Chris Hutchins recently left his position as Head of New Product Strategy at Wealthfront to focus full-time on his podcast, All the Hacks. If you’re thinking about starting your own podcast or are simply interested in the process, be sure to check out today’s episode. We dive deep on all things podcasting: the pros and cons, how to climb the charts, and how much time you should expect to spend on each episode from start to finish. We talk in-depth about the process, from pre-production to publication, and share all of the products we use for recording, editing, and publishing. Chris also offers some important tips and tricks on how to get your first subscribers and how to market and grow your podcast, as well as some incredible money-saving hacks that you can start implementing today.
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Where to find Chris Hutchins:
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/hutchins
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrishutchins/
• Website: https://chrishutchins.com/
Where to find Lenny:
• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/lennysan
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/
• All the Hacks podcast: https://www.allthehacks.com/
• All the Hacks newsletter: https://allthehacks.com/email
• Andy Rachleff on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arachleff
• Kerri Walsh Jennings on All the Hacks: https://www.allthehacks.com/performance-psychology-kerri-walsh-jennings/
• Descript: https://www.descript.com/
• Erika Taught Me podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/erika-taught-me/id1650076906
• Leigh Rowan on All the Hacks: https://www.allthehacks.com/travel-hacks-leigh-rowan/
• Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans”: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/
• Emily Oster’s books: https://emilyoster.net/writing/
• Chris Hutchins on The Kevin Rose Show: https://podcast.kevinrose.com/guests/chris-hutchins/
• Nick Gray’s newsletter: https://nickgray.net/signup-for-email-updates/
• The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings: https://www.amazon.com/2-Hour-Cocktail-Party-Relationships-Gatherings-ebook/dp/B0B2KW6T7J
• MrBeast on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX6OQ3DkcsbYNE6H8uQQuVA
• Gary Vaynerchuk on Twitter: https://twitter.com/garyvee
• The Danny Miranda Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-danny-miranda-podcast/id1532160275
• Ray Dalio on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayDalio
• Danny Miranda’s newsletter on Substack: https://dannymiranda.substack.com/
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• Riverside: https://riverside.fm/
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• Overcast: https://overcast.fm/
• Happy Money: https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Money-Ken-Honda-audiobook/dp/B07MJHJ57T/
• Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel: https://www.amazon.com/Vagabonding-Uncommon-Guide-Long-Term-Travel/dp/0812992180
• Die with Zero: https://www.amazon.com/Die-Zero-Getting-Your-Money/dp/0358099765
• Animal Spirits Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/animal-spirits-podcast/id1310192007
• Mythic Quest on AppleTV+: https://tv.apple.com/us/show/mythic-quest
• Unclaimed money: https://www.usa.gov/unclaimed-money
• Savendeals.com: https://www.savendeals.com/
In this episode, we cover:
(00:00) Chris’s background
(03:25) Lesson’s from Wealthfront
(09:25) Why storytelling and communication are every bit as important as the product
(11:04) Why you need to understand the user’s experience and keep up with what others are building
(14:56) Why you should focus on overall impact, not just doing what your boss wants
(17:39) Why Chris likes working on big, crazy ideas
(19:10) The early days of Chris’s All the Hacks podcast
(21:34) The pros and cons of starting a podcast
(24:19) The time required to produce an episode
(27:09) How Lenny started his podcast
(28:29) Launch lessons and how Apple rankings work
(30:49) Why you need to create authentic content
(32:57) Be one person’s favorite podcast
(35:01) How Chris ideated and titled All the Hacks
(40:09) How to get started and get your first subscribers
(43:52) How Gary Vaynerchuk used Twitter to establish authority
(45:07) How to take advantage of platforms with built-in growth engines
(47:42) The power of in-person interviews
(48:57) How to pitch to other podcasts
(51:27) Equipment and products for producing podcasts
(57:36) How many downloads it takes in order to be taken seriously
(1:01:28) Using Overcast as a growth lever
(1:09:02) Lightning round
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Chris Hutchins (00:00:00):
Yes, there are four million podcasts. However, there are only about 150,000 podcasts that have had 10 episodes and have published in the last 10 days. So the easiest way to be in that top 5% ish. I don't know what the math there is. About 3%, 4% is to just stick to it. Like if you just do an episode a week for 10 weeks, you're now in the top 4% of all podcasts that anyone has created.
Welcome to Lenny's Podcast. I'm Lenny and my goal here is to help you get better at the craft of building and growing products. Today my guest is Chris Hutchins. Chris is not only a former product manager, founder and investor, he just this month went full-time on his podcast and the independent creator path. When I was looking for advice on how to build a podcast, Chris shared this awesome deck with a ton of great advice that he's built throughout his journey, and so I thought it'd be fun to spend an episode talking about all the things that you should know about launching and growing a podcast. Chris's podcast is called All the Hacks, covers all the ways to financially optimize your life, and it's one of the biggest business podcasts in the world. Chris has also been on the Tim Ferris Show actually, interviewing Tim Ferris.
He's also head of new product strategy at Wealthfront where he took some big, bold bets within the company, which we talk about. Chris is awesome and I am excited for you to learn from him. I bring you Chris Hutchins after a short word from our wonderful sponsors. This episode is brought to you by Notion. If you haven't heard of Notion, where have you been? I use Notion to coordinate this very podcast, including my content calendar, my sponsors, and prepping guests for launch of each episode. Notion is an all-in-one team collaboration tool that combines note-taking, document sharing, wikis, project management, and much more into one space that's simple, powerful and beautifully designed. And not only does it allow you to be more efficient in your work life, but you can easily transition to using it in your personal life, which is another feature that truly sets Notion apart.
The other day I started a home project and immediately opened up Notion to help me organize it all, learn more and get started for free at notion.com/lennyspod, take the first step towards an organized happy team today, again at notion.com/lennyspod. This episode is brought to you by Vanta, helping you streamline your security compliance to accelerate growth. If your business stores any data in the cloud, then you've likely been asked or you going to be asked about your SOC 2 compliance. SOC 2 is a way to prove your company's taking proper security measures to protect customer data and builds trust with customers and partners, especially those with serious security requirements. Also, if you want to sell to the enterprise, proving security is essential. SOC 2 can either open the door for bigger and better deals or it can put your business on hold. If you don't have a SOC 2, there's a good chance you won't even get a seat at the table.
Beginning a SOC 2 report can be a huge burden, especially for startups. It's time consuming, tedious and expensive. Enter Vanta, over 3000 fast growing companies use Vanta to automate up to 90% of the work involved with SOC 2. Vanta can get you ready for security audits in weeks instead of months, less than a third of the time that it usually takes. For a limited time, Lenny's Podcast listeners get $1,000 off Vanta. Just go to vanta.com/lenny, that's V-A-N-T-A.com/lenny to learn more and to claim your discount. Get started today. Chris, welcome to the podcast.
Chris Hutchins (00:03:48):
Thanks for having me. I'm excited.
This is going to be a pretty unique episode, I think. You're a product manager and we're going to talk about some of the things you've learned being a PM on some really killer products. But what I want to spend most of our time on is talking about how to launch a podcast. You've built one of the most popular, biggest business podcasts in just like a year and a half. You've taught me some stuff, you've helped other people with their podcast and so I just thought it'd be really helpful just to talk about just the skill of building a podcast and all the things you should know. How does that sound?
Chris Hutchins (00:04:21):
Sounds great. You just did a episode about growing a newsletter business, which I was like, "This is awesome because I have a newsletter and I want it to be bigger." And I think anyone that's has knowledge to share. I talked to a PM yesterday who was like, "Oh, I've got all these product ideas. Maybe I'll start a podcast." So totally, this is fun.
Awesome. That's exactly how I've been thinking about it. First we did the newsletter and then podcast maybe the other things, I don't know what's left.
Chris Hutchins (00:04:42):
Chris Hutchins (00:04:44):
[inaudible 00:04:44] I don't know if you feel this way, but YouTube. I feel like just putting a podcast on YouTube isn't enough, I need to learn the skills of YouTube.
Yeah. All right. I got to get MrBeast on, that's the next goal. To set a little foundation for folks, to give him a little sense of your background and some of the things you've done in your career. Can you just talk about some of the biggest things you've done in your career, which you've been up to and then what you're up to now and also about your podcast?
Chris Hutchins (00:05:09):
I'm kind of like a happenstance product person. I basically really liked startups, but I didn't know what job I could have as a non-technical person. And I joined my first startup probably 10 years ago and was like, "I will do anything." And they were like, "Do business development." But it turns out we didn't have anyone who also was doing products, so they were like, "What should we build that people will buy?" So I was like, "Well, I got to figure out how we turned this API we were building for location services into a product." Left that to join other startup with a few people we co-founded, did the Jack-of-all-trades role at a startup and then quickly were acquired by Google about a year in, and I went through the interview process and they were like, "You're a PM." And I was like, "Oh, great, what does a PM do?"
