This interview is a little different. Today’s guest is with the guy who has been selling ads here at Mixergy.
He took this thing that never worked, that I never cared about, and turned it into something that really matters.
As an experiment I wanted to show you who we are here at Mixergy and how we operate so I invited him here to talk about selling ads and how we’ve evolved as a podcast.
Sachit Gupta helps entrepreneurs like me grow profitable platforms.
Here’s the interview:
Here’s the full transcript (thanks to Mixergy):
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs who are building their businesses.
This interview is a little bit different from the ones that I usually do. It’s with a guy who’s been selling ads here for Mixergy, actually took this thing that never worked and I never really cared about, selling ads, and turned it into something that matters, that’s actually helping to grow the business.
The reason I’m doing this is because, frankly, I’ve been listening to a lot of the NPR-style podcasts where everything is so polished, like one person says a sentence and then the other person chimes in with a sentence and then the first person comes in with a sentence and then you go to a clip for one sentence and only one sentence only because people’s attention span cannot hold more than that and it’s got to be edited so perfectly well.
I think the thing that got me into having conversations, into radio as a kid, podcasting as an adult, it was getting to really know people, not the polished version of them, but the part where they make mistakes, where they say the word, “Um,” where they actually reveal a little bit of themselves in between the message they’re trying to make. I like getting to know the people I’m listening to.
I thought about it and said it’s kind of easy to criticize the whole NPR movement, but that doesn’t really [inaudible 00:01:20] anything. I’m not here to be a critic in this world. If I’m criticizing other people, I should do it mentally and as a thought exercise to understand how I can do better. I realize through that, the way I can do better is to bring you guys who are listening to me into who I am and what’s going on here at Mixergy and let you know about some of the struggles that we’ve had, let you know about some of the wins that we’ve had and just kind of show you who we are and how we’re operating here.
So, as an experiment, I invited Sachit Gupta because he’s the guy who sells ads here. Actually, not that—actually, the reason I did it is because I just feel so comfortable with Sachit that I feel like I can just experiment with Sachit and completely screw up or figure it out together. I said, “Sachit, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it with someone who I feel really comfortable with.”
So I invited him here to talk about how he took on this whole ad thing that we did, how we evolved as a podcast when it comes to running ads. If you guys have listened to me for a long time, you know, in the beginning, I was really awkward with the ads. I hated doing the ads. Then I got better at it. We got better at selling ads and figuring out who the advertisers are. Anyway, we’re going to talk about all this.
The guests for today is Sachit Gupta. He sells ads here at Mixergy. If you want to know more about him, go check out his website, it’s sachitgupta.co. He’s a guy who works with podcasters and influencers to help them grow revenue and grow their audiences. Since he’s a guy who sells ads for us, of course I’m going to read an ad here. The ads that I’m going to talk about are for HostGator, for hosting websites and if you’re hiring a developer or finance person, Toptal.
Sachit: Thank you. This is a special kind of circle of Mixergy because I started off listening to Mixergy. Then I don’t know what I was doing and you gave me a shot, I think, like five years ago. I learned everything working for Mixergy, so thank you for that. Now I’m on here. So it’s awesome to be here.
Andrew: Yeah. I love when people who listen come on here. Do you remember when you first suggested that you should take on advertising?
Sachit: Yeah. I actually remember the exact email. I think it was an email that we were exchanging. There was some error that I just discovered that the sponsor and the person who was listed in the notes didn’t match. I remember sending that email to you saying, “Hey, FYI, this doesn’t match.”
I could sense in your reply that this was something you didn’t want to handle. I think this was around September of 2014, like towards the end of 2014. I had the sense that it’s something you wanted to improve but you didn’t want to handle because you wanted to focus on the interviewing aspect.
Andrew: I didn’t even want to improve it. I for a long time didn’t want to have any ads in here. I thought it kind of polluted the content. The reason I thought it polluted the content is because it seemed too small potatoes. It didn’t seem as important as the main message of Mixergy. Then I realized the only way this thing could actually make sense is if it sustained itself. If it’s just me investing in it and putting money into it, it’s always going to be a hobby, people are going to consider it a hobby. So I started running ads. Do you know the revenue we were doing before we took over?
Sachit: I think at that time that year you did $50,000. I think that was another reason you probably didn’t want to deal with it because it wasn’t that much revenue. So it was a lot of work for not much revenue.
Andrew: $1,300 per month for two or three sponsors. I didn’t want to do it. I only held on to it because it had a little bit of credibility. Then you came on and said, “Can I sell it?” The thing that got me to say was you said, “I could take care of everything.” I know you. I knew you really would take care of everything. It wasn’t going to come back to me in some weird way.
Let’s talk about the first sponsor that you got because I remember what you did to get that sponsor. The sponsor is with us to this day. We’re actually going to read their message. Do you remember how you got them?
Sachit: Yeah. The first sponsor was Toptal. I think the big thing with signing Toptal was really—at that point, I didn’t really know what I was doing because I never sold sponsorship in the past. All I had was a marketing background, and I understood how companies did marketing. I remember when I first got on to a call with Toptal, I didn’t really . . . actually at that point I don’t think I even understood CPMs and all the different metrics podcasters use to sell ads. We can talk about how I think a lot of them are actually BS.
I just got on a call with Brandon, who’s the COO at Toptal. I wanted to understand how they were advertising—what was their customer acquisition cost, how much they were willing to pay for customers and all of those different things.
Andrew: To just learn from them how they were thinking about advertising. It wasn’t even a pitch to sell them.
