Episode 221

How to Start and Grow a Podcast and Build an Online Course Empire with Joe Casabona

Learn how to start and grow a podcast and build an online course empire with Joe Casabona in this episode of the LMScast podcast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Joe shares some of his journey from working for an agency to taking on his course work as a full time gig when his daughter was born in June of 2018.

How to start and grow a podcast and build an online course empire with Joe CasabonaJoe had established himself as an authority in web development by teaching people about front end development. He ended up switching lanes and focusing on page builders and teaching people how to set up specific sites. The biggest lesson Joe learned from making the switch is that customers do not care about the vehicle that gets them to the destination, rather they care about getting to the destination itself.

At LifterLMS we talk a lot about results driven learning and building each step of the course with the end in mind. That mentality was crucial to Joe’s transition in marketing courses from, “Take this course if you want to learn something,” to, “I’m solving your problem for you.”

Joe brings up a concept that we have mentioned on another LMScast episode with Ellen Martin, and they make the point that course completion is not the be all end all for course success. Some students will take what they need from the course and use it to reach their goal and be perfectly happy with the value of the course.

There are five major roles that go into creating a successful online course business. Chris refers to these as the five hats course creators wear: expert, instructional designer, community builder, technologist, and entrepreneur. Chris and Joe talk about these roles and how they apply to running a successful business online.

Joe runs a podcast called How I Built It. You can head over to HowIBuilt.it to learn more. Chris and Joe discuss concepts that apply to both podcasting and course creating in this episode. Consistency and understanding how people listen are two very large pieces of the puzzle.

Joe has some courses over on his site CreatorCourses.com about getting started with Gutenberg and in this episode he shares some knowledge and advice on getting started with the platform and what new innovations it has to offer the community. To learn more about Joe, head over to Casabona.org and you can find him on Twitter at @jCasabona. You can also check out Joe’s previous LMScast episode here.

At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thanks for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Hello and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest, Joe Casabona. You can find Joe at casabona.org where he’s got a lot of stuff going on. He’s an online educator. He’s a course creator, a membership site builder just like all of you listening. Joe’s been on the show before, but I wanted to bring him back and catch up ’cause he’s had a lot going on in his online educator journey over the past year. Welcome back, Joe.
Joe Casabona: Hey, Chris. Thanks for having me back. I appreciate it.
Chris Badgett: Trying to think of where to best start with you ’cause you’ve got so much going on. I guess let’s actually just start a little bit with your journey. In the past year or two, you’ve made the transition from freelancer or employee to really stepping into the role as … of an online educator. The way I’d like to position this question, I’m working on something. I use a framework called the five hats problem. Actually, right before this call, this is gonna be really geeky and obsessive, but I’m actually working on a personality type matrix depending on how developed people are across five categories. The Meyers-Briggs is four categories. This is a personality type indicator across five categories for course creators.
Basically, the hypothesis of all this is that in order for a course creator to be successful, they have to wear five hats and somehow pull that off or build a team around their weaknesses. Those five hats are to be an expert or online educator. That’s number one. Number two is to be an instructional designer or teacher. That’s number two. Number three is to be a community builder. That’s like building a list before the sale, building community after the sale. Number four is being a technologist. Number five is being an entrepreneur, which is building that whole business thing and doing the marketing and managing the team and all that stuff, which is almost an impossible task.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: The purpose of this podcast is to help people develop across those five categories. You’ve made some moves in the past year to really develop as an expert or online educator. What’s that been like.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Well, like you said, I left my full time job in June. Basically I was doing my online courses on the side. My daughter was born and I was working for an agency and I realized that is too much. What am I gonna give up? I really wanted to pursue the online education aspect. I taught at the University of Scranton, in person classes, for 10 years. It’s something I love to do and I wanted to keep doing it. The teaching stuff, I felt I had down. It was the establishing myself as an expert in whatever field I’m educating in because I kinda made my bones … I don’t know if that’s a strictly New York term.
Chris Badgett: [inaudible] thinks it is.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, right? I established myself as an authority in web development, front end development and I was switching lanes a little bit into the site builder aspect and to showing people how to build specific sites. I thought, “Well, if people need this course, they’ll buy this course.” That is the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last year is that, no, they won’t. They don’t care about the vehicle that gets them to the destination. They care about getting to the destination. I think that’s been the biggest lesson for me is that I need to … I know I make good content. I’ve been told numerous times I’m a good teacher, but I need to get the messaging right to switch from, “Take this if you wanna learn something,” to, “I’m solving your problem for you.”
Chris Badgett: There’s a framework there that my friend, Danny Iny, made me realize. He has a concept for it called the old model of education used to be just in case, like, “We’re gonna build up this library of knowledge just in case you need it later,” but the new model being just in time. Like you said, they’re looking for a really specific result from the education just in time.
