Measuring Growth

How To Measure the Value and Success of Your Podcast with Tara McMullin

I'm taking you behind the scenes to talk through how and why I decided to invest in starting this podcast, how it all works behind the scenes, and a look back a year into podcasting. To help me answer the question I'm talking with my friend Tara McMullin.

Susan Boles
September 29, 2020
Quote: "Podcast metrics are business metrics. The measure of the value of your show in your business is whether it's driving results for your business, whether it's putting money in your bank account, whether it's getting emails into your inbox, whether it's getting you sales calls." - Tara McMullin

Is it worth it?

That’s the number one question I get about this podcast.

And it’s a good one because we should be evaluating any and every business decision based on the business results we’re expecting it to create. According to today’s guest, evaluating your podcast’s value and success can be evaluated based on if it drives results for your business, puts money in your bank account, gets emails into your inbox, or gets you sales calls."

In the series, Is It Worth It, I’ve been talking about investing in our businesses and trying to answer the question of whether or not an investment was a worthwhile one.

In this episode, I thought it’d be fun to take you behind the scenes and talk through how and why I decided to invest in starting this podcast, how it all works behind the scenes, and a look back a year into podcasting.

To help me answer the question of if it's been worth it, I’m delighted to bring my friend Tara McMullin to discuss just that. Tara is a small business strategist, host of the What Works Podcast,  and the founder of What Works, an online community for small business owners. Tara is also the co-founder of Yellow House Media, the company that helps produce this podcast.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How do you evaluate the ROI of a podcast?
  • My decision-making process and how long I was willing to give it
  • The strategy behind my podcast and what business goals I was trying to achieve
  • How much time goes into producing a single podcast episode

Episode Transcript

Tara McMullin (00:00:00):

When it comes down to it, what I always talk to podcasters about is that podcast metrics are business metrics. The measure of the value of your show in your business is whether it's driving results for your business, whether it's putting money in your bank account, whether it's getting emails into your inbox, whether it's getting you sales calls, that's where the value of the podcast comes out of. That's hard to figure out, and it's unsatisfying, but in the end, those are the things that we want to be paying attention to anyhow.

Susan Boles (00:00:32):

The number one question I get about this podcast is, is it worth it? Today, we're going behind the scenes of Break the Ceiling to talk about it. I'm Susan Boles, and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit, and increase your operational capacity.

Susan Boles (00:00:52):

Today is a pretty special day. It's Episode 50 of this podcast, and we're just right around the first anniversary of the show. So, I wanted to do something a little different and a little special to celebrate. Since we've been talking about investing in our businesses and trying to answer the question of whether or not an investment is a worthwhile one, I thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes and talk through how and why I decided to invest in starting this podcast, how it all works behind the scenes, and a year into this thing, how I answer the question of, is it worth it?

Susan Boles (00:01:30):

To help me do that I brought a friend, Tara McMullin is a small business strategist, and she's the founder of What Works, which is a community for small business owners. You've probably heard me mention it a few times on the show. She's also the host of the What Works Podcast, and she's a co founder of Yellow House Media, which is the company that helps produce this podcast.

Susan Boles (00:01:53):

I actually designed and plan the launch or Break the Ceiling inside a podcast mastermind that Tara and Sean, who's the other half of Yellow House ran. Tara is one who ended up ultimately naming the show, she was the very first guest, and she's been working with me behind the scenes to actually produce the show. She seemed like the perfect person to bring back for such a special episode. We are definitely going to be talking behind the scenes stuff today. But, I also wanted to bring Tara's perspective on evaluating the investment of a podcast, any podcast, not just this one.

Susan Boles (00:02:30):

She's been running her own podcast for years. She's closing in on episode 300, I think for What Works, and she's behind the scenes of all kinds of other shows at Yellow House. She can really talk about evaluating the effectiveness of podcasts just in general. But before we jump into the interview, let me give you a little bit of background on Break the Ceiling just generally. The idea for the podcast came in about January of 2019. My original plan was actually to launch in April of 2019.

Susan Boles (00:03:01):

The reason I wanted to launch a podcast specifically versus some other media format, was that I have really been struggling to get my ideas out when I was trying to write. I hired copy coaches and lots of different people to help me become a better writer, and I did become a better writer, but it was always a real struggle for me. Every time I tried to give energy to my voice, it came out in this really filtered, stilted way when I was writing.

Susan Boles (00:03:37):

One of the things that I realized in my process was that I actually had to talk. I would speak into a text recorder. So it would take what I'm talking and translate it into text so that I could edit it and turn it into a blog post or an email. I realized that if the medium in which I'm comfortable communicating is audio, podcast seemed like a really logical transition for that.

Susan Boles (00:04:04):

I decided to take this step into creating a podcast because ultimately, I thought the medium might be a better match for how I like communicating. Now, my goal for the podcast when I started out was really to tie it into my business. I've never intended it to be the next Joe Rogan Show, I really just wanted it to get me inside of the head of the right people for my business. The goal for the show has always to be a way in which I bring in new clients.

Susan Boles (00:04:35):

Finding the right format, positioning and strategy really needed to make sense. That's the reason I ended up ultimately joining the podcast mastermind with Tara and Sean was to help me tie in the strategy for the show with what I wanted to accomplish in my business. One of the other constructs of me creating the show was that I knew it was really important to be consistent. I wanted this to be the thing I was going all in on, it was going to be the main marketing channel for my business. I really wanted to make sure that I was set up to be able to consistently put out quality content.

