Matt Johnson, of Pursuing Results, is a former WordPress developer who pivoted his business into a podcast production company, and he offers his production services as a full-package, standardised product.
He sat down to talk with us about what that means, why it works, how other professionals can implement and scale the product model in their own businesses, and where the future of podcasting is headed.
So many of us take pride in offering high-touch, customised service experiences for our clients, where everything is tailored to each client’s specific needs—so why is this week’s guest finding so much success doing the opposite with his product?
Matt got his start in WordPress development building a website for a piano studio, and then later built another for his first consulting client who introduced him into the world of real estate. From there, he learned the benefits of optimising teams and processes well enough to able to step back from the day-to-day.
It was also where he first learned about turning something well-known as a service offering, like real estate sales, into a packaged product. The company made real estate transactions into a neat little product that anybody could sell.
Matt was running webinars for the real estate company when a coworker pitched him on doing an actual podcast. It was B2B, and they built a lot of strong industry relationships that way—but not much of a business model.
Initially, we had no idea how to monetise it, which we would not recommend, by the way, but that’s what we did and it all worked out in the end. But it did take us a longer path to figure out how to monetise. I jumped in without a plan.
They knew they wanted to be successful influencers, and his partner wanted to work his way into coaching, so things snowballed from there—and Matt got very good at running podcasts.
Matt and his partner started monetising by selling online courses and live events, which worked for a while but burnt them out pretty quickly. His partner moved into a virtual real estate firm, where agents could actually switch their real estate licences over to him and, in exchange for a commission percentage, gain access to all his coaching and training materials for free. This was a highly successful model for him, but it didn’t translate well into industries other than real estate.
Matt ventured into podcasting on his own and was doing Facebook Live shows fairly regularly. He found that in order to keep the quality high, he needed help. He assembled a team so that he could focus on the content and the conversation whilst they handled the day-to-day tasks such as bookings, backend work and social media. And, well, the team became very good.
When word spread throughout his podcasting audience about how he was managing to churn out such a high volume of quality work, people started asking to rent out his production team. This worked for a while, but customising the approach for every single client generated a lot of mixed results. So Matt and his team decided to standardise their offering and created a clear, defined product that would meet client needs and deliver good results.
Once they specialised and offered their service as a packaged-up product, it became hugely successful. They had been able to create a clearly-defined service designed to meet a particular need with minimal customisation. Matt stresses that, while less customisation might seem limiting at first, the reality is anything but.
We’re not saying hey, go ahead and fit your round peg into my square hole, because it’s easier for me to deliver, because I want to take more time off on Friday afternoons. It’s not about that. It’s about starting with the ideal client and what gets them the best results.
Matt’s tips for moving from product to service:
As Matt hands over more responsibility to his team to become more hands-off, he has a defined an approach for making sure everyone is still turning out great results.
He calls it “I do it, we do it, you do it.” It’s pretty simple: Initially, he documents the processes. Then, he goes through them together with his team, tweaking where necessary and making things as clear as possible. Only when the processes are optimised and clear to everyone does he hand it over (AKA the “you do it” stage).
The other part of assuring quality is to continuously apply and revisit processes. Matt and his team make heavy use of checklists in Trello, and if any deviation from the standard procedure needs to happen, they update the list to account for it.
When mistakes happen, his first step is always to refer back to the process. If it was followed correctly and a mistake still happened, the process needs fixing. If it wasn’t followed correctly, then it was human error—and the process still needs fixing. Matt really believes in using systems and processes to account for natural human behaviour, rather than leaning on the unreasonable assumption that everyone on his team will be giving it 100%, forty hours a week, every single week.
Matt says he’s seen podcasting go through a few different phases. First, the agency phase, where many podcast production agencies popped up to do customised, end-to-end, hands-off production delivery. (Or as he calls it, the Done-For-You model) Next came the DIY wave, where podcast producers went the route of selling courses and tutorials to teach clients how they could make their own podcasts from scratch and it took off.
So what comes after DIY?
Matt thinks it’s a bit of a blend: the Done-With-You model, as he calls it, where companies seeking to leverage podcasts for their businesses will want to train one person on their teams to manage podcasts as part of their overall branding and social media. He thinks the podcast production company’s role will be to bring in training, tools and systems to these businesses so that they can bring their podcasting in-house, with a promise of producer support along the way.