Free Radio and Podcast Marketing
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How radio drives my sales
Cold-calling the station
Pitch-perfect telephone calls
Rock stars in an elevator
Devising pre-planned questions
I am naïve. I have seen lots of movies. In the movies, book authors grab dinner with their editors once per month. They banter and trade advice over glasses of wine, reminiscing about the old days and marveling at how far they’ve come. If you’ve ever seen Robert Zemeckis’ guilty pleasure flick Romancing the Stone, you know what I’m talking about.
The first time I met my editor at a prestigious publishing company was less Romancing the Stone, and more Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You know the scene. A classroom of high school students nears comatose during an economics lecture, eyes dead and jaws slack. Chalk squeaks on the blackboard, and one boy is roused from his stupor, realizing he’s dozed off in a small lagoon of his own drool.
Sitting there in my new editor’s NYC office, I sensed though we hadn’t yet crossed the slobber threshold, it wasn’t far off. A stocky, middle-aged woman with cropped blonde hair, she was my third editor over a period of months. Number one had dropped my project after accepting a job at another publishing house, and number two quit with comparable haste out of sheer indifference.
This blonde lady was the third string, assigned to us by the company, and it showed. Far from a specialist in the topic, if she had any interest in entrepreneurship, she was damn good at hiding it. As I explained the book’s thesis and my hopes for its release, she watched me with profound apathy, eyes drifting lazily between my face and the door. She would send me back through it after a mere ten minutes.
Ten minutes. I had flown to New York at my own expense, dressed up for the occasion, waited a full hour past our appointment time, and all I got was ten minutes of awkward, fruitless conversation. Standing stupefied in the elevator, I abandoned my Romancing the Stone fantasy. Forget monthly dinners and tough love — I would have settled for an editor who could speak in full sentences!
About a month before the book was set for release, I returned to New York for a speaking engagement at the SCORE organization. My publisher’s PR department had arranged the event to promote my book, and I was optimistic despite the discouraging experience with my specter of an editor.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by PR representative Bethany, a bubbly twenty-something who was new to the company and eager to prove herself. I was delighted to see that Bethany had brought along a stack of my books for sale, all of which were neatly arranged on the plastic foldout table where she perched, grinning at me. Huh, I thought. Maybe this company does care about my book, after all!
My speech was a hit. We sold nearly all of the books on Bethany’s table. What was more, at the end of my presentation I was approached by the head event planner for SCORE. He was so impressed that he offered to send me on a national tour of SCORE offices around the nation, where I would give my speech to thousands of former executives and rack up some serious PR. I was ecstatic! Here was the publicity I had been waiting for, and it wasn’t going to cost me a cent!
Overhearing our conversation, Bethany suddenly materialized at my side. Her sunny expression had given way to one of determination. I was immediately suspicious. A national tour for one of the publishing house’s authors was a fairly big deal, and she could smell the opportunity from her foldout table. Landing a gig like that as a brand-new recruit? It was too good to be true.
Thanking the SCORE event planner for his interest, she insisted that the PR department would take over from here. Slightly irritated, I explained that I had put together my own national tours in the past and suggested that I would have far more success collaborating with the SCORE organizers myself. Bethany wouldn’t budge.
Back home on my sofa, I refreshed my email every few minutes to check for updates on the tour, as well as any other PR opportunities the company might have sent my way. Hours went by, then days, and then weeks.
Nothing. Nada. Zippo. I never heard from the PR department again, and the national tour never came to fruition. My book was released in May, and I hadn’t heard from the company in over a month.
Staring into my empty inbox, I realized I was on my own. The promotion of this book would fall entirely to me. So, I set about learning how to publicize a book release — just my Google search bar and me.
Over the next year, I would land over one hundred interviews on blogs, podcasts, and radio shows across the country. My book would go on to sell by the thousands, eventually ranking as high as number 9 on Amazon’s business section. It would continue to be a best seller for over four years, moving enough copies to reach the top 2% of sales numbers. My on-air presence progressed to the point that I was eventually offered my own nationally syndicated radio program, which recently celebrated its 1,100th show.
I did it all myself. I did it without any help from a publishing house or PR department, and I did it, essentially, for free.
