Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Heyo! John Lee Dumas here, founder and host of the top business podcast Entrepreneurs On Fire. I launched Entrepreneurs On Fire back in September 2012 as the first daily podcast interviewing today’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. To date, I’ve now interviewed over 3,000 entrepreneurs, including Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Barbara Corcoran, and many more.
To share everything I’ve learned from the thousands of hours of conversations I’ve had, I sat down and created a 17-step roadmap to financial freedom and fulfillment called The Common Path to Uncommon Success.
But back in 2012, after successfully launching my own podcast I started getting a lot of questions from my listeners about how they could do the same! Taking my own advice of listening to your avatar to find out their biggest pain points and struggles - then creating the solution in the form of a product or service - I launched Podcasters’ Paradise, the #1 subscription-based podcasting course and community in the world!
Since 2012 we’ve launched multiple masterminds, online courses, physical journals, in-person events, and have managed hundreds of affiliate and sponsor partnerships. As a result, we’ve consistently (89 months in a row now) generated over $100,000 in net revenue every month.
Fun fact: back in 2012 two of my most trusted mentors strongly advised me NOT to start a daily podcast. They thought it was a bad idea. Luckily, I didn’t listen.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I spent the first 18 years of my life in a small town in Southern Maine. At the age of 18, I moved to Rhode Island to attend Providence College on an ROTC scholarship. Little did I know that when I graduated in 2001 as a commissioned officer in the Army I’d be among the first group to head to Iraq.
Modeling and researching are great, but the key to building a successful business is not constantly turning to others for answers; action reveals answers.
As a tank commander in charge of a platoon of 16 men, I learned a lot - QUICKLY - about what it meant to be a leader.
After four years of active duty in the Army I dove into Corporate Finance in Boston, jumped on board with a startup in New York City, started - and stopped - law school, and eventually found myself in Southern California testing out a career in residential real estate.
Those years were tough. I was doing well financially, but I wasn’t doing anything that lit me up and that I was passionate about.
On my drives to and from appointments in the real estate world, I would listen to a lot of podcasts. And I loved business podcasts - specifical interviews with successful entrepreneurs. They were so inspiring and motivating!
But the only podcasts creating consistent content that matched this criteria were being published about once per week.
I was in the car for hours - every single day.
That’s when I had my lightbulb moment. One day I ran out of podcasts to listen to, and I thought to myself, “I can’t be the only one who commutes to work, goes for runs, and is looking for inspiration throughout the day to listen to.”
Aha! As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Alright - so I would create a daily podcast interviewing inspiring and successful entrepreneurs, great!
Minor detail: I had zero online presence and zero broadcast experience. Who was I to start this podcast?
Imposter syndrome, doubts, and fear in tow, I quit my job in commercial real estate, and I started studying, researching, and learning through action.
Luckily I had money in the bank, which allowed me to quit my job and go all-in, but what I didn’t have was concrete proof that this was going to work. But again, I had a pretty strong feeling that I wasn’t alone in wanting on-demand, inspiring content to listen to.
Within about 3 months of having my aha moment I had hired a mentor, joined a mastermind, and was on track to launch my podcast, Entrepreneurs On Fire.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Since launching my podcast in 2012 I’ve launched two masterminds, three online courses, four physical journals, and built hundreds of insanely meaningful relationships.
With every launch I’ve ever done I’ve followed the same steps:
- Ask your avatar what their biggest struggle is (or listen to the questions and comments you receive and group them to find recurring themes)
- Get proof of concept for a solution you can provide in the form of a product or service (before you create it, come up with the idea of what it can be)
- Ask for the sale (make people vote with their wallet - anything else will not give you an accurate measurement of how much they value it)
- Serve the heck out of your customers (this will create raving fans who will be your evangelists)
- Create a system to help support your product or service (so that it doesn’t require you to be there all the time)
- Constantly improve what it is you have to offer (always ask your customers for ways you can improve what they’ve paid you for)
- And only then should you be thinking about other potential products and services
My “podcasting studio” in the loft of my apartment in Portland, Maine
The first product I ever did this with was an online mastermind called “Fire Nation Elite”.
I had a lot of listeners reaching out to me and telling me they felt alone on their journey. Their friends and family members were all working in Corporate America, and the thought of their loved one leaping into entrepreneurship wasn’t familiar - and therefore wasn’t something they understood or were very supportive of.
To solve this struggle, I started asking those who reached out with a similar story or concern if they’d be interested in investing in a mastermind group - led by me - so they could start interacting and brainstorming with people who were on the same path as they were.
As people said “yes! I’m in!” I sent them to an application. After they answered a few questions about where they were on their journey, they’d set up a phone call with me so we could chat and make sure the mastermind was a great fit.
