subscribers, you might think what’s that compared to 30,000 people who are unique visitors on my website. Well, you’ve got to think about how many people are bouncing off of there, and even the people who say what’s the average length of time they’re staying on your website. Three minutes? And how many people are returning consistently over and over again, whereas with a podcast your numbers may be lower initially starting out, but what you find is that the amount of influence and potential ability to serve and benefit the lives of those people and turn these folks into longtime raving fans of your business. Does that make sense, Rich?

Rich: It makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting because we seem to be moving from a time when people are just about the numbers, to what’s the value of the individual person that I’m working with right here. I get a decent amount of traffic at my own website, but when I go into the stats I get what I now refer to as “yik yak” traffic. And “Yik Yak” is this app where people can write things anonymously on it and I did a TV episode where I talked about it. Everybody who’s Googling YikYak comes upon that post and we get an insane amount of traffic. That traffic basically reads that one post, leaves, and never comes back to my website. That has zero value to me – except that it’s a burden on the server – compared to the people that sit there and listen to my podcast and actually get to know me and get to know my guests at 20, 30, 40 minutes at a time week in and week out. So I think there is a lot of value there.

Cliff: Exactly, and to give you an example of this, two years after I decided to podcast as a hobby I made the decision to leave my career in insurance after 11 years and pursue podcasting as my full time career. And one of the things that I did was I launched a podcast called, Podcast Answer Man. In this podcast, each week I would answer people’s questions that they had relating to podcasting and how it can help you take you message, your business and your life to a whole new level, because that’s what it had done for me. I wanted to be able to see other people experience that in their lives.

So week after week I’m creating all this content, and at the same time I wanted to generate income for myself through my business of podcast consulting. Back in the early days I did not have a large audience back then and did not have a ton of content in the archives yet. But back then what happened was people would refer people to me and they would reach out to me and say, “So and so referred me to you. Can you tell me about why I should hire you, what packages do you have?” And in those early days I would be fighting to try to convince people to hire me.

That was an ongoing process, whereas today, I don’t have to do that at all. In fact, what happens today is I get emails every, single week like this: “I found you as a result of a Google search about 3 months ago, since then I’ve listened to over 50 episodes of your podcast.” And by the way, my shoes are approximately an hour. So they listened to me for about 50 hours speaking great value into their life and they want to hire me. Usually what that means now, the only way you can hire me for coaching and consulting at this moment in time for podcasting, is through a course that I do called, Podcasting A-Z, which is $3,000. So here’s what that equates to, “I found you 3 months ago, I’ve listened to 50 hours of your voice, I’m now ready to hand you $3,000.”

Rich: That’s a pretty good investment.

Cliff: Yeah.

Rich: So as I was reading through your page – because this all leads up to another question that I had – I was reading through your “About” page and you talk a lot about building community with podcasting. Of all the content and social platforms that are out there today, sometimes to me podcasts seem like the most removed from that type of interaction.

I’ve been out places and someone will come up to me and say, “Oh, you do that podcast, I love you, You got me to Buffalo and back home, I never listen to anything else, I binge listen to you all the time, I love your show.” I definitely hear this occasionally, but I don’t hear it all that much, people aren’t leaving comments, It’s difficult to leave comments on a podcast and I sometimes struggle with the whole community side of the podcast. So what advice can you give me or any other podcaster who has a show but doesn’t actually feel like they’re getting the feedback from their listeners that they wish they were? 

Cliff: Number one, it takes time. We’re talking months, sometimes, before you even get the very first piece of feedback. The one thing I would encourage people to do is not to beg for it or try to bribe people to do it. You’re not going to believe this, Rich, but I literally have heard people say, “If you send us some feedback we’re going to do a drawing and some lucky person is going to get a gift certificate to Amazon or a free this or that. You don’t need to do any of that stuff. What you need to do is number one, make sure that you’re creating extremely valuable content for your target audience.