Joe Casabona: Yeah absolutely. When I launched my first successful course, which was an introduction to Beaver Builder, the biggest piece of feedback I got was, “Why do I have to take this course in order?” I thought I was … I took the, “We’re gonna learn something over a semester,” approach. They didn’t want they. They wanted, “How do I build a home page with Beaver Builder.” They paid for the course basically just for that video.
Chris Badgett: There’s another counterintuitive insight based on that comment from a past guest, Ellen Martin, where she said, “Course completion isn’t necessarily the be all end all.” Maybe somebody needed this part of your Beaver Builder course and they only finished like 20% of the course but they’re happy as a clam.
Joe Casabona: Yes.
Chris Badgett: There’s also project-based learning, which is what you’re talking about, like, “Let’s go build a home page,” which is different from a feature tour. Talk a little bit more. How did you evolve your teaching style?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That was … I knew I wanted to do that from the outside. My first tagline was, “Learn by doing.” I wanted somebody to come into my course even if they had no experience and, by the end of the course, they had a thing, whatever, a Beaver Builder site, a podcast website, an online course. I still develop my courses that way because I feel it’s the best and applicable way to be like, “Here. Here’s how we do this exact thing, which you need to do to have this full site.” You’re right. It’s not … course completion, that’s something I really had to let go of. I’m like, “Oh yeah. 20% of my students complete their course. That’s 10% better than the average or whatever,” but it really doesn’t matter because-
Chris Badgett: Are they happy? Are they starting freelance businesses? Are they building better websites for themselves?
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s all that matters, right?
Joe Casabona: Exactly. Going back to this lesson that I’ve learned, If I’m solving whatever problem they have, that’s the metric of success. Now I’m trying to, instead of pouring over how many students have actually completed the course, I reach out to them at various points in the course. I say, “Hey. How’s it going? What are you working on? Share with me what you’re building so that I could see the fruits of your labor, of you taking this course.”
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. You guys see what Joe just did there, is he went from the expert hat and he put on his instructional designer hat. Now let’s put on our technologist hat and talk about page builders. That’s a great course and I’ve always said that … I shouldn’t say … I’ve just noticed that the best training courses about software are never made by the companies that make the software. They’re made by somebody else, like a power user, like yourself, which I find interesting. I’m just noting that observation.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: What … Page builders, a lot of people watching, a large percentage them are using a page builder or thinking about it or wanna pull off a complex design without being a techy. What’s going on in the page builder market? Are page builder … Why are page builders so popular now? Can you help us understand that?
Joe Casabona: Definitely. Well, as I said earlier, I am a front end developer. I’m a web developer and I used to be very purist, like, “I’m not using a page builder. I can build this by hand.”
Chris Badgett: We used to be that way, too, by the way.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, right.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Tools have evolved. They’ve gotten better. Beaver Builder, for example, is great. Now, instead of spending 10 hours to build this beautiful landing page, which by the way, design is not my forte. I know certain fonts that look good and I know colors that clash, but I’m not a designer. I can take a design and make it a working website. With Beaver Builder, in like a half hour, assuming I have the content … writing the content takes forever. Assuming I have the content, I can build a beautiful page in 30 minutes. That allows me to focus on the core of my business. I think that was another … You mentioned the different hats and as a technologist, as a web developer I’m like, “Well, I’m a web developer so I need to build everything myself.” That’s not what I wanna focus on in my business anymore.
Chris Badgett: You’re not freeing up capacity for the other hats by staying … by leaving 80% in your already existing strength.
Joe Casabona: Right. Exactly. If you’re a chef who starts a restaurant and you spend all of the time creating … in the kitchen, how are you gonna pay your employees? How are you gonna come up with new menus? How are you going to attract customers?
Chris Badgett: Yeah that’s … that is a really excellent point. If people are interested in Beaver Builder course, what’s the best place to go?
Joe Casabona: If you go to creatorcourses.com/shop, you’ll see the way to purchase it there. It’s called Up and Running with Beaver Builder. Very soon it’s getting an update to the latest version of Beaver Builder.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. While we have our technology hat on, you have a Gutenberg course. Did you co-create that course?
