John Corcoran | Secrets of Podcast Marketing

Adam LeanPodcast

John Corcoran is a lawyer turned podcaster and podcast guru who found that his broadcasts served as a great source for clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and other benefits in his career and life.

Now, with his agency Rise 25, John teaches B2B businesses how to use a podcast as a marketing tool that brings in more clients, referral partners, and strategic partners.

John talks not only about the technical details but also shares some surprising insights for making this medium work at bringing in more, better-quality leads. We get into detail on that, including…

  • Who to invite as a guest – and how to get them on your show
  • The psychology behind podcast-related referrals
  • The easy way to start your podcast
  • Why the size of your audience doesn’t matter
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to find and connect with your ideal customers. We’re going to talk to a podcasting expert on how you can get more clients through your own podcast. This is P is for Profit.

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is John Corcoran. He’s an attorney, writer and author and he also owns Rise 25, where his mission is to make the world a smaller place by creating connections. And he does that by helping business owners connect with their ideal clients. John, welcome to the show.

John Corcoran: Adam, thanks so much for having me.

Adam: I am so excited to talk with you because you have a pretty interesting background. You were a speechwriter for Bill Clinton, right?

John: Yeah, so I was a writer in presidential letters and messages, which is part of the writing team at the White House. We kind of, we wrote everything the speechwriters didn’t want to write. So we wrote video messages, proclamations. There’s a lot of stuff that comes under the President’s pen. So yeah. 

Adam: And also for the governor of California.

John: I was a speechwriter for the governor of California, and I also, I actually was a White House intern before that meant anything in the Clinton White House many, many years ago in the speechwriting office. So that was how I got my start, actually, you know, working with the speechwriters there. And that was a really cool experience.

Adam: Okay, and so, now you own an agency that helps business owners create a podcast so they can make connections, which basically is a way for them to, when we boil it down, a way for them to get clients or customers.

John: Absolutely, I mean, you know, there’s only so many people that can be Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss or Mark Marin or, you know, one of these big podcasters that all have been doing it for 10 years and get a ton of downloads. And these days, you know, big companies have gotten into the game. And, you know, ESPN, NPR, CBS, and big media companies that they don’t have businesses behind them, they generate revenue from ads and sponsorships and things like that. And so they have one way of generating revenue from a podcast and that’s from downloads and ads. 

You know, and so it’s hard to compete in that area. But what we do is we help b2b businesses to think more strategically and to use a podcast for many, many other things because there’s a lot of other ways in which you can derive value for your business. It can be a great source for clients, but it can great source for strategic partnerships, referrals, it can be a great source of personal professional development. You can get free coaching, free, you know, knowledge gain. 

You know, it’s invaluable to be able to talk to virtually anyone and ask them questions that you’re curious about and get an answer. And that’s just tremendous, in addition to the network effect of being able to build your network and connect with different people. And so  I’m a huge, huge advocate of the medium. I’m an evangelist for the medium. And I tell everyone that, you know, it provides tremendous benefits to you if you do it right.

Adam: Yeah, I mean, I agree. It’s evidence of the fact that I have a podcast. But so let’s back up. How did you get into this? Like, how did you go from speechwriter to the White House to this?

From White House Speechwriter to Podcast Evangelist

John: Yeah. And actually, you know, naturally, since in my background is of writing, I did a lot of writing. So I’ve written for Forbes and Business Insider and all these different places. And what I found is that it was really time-consuming to use those tools. I would not write that many articles. And I was using it basically as a networking tool, kind of like a podcast. But eventually, I realized that doing a podcast was a much more effective way of building more relationships in the amount of time that you have. 

And so what, the way I actually started was 10 years ago, I was practicing law here in the San Francisco Bay Area in Silicon Valley. And I had a good client who came to me. And it turns out, he hired me for a tiny little matter but I researched him and he’d started businesses that have gone public, become household names. And so I was like, I really want this guy to become a better client. 

So I said, kind of on a whim, can I have 20 minutes of your time? I’d love to interview you over the phone. I’ll record it, I’ll publish it on the web. I didn’t even know how to do any of those things. But I did. And then when it was over, he was like, Hey, that was a lot of fun. Can you help me with some other stuff? Maybe you can help me with this thing and this other thing. And I was like, Well, sure. And, you know, I’m no dummy so I was like, Well, I’m gonna start doing that again. 

So, you know, flash forward 10 years later, I continue to do it and I do it because it’s the highest and best use of my time. Few things that you do in your business are simultaneously, business development, referral marketing, strategic partnerships. personal and professional development. All of which doubles as content marketing. And so I say to the busiest of executives, like, you know, look, there’s a reason why billionaires like Reed Hoffman are out there doing podcasts. 

He’s a busy guy. There’s plenty things that he has on his plate that he can be doing otherwise, but he’s doing podcasts because if he reaches out to someone who’s a peer of his or slightly above him, below him, whatever, someone he wants to connect with, oftentimes, it’s difficult to get other busy professionals to carve time out of their day to do a call. But if you’re doing it for the purposes of creating content, people are more persuaded to do it. So that’s a big reason why podcasts can be quite so effective. 

Adam: Yeah. So you sort of touched on why, you know, why somebody should start a podcast. But, you know, like Tim Ferriss, the Joe Rogan’s of the world, they have a podcast almost as a product like you mentioned. They get advertisers because the product’s the podcast itself. But what you’re saying, the podcast is to be used to promote your other product, your business, in a sense. So I guess why start a, why should somebody listening start a podcast?

John: Yeah, I mean, you know, a lot of people compare themselves or they want to be like a Tim Ferriss, or Joe Rogan, or something like that. And first of all, folks like that have been doing it for a long time. Both Joe Rogan and Tim Ferriss, and many other people already had big communities and audiences and followings going into doing a podcast. So they had that carryover. And also that, you know, they found ways to generate revenue from ads and downloads and sponsorships. 

So they don’t need to create other sources of revenue or they don’t have other businesses that maybe in some cases, they do, but it doesn’t, it’s not a primary driver. So for many of the people that we work with, they have an existing business. They’re looking for more clients, they’re looking for more high-quality referrals. In these times of COVID, we’re recording this in late September 2020, you know, and everyone’s kind of still stuck at home, it’s hard to build valuable, meaningful relationships from a distance if people are in different cities, or if we can’t gather and networking events, or if you can’t go to conferences. 

So a lot of people that used to get a lot of leads from attending conferences, or events or stuff like that are finding that they can’t do that. So the podcast is a way for you connect and build relationships with people, even if like you and I, you’re far apart from one another, you can do it using something like a Zoom or an Uber conference or something like that, virtually. 

And it’s, you know, it’s not quite the same thing as being face to face, but it can lead to being face to face, you know? Like, for example, you know, I interviewed the president and CEO of YPO. YPO is a 27,000 member global organization where everyone is an eight-figure business owner or, you know, or above, CEO, or president of that type of organization. And we clicked. We got along really well. 

And then the next time he came to San Francisco, I hosted a dinner in his honor with another one of my guests. She co-hosted it with me, hosted it at her home. She even covered the catering bill. And it was just a wonderful evening, a great group of people. And it was a great way to go from something virtual over your computer to hanging out face to face and getting to know each other a little bit better. And that’s the type of thing that I think is a really savvy use of a podcast.

Adam: Yeah, I completely agree. I mean, the relationship-building aspect is amazing. What are the biggest mistakes that you see that people that have a podcast make?

The Biggest Mistakes Podcasters Make

John: So, man, someone just asked me this a couple of days ago. One is pursuing a download strategy. You know, thinking that it’s all about the downloads or thinking it’s all about the subscribers when really it’s not, or at least that’s overcomable. You don’t need to have a ton of downloads, in part because podcasts are, it’s kind of a big black box, Apple is half the downloads out there and they don’t release their download numbers. So people don’t know how many downloads you get. So a lot of people lie about it. 

A lot of people don’t tell the truth. But also you can establish social proof in alternative ways, maybe with your own personal credibility or something like that. So that’s a big one. Another mistake that people make is, you know, it’s, thinking it’s only really about the equipment. You know, they spend 12 hours researching what microphone they’re gonna buy, what software they’re gonna use to record. And instead, it’s really more about the relationship. 

They don’t spend any time thinking through like, Who are the people that I’m going to use to uplevel my network? Because over the course of a year, two years of doing a podcast, the people that you interview are going to influence how your network grows. So you really want to think deliberately about Okay, who are the people I want to be delivering value to using the podcast? So you want to really kind of think that through in advance. So that’s another big mistake people make. Just thinking about the equipment, not really thinking about the network. 

And then also not using the right strategy too. You know, there’s a number of different pieces to strategy, everything from how you reach out to the guests and you position yourself to how you communicate with the guests to making them feel great. You, for example, I mean, you know, credit to you, you sent me a mug beforehand with a nice thing in the mail and instructions on how to be a podcast guest. And, you know, that’s a great thing to do. You know, you have your guests walk away warm and fuzzy. You know, I don’t, I’m not saying that you have to do that every time. 

That can get expensive. You know, but if you do something like that where you sit, you give them clear instructions, they know what to expect, then that can make a big impact. And then also, another big factor is what you do after the interview too. You know, how do you keep that relationship going further? And it’s never going to be that, you know, never in life does 100% of the people that you meet become, you know, 100%, a client or referral partner or strategic partner, but for some who you think there’s the potential for that, you should explore how else can we take this further. Immediately after the interview is a great time to do that. 

But also beyond that, you know, how are you going to keep that relationship going forward? I’m a big fan of introductions. And having done a podcast for many years, I have a pretty big network as it is. So I love introducing my past guests to other guests because chances are, there’s two people that I’ve interviewed that really would benefit from knowing one another. So that’s another big mistake is not thinking about how you’re going to take this thing further, use the right strategy and then continue to deepen those relationships with the ones who you should be deepening relationships with. 

Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. It’s almost with anything, the more you give, the more you’ll get. But you first have to give and that will allow people to trust you and like you. And then they’ll start giving you back in the form of clients or referrals or whatnot. 

The Principle of Reciprocity

John: Yes. And what you point out is really, it’s the principle of reciprocity. You know, if you’ve read, Influenced by Dr. Robert Cialdini writes about this, you know, the value and the importance of that. And the thing I think a lot of people don’t realize they think that asking someone to be a guest on your podcast is inconveniencing them or that they’re doing you a favor. That’s not true. You’re doing them a favor. 

Even if you don’t have a huge audience, you’re taking time out of your day to promote that person. And so that leverages the principle of reciprocity in your favor because that person then who, you know, is going to be motivated to repay the favor in some way. And I discovered that early on when I was practicing law, you know, people would start referring. 

After they were a guest on my show, they would start sending me referrals or they would become a client. You know, those sorts of benefits came my way. Now I talk to people all the time who were like, Oh, I, you know, I don’t want to have my own podcast, I don’t want to do the work. I just want to be a guest on other podcasts. Now, the thing is, when your guests on the podcast, instead of you accumulating a bunch of goodwill and people owing you favors, you owe them favors technically, right? You owe them favors because they’re promoting you. 

So you need to, so then I’ve had people where I’ve been a guest on their show, they come back around and they want me to scratch their back afterwards, right? You know, so you have to think about that. The other major significant difference between going out and being a guest and other podcasts, which I love doing, I’m enjoying doing it right now, right? I enjoy doing that. But the thing you should think about is that when you have your own show, you decide how your network grows. When you’re a guest on other shows, others are in control of how your network is going. 

And I don’t know about you, but I want to take control of my own personal destiny. I don’t want others to determine what my network of relationships looks like because as you well know, it’s all about who you know. And so having your own show, doing your own podcast, if you delegate the work off your plate so you’re focusing on the highest best use your time, which is using the podcast as a tool to connect and deepen relationships, then you are controlling your destiny. You’re controlling how your network grows.

Adam: Hmm, yeah, no, that’s a good point. And it’s actually going to be one of my questions is there’s a lot of podcasting agencies that promote, you know, why go through the hassle and the expense of setting up your own podcast? Just leverage other people’s audiences on their podcasts.

John: Right. And I think that’s great to do that. You know, I’ve made great friendships and connections by being a guest on other people’s shows. But I think that they are opposite sides of the same coin. I think it really benefits you. I mean, for example, I was on one of the Shark Tank podcasts last year and the reason that I got on it was because I invited the co-host of that show to be a guest on my show and they reciprocated. So having your own show will get you on to higher caliber shows.

Adam: Yeah, I agree. Makes sense. Let’s talk about content. What do you say to, let’s say that somebody listening owns a small manufacturing plant. What would, and they’re probably thinking, Okay, this sounds great. What am I going to talk about?

A Framework for Podcast Hosting

John: Right. Yeah. So people often struggle with that. They think, like, I’m not gonna be able to come up with anything, even when they have, you know, 15, 20 years experience in their world, right? And they’re gonna be probably on the podcast. It’s not like they’re interviewing, you know, someone from a completely different industry that they have nothing to talk about with, you know?

Like, chances are who you’re going to be interviewing on your show, is, you know, someone that is in your same field or you’re going to be talking about this, you know, something related to what you’ve been doing for many years. So, you know, oftentimes, I think people think that they’re not going to be able to find things to talk about on a podcast, but it’s not that hard. Especially from an interviewer’s perspective, you know, you can come up with, it’s good to have a framework or a structure to go off of. 

So, you know, my business partner and I, we both, between the two of us, we’ve been doing it for 20 years and we created a 50-page document that we give to our clients that has kind of a framework, an outline, to help them guide them through it. And that helps, but then when it comes to the actual questions that you ask, you know, we, you know, we give our clients a list of questions to ask, but most of them don’t need it, honestly. 

Because, you know, just like you, you know, I mean, you know finances. You know how to make a business profitable. You know how to talk to a business owner about their numbers, their p&l, their cash flow statement, all that kind of stuff. You know it like the back of your hand. So, I find that it’s actually less of a challenge than most people think going in. People are able to ask educated questions. And then usually after you’ve been doing it for a while, you’ve got certain go-to questions that you come back to again and again.

Adam: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think a lot of people underestimate the value that they have. Like you said, that person has 20 years’ worth of experience. That person probably thinks well, who, you know, because they’re an expert at it, they understand it so well, it’s is easy to think that other people do as well, but they don’t. They have something valuable that they could share with the world and share with other podcast guests.

John: Yeah, and that’s a whole nother, that’s a great point, is, you know, the listener, so, you know, there’s different benefits here. There’s the benefit to you and your business, personally, of having a conversation with an intelligent guest, building, relationship, all that kind of stuff. But from a content perspective, from the perspective of the content you’re going to be creating. I think people do minimize the amount of knowledge that they have often or the experience that they have and they don’t realize how valuable that can be for the audience. 

What I encourage people to do, though, is to not just think from a content perspective because I talk to people all the time and they just think I just want to create good content. That’s great. Cool. That’s great. There’s millions of podcasts out there, right? You can go create great content, it’s not enough. It’s not a if you build it, they will come type of approach. And I think a lot of people take that when it comes to podcasting and you got to be better than that. You got to be smarter than that.

Adam: In terms of how to get started, so let’s say that somebody is listening and they think all right, this sounds great but I’m clueless. What are the big sort of steps, the big boulders, if you will, that somebody needs to go through to start and launch and grow a podcast?

The Real Reason Podcasters Quit

John: Yeah. So first of all, you should spend 12 hours researching what microphone to buy. No. So that, I mean, that’s seriously like, that’s the number one question people ask is like, what microphone should I buy, you know? And like, on the scale of questions that you should ask, that is so minuscule. I bought this microphone that I’m using right now, actually, that’s a lie, I replaced it about six months ago because my last one crapped out. But I, it’s the exact same microphone. I bought it 10 years ago. I made the decision, I bought it, that’s it. 

Like, okay, I move on. Like, there’s more important things that you need to focus on. And that’s why after nine and a half years of using it, when it broke, I bought the exact same one over again. And so, you know, a lot of people like spend too much time thinking about that stuff. So what you should be doing is you should really be thinking about what’s the larger goal here, you know? And you should really be thinking about what are the larger goals for my business that I am focused on? And why am I doing the podcast? 

You know, some people it’s to, it’s a passion project or it’s a hobby or something. That’s fine. That’s not my area of expertise. That’s not what I help people with. Go ahead, you know, enjoy it. The challenge with that stuff is that I see a lot of those fail, you know, because people, they’ll do it for six months and then it gets hard and they stop doing it. But if you’re doing it to promote a business or to further a business, then you really need to think strategically about, who are the people that I want to connect with? 

Who are the existing people? Who are my past referral partners? Who are but my past clients? Who are my past strategic partners? Who are about my past mentors that I want to connect and deepen a relationship with? Because those people that already know, like and trust you, often these people kind of forget about those people. They forget, you know, people that have already sent you five clients. You know, those are the most important people that you should be deepening that relationship with. 

And they’re the most likely to generate more revenue for your business so you should go to those first. But then beyond it, then you should think about what organizations do I belong to? What organization should I belong to? What conferences do I attend, or should I attend? What other complementary businesses are there out there that are serving the same clientele as me but are not competitive with me who I could forge a relationship with using the podcast as a vehicle in order to forge a relationship with them? 

Those are the sorts of things you should be really thinking through. And that’s where we start with all of our clients is spending really hours mapping out that particular area because that’s where a lot of people haven’t thought it through. You know, I see people all the time, I talk to people all time and I talked to a woman a couple of weeks ago, that she had done 150 interviews over about a year two doing the podcast, gotten zero clients out of it. 

She had almost exclusively interviewed like, big kind of gurus like, kind of the, you know, B level celebrities in her field, and hadn’t gotten any referrals out of it, you know? And she, I think that she had just kind of gone for people kind of for the fame factor or the excitement of interviewing someone who, you know, she previously wouldn’t have access to. And that’s fine to an extent. But in my experience, it’ll only take you so far, you know? And for a lot of those people that have been a guest a lot of other podcasts or received a lot of attention in the past, it doesn’t move the needle for them. It doesn’t really do that much. 

Now, conversely, if you were to spend some time interviewing your past referral partners who already know, like and trust you, have already sent clients our way because they already like you and what you do, that will generate more referrals for you. It will generate more return. And the reason why that is so critical is because over 10 years of doing this, I’ve seen a lot of people start and stop a podcast after three months, six months a year, whatever. They give up. And if I really dig under the surface, it’s never that they quit because their microphone wasn’t good enough. It’s never that they quit because they couldn’t get guests. 

It’s only that they quit because they weren’t getting return for their efforts. They weren’t getting ROI. That’s why they quit. So that’s why I push people. I say you got to get return. You got to get some kind of results for it because if you don’t, then the writing’s on the wall and sooner or later, the push is going to come to shove, you’re going to get busy, and you’re going to move on to something else. And I think that’s sad. And I want people to continue doing it for years to come, derive all the benefits from it. So I push people to get results from it. 

Adam: I love that. I mean, you have to have a strategy. You have to have a solid strategy that works. And it sounds like you help people do that. So last question, John. Where can people find you and can get help to get started with a podcast?

John: Sure. So yeah, is the website. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, John Corcoran on LinkedIn. Just search for me on there. Happy to help. As I said, I’m an evangelist for this medium. I hope that, I mean, it’s been in on a growth trajectory over the last 10 years or so and it’s going to continue that way. I think it’s part of a larger movement away from a handful of large media companies like we had 25 years ago in this company, in this country and worldwide to a point where any business can be its own media company. 

And I think a podcast is really a key component of that. So I’m excited to be in this field and I’m excited to help others to embrace it and make the most of it. So yeah, feel free to reach out to one of those places. Or you can, or they can also email me, is a good email to reach me at.

Adam: Okay. Well, John, thank you so much for being here today. 

John: My pleasure, Adam. 

Adam: Yeah, so if you would like to see if John and his team can help you with your business, please reach out. I’ll put his website and email in the show notes. But thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.