Sachit: Exactly. What I think any company who buys ads and podcasts, they’re comparing it with their other channels like social media and LinkedIn and all of that. I just wanted to find out how they were buying ads there. I won’t say the number because I think it’s something they don’t want to talk about. I remember when they told me their customer acquisition cost, I was like, “That’s pretty high.”
I think given Mixergy’s audience, we could get them at least five or six customers in a month. I was also up front with Brandon, like, “I think we can get you five or six customers.” His answer was yes given the size of Mixergy. Really, I think that’s how we came up with the first pricing. We literally took their acquisition costs, multiplied I think by six customers, came up with a number and said, “Does this number work for you for a month of sponsorship?” At that time, you had one ad in each episode. He ended up saying yes.
Andrew: I think we can go a little bit further back in the story because the fact that you reached out to Toptal wasn’t random. It was from a little bit of research that you did. Do you remember your conversation? Who was it with?
Sachit: Yes. So I was talking with Sam Parr of The Hustle. I was just researching sponsorships. I think one big insight he gave me that I think we follow to this day is look for companies that have higher acquisition costs. So he gave me the example of recruiting companies because they had—I think that year had worked with a recruiting company as part of the Hustle Conference, which is an amazing conference.
When I was talking to Toptal, that’s when I remembered that since they have a higher acquisition cost, talent is expensive to find. So companies are willing to spend way more on that. The other thing I also realized is if someone has a good experience with Toptal, they will keep paying Toptal for talent because ask any company, talent is the hardest thing to find.
So their long-term value, if they are a good service, would be really high for customers. I think we’ve also seen from what they’ve told us that they’ve had customers that we send them that have been there for a long time because they keep buying.
Andrew: So they were the first ones. They actually took a shot on us. I think they took a shot because the founder was on as a Mixergy interviewee, and I think he happened to get some customers from that and said, “All right, let’s give it a shot. It seems like it’s going to work.”
I have to be honest that I’ve never felt fully comfortable with that because I’m so worried about the credibility of the site and I’m so worried about the fact that all right, we went to someone who was a guest and then it became a sponsor. Does that mean that, somewhere in the back of my head, I’m always going to think of every guest as a potential sponsor?
So I know that’s a potential conflict of interest. Still, I know myself well enough to know that’s not something that would influence me. What would influence me more is like inner-doubt than, “I can’t wait for this guest to turn into a sponsor.”
Sachit: Yeah. I think it’s a good point that you bring up, because I’ve also seen or have heard of podcasts that are now charging guests or if someone sponsors, they’re more likely to bring them on as a guest. I think one thing we’ve done at Mixergy is really kept a separation between who sponsors and who is going to be on.
So I tell every sponsor that you’re sponsoring, “You’re spending money. That does not mean that I have any control over who can be an interviewee.” Just because I think the moment a podcast separates that line or blurs that line, everything goes downhill because as soon as the audience thinks that the interviewees are paying to be on or it’s pay for play, it just stops working. So I think that’s what we’ve done a good job of.
Andrew: I also think that what we’ve learned working together is whenever we go outside of the usual format, things just don’t work out. I think that’s partly my strength and my weakness, that I work really well with systems, and then once we go outside of it, it becomes really tough. So I want to be open about one of the sponsors.
Baby Bathwater, I think I did a pretty ugh job for them. The reason I think I did, it’s a conference. I didn’t know that much about it. I heard all the facts about it. Then I did the ads. I said I was going to be at the conference. I showed up and then I got it. I got it with Baby Bathwater. I don’t even know that I could explain it. How can I tell you why Olivia and I kiss well together? Can I tell you it’s because she puts her tongue this way and my tongue that way? There’s no rational way to say it. It just is.
So I think I can talk about some of my positive experiences with Baby Bathwater if the ad ran now, but at the time, all I could do is give you the mechanics of it’s for entrepreneurs. You’re not really going to be saddled into a seat all weekend long. You’re going to hang out and ski with people. As I said, it sounds kind of . . . so I think that was an issue. The reason I bring it up in the systems thing is I said, “You know what? I’ll find a way to make it up to you.”
Every time I think about a way to make that up to them because I feel bad—if I don’t do a great job, sometimes I say it in the ads, “I don’t think I did a great job. I’ve got to make it up to the guest,” I think some people in the audience think, “Andrew’s, he’s saying it.” I’ve just been really bad at finding another way. How do I fit it in? How do I make it work? That’s been a pain in the butt.
Sachit: Yeah. I think two things. One, you’re right. The event is so unique that I think if you haven’t been there, it’s hard to describe. I remember the sponsorship came . . . they became a sponsor because I had gone to the conference. I think I explained to you what it was, but also don’t think I did the best job explaining because it’s just so hard to . . .
Sachit: Also, I think everyone has a unique experience depending on who you meet there. I think you got into conversations that you weren’t expecting to get into, which really that’s what affects the experience. I think what we’ve also learned is like who are good sponsors for us.
Andrew: Events are not good sponsors for us.
Sachit: I think so too.
Andrew: Can we say why events are not good?
Sachit: Sure. I’m curious why you think they’re not.
Andrew: I think they’re not good for a few reasons. One is it’s all at once, like you have to really get all the sales by a certain time and you can’t adjust and improve it. I don’t know how Toptal did the first time out, but I know that it took many of our sponsors some time to figure out how to work with our audience. It took me some time to figure out how to talk about them.