Joe Casabona: I have two, well three but really two, different courses there. One I co-created with Zach Warden. That’s called Themeing for Gutenberg or Themeing with Gutenberg. Basically it’s how to prepare your WordPress themes for Gutenberg. That’s very techy. We get into code and design and CSS and stuff like that. My other course, which Zach gave me the idea for, was an introduction to Gutenberg. There’s two flavors of that. There’s just the introduction, so if you’re a user and you wanna know how Gutenberg works, you can take that. If you’re a freelancer and you’re like, “How am I going to prepare all of my clients for Gutenberg,” there’s Gutenberg for Freelancers, which includes the how to use it and then there’s a lot of extra content just for you, checklists and email scripts and stuff like that.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That’s really needed. It’s a big change. It’s a big transition in the WordPress world. We need leadership and education to just make the transition. I’m really glad you’ve been working on that. What, just general advice from your course or just kinda high level in general, do you recommend people be aware of to get ready for Gutenberg or if they’re worried about it, to not be so worried about it, or just make the transition successfully?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think there is a lot of fear around it, right, ’cause it’s a big change. I think the best thing you can do is on a staging site, so not on your live site, install the plugin, enable it, and test out a few things. One of the nice things about Gutenberg and the team around developing these tools is they’ve made sure that you won’t just break your site by virtue of enabling the plugin. If you go to old content, it’ll be in a classic editor block. That’s the big change. Gutenberg is moving from just like a big wall of text, ala Microsoft Word, to a flexible format where each content is its own block and you can move those blocks around and create richer and more flexible layouts.
Just right off the bat, you have an old blog post. It’s killing it in SCO or whatever. If you never tough that, it never changes. If you visit it in the editor, it’s still not changed because it’s in a classic editor block. You can make text changes and things like that. Then, you can click a button and convert all of that content to blocks. That’s where it could break, depending on how you’ve built the site. I’ve noticed that if you have a lot of custom HTML, that’s when the post or the page will break. I recommend that. I also recommend checking out Gutenberg Ramp. It’s a plugin by Automatic and the WordPress VIP team. You can turn Gutenberg on for only specific post types, so posts, pages, courses, or specific pages by ID. If you know all of my pages are custom HTML or built with a page builder, I don’t want Gutenberg touching that, you can turn that off using Gutenberg Ramp.
Chris Badgett: Very cool. That’s some solid, solid tips. It’s really not so scary.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: There’s backwards compatible stuff in play and if you just wanna not deal with it, you can not deal with it either.
Joe Casabona: Right. Yeah. There’s the classic editor, too. When 5.0 comes out, if you’re like, “I don’t wanna think about this right now. It’s Black Friday. It’s the holidays,” or whatever-
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: You can turn on the classic editor and still use 5.0 without … check out the editor after the holidays or whatever.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, I appreciate that heads up. Well, let’s go back to our instructional designer hat. I noticed you had a word camp … or WordPress TV video about never assume when teaching WordPress, or let’s just say teaching anything, what do you mean by that? You built a whole presentation around that, so I think there’s some instructional design wisdom in there.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That talk was brought to you by a real life example of me assuming my students knew something. I was teaching at the University of Scranton. One of the courses I taught was a … or like a … it was called computer literacy. It’s just an introduction to computers for all students, basically, to make sure that they have some basic technical skills as they move throughout the rest of their college career. I decided that it would be a good idea to teach them WordPress. The course was getting long in the tooth a little bit. It was written by professors in the 90s and then never really changed.
I decided every semester I would reevaluate what I was teaching based on current events. I thought everybody should at least know how to make a blog, make a website, maybe. I had them make websites on WordPress.com. I was like, “So you have posts and pages and posts are like articles. Pages are just content.” I just said that very casually. One of my students, bless her, she raised her hand and goes, “I have no idea what you just said there.” I’m like, “All right. Let’s take it back.” That’s … That was the impetus for that talk. I made assumptions ’cause I had been using WordPress for 10 years or whatever. I’m talking to students who didn’t care about WordPress up until that point. They maybe used Facebook or Instagram, whatever the popular social media platform was at the time, but they didn’t-
Chris Badgett: Those don’t have posts and pages.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Right. Yeah. Right.
Chris Badgett: No.
Joe Casabona: They don’t have posts and pages.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: I assumed they’re familiar with some technology and so they’ll get this. What I ended up doing was going to Buzzfeed and saying, “Here’s about … This is a page. It never changes. This is content. If we go to the front page, we see the most recent articles. These are posts in WordPress.” It was just a big lesson about I made assumptions because I’d been using something for so long that I assumed everybody knew it. The story I tell in the beginning of that talk is let’s assume you have a baby who’s trying to learn how to walk. You don’t just look at the baby and say, “Come on. Just put one foot in front of the other. It’s easy.” That would be insane and you’re being mean to a baby. That’s … That was … That’s the thesis of that talk.