If it was, I would invite them on that call to join and send them a link for payment.
We launched with 50 founding members and successfully ran the mastermind via a Facebook group with weekly live calls and monthly Q&As for over two years.
As you can imagine, the startup costs were very small. Other than our time, the only investment we made monetarily was sending each new member a coffee mug and t-shirt with the mastermind logo on it.
We did host some training content on a website for a time, but the only cost there was hosting fees.
We were of course investing in other tools that helped us run the mastermind most efficiently, like our CRM, Keap (Infusionsoft at the time). This is also where we were creating our order forms and how we were setting up email campaigns and a funnel to continue bringing in new members.
And once per year, we would host an in-person meetup for our mastermind. Bringing everyone together in person was priceless (although it really only required us finding a location and some food for the day).
Our first in-person meetup in 2014, which we hosted at our apartment in San Diego
Our second in-person meetup in 2015, which we hosted at a local coworking space. They were happy to give us space in exchange for promoting the location
Describe the process of launching the business.
I knew from the start I wanted the podcast to follow a consistent interview flow, so once I had learned about the equipment, the software, and the process of recording, editing, and uploading a podcast episode, all that was left to do was find successful entrepreneurs to interview.
To do this, I enlisted the help of my mentor. Jaime Masters, the host of the Eventual Millionaire podcast, told me my first step was to buy my ticket to BlogWorld / New Media Expo in New York (this was the summer of 2012). There she would introduce me to some of her friends in the online entrepreneurial community.
I bought my ticket and got myself to New York, and that’s exactly where I started making my first asks for people to be guests on my show.
Because of my connection and relationship with Jaime - and because I was passionate about and shared my mission to inspire millions of people - everyone I asked for an interview said yes!
I got back home from that conference and I pushed things into overdrive.
I built my website with the help of a developer on Fiverr, and I shifted my social media profiles to focus on what I had going on with the business.
What my website looked like in the early days of Entrepreneurs On Fire
My first several episodes were not great. I was nervous and I wasn’t a great interviewer, but I did it anyway. I knew once I got these episodes out to the world that I’d begin getting feedback from my listeners so I could continue improving the show, and I also knew that with every episode I was becoming better and better.
If you want to be a podcaster, then you have to podcast.
The first-week post-launch was tough. I had maybe a dozen downloads on day 1 - from my family, of course - and I didn’t know if and when that would change.
But thanks to launching with three episodes, plus asking my already-successful guests to share their episode with their own audience, I started picking up momentum towards the end of the week.
Thanks to that early momentum of more and more people tuning into my podcast, Apple Podcasts’ algorithm (iTunes at the time) kicked in and started featuring my podcast as a top business podcast in the New and Noteworthy section.
And because I had a daily show, the episodes kept on coming.
Aside from the features, I would talk to EVERYONE I could about my podcast - friends, family, people in line at the supermarket - and whenever anyone expressed interest I’d ask them to subscribe to the show.
Once someone subscribed they’d automatically get notified when I launched a new episode (again, this was happening every single day), and so I quickly became a part of peoples’ daily routine.
That consistency served me incredibly well. My listeners knew they could count on me for a fresh new interview every morning, and it wasn’t long before I had built know/like/trust with my audience, in addition to a lot of credibilities.
Because of the financial cushion I had, I didn’t need to use credit cards or loans to get the business started. And since my aha moment back in June 2012, I’ve shared every dollar I’ve invested in the business - in addition to every dollar I’ve generated - via our monthly income reports to share exactly what it takes to run a business.
These income reports are in-depth chronicles of lessons learned, sharing what has worked for us and what hasn’t, and being transparent about the struggles we’ve faced on our journey.
I at one of my first speaking engagements in early 2013 at a coworking space with an audience of about 10-15 people
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our strongest marketing has always been our content. While many businesses rely on paid advertising to attract people, we’ve chosen a different path for audience growth and customer acquisition, and that is content marketing.
The podcast is at the forefront of our customer acquisition funnel: it’s how a majority of our raving fans, followers, and customers first find out about us, and it is what keeps them coming back to us.
The podcast is what gives us credibility and authority, and it’s the reason why our audience knows, likes, and trusts us.
With that being our first touchpoint, we follow that up with multiple funnels.
If you’re not familiar with a funnel, it’s essentially the journey or path you lead someone on from the minute they find out about you and your business (in our case, this happens largely via the podcast) until they become a fan - or better yet - a paying customer.
At the foundation, and as you can imagine, it’s critically important that we understand who our ideal listeners are, what their biggest pain points are, and that we consistently deliver free, valuable content to them via our podcast. If the top of our funnel doesn’t work - our podcast - then nothing else works.