It took my audience some time, some repetition before they understood that they need Toptal. I could say go sign up for Toptal today, but if you don’t need a developer, you can’t force yourself to go sign up for Toptal. If you don’t hear me say it several times, you’re not going to end up going to Toptal when you finally do need them. The problem with events is that they can’t get that repetition. That’s an issue. The other one is they don’t have a big budget.
Andrew: They’re not like filthy rich. They’re always just marginally doing well. Now, Baby Bathwater could be doing much better, but the margins aren’t super great. What else is it? I also feel there’s the, I don’t know, I feel like those are the big ones. I was going to say there’s also the mom and pop issue, where if you’re spending your own money, you have to make it back right away. But then again, I immediately thought about some of the other sponsors that are thinking mom and pop. They do need to make their money pretty fast and they do it.
Sachit: Acuity Scheduling is a good example because they hadn’t raised any money or anything. I think the other problem with events is just logistical reasons, because people have to fly somewhere. I think if you look at the cross-section of Mixergy audience, it’s either people starting out who buy software products or people who are running big companies. I think the conferences that we had aren’t the $500 conferences. They’re the ones that are higher priced.
This is something I just thought of right now is maybe the cross-section of our audience that is actually a good fit to pay that much, maybe they aren’t flying for that many conferences because they’re just busy running their companies. It adds that logistical thing in there, which you don’t have with something like Toptal or HostGator because you can go online, sign up and start working with them.
Andrew: You know what else? I also think you can’t get a sale right away. We were just talking with the founder of Needls. Justin is so data-driven. First of all, he created a landing page just for our audience. He created a special offer just for our audience. He put our video up. He had someone created a cartoon of me. Anyone can go to check out Needls.com/Mixergy. Needls is missing that last E. That alone is causing problems.
Andrew: One of the things we talked about as we were analyzing the numbers was that there’s an issue where I can’t say if you’re looking to hire an agency, go check out Needls.com/Mixergy. People aren’t necessarily looking to hire a robo-agency to buy their ads, but maybe they’re interested in how it works. I think it makes more sense to send someone in to investigate further than to go send someone to buy, especially when you only have a few ads.
I think what we’re going to do with events is if they bring me in to speak, they’re flying me out, they’re paying, whatever it is that they’re doing, part of it should be some kind of mention so that I say I’m going to be speaking at this event, and then the fact that I’m there is the draw and the logistics of getting me there is the payment for the promotion, something like that.
Sachit: I don’t even think having you there makes a huge difference. As we’ve seen with another conference we’ve had as a sponsor, Fireside, last year, the ads did really well from what they’ve told us. This year, it hasn’t been as good. I think partly it could also be, that last year, you were speaking and people got to hang out with you and just have a lot of fun and you don’t have that this year.
So I think there’s a bunch of different reasons. I think another reason is a lot of the other software companies that we’ve had, they have experience doing marketing on other channels, like a lot of experience. Toptal has spent a lot of money in other places, so has HostGator. So they have that data to look at to see what has worked. I think for someone who hasn’t really done that much advertising and is now starting, what I found, at least, is like starting with a podcast is not the best fit.
We’ve had a lot of companies that have applied to sponsor Mixergy where basically I’ve told them, “We want you to start advertising on other channels to have some data we can look at before you sponsor a podcast.” I think for anyone who wants to do marketing, sponsoring a podcast right away with like $5,000 or whatever and that’s the only marketing budget you have is not a good move.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s much better for like a Facebook ad campaign.
Andrew: Let’s do a first ad here. The first ad is for a company called HostGator. I’m actually struggling lately talking about HostGator because I think I’m repeating myself over and over.
The idea is I wanted to start offering chat bot services where someone on my team will build a chat bot for you or if you want to learn how to build a chat bot, we’ll teach you how to build a chat bot. Anyway, that whole thing was this like passion of mine. I’m really high on the idea that, in the future, everyone’s going to be using chat instead of email and chat can be much smarter than email because it can answer your questions in real time in an automated way.
So I needed a website and I went to HostGator. I bought the cheapest site they had, I think one of the cheap clients that they had. We were up and running. Things went well. Then as we were growing, we kept upping it.
I think the last time we upped the size of our hosting package was when I did a webinar for Copyblogger. The traffic was just insane from that. I don’t think we were down for more than a minute or two, but that alone pissed me off because it was right when I was going live with the webinar.
So I said to Michael, “What’s going on? If it’s HostGator, then that’s a problem.” Michael said, “It is HostGator, but it’s not that they’re the problem. It’s that you keep wanting to be as cheap as possible.” I said, “I don’t here. Tell me what I need to do because this is important. It’s my relationship with people like Brian Clark of Copyblogger.”
So he said, well, we can sign up to upgrade our service with HostGator and then things will be okay. So we did. We paid extra. We even signed a three-year agreement with them because I’m super-cheap, and we ended up with a lower price. It was by far the lowest price of any legitimate hosting company that we could have. Since then, we have not had a single issue with them.
That’s the story I’ve been telling people. You can start off cheap, get unlimited domain hosting and keep experimenting with ideas that you have and then grow it. They don’t actually talk that up, but they do have really fantastic hosting packages that are not on their site because they will scale with you.
My problem with that is that I tell that story a lot. I think I need more case studies from the sponsors, especially people who come back in over and over. I know that people hear me talk about HostGator a million times, and then they feel like they’ve heard it. I’m worried they’re skipping through it. And by the way, let me close out this ad by saying if you’re interested, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, where they give you up to 62% off.
You know what, actually? I’m going to be honest with the audience. I’ve said this before. I don’t think 62% off is the lowest price they have. I think that . . . actually, I do think it’s the lowest. I don’t think they’re giving me the lowest. I think you can find 62% off somewhere else. The truth is, if you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, you are giving me credit for introducing you and it helps me in some ways more than it helps you guys who sign up.