I didn't really totally know I'd never worked as a PM. Went through Google's kind of like week of training and got thrown into it and I think I've now learned with a lot of time that being a PM is awesome. Being a PM at Google when we were working on Google Plus was not awesome. Transitioned pretty quickly over to Google Ventures, did venture capital for three years, left to start another company trying to make financial advice more affordable, more accessible. Grew that for about two, three years and we ended up selling that company to Wealthfront where I ran a new product strategy. I most recently just left that role after three years and started going full-time on All the Hacks, which is my effort to help everyone upgrade their life, their money, their travel. I'm the spreadsheet for everything, optimizer and do all this research to try to help people live better, happier, wealthier, healthier lives. And I have a podcast where we share all the hacks to do all of it.
Amazing. While we're on the podcast, we're going to dig into this stuff more. Where can folks, find it. It's called All the Hacks.
Chris Hutchins (00:06:48):
Anywhere you listen to podcasts right now, search All the Hacks, you can find it at allthehacks.com. I'd be surprised if someone listening to this is more of a newsletter reader than a podcaster, but allthehacks.com/email is the newsletter too.
Oh, newsletter. I love it. All right, coming back to your last gig at Wealthfront, from what I understand your title was New product Strategy and Andy Rachleff, who was the CEO for a while, kind of legendary figure. He co-founded Benchmark. He's just like this brain that... I listen to him every time I hear him on a podcast. He basically pulled you into Wealthfront and specifically wanted you to focus on figuring out new business ideas, new business lines, new product lines within Wealthfront. Is that right?
Chris Hutchins (00:07:31):
Yeah, so we had an engineer at the time who came up with this idea called Self-Driving Money. I was like, "Gosh, what if you could automate and optimize your entire financial life and you didn't have to rely on human financial advisors?" And we heard from our customers forever that they pay us to not talk to someone, our demographic doesn't want a bunch of humans in the mix. And so we had this idea but we didn't really know what it was. So Andy was like, "Gosh, you've been spending time thinking about financial planning and software and as an entrepreneur, could you come in and help us build Self-Driving Money?"
And I was like, "What is it?" They're like, "Well, we got a bunch of ideas from an algorithmic standpoint about how to do it." But, "What exactly is it?" So it was thrown into, "Let's do a bunch of customer research, let's talk to a lot of people and let's try to come up with as audacious of an idea as we could for how you fulfill the promise of automating and optimizing someone's entire financial life to the point that they don't have to think about their finances on a daily basis and they know the right things are happening."
When I think Self-Driving Money, I'm picturing money just driving around, like a Tesla. Money meets Tesla.
Chris Hutchins (00:08:34):
Yeah, the vision I had was what are the core pieces of financial life that are stressful? It's like, "I got to move money, I got to contribute to these different accounts. I want to make sure I have enough to pay my bills." And so what we ended up with was a product called Autopilot that would monitor your core banking account, whether it was a checking account at Wealthfront or not at Wealthfront or whether it was an account at Wealthfront. And we would say, "Let's make sure we leave a certain amount of money." And you could tell us that much. And then we would say, "Great." Now we had basically a series of things to fulfill with any excess. It was like, "Let's make sure you keep this much as a three-month emergency fund, max out your Roth IRA. Let's make sure you max out your 529 for your kids and let's put the rest in your kind of taxable just brokerage account." And we would just periodically say, "Oh, you got extra money, let's sweep it over and do what we need to do with it so you don't have to think about it."
Can you talk about the impact this had on the company and also just how long of a endeavor this was within Wealthfront?
Chris Hutchins (00:09:29):
It was a quick endeavor to try to start talking to people. This was just throw in the mix. I have a very poor sense of time, but let's say somewhere between six and 12 months maybe before we put something really in front of someone that could execute on all the features, there was a lot of prototype UI testing. I think Andy, he's legendary. If anyone listening to this, wants to learn about product market fit, Andy is your guy. I believe he coined the term, he teaches the class at Stanford. And the lesson was really find something people are reaching over the table want, and make sure you have that validation. And so we were putting things in front of people, clickable, full prototypes, and I remember we got to one where someone was like, "Can I go get my husband? I need to show him this."
And then I created this thing, which I'm sure is not that new, but I would start pretending that the product existed in the interviews. Only to find out, at the end, people was like, "Oh, it's not out yet." And they're like, "What I want to use..." You could really feel the like, "No, no, no, no, this has to be out. I want to start using it." So we found this thing that a small number of people were very excited about and we knew that a product, this was going to be a high risk bet because people don't automate their financial lives today. People drive to go pick up fast food and if you could with a push of a button, bring it to their house, you're making a thing that they do much more efficient. Right now, well, technically they do this manually, but trusting software to do it is something that we knew would be a higher risk bet.
And I think the takeaway, I would say the impact on the company was not as high as we had wanted in that it didn't become this wild top of funnel. I think it's similar to Tesla's autopilot. It's like nobody goes and says, "I just want to buy this car because of this feature." I'm sure some people do, but once you're in the ecosystem, it had huge impact on making it easier for people to start saving more, making it easier for people to be more confident in their finances and just automate all that behavior. So I would say the letdown was, it wasn't the big, huge top of funnel thing where people are like, "Oh, this is all I've ever wanted." Even though if you interview people and you're like, "Gosh, would you like a product that could just automate all this stuff?" They're like, "Yes, I would love it."
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And then you hand it to them and you're like, "Do you want to use this thing?" And they're like, "Well." It's very hard to test that. And so what we found was it was a win in terms of it. It moved a lot of metrics for saving more money, increasing contributions and that kind of stuff, but it didn't become this growth channel, which Andy would say product market fit is exponential organic growth. So I would say by that metric, we didn't have product market fit, but as a tool to make a system of products so much better. We have the cash account with all the checking features, we have an investing account, we have retirement accounts. So this really brought it all together and that was super valuable.
Awesome. So here's my big question. What have you learned? You spent a lot of time thinking about big bets, big innovations, working within a company to come up with something totally new. What have you learned about how to approach that within a larger company? How do I successfully innovate? How to think about launching big bets, how to structure teams, anything along those lines?
Chris Hutchins (00:12:37):
I've learned a few things and I think some of them I've learned came naturally being a founder before being a PM. But you think that customer research is all you need to build a product at a company, but figuring out how to create excitement internally and get buy-in from other teams because they're the ones that are going to build it. They're the ones that are going to help market. It's all a team effort. Sometimes you get caught up, at least I found, as a PM of like, "Oh, we got the customer insights, we did the testing. It's all positive." And then you show the ratings you got from sub survey or the engagement or some clips and that's not the end of it. The end is creating this compelling vision for what you're building. And then the thing I learned from being a founder is, gosh, you have to state your vision and your mission and why you're here, every all-hands.
It seems so crazy because it's core to you why we would build this, what it's purposes, why it's amazing. But as a founder, I was like every week I was like, "Hey everybody, before we get started, this is the mission we're on, this is why we're doing it. This is the thing we're doing in the world." And as a PM sometimes you're like, "Well, I told people three weeks ago and I put it in that email that I sent out to everyone and it was in the top of the PRD, so why hasn't everyone understood why this product exists?" And I realized very quickly that, that same thing is true. So if you want to make a big bet, if you want to make a big impactful product, you have to bring people along with you. And your ability to speak publicly, persuade people, build influence within the company. Those things are all as important as your ability to identify a user need and build a product that solves it.
Awesome. This reminds me a lot of Airbnb, where the founders, all-hands share the vision and the strategy that they came up with that year. Every single all-hands. And it's always like, "Yeah. Yeah, we know. We know." But to your point, it's so powerful and important.
Chris Hutchins (00:14:28):
And some people don't know. Some people we're not paying attention that one all-hands, we're kind of missed it out, skip all-hands. Often there's just, you need everyone to be able to in... And this is a little segue to podcasting and we'll come back to it, but I start my show with saying, "Hello and welcome to another episode of All the Hacks, the show about upgrading your life, money and travel." Because I just want everyone to know this is exactly what this show's about, so when their friend asks them a question, they're like, "This is exactly what it is." And the same thing is true about a company's mission, a product, vision, anything you want everyone to really understand it, be able to talk about it succinctly and just have a very cohesive narrative in their head. That's a really big one. I think the other one is just understanding the customer, not just by talking to them, but just being in the mix, playing with all the products.
Something I asked a few of my colleagues before this, "What are things that I've particularly done well?" And they were just like, "Gosh, I feel like you understand what's happening outside of the walls of our business better than a lot of people." And maybe that's talking to a lot of other people who are founders talking to a lot of other people, starting companies, going to read all the comments on new financial products on Product Hunt. Really just trying to understand people beyond just customer research. And so that was another thing that I think... As a founder, you're always looking for product market fits, you're always trying to learn. Sometimes at a company it's really easy to get caught up in the research you've already done and the customers you've already talked to and you forget to kind of step outside and go talk to other people and see what other people are doing. And I'd say don't get caught up in what competitors are building and try to feature parody them, but just understanding the space outside of the walls of your business.