Number two, understand that it is difficult to provide feedback for a podcast listener. That may sound crazy because how do most people consume a podcast today, it’s usually on their smartphone which is a communications device. Well you would think that it would be easy but the reality is when people are listening to podcasts, what I have found is…well let me ask you, Rich, real quickly. When you’re listening to podcasts, what kind of activities are you doing?

Rich: I’m either driving or on the elliptical trainer or mowing the lawn.

Cliff: Ok, I do the elliptical and the driving and also the dishes, I don’t mow the lawn anymore. Now all of those activities that we just mentioned we can be listening to every single syllable of everything you’re saying to us in your podcast, taking in all that full value and we can still be completely focused on the task that we’re doing. It doesn’t take any mental capacity away from us to be able to do the dishes or the motion on the elliptical, to drive out car or to push the lawnmower.

However, here’s the deal. You may say something that makes us think, “I want to provide feedback” or “I want to sign up for that mailing list”, and we decide as a listener we’re going to do that. But then all of a sudden we’re driving down the road and what happens? A car cut us off and we had to honk our horn and avoided a collision just by a thread and our heart is beating and it takes us a few moments to calm down and we’re still listening to the podcast that’s going on. By the time we get to where we’re going, we forgot about the fact that we were going to sign up for that free gift or sign up for your mailing list. We forgot that we were going to send you that email or call in and leave you that voicemail feedback. Because other things happened and because we couldn’t at that very moment in time that we had the initial thought to provide you the feedback. It’s not because your audience doesn’t want to, it is just inconvenient to send you feedback. So what you will have to do is you’ll have to build so much rapport and trust and reciprocity with your audience.

And what reciprocity is – I love this term – it has had such a massive effect in my own life and business, but reciprocity is whatever you give to others, they’ll desire to give back to you. Rich, I don’t know about you but I was picked on when I was a kid in school, I was that little fat kid.

Rich: I was the little scrawny kid, so I feel your pain.

Cliff: So did you ever have anybody physically try to harm you or hit you or they did something to you?

Rich: It’s probably been since 5th grade, but yes, there were those moments.

Cliff: Ok, and in those moments did you or did you not want to physically go back at them? Whether you did or not or had the courage to, but did you have a desire to?

Rich: Cliff, I’m embarrassed to say I sometimes still do.

Cliff: Ok. Now did you want to do exactly as much, or did you want to do more than what they did?

Rich: I probably wanted to do at least as much as they did.

Cliff: At least as much and probably more.

Rich: I needed to teach those bullies a lesson.

Cliff: Exactly. That is the negative aspect of reciprocity. That is a human nature thing, and I think that everybody that’s listening to ur voice, they know that they identify with that. The same is true with adding value to people’s lives. So when somebody gives you a gift, oftentimes you’re like, wow, I don’t feel obligated, but I feel some kind of desire to find ways to give a gift back when it’s appropriate to do so.

And so what happens is it’s kind of like when you’re adding value, adding value, there comes some point in time where people say, “Ok, I’ve got to do something to give value back.” It’s just human nature whether people know it’s there or if it’s subconscious, there’s going to come a place and time where they will eventually say, “I’m going to respond to that call to action.” So if you continue to ask for feedback and tell people how valuable that is to you, then you’ll eventually get it. So it’s going to take time. Realize that it takes reciprocity, this trust, this relationship that’s going to be built over time, but it will happen. And when it does start happening, then there are a couple things that I want you to do.

Number one, never respond with a period. Always respond with a response that ends with a question mark. So if all of a sudden somebody sends you the first piece of feedback and they say, “Hey Rich, I love your show, I listened to you nonstop on this road trip, you kept me company the entire time and I’ve listened to your show ever since. I’ve been meaning to tell you for months but today it’s happened. Rich, I love your show.” And Rich, you could write back and say, “Wow, that makes my day! I’m so honored to know that you’re out there. Thank you so much, I hope you have a very blessed New Year’s celebration.” Period. That’s what you could do However, I want to suggest that you never end with a period but instead always end with a question mark.