Susan Boles (00:05:15):

For me, that meant, I'm geeky, I'm going to look at the behind the scenes, what is the actual workflow that's required for us to create content on a consistent basis? For me, that meant I wanted a production company behind the scenes. I didn't really want to spend the time learning how to do audio editing, I really wanted to put out a quality product and me learning how to edit audio. One, I wasn't going to be good at it to begin with, and two, it just wasn't a good use of my time.

Susan Boles (00:05:49):

At the time, when I started this podcast, I was still working full-time, I was running ScaleSpark full-time, and I knew there's just so many steps in producing an episode that I didn't want to have to worry about the actual audio editing, I wanted to focus on the creative part, the conceptual part, I wanted to talk to people, that was the stuff I was really excited about. I decided to start with a production company.

Susan Boles (00:06:15):

It wasn't Yellow House when it started because Yellow House didn't actually exist when I launched the podcast. But as soon as Yellow House came into existence, I switched to them, and we've been with yellow house for most of that year, actually. What they do behind the scenes is they help me with creative ideas. When I am thinking about how I craft the show, I craft in themes, which, if you listen to this show, you know. But sometimes, I'm stuck on coming up a cool theme, or when I'm trying to lay out the individual episodes in the theme, sometimes I'll get three episodes in and can't figure out what the fourth episode is.

Susan Boles (00:07:00):

Tara and Sean are there to help me bounce creative ideas off of, they helped me make sure that the content is aligned with my strategy, it's aligned with what I'm doing in my business. Originally, I was actually really concerned about the show because I was afraid I was going to get too geeky. You guys have heard me get really excited about software, I get really passionate about financial stuff, and I wasn't really sure that anybody was going to want to listen to that.

Susan Boles (00:07:28):

What's been interesting is over the course of the year, the geekier I get, the better. The more nitty gritty, the more in depth episodes, the better. Those are some of my highest performing episodes, which has been a real surprise to me. As I was crafting the show, I originally planned to launch it in April of 2019, but in April of 2019, I really wasn't clear on what I needed the show to do, what format was the right format. Did I want an interview show, did I want to do solo episodes? How am I going to find guests? How did I want to format?

Susan Boles (00:08:07):

It took from April to probably August of 2019, for me to actually figure out what Break the Ceiling was supposed to be. I was really struggling with the creative concept because it's actually really hard to come up with a concept for something that you've never done.

Susan Boles (00:08:23):

In September of 2019, we hit go. Originally, we did episodes every other week, because I really wanted to make sure that I understood the workflow, and I knew the time commitment. I didn't really know how long it was going to take me to produce each episode, even with a producer, and I felt like it was easier to speed things up than to slow things down.

Susan Boles (00:08:45):

We started with episodes every other week for September. Then in December of 2019 is when we started doing weekly episodes, and we've been doing weekly episodes ever since. That's the background on how Break the Ceiling came to be. I'll jump in a little bit in the interview here talking about specific parts of the behind the scenes. But right now I really want to jump into the episode with Tara and start talking about evaluating podcasts in general.

Susan Boles (00:09:18):

Hey, Tara, thanks so much for being here today.

Tara McMullin (00:09:20):

I am super excited. Thanks for having me.

Susan Boles (00:09:23):

Let's start off talking about the decision to invest in a podcast generally. When you are talking to folks who are considering and trying to decide if a podcast is right for them and their business, what kinds of things do you advise folks to think about?

Tara McMullin (00:09:41):

Yeah, a lot of things. The first one is going to be a pretty big picture. I believe is the ultimate filter of whether you should even continue having a conversation, which is, do you love podcasts? I hear from so many business owners, maybe not so much anymore, but I certainly was a year or two ago, wanting to know if they should start a podcast, but who either have never listened to podcasts, don't listen to podcasts on a regular basis or just aren't excited about podcasts. Maybe they listen to a couple here or there, but they're just not excited about it.

Tara McMullin (00:10:21):

I truly believe that to produce a great show, you need to be listening to podcasts on a regular basis, and you need to be excited about them. It doesn't mean you have to listen to as many as I listen to. It doesn't mean it's the only kind of media that you consume, but I do think that you should have a love of audio content. I would also put maybe audio books or public radio in that category, as well. But I think there's something special, particularly about podcasts.

Tara McMullin (00:10:52):

I think that if you love podcasts, you have a much better idea of what the possibilities for your show are. Because you have an idea of what those possibilities are, you're just going to have much more creative execution, more thoughtful execution on it, and that's going to make your show more successful. Just as a very generalized statement, I just truly believe that's true. That's the first thing.

Susan Boles (00:11:18):

Tara is 100% right, here. There is so much work that goes into producing a single podcast episode. I tend to spend somewhere between three and five hours on each episode of the podcast. That's deciding on the content and booking guests and making sure that I've got the right person slotted in for the right episode, crafting questions, doing the interview, crafting the intros and outros and editing the episodes for creative content. That's not even counting all of the audio editing that happens on the Yellow House side. That's just my part of doing each episode is somewhere in the range of three to five hours.

Susan Boles (00:12:08):

It's got to be something that you really enjoy, because it's such a commitment, and there's so much effort that goes into each episode.

Tara McMullin (00:12:17):

The second thing is what are you hoping the podcast accomplishes for your business? Again, a lot of folks come to us thinking that a podcast is going to grow their audience. That is true to an extent, or it can be true to an extent, audience growth marketing goal is not where I put podcasting, in the overall marketing strategy of a business. If you want to have a show that's listened to by a large group of people or any kind of group of people, you need to have a group of people that you are presenting that show to.