Andrew: It does help people, Sachit. We’ll get to the issue of stores. I’m now listening to this new thing that’s happening in podcasts when a podcaster reads an add. They now play music underneath the ad. Have you noticed that?
Sachit: Yes. Some of them are doing that. I think they’re differentiating when the ad is playing versus the content.
Andrew: The Gimlet Media guys, they started doing it, and then everyone else said, “Oh, look at this. This is great. We play some music underneath.” The reason they do it is to distance themselves from the advertiser to say, “Look, this music, this means that we’re getting paid. We’re getting paid for this, so we don’t fully believe it. But here it goes.” I’m so against that. If you have to distance yourself from the sponsor even a little bit, then he’s not the right sponsor for you.
Sachit: I completely agree. I think another interesting thought . . . actually, Casey Neistat’s new podcast, they do the ads. Because they’re new to podcasting, they’re very frank. One of their advertisement [inaudible 00:20:41], helping 368, his new thing. I think you can tell like how much he actually appreciates [inaudible 00:20:47] for helping him as a service because he’s very real about it.
I think even for us, Pipedrive is probably the best example, where I think one of the reasons the ad has worked so well and they’ve told us we’re probably the best podcast is because you actually like the service. I think when a podcaster doesn’t like the service or doesn’t really use them, they shouldn’t have them as advertisers because I think we’ve both seen certain podcasts like have ads where you’re thinking like, “Does he even use the product?”
Andrew: Right. All right. I’m going to be open here. The big one that people clearly do not use is Squarespace. Big podcasters say, “Sign up for Squarespace,” and then I go look at their website and it’s almost always a WordPress-hosted site. Then they’ll have some event and say, “My event site is on Squarespace,” or they’ll say, “My kid’s birthday website is on Squarespace,” but they don’t really use Squarespace because Squarespace is like Fisher Price.
In some ways, that’s great. You need Fisher Price for some things. But when they’re talking to their audience of technically sophisticated people who are clearly capable of using WordPress and then they dumb it down, I feel like they’re missing an opportunity to get real. It’s just out of alignment.
Sachit: I agree. I think a lot of times, people aren’t really, like you said, putting their money where their mouth is. We’ve had an experience with HostGator . . .
Andrew: Let’s talk about what happened with HostGator.
Sachit: I think there was a point where we were negotiating with them and I think two months and we finally got to an agreement, but I think it was the day of or the day before because I still remember I was in New York. Someone complained about HostGator I think in the Facebook group. Then a lot of people piled onto that.
I think one good thing that came out of this is we both collectively decided, “We can’t have them as a sponsor even if they’re paying us if the audience is unhappy.” We told them what happened. I think to their credit, they could have just been like, “Okay, we’re going to go sponsor another podcast.” They actually wanted to learn. They wanted to improve.
We collected all of the Facebook comments we had received in the comments, in the messages, put them in a Google drive and sent it to HostGator. They responded to each comment. I think we both were surprised because there was a feel that if you send someone a folder with Google Photos, there’s actually a field I didn’t even know existed. In there, they responded to each comment.
Andrew: A description field, which until then and since then I’ve never seen anyone use. Yeah, we sent them every single comment, every single issue we’ve had over the years. We asked Andrea, my assistant, to go into the email and see every single thing, and we created a Google doc for each one of them. I don’t know why we didn’t put it all on one. They went in and commented next to each one.
Sachit: One more thing I should mention before that—I think the other thing that also happened is we still weren’t sure we wanted to do it or not. You came back and said, “I want to do this, but I want to test them out myself.” So, when you were launching Bot Academy, you said, “I’m going to put all of Bot Academy on HostGator because if I’m recommending them, I want to see how it works and I want to put my entire business on that.” I think that’s credit to you and Mixergy, because I don’t think most people would do that to test out a sponsor.
Andrew: So the thing that happened was at first I was sheepish with them. I didn’t talk to them. I didn’t tell them why. I just said it’s not a good fit. Maybe you gave them more insight, but I just said it’s not a good fit and I was done. Then we just leveled with them, and we said here’s the issue and here are some of the—I tell people all the time if you ever have an issue with any sponsor, tell us. It was . . .
Sachit: ActiveCampagin refund?
Andrew: ActiveCampaign refund, right, somebody who specifically asked for an ActiveCampagin refund.
Sachit: They just replied right away and took care of it or they’re taking care of it.
Andrew: Some guy, I could solve his problem personally, but I’m trying not to get into it. But for some reason, he has an issue that to him is overwhelming and I can’t get it solved, fine. I invite him and everyone else that has a problem with my sponsors, let me know. That’s how I know that it’s not just good for me. It’s good for everyone else. We sent it to the sponsor and the sponsor took care of it.
We do collect all of this stuff and we do send it to the sponsor and that’s a big benefit of using our referral code. I don’t think—I love Leo Laporte. He’s one of the podcasters I’ve listened to the longest. I don’t think I could email Leo Laporte and say, “Here’s an issue I’ve had with your sponsor. Please fix it.”
Sachit: I think to defend you, you’re actually inviting that, and the team at Mixergy is dealing with that. To give credit to our sponsors—I don’t know that we’ve been lucky to have sponsors that do that or all sponsors are doing that, but I think 99% of the time, they help fix the issue. They’ve escalated the problem to whatever it needs to be.
