One of the big challenges of any business is building social proof. Maybe you’re in a position where very few people in your industry know of you. You’re hopping on sales calls and prospects have never heard of you. Or you have few or no case studies.
This was the case when we started Blissful Prospecting back in 2017. Since leaving my full-time job in 2013, I consulted with a few dozen companies on their marketing and sales. But I only had one relevant case study for how I helped a client with outbound. And three clients I was doing outbound for.
This made sales tough. We didn’t have a lot of social proof.
I dealt with these objections all the time:
“How long have you been doing this?” My answer: “We just started Blissful Prospecting, but I’ve been doing outbound since 2013.”
“Do you have any case studies from similar companies?” My answer: “Not yet, but I can show you a few campaigns we’re working on. My cold email worked on you, didn’t it?”
“Have you worked with a client in our industry before?” My answer: “No, but here’s what we’ve done that’s relevant to your business.”
Prospects didn’t see me as an expert. How well we did for the few clients we had didn’t matter. We only had a few of them. Prospects were skeptical, which is understandable. They’d never heard of me and didn’t see anyone else in our industry talking about us.
But then a few people asked me to be on their podcasts (thanks Liston and Raj) and then introduced me to other podcasters.
Over time, people started taking us more serious in sales calls. And they started treating me like an expert. Asking what I thought THEY should do, instead of asking about my experience.
Then a light bulb went off. If a few podcasts had this much impact, what would happen if doubled down on this strategy? What would that do for our business?
Sara and I realized that social proof should be the foundation of our client acquisition strategy.
In the last 8 months, our goal was to reach out to every top sales podcast out there.
Then we landed sales podcasts like...
Sell or Die! (Jeffrey Gitomer and Jennifer Gluckow)
Make it Happen Mondays (John Barrows)
The Salesman Podcast (Will Barron)
The Sales Evangelist (Donald Kelly),
Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling (Brian Burns)
And many more.
How the idea came about
I hosted a podcast from 2014 to 2016 called the GenY Success Show. It talked to Millennial/GenY entrepreneurs that left their jobs to start businesses.
So I was already sold on podcasting as a medium. Every time someone interviewed me on another podcast, our audience grew along with our email list.
We also knew that social proof was essential for building our brand. Getting interviewed on a big show put our brand next to an already reputable brand.
Robert Cialdini explains it best in Influence:
Social proof is one type of conformity. When a person is in a situation where they are unsure of the correct way to behave, they will often look to others for clues concerning the correct behavior. When “we conform because we believe that others’ interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more accurate than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of action”, it is informational social influence.
If your peers endorse a business, you’re more receptive to endorsing it.
Almost every A-lister in our industry has a podcast. Or has been interviewed on dozens of them.
A few friends have podcasts, which was a great place to start. Plus, I could mention our interview in my cold emails. Social proof in action again. My friend, Raj, has a podcast called Startup Hypeman, which helped SaaS founders and salespeople with their sales and marketing. He also introduced me to Rob, who runs a marketing podcast for agencies in the sports industry. Then I met Liston Witherill, who hosts a sales podcast, through a mutual connection. That shared connection also introduced me to Michael Knouse over at the Startup Sessions podcast. Then Sara landed a few podcasts through women she met in a Slack group. Before I started cold emailing podcast hosts, we had 11 podcasts under our belt.
Before reaching out to top podcasts in your industry, create content that showcases your skills first. Podcast hosts love seeing examples before committing to an interview. Their biggest pet peeve is wasting time with a bad guest.
Here are a few strategies for finding podcast opportunities early on:
Reach out to people in your network who have a podcast.
Ask people in your network, including podcast hosts, if they have anyone to refer you to.
Run a search in LinkedIn for “podcast” and then filter for your city. Locals are more likely to connect.
Join Facebook, Slack, LinkedIn, or any other groups in your niche. Engage with others in the group and see who you can offer value to.
Create audio or video content that showcases you doing your thing. You don’t have to start a podcast. Put up 5-10 minute video clips of you on YouTube interviewing other people in your industry. Or interview your clients.
How I Found Podcasts
Not all podcasts are created equal. I learned that from my time running the GenY Success Show. I always gave away something after the podcast with a special landing page. Usually a PDF or guide to help people on the topic we talked about. Some podcasts had a huge response. Dozens of people emailed me afterward, connected with me on LinkedIn, and signed up for my email list. But other podcasts (even ones from well known, popular hosts) didn’t have the same response.
Build a target list of all the podcasts you want to reach out to first.
Not all podcasts are equal. It’s okay to find smaller podcasts when getting started. You need social proof to impress bigger shows.
There will be 50-100+ podcasts that would be great for you. Score the podcasts to prioritize your time accordingly and reach out to the smaller shows first.
Overall, we reached out to 92 podcast hosts, but 16 of those emails bounced because of bad email addresses. That left 76 people who received a cold email from me. We converted those 76 podcast hosts into 27 interviews. I expect to land another 3-5 interviews. Pretty successful campaign in our book!
What We Learned
We came across a few surprises. First, this approach was much more successful than we thought it would be. It also helped me overcome a bit of imposter syndrome.
All I could think about was why people might see this is as a desperate attempt to get on their podcast. Many of the podcast hosts are people we are and want to be peers with.
In reality, only one response mentioned that they didn’t accept solicitations for their podcast. And they were nice about it. All that worry for nothing.
Our conversion rate into interviews booked was 35.5%, which is great for any cold email campaign. But that also means that 2/3 of podcast hosts either rejected me or didn’t respond.
Here are our biggest takeaways:
The clients that come from podcasts are very high quality. They’ve listened to us and are proactive. They’re further along the buyer’s journey and already recognize their own need. Prospects have listened to many as four or five of our interviews before reaching out. They’re already sold on us.
Podcasts have helped us close deals. I send a follow up email right after my introductory calls. Along with a summary of our call, I include links to podcasts they would find valuable. We’ve won several sales because they heard podcast hosts comment on the effectiveness of my approach in reaching out to them.
You’re your own worst enemy. If you have a successful business with customers who continue to pay you for your help, you offer value. Don’t hesitate to reach out to big podcasts because you think you’re not good enough.
Podcast hosts are people too. No matter how big the podcast, they’re human beings just like you. They might have more experience and a bigger platform, but you have something they need as well. Most podcast hosts are starving for high-quality guests.
Social proof is everything. The more examples of podcasts you can share, the more successful your campaign will be. As your interviews air, link them in your email outreach.
Adapt and improve. Pay close attention to the questions people ask. The reason I have an entire email dedicated to potential topics is that people kept asking me what I wanted to talk about on their podcast.
Rejection is minimal. If you take the time to personalize, the worst you’ll get is, “sorry, not interested.” Everyone that rejected me did it nicely.
Video will make you stand out. Podcast hosts are inundated with terrible cold emails from people asking to be on their show. You can easily stick out by sending a personalized video that makes it about THEM and the value you can offer.
To learn more, check out our podcast episode with Jason or see his full blog post:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Bay is the Chief Operating Officer at Blissful Prospecting where he helps reps and sales teams who love landing big meetings with prospects—but hate not getting responses to their cold emails or feeling confident making cold calls. Sales is the only “adult job” he’s ever had, and he’s done everything from selling house painting services door to door, running outbound call centers, to helping hundreds of reps master cold outreach. Check out his podcast called “Blissful Prospecting.”