How radio drives my sales
My first book, School for Startups, was published on May 19th, 2011. Somewhat inconveniently for me, the book was released on the exact same day that my publishing company (which will remain nameless) published another author’s book on the same general topic — entrepreneurship.
Two books, one publishing house, one subject, one release date. At the time, it seemed like bad news for yours truly.
My counterpart’s book was a hit from the get-go. It shot straight to number one on Amazon’s business section, whereas mine hadn’t yet managed to scrape the top 10. To my colleague’s credit, his book was a great read with solid information, packed with valuable tidbits about navigating the entrepreneurial space.
I respected him as an author, and quietly swallowed the idea that his book was simply destined to sell better than mine.
But as time went by, things began to shift. At first, his book slipped from number 1 to number 6. Then, to number 10. After just a few weeks, it had barely managed to cling to its spot within the top 150 ranked books on Amazon. Meanwhile, my book sales had not only remained relatively steady, but had actually crept into the top 10 list, sitting comfortably at number 9.
Fast-forward three years, and his book had toppled from grace into rank 1.1 million of Amazon print books.
My book, on the other hand, after remaining a best seller for quite some time, ranked around 9,500 – a respectable rank for a backlist business title. To this day, my book continues to overtake his by hundreds of thousands of Amazon place rankings.
This anecdote is not intended as a boast or a brag, but rather a fascinating side-by-side case study of the profound impact that steady radio marketing can have on product sales. We released our books on the same date, from the same major publisher, on the same topic. As much as I’d love to think that the content of my book is simply of higher quality than his, I don’t think that’s the secret behind our disparate sales numbers.
Here’s what is: In the time before and since my book’s release, I have done over 275 radio and podcast interviews. My counterpart did about five. Years down the line, my book continues to sell copies. Where is his?
Radio and podcasting are invaluable not only as tools for initial release-date publicity, but as a surefire way to extend the life of your product, idea, brand, or cause. That first splash is important, but the real money is in the long-term sustainability of your marketing strategy.
There’s a website called Klout.com. If you’re not using it, you should be. Klout.com measures your prominence in the social media world — how much your name, your buzzwords, your URLs, and your Twitter handle are all bouncing around the Internet. The higher your score, the more important you are. It is also worth mentioning that the higher your Klout score, the more you can charge for speaking engagements, and the more articles you will have written about you.
The quality and relevance of your information is also a crucial part of your ticket onto the show in the first place — keep this in mind while crafting your pitch. The letter/email/phone call through which you reach out to producers should emphasize that your information is interesting, important, and worthwhile.
Cold-calling the station
We saved my least favorite method for last. While this involves using the telephone, it’s different than calling a specific radio or podcast producer whose contact information you have already obtained. In this case, you are cold-calling a radio station’s main number. The thing to remember here is that calling the station is only appropriate under specific circumstances. Let’s say, for example, that you live in a large city. There is a number one show or a number one station that you know you want to get on — you’ve had your eye on this show for years. What should you do?
Here is my recommendation: Call the radio station and ask to speak to the program director. The program director is the hotshot in charge of the whole station. He’s the guy that decides which spots play at eight in the morning, which spots play at nine in the morning, which spots play at ten in the morning. You get the idea.
Call the program director and say:
“Hey, my name is Jim. I think I would be a great guest on one of your radio shows. Could you introduce me to the show you think I would be most appropriate for?” What you are trying to accomplish here is an end run around the host and producer. Fly right over their heads, and go straight to their boss. A lot of shows won’t like this strategy one bit — but it’s how I’ve landed some of my biggest appearances of all time.
The Rusty Humphries Show was one of the biggest radio show in the country at one time, and enjoyed about five million listeners per day. For many years, this program aired on over 250 stations — it was ranked as the 6th largest talk program in the United States. I got on that show by calling Rusty’s lead station and asking for an introduction to the producer. They bit. I got on the show, and it was a great interview. I sold a lot of books that day.
Remember when you begged your parents for an extra hour before bedtime, or for that shiny new bicycle glistening in the storefront? Remember the three words that sent you running off in tears, slamming your bedroom door and wailing into the pillow?
“No means no!”