One thing I'll add to your point about reminding people of the strategy and the vision is if you can also help them understand how their team and project connects up through that, create kind of a little tree of, "Here's all the teams, what they're doing. Here's all connects to the pillars of focus and themes and then here's how it connects to the North Star metric and or vision mission. "That kind of adds another wrinkle of like, "Oh, wow. I get it. I get why this team's important."
Chris Hutchins (00:16:30):
There's a great analogy, I'm sure if I send a link you could put in the show notes or something about a football team. And it's like the GM's goal is to sell out the tickets and win the conference championship and it actually tiers it down. It's like, "Well, there's a defensive line coordinator." I'm not even that big of a sports person, but it's like the defensive line coordinator's job is just one specific thing, but they kind of explain how it all levels up to this one North Star metric for the company or two in that case. And I think that's just so important and when you're talking to people at your company with your colleagues, it's not just what it does. It's like, "This product will automate people's money movement so they don't have to move their money and it happens automatically." And that's cool, but it's equally as important to remind everyone, "And then they don't have to worry about their money every week and then they don't have to worry that their contributions might leave them without enough money in their checking account to pay their rent."
There's these two components of it which are, what does it do, but what's the feeling you want someone to have? And that gets into product vision versus just the product feature set. And whenever we've written product visions statements about things we're building, it's like, "Imagine a world where someone can feel this way about their money." And it's like, "And then this thing will do that." That's the product strategy. It's how you execute on it. And so Reforge has this awesome product strategy kind of product vision roadmap that levels them all up, which I really like as a another resource.
The Reforge. I just recorded another podcast this morning actually, and what you just said reminded me of it, where a lot of people focus too much on features and not enough on benefits. And the stuff you're talking about is just like, "Think about what are the benefits of the person." Versus, "Here's feature one, feature two, feature three."
Chris Hutchins (00:18:10):
The last little skill, and I know you, you've talked about this, but I think it's something that I was fortunate enough to not care about. Which I think is, when you focus too much at a company about like, "Ooh, I want the promotion" you get caught up in this world where you're like, "If I want the promotion, I need to do what my boss wants." And I had this fortunate benefit of... Like my last job, I was the CEO. I didn't care about my title, I didn't care about leveling up. I came in and I was like, "I want to continue trying to execute on this vision of this thing that I wanted to do." What that actually meant was my only metric I cared about was impact and trying to build a product that would work. And I think in any job in any company, it turns out you think that doing what your boss wants is actually what's going to get you promoted.
But the people that I've had work for me or I've worked alongside that seem to always be the outperformers, are always the people that are just solely focused on having the most impact on the company. I think the thing I learned, which I thanks to Andy Rachleff for teaching me this is when you push so hard for your ideas and you have really strong beliefs, you have to also make sure you state your intent. Because sometimes people think you're acting out of self-interest. I'd be like, "Oh, we should delete this feature and build this crazy thing. It's going to be amazing." And people are like, "Oh, Chris just thinks his idea is better than everyone."
And so he taught me, he's like, "It would go a long way before you said that, you said, "Hey guys, I've got some crazy ideas, but before I say them, I just want you to know that all I care about is that the company is successful. And I think this idea will make the company successful. And that's why I'm so excited about it. I don't need to own it. I don't care who owns it, I'm just really excited about it."" And when you state your intent, you give people a little bit of ease in thinking you know what it might be. And even though I'm sure half the people listening work at a company where their culture is like assume best intent is one of the pillars, it's still our nature to assume that if someone's shooting down an idea we have that maybe it's out of their own self-interest.
And I've learned that when you have crazy ideas and when you're pushing back against a lot of people, if you can make sure you constantly remind them why you're doing it and what you care about, it goes a lot further than if you just kind of come in there with sharp elbows and try to push for crazy things.
Reminds me, I think Andy is the person who on a podcast once said that every year he picks like a, "We're going to bet the company on this idea." Kind of project, is that?
Chris Hutchins (00:20:28):
I would say we've done that a few times. I think the thing that I always told people that I wanted to work on is like, "I want to work on a project that if successful makes everything we do as a company today feel like it's not that important because we did something that was 10 times bigger than everything we're doing today. And what we're doing now is just 10% of the company." Those are the kind of crazy ideas I like to work on. They're very hard sometimes you're like, "Ooh, I've got one." And then it just doesn't work. Sometimes you do one and it takes a turn. But I think that when companies find those things, they're so powerful. But if you don't have the buy-in for management that that's your goal... Andy, he always talks about slugging average, not batting average. He's like, "I don't care if you hit the ball every time. If one in 10 times you hit a home run that's better than someone who hits it every three out of 10 times but gets out a lot."
He thought about that and the balance. He's written a lot internally about the balance between working on iterative improvements to current features and then taking big bets and trying to find the balance amongst it all. But I think he does believe there is always exploration necessary for taking big bets and trying to take swings that could have outsized impact. You got to balance it because you're often wrong. And I think that's something that I was like, "That's the thing I want to work on." As someone who is kind of running a company, when you get to go to a big company and you're like, "Now I can solely focus just on this big product bet. I don't have to worry about hiring and recruiting and all these other things." So that was fun.
Speaking of being solely focused on something, let's talk about the podcast. So this is kind of the new thing that you're going to be focused on full-time. You just left Wealthfront and you launched the podcast maybe a year and a half ago, correct me if I'm wrong, by a year and a half ago. The podcast is Top 30, top 40 business podcast. It's probably gone a lot of higher at some points. And so there's a bunch of questions I want to ask about just how you launched this thing and built this thing. But broadly, what did I miss about the [inaudible 00:22:18] framing of the podcast?
Chris Hutchins (00:22:18):
Oh, yeah. That's it. It's about 18 months old. Been doing, gosh, probably about almost 100 episodes, not quite there. Weekly show and I went on parental leave part of the last 18 months and I tried to balance family and just grinding on this and it's been a passion project on the side and I'm very excited to see all the different kind of legs and tentacles that the brand and the content can have.
What kind of benefits and good things have come out of having a podcast and launching a podcast or running a podcast?
Chris Hutchins (00:22:51):
I think we all run into people and you're like, "Gosh, this person's really smart. I wish that I could just pick their brain for an hour." And sometimes you could just email them, be like, "Hey, could we schedule some time in a month and we could just chat?" But that sometimes just feels like a weird thing to ask. The podcast gives you this great platform, you're like, "Well, I have a podcast. And so I would love to invite you on and help you amplify your message and spend an hour trying to understand everything about topic X, Y, Z." And sometimes it's really nerdy and nuanced and sometimes it's broad, but being able to have a reason. I think one of my first episodes was with a guy named Morgan Housel who wrote a book called Psychology of Money. I read the book, I was like, "This is a great book. I have so many questions."
But like what I'm I going to od? Randomly email this person I don't know and say, "Hey, I loved your book. Can I just ask you questions for 45 minutes?" I would never do that. But I randomly emailed him and said, "Hey, we've never met. But I have a podcast." I don't even think it had launched, "It's launching next week, but I'm really excited about it. Could I pick your brain?" And he was like, "Sure." So I would say the biggest thing is it just gives you a platform to explore your curiosities on things provided that you can really focus the thing that you talk about on one vertical, niche, something so that people learn what it's about. Because the hardest part about podcast growth is there's like four million podcasts and you've got to find a way to stand out in a sea of many podcasts.
Let's actually talk about that. I was going to ask you about that. There's like four million you said, that seems right. It's probably a four million launched to date. Also, if you're someone that's thinking about, "Should I do a podcast? Should I not do a podcast?" Do you have any advice for just signs that this might be a worthwhile endeavor with your time versus signs you probably should not do this, do not even-
Chris Hutchins (00:24:34):
I'll give you two perspectives. So one is, yes, there are four million podcasts. However, there are only about 150,000 podcasts that have had 10 episodes and have published in the last 10 days. So the easiest way to be in that top, I don't know, 5% ish. I don't know what the math there is, about %3, 4%, is to just stick to it. If you just do an episode a week, for 10 weeks, you're now in the top 4% of all podcasts that anyone has created. Now, that doesn't mean you're in the top 4% of the 150 active podcasts. So what I would say to that is... I mean, maybe you have a massive platform already, in which case just go start the podcast. But if you don't already have a massive platform, it is unlikely statistically, that this thing is going to work. So absolutely, do not start the podcast if you wouldn't do it for free, making no amount of money in perpetuity or as long as you want to experiment with.
That's one thing I'll throw out there is you are most likely going to start a podcast and it will not take off and be wildly successful. However, I've met plenty of people who have hundreds of listeners and hundreds of episodes and they stuck at it because they truly loved the thing. If you don't know if you love the thing, it's very easy, which is what I did to say, "I'm going to have one season of eight episodes." And I committed to record eight interviews and put eight interviews out in the world. That was it all I committed to myself. And I said, "If that doesn't work, then I will be fine and say, "Here is season one and there's just not a season two." And I would be okay with it." So you can commit to see if you like it before you do it, but chances are, and you might have found something similar when you started creating content, it's like for the first six, nine months, there's no revenue coming in.
