Grow Podcast Show Listeners through High-Value Creation and the Power of Brevity

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 Omar Zenhom.

Omar is co-founder & CEO of WebinarNinja, a webinar platform he created with his “partner in life in business,” Nicole Baldinu. He’s also the host of The $100 MBA Show, a “Best of iTunes” small business podcast Nicole produces. The $100 MBA Show currently has over 130 million downloads, and between 115,000 and 140,000 daily downloads.

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Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?

Nicole and I both had a background in education. When we got into independent business, we knew that one way or another it would incorporate some kind of educational mission — but outside the formal education system.

So we created a podcast in which each episode would ‘teach’ listeners some aspect of starting, growing, and running their own business.

The first iteration was…less than successful. It had an interview format like most podcasts do. But that turned out to be not only unoriginal, but definitely not my strong suit as a host.

Then it hit me: I’m a teacher. Teaching is what I do best. So that’s when we pivoted to making each episode a mini-lesson, a bite-sized “How To” for entrepreneurs.

I had dropped out of Wharton School of Business. I was disillusioned with the academic approach, so I wanted to do something that just got to the point. We created The $100 MBA Show to position ourselves as people who can help you start your business without the scholarly fluff that someone with a Mom & Pop shop or an online coaching business just doesn’t need.

Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?

I would say it’s one thing that keeps happening that I find most interesting. It’s every time someone reaches out and tells me the impact the podcast has had on their life and business.

It happens via email, and sometimes it happens in real life, at a conference. It blows me away every time when a total stranger tells me that the podcast is part of how they got their business going and actually pulled it off. That never loses its “wow” factor, to be approached by someone just because they want to tell you about the difference you made for them.

Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My biggest mistake was our aforementioned first podcast. Before it was The $100 MBA, it was something called People Who Know Their Sh*t. Like I said, I’m not a strong interviewer, and it just flopped. We got 400 downloads on a good day.

The lesson was really important: play to your strengths. I know it’s healthy to work outside your comfort zone to develop new skills, but when you’re producing something for public consumption, do what you’re great at.

I was an ex-teacher, and maybe I was hiding from my past life a little by avoiding direct lessons, but lessons are what I’m best at! I have a Master’s in education, and instead of teaching people who want to learn, I was trying to draw lessons from guests, which I’m not great at. I learned that it’s better to run to your future, with the strengths your past gave you, rather than running away from whatever you were doing before.

How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?

Our first episode was in 2014. As of this conversation, we have over 1,600 episodes.

What are the main takeaways or lessons you want your listeners to walk away with?

The knowledge and confidence to actually execute whatever the lesson topic was. I want people to take out their earbuds and say, “Ok, I know how to do x, y, or z — or at least I have strategies I can try out right now.” I harp on execution over ideas, and I like to think the podcast reflects that practical approach. I want listeners to walk away empowered to take action.


Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine Article about Omar Zenhom!

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Omar Zenhom of The $100 MBA Podcast shares the best ways to:

1) Book Great Guests. Make sure the person is a perfect fit for that show and its audience. Then, just be honest about that. Say some version of “I have thousands of people who could really benefit from hearing your message, because…x,y, and z.” And of course, focus on the benefits to the guest: they get in front of a new audience.

The key is just to make it smooth and frictionless. We have a simple Google form guests fill out where all the relevant info is there, and they just upload their recording. That’s our other trick: we don’t interview. We just let the guest record a lesson when it’s convenient for them, and we construct the episode around that. It eliminates a ton of hassle and makes it an easier “yes” for the guest.

As for who to ask, that’s all about tapping into your network. Since guesting benefits the guest as much as it benefits us, it’s just a matter of getting introductions. After a while, it’s really not a hard sell — when your podcast gets some momentum, the guests come to you.

2) Increase Listeners. Use consistent calls to action. Ask current listeners to review and subscribe, which brings more listeners over time.

Use little giveaways. We have “Free Ride Friday,” where we give away full access to a valuable course to a listener who leaves us an iTunes review. We’ve watched as other podcasts started doing this more and more, so we must be on to something!

Be interactive. Every week, one episode is a “Q&A” episode, where we take a question from a listener and build the lesson around that.

Have a social media presence. We’re a little late to this, but it’s a lesson I think we’ve learned the hard way: take an active, intentional approach to social. We just kinda passively have these accounts where we share the episodes, but we intend to be more strategic about that going forward

Do swaps. Trade ads with other podcasts, do mutual guest appearances. You can always share audiences with other podcasts in your space. Overall I’d say the podcasting world is much more cooperative than competitive, which is refreshing.

3) Produce in a Professional Way. Start with the space. You don’t need a studio; a padded closet will do. You can even get one of those little TroyStudio recording boxes about the size of a microwave. Then, invest in a decent mic: we use an ATR2100 from AudioTechnica. I have like 4 of them! Use a windscreen and a pop filter, too.

If you can, get original music. I have a guy in my network, a fellow entrepreneur, Matt Giovanisci of MoneyLab, who also happens to be this great musician. He recorded The $100 MBA theme music years ago, and we’ve used it on every episode since.

4) Encourage Engagement. Solicit questions from the audience, and address them on the show. Throw some prizes around. Really consistently push the CTA’s asking for reviews and thoughts and feedback. And build an email list! As people email you with questions, comments, and attempts to win prizes, market the podcast to them. We send a weekly roundup of the topics we covered, with a light and humorous tone. And of course, get on social media — and not just with posts. Use polls and ask questions. Post things that ask for responses.

5) Monetize Your Show. Do so organically. Seriously, don’t think about monetizing it. If your content is great and you’re engaging your audience, the sponsors will come to you. Chasing sponsorships is wasted effort that you could be putting into serving your audience. Podcasting is special that way — it’s a genuine meritocracy. The cream rises to the top and the advertisers hop on board.


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 the content itself? 

Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine Article about Omar Zenhom!