Andrew: The number one issue is not even—in my mind, it’s not an issue, but I understand it is for somebody who’s experiencing it—they heard me talk about Toptal. They get on a call with Toptal and Toptal rejects them. I actually get that they’re upset. Actually, I don’t. I can empathize with it, but I don’t get it because if you’re not a good fit, I’d rather you hear about it before you pay. I’d rather say your organization is not big enough. We can’t just give you who’s going to be like—I don’t know what it is, but if it’s not a good fit, I’d rather they say that.
Andrew: All right. Let’s see what else. Here’s another company that’s not a good fit for a sponsor, but it sucks for me. I get why. I’m so disappointed that Mailshake didn’t work out. Here’s why I’m disappointed that . . . why do you think Mailshake didn’t work out?
Sachit: So I actually emailed Sujan today to ask. I think we’re making an assumption that it didn’t work out. It may have, it may have not because I haven’t heard from him yet, but I think there might be two reasons. One is that there are so many companies that are doing the email [inaudible 00:26:49] now, like Yesware or Mixmax, Mailshake and all the other ones. It’s really hard to differentiate which one to use. Do you know what I mean?
Andrew: Yeah. To be clear with anyone who doesn’t know what it is, we’ve all been at the receiving end of these emails where someone will send over an email to me saying, “Hey, I saw that you talked about Tuft & Needle. Guess what, we have a mattress company also. Would you mind linking to that?” Then if I ignore it because it’s stupid—I interviewed the founder of Tuft & Needle. I’m not just linking to Tuft & Needle randomly. I ignore it.
They come back to me an hour later or a day later or five days later and they say, “Hey, you didn’t respond to my email. I wanted to make sure you got it.” I have to say, “Come on, stop it.” That’s a stupid way of doing things. The smart way is to still use that same methodology, which is to say sending out an email to someone who’s clearly a good fit, like, “Hey, Mixergy, I think you should have my founder on as a guest.”
If Mixergy doesn’t respond, automatically fire off a follow-up email saying, “Hey, you didn’t respond. I don’t know if you saw it, but my founder is really doing well.” You can send that to a bunch of different bloggers and automate it using software. We’ve all been on the receiving end of those bad versions. We’ve all been on the receiving end of the good ones. The fact of the matter is it’s on the rise because it works.
So I thought great, Mailshake does it really well. It’s so elegant. They help you hunt the right people so that you’re not just randomly spraying your email at everyone. You load it into their system. You write an email. It goes out individually to each person on the list. They help you make sure is a good list of people.
If they don’t respond, they send a follow-up email. If they do respond, it goes right to you or to your salesperson, and that person can follow up with them. It’s beautifully done. You’re right that there’s other software that does it. I’m concerned that part of it is that Sujan is charging too freaking little — $29 a month for that? First of all, how is Sujan going to make money with $29 a month?
Sachit: I was surprised by the pricing too.
Andrew: You know what? I love Sujan. I think he’s going to be hurt that I say this. I think his pricing is stupid. Look at this. I’m on the Internet Archive. I think when we ran the ads, it was $19 per user per month.
Sachit: I remember before I knew about Mailshake the year before, I used Carve.io, which is from Predictable Revenue. I think I was paying . . . they did provide more support, but I was paying up to $1,000 a month just because it was useful.
Andrew: Right. I think actually stupid is not the right way. I think he’s being a little too shy, a little too nice, a little too smiley. That’s Sujan’s problem. He’s a great marketer, but he likes people a little too much and he cares about being liked a little too much. So he’s charging $19 a month, $20 a month for this software that’s all about driving sales.
Frankly, if the software is good, it’s going to drive enough sales that you’d be willing to pay a few hundred bucks for it. It is good. I’ve talked to people who use it. They come over to my house because I complain about Sujan’s pricing all the time. I want to do well for him. They say they use it. They can afford it. They can totally afford to pay more. He should be charging at least $100 a month.
Here’s the other problem with charging too little. He’s a great marketer. He can’t buy ads. That means that he can’t go to Facebook and spend a bunch of money and get customers. He can’t come to me and buy ads from me because at $29 per, what do I have to do? I have to get him like 100 users, 1,000 users per read? I don’t know what it is, it’s a lot. That’s a problem. Then he also can’t offer a big discount if people go to the URL.
By the way, all this, he’s at fault. He needs to do way better with the business model. His product is good. Everybody listening to me should go and take full advantage of him. Everybody should go take full advantage of him. It’s like saying, “We’re going to charge $50 per room because we want to be nice and we’ll make sure it’s clean.” Go take it. Fairmont Hotel, $50 a night, go use it.
Sachit: Before Sujan raises the prices.
Sachit: Before Sujan raises the prices.
Andrew: They should raise their prices. Is he related at all to Neil Patel? He is, right?
Sachit: Yes, I think they’re either friends or cousins. Actually, I think they’re cousins.
Andrew: They’re close in my head. I’m surprised that Neil hasn’t sat down . . . Neil is also really good about smiling as he says to you, “You’re being stupid, fix this.” I’ve been at the receiving end of that a lot. Neil Patel at one point said, “Andrew, just give me the username and password for your site. You’re just being stupid. I’m going to fix it.” And he just sat and fixed it one night.
Sachit: He changed the price or something else, right?
Andrew: The fact that you’re saying we’re not even sure that it didn’t work out is interesting. Maybe we need to follow-up with him.
Sachit: I did. I just have to hear back from him. I think that’s something I should have followed up earlier, but we’ll see what he says back.