It's a lot more work than it seems. Everyone I know that has no podcast and goes to having a podcast, they're like, "Oh my gosh, I thought this was just once, one hour a week, I just talked to somebody." It's like, "Now, I have to prepare for it. I got to write up show notes, I got to make sure it's edited properly, I got to recruit people. Turns out you reach out to 10 people, two reply, one is willing to schedule this week." There's just a lot that goes into it. So I'd say only do it if you're excited to do it, even if five people are on the other end.
Talking about the time investment, how long does it take you per episode, hours-wise? And then how long did it take you to kind of prep launch?
Chris Hutchins (00:26:59):
And this has evolved a bit as the podcast has generated enough revenue to hire other people. But in general, I would probably spend, depending on how well I knew the topic or the person, anywhere from two to 10 hours preparing for an interview. If someone wrote a book at the beginning I was like, I got to read the whole book, I got to take notes. Then I was like, "Well, if I read the whole book and take notes, then I kind of know everything. So I'm going to read a few chapters." I wanted to listen to everyone on different interviews. Some people are really hard, some people have only talked about one topic and you want to get them on another topic. I interviewed Carrie Walsh Jennings, who's a three time gold medalist at the Olympics for beach volleyball. And I listened to every interview she'd ever done because only 3% of each interview was about not volleyball stuff.
And I was like, "Well, I don't want to talk about volleyball, I want to talk about performance and how you can train." She won a gold medal while she was pregnant. This is a serious level of physical and mental preparedness that I wanted to dig into. So that's one big piece of it. After it's done, then it really depends on the style of show. If you have this NPR style editing where it's very narrative driven, it could take you a long time to go through the editing. For me with interview style, I think it takes me about an hour to go back and listen to it at a little, speed up pace. And then go in and be like, "Ah, this thing wasn't worth keeping in. Or I mean, we had to repeat something and let's cut that out, or this person stumbled on their words."
Fortunately there's some amazing software. Now I use a piece of software called Descript, which basically imports all the audio, transcribes it to, let's call it like 95% accuracy. And then you can edit the podcast like you would edit a Google Doc. It's crazy. You're just like, "Oh, let's delete all the ums, control F, um. Ignore all ums." And then you listen through it and you're like, "Oh, that um, was really necessary, let's put it back in." And little edits like that. But that tool makes the editing process really easy. From the get-go, I had an audio engineer who would actually mix and master and add in the music and that kind of stuff.
So I would say each guest is probably at least 10 hours plus probably two or three hours of coordination and outreach to three or four people that you reach out to in order to get the one. Now I've since, hired someone who helps do a little bit of research. So they might go listen to two or three episodes, read a couple chapters of book and put up some notes with links to those various places. So I can then take that and take my time from 10 hours to three hours.
I'll share my experience briefly. It's a little different, which is really interesting to hear your experience. So I launched the complete opposite of your advice, which is I just launched big with like, "I will do this forever. This is my new thing. I have 40 guests lined up, here's who they're going to be." And I think it's partly because I already went through that initial period of uncertainty, whether I can keep this up with a newsletter, which you said eight to nine months. Which is exactly how long it took me to do the newsletter every week to get to a point where I'm like, "Yes, I can keep this up for years. Let's start adding a paid plan." So I think I was just more confident that I can keep at it.
And then I actually planned to monetize from the beginning. I think partly again, because I had the newsletter already. And I will say, so I don't edit that myself. I have a production group that is a game changer. So you can save a lot of time and I don't know if you've gone to a producer or anything, but I feel like most people eventually do.
Chris Hutchins (00:30:25):
I've now switched to someone who went back, listened to the first 20 or 30 episodes and said, "Oh, I get what you like to cut out of a conversation." And I'll end and say, "Hey, take that 90-minute conversation. And I think there's probably 20 minutes to cut out." And they do a very good job of getting pretty close.
Chris Hutchins (00:30:42):
To the point that some episodes I'm just like, I don't even look at it.
Chris Hutchins (00:30:45):
It's just recorded and done.
Chris Hutchins (00:30:47):
When it comes to launch, I would say one of my suggestions is to get a few things in the bag. Line up... You don't want to launch and then be scrambling. So I tend to think launching with two or three episodes, either all at once or in a week is a really valuable strategy. You talked about in the intro, you're like, "Sometimes it's been a higher ranked, but top 30." I think I've been top 100 in the business category all the way to top five in the business category, maybe top 10 and just all the way in between.
And the reason for that is that the ranking charts are all driven by different variables than you would imagine. They're driven a lot by momentum of new subscribers, at least on the Apple charts than actual downloads. So I have a friend who launched a podcast and had a huge following on social media and so out the gate was able to garner a ridiculous number of new subscribers to the point that she was the number two podcast overall, all podcasts in the world.
Chris Hutchins (00:31:45):
It is crazy for a week or two, a woman named Erika Colberg, she has a podcast called Erika Talk.
Chris Hutchins (00:31:53):
But it's not number two anymore because it's so driven on the momentum of how often you can get new subscribers. She's still in the top 100 of business podcasts, but to get to the number two spot overall, it's all about number of new followers per hour. And if you can get a ton of traffic early on, you can drive that. And I will say the value of you doing that is now you've got this screenshot of like, "Look, I was top 10." And by the way, she did the same thing I did. The moment I was top 10, the second I was in top 10, I immediately took all those guests that were on my dream list and I was like, "Hey, I've got a top 10 podcast. Go look at it right now and see that it's in the top 10." So you can always say that forever after it happens once, you can always use those things. So capitalize on that.
So you had the newsletter before. I had a newsletter I'd written on casually for various things throughout my life and for my last startup. And so I kind of put it all together to try to carry a big launch so that we really spike the rankings, maybe qualify for Apple does this new and noteworthy thing. And so there's a lot of stuff you can do to build momentum at launch, but at the end of the day, all the momentum in the world doesn't matter if your content's not good. So I try to say content for me is product market fit for building software. It's like you need to have a good podcast. And so if you launch big, one of the downsides is you're like, you don't really get that moment of tweaking and testing and seeing how it is. And I will say, I did five episodes in the fifth one. I was like, "This is number one." The first one I recorded came out, I don't know, fifth. But the fifth one I recorded came out first because I just knew it was episode one.
And the guest that I had on, and we talked about travel hacks, a guy named Leigh Rowan, he's come on twice. It was just like this awesome energy episode about everything you want to know about travel hacks, allthehacks.com/one. So save yourself the need to scroll through the whole list. But if your content isn't a unique perspective, you don't have a unique way of saying it. It's going to be really hard to stand out in the sea of podcasts. So I always say, be you, be authentic. Try to be someone's favorite. Don't try to be everyone's okay podcast. I remember Tim Ferris was saying... I got a chance to go on Tim Ferris's show and interview him about podcasting. And he's like, "Look, I did an episode about how to..." I think it was like how to make violins or something. And he's like, "I was so fascinated about this. 80% of people were like, what is this episode? But 20% of people thought it was one of the best episodes I'd done that year."
And I think half of his top 10 episodes of all time are people you wouldn't recognize. So I would focus on what gets you excited, not focus on what you think will move the metrics. Because every time I have a guest where I'm like, "I really think this person's going to move the metrics." It doesn't. And then I interview someone who no one has ever heard of, and I get these emails like, "Wow, that was such a good episode. Can't be. Oh man, I'm so glad you did that one." I was like, "You don't even know this person is."
Very similar experience in many ways across a lot of the things that you said. Something that you did mention that you shared previously with me is, and this is advice that I've thought about a lot, is you should be somebody's favorite podcast. That's like a sign that you're doing something right. Can you expand on that?
Chris Hutchins (00:35:08):
There's this whole idea of your build your 1000 true fans. And I think anytime you're creating something in the world, you want people to be your advocates for it because those are the people that are going to share it. Those are the people that are going to write the reviews, those are the people that are going to send you the ideas. Those are the people that are ultimately, when you make a call-out on a podcast like, "Hey, I'm looking for someone to help build this company or this enterprise." That are going to reach out and want to work for you. I find it so valuable to build that relationship with people. And it's even more valuable with podcasting because podcasting is such an intimate medium. You're in someone's ear and they're actively listening to you while they're going about their life. They're going on a walk, they're [inaudible 00:35:52], but you're right there.
And I get so many emails, they're like, "Ah, I feel like I'm just sitting on the couch with you while you're talking to me." And you create this really close relationship and the more you can create for those people and be their favorite time of the day, their favorite thing. Someone once told me, "Make sure you're consistent with the time you release because you'll get people that are like, "It's Wednesday morning, where's my episode? This is how I... It's become a ritual in my life."" And so, I don't know. I just think it's so valuable to build that early kind of excited user base and those 1000 true fans that I always try to put something out that's someone's favorite.