Unlike parenting, dating, and most areas of life, “no” is a very temporary concept in the radio and podcasting businesses. “No” really means “not now.” You never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Things are always shifting in radio — personnel may change, guests drop out at the last minute, and topics fade out of fashion. The reasons behind a program’s negative response might not even exist come next month. So, if at first you don’t succeed…call again later!
If the producer tells you they don’t want you on the show, try again in six months. They rejected you again?
Try six months after that. And then two months after that, and then five months after that. Rinse and repeat. You should change your pitch, of course! If they didn’t like it the first time, they certainly won’t like it the fourth time. But they’re rejecting your pitch; they’re not rejecting you. Don’t take no for an answer. A friend of mine was interviewed on the Howard Stern show a few years ago. Guess how many times he talked to executive producer Baba Booey before landing that slot? Thirty times, people! My friend spent an entire year hounding poor Baba Booey, wearing him down, convincing him that he would make a great addition to the show.
Let this be a lesson to you. Don’t stop fighting. They will eventually put you on the program, if for no other reason than to shut you up. Multiple interviews of mine have concluded with the host wearily asking, “Will you quit calling us now that we’ve had you on the show?”
“Nope,” I say, “I’ll talk to you again in six months!” Because that’s what I do. I sell things on the radio, and this is how I do it. So, never give up after a rejection. It might take five calls to get on the show, it might take ten calls, it might take thirty. And that’s okay! Keep fighting the fight, keep selling your product.
Getting past the switchboard
If your target is a large-scale show with a receptionist, he or she is your new best friend. The bigger the program, the lower your likelihood of connecting with the producer on your first attempt. You will need determination, and you will need some sort of inside connection to speed things up.
When the receptionist inevitably tells you that the producer is busy, don’t hang up right away. Schmooze with her. Over time, you will form a relationship — she will know your name and your voice, at the very least. Call every two days and say, “Hey, I’m trying to get through to Jeff, the producer, is he around?”
Eventually, your relationship will develop to the point where you can conceivably say, “Listen, will you do me a huge favor and just see if Jeff is around? Could you possibly look around for him and see if he’s in the office?”
Your perseverance will either charm her or annoy her, and both outcomes are equally valuable to your ultimate goal. She will tell Jeff to return your call — maybe because she thinks you are a genuinely nice person and wants to do you a favor, maybe because she’s desperate for you to quit bothering her, for God’s sake! Either way, your foot is in the door.
You have a great pitch, you’ve built a strong list of potential show candidates, and you’ve successfully scored the head producer’s contact information — but how should you actually behave during the call itself?
What should you say to pique his interest and get yourself on his good side?
First of all, always remember the dire importance of your enthusiasm and charisma. If they can hear your energy, they can visualize you as a guest.
So, with considerable pep in your voice, say to the producer:
“Hi, I’m Jim. I’m a potential guest on your show. Do you have 30 seconds to speak with me?”
This line shows him that you understand just how busy he is, that you are incredibly conscious of his limited time and its tremendous value. You must endear yourself to this person, and the way to accomplish that is with flawless manners and implicit gratitude for their attention.
So, what do you do if they say no? First of all, this outcome is not at all unlikely. About 50 percent of the time, producers cannot spare you 30 seconds. Quickly follow up with, “Is there a good time for me to call?” Or, “Can I call you back this afternoon?” Again, it is crucial to tread lightly and demonstrate your appreciation for their tight schedule, but you also have to get your foot in the door as gently as possible.
After this small exchange, get off the phone pretty quickly. Busy producers do not take kindly to misuse of their time.
If they say yes (about 50 percent of the time, they will) you should immediately launch into your 30-second pitch. This should be perfectly memorized, not read from a piece of paper. If you ramble, if you sound bland, or if your pitch is weak, you will never get on the show. You need to dive straight into a compelling spiel like you were born for it. It should be executed gorgeously.
“Yes, I have 30 seconds.”
“Great! I’d love to tell you about what I could do for your show. I have listened to several of your
interviews. I think your host is fantastic. I would love to come on the show to talk about [fill in the blank]. I will discuss [this], [this], and [this]. I have prepared a list of sample questions to help round out our conversation. Would you be interested?”