Chris Badgett: I call that the expert’s curse and it’s … it goes back to a concept called beginner’s mind, which is really hard for an expert if they’ve moved a lot of their fundamentals and foundations, or there’s a lot of fundamentals and foundations inside of those that they … that it’s easy to forget about. That’s great. I wanted to go back to the expert hat and also part of the business hat, which is marketing. Course creators are really busy people, especially if they have a membership site and they’re building new content or mini course and doing all these other things besides just one course. They’re like … Yeah
. It’s good practice to do some content marketing, to have some free, not behind a login, Google indexable content. What I found, personally, which you can probably relate to is that podcasting, for me, is easier than writing a two thousand word blog post. I can engage with other people, have cool conversations and bring out good ideas. I wanted to talk about podcasting as a strategy in the expert industry, but also as a marketing tool. I guess, where to start on that is you’ve grown. What are some tips on just growing adoption of your podcast, like listen numbers and downloads, how have you done it?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s a great question because for a while I didn’t have an answer. People would just reach out to me and be like, “How do you get so many downloads?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Like, “Sure.”
Chris Badgett: I think that is okay.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Like, “I just talk about cool stuff and I … it’s for a certain type of person and low and behold, people like it.” I mean, that is a strategy.
Joe Casabona: Absolutely and … but as I thought about it more, I have a couple of thoughts. One is consistency. I publish an episode every Tuesday morning at 3:00 AM Eastern Time, which is like-
Chris Badgett: Why 3:00 AM?
Joe Casabona: I randomly picked that time.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: I found it did better than other randomly picked times because when I first started my podcast I would refresh the … I still do it sometimes, refresh the downloads page and just see how many things are … how many people are downloading it right now. I would check it at certain times throughout the day and I just found 3:00 AM, midnight Pacific, I guess, was a good time for a lot of people. It was good for people overseas in later time zones, but it was out early enough that people might be able to listen to it on their morning commute here in the United States.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. That makes sense.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s … That was … I’m just like, every Tuesday, 3:00 AM, publish the podcast.
Chris Badgett: I just wanna note that that is really powerful. As a guy who also listens to podcasts a lot, which is one of the ways I keep my expert sharp and current and I’m always … I’m a lifelong learner myself. If you actually go to podcast search engines, they’re not that good. A lot of times, if you’re looking around a certain topic, you’ll find stuff that’s really old or a podcast popped up and they did like five, 10, 20, 30 episodes and then stopped. That’s actually really common. What are you up to on how I built it?
Joe Casabona: As we record this today, my 100th episode came out.
Chris Badgett: Awesome.
Joe Casabona: Yeah, which is really exciting. I … It’s because I’ve had great guests and great support and people tell me they love the show. I don’t know if I’d be able to continue doing it if I didn’t have the great support.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Any other tips on like if somebody’s wants to grow to just be aware of or think about?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Like I said, consistency is really key. Understanding how people listen, that’s something I’ve learned over the two or so years that I’ve been doing this is that most people are going to listen in their car on their commute, during their morning routine. They’re probably not listening in the middle of the afternoon when they’re doing deep work because they’re-
Chris Badgett: [inaudible]
Joe Casabona: Either they’re not in deep work or they’re not listening to your show.
Chris Badgett: I just wanna confirm that. For me, personally, as a listener, when I get up in the morning, for me, I have a big routine with exercise, walking, or running, or whatever and I go to my podcasts and I load up the queue for what I’m gonna listen to and I know certain podcasts I listen to, “Oh, it’s Monday. I’m gonna get … This guy releases on Monday. This gal releases [inaudible] here,” so I kinda know it. I know when it’s coming.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s exactly right and I do the same thing. I go for a two mile walk every morning and I know, depending on the day it is, I’m gonna get my Apple fix or Pat Flynn’s gonna teach me about-
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Smart passive income. Watching my numbers, I’ve noticed the same things. When I wake up, or the first time I check around 9:00 AM, I’ve … I have a large amount of downloads and then it slows throughout the day and then right around 5:00 PM or 6:00 o’clock PM, I see another spike because people are doing their commute home.
Chris Badgett: I just wanna add a note on there. If you’re looking for a content marketing strategy, whether it’s YouTube or Instagram or podcasting or whatever, one of the cool things about podcasting, and this is not an original idea from me, I think I heard this from Clay Collins, is that it’s what’s known as portable content, which is … there’s not much competition there. There’s audio books, there’s music, and there’s podcasting. Whereas … This is when people are moving, they’re driving, they’re exercising, they’re doing the dishes. You can’t … It’s not easy to watch a website or watch videos while you do these things, so there’s just a lot more elbow room in the portable content. If you’re debating, just think about that, and it’s just the relationship you get through audio and the earbuds and all that stuff.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Podcast movement … This was kind of confirmed for me. Podcast listeners are really loyal listeners because you can’t just stumble upon a podcast, really, and start listening to it. You have to dedicate time to listening to it and you have to know what podcasts are and you maybe have to have an app to listen to podcasts. That’s maybe the curse of the podcast and how it … why it hasn’t seen insane growth yet because there’s such a barrier, but that also creates super loyal listeners.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. That is an excellent point. I agree that podcasting is actually in the early days. I think it’s gonna show up in cars. Maybe it already is. I don’t know, but it’s just gonna get better and better and easier and easier for publishers, which is a good and a bad thing. I hear … My podcast is several years old and I have a somewhat intricate setup, but then I hear about tools like anchor.fm that make it easy, I guess. I haven’t used them, but what are your thoughts on … do you have a podcasting course, like how to? You mentioned podcast websites earlier.