And I actually surveyed the audience about 50 episodes in and ask, "Which was your favorite episode?" And every episode except one was someone's favorite. There's one episode that, no one's favorite. So I'm still waiting. Maybe next time I survey someone will be like, "No. No, that one was my favorite." But every other episode of 50 episodes was someone's favorite. And it was like the coolest feeling knowing that every episode was someone's favorite.
That's exactly what happens with my newsletter. I get a reply with every newsletter and someone's like, "This is my favorite one yet." Okay, somebody really likes this one. It's so interesting.
Chris Hutchins (00:37:06):
Are you hiring or on the flip side, are you looking for a new opportunity? Well, either way, check out lennysjob.com/talent. If you're a hiring manager, you can sign up and get access to hundreds of hand curated people who are open to new opportunities. Thousands of people apply to join this collective, and I personally review and accept just about 10% of them. You won't find a better place to hire product managers and growth leaders. Join almost a hundred other companies who are actively hiring through collective. And if you're looking around for a new opportunity actively or passively join the collective, it's free. You can be anonymous and you can even hide yourself from specific companies. You can also leave anytime and you'll only hear from companies that you want to hear from. Check out lennysjobs.com/talent. How did you pick your topic for your podcast? And then did you have just advice for folks for how to pick the topic for their podcast?
Chris Hutchins (00:38:07):
This is an interesting one. So my podcast actually started as a parenting podcast from the perspective of dads. And I was doing all this research. I built this probably 75-page Notion doc all about parenting. It was like I had a kanban board for all the things I needed to do in each trimester of the pregnancy. And then the fourth trimester after the baby was born, I had all these checklists. I had a stroller spreadsheet that had, at least, let's call it 15, 20 different features that you could filter on. Dimensions, cubic volume of when you sum up the dimension, everything. It was crazy. And I was like, "I'm so obsessed with this." And I was like, "Nobody's really taking this kind of crazy optimized approach to processing parental information except a few people." Emily Oster, by the way, if anyone out there wrote a few books, I really loved her pragmatic science approach. But I just didn't see a lot of this and I especially didn't see as much content coming from dads.
And I was like, "I'm so excited." And then we had our daughter and for some reason I was like, "I love her. But the topic of parenting and optimizing every aspect of it just wasn't what it was before we had the child as after." I was like, "Wow. But I bought this microphone and I figured out how to use all the editing software and I had never even recorded an episode." And it just ended up that I was like, "That topic just wasn't right for me." And I went on another friend of mine's podcast guy named Kevin Rose, who was a co-founder of a company we started, he started Digg back in the day. And in the middle of it we'd been talking about this, I've been brainstorming ideas, and in the middle of his podcast he's like, "Hey, tell us about your new podcast."
And then I was like, "Kevin, I haven't nailed down what it is." And he's like, "Yeah, it's fine. Why don't you just record a response to that question and email it to me before this episode goes live and then you could just tell everyone what your podcast is about." And then I was like, "Okay, I'll think about it." And the next day he was like, "Dude, I need this by Friday." I was like, "Oh, man. So I have two days to figure out what my podcast is." And I talked to a lot of people and they're like, "What do you love, what do you love talking about?" I was like, "Gosh." What question someone said is, when you're at a dinner table, what's the thing that you talk about where you notice that everyone at the table is leaning in and trying to listen and pick your brain on and maybe sends you a text after?
And I was like, "It's probably all the hacks I have for traveling for free, for getting upgrades, for saving money, for shopping online, for optimizing my health or anything, house hacking, saving money on my rent." And every time I bring those up, people are like, "I like saving money. I want to travel for free." And they're leaning in, they're like, "Which credit card do I get? Is this one bad? What about this one?" And I couldn't come up with a name. I had hundreds of names. It was like life upgraded, optimized your life. But every time I described what it was, I just said, "It's life upgraded. I'll teach you all the hacks to do this." And then someone, I can't even remember who was like, "What about just All the Hacks?" And then I looked and I was like, "Is allthehacks.com available?"
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]I was like, "What? It's available." It's like... Get the domain. And then I very quickly recorded a response to Kevin's question, which was like, "Yes, I'm launching a podcast called All the Hacks, here's what it is." And I had to go create a trailer and upload it all in three days. And I think I was fortunate that I just had the time pressure that I had a thing to get out. So I'd say one, what do you love talking about at the dinner table? What gets you excited? What do people reach out to you for expertise on? What do you spend your time going down deep rabbit holes on the internet on? Because all of those things are going to be part of your life as a creator. And then two, if there's any way you can force yourself to just have to make a decision because I get stuck in this analysis paralysis, that's great.
So find some friend of yours that's like, "I'm tweeting about your podcast on Friday, or I'm going to include you in my newsletter next month." And give yourself an artificial deadline or even a real deadline to just put a stake in the ground. And you could change the name, you could pivot the topic, you could pivot the style of content. All those things can happen after, but just get started because you'll get to learn whether you like doing it, how it feels. And you could always... This is another fun hack. You could create a podcast and make a private feed and people can add a private feed to their podcast app. So if you want to get some feedback, you can just send people a URL and say, "Hey, paste this URL and the Apple Podcast player and listen to a couple episodes and let me know what you think." Before you make that plunge to send it to the whole world.
Awesome. I actually heard that interview with Kevin Rose back in the day, and I checked out the podcast, I think I actually subscribed and it felt very natural. So nice job.
Chris Hutchins (00:42:43):
Yeah. Little did you know that it was inserted in post production, recorded on a separate system. Yeah.
So people listening to this made feel like, "Hey, I don't have Kevin Rose announcing my podcast. How do I get started? How do I get my initial traction in my podcast?" Do you have any advice there for people that are just launching things they could do to get their initial set of subscribers and get the word out and get some kind of traction without a friend with a huge platform?
Chris Hutchins (00:43:08):
Yes. I interviewed a guy named Nick Gray, and it was a fun conversation because he wrote a book called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, and it was all about how to build relationships by throwing the best cocktail parties. And it was very tactical guide, but one of the things he does is he has a friend's newsletter. And he basically created a newsletter and every time he meets someone that is a friend of his, he sends him a note, says, "Can I add you to my friend's newsletter?" People say, yes. And he just shares, "Here's some cool articles I'm reading. Here's a cool thing I'm doing in my life. Here's a picture." It's instead of waiting till the holidays to send your holiday card to everyone that's like, "Here's what happened this year. Or maybe now we've..." That's what my grandparents did. Now it's just like, "Here's a photo of the family."
He just sends it out. I don't even know what the cadence is. It's just like every now and then I get an email and it's like, "Oh, this what Nick's up to, this is pretty cool." Anyone can subscribe to it. And he shares all these great things. He's like, "Ah, I was thinking about a virtual assistant. Here's 75 things that I dreamed up that I could send to a virtual assistant." I was like, "That's really cool." "Here's how I tweak my Calendly. And I sent the Calendly to you. It's like I added a few little things in it that..." He had suggestions to just make it a little more friendly, make it a little more comfortable. The one I loved was like, "If I'm not arrived within two minutes of the start time, here is my cell phone number. I just want to make sure I'm prompt. And people know that."
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And so, one thing is, before you even get started, find a way to just build an audience of your closest friends, family, colleagues, and throw stuff out in the world. You don't have to do it weekly or monthly. You could just send it out every quarter, every six months, it doesn't matter. But start to build something. So I started with a new, I think it was on MailChimp, called Life Updates. And I think I sent five of these out 10 years ago, and I hadn't really sent one out in seven years, but I still had this email newsletter with 1100 people on it that I just collected from life. And so that was one thing. Look, you can always go out and try to find other creative ways to partner with people. So you have a newsletter, but you don't have a podcast.
Could you use your newsletter to promote something? Could you find someone who has a platform that you could trade your services for promotional things? Yeah, I can think of any couple examples where there's been something where I've been really excited use and I'm like, "Hey, could I talk to my audience about this thing? And then you could let me use this?" So if there's anything, whether it's consulting services or anything, you could maybe trade those services for other people with an audience to share and promote you. I think that happens more often than not. But again, it all matters if you have good content. So I'd say the first thing, the most important thing to grow a piece of content is just have it be good. And it's hard to know what's good. Put it out in the world, see if people like it. Maybe get your reps in before you even try some of these growth things.
I think I was fortunate to have done some public speaking before, so I felt a little more comfortable. But if you... You mentioned MrBeast earlier, he's very public about the fact, if you go back 10 years and look at his YouTube videos, they were not exciting like they are now. And it took him a long time. And I think that's the reality with content is, for almost every person that you see out there and you're like, "Wow, they have this huge audience. It's so awesome." You go back 10 years and you're like, "Oh, well their first episode wasn't that awesome. It was actually kind of crazy. Or it wasn't that interesting. And they got better over time. They learned what their audience liked, they built a following." So those things are all there. Find communities. If you're talking about a very specific thing, I never forgot Gary Vaynerchuk's lesson, gosh, he probably told me this 13 years ago.