In those 30 seconds, you have presented yourself as a knowledgeable expert, a meticulous and competent guest, and an enthusiastic entertainer. Let your passion for the subject shine through, and your well-honed pitch will speak for itself.
At the end of the call, you need to actually secure a time for your interview. Don’t say, “That was great, thanks,” and hang up the phone. The entire point of the conversation is to walk away with a concrete slot on the air. They need to commit to it right there and then. So, your last question should be:
“Is there a day and time when I can get scheduled to be on your show?”
You have to ask for it explicitly. Don’t be coy. If they don’t give it you a hard answer at this point, they probably don’t want you on the show.
Sent to voicemail? Your voicemail messages should follow this format:
“Hi, my name is Jim Beach. My telephone number is [fill in the blank]. I would like to be on your show to discuss [fill in the blank]. My email is [fill in the blank]. Again, my name is Jim Beach, and my telephone number is [fill in the blank].”
You need to give your name, your email, and your telephone number once at the beginning and again at the end. This format is standard protocol — it’s just the way things are done, and it’s what producers will expect of you. So, it’s important that your voicemail follows this formula.
Rock stars in an elevator
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
– John Lennon, “Imagine”
Let’s say your product is a state-of-the-art copier machine. With all due respect to any readers in the copier machine biz — is anything more mind-numbingly dull than the copier machine biz? That’s where our good friend John is going to help us out.
Imagine you’re driving on the highway. Your rickety 1995 Datsun is stuck bumper-to-bumper in unfathomable traffic, moving a mile an hour. Your car is overheating, the air conditioning system spluttering on its last legs. The only radio station without static is playing your least favorite song — the one that makes your ears bleed yet manages to knock around your head for days on end. Glance to your right, and the most irritating person you know sits sweating on the sticky vinyl seats, muddy feet propped on the dashboard, chattering away.
Now, imagine you’re driving down that same highway, speeding 100 miles an hour in a brand-new Lamborghini.
The cool spring air whips past your cheeks as the vehicle glides across glistening asphalt. The radio keeps churning out your all-time favorite tunes, and one gorgeous specimen of a human being sits directly to your right on buttery black leather, gently tapping along to the rhythm.
That is what your copier machine does for documents. That is what you are selling — the sensory experience of an upgrade, the glorious transition from Datsun to Lamborghini. Documents just flow faster because of your technology — they go at 100 miles an hour, like they would in a Lamborghini.
The “Imagine” pitch creates a situation where the listener gets to pretend. You paint a picture for them and juxtapose two parallel scenarios in a compelling, relatable way. The fantasy that unfolds in their imagination does half the work for you. It’s an irresistible pitch.
These little town blues are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York
– Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York”
Do you have one killer client that defines your product? A line on your resume that outshines all the rest?
If your catering company serves food at the White House, you are not going to say, “I’m the caterer at the White House — oh, and I also do all of Jim Beach’s functions, too.” Lead with your best, shine a spotlight on your finest accomplishments and let that do the talking. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
Are you a best-selling author? Did your product hit the top-ten on Amazon last week? Boom — you’ve made it! Let the world know. Highlight the gigs and feats that establish your company as “the real deal.”
If there was a problem, yo — I’ll solve it Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it
– Vanilla Ice, “Ice Ice Baby” Vanilla Ice’s classic jam not only sports my favorite hook of all time, but also epitomizes the heart of entrepreneurship. This business is all about solving problems. That’s where you come in, and your pitch needs to make your product’s problem-solving capability inescapably clear.
Does your baby wake up screaming every night at 3 AM? I’m the guy who is going to show you how to finally get a good night’s sleep.
Are you sick of dieting and exercising without any perceptible results? I’m going to reveal how to get those pounds off for good.
Let your pitch underscore your potential for problem solving — it’s the best technique for selling products and exciting interest around your company.
Pitch-perfect telephone calls
You know those telephone calls you get from call centers or solicitors? How these telemarketers just rattle off an airtight script to everyone who picks up, the same little spiel every time?
That is no accident. The writers who created that script worked hard to perfect every word, to ensure that every sentence flows just so and is as persuasive as possible. Through relentless testing, they know that if they change just one word, sales might plummet 2%. The structure and organization of language is a powerful thing.
