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 first part of 2018, our goal was to reach out to every top sales podcast out there.
I’m going to share behind the scenes of the process we used to land 27 (and counting) interviews on top 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 here.
And I'll share what we learned along the way.
Here's what I'll cover:
- How the idea came about
- Where we started
- How I found and qualified podcasts
- What I sent in my emails
- How to be a rockstar guest
- The results
- What we learned
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.
We positioned Blissful Prospecting as a credible player in the space through interviews on all the top sales podcasts.
Where we started
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 helps 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.
You can see and listen to these podcasts here. They're listed in chronological order.
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.
What you can takeaway
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 and qualified 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.
Coming into this campaign, I didn't want to spend any time on a podcast with little engagement. I could always come back to them when they grew their audience.
How to qualify a podcast
Per episode downloads are the number one qualifying criteria for any podcast. But that's hard to find unless they publicly show the numbers. Or talk about it in their podcast (also not super reliable—most people exaggerate).
Here are the criteria I used:
- Must have our ideal audience. We can only help a prospect who sells B2B. They must also be in an industry we're familiar with. The podcast should be niche enough that it focuses on B2B sales.
- Must be on iTunes. They can be on places like Stitcher or Spotify, but if they don't have an iTunes listing, they likely have a tiny audience.
- 10 or more reviews and an overall 4-star rating on iTunes. If they don't have reviews, it's usually an indicator that no one cares about their podcast enough. Or worse, they don't care enough about their podcast to ask for reviews.
- Consistently releasing new episodes. Once per week or more is ideal. And the most recent episode is within the last 30 days. People take breaks on their podcast, but inconsistency is a huge red flag. Loyal audiences are built through consistency.
- I must like the podcast host. Yes, that means I take the time to listen to at least one episode of every podcast I plan on reaching out to. If I don't resonate with the host, there's no way I could be authentic in an interview.
- They don't help people sell scammy stuff. For me, this is anything to do with networking marketing, MLMs, pyramid schemes, etc. I don't want our name and brand associated with what we don't believe in.
Where to search for podcasts
The key is finding relevant podcasts in your niche. If you're too general, your message won't stick with listeners.
Start with iTunes. Here's what I did:
- Searched for podcasts with "sales" or "b2b" in them.
- Once I found podcasts that fit, I went to the related section to find more podcasts.
- Then I pulled new keyword ideas from the podcasts I found. For example, I didn't think about searching for podcasts based on industries.
- I made a list of my favorite people to listen to in interviews. Then I searched for their name on iTunes to find podcasts they were interviewed on.
- Once you've exhausted those two methods, search iTunes by category. These searches take more time because the results are generally broad.
- The search function in iTunes isn't great, so make sure you're finding new keywords and looking at related podcasts.
- Repeat the cycle, and find 50-100+ podcasts in your niche.
Then head to Google:
- Search for "top [insert your niche or area of expertise] podcasts." This is a great way to find podcasts because someone likes them enough to write about them.
- Try these search terms as well:
- "best [insert your niche or area of expertise] podcasts"
- "top-rated [insert your niche or area of expertise] podcasts"
- "best [insert your niche or area of expertise] podcasts [insert year]"
Then head to social. Depending on your industry, LinkedIn is usually best for B2B:
- Write a post asking people for their favorite business podcasts
- Search in LinkedIn for "podcast" to see who has this in their profile
- Search in LinkedIn for "top podcasts" using the 'content' category filter for posts of people sharing top podcasts
How to find their contact information
Add the good-fit podcasts to a spreadsheet. I prefer Google Sheets so you can collaborate. Or so you can have a virtual assistant do this portion.
Here's how we found contact information for 95%+ of the podcast hosts:
- Check the iTunes listing for the host's contact information.
- Use a podcast directory site like Listen Notes. They aggregate the names of the hosts for you.
- Visit the podcast host's LinkedIn profile. See if they publicly list their contact information. If not, use a tool like Apollo.io's Google Chrome extension to mine their email address right from their LinkedIn profile. You'll get 50 email credits for free that you can start using immediately.
- In the iTunes listing for the podcast, there's usually a website button that hyperlinks back to their website. That's an excellent place to start. On their website, see if there's a page to recommend a guest.
- If you can't find their email address on the website, use the Apollo.io Google Chrome extension.
- If all else fails, run a Google search to see if you can find their email address.
What you can takeaway
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.
What I sent in my emails
Before you get too excited, this approach IS NOT about the email template.
Sending cold outreach isn't about the template.
This worked for me, but copying and pasting the email copy below won't work for you.
Emulate the structure and framework of my emails.
This is what the four email sequence looks like:
- Day 1 - Introductory + social proof email
- Day 4 - Topic ideas
- Day 10 - Quick follow up + something personal/funny
- Day 35 - Last follow up
As you can see, a pretty impressive open rate of 79% and a reply rate of 42%!