Andrew: It’s really good software. I’m impressed. I thought he bought the site. I went back and I found some tweets. Apparently, he said somebody needs to build it, and somebody reached out to him and he ended up with the product.
All right. Let’s talk about the second sponsor for the . . . this is all about sponsors, but the second one is a company called Toptal, top as in top of your head, tal as in talent. By the way, the reason I say it, Sachit, is I think that I talk so fast that you can’t understand what I’m saying. Like if I say Toptal, can you understand that I’m saying Top-tal?
Sachit: I think most people wouldn’t. I would because I know about the company, but I don’t think most people would. It’s funny because I’ve said that in conversations in general, like, “Top-what?”
Andrew: Right. It’s easy to spell, it’s all that, it’s super clear, but I do listen to myself sometimes as I do the Toptal ad and I go, “I’m not clear what I just said there and I know myself. I went top as in top of your head, tal as in talent. I used to say top as in top of the mountain and then I figured, “Let’s make it something that’s more . . .”
Sachit: You also spelled it out before, right? T-O-P-T-A-L?
Andrew: Yeah. That came from one of my sponsors. I used to in the early days be so bad at reading this, that at the end of the ad, I’d say, “You’re a great salesperson, what would you do differently?” There were a couple of people who said, “How about spelling it out? I don’t know what you said.”
All right. I think they’re another company that I can actually use some more case studies for. I wonder if we should hire a writer to go out and get some case studies and put some bullet points together for me.
Sachit: I think that could be good. We have asked sponsors in the past for case studies and we’ve gotten some, but we haven’t gotten that many.
Andrew: Maybe we just need to do the work for them. At this point, we’re charging enough that it’s worth it. I don’t think we should give the exact amount that we charge because . . . the reason I don’t want to is because I’m afraid of Toptal, frankly. Taso invited me to interview him at a Toptal event. I remember two things about it. One was I asked about openness and everyone said, “Of course we’re open.”
Taso gave me this look and goes, “We don’t believe in openness.” Taso is one of the founders of Toptal. “Actually, when someone is super open on their site, we use their numbers to reverse engineer their business, and we use that to get better at Toptal. We’re not going to help our competitors do better.”
Frankly, they’ve done so well that they’ve had people I think rip them off. They’re very nice about it. Every time I try to get them to get angry about it, like, “No, it’s okay. We’re all learning from each other.” But I’ve got to believe they go home and go, “You ripped me off.” So I remember that.
The other thing I remember is I asked him a question that was way too personal. I don’t even remember what it was. Taso is so serious that if he gives you a little bit of a look, you go, “Oh, man.” I’m not even afraid of anyone. I’m afraid of Taso and of Olivia, my wife. All right. They take stuff so super seriously, which I love because I’m an anal, super-serious person too.
So here’s what I did with Toptal. I hired a developer, hired a designer. One of the best people that I got from them was a finance person, someone to look over my books. He looked over the ad revenue. I was super out of it. Remember, Jack said, “You should talk to Sachit.” “About what? Sachit is doing a great job.”
He goes, “He should be doing more.” I go, “How about you talk to Sachit?” And Jack says, “Of course I’ll talk to Sachit for you,” which I love. I love that they’re so serious at Toptal that the people I hire are like super-serious too. “We’re not going to slack off because that’s just not our culture.” So I hired him from them. Do you remember what his advice for you was?
Sachit: Yeah. We had a whole like half-hour conversation about all the different ways we could improve ad revenue. I think the cool thing was for me was he didn’t say, “Hey, I’m the finance guy. These are the numbers. This is what I want you to get it to. What do we do?” He came over with ideas too of things to do, and we discussed them. I think we’re almost in the midst of launching one of them, hopefully soon.
Andrew: What were some of his ideas?
Sachit: I don’t remember exactly. I can look them up. Some of them were things we tried that hadn’t worked. One big one, I think we should talk about . . . I think it would be the easiest thing to do, but we’ve both decided not to do is more sponsors per episode.
Andrew: Yeah. He said—I like that he pushes me to consider this stuff. I don’t always jump on what he suggests, but I find that he’s persistent enough that he at least penetrates my routine and gets me to think a little bit differently. I don’t know if we’ll have a third ad or not, but I do know there have been people I’ve hired he made me reconsider.
I do know there have been expenses I didn’t think about that he’s made me reconsider. I’m so close to the people I hire. I’m so close to the expenses that we have that I naturally would say, “No, I’m the one that decided it. It makes sense, I thought it through,” but he forces me to rethink whether it’s still relevant or not.
So the reason I’m bringing this up, guys, is because I’ve talked about that Toptal has developers, designers, but I should tell you if you’re looking for finance help, businesses use this all the time. They have someone to analyze the business, someone to put spreadsheets together for them because they don’t want to do it. Now, because of Toptal, every other business can hire them too.
So, if you need them go, check them out. It’s a special URL, top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, Toptal.com/Mixergy where you’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours, in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. If at the end of the trial period you are not 100% satisfied, you will not be billed.
I blow through that and people say, “Andrew, I wish you told me that more clearly before I signed up. Why not?” The reason is I don’t want you to sign up just because they reduce the risk and because they’re so inexpensive. I want you to sign up because it makes sense. All right. Toptal.com/Mixergy.
So what about that, the idea that I think we need writers to come in? I’ve been pretty bad at hiring writers. I feel like we could use a writer to go do your research, force someone at Toptal to talk to you and give me some case studies.
Sachit: I definitely think that’s a great idea. I think, at this point, we’ve probably sent them so many people that we can just get a number of case studies just from people that Mixergy has referred, not just their customers.
