1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
Hi Internet friends! I’m Jaclyn Schiff (but please call me Jacci, that’s like Jackie, just with unique spelling). I’m the founder of PodReacher, a content marketing service to help podcasts expand their reach.
I’m an entrepreneurial content strategist with a background in journalism and strategic communications. I’ve worked in newsrooms in Washington, D.C., and Chicago and have had bylines at NPR, The Muse, NBC News, Ladders, Thought Catalog and other publications.
At the beginning of 2017, I left my job at a B2B publication and decided to freelance full-time. I was mostly doing a combination of content marketing, strategy and PR. I was also doing some ghostwriting — and even got a mention in Marie Claire for this.
I went the digital nomad route and spent time traveling and working from Central Mexico, Guatemala and South Africa (where I grew up). Once I returned to the US, I knew I wanted to start a business and the productized service business model held huge appeal. I’ve been a massive podcast fan for years (way before Serial was a hit), and I noticed that a lot of the podcasts weren’t doing much in the way of text content for their websites.
I thought this was a huge missed opportunity to benefit from content marketing and since discoverability is often a point of concern for podcasters, I saw an opening. I cold pitched 10 podcasts and got warm responses from six of those. I ended up working with three of them. Two of those ended up being short-term projects, but one was exactly what I’d pitched – which was to turn their episodes into articles for their website. The conversion proved to me I had a business, and PodReacher was born.
I’ve been building the business part-time for the last eight months. It is totally bootstrapped and I’ve been doing about 40 hours per week of client work to support myself. Next month, I’m winding down work with one of my long-term non-PodReacher clients and will put about 50 percent of my time into PodReacher to take it to the next level. We’ve worked with eight different clients so far and three of those are on a recurring monthly basis.
The PodReacher team is made up of me and five other writers so far. The uber talented Audrey Mast is the lead writer and does a lot with our content strategy. The rest of the writing team is exceptionally talented and helps us crank out high-quality content that our clients love.
We’re still building our systems, but I know when it comes to using a podcast to scale your content operation, we have a pretty magical formula on our hands.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
So far all customer acquisition has been through cold email outreach or word-of-mouth referrals. There are so many different tools to find and discover podcasts now. Listen Notes, Podchaser, as well as the Apple Charts are very helpful for navigating the exploding world of podcasts. I prospect very thoroughly when I look at podcasts where I think our service can be helpful.
I research each prospect and customize every email I send. It’s definitely not the fastest way to go about things, but I know we can add value for the podcasts I reach out to. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people in podcasting. My attitude has been that if you do anything with podcasts, I’d love to have a conversation. One of our clients came via a recommendation in a Facebook group. The person who recommended us was someone I’d connected with for a conversation just a few weeks before that.
I’m starting to put a lot more emphasis on content marketing. When I launched the website, I wrote a few blog posts, including a list of podcast episodes on entrepreneurship. Within a few days, that was picked up and repurposed by Inc. — so it was quite a win to get mentioned there that early! Plus it also shows the power of content marketing. I created the blog post as content marketing for PodReacher and then it was picked up by a major business publication. This is why I think podcasters shouldn’t neglect content marketing!
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
A big challenge is that this has been a side project, so time is limited. I constantly feel like I should be putting more time into every area of the business. I get very frustrated that I can’t move faster.
Sales isn’t super comfortable for me, so I’ll put in some effort with that, but then retreat into focusing on client delivery or working on operations. We’re in a good enough spot with operations, so I can’t use that as an excuse anymore.
It’s challenging to find outstanding writers — especially for the kind of service we provide. It takes a unique combination of storytelling, ghostwriting and editing. I found it painful to go through all the applications in the beginning — I’d overanalyze everything. So I hired a very skilled VA who has a background in recruiting. That was massively helpful. She created the application based on my criteria, then screened all the applicants and helped me identify the best candidates. Then, I tested them and ended up finding three great candidates that way.
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
This is a great time to work with podcasting since it’s growing so much and more people are spending money on it. Our service is also fairly unique. People are curious about it, which invites conversation.
When I started freelancing two years ago, I got lucky and quickly landed GMass as a client. The founder, Ajay Goel, is an incredible entrepreneur and I’ve learned a ton from working with him and seeing how he grows a product over the last two years.
I’ve also sought out coaches and mentors. Tyler Basu has helped me a lot with zeroing in on who the service is for and how to position it (we’re still working on that). Alex McClafferty really knows this space well and is super generous with sharing his knowledge and network. I’ve also learned a lot from following Jake Jorgovan’s journey.
I’ve listened to lots of podcasts over the years about building a business — Mixergy, Indie Hackers, Noah Kagan, Eventual Millionaire to name just a few. I joke that I got an honorary MBA just from listening to these shows! I feel like I gained so much from listening to and learning from the experience of others. Now, I get to put it all into practice and learn as I go.
5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?
I think it’s okay to go slow.
It’s okay to start off with just a client or two or three and nail down a template for your service offering and then build from there. It can be frustrating to go slow at times (heck, some days, I wish I could speed things up), but I think that by keeping the pace reasonable you develop something of unique value while still setting yourself up to stick with this for the long run.
I’ve been thinking more about how we measure success and how to share that with clients — so that we’re accountable to ourselves and to them. This is essential when working with content because the quality is somewhat subjective. I want to build in opportunities for us to routinely go beyond our own measures of success as well.
6. What are your plans for the future?
I’m still productizing the service quite honestly. My goal is to have 2-3 irresistible packages for our ideal clients within the next two months.
In the next month or two, I also plan to bring on a managing editor. I am too involved in the day-to-day service fulfillment, and I want to free up my time to focus on big picture stuff for the team (creating a strong culture and a great experience for the writers), as well as focus a lot more on marketing and sales.