He was like, "When he was starting Wine Library." Which most people don't maybe even know that that's what he was originally known for. He wanted to build this business and so he went on Twitter and he looked for every single person that asked a question about wine and he at replied them back. And so a tactic that I think could work really well is, for me, I'm like, "I love travel. I love points and miles." I can just search Twitter and find every person on Twitter, every person on Reddit, every person on a forum, whatever that's asking a question about the thing my podcast answers, and go in and try to be a value add to them. I guarantee that if you have a podcast and your favorite thing is quilting and in your bio on Twitter, maybe Twitter's not the right platform, but let's just go with the analogy, right?
Your bio says , "Top quilting podcast." And you go find everyone that's asking questions about quilting and answer their questions with strong, good answers. They're going to look at your bio and be like, "Oh my gosh, this person knows their stuff about this topic. Let's go see what they do." And you have these advocates they share in their communities and it grows over time. I'll come back to one more tactic, which I didn't do, but there's no built-in distribution engine in podcasting. TikTok, you make a TikTok video, TikTok sends it to like a hundred people and if no one likes it dies. But if like a few people like it, they send it to more people and more people. And YouTube does the same thing. Instagram Reels does the same thing. Podcasting doesn't have that, and so it's just a slow growth effort and you just have to be okay with that.
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]But what I didn't do early on, which you can do is you can make clips of your podcast and you could put those clips on these channels that do have that built in distribution. And if those clips do take off, they could build a massive audience. And so there's a guy, Danny Miranda, he has a podcast and he launched, didn't have a huge following, but he created clips of every single episode, lots of clips. He didn't know what was the most interesting piece of content, so he made a clip for everything. He built millions and millions of views on TikTok and Instagram, just by creating content from his podcast that drove downloads over to his podcast. Helped him build his audience, and he built an audience on social faster than I have a and bigger than I currently have out of just being all in on distributing his content on platforms that had growth engines built into it.
The last point is interesting because what I've been hearing, and I've actually experienced it, so I have TikTok clips, I have YouTube videos and YouTube shorts, and I find they drive followers within the platform and downloads and views, but I haven't seen any actual impact on the podcast. And maybe people can measure it or maybe they can tell something's happening, but from what I hear and what I've seen, I don't know if it actually drives a lot of downloads, but it's still really useful, still useful to have an awesome TikTok account and an awesome YouTube account.
Chris Hutchins (00:49:16):
He said, "Look..." I don't know if it drives downloads, but it drives brand awareness for me.
Chris Hutchins (00:49:20):
And he's had multiple guests be like, "Oh yeah, I'd love to go on your show." One of the clips he made, he made a clip talking about Ray Dalio. And Ray Dalio was like reposting his clip. And so he was getting a lot of engagement with people that would be very difficult to reach out to saying, "I have this many downloads." But because he was getting thousands or even millions of views across a platform, it gave him the credibility to do a lot of things that he might not have been able to do now. Then he's gone and translated that into, "Well, let's go bring some of these people with really, really wide distribution of their podcast onto my show and let's do an interview with them." Then for the most part, people are like, "Oh, let's distribute that content to my audience that you had me on."
One thing he did that was so good is he did all of his videos in person, so he would fly to someone record in person, and the quality of the video for an in-person video was just so much better than you get doing a remote thing. It's a lot harder. It's a lot more work and it doesn't even impact the audio, but he would make the best quality clips, and Erika Colberg does the same thing. And she would deliver them and he would deliver them to the guests, and now the guest starts using those clips because he spent so much time trying to come up with the best clips, the highest quality, best produced that made his guests look amazing. And then those guests were much more likely to share those in their audiences and all of a sudden you've got a lot of momentum.
Does that translate to downloads? I'll give you a little shout-out, Danny has a paid newsletter on Substack where he actually breaks down all his downloads and all his tactics on how this is all working for him. And it's fascinating, it's called In The DM, because he did a lot of his early on recruiting with guests in DMS on social media. But it's to be seen, how much of an impact it can have on your podcast, but it certainly builds other things that are, I'd say like indirect... There's no direct attribution, but that doesn't mean that things aren't overall going up. And then the last one is finding other podcasts that you can go on as an expert in some area. So hopefully, you're starting a podcast because you believe something is exciting in the world, you love it, you have a passion about it, you're an expert in it.
Take that thing and go present yourself to other podcasts. And they all have listeners that are listening to podcasts, so it's the best medium. Because yes, someone who likes short form, 60-second videos is maybe not the best target demo to listen to a one-hour audio only thing, those two are very different behaviors. But if you can find something you're really good at and present a value add to people to come on their show, then that could help you build your audience while adding value to their audience. And I think as someone who gets a lot of pitches from people to come on their podcast, I will only caveat it with, do the work to make sure you're really presenting a compelling pitch. You're going to get a lot of nos, that's just how it works. I've pitched myself to go on lots of shows and sometimes I get nos also.
Many times I get nos, but I never send an email that's like someone would read it and be like, "This person obviously, doesn't know what they're talking about." But I get so many, they're like, "Oh, I'd love to have my client come on your podcast. They love talking about building a business." And I was like, "Well, I don't really interview people about that." If someone came to me and was like, "Here is a tactic to improve your life that I think your audience would benefit from and here's why my expertise makes me the best person to talk about it." I'd be much more open to it because they actually understood what my show is about.
Yeah, I get it. At least, one email a day with one of these pitches and I know exactly what you mean. I generally, don't reply because it's just not even worth trying to convince them they're not a fit.
Chris Hutchins (00:53:00):
Shifting gears a little bit, I want to talk about your stack, your podcasting stack. What do you use on the software? What do you use the hardware? Mic, headphones. What do you recommend?
Chris Hutchins (00:53:11):
On a mic? I started out with the ATR2100X, I think it is a great entry level mic. It's under a $100. You can use old analog XLR cables if you want, but it's also USB. That mic got me through 50 episodes. I have since upgraded to a Shure SM7B, which is the XLR compatriot to, I think you have a Shure MB7.
Yeah, I have the USB version if that's what-
Chris Hutchins (00:53:38):
Yeah, exactly. And those are two great kind of upgrade mics that I think... I like the sound quality a little better, but every time I'm traveling and I'm not sure if something's going to come up, if I can make a recording and if I have to record the intro, do a remote interview, I still carry the ATR2100X, because I just think it's an easy thing to have and it works really well. I record everything on Riverside. I put everything into Descript. I plug my XLR mic into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which is like a audio interface. I would say I've gone a little bit overboard with video, so we were talking right before this started. I have a Sony a7C, which is like a mirrorless, full frame camera behind a $60 Amazon teleprompter so that I can make direct eye contact with the camera while an iPad that's... I don't know, it's like 10-year-old iPad sits under it and projects as a second screen for my computer, using this-
[inaudible 00:54:36] If you're not watching this YouTube, you got to check out the YouTube video at least for five seconds to see Chris just staring at you. I've never seen this on a podcast video before.
Chris Hutchins (00:54:43):
It's the future.
Chris Hutchins (00:54:45):
So I have that set up using a iPad, running an app called Duet Display. I don't do the editing. I've worked with one editor that uses Audition and one that uses Pro Tools. I don't have a strong opinion there. Oh, my favorite of all, my friend of mine, Brendan Mulligan, started this company called Podpage. And so for people who don't know a lot about how podcasting works, there's a hosting platform, I use Simple Cast. I liked that they were one of the only hosting platforms that has a really affordable self-serve option, but also has a really great pro, all the features that you would want in the future for monetization, everything so that you wouldn't have to switch. Not to say that you know couldn't switch easily, it's pretty easy to switch. How it works is you upload an MP3 file, you write out all your show notes, the title of the episode, everything, and they create an RSS feed for you.
You could literally just create an RSS feed, right? That's all it really is, and you could host everything on your own on AWS or something, but they make it really easy for not that much money. And then you go distribute that RSS feed to all of these different players, so the Apple Podcast app, Spotify, et cetera. And one of the things that's amazing is this site Podpage, you submit the RSS feed to this website and they go in and say, "Oh, here's the description of the podcast. Here's each episode. Here's the cover art you submitted for that episode. Here's the title, here's the show notes." And they just auto-generate a website for you. And then they give you the tools like a WordPress style set of tools to go and change the header, change the descriptions. They're like, "You could go in and tweak things." But every night on Wednesday, or I guess Wednesday morning at 2:00 AM my podcast goes live. And at 2:05 Podpage has already noticed, the RSS feed is up-to-date and that site is posted. I don't have to do anything.
They even monitor for the slug, like the URL slug I put in as a checkout. This podcast at this URL and podcast page says, "Oh, that's the URL you want them to check out. We're going to inherit that and put it in so you don't even have to give us any information. And we'll just know the URL that you want to set this episode up on." I think that is a super simple way to build a podcasting website. The only other thing, we didn't talk at all about analytics at all, but I use Chartable for analytics. And podcast analytics are a little crazy because you don't have a lot to go on. But Chartable is a really cool analytics platform that becomes really interesting when you start to cross promo with other shows or run ads for other shows or do anything like that because they basically can track IP address of downloads.