Joe Casabona: I don’t have the how to podcast course.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Because Pat Flynn kinda has that market cornered and there are other people who have that content already. I wanted to focus in on what I’m really good at without kind of rehashing things. I do, I talk about the mechanics of podcasting and I have that free content about how I started my podcast or what you need to start a podcast, but I don’t have a full course taking you from no idea or small idea to launched podcast.
Chris Badgett: Right on. Well, from the outside looking in, it’s … it appears as though one of the things that helps … helped you, in your story, make the transition from working at a agency to an online educator is you pursued some podcast sponsorship, which helps … which really helps as a content creator. What advice do you have if people have a niche podcast? Their course or their membership is gonna be on a niche topic. If they decide to commit to podcasting … which I think that is really important. You have to commit. Don’t start a podcast if you don’t see yourself doing it in two, three years later. How … What’s the general advice you have around getting sponsors and paying sponsors for your show?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. The educator in me needs to tell you that it’s not easy. People are like, “This is how you get … Do these things and you’ll definitely get sponsors.” You are asking people for money. It’s … Unless you find somebody who just can print money, it’s gonna be hard to do that, but these are things that have worked for me. Early on, I had guests talking about some thing, some product. I would reach out to those people and say, “Hey. I just had a guest.” I named them. “They were talking about your product. I was wondering if you’d like to sponsor this episode to get a little … some nice cross promotion.”
Chris Badgett: I like that ’cause that’s results in advance. “You’re already getting free publicity here, do you wanna pour some gasoline on that?”
Joe Casabona: Right. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Basically is what you’re saying.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. “Do you wanna reinforce what my guest is already saying?”
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: That’s worked for me a bit. Then the other thing is, I reached out to people I knew in the space who trusted my work. I have a network. I’ve built a network over several years and I reached out and I said, “Hey, look. I’m starting … I’ve started this podcast. It’s doing okay. I’m really dedicated to it and I was … I’m looking for some financial backing. Are you willing to sponsor a few episodes?” People who knew me were like, “Yeah, sure. We can do a few.” I always price it like 99 bucks. For a couple hundred bucks they were able to sponsor a couple of episodes for me. There’s the reaching out to people who are already kind of being promoted. There’s reaching out to your network of people. Then, when you get to a certain size, I think something that’s really important is making a list of companies that jive well with your audience. Do your best as soon as possible to understand your audience. This is something that I didn’t do very well in the beginning because I didn’t think the podcast was going anywhere.
Chris Badgett: Your podcast is called How I Built It.
Joe Casabona: Yes.
Chris Badgett: What did you later understand about your audience?
Joe Casabona: Later, I understood that … I thought I was going to be talking mostly to people who might wanna buy my course. That was really the original scope for the show-
Chris Badgett: Website builders-
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Exactly.
Chris Badgett: Website builders.
Joe Casabona: Right. As I evolved in my line of questioning, in my guests, I realized that I was talking a lot to developers and business owners and people who wanted to get into the development and business owner space. I learned that over time, the kind of things that they liked, the episodes that resonated really well for them.
Chris Badgett: Are you talking about entrepreneur journey type stuff?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Exactly because-
Chris Badgett: ‘Cause when you go into How I Built It in your episode, it’s technical but it’s also this entrepreneur developed their product from nothing.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: The entrepreneur’s journey episode.
Joe Casabona: That’s exactly right. How did you come up with this idea? How did you research it? Then how did you build it? What worked? What didn’t work?
Chris Badgett: Why are you still alive today?
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: These are valuable lessons.
Joe Casabona: Right. I get … Those are the most interesting conversations on the show. This wasn’t working for me so I pivoted and this actually did start working for me. The people who are like, “I didn’t do a lot of research in the beginning, I just did it and here’s what I learned along the way,” and then the people who are like, “I did a ton of research in the beginning and here’s how it helped me and here’s how it hurt me,” those are really fun conversations because every product is different. I interview a lot of, “Just do it,” kind of people, like, “I just did it and saw what happened.” As far as sponsors go, once I understood the people who interested in my subject matter, I made a list of companies that I thought these would be good people to reach out to. Then I created a pitch deck, so I have-
Chris Badgett: Like a PowerPoint presentation.