Each email is broken down here along with the individual stats at each stage.
Email #1 - Introductory + social proof
When I started sending these emails, we didn't have much social proof. I shared everything that was relevant.
Here's the email that landed us the interview on Jeffrey Gitomer and Jennifer Gluckow's podcast, Sell or Die!
And here was her response:
Here are the critical parts of this email:
- It's personalized. This might sound crazy with all the automation available these days. But automation doesn't impress busy, smart people who get solicited by hundreds of people for their time. The subject heading is personalized with her name. And I included a 58-second personalized video (watch here). The video shared a very specific takeaway from their content, and the value I could bring to their audience.
- There's social proof. It's easy to see that others have interviewed me on similar topics. I also share a few ideas for topics we could talk about.
- Clear CTA. The email ends with a casual question. I was careful not to ask, "When can we schedule an interview?" My only ask is to discuss if I'd be a good fit for their show. Be clear with your ask, but don't be too assumptive.
- It's about them. I don't talk about how great I am in the email. I compliment their podcast and give them ideas on what would be valuable for their audience. My goal is to make THEM look better.
This was one of the earlier opportunities I landed. Here's how the email changed over time:
Email #2 - Topic ideas (3 days later)
Podcasters have two big challenges: finding great guests and coming up with topics.
My goal is to make it easy for people to say "yes" to me. And to remove as much thinking as possible.
The first email focused on building social proof and introducing myself as a credible guest who can add value to their audience.
The second email focused on making it easy to see what we could talk about in an interview:
These are topics I'm not only well-versed in, but that I know salespeople want to hear about. I lead with empathy and acknowledge that they probably get these kinds of emails a lot.
I provided a list of specific topics, along with a link back to content demonstrating my knowledge on the topic. Social proof at play again.
Here are those links if you want to check them out:
Email #3 - Quick follow up + something personal/funny (10 days later)
The goal of this email is to showcase persistence, but not in an annoying way. And to show a personal/funny side of me as well.
That's right, I'm pulling the "I have a cute puppy card."
Email #4 - Last follow up (15 days later)
This is the last email in the sequence. Nothing too special here. There's a call back to our puppy, Pepe, and one more call to action to chat about the podcast feature.
Should you use video?
It's not required but will significantly increase your reply rates. Videos are not easily faked, especially if you're very specific with the personalization.
If you listen to any of the podcasts we landed, you'll hear the hosts talk about how much they appreciated the video.
Check out our video prospecting guide to learn how to use video in your cold outreach.
What you can takeaway
If you don't take the time to personalize your emails, DO NOT BOTHER reaching out to big podcasts. It won't work. And you’ll look like a fool.
Think about the message before you send it. Would you respond?
And make sure to follow up. I use MixMax and Vidyard to send out emails and videos.
Your outreach should do the following:
- Show the host(s) you took the time to listen to their podcast.
- Share social proof that proves you're a credible guest.
- Make it easy to say "yes" by providing topic ideas.
- Make them and their audience the point of focus, instead of how great you are (which no one cares about dude!).
How to be a rockstar guest
In my experience, most podcast hosts prepare very little before the interview. If you book an hour-long slot for the interview, they usually spend the first 5-15 minutes talking about what the episode will cover.
Take it upon yourself to prepare. It's in your best interest. If the host really likes the interview, they’re more compelled to recommend it to their audience. Or introduce you to other people in their network.
Here's the process I use to prep for podcasts:
- Listen to at least one full episode of their podcast. You should have already done this. But if you didn't, now's the time to do it. Get a feel for the episode structure and questions the host asks at the beginning and end of the interview.
- Research the host. Check out their LinkedIn profile and website. Know their bio. Going into the interview with this research will make you much more comfortable. You'll have a rapport before you've even talked to them.
- Prepare a few topics. Know your talking points beforehand. If you're not sharing what you're most knowledgeable about, the listener won't hear you showcase your chops. It's even better if you have a framework or process for the topic you're covering (like the REPLY Method).
- Create a unique landing page with a free giveaway. I've been talking about the REPLY Method on podcasts lately. We go in-depth during the interview. To make it easier for the listener, we created a one-page PDF that they can download. Create a separate, personalized landing page for every podcast you're on (see example below). This also helps you drive email subscribers.
Podcast landing page example.
There's usually a 5-15 minute warm-up period right when you hop on a podcast. These questions help me tailor the interview:
- "Who is your audience?" More specifically, I want to know the answers to these questions:
- "Are they more executers in tactical roles? Or are they in leadership roles?"
- "What size/stage are their businesses?"
- "Are they in particular industries?"
- "What do they sell?"
- "Is there anything you want to make sure I cover today that would be valuable for your audience?"
- "Anything else you can tell me about what your listeners really respond well to?"
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. 3 interviews are also recorded but have not aired yet. Also, some sequences are still going. 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.