Follow their example. Your pitch will shift and mutate as you revise, but when you eventually arrive at a real winning script, you will know. The right pitch pulls in more interviews than any previous rough drafts, and it rolls off the tongue nice and smooth. Once you’ve found “the one”, don’t deviate. Stick to the script word for word.
Now, that doesn’t mean that your first great pitch will be your last. I’ve had a really solid pitch for about a year now, and I’ve gotten a little sick of it. I’m a repeat guest on a bunch of different shows, and
I don’t want them to get sick of it. So, I like to massage my pitch ever so slightly over longer periods of time, hopefully improving it 1% with every tweak.
For example, if I score a huge interview, I like to slide that brag into the pitches that follow:
“I was just on CNN, and therefore I’m a credible and respected guest.”
Once your pitch has reached peak form, milk it for all it’s worth, but don’t be a slave to it — slight revisions over the years might do you some good.
Protip: Practice, practice, practice your interviews. Practice aloud in your living room, and practice on the telephone. Print out your sample question sheet, give it to a friend or family member, and ask them to run through the interview with you. Then do it again, and again. Switch to a new person, and then do it with them. If you have nailed down your script before this first radio or podcast appearance, you’re going to be great.
Devising pre-planned questions
We’ve already touched on the importance of your pre-planned questions in formatting the interview and impressing the host. But I want to expand on the subject and further illustrate the gravity of this little list. It will be absolutely instrumental not only in ensuring that your segment goes smoothly, but also that you successfully express the ideas you want to express to radio and podcast audiences.
These questions will serve as an outline for crossing off your essential talking points — they should ensure that, if all 12-15 are asked, all the information you could possibly want to cover is adequately presented.
Remember, your talking points are the entire reason for this whole system, the reason why you are reading this book. Do not overlook this fundamental part of the preparation process.
A large percentage of radio and podcast hosts really will read from these questions verbatim. Use their laziness to your advantage. Make sure that you not only have great questions, but also fantastic answers for each one.
Let’s take a look at some of my own pre-planned questions so as to fully grasp their role as the backbone of a successful interview.
Question one: What does the average person think entrepreneurship is about?
My pre-planned answer starts something like this:
“Well, Darryl, if this question were asked on Family Feud, the top three answers on the board would surely read that entrepreneurship is all about creativity, risk, and passion.”
So, my opening question is a little bit playful. It’s designed to appeal to a broad demographic — who doesn’t love Family Feud?
More importantly, it sets up my thesis quite nicely. I am here to prove that entrepreneurship is NOT about creativity, risk, or passion, and my list has already started to do that work for me.
Let’s look at the next few questions:
- Question two will discuss the role of creativity in entrepreneurship.
- Question three will discuss risk
- Question four will discuss passion.
I am strategically using my question list to break my thesis down into its individual components, getting all my points across on my own terms. You can bet that I have come prepared with an amazing, tightly planned answer to each question, complete with dazzling anecdotes and relevant jokes. I like my responses to consist of two brief sentences and one story. Here’s the sequence:
- Two-sentence answer
- Two-sentence answer
… And so on. It’s terrific radio.
By mapping out your questions and answers in advance, you essentially guarantee a smooth, dynamic interview that accomplishes everything you wanted it to. You get to determine the flow, the pace, the high points, and low points of your segment. Milk that privilege for all it’s worth — if you provide your host with quality sample questions, your interviews are sure to be top-notch.
Always make sure to talk to the host after the show, never before. We already mentioned the pre-call rookie faux pas, but there is additional logic behind this rule. Why doesn’t the host want to talk to you before the show? One big reason is spoilers. It will be difficult for him to express genuine shock or interest when you drop your anecdotal doozies if you already let them slip before recording begins. Those reactions have precious entertainment value, and you don’t want to waste them on arbitrary pre-show chatter.
After the show has ended, make like a high school relationship: Always be the last person to hang up the phone. One of the bigger mistakes my guests make is hanging up immediately after their segment has concluded. There are personal questions that I don’t want to ask on-air, there are comments that I don’t necessarily want my audience to hear.
Protip: Stick around as long as possible! Always be 100% certain that your host has clicked off the line before you do — maybe even listen to the commercials that air after your segment. He might pop back on at any time to ask you follow-up questions.