Andrew: Like here’s what we’re looking for, five stories based on this. The way to tell a story is tell me what they’re doing, then some inciting incident happened that made them rethink things. Then they failed. Then they tried Toptal, then they succeed. Because of that, we should all learn. Give me that structure.
Sachit: I think it would also . . . hiring a developer is a thing people are probably apprehensive about. When they hear stories of other people from Mixergy that have done it and how it’s worked for them, that would help, for sure.
One thing that’s really good about them, because I think it relates to what you said about HostGator, the offer that you mentioned, we’re still the only company or the only podcast that has an offer. I know other podcasters have asked them for the same thing, but so far, they haven’t given it to anyone. Remember when you were talking about HostGator asking the lowest discount—I think at one point, we were the—we had the best discount from HostGator. I think what happened is other podcasters went to them and said, “We want the discount that Mixergy has.”
Andrew: Yeah. I take it back. We do, but it’s like 2% more. So the reason we have up to 62% more is because on their site, they occasionally test up to 60% off. Let me see, actually. Let me take it back, maybe HostGator, the reason this is important is because you were super aggressive with them for a long time.
You said, “No one is going to go to the URL unless you give them an incentive to do it.” I’ve kind of been shifting to I’ll take responsibility to my sponsors. Send me your issues and I’ll forward it over to them as a way of just knowing the sponsor shouldn’t just have the lowest price with us. It can’t just be compete on price.
Andrew: But by working with Mixergy, our audience will get the best service and so it makes more sense for them to follow our sponsors. You’re right. What they call the baby plan on their website is 40%. One our website, it’s 60% off. The hatchling plan is 60% off on their website. That’s the one that’s 62% off with us. I wonder if sometimes you feel a little bit hurt when I say stuff like they’re not giving us the best prices, but you guys should sign up because it’s me. Do you feel like, “Andrew, I fought so hard. We negotiated about this. Andrew, you’re not taking my work seriously?”
Sachit: No. I think it actually, agree with it in the sense of like people shouldn’t use these services just because of the price. I think part of it is obviously they’re doing it because that helps you. They’re giving back to what they’ve learned from you. I think that’s probably the primary reason why people are using the sponsors they recommend because it does help Mixergy by keeping the sponsors.
Andrew: I do think that, actually. I think that Jason Calacanis forever said at the end of his ads, “Go support them because they support independent podcasters like this.” I used to think, “Come on, nobody’s taking action because you’re a do-gooder. Who cares? Why are you being so do-gooder about the way that you—why are you saying to the audience go support them because it’s good for the greater good? Our audience doesn’t care about that. They’re business people.”
The truth is I do think the sponsors do care about that. They obviously care about business. They care about the numbers. They do care about supporting the podcasts they like. I think Taso can shoot me a really hard look at times and say, “I don’t think you’ll ever interview me again at another Toptal event or anywhere else,” but at the same time say, “I do respect his work and I’m glad they’re supporting it.” I think that matters.
All right. Here’s where we failed. Here’s where I failed. Growing the audience has been a nightmare, just like finding a way to grow it. You’re a Facebook ad buyer. You buy Facebook ads professionally. For people who I know, for past guests—can we say who it is? I know that some of them are . . .
Sachit: Yeah. Actually, they’re all on my site now. We can. I’ve been running ads for Tim.
Andrew: You’re a little afraid of it too — Tim Ferriss. Here’s why we’re a little afraid about saying Tim Ferriss. Tim Ferriss hates the people . . . I think he’s got to hate that people use his name all the time. A lot of times people who have no connection to him use his name.
Sachit: I understand it because I think a lot of people, what they’ll do is they’ll work with someone for a month and they’ll go and say, “Hey, I work with this person. I’ve built this business.” I’m very careful even when I mention Tim’s name. I came in when Tim was already really successful. I took over a small part of what he does and I do it well. It’s not like I built this huge thing. I think a lot of times, people will take too much credit for things. I completely understand that. You’ve probably seen that, right? People start working with you, they don’t really do much. Next thing you know, they’re telling people that they built your business.
Andrew: Or they imply it because they’re good at implying without fully saying it. So, yeah, Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin and others, you bought ads for them. Still, by the way, one of the things I respect about Tim Ferriss was how much time he spent on the phone with me talking about you before he ever met you. I thought, first of all, he’s got good people because of his reputation, but number two, he does his homework on people.
Sachit: Thank you for that, by the way.
Sachit: Thank you for that.
Andrew: Of course. You buy ads for people and still, when we went to buy Facebook ads for the podcast, it didn’t work. Why not?
Sachit: I think the biggest problem with podcasting still is primarily most of the audience is coming through iTunes as we have seen. Any sort of thing that you do to buy ads or bring in more listeners, you can create a closed loop to see how it’s working. Because with Facebook ads, what we’ve tested is sending people to the iTunes page, but at that point, we have no idea what’s happening, what ads are working or not. The only thing we can track is cost per click.
I think it’s also something that is known in the podcast industry is there are also ways where people just choose numbers. For example, if you send traffic to—I think if someone lands on that page and listens for two seconds, it counts as a download, which is BS. I think the biggest reason is there’s no way to create a closed loop to see how things are working.
Andrew: That’s exactly it. If you spend $100 on a Facebook ad that is designed to grow your email list, at the end of the spend, you’ll know exactly how many email subscribers you got for that $100. In fact, you’ll know it as the spend goes on because they’ll pixel your site. With podcasts, there’s no way to close the loop. There’s no way for us to know. I spent $100. Did I get one subscriber or zero subscribers?