In addition to inviting people into our world via the podcast, we also have a blog on our website and social media channels where we provide free, valuable, and consistent content.
And outside of our own platforms (the podcast, our blog, and social media), we also partner with other businesses to spread our message and gain awareness. We do this through affiliate partnerships, by being a guest on other peoples’ podcasts, and by simply building relationships with others in our industry or niche.
So if these are all ways we generate awareness and traffic, how do we continue the journey via our funnels?
One example is our Free Podcast Course. As previously mentioned, one of the biggest questions I receive from my listeners is “How do I start my own podcast?”
Following my own advice, once I received this question enough times I had an aha moment: I’m going to create an online course and community that teaches people how to start their own podcast.
But why stop there?
What do people want to do after they start their podcast?
They want to know how to grow an audience and monetize their podcast. Enter: Podcasters’ Paradise, where we teach people how to create, grow and monetize their podcast.
But I can’t simply ask people who might be tuning into the Entrepreneurs On Fire podcast for the first time to invest $997 for an annual subscription to Podcasters’ Paradise. I need to create what Russell Brunson refers to as a value ladder.
So regularly on Entrepreneurs On Fire, I share a call to action: “If you’re ready to start your own podcast, head over to FreePodcastCourse.com and sign up today for my 8-module video course - it’s completely free!”
If someone is interested in podcasting, they’ll visit that URL, sign up for the free course, and then I’ll send them a series of emails - this is all a part of our podcasting funnel.
Once Free Podcast Course is complete, they’ll receive an invite to our Podcast Masterclass, a 1-hour deep dive on the top 5 ways to grow your podcast and the top 5 ways to monetize your podcast.
In that masterclass, I share tons of value, and at the end, I invite people to check out Podcasters’ Paradise: an online course and community that teaches you how to create, grow, and monetize your podcast.
Our podcasting value ladder and funnel steps
We have multiple funnels for different products and services we have to offer - and some of our funnels are even set up for our affiliate partnerships, where we share other peoples’ products and services instead of our own.
I’ve spoken on multiple stages to share this strategy, and I call it my Million Dollar Funnel Training.
When you provide people with free, valuable, and consistent content, you will gain their trust. When you listen to your followers' struggles and pain points, and you put in the effort to create solutions to their problems, they will come back to you for more.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We recently published our 88th monthly income report. For 88 months in a row, we’ve netted over $100k in revenue, and we share every detail inside of these monthly reports.
We’ve been publishing monthly income reports since the very beginning, including a massive recap and look at our 1st 365 days in business
Our four main revenue streams include online courses, podcast sponsorships, affiliate revenue, and revenue from the sale of our Journals, The Freedom Journal, The Mastery Journal, and The Podcast Journal.
Our online course revenue and sponsorship income is 100% inbound marketing. We do not do any paid advertising to generate this revenue.
Our affiliate revenue is of course split - typically 50/50 - with whoever we’re partnering with.
Our revenue from our Journal sales is by far our lowest profit margin. Because a majority of our sales happen on Amazon, we’re not only paying for storage and fulfillment but of course the cost of goods as well. This is the only platform that we run paid ads on.
That said, we know how incredibly valuable our Journals are and the impact they can have on people, and for that reason, it’s worth it for us to continue selling them.
Today my focus is on my first traditionally published book: The Common Path to Uncommon Success. I’ve partnered with HarperCollins and I cannot wait to share this 17-step guide to financial freedom and fulfillment with the world.
The Common Path to Uncommon Success is my distillation of the thousands of hours of conversations I’ve had with today’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’ve taken everything I’ve learned and widdled it down into a step-by-step guide to help others who are ready to commit to putting in the work achieve lifestyle, location, and financial freedom.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I was incredibly lucky to be on the front end of podcasting. When I launched Entrepreneurs On Fire I was the only daily podcast interviewing successful entrepreneurs. I made it my niche and that allowed me to stand out in a big way.
Today, there are dozens - if not hundreds - of daily podcasts focused on business. I started at the right time.
Throughout my journey, I’ve learned so many lessons. And if I were to give anyone out there one piece of advice, it’s this: modeling and researching are great, but the key to building a successful business is not constantly turning to others for answers; action reveals answers.
And never forget: no one cares about your business as much as you do. Hiring and delegating is great, but at the end of the day, you must take full responsibility for everything that happens in your business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The Google Suite is a big one for us, too; Gmail and Google Drive are programs we’re in every single day.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Take action. Don’t get held back by indecision. Just choose a direction and start moving forward. It’s the fastest way to discover the right path for you and your business.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Entrepreneurs on Fire Podcast
- The Common Path to Uncommon Success
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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