And I say track, I don't know who's listening to what from where in any kind of very specific way. But what I do know is if I'm doing a cross promo with another show where I'm saying, "Hey, check out a podcast I love." And they're saying, "Check out a podcast I love." It actually says, "Oh, how many of the people that downloaded this episode actually went and listened to this other episode?" So you can get direct attribution of podcast listeners going from one podcast to another. So that is a really important tool in my kind of running a podcast toolkit, but it doesn't matter as much until you start focusing on growth and doing promotions and stuff like that.
Awesome. I host on Substack as maybe one difference. I use Podpage for my site, my producer/editor people actually use Descript/Descript also. That's kind of what they use for editing professionally, so it's good for amateur hour and good for professionals as well. I use Chartable, something's up with my Chartable, I think I've told you, or it doesn't count my Spotify downloads. It's kind of a pain in the butt, but it's still-
Chris Hutchins (00:58:21):
Which is funny by the way, because for anyone listening doesn't know, Spotify actually owns Chartable. So the one platform your Chartable doesn't get good download data from, is the one that it is owned by.
Yep. I do not understand what is going on. I've talked to them and they don't know what the fix is. It doesn't matter anyway. I get enough analytics other places. There's one other site I'd recommend called Podstatus that just gives you quick access to where you're on the charts every day, gives you these cool line charts. Which Chartable sort of does, but it's a lot simpler on Podstatus. But otherwise-
Chris Hutchins (00:58:53):
All the same stuff. One other question real quick. Say someone launches their podcast, what would be a good download goal to aim for, when you're getting started that's like, "Maybe this is working." Do you have a sense of a threshold try to hit?
Chris Hutchins (00:59:08):
I wouldn't think of a threshold to hit because you could launch with a huge audience and have a terrible podcast and you might hit 10,000 downloads and it would be crazy, right? You would feel really good. So I would care more about the direction than about the number because even the Apple charts, they're more momentum driven. You could have one download, but the next week you have a lot more and a lot more and a lot more. You would actually rise in the charts faster than someone whose podcast is kind of stagnant doing X number of downloads. If you have 3000 downloads an episode or something like that, you're in the top 1% or something. So you know, don't have to get to crazy numbers to be in the top of the charts.
Yeah, I heard-
Chris Hutchins (00:59:08):
I would say-
I heard a similar number, 3000.
Chris Hutchins (00:59:55):
The top podcasts are doing millions in episode, but that's like top 10, top 20, top 30. The next tranche of the top 50 are doing probably hundreds of thousands of downloads. But outside of the top two, 300, it's in the 10,000s of downloads per episode. And this is a little bit variable if you have a daily show or a weekly show or something. But I would say if you cross 10,000 downloads an episode, you are now taken seriously by a lot of people. So I had conversations early on with networks like iHeartMedia and different podcast networks that wanted to bring in the show and would do all that, and that all started at 10 to 15, maybe 20,000 downloads an episode. But by no means would I expect anyone to get there right away. Even I didn't get there right away. It took time even with a few friends to make announcements and stuff, it took time.
So forget how many downloads you get on your first three episodes because you're probably going to tell everyone in the world and you're going to use all your social capital to boost those. And then look at how many downloads you get on your fourth and fifth and sixth and does it go up? Does it stay stagnant? Apple and Spotify actually give you really cool data about how long people are listening. Do they drop off halfway through? You could start to be like, "Oh, do people stay for the whole episode?" I will say I haven't found a good site for benchmarks, but it's like the average podcast I think probably has less than 50% of listeners by the end. So don't be turned off when you say, "Wow, only 40% of people made it to the end." That's not horrible. I think my best episode, it might be like 65 or 70% of people made it all the way to the end. It's not 99.
What I like about those charts is you can see what percentage of people skip the ads and then just keep continuing. It's like a bump-
Chris Hutchins (01:01:42):
The mid-rolls and the-
Chris Hutchins (01:01:44):
[inaudible 01:01:44] And it's not as high as I thought.
10, 20% depending on-
Chris Hutchins (01:01:47):
Maybe 15%. It depends.
Yeah. Not bad at all.
Chris Hutchins (01:01:51):
Any last words of wisdom on the world of podcasting? Starting a podcast? Continuing a podcast?
Chris Hutchins (01:01:57):
Yeah, I've got three things for you. One, this is a little bit of a financial outlay, but I think it's really interesting. There's this podcast app called Overcast, and it's not the biggest in the world, but you can run ads in it. And the thing I like is that the ads are much more reasonably priced than a lot of other places and they're very dynamic. So I would encourage anyone listening to watch it for a few weeks if you have a podcast and you want to experiment, because the same ad could be $200 one week and $700 the next week depending on how much demand there is for that category. So you can wait and hold out. But what I like is they take your art from your podcast and then you can rewrite your description and they tell you how many people saw the ad, how many people tapped on it, and how many people subscribed to the podcast after seeing the ad.
And technically they could also listen to the trailer, they could listen to an episode. And they even give you benchmarks of what to expect. So for a few hundred dollars, you could go in and run an ad for your podcast. Now, I would say in all of the experiments I've done with them, I've probably garnered... I'm looking at some numbers, like hundreds of subscribers, not thousands. And I've probably spent maybe a $1,000. The average cost to acquire a podcast listener, if you're doing paid marketing is about anywhere from three to $10 depending on the appeal of your show, what kind of audience? I'm sure it could go way over that for a business show. And by business I mean, B2B focused kind of show. So, let's call it $5. So it's not going to be the best way to grow your audience. At some point, if you're at enough scale that you have ads in your show and how much a customer's worth, maybe it makes sense to pay $5 because your LTV of a podcast listener is $7. But getting it started, that's not you.
What you can do is say, "Okay, what was my click-through rate on the ad?" Which will tell you if someone doesn't click, it's either not a good description or it's not a good set of content, or your cover art's not good. So you can think about, "Okay, I actually need to figure out the podcast before I even have content." And you could run this ad with a trailer before you even record anything. And then it's like, "Okay, well people tapped on it, how many of them subscribed?" And I like to use this as a way to say, "Okay, well the benchmark said I was going to get about 50 subscriptions for this ad that was going to get a thousand taps and I got seven." So these aren't people who weren't interested. These are people who read the description, were like, this is interesting, and they didn't subscribe.
That means my content probably sucks. That means someone listened to a trailer or an episode or something more than the description in the image and decided, "This is not for me." Maybe they looked at your episodes, I don't know. But if they don't tap on it, if you're supposed to get a 2% click-through rate and you get 0.5, then it's actually the topic or the way I describe it or the cover sucks. And so I like that as a way to, for a few hundred dollars, get a good test. I've even thought of running an AB test of the same podcast with two different descriptions. I wish you could do it with two different cover arts. So I don't know, that's like a cheap way to do a little bit of testing. One other thing that I'll share is I just try to share the podcast everywhere.
So you've probably noticed that in all of my emails at the bottom, it's like, "Oh, great, talk to you Chris." And then it says, "Hey, want to upgrade your life, money or travel? Check out my podcast and newsletter." I'm taking every opportunity I can to let anyone know about it because you never know it'll happen. And my favorite example, especially, when it's written that it doesn't come across a big bulky signature was we bought some floor mats and one of them didn't fit. And I was going back and forth with the customer service person and they actually replied and they were like, "Oh, thanks for sending me that podcast. I really appreciate it." They thought I was just randomly telling them, "Hey, if you want to upgrade your life, check this out." They didn't know it was my signature. So I got a new listener from customer service from a floor mat company. Which by the way, here's one hack that I also learned from the floor mat company.
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]Come to my show for hacks, but if you're ever trying to get a deal on something, that floor mat company, I just pulled up the live chat and just asked. And I said, "Hey, I'm looking at these floor mats, think you could give me a discount. It's a little expensive." And it was like, "Yeah, refresh your cart. It'll be 15% off." So, this episode's not about all the hacks, but there's one cool one.
We need more hacks. Wait, I think we'll get to that at the end. Keep going.
Chris Hutchins (01:06:14):
And then the last is, I think it's fun, that podcast you can experiment. I started out doing guests and then I did some Q&A episodes from questions listeners asked me, and then I recently did some solo episodes. I was really interested in the idea of all the ways you can rent and swap and exchange your home to stay in vacation homes around the world. So I just researched it for, I don't know, two or three days and just did a 45-minute episode of me talking. There was no guest, there were no questions, it was just me talking. And that works. I'm going to start another series of episodes where instead of interviewing people about an expertise topic, I'm going to interview people who are really dialed into a country. So I've got a guy who's written a handful of the Lonely Planet guidebook for Japan and is in Japan right now for three weeks getting dialed in, what are the latest, coolest stuff.
He's going to come back and we're just going to record an episode about everything you need to know about going to Japan. And I'm going to add on about 15 minutes I think at the end without him, where I just talk about all the tricks for using your points, your miles, deals and discounts. Like there's this new airline in LA that's super cheap to fly to Japan, but it comes with some caveats. So it'll be like two thirds guide to going to Japan, one third guide to getting there for cheap. And there aren't a lot of businesses or ideas where you could just have all of these things that you can experiment with.