Tara McMullin (00:12:59):

Podcasts are not so much for discovery, the way that YouTube is, the way that blog posts can be via search engine optimization, or even the way that some social media platforms allow for. Instagram has some really great discovery features to it. If you work the Instagram platform in the "right way", it's possible to get your posts, your stories, your videos in front of people who've never heard of you before, who then can become fans.

Tara McMullin (00:13:31):

While certainly some folks will discover your show that have never heard of you and will be excited about it, podcasts themselves do not have great discovery tools. You can go into Apple Podcast, you can go into Overcast, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, whatever app you use, and you can search for podcasts, or you can go to the category listings, or you can go to the top charts. Those things all suck for finding new shows, right? This is like the perennial podcast enthusiasts problem is that we get served the same shows over and over and over again, because that's just what the podcast directories show us, because they don't have any other way of surfacing new shows the way that say, YouTube does.

Tara McMullin (00:14:21):

You watch one video on YouTube, and then YouTube wants you to watch 15 other videos from different people on the same topic or on an adjacent topic. That's how audiences get built. Podcasting is not so much for building an audience as it is for nurturing an audience. If you come to me and you say, Tara, I've got a big audience, or I've got N audience of people and I want to connect with them more, I want to teach them things, I want to entertain them, I want to build a deeper relationship with them. Great, time to invest in a podcast. That's a phenomenal idea.

Tara McMullin (00:15:00):

But if your number one marketing goal is growing your audience, there are better things you can do than invest in a podcast; Facebook ads, social media strategy, search engine optimization, I would put those all before and not in that order, by the way, I listed them in a weird order, just to clarify. I would put all of those things first. Again, that's not to say that a podcast can't grow your audience or won't grow your audience, it absolutely will. That's not its job. It's not a good reason to invest in one.

Tara McMullin (00:15:35):

Then I think the third thing that I really want to know from people, and this is something that we really work with people on at Yellow House media as well, is, I want to know how this podcast fits into their business model. I find that a lot of people have a hole in their business model that they can actually fill with a podcast.

Tara McMullin (00:15:58):

The reason... I'll explain this a little bit more, and I'm sure it'll come up again, later, because this is a really big part of how we do what we do at Yellow House, it's a big part of how I do what I do with my own show and my own other company, but because podcasts require such an investment of time, even though they are marketing for your business, they are also a product that your business creates and offers. We are asking a huge investment of people.

Tara McMullin (00:16:30):

I put out, what, two and a half, three hours of content every month, 45 minutes every single week for people to consume. This month, we're putting out even more than that. That's a lot... The people who listen to our show week in and week out without fail, that's more than a lot of our paying customers consume paid media that we create. That investment means that it is a product level type of asset that you are creating, type of media that you are creating.

Tara McMullin (00:17:05):

I want to know, where do you see this podcast fitting into your business model? How does it relate to the products or services that you actually sell? Then, I want to figure out, how do I see how it fits into your business model, because I obviously have-

Susan Boles (00:17:20):

It's always different.

Tara McMullin (00:17:21):

It's a little different. I have a very strong opinion on that most of the time. I think it's really important. A lot of times we have folks coming to us where they know that there's a gap, they know that they could be reaching different people, they could be reaching the same people in a different way, they could be providing something that would help create an engine under the rest of their business. That's a good reason to invest in a podcast too, and really thinking through the strategy behind that and how it fits in with the rest of the model is going to make sure that your show is effective for you.

Tara McMullin (00:17:58):

Those maybe aren't the only things that I think about when I'm thinking about whether this is a strong investment for someone to make, but those are three of the absolute biggest ones.

Susan Boles (00:18:07):

Yeah, so let's dig in a little bit more on the tying your podcast to your business and your business goals and your business model. Because, when I was working through figuring out what Break the Ceiling was, I decided, I guess in December of 2018 that I wanted to launch a podcast in 2019. But that was as far as I had gotten. Originally I had intended it to launch in April of 2019. When we started working together, this was the piece that took me so long to just get my head wrapped around and figure out how to craft the show around what I wanted my business to do and how that relationship needs to work together.

Susan Boles (00:18:58):

That was really one of the hardest things for me was just envisioning that first bit. Can you talk a little bit more about those relationships and how that needs to work together?

Tara McMullin (00:19:10):

Yeah. If folks are familiar with the concept of the business model canvas, there's a couple of different pieces of that, that I would use too specifically, that I use to think through where does this fit in the rest of the business model? One is value proposition or the job to be done. Then the other one is relationship. Value proposition for a podcast is huge, again, because of the investment. We don't think about the TV shows that we watch as having a value proposition or the radio that we listen to as having a value proposition, but there is one there, and it's to entertain and it's very simple, and the expectation is there, and also just the barrier to entry is so easy. It's gotten a little harder now, ironically, with all of the streaming services where you have to know what you're looking for, as opposed to being presented with things.

Tara McMullin (00:20:13):

But with podcasting, it is very much like you need to be able to know what you're looking for, and then identify when you found it. Value proposition is a way of talking about not only what the show is about, which is important, but also how it relates to the rest of the products or services that you sell. You know that the other... Susan, in your case, the other services that you sell have a particular value proposition to them.

