Cole Heilborn of the Backcountry Marketing Podcast: How Hyper-Focused and Low-Key Podcast Conversations Create Bingeability in a Tight-Knit Industry
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a bingeable podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cole Heilborn, avid outdoorsman, Creative Director at Port Side Productions, and host of the Backcountry Marketing Podcast.
Cole launched the Backcountry Marketing Podcast in 2019, with the goal of providing a valuable resource for those yearning to learn more about the ever-changing world of marketing in the outdoor industry. Each episode intertwines actionable takeaways with seasoned wisdom from some of the industry’s most skilled marketers.
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Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
I’ve always loved creating. Be it legos, go-carts, or working on my treehouse as a kid. My love for video production started with the creation of short videos with my friends and family. Slowly the creative process drew me in — as I worked towards mastering new techniques and telling fun stories.
In college, I studied film and video production, deciding it was less rigid, more creative, and involved less math than engineering. In the summer after graduation, I started Port Side Productions and haven’t looked back since!
I quickly realized that if I was going to be making videos for commercial use, I needed to understand the marketing landscape. This realization prompted me to reach out to marketers and try to learn from them and from there, the Backcountry Marketing podcast was born.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
What I love most about interviewing experts in a relatively small industry is that everyone seems to know each other. I’ll be chatting with a prospective guest that I just met, and they’ll say, “oh yeah, you’ve interviewed like 20 of my friends.” Meanwhile, I had no idea they all knew each other!
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
Thankfully not too many big mistakes. As the podcast grows, so does the pipeline of upcoming guests and episodes. This growth has brought on some operational challenges. On rare occasions, I’ve forgotten that a podcast recording is scheduled for the upcoming hour, and I’ve had to frantically prep!
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I started recording the first 5 episodes of the Backcountry Marketing Podcast from August of ’19 to March of ’20. However, since March, I’ve published 33 episodes with about 15–20 waiting to be published/recorded. Things are taking off quickly!
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
Marketing is fun, but requires hard work and creativity to excel in. Career paths are winding and require a bit of patience, persistence, and a positive outlook. I’ve had to learn to enjoy the winding journey myself!
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
I think a good podcast is easy-going and conversational. The Backcountry Marketing Podcast is unique because it’s hyper-focused within a tight-knit industry, and therefore only a sliver of marketers can make the cut. This keeps the content focused on marketing in the outdoor industry.
Honestly, sometimes I question if I’m qualified to be a host. Perhaps a few reasons this podcast is taking off are:
- Along with the listeners, I have so much to learn about the ever-changing world of marketing. So, most of my questions come from a place of curiosity.
- I try to make the show low-key and conversational.
- As the Director at Port Side Productions, I often interview people on camera. This translates well to the podcast format.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
I think the best way to stay disciplined is to get ahead of your content schedule. Attempt to bank 5–10 episodes in advance. This allows for consistency in uploading changes if you need to let off the gas a bit. Also, choose a subject you genuinely enjoy!
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
Rich Roll. I’ve only just recently started listening, but he does a great job.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
A good podcast starts with interesting and engaging guests. Next, it’s important that the guest has enough freedom to steer the conversation. In my mind, my job as a host is to help move the conversation along, asking for clarification when necessary, and generally providing the guest a forum to communicate their ideas.
Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast?
- Find a focus/topic you’re passionate about that isn’t overly saturated.
- Book great guests. (Not just professionally, but interesting, engaging, people who are insightful, thoughtful, and can communicate those ideas.)
- Collaborate with your guest to find the right episode topic. (I do pre-interviews with every guest to talk through where we could take an episode. It’s a great time to get to know the guest and brainstorm talking points)
- Curiosity in the subject matter. It’s important to remain engaged and work to pull answers out of your guest when necessary.
- Listen to the guest. Occasionally I’ve been so focused on coming up with my next question I miss what my guest just said. Oftentimes a great next question comes naturally from what the guest just said.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine Article about Cole Heilborn!
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Podcast Influencer, Cole Heilborn, Host of the Backcountry Marketing Podcastshares the best ways to:
1) Book Great Guests. I’ll come back to a focus. I believe the reason the Backcountry Marketing Podcast has been successful in booking high profile guests is that it’s focused. When a potential candidate recognizes a variety of previous guests, it increases the likelihood of their participation. Past podcast guests are often the best referral source for new candidates. Outdoor industry professionals are very generous, and have been incredibly willing to open up their networks and share ideas and opportunities!
2) Increase Listeners. Word of mouth, let your guests help drive the growth.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. You don’t necessarily need high end gear to start — a decent mic, a quiet room, and interesting content.
4) Encourage Engagement. I create additional content around each episode for my owned media channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, newsletter), ensuring I tag and publicly thank the guest for their time and expertise. This content is geared towards social sharing, helping grow the podcast’s reach. Additionally, I always ask for listener feedback, reviews, and involvement!
5) Monetize Your Show. I’ve never been overly fixated on monetizing my podcast. I receive so much value from the knowledge I gain from guests. That’s what keeps me going and continues to drive me! Ultimately, I think it’s important to define what ‘monetization’ means to you. Monetization can come in many different forms.