Joe Casabona: Exactly. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: That just talks about what the show is. I have stats on general podcast audience, which I think you can get from Nielsen.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: They’ll just tell you like, “These are some commonalities among everybody who listens to podcasts.” I have stats about who my listener is, how often the show gets download … downloaded, and then I sell on the cost per acquisition. Most big podcasts will talk about CPM, or cost per milli, which is cost per thousands of downloads. That only works if your show’s getting downloaded tens or hundreds of thousands of times, because then you’re going … you’re casting a wide net and you’re hoping one or two percent convert.
Chris Badgett: Is that the big sponsors like Casper Mattress and Audible and stuff like that?
Joe Casabona: Yeah, those-
Chris Badgett: Yep.
Joe Casabona: People that you hear on every podcast, Square Space, those are the ones who are casting a wide net and going-
Chris Badgett: [inaudible]. That’s not-
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Radio. It’s podcast land.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Exactly. For someone who’s getting five thousand downloads, three thousand downloads an episode, I’ve been told that five thousand downloads per episode in the first 30 days is where you can kind of go beyond June Network and other people who might not know you personally will-
Chris Badgett: I appreciate that. That’s a good metric to know.
Joe Casabona: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: If you’re getting over five thousand, you’re starting to … that’s like a level.
Joe Casabona: Right. Right. I still drive home the cost per acquisition. I say, “Hey. My podcast audience is loyal and they listen to my recommendations. I’m an influencer. I don’t just have reach on my podcast. I have reach through my blog. I have reach through my YouTube channel and I will promote you in all of these places in hopes that, maybe it’s fewer people than you would get from sponsoring stuff you should know, but it’s a higher percentage, it’s a better return on the investment-”
Chris Badgett: It’s quality.
Joe Casabona: “For the listener.” Yeah. Exactly. I put together a pitch deck with all of that. I put together some packages and then I have a slide about me. Because, again, I’m trying to sell … I’m not just selling my podcast. I’m selling me. I’m a front end developer. I’m an educator. I could talk about your produce. I can use your product and tell you why it’s good, tell them why it’s good. I think that’s been really helpful. I’ve been able to land a couple of sponsors that way and I just started doing that over the summer, again, after I learned about the pitch deck idea from Podcast Movement.
Chris Badgett: Very cool. Are you actually getting on a Zoom call and doing a pitch or are you just having a podcast sponsor page that has the deck there so that they can basically self-pitch?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. It’s basically that.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Joe Casabona: ‘Cause people who are marketing are probably getting lots of questions like that, lots of people asking for money, especially if they already sponsors podcasts.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: One thing I’ll do is I’ll say … I’ll listen to podcasts and Back Blaze was a good example of this. They sponsored my show for a couple of episodes. I heard them sponsoring other podcast episodes. I’m like, “Hey. I am in the WordPress space, lots of developers, cloud backups are amazing.” They’re like, “Yeah, we’ll do a couple.” I … It’s a lot of cold outreach at first.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. I made a list. I starred the things that I already used, ’cause then I won’t just send my standard cold email. I’ll say like, “Hey. I use your product and I love it. I can tell my audience why I love it.” It’ll be a better pitch. The last thing I’ll do is, about a month after their episodes run, and this is important because of the five thousand downloads within 30 days metric, I reach out and I say, “Hey. It’s been a month since your campaign. I just wanted to follow up and let you know those episodes were downloaded this many times. That’s what we’re looking at as far as conversion goes for you. If you have any advice for me, things that you think I should’ve done better, or would like to reevaluate, let me know. If you wanna continue and do a few more episodes, I’d be happy to give you a 10% discount across a couple of episodes.” Just reach out to them and say like, “Hey. Remember me? We spoke two months ago and I’m just letting you know how those episodes did.”
Chris Badgett: Brilliant. I just wanna highlight, as an expert yourself and as a business person, as a marketing person, you’re getting outside the building. You’re build … You’re going to conferences like Podcast Movement and learning. Most importantly, you’re taking massive action, which is really awesome. Well, because you’re a technologist, I saved that hat for last, since that’s where you’re the strongest, in my opinion from the outside looking in-
Joe Casabona: That is accurate. Yeah.
Chris Badgett: I’ll let you know, once I finish my course creator personality type metrics, I’ll come up with a name for your type, but I don’t know what it is yet.
Joe Casabona: Right.