Tara McMullin (00:20:43):

This is the conversation that we had, it's like, what are you actually helping people do or what's the end goal that you have for people who work with you in these different ways? This is where the whole Break the Ceiling idea came from, it's like, all of the work that you do helps people get past those ceilings that we hit in terms of operational capacity in a service based business where you can't work any harder to make any more money because you're working as hard as you can, you are full up, time is out, there's just no more you can cram into the rest of the day. So, how are you going to break through that?

Tara McMullin (00:21:24):

All right, cool. That's our value proposition is that you create... In this case, you're creating content and providing access to content that helps people break through that operational capacity ceiling so that they can make more money or save more time or make life easier for themselves. That's your value proposition, not only for the services that you sell, but now it's the value proposition for the podcast. The closer that we can align those value propositions, the easier it is to use the podcast to sell your product or service.

Tara McMullin (00:22:01):

While on the podcast side, you are providing access, you are creating informational guides, and that's the part of the value proposition that's specific to the podcast and in your services, you're working with people directly, you're speaking to their money needs, you're speaking to their mindset needs, their operational needs, and you're providing education and coaching and guidance with the services, that's what specific to the services, but the end result of both of those things is the same.

Tara McMullin (00:22:35):

If you can hook people on the value proposition of the podcast to get them really invested in this idea of breaking through the operational capacity sealing, to get them making more money, living an easier life, having more time, well, then it's just a hop, skip and a jump to hiring you. That's amazing.

Tara McMullin (00:22:56):

That is what we're always looking to accomplish with a podcast. It's not always that clear cut, and that's totally fine. I don't want anyone thinking if this is something that they're interested or something that they're thinking about for their business, it's not always exactly the same. In my business, it's exactly the same too, we look at everything we offer through one value proposition.

Tara McMullin (00:23:19):

Whether it's the podcast, or our community, or our mastermind groups, the value proposition is almost identical for each of those things. It's just the specs and the structure of it that changes, different levels of service that change depending on what you buy, or listen to from us. That's optimal, but it's not necessary. The whole idea is just making sure that the value proposition for your show lines up as closely as possible, or creates a logical next step into the product or service that you sell. That's the value proposition piece.

Tara McMullin (00:23:58):

The other piece is the relationship piece. It's a business model question, it's a branding question, it's a delivery question. It may sound kind of fluffy, but to me, it's super duper important. A podcast by its very nature creates an intimate relationship. There's been studies done on how the fact that normally we listen to podcasts through earbuds, someone's voice is literally being deposited onto our eardrums by the devices we use to listen to these things, that we have this heightened experience of intimacy while we're listening to a podcast.

Tara McMullin (00:24:44):

I want to be really clear when I'm working with a podcaster, what kind of relationship they want to create through the show, so that they don't create a relationship that's going to hurt their business. That doesn't mean a harmful relationship, it just means, if you want to be seen as a coach, but instead you're seen as a teacher, those are two very different things, and they don't transfer well. Or if you want to be seen as an expert, but instead people are thinking of you as a best friend, that doesn't work. That's not going to get people to where they need to be to feel like they can trust you to buy from you.

Tara McMullin (00:25:29):

Understanding what that relationship is that you're actually looking for from your show is really important. How do we figure that out? We go back to the rest of the business model, what is your relationship with your customers on the products or services that you sell? How do we take that relationship and carry it through to the podcast?

Tara McMullin (00:25:49):

Again, it might not look exactly the same, but we want it to be as close as possible, or we almost want it to be heightened or exaggerated so that when they're working with you, either at a distance or very closely, they have the feeling that the relationship they already have with you from the show, because that will happen, carries over directly into working with you in your product or service, and that creates just a very natural tie from the show to buying from you.

Tara McMullin (00:26:22):

Those are two factors of how the podcast actually fits into the business model as opposed to just being a random piece of marketing.

Susan Boles (00:26:34):

Tara said something to me pretty early on when we were working together. I was struggling with trying to figure out what the value proposition of Break the Ceiling was supposed to be and how that was supposed to connect to actually working with me. She said, create it so that the next logical step is hiring you. That has really stuck with me, because it is a lens through which I can think about how to create themes. A lot of the times the themes connect to things that I am actually doing in person in my business. We think about it when we're crafting ads or the calls to action on the show. How do we craft it so that the next logical step is hiring me?

Susan Boles (00:27:21):

Not necessarily that there's not an inherent value in the podcast, because there is, you get to hear the kinds of conversations I have with clients, and that's really one of the main goals of the podcast is for you to get... You get to hear what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling. In general, I'm pretty unfiltered. But for me, trying to figure out how to make sure that I am continuing to tie the podcast to what's happening in my business, and sometimes Tara has to remind me about this, is just making it the next logical step. Like she was talking about, my value proposition of the podcast is that you hear ideas and creative solutions to help you bust through your operational capacity ceilings. That's the same thing that happens when we work together, or if you do think like a CFO, or we work together one on one, we're always going to be talking about those issues.

Susan Boles (00:28:16):

The podcast can be a way for me to expose people doing really cool things operationally or with cool pricing models or business models, and put it out there to help you combat your default decisions, combat your, I should do this, somebody told me I should do this, and to really promote you creatively thinking about the operations in your business.

Susan Boles (00:28:43):

Now what? That's the question I hear from a lot of service based business owners, maybe you've been asking yourself, now what too? You've built your business from the ground up, and your business works, but maybe it's not growing. You keep bumping into a ceiling, on how many clients you can take on and maybe how much money you can make. Maybe now, you're even wondering if your business has staying power. You might be keenly aware of how small challenges could easily balloon into big problems, as the market and the economy change.

