What it really takes to build an audience with John Lee Dumas

[331] What it really takes to build an audience with John Lee Dumas

Are you struggling to build your audience right now?  John Lee Dumas, host of the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast, tells all in this episode about how he built his business from the bottom up, including how niching down helped him stand out from his competition PLUS the most important thing you need to do to build your audience.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode}.

Why John Lee Dumas started a podcast 

After graduating from college, Iraq war veteran John Lee Dumas served as an officer in the US Army.

After leaving the army, he spent eight years trying different roles in corporate finance, law and real estate but found he just couldn’t settle.

“After four years as an officer, I really did struggle for six years,” says the entrepreneur and international speaker. “Some of it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just coming back from a war. Some of it was just me not really finding the right thing for me.”

The turning point came when he started listening to business podcasts and was struck by the intimacy and connection he felt with the hosts. “I felt like I was getting to know their personalities and their likes and their dislikes,” he says.” And I was like, ‘these people [the hosts] are like my friends even though they don’t know me nor have they ever heard of me. But man, they’ve got me through some really tough times. And they’ve brought me some unbelievable and incredible information and knowledge.’”

This inspired John Lee Dumas to start his own podcast – but he was determined to do things differently. “Nobody was doing a daily podcast interviewing successful entrepreneurs and talking about their worst moments,” he says. “Like their really low, low, dark moments. And how they came out of those moments, and just building a story around that.”

So he started a daily podcast show interviewing top entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk and  Barbara Corcoran about their entrepreneurial journey – including their darkest moments. For example, when Janet Murray was interviewed on John Lee Dumas’s podcast on how to get press coverage in newspapers, magazines and on radio and TV, he teased out the story of how she sacked her dad.

He explains: “I want my listeners to say, ‘okay, Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk, Janet [Murray], they’re rocking it now. They’re having a blast. They’re speaking around the world. They’re doing their thing, they’re inspiring people. But man, it wasn’t always like this. They went through some tough times…so they [the listeners] can be like, ‘okay, if Janet experienced that and she got through it, she’s sharing how she got through it, maybe I can take inspiration and motivation and courage from that and apply it to my life. And really keep going forward with that.’”

How John Lee Dumas built an audience for his podcast

Seven years on, John Lee Dumas has published around 2000 episodes of the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast.  The show has had around 80 million listens.  This has enabled him to create a seven figure business, which he is keen to point out is “profit not gross.”

He built an audience for the podcast through what he refers to as his ‘power of 40’ strategy. This involved searching on conference websites for influential entrepreneurs and reaching out to 40 of them at a time to see if they would guest on his podcast.

“I thought:  if they’re willing to do that, for free – because a lot of these speakers are not getting paid for sure – they’re definitely going to be willing to wake up in the morning, keep their bathrobe on, grab a cup of coffee, sit down on Skype and have a conversation,” he says.

He figured that if he could create compelling interviews and high-quality digital collateral i.e. logos, banners and tweetables his guests could share easily with their followers, he could grow his own audience by leveraging theirs.

He explains: “After the interview went live I’d reach out to people and say ‘Hey, Janet, Seth, Gary, your interview went live with Entrepreneurs on Fire, I’d be honoured if you would share your story with your audience. Here’s all the links to do so’…so I was having people like Seth Godin say: ‘John, I’ve never told the story of being arrested on the AOL campus before. It’s just never come up. But wow, you brought that out because of your questions. And I can’t wait to share this with my audience.’

His theory was correct. Once he’d landed his first few ‘A players’ – like Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss – it created a “snowball effect.”

Everyone wanted to be on his podcast.

And with a new show going live out 365 days a week he was able to grow fast.

How John Lee Dumas makes money from his podcast

Nowadays John Lee Dumas gets over 400 requests per month to be on his podcast which he now publishes eight to 12 times per month.

But it took around six months before he was able to monetise the podcast – first with sponsors (bringing in between $8,000 to $12,000 per month initially), and later with podcasting courses and mastermind groups. John Lee Dumas has since gone on to publish three journals (The Podcast Journal, The Freedom Journal and The Mastery Journal) and become an international speaker.

He admits he nearly didn’t start the podcast at all. About a month before it was due to go live, he got cold feet and almost went back to his day job, which he admits was a “dark, dark time.”  Hiring the business coach Jaime Tardy, host of the Eventual Millionaire podcast changed everything. She held him accountable and made sure he launched the podcast as planned.

Another dark moment, was three years into his business, when he realised he was working too hard and heading for burnout. “One day I remember just looking in the mirror and being like: ‘Yuck. I’m exhausted. I’m overweight. I’m tired more than I should be. I’m not healthy,’ he recalls.

This inspired him to hire a personal trainer and a nutritionist and focus on self-care. As a result his business hasn’t grown as much as it could have, but with a £3 million turnover 70-75% profit margins on everything he does – and a team of just three virtual assistants – business is still pretty good, he says.

Why creating a niche is crucial for building an audience

John Lee Dumas puts his success down to niching down on one specific thing. “My favourite word in the English language is ‘focus’, because I turn that into an acronym called Follow One Course Until Success,” he says. “So many people that are out there right now are doing all the things. They’re going one mile wide in their reach and their focus, and they’re just doing one inch deep kind of impressions everywhere, and they’re not making any progress. But it’s those people that just go one inch wide and one mile deep, and they dig down into that niche, until they just own it and they dominate. And guess what? They win on that level, and then they get momentum, and then they can start to broaden out and to build and to do other things.”

While he started out focusing on podcasting, John has broadened his niche to include journals (the Podcast Journalist, The Freedom Journal and the Mastery Journal), webinar coaching plus he has plans to launch a health-related business Fasting On Fire.

So what does John Lee Dumas think it really takes to build an audience?

“You need to be that one person who’s doing that one thing better than anybody else.’”, he says. “And if you’re doing that, then you have a chance to get that initial momentum. To get those first few raving fans, you kind of get the crack in that coconut you can kind of wedge open and get to that amazing coconut juice in the middle. But that’s what it takes, is that initial streamlined diehard focus. Because that’s where you’re going to win.”

Podcast shownotes

  • John Lee Dumas’ business story (3:02)
  • How niching down helps build an audience (9:43)
  • How to approach and collaborate with ‘star players’ (14:39)
  • How to turn your podcast into a profitable business (18:00)
  • John’s lowest moments in business (20:31)
  • John’s one top tip for building your audience (and your business) (27:45)


John Lee Dumas’ Website

John Lee Dumas on Twitter and Instagram

John Lee Dumas’ Podcast: Entrepreneurs on Fire

Jaime Masters: Eventual Millionaire

Get your hands on the ‘How to write awesome sales copy’ course now

Janet Murray’s Audience Calculator

Janet Murray’s Facebook Page

Register your interest in the Build Your Audience programme

Order the 2019 Sorted Content Planning Toolkit here

Order the 2019 Media Diary

Order the 2019 Media Diary and Media Diary Owners’ Club

Order the 2019 Wall Year Planner

Janet Murray’s Love Marketing Membership

Love Marketing, Make Money Income Goals Checklist

The Janet Murray Show Podcast Guide

My YouTube channel

**MY BOOK ** Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart (A Totally Unconventional

Guide To Selling Your Story In The Media)

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook