How I created Britain’s Number 1 Business Podcast — learn how to start, record, produce, edit, get sponsors and market yours. A user’s guide.

How I created Britain’s Number 1 Business Podcast — learn how to start, record, produce, edit, get sponsors and market yours. A user’s guide.

This week, I realised a dream I visualised a few years ago — Secret Leaders, a side project I did for fun with a friend, Rich Martell, became the number 1 Business Podcast in the UK, overtaking Tim Ferris, Gary Vee, Tim Robbins, TED, the BBC and more. This post is to transparently tell you exactly how we did it, what we use, and ensure that if you want to start a Podcast too, you can just copy and paste most of the info for yourself.

Start Small, Improve Stuff Over Time

So maybe you aren’t like me, and you want to go big immediately. In that case, skip to the later part of this article with the more fancy equipment. However, when I started Secret Leaders, I had no idea if it was going to be a worthy investment of my time, so how could I assume it would be a worthy investment of money? That’s why I started small and simple.

A great podcast comprises of 3 things.

  1. Research from the host
  2. Decent recording equipment. That means not just recording off your phone,
  3. Decent production on things like show notes, editing etc

This Post Is Split Into 5 Parts To Try And Simplify.

Research, Recording, Production, Sponsorship & Marketing.

PART 1: Research.

Wikipedia, Quora, previous interviews they’ve done are the obvious routes here. If it’s business, what their company has done, and why.

PART 2: Recording.

In Series 1 this was literally my entire kit and plan, step by step.

  1. Plug that into my laptop. Use Quicktime to record.
  2. Book any old meeting room I could find in my shared office.
  3. Invite guest. In Series 1, these were basically my friends, investors or anyone it was easy to get in front of/call a favour in for.
  4. Get feedback from people and listen to it. In Series 1, I interrupted guests and ruined the flow a lot. I heard that myself but also got that feedback from people regularly — it was clearly unprofessional and just ruined what could have been better content. For Series 2 (and onwards) I learned to ask a question and shut up and listen. And it’s so much better.

Series 3 Equipment: (all in, £540 for amazing kit!)

  1. Zoom H6 Handy Recorder (this is already £100+ cheaper than when I bought it) £259
  2. 2 x Shure FM58 Microphone with case (£108, already £40 cheaper than when I bought)
  3. 2x Microphone Stand (£9.99 each)
  4. 2x Microphone Pop Filter (£6.99 each)
  5. 2x XLR Cables (recommended 3m for £6.99)
  6. SD Card — (128 MB is a good investment at £21.59)
  7. Phone Mount Kit (for photos etc) £15
  8. Rode Phone Microphone (£38)
  9. Sennheiser Headphones (You need to hear if levels are good whilst recording) £45
  10. AA Batteries — Always keep spares! (£6.25)
“This is how big Secret Leaders could be one day, Jason. We’ll overtake you AND Tim Ferris”

PART 3: Production & Editing

I asked Rich to contribute to this section so here’s what we’ve used straight from the expert:

  1. Simplecast for distributing the content via an RSS feed
  2. Sonix tool for transcribing. Rev.com is also good.
  3. Squarespace for website (2nd season)
  4. Audio Jungle to find music aka a jingle. We used Fiverr in Series 1. You can tell.
  5. LibSyn for distributing to Spotify (a different type of RSS feed and a bit more tricky to get set up)

Editing

For every 1 hour of recorded time factor in for 5 to 6 hours of editing. About 25% of recording is cut out. Then you need to put in the music, intro, outros, ads — all done through Garageband.

Part 4. Sponsorship

There are many ways to sort this out, to be honest, you have to what’s right for you. Rich and I are full time Co-Founders of our own businesses, so we have no desire/need to get paid from Podcasting, as such, we do what’s right for us, our audience, and our intention. In this instance — it’s to put out a brilliant show with brilliant guests and inform, educate and delight fans.

“How to sell to your competitor, the untold before story of Moonpig selling to Photobox, with both founders”

That’s 0 in Series 1, £23k for Series 2 and £35k for Series 3, £69k for Series 4.

For Series 2 we got the guests to record their own ads.

For transparency, with Series 4 I charged;

  • £30,000 Gold (1st sponsor)
  • £20,000 Silver (2nd sponsor)
  • £15,000 Bronze (3rd Sponsor)
  • The caveat being that all sponsors had to also purchase a certain number of tickets for our upcoming live events (at half price) which meant that we had £4,000 to put on our series of 5 shows we have planned in 2020, without having to stress about ticket sales to make sure they wash their face.

Part 5. Marketing and Distribution

As a side project, it’s been our strategy from Day 1 to try to optimise organic reach. That means we needed either guests with well known companies/big names/large audiences for marketing — as we had £0 budget.

Pros:

  1. Enables you to be strategic and focused on the goal for each series
  2. Gives proper time for feedback from guests, audiences and each other on how to incrementally improve.
  3. Allows proper time to source amazing guests — people are busy, and getting them on your schedule in a 12 month period is very hard. However this means we have people lined up for Series 4 who simply couldn’t make Series 3 but in principle have said yes.
  4. Creates a dedicated structure and a natural break for the founders to discuss ongoing commitments and changes. This time round, Rich couldn’t commit as much time due to a bunch of personal and work commitments, and because we had that chat up front, we knew what deliverables we had against what timeline for Series 3. In Series 4 we made it simple — the one’s Rich could make, he’d come to, the ones he couldn’t, we wouldn’t stress — our focus was really on getting the guests.
  5. Allows you to promote and do marketing in a planned and well organised manner.
  6. The App store actually works well with spikes — so if you disappear for ages and then plan a good launch, the spike and surge of interest does you wonders for getting noticed by them.

Cons

  1. Once guests are hooked on a show, for 4 months straight, cutting it for the next 8 is fairly painful, you get worried if they’ll come back. In our experience, they absolutely do and distance makes the heart grow fonder, but it’s an issue for sure. That being said, with the first episode in Series 4 getting a homepage feature on Apple, and number 1 spot in the business chart, it turns out it’s not such a stress after all.
  2. You enable time for copycats to pick up where you left off.
  3. You cant strike quite as punchy sponsorship deals, and some sponsors are only interested in certain periods, so if you aren’t on air during those, you lose them (this happened to us)

Series 1

Series 2

Having taken in sponsorship, we decided to invest in production and use what was left for marketing. We put a call out on Instagram and Linkedin for a social media intern, and one listener in Canada applied very enthusiastically (Jennifer Osman), and worked with us for 2 series. She was full time employed and did this as a side project herself, to learn, which is exactly the type of person we likde to work with. She was responsible for setting us up for SEO/Adwords and starting some social media spend (£500 per episode in testing).

“Try to look really professional without looking like idiots guys. OK nevermind.”
Upgraded design so we have a look and feel that’s our own.
An outrageously deep and personal account of mental health and entrepreneurship

Series 4 Marketing:

I wanted to make a note on this as we’ve ditched our PR agency and as I mentioned earlier, gone with the brilliant Mags Creative. Our budget has gone split into running host read ads in similar shows, and we recorded our own ad for the first time to place across the business category.

In Summary

We hope this has been a useful resource, sharing our journey across 3 complete series and just coming into what is our biggest and best yet, series 4.

Co-Founder of Heights, & Host of Secret Leaders, I write about brain health, mental wellbeing & entrepreneurship.

Co-Founder of Heights, & Host of Secret Leaders, I write about brain health, mental wellbeing & entrepreneurship.