And then you could do them so fast. Yeah,
Chris Hutchins (01:07:35):
I love that.
Chris Hutchins (01:07:37):
If I interview you, which I'm doing right after this, so anyone listening to this that wants to hear a little of Lenny's story, come check out All the Hacks. And for 20 minutes we talk about some topic that's a little off topic. I've sometimes just taken that it's submitted it as a bonus episode on Friday. 15, 20 minutes, it's not my regular show, but there's so many ways you can experiment and find out what you like. And then you might say, "Wow, you know what? I really like doing the solo things." Or maybe you have a co-host on for a week and you're like, "Ah, that's so much better."
So I just love that it gives you a good opportunity to experiment with stuff, find the thing you love, because I think my big takeaway is once you find the thing you really love to talk about, all of that, it just makes everything so much easier because it's natural and you would do it for free. And the harsh reality of this whole game is like there's probably going to be a number of months or years you have to do it for free before it takes off. So if you don't love it, that's going to be a painful few years.
To build on that, I find the same thing with a newsletter, same with a podcast. The last thing you want to do is create a job for yourself that you hate. And so picking a topic that is just not interesting to you, picking a medium that is painful to you, there's no reason to do that. You may become a TikTok star and you hit a viral video, but then you have to make viral videos for the rest of your life. That's no fun. You have to think about, "Do I want to do this for years and years and years." And you can stop, but then becomes hard if it becomes a really good source of income. So that's something to think about, just don't create a job for yourself that you just don't want.
Chris Hutchins (01:08:31):
With that, we've reached our very exciting lightning round. I don't know if you knew this was coming. So it'll be extra special, real quick, easy, whatever comes to mind, let me know, and then we'll see how it all goes. Does that sound good?
Chris Hutchins (01:09:18):
That sounds good.
What are two or three books that you've recommended most to other people recently or in life in general?
Chris Hutchins (01:09:26):
Two, I love. Actually, this could be three, Happy Money is a fantastic book. All about ways that you can spend your money to optimize for happiness. It's like a collection of a ton of research about the science of happier spending, so that's one. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, who I had the pleasure... The last two I've had the pleasure of interviewing recently. It's like a guide to long-term travel, but it's just kind of a different perspective on travel. I would say if you're at the point in your life where you now have kids, it's probably going to be hard to live up to that. But I have gifted that book to so many people who are like, "Oh, I think I should take a trip for six months." I'm like, "Go read this book." My wife and I travel around the World for seven months, and that book was instrumental to us taking it and how we lived on that.
And then the last is called Die with Zero by Bill Perkins. And that book probably had the biggest impact. I haven't gifted it to anyone. I've recommended it heavily the last week because it had a huge impact on me. And the fundamental premise of the book is that, this isn't very lightning round response, but instead of optimizing for money, which is so tied up in American culture of how do I make more, how do I get promoted? How do I earn more money, how do I save more money? We should really be optimizing for the net fulfillment in life, and we shouldn't be trying to save all of this money. We should actually be trying to allocate it over our lives in the most optimal way to increase experiences, increase fulfillment, increase happiness. And sometimes that means saving less when you're younger and you're more able to do things like backpack around the world for seven months or go bungee jumping. And when you build those experiences early on, the memories of those experience pay dividends, the rest of your life.
Good choices. What's a favorite other podcast, other than your podcast and my podcast?
Chris Hutchins (01:11:10):
I love Animal Spirits. If you're into markets, life and investing. And they always have good recommendations at the end also on podcasts, TV shows, books, movies, that kind of stuff. So that's one I really like.
What's a favorite recent movie or TV show that you've really enjoyed?
Chris Hutchins (01:11:28):
A show that I love, which I think is kind of like a version of a show called Silicon Valley, but not, it's called Mythic Quests on Apple TV. And I haven't heard enough people talking about this that I felt like maybe it's a hidden gem. Maybe I'm amongst company of watching this show, but I think it's a funny show. It's lighthearted, it makes me happy, and hopefully at least a few people haven't checked it out. But it's like a startup life show, but just dragged out to the extreme like Silicon Valley was.
What's a favorite interview question that you like to ask on your podcast?
Chris Hutchins (01:12:00):
I like to try to ask people about their favorite misconceptions in a space. Yeah, I like to kick things off usually with, "What's a thing that you kind of have a contrarian take on or you think most people get wrong about the thing that best?"
Awesome. Final question. What are your three favorite money hacks that listeners can take action on soon?
Chris Hutchins (01:12:23):
Okay. One that has paid dividends and literally, I've had people on a podcast telling them, write back to me, guests that are like, "I just saved money." So go to your state's unclaimed money website. Every state has one, and you can go put in your name, state or city, you don't even have to give your address. And you can find whether there are people that owe you money. And oftentimes they're businesses like you moved and Comcast couldn't figure out how to get you the final part of your prepaid month. And I had someone message me the other day and they're like, "I just listened to you talk about unclaimed money on a podcast, and I just found $136. I've never gotten paid to listen to a podcast." People have saved hundreds, some people, thousands. I always say, if you're going to dinner party, you now know someone's address.
You probably know their name instead of bringing a bottle of wine or in addition, just check if they have unclaimed money. I brought over to a bottle of wine to someone's house and said, "Also, by the way, did you know that this pharmaceutical company owes you $200?" And I showed him how to go claim it and boom, free money. What a great conversation for the dinner table. So that's one great one I love. Another great one, you can't use it right now unless you have a trip planned. But anytime you're booking a hotel book directly with the hotel and email the hotel in advance that, "Hey, we booked. We're really excited to stay with you." If you're celebrating something, let them know. And if you can't get the email address, just call the front desk, ask for an email address, follow up a couple days before you get there, let them know you're coming.
And I would say, you've got a 50% chance of getting an upgrade, getting a bottle of wine, getting some comped something, getting a better view. One person wrote into me letting me know that the hotel had their initials embroidered on their pillow, which I thought was kind of a crazy thing to have happen. It's never happened to me. Personally, I'd rather have the bottle of wine, but I'll take that for what it is. And for people who like the points game, I'll share something. Just give you a little tease of how I love finding all the points and miles optimizations. If you have a credit card that pays multiple points, three, four, or five x points on things like a grocery store or an office supply store, anything like that, drug stores, that's great. You probably don't have a card that pays any multiple of points on home improvements or Home Depot, Lowes.
So what I like to do to make sure I get the most points I can, instead of going to Home Depot and paying with a card that's going to give me one point per dollar at Home Depot. I have a four x grocery card. I like to go to Safeway and I just buy Home Depot gift cards. I get my four x points on the gift cards, then I go buy stuff at Home Depot knowing that I got four x points. But you also have some cards that give you three or four x points, if you go to CVS or other pharmacies or drug stores, you can do it there. You can do it at Office Supply stores if you want to take it to the next extreme. If you have an Amazon card, you could buy Amazon gift cards and get your five x or 5% back on the Amazon Prime card.
So I'm a little crazy like that. My favorite is if you're trying to buy something at a store, always shop online for coupons. If you Google like Lowes, Home Depot, Crate & Barrel coupons, there's all these websites. My favorite one is Save n, the letter, deals.com. You could buy Home Depot and Crate & Barrel coupons online for a couple bucks, save 15%. So stack up and then the cashback portals. I'm going to buy something, I'm like, "How do I get the cashback portal? How do I get the most points per dollar on my card? And how do I get a discount maybe from asking in the live chat or going in and buying a coupon." So I go a little crazy on that stuff, but I love saving money and just feeling like I got a good deal.
Amazing. What an action packed episode we had. We got money hacks, we got big bets, we got podcasting, we got Self-Driving Money. What a conversation. Chris, this was amazing. Two last questions. How do folks find you online, where do they find your podcast? And then how can folks be useful to you?
Chris Hutchins (01:16:24):
All the Hacks wherever fine podcasts are produced for your ears search or go to allthehacks.com or check out the newsletter, just allthehacks.com/email, or you can find it on the website. That's it. How can you be helpful to me? Check out the show. Let me know what you think. Let me know what you like. Let me know what topics you want me to focus on optimizing in the future. I've mentioned I'm always trying to make stuff that someone's favorite, so if there are things you want to hear me go deep on, let me know. I'm just firstname.lastname@example.org and I try to respond to everyone in some reasonable amount of time. And if I haven't responded in a couple weeks, nudge me and remind me. But I'd love to hear from you. I'd love to produce more content for you, and I'm excited that we have this conversation, and I'm excited to record one with you right after this.
Oh my God, here we go. Chris, thank you for being here.
Chris Hutchins (01:17:10):
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Thank you so much for listening. If you found this valuable, you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. Also, please consider giving us a rating or leaving a review as that really helps other listeners find the podcast. You can find all past episodes or learn more about the show at lennyspodcast.com. See you in the next episode.