Susan Boles (00:29:16):

I help entrepreneurs decide how to take action, so they can build more resilient business that's primed for growth. I combine strategic thinking with a background in business finance, data and operations, to see the patterns that have your business bumping against the growth ceiling. I'll show you exactly what you can do to break through and make more money, all while making sure the foundation under your business is strong.

Susan Boles (00:29:42):

I have a few new client openings for my quarterly or monthly advisory packages. When you work with me, I'll examine your financial reports to spot opportunities. We'll talk about where you're feeling friction and discover ways you can reclaim your time and attention. We'll dig into how to scale your operations without sacrificing quality, so you can increase your capacity and make more money. Each action you take will be informed by strategic financial insight and data driven operational planning. The result, you'll feel wildly capable and in control, and you'll finally break through that ceiling. Ready to learn more about working with me as your business advisor? Go to

Susan Boles (00:30:32):

Let's say we've decided to invest in a podcast, and now we want to try and figure out if our investment is going to pay off. One of the questions I consistently get when I talk to either people considering podcasts, or who are just generally curious, is the question of whether or not it's, "worth it". You have this podcast, it's all of this work and effort and time and energy, and there's so much logistical stuff that goes into producing a good podcast, they want to know, was the investment worth it? That's the question I'm always getting. How do you approach evaluating whether or not a podcast either your own or a particular client's is worth it?

Tara McMullin (00:31:21):

I shrug my shoulders. No. This is the hardest question in podcasting, it is the one I have the least satisfying answer to. It's just not very satisfying. How we evaluate marketing has changed so dramatically in the last 20 years. Previous to the internet, and certainly previous to today's social advertising, pay per click advertising, marketing was measured very, very differently. We looked at reach, we looked at relationship, we looked at can people recall the ads that they saw? Can they verbally attribute where the business came from, or where their knowledge of you as a business came from?

Tara McMullin (00:32:24):

That has all completely shifted to where now the default is, do you know the exact path they took on your website, and how long it took them, and what the final page was, and which button they clicked on your sales page? If you don't know those things, then you are a bad business owner, right? The way we measure marketing today is so detailed, so precise, and the bar has been raised so high on what actually constitutes attribution, where people come from, what messaging creates the sale? What color the button should click. It's just ridiculous, all of the things that we have to measure, which is great, except, we pretend those metrics are all way more precise than they are.

Tara McMullin (00:33:17):

Just to acknowledge, there's tons of precision there, there's tons of really good data there. Also, it's flawed, it's always going to be flawed, there's always going to be things that can't be measured. Podcasting is a thing that can't be measured, except through the same means that we use to measure broadcast media advertising, or broadcast media penetration through. I can get a number of downloads per episode or get a number... I can get an approximated number of subscribers per episode, or for the podcast as a whole, and that constitutes my reach. Potentially I reached X many thousand or X many hundred or X many tens of listeners, and that's great. Okay, now I have that number of reach, it doesn't really tell me anything about who they are, whether they actually heard it or not, how they engaged with the show. Whether they listened for five seconds, or five hours. I don't know any of that. But I have this reach number.

Tara McMullin (00:34:26):

Then every other number I have is simply a business metric that I can influence with the podcast. This is what I really look at when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of a show and saying, is it worth it? That's sales, it's leads, it's subscribers, it's social media followers even, its emails into my inbox, it's reviews, it's rating, those are not at all equal metrics. But those are all of the things that I'm looking at to say, is this show worth it?

Tara McMullin (00:35:12):

Are there other things that I'm doing for marketing for my own business? Yes. Are there other things you're doing for marketing for your own business? Yes. Can I separate the podcast from those other things? No. Like I said, this is a really unsatisfying answer, because the truth is, I can't actually measure whether it's worth it in the same way I can measure did that Facebook ad convert? Did I rewrite that blog post in a way that's going to get the search engine's attentions, and now I can see that my traffic has gone up? I can't measure my podcasts that way. But there are all sorts of other things that tell me whether the podcast is working.

Tara McMullin (00:35:56):

When a new customer comes through, and they said, I heard X podcast episode, and then I heard the ad, and I was like, "Oh, my God, I need that. I know the podcast is working." Because if one person tells me that, there's 10, or 20, or 100 other people that that was their same experience. If I get a hot lead, and they say, I came from the podcast, or I've been listening to the podcast for months, and I finally just decided I got to take the next step with you, then I know the podcast is working. If I get a message from someone that says my friend recommended the show, I just started listening, and I absolutely love it. This is what I've been looking for years, I know the podcast is working.

Tara McMullin (00:36:36):

Because again, if there's one instance of that, there's 20, or 100, or 1000 instances of that out there that I don't know about. That said, leaving the unsatisfying answer behind, what I do really love to hear though, putting more of the producer hat on rather than the podcaster hat is when we've got someone's business like yours, or some of our other podcasters, where their show is their main marketing channel, and they are a service based business that is selling a high ticket service, or even a high ticket group kind of offer. They write us an email, they tell us on our next strategy session that, "I just booked a new client. I got a pretty good idea of what that lifetime value is on that client." You say, "Oh, they came from the podcast."

Tara McMullin (00:37:37):

Well, that might have paid for all of your podcasting investment, at least financially, if not time wise for the last six months, or even just the last three months, that tells me the podcast is worth it too. Because again, if one person actually tells you that, then the next two clients might have come from the podcast too, and not tell you.