You can still say all of those things, “I hope you’re having a good session setting goals for the new year. What’s your #1 goal that you look to accomplish in 2016?” Question mark. Always ask them a question, because what happens is you have this opportunity now to make this relationship not just a one way relationship where they’re hearing from you all the time, but now all of a sudden you can make it a two way relationship where they actually feel like you value them, not just as a listener but as a human being who you can interact with.

So ask them questions. Get to know them, develop what I consider to be a resource tree of community. I’ve never used that language before, so bear with me.

Rich: We’ll do it together.

Cliff: So what I’d like to do – and I don’t actually do this physically – create a spreadsheet and create certain columns: first name, last name, email address, personal detail #1, personal detail #2. “Rich Brooks – email address is this – personal detail #1: I met him at New Media Expo for the first time, seems like a great guy – personal detail #2: he’s got this marketing podcast. Those are 2 things I know about Rich Brooks and I’m going to keep and log that information. Now as I ask you more questions and we interact back and forth, I’m going to build the amount of information I know about you. I’m going to learn about what hometown you’re in, I’m going to learn about what your hobbies are, what your passions are, the goals that you have. Over time I can build this resource of information with things I know about Rich Brooks.

And then what happens is if I do that for you, but I also do that for other people who respond to me eventually, then I know that about them and all of a sudden you tell me your goal is to achieve X, well I know somebody that has a product that they’re getting ready to launch that deals with this exact thing, I’d love to connect the two of you and offer to make an email introduction.

A hypothetical situation is somebody can tell me that they’re really struggling right now but my podcast really really encouraged them. And I could write back and say, “I’m thrilled to hear that my podcast was an encouragement to you. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a difficult season of life. Would you mind sharing what’s going on, maybe I can pray for you?” And the person could write back and say, “Well, my mom has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I’m going to have to leave my job and move back home to be with her.” And all of a sudden they tell you where there hometown is and I might know somebody who happens to run a team of women who are supporting each other with moms who have Alzheimer’s. Could you imagine if I could make the connection and connect those dots for people? And that’s the kind of things that I’ve been doing over the last 10 years of building my audience is getting to know who they are.

I’m not as into it as creating a spreadsheet, but I do have this thing called Highrise.  Highrise is a Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM). When I do get new information about somebody I will go into my notes and just write little blurbs like, “we talked about x” or “this person is going through this”, and I am able to go in every now and then and do a keyword search.

Rich: It’s really funny because as you were talking about the spreadsheet I was like, “Ugh, I’m so against spreadsheets”, but I could see doing this in Highrise, which is the exact software we use here at flyte.

Cliff: Exactly. I say “spreadsheet” because the column idea is very easy. First name, last name, email address, and then as many personal details you can fill in as possible. Get to know your audience.

Rich: You’re starting this with your podcast, which is your platform. As you create more and more value, people feel that reciprocity to reach out to you, to thank you, whatever that may be, and that’s when you begin a relationship with them. And then – if I understand correctly – by occasionally stitching 2 members of your community – or your audience – together, you’re really building a community. 

Cliff: That is exactly it, and that is the best form of community. But there are other forms as well and I would love to build on that. So the idea when you’re creating a podcast, guess what you’re doing? You’re probably focusing on a particular target demographic of audiences, a specific niche. For example before we hit the “record” button today, Rich, you were very kind to give me a little clue into who your audience was so I knew who you were speaking to.

So even with your own show, you have a particular type of group of people who share a lot of the same interests, whether they be business owners or digital marketers, people are pretty much interested and aligned around around some of the same interests who are listening to their show. So what you could do is you could create online areas of community, you could create a private Facebook group where you could discuss the main themes and topics in this show.

Obviously your audience is interested in your particular topics – otherwise they wouldn’t be listening – and chances are they would probably love to have the occasional interaction and direct interaction and engagement with you. But also if you could allow them to just come in and introduce themselves in a private Facebook group that you facilitate and allow them to introduce each other, they’ll start having conversations. Rich, I did this and I will tell you there are two people who are married today as a result of meeting each other in an online forum I created around the television show, Lost.

