It’s hard not to be on fire when talking with John Lee Dumas. His enthusiasm for his craft (and life in general!) is so genuine and infectious that only the saddest sad sack in the world could resist. That’s why his EOFire has attracted a huge audience in the business category (he calls that audience the “Fire Nation”), racking up over 7.6 million downloads since launching in September 2012.
On each daily episode, he interviews successful and influential entrepreneurs like Eric Ries, Seth Godin, Barbara Corcoran, and Pamela Slim, who share their stories of failure and triumph, along with the lessons they learned.
John has produced EOFire every single day of the week–weekends included–from the very beginning. Since then, the show has anchored itself in the iTunes charts, was named one of the best new podcasts in 2013 by Apple, and now serves as a foundation for a thriving business he’s built selling webinars, mentoring opportunities, and online instruction.
With his record of success, I wanted to talk with John to learn how he started, and the lessons and advice he has to share with fellow podcasters and advertisers alike.
Searching for Passion and Fire
The story of how and why John launched himself on this journey is straightforward and easy to relate to. At first glance, his chief realization seems simple, but it was also powerful.
“I’ve always been searching for that passion, that fire in my life, that I could really wake up in the morning and be excited about the day that lay ahead,” John told me. “I never had that for the first 32 years of my life.”
After serving eight years as an Army officer after college, he tried law school and careers in finance and real estate. But, he said, “I was not listening to my intuition.”
His new direction was found on a typical work day. “It’s just another one of those days when I was stuck in traffic going to a job that I wasn’t excited about,” John recalled, “not having the kind of success I wanted in life, and realizing that [not listening to my intuition] was the reason why. So I had my ‘aha’ moment, which is, ‘Gosh, there are these great podcasts out there, but they’re only coming out one day a week.’”
With his regular commute and going to the gym every day John found that he was looking to consume more podcast content than anybody was producing.
“Where’s that seven-day-a-week podcast that shares the journey of successful entrepreneurs and really reveals the path to success?” he asked. In fact, he found that “it didn’t exist. So I created it.”
John said he is motivated in part because, “I realize that this ‘aha’ moment is waiting for everybody if you expose yourself to the right content, the right material, [and] the right people, mentors and masterminds.” That’s just what he does every day on EOFire.
Sponsorships that Make Sense
From the very start John said that he made the decision not to try and monetize the show—“until it made sense.” He was clear that he didn’t want “to start at a low price and dilute my podcast.” It’s important for podcasters to “know your number,” John emphasized. “For me, it was $500 an episode. Until we can command $500 episode, I’m not going to [seek out] sponsors for it.”
He explained that six months into producing the show he got an email from Jeff Ullrich, founder of Midroll. “We talk,” John recollected, then “over that weekend Jeff sells–I can’t remember the exact number–but it was over $10,000 in sponsorships for Entrepreneur on Fire for the following month.” Now, EOFire sells out for a full quarter in advance.
“I’m such a loyal member of the Midroll family,” John said. That’s because, “we need to focus on the highest money-making activity, which is growing our audience. If I had to focus on communicating with sponsors [and] negotiating terms… it would be taking me away from where I need to be focusing, which is growing the Entrepreneur on Fire audience, getting more listeners, and creating more value.”
Building Fire Nation
I asked John to share his strategy for growing the Entrepreneur on Fire listenership.
“Building an audience is all about three major factors,” he said. “Number one is producing that incredible value, and that’s where most people stop. They’re like, OK if I just build it and build it well, they will come. But that’s not it.
“Number two, it has to be free. That’s why I love podcasting. It allows me to get content out there for free, [it’s] very valuable.
“Number three, it has to be consistent. This is where 99% of podcasters fail, and other entrepreneurs I see fail. They are just not consistent. Seth Godin writes a blog post every single day. EOFire comes out with a podcast every single day.”
He advised that “always being out there marketing yourself,” is also important. To help accomplish that he is a guest on an average of eight podcasts a week. When he gets a request to be a guest, “I always say yes.”
To keep it manageable he reserves one day a week for these appearances. “Every single Thursday I have eight interviews on other people’s shows.” As a result, “I’m booked out through October.”
Sponsors & Podcasters: Focus on the Long Game
John believes that both sponsors and podcasters “need to look at this as a long game, as a marathon, not a sprint.”
He recounted the story of one sponsor that started advertising on his show, but “was wondering what their ROI was, because two days later they weren’t seeing it.
“Then what happens? They didn’t re-up in time, because they were questioning their ROI. By the time they came back and said, ‘OK, we want to re-up for the next quarter,’ I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, but we are sold out.’
“Even despite the fact that they weren’t sponsors for the following quarter, because of the evergreen nature of podcasts, they were still getting all this greatness from people who are hearing about EOFire for the first time, going back and listening to past episodes, and hearing that sponsor.” That resulted in, “conversion after conversion.”
Now, “this sponsor is locked in for the next two quarters, because they don’t want to miss out on this again. They’ve seen the light.”
Podcasters who want to learn more directly from John can sign up for his weekly free podcast workshop at PodcastersParadise.com