Tara McMullin (00:38:00):

We can get better at asking about those things, we can get better at documenting the anecdotal pieces of whether the show was worth it and measuring and evaluating it that way. But when it comes down to it, what I always talk to podcasters about is that podcast metrics are business metrics, and that it is foolish and foolhardy to look at whatever metrics your podcast host spits out, or whatever platforms you're using, whatever metrics they spit out, as a measure of the value of your show. The measure of the value of your show in your business is whether it's driving results for your business, whether it's putting money in your bank account, whether it's getting emails into your inbox, whether it's getting new sales calls, that's where the value of the podcast comes out of.

Tara McMullin (00:38:47):

That's hard to figure out, and it's unsatisfying, but in the end, those are the things that we want to be paying attention to anyhow. While it's unsatisfying, it's also very promising and that it keeps us focused on metrics that matter, as opposed to vanity metrics.

Susan Boles (00:39:05):

For me, I Break the Ceiling when I was evaluating making this investment, I set a few key metrics. I wanted to know... My number one goal was for the show to bring me new clients. I needed to figure out how to track whether or not I was getting new clients. So, I decided to ask. When you book a sales call with me, I ask you how you heard about me. I was looking for people to say that they'd heard about me on my podcast, other people's podcasts. I wanted to figure out, what was the podcast doing and was it actually bringing new clients?

Susan Boles (00:39:46):

That was really my biggest goal, big picture for the show. One of the things that I knew going in, was that I talked to other people who had service businesses who had a podcast and I asked them, how long did you really have to invest in producing a podcast before you started to see some results? What is the expectation that I should be setting here in terms of timeframe?

Susan Boles (00:40:17):

Mostly, what I heard from those people was like six to 12 months is a good measure if it's working or not. For me, I set a benchmark that I was going to look in January of 2020. I was going to take a read of what I'd seen in January of 2020, and then I was really going to actually go full speed into this podcast, I was going to go all in for a year.

Susan Boles (00:40:48):

At the year mark, I would evaluate what kinds of results have I seen from this investment? January of 2020, was probably when I started seeing a glimmer of me not speaking into the void. I started to have conversations with people that were like, "Oh, yeah, I listened to the podcast." or, "Hey, I heard that episode, I really liked it. I started to get a little bit of realization that there were, in fact, people on the other end listening to the show.

Susan Boles (00:41:19):

That was my first positive indicator of hey, people are listening, and they are liking the content. What I started to see around, I think it was about eight months in is that's the point at which, when people were booking sales calls, they started to mention the podcast. It was a pretty long time between starting the podcast, and actually seeing some business results. But I knew that going in, I knew that the podcast was going to be a long game. It's like SEO, or any other kind of long term investment.

Susan Boles (00:41:55):

Everything was going according to schedule for me, and it was starting to produce some results. Really, that was my biggest metric in terms of measurement was, is it bringing me visibility? Is it bringing me new clients? For me, it was.

Susan Boles (00:42:15):

You've been here at Break the Ceiling since the very beginning. You were the one who came up with the name for the show. You're the first guest and now your company, Yellow House produces the show. You've been a really integral part of this journey for me. You've also seen the evolution of your own show, What Works over the last few years and how it's evolved and changed. Now, you're producing podcasts like Break the Ceiling, and you're watching all the other shows that you produce evolve too. How does your evaluation of the success of the shows you produce differ from your evaluation of the show where you are the creator? How does your role in the show change how you view or evaluate the success of it?

Tara McMullin (00:43:01):

It's a great question. For me, personally as the podcaster, and as the producer, there's a lot of overlap in what makes for a successful podcast. I want to know that I'm making money from my show, and I want to know that you're making money from your show. Bottom line, those things are exactly the same, and I get just as excited when you make a big sale, or when Nancy makes a big sale, or when Gillean makes a big sale, whoever, I get just as excited from that as when someone says, "Oh, I just joined because of the podcast." To me personally, and I can see that in my bank account.

Tara McMullin (00:43:47):

That's the first thing, there's a lot of similarity. I think maybe where it starts to differ a little, although I feel this way about producing too. Part of what makes the show successful for me is way more on the creative side of things. On What Works, I want to know that I'm creating the podcast that I can be extraordinarily proud of. I want to know that my skills as an interviewer are getting better and I'm becoming a more successful interviewer. I want to know that I'm booking really interesting guests and telling really interesting stories.

Tara McMullin (00:44:28):

The success of that the storytelling side and the guest curation side, I want to feel really positive about the success of that. Then from the production side too. For me, there's so much creative potential in how our shows are put together, even the simplest shows, I think, can have a really beautiful expression of creativity in the format, in the structure, just in how the thing plays itself out. It doesn't require tons of audio editing, it doesn't require tons of specialized skills. But just knowing where you want to take things, knowing what you want the show to sound like and then working toward that vision little bit by little bit over time, I find that to be an incredibly satisfying process. So, I want to feel like I'm having success in that area, too.

Tara McMullin (00:45:22):

Obviously, with my show, I do have more ownership over that, because those decisions are all mine, or they're made with my team, and I get the final say. That creative success of it, it's definitely something I feel more with my show. But it's one of the reasons I wanted to get into production too. Yes, I want to help people like you make more money with their podcasts. That's a huge piece of it. Also, I want to have some responsibility for putting even more fantastic, creative, high quality podcasts into the podcast ecosystem, because it's just not as hard as people think that it is. Well, it is, but in a different way than they think that it is.

Susan Boles (00:46:07):

100%. It's not easy, but it's totally different than where you expect it.