You’re right. I want to just emphasize you said I know several podcasts abused it. They all think they’re the only ones who do it. They embed the audio on their site, they set it to autoplay and then it plays when they send junk traffic to it so they can beef up their numbers.
I used to like for a long time Peter Kafka of Recode on his podcast used to say, “You’re lying about your podcast numbers. I’m lying about my podcast numbers. We all agree that we’re lying in the same way and that’s the way podcasting works.” I wish more people would say it.
Sachit: I didn’t know he said that. That’s interesting. I think that’s also a reason why our sponsors have come back, at least, is when we’ve sold them on the ads, we haven’t focused on—in podcasting, the main metric people use is CPM, which is cost per thousand downloads. Really, that also doesn’t take into account how people’s audiences are so different in terms of quality. We’ve never relied on that.
We’ve always focused on what is the ROI that they want and then based on our pricing seeing if that ROI works for them or not. I think a lot of people because they’ll sell ads to sponsors and then maybe they’re seeing numbers or maybe they’re not, but sponsors aren’t getting the ROI. I’ve heard that from a lot of sponsors that they’ve sponsored other podcasts with lower CPMs and more downloads than us, but we’ve given them more ROI.
Andrew: Yeah. I think that’s been a big thing for you. You’ve said test it and see the results. We believe this will pay for the ad. Then when they start getting hung up on the numbers, they say we can give you numbers, but the numbers are always going to be meaningless because we can have a lot of people and they’re not really a good fit for you or we can have none and they could be.
The one type of ad that has worked for us was—it’s not weird for me to say it, right? I’m not giving away a state secret. Overcast—when Marco Arment started allowing ads in the Overcast podcast app, I started buying ads there. There, he at least tells you how many subscribers you get every time you buy an ad.
There are a couple of issues that I have with that. The first is that randomly I get an alert on my watch because I set up a zap to set up an alert to my watch whenever he has a free ad. Whatever I’m doing, I have to stop it and go buy the ad right away. I’ll be with the kids changing a diaper, hanging out, if an ad comes in, I’m so desperate for podcast advertising, I stop whatever I’m doing, let the poop fly and then go buy an ad from Marco and then come back to life.
I’ve told Marco Arment this, the creator of Overcast. I don’t think he cares. He also does not like running ads. I think he’s more resentful than I am. I still don’t think he likes me. We’ve talked over the years.
Andrew: I’m fine with that. I think he needs to be as picky and persnickety as he is. That’s what makes him interesting enough that he would go and roast his own coffee beans. It means the one place we can buy ads is not very effective. All right. We’ve got a couple of minutes left. Another thing that bothers me with the Overcast ads is when I talk with Jason Harbinger back when he was doing The Art of Charm—
Sachit: Jordan, right?
Andrew: Yeah, Jordan.
Sachit: You said Jason.
Andrew: Harbinger is the way to pronounce the last name. He bought the same ads and they were doing better for him because he’d end up being at the top of the Overcast charts and I’m not. People would thumbs up or rate his podcast or maybe he would ask him to do it. He would buy ads, get those people to rate him, or maybe they would and then he would end up at the top of the charts and as a result of being at the top of the charts get even more subscribers. That bummed me out.
Sachit: I think it’s interesting. In the book, “Play Bigger,” I think you say his name, Christopher Lochhead, where they looked at a lot of VC companies and they talked about the category king economics, where the bigger companies always get bigger. The biggest companies own 76% of the market. I think that’s going to happen in podcasting too, where the bigger ones just keep growing bigger and bigger.
Andrew: Sachit, every time I’d hear stats like that, I always saw myself as the bigger one, and I thought I would be the number one thing, which is why it bothers me that NPR with their Planet Money is the number one business podcast. I’d like to be there. It bothers me. It rankles me. I’ve got another episode now. We just kind of scheduled this in between two interviews.
I like this. But I want to hear from people what they thought of this. If you have at all any opinion about this, let me know. My email address is—you know what my email address is. I’m going to ask that you use firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know so my assistant can help me get some sanity around the feedback on this. I’ll look at every one of them. I’ll respond to a bunch of them and I’ll internalize and be hurt and upset and fired up about every one of them. So email@example.com. Let me know.
If you want to check out Sachit’s site, it’s SachitGupta.co. Finally, the two sponsors who made this interview happen are if you need to hire a developer or designer or finance person the way I did, go to Toptal.com/mixergy. If you’re looking to host your website, go with the company I go with. It’s HostGator.com/Mixergy.
Alright, Sachit. I liked this. Hopefully the audience likes it too.
Sachit: Yeah. I think one more thing to add is I’m curious about this. If there are other podcasters that are listening, if anyone has questions about how we sell ads, we talked about the good and the bad, but I think one thing we didn’t mention is we sold out the whole year. So you and I are doing something right. If people have questions about this, I’m really curious how other people are doing it or if someone is doing it differently, I’d love to hear that too.
Andrew: Yeah. I never talk about the upset. I always think, “We can do such a better job.” This is like the thing in my head. You’re right. You sold out the year. We’re talking about by July, we’re sold for the end of the year. Sponsors who then want to jerk us around and give us stuff that’s crappy and they think they’re kings and gods on earth, we can say, “We don’t need to take your stuff. We’re good.”
Sachit: We just said no to a few today that we can’t have. I think yeah, what you said.
Andrew: All right. Guys, I hope this won’t be the last time we do this. Sachit, thanks so much for doing this.
Sachit: Thanks for having me.
Andrew: Cool. Bye, everyone.