Rich: That’s excellent.

Cliff: And not only that but there is a team of women – four ladies in four different states – who met each other in that same online forum who went on to record three years of weekly podcasts episodes every single week around different television shows and it was called, Girls Night In Radio. So these people’s lives, they become best friends and never knew each other and all of a sudden years later they’re best friends. And those people would have never met had I not created that online forum years ago.

Another thing that you can do is create meetups. When you go to conferences – obviously your podcast is perfect for this – I imagine you’re going to be at Social Media Marketing World, right?

Rich: I hope to.

Cliff: Ok, so if you’re going there why not let your audience know. It seems to me your audience would be a perfect audience that would be interested in Social Media Marketing World, so you could host some sort of get together. Even if it’s just letting people know you’ll be sitting at the bar at this time at this hotel, and if you’re going to be available from 7-9pm, come by and we’ll chat. You just never know what will happen as a result of that. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve had meetups where we’ve had 170 of my listeners show up.

Rich: That’s fantastic. That’s great stuff and a great way of continuing to build, starting with the podcast, but continuing to build your community where the podcast is the starting point.

Cliff: Exactly. And what’s interesting is today Podcast Answer Man has gotten me to the place where here I am a guy in Northern Kentucky – just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio – ten years ago I created a podcast on my livingroom floor with $45 in equipment and 10 years later there are 1.5 million people in this world where if you were to talk about the topic of podcasting, my name would come up in the conversation because they would bring it up. 1.5 million people in the world would associate my name with podcasting. The interesting thing is my podcast today has less than 10,000 subscribers. I have 430 episodes and less than 10,000 subscribers, but I have a business that generates over a half million dollars in revenue and I also have 1.5 million people in the world who associate me as one of the top consultants and coaches in the world of podcasting. That’s what a podcast has done for me.

Rich: Not only that, that a lot of those people are also at the top of their game in podcasting or other places. And one of the themes that I kind of recognized on this show is as I interview these people – including people like yourself – who are at the top of their professions, one of the things that they always do is they find the best people in the field to either take consulting or coaching classes from so that they can speed up their own learning. And so many people in our industry who are not necessarily podcasters turn to you so they can speed up their own learning to become professional podcasters.

Cliff: Yeah, I’ve been very honored to work with some of the people that you mentioned, Michael Hyatt, Dan Miller – author of 48 Days To The Work You Love – Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, John Lee Dumas was a member of my Mastermind for a year before he launched his podcast. I’ve been very blessed to work with a lot of people.

Rich: Well, you’ve definitely changed the face of podcasting. If people want to learn more about you, to maybe take a look at the courses that you offer and check out some of the podcasts you’re doing, where can we send them?

Cliff: The homebase for everything that I’m doing is podcastanswerman.com, and you’ve gotten a little bit of a glimpse of who I am here in this episode, but I really encourage you to check out one or two episodes of the most recent episodes of Podcast Answer Man. Just randomly pick 2 episodes and that will really give you a good flavor of who I am and where my heart is in this world.

Rich: Awesome. Cliff, thank you very much again for your time today.

Cliff: Rich, thank you for the opportunity to let me get some exposure with your valuable community and I wish them all success in whatever digital marketing efforts that they choose to go after.

Rich: Thanks.

Show Notes:

  • Find out everything you ever wanted to know about the illustrious Cliff Ravenscraft at his website.
  • If you were excited about Cliff’s advice on podcasting and are interested in studying under his expert coaching, check out his online consulting program.
  • Check out a few episodes of Cliff’s popular podcast.
  • If you’re interested in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that both Cliff and Rich use that was mentioned in this episode, you can learn more about that here.
  • Cliff is also on Twitter, go follow him and mention you heard him on the Agents Of Change Podcast!AOCP-FB-Cliff-Ravenscraft-470pxAOCP-FB-Cliff-RavenscraftAOCP-FB-Cliff-Ravenscraft