Chris Badgett: I need to build a quiz that people can talk to kind of evaluate or whatever, but the … one of the things I heard you say in a conversation we had recently was you tried Shawn Hesketh from WP101, his method of doing screen share videos. I think anybody who’s been at WordPress for a while, if you’ve come across Shawn’s WP101 videos, they’re awesome. They’ve always been awesome. He has a commitment to redoing them constantly. His WordPress evolves, but they’re just super crisp, super quality. Shawn was on this show and we did … interviewed him about his setup and everything. Basically, if I understand correctly, he kinda writes the audio script first and then comes back and does the actual screen recording part of it all and edit its all together. If one thing’s for sure about course creators, not everybody does it the same way. People develop the signature style. That didn’t work for you. Can you tell us why it didn’t and then what you ended up doing as a website builder, educator, where we’re doing screen sharing type videos?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Definitely. I did this set of videos for Shawn. We did one. He looked at it and then gave me feedback. The exact feedback he gave me was, “You tried to do like me. I hired you to do it like you.”
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Joe Casabona: He gave me two really good analogies about that. One is when you’re singing a cover song, if you’re into singing, they say don’t try to sing it like the singer. Sing it like you would sing it, because that’s the way you’ll sing it best. Then he also talked about story of David and Goliath and how David tried to use some other person’s armor instead of the tools he was most comfortable with. Those stories really resonated with me. It didn’t work for me because Shawn has a very different cadence than I do. He can … He speaks and projects a certain way.
You’ve probably noticed at this point that I generally talk very fast. I do things while I’m talking and that’s the best way I educate. Instead of kind of … Shawn will rehearse his videos and then come up with the script. That doesn’t work for me. What I’ll do is I will narrate what I’m doing as I’m doing it. That comes across much more natural to me, probably because that’s how I’m used to teaching in the classroom. I’m not reading off of a script in the classroom. That would be super boring. I’m doing something and I’m telling my students what I’m doing as I’m doing it.
Chris Badgett: Did you edit? Did you end up editing?
Joe Casabona: Totally.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Joe Casabona: Oh yeah, especially-
Chris Badgett: So what would you cut out?
Joe Casabona: If something doesn’t go as I expect it, so sometimes, if I think I know what I’m working with, I just … I won’t do a dry run first. If I click something and it doesn’t work, I’m like, “Uh.” So I gotta reset everything.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: I’ll also … If I say … If I notice I’m saying, “Um,” a lot, I will re shoot that part, but for the most part, especially when I’m … if I’m doing a programming course, I keep certain mess ups in. If I code and a bug, an error, gets thrown, I’m not gonna cut that out. I’m actually gonna say, “Okay, so we got this error. Let’s see why we got this error.” That was maybe another thing that contributed to my style because coding doesn’t … rarely ever goes perfectly the first time.
Chris Badgett: It’s funny you say that. We did a short interview with Chris Coyer about making educational videos. He said that was his number one tip, like don’t take out the mistakes ’cause it’s part of help people learn or else they’re gonna feel weird when things don’t go perfectly all the time.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s exactly right. How it’s … Going back to assuming while teaching, I taught a training at the University of Scranton with a coworker. We had very different styles. He would basically say, “Oh, how do you add a post? You just go to post, add new post. It’s so easy.” I’m like, “They’re here because it’s not easy. If things are going perfectly smoothly for us and not perfectly smoothly for them, they are going to think they are the problem.” Same thing with coding. If I code this magnificent theme perfectly on the first try and then someone hits an error ’cause, I don’t know, they forgot a semicolon, something I still do from time to time, more than time to time, they’re gonna think that there’s something wrong with them, like, “I thought I did exactly what Joe did and I’m getting errors. I’m getting frustrated. I’m not gonna continue this.” If you keep the error in, they get to see that, well, A, you’re not perfect, and B, now they get to see how you solved that problem.
Chris Badgett: My business partner at Lifter LMS, Thomas Levy, I remember a long time ago when we first met, he said when we were started to interview other developers and stuff like that, his main thing was they need to be good Googlers. Basically, if you’re not copying and pasting error messages into Google, that’s one of your most important tools in development, and just being curious when things go wrong. It’s just part of the process.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Absolutely. I would get so mad in college when I got a test that told me to write code and it had to be syntactically correct. I’m like, “Nobody writes code like this. Nobody ever wrote code like this. Why are you asking me, a novice, to do this right now, write code on paper and assume it’s right?”
Chris Badgett: That’s such a great point. Error messages is … it’s part of the learning process. Another tech issue, before we go today, from our pre-chat was … I bring this up because I actually hear rumbles of this when I talk to course creators where there … there’s the big Mac/PC debate and some people they wanna do live streaming but they wanna use certain tools that are more like Mac’s … or more like old Microsoft deals or whatever. They just … They’re not sure Mac/PC. My business partner, Thomas, who I just mentioned, just recently got an Android phone and I’m like, “Oh no. What’s going on here?”
Joe Casabona: [inaudible] gap bubbles, man.