Tara McMullin (00:46:15):

Totally. It's like anyone can learn the skills, but, having the vision for what the show sounds like and feels like and the relationship piece that I talked about earlier. To me, that's the challenging piece, but it's also where we can create so much creative success. The show can have these metrics of value that are really tangible and quantitative, but it can also have this qualitative aspect to it, that makes us feel really successful as creators and media moguls and curators and storytellers.

Tara McMullin (00:46:55):

To me, that's really exciting. That is... Again, it's more of a similarity than a difference, which is not how you ask the question, but it's certainly something I feel more ownership over with my own show, but it's something that I share, I think with our podcasters as well.

Susan Boles (00:47:16):

Yeah, and I definitely... I love the ability when I am creating new themes, or coming up with the episodes that are in the themes. It is so helpful to have somebody who also shares my vision for the show, help me figure out how to make that a reality, because sometimes there are definitely episodes I'm like, I don't know what this is.

Tara McMullin (00:47:40):


Susan Boles (00:47:42):

Here's my idea, I'm not really sure what this is supposed to be. Being able to have that conversation with somebody who is just as creatively invested in my show as I am makes... I think helps me define my ideas, and helps me tell my story better and is stronger for having a team behind it.

Tara McMullin (00:48:06):

Yeah. You told me I can ask you questions. Now, I'm putting my question asker hat on. I'm curious how your creative approach has changed over your first 50 episodes, and maybe how do you qualitatively measure that in your own mind?

Susan Boles (00:48:33):

It was really interesting for me, and it's been very evolutionary over the course of the show. Before Break the Ceiling, I really wasn't putting many of my ideas out into the world. One of the things that was a real struggle for me at the beginning was getting used to the fact that my ideas, I'm putting them out there. I'm having them, I have to craft them into something that other people can then interpret and understand. I think over the course of the last year or so, really being able to step into that creativity and owning my own ideas has been so huge for me, because the first couple of episodes, it was so hard to just push play and say, "This is what I think. What do you guys think?"

Susan Boles (00:49:25):

Now, it feels like there's still an element of that, but it's less. I'm focused more on the stories that I really want to put out there and the topics that I want to talk about, than where at the beginning, a lot of it was just wrapped up in my own stuff, my own head stuff about saying things in the world.

Tara McMullin (00:49:52):

Yeah. Well, talk about a measure of whether it's worth it or not, at least getting partially over a fear or a hesitation to put your own ideas out into the world. That's huge. You could stop at 50 episodes, please don't. You could stop at 50 episodes and say, "Well, that's been a success. That was worth that investment." Because that's a skill that you can take anywhere.

Tara McMullin (00:50:17):

You take it into your CFO On Demand program, you take it into your blog posts, you take it into social media, you take it into speaking gigs, you take it into networking events. I think that this is a pretty universal experience that people have as podcasters as well. I was very comfortable putting my ideas out into the world before I started my podcast, but the experience of it has completely changed over the last five years. That has been a huge part of how I measure the success of the show as well.

Tara McMullin (00:50:55):

Yeah, totally, completely worth it. I know people love numbers and metrics. But I think these things are really important, too.

Susan Boles (00:51:05):

Yeah, and I feel like having the podcast actually gave me and helped me define what my voice is, because I really didn't... I wasn't consistently writing before that. I wasn't doing in email, I wasn't consistently putting a blog out. Just my voice changed by virtue of literally speaking. The framework for the show allows me to structure my ideas by nature of having themes that have specific episodes, and a specific, I guess story arc that I'm trying to tell, the different parts and pieces of each theme, allows me to test out my ideas, and talk through that kind of thought process, and it just feels so much more natural to me than it ever did when I was trying to write those ideas out.

Susan Boles (00:52:04):

That was one of the reasons that I settled on a podcast was I kept trying to write a blog post, or I kept trying to write an email, and every time I did it, I filtered myself to such a point that it just didn't ever sound like me.

Susan Boles (00:52:20):

The podcast started as this thing that, I had started talking to voice to text for my blog post so that I could try and sound a little bit more like me when I was writing. That naturally evolved into well, instead of trying to make my voice into writing, why don't I just make my voice, my voice? Then I don't have to try and... That I'm naturally unfiltered.

Tara McMullin (00:52:47):

Yes, absolutely.

Susan Boles (00:52:49):

I think that's probably one of the biggest ways that at least internally, the show has really created value for me personally as a business owner, and it helps me clarify my ideas, which I love.

Tara McMullin (00:53:04):

Yeah, absolutely.

Susan Boles (00:53:07):

Is there anything you think we should talk about that we haven't talked about yet?

Tara McMullin (00:53:10):

I think just to circle back to the difference between using your show to grow your audience and using your show to nurture audience and build a more intimate relationship to your audience, I want to make that a little bit more concrete for people, because I don't think I spoke about it this way when we were first talking about it. Anyhow, I think what a lot of people think about when they think about using a podcast as part of their marketing is that their podcast is going to be the top of their sales funnel. People will find the show, they'll listen, then they'll get on their email list, and then from their email list, maybe they'll join a webinar and then from the webinar they'll buy, right?

Tara McMullin (00:53:55):

In my experience, that is not how things work.

Susan Boles (00:54:00):

Same here.

Tara McMullin (00:54:02):

There's literally no one I know who works this way. We've got shows in the suite of shows that we produce, some that are getting less than 100 downloads an episode, some that are getting thousands of downloads an episode. I can see this for even different sizes of audience, different types of creators, different types of business models. Every single one of our clients, their show falls much closer to the middle if not closer to the bottom, the very last step before purchasing of their sales funnel.

Tara McMullin (00:54:35):

Like I said, much closer to the beginning, I think to be successful with the show, you have to have people to talk to in terms of an audience, people to share the show with. It doesn't have to be a lot of people. It could be 10 people. We've certainly launched shows with people who we've asked them to put together a friends and family list essentially, to launch their show to. But having even that idea of an audience first and then introducing them to the show is much more how that sales funnel piece works when it comes to a podcast.

Tara McMullin (00:55:18):

My perspective on this has changed so much over the last five years, because that's what I thought, too when I started podcasting. I didn't know how the show fit into my marketing strategy, I didn't know how the show fit into my business model. All I knew was that people were growing audiences with podcasts. Now, again, this was five years ago, this is a long time ago, and it felt like we were late to the party then. Not that anyone is late to the party now, there is plenty of room for more podcasts.

Tara McMullin (00:55:46):

But at the beginning, I just thought, oh, I'll produce more media, more people will find me, this will grow my audience, I'll use it to build my email list, and then I'll sell people from there, and it did not work. It just did not work that way. I can't say that nobody followed that path. But that wasn't the pathway that actually created sales, nor did it create my podcast audience, either. The podcast audience came from my email list.

Tara McMullin (00:56:15):

If people are already on your email list that are listening to your show, they don't need to join your email list again. It means that they're in the middle of the funnel. Whether you think about funnels or ecosystems or buyers journeys, I'm using sales funnel language, which is not my favorite, just because it's pretty ubiquitous. But however you want to think about it, and however you want to measure the success of your podcast, do not measure the success of your podcast from the top of your sales funnel, you want to measure the success of your podcast, such as you can, from the perspective of metrics that you are looking at, at the middle to bottom of your sales funnel right before the purchase, or even after the initial purchase before subsequent purchases.

Tara McMullin (00:57:01):

That I think is a really important piece of measuring the worthiness of the investment when it comes to podcasting, and it's just so countered to how so many people come to podcasts as marketing for their small business.

Susan Boles (00:57:20):

I think that's a good place to wrap up on. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect or learn more about you or any of your companies?

Tara McMullin (00:57:30):

Yeah. if you're interested in podcasting, the place to go is We have a few articles there talking about the things that I was talking about today. You can dive more into that. Then if you're interested in my show, you can find what works on your favorite podcast directory, just search it up, as my daughter would say, it'll be right there. Then our website for What Works is

Susan Boles (00:57:59):

Thanks so much, Tara.

Tara McMullin (00:58:00):

Thank you.

Susan Boles (00:58:03):

For me, the payoff on the investment of this podcast has been exponential. Yes, it brings me clients, which was my main goal. But it also has had some really surprising benefits to me. It allows me to build an intimate relationship with you, my listener. You are willing to have my voice literally in your head, and I am so honored by that. At the beginning of this whole pandemic thing back in April, I was getting really far behind in my podcast listening.

Susan Boles (00:58:36):

As I started to catch up, I realized I missed those voices in my head, I missed listening to my regular shows, because it felt like I had a friend talking directly into my head. I value that relationship that I have, even if maybe the host doesn't realize we have that relationship with some of my favorite podcast hosts. So, thank you so much for allowing me to build that relationship with you.

Susan Boles (00:59:03):

This podcast also allows me to build relationships with people who are guests. Having the podcast, having an interview show allows me to reach out to people that I would never have had an excuse to have a conversation with before, and people that I wouldn't expect to respond to me, absolutely have and have absolutely come on the show.

Susan Boles (00:59:26):

That part's really cool. It's also helped me develop my voice, my perspective, positions me as an expert. It gives me credibility because I've been here and you can actually go listen to me. It's also helped me get guest spots on other podcasts because other guests know that I know how to put out a quality podcast because I have one.

Susan Boles (00:59:49):

One of my favorite benefits of this is that I get to use this content to help people. If I'm in an online community, and there's a question that I have an episode where we talked about that, it's just there. Or somebody is looking for creative pricing ideas or creative business models, and I can say, "Hey, I talked about that on this episode, go have a listen to it." The other cool benefit is that with potential clients, when they ask about referrals or testimonials, or talking to previous clients, I can say, "Absolutely, I can provide those. But if you want to just hear my perspective and how I think about things, or what my opinion is on stuff, just go listen to the podcast, because you literally get to hear me talk about that."

Susan Boles (01:00:29):

I'll also say that the consistency, the routine, the commitment to putting out this thing week after week has been amazing for me as a business owner. This is the biggest and longest running commitment I've ever made in any of my businesses. The repercussions of that have echoed throughout my business. This has become the consistent foundational piece that always happens. It's a habit, I know that I am committed to putting out a new episode. It just runs and becomes the backbone of my business and my workflow now.

Susan Boles (01:01:09):

There have been a ton of returns on this investment that are way outside of just the original goal of bringing in clients. A year in, this is probably my favorite investment I've ever made in my business, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Thank you so much for listening and for trusting me to be one of those voices inside your head.

Susan Boles (01:01:30):

Next week, I'm kicking off a little bit of a geeky theme, and we're going to be talking about how to use software and no code tools to effectively scale your business. Make sure you hit record in your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it.

Susan Boles (01:01:44):

Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode is edited by Marty Seefeldt with production assistance by Kristin Runvik.


Measuring Growth