Chris Badgett: I’m a big video guy and podcaster and course creator. I gotta edit videos and stuff. Can you tell us about what’s going on with you and your tech stack, your hardware stack?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Let me start with the stuff I like, which is my recording.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Joe Casabona: As I said, I do … I narrate what I’m doing. I used to have a … one of those DOS keyboards that were super clicky. Got rid of that.
Chris Badgett: ‘Cause of audio noise, background?
Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Like, “Oh, you’re gonna do this,” clack, clack, clack. That’s an annoying-
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Learning experience. Now I have a Road Pro Caster. I have the arm, so it’s not in my face. I’m not reaching around my microphone. I have a pre-amp to the left of me. That has a noise gate on it, and a … I mean, a bunch … I’m underselling this. There’s a bunch of settings, but the noise gate has been the most valuable to me because any sound below a certain decibel, it’ll automatically filter out. I don’t need to worry about typing too loud, or my office shares a wall with the nursery-
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: My daughter was teething and screaming. I was on a call. I’m like, “Can you hear that?” They’re like, “No.”
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Joe Casabona: Perfect.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: That’s my general setup. I will tell you advice that my father gave me over many times in my life. He said, “Buy cheap, get cheap.” In February, I thought, “I’m gonna get a PC. It’s half the price of an iMac Pro. I’ve always wanted an alien ware and it’s just as good.” I don’t wanna knock PC people here, because people who have been using PCs their whole life, they know a bunch of things that I don’t. I haven’t used a PC since 2008 or 2007. The main tool that I use on my PC for video editing, which is why I bought this PC, is Camtasia-
Chris Badgett: Why is Camtasia better than Screen Flow?
Joe Casabona: There is no version of Screen Flow for the PC.
Chris Badgett: Oh, okay.
Joe Casabona: I think I would probably happily still have or keep my PC if I had … if I had a program that didn’t crash when I tried to do basic things.
Chris Badgett: So you’re saying Camtasia’s not being stable for you on your PC.
Joe Casabona: Right. I don’t know what it is. I know a lot of people in the education space, in the higher ed space, who love Camtasia. Maybe they’re on an older version. I record all of my videos in 4K-
Chris Badgett: Super high quality. Yeah.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah because that’s where every … as we’re sitting here, Apple just announced a new MacBook Air that is 4K that has a retina display.
Chris Badgett: Wow.
Joe Casabona: Even though bottom of the barrel computers now are getting retina, 4K, high fidelity screens, and I want my videos to be watchable on those. Maybe Camtasia can’t handle 4K, but I’ve not been happy with that experience. I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to get feature parody between my Mac and my PC because I use tools like Omni Focus and whatever else is only for iOS and Mac. I’m like, “What is cross platform? What has a web interface?” I will be getting an iMac Pro before the end of the year because I’ve just a sunk a lot of time into trying to get things right. I recorded a 10 minute video last week. I applied a noise filter, which Camtasia does really well, they have it. It’s nice. It easily removes white noise, but it crashed just doing that on a 10 minute video. I expect better that, especially if I’ve paid over two grand for a machine. I cheaped out, cheaped out a little bit. It’s been frustrating and I’m moving back to the Mac.
Chris Badgett: So your dad’s [inaudible] advice, “Buy cheap, get cheap,” was good in this case.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Absolutely. I think maybe-
Chris Badgett: Even though that’s not that cheap. That’s the thing. That’s why course creative we got all this gear, all this hardware. We don’t have an unlimited budget, most of us, so I understand why.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Absolutely. Again, maybe there’s actually something wrong with this PC. Maybe there’s a hardware issue that I’m not detecting anywhere except Camtasia. Not the … Not likely, but possible, right? Again, that’s not really something I wanna think about. I built computers for a small time in high school and college and I did not like doing that. I don’t wanna worry about that. A lot of people are like, “You can’t open the body of a Mac to do whatever.” I don’t care, but I don’t want to open the body of a Mac. I just want it to work. That’s my impassioned speech about my hardware stack.
Chris Badgett: That was awesome. Well, Joe Casabona, thank you for coming back on the show and thank you for sharing your course creator journey as we explored the five hats and your experience with all that. Joe’s at casabona.org. Can you spell that for us and let us know anywhere else people can connect with you on the web?
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That is C-A-S-A-B, as in boy, O-N-A.org. I’m over there. That’ll be kind of the changing station for all of my … the exchange station or whatever for all of my other things, my podcast, my online courses. I’m on Twitter and most social networks as J Casabona. You can reach out there. That’s probably the best way to get ahold of me.
Chris Badgett: Thanks so much for coming, Joe. We really appreciate it.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Thanks for having me on the show. I had a blast.
Chris Badgett: That’s a wrap for this episode of LMS Cast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed this show. This show was brought to you by Lifter LMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results-getting courses on the internet.

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