What Hiten Shah and Steli Efti’s Podcast Taught Me About Personal Branding

What Hiten Shah and Steli Efti’s Podcast Taught Me About Personal Branding

They failed. While the new The Startup Chat podcast started by Sillicon Valley’s most prominent sales hustler Steli Efti and SaaS guru and KISSmetrics co-founder Hiten Shah was not bad, its 22 minutes of advice didn’t really stand out. At least not in the first 2-3 episodes when they were getting started and ramping up to the real-world advice that will hopefully make someone millions with their own startup. However, It did teach me something else from the very beginning: Steli and Hiten taught me how to expand a personal brand with a podcast – and beyond!

Podcasts. I don’t know about you, but I love listening to great content so podcasts, such as This Week in Tech, or audio books such as “Dune” so when these two prominent digital experts started The Startup Chat, I downloaded all the (3, actually) episodes I’ve missed up to the point it appeared on Product Hunt. And here’s what they taught me about personal branding, beyong their two ugly mugs shown prominently on the podcast cover.

1. The Format in Which You Communicate Builds Your Brand

In its 22 minutes, Steli (who was at this year’s Spark.Me conference) and Hiten give actionable advice and insight into growing a technology company. Not (usually) more and (definitely) not less. The format and length, as you will hear when you listen to the podcast, is the first thing that will probably give you an impression of the two authors. They, like you, don’t have a lot of time on their hands so we’d better all be efficient.

This immediately sends the message that Hiten and Steli are busy experts, but also that they respect the time of their listener, knowing how important it is when creating a new business. Even if you don’t read the obvious pitch “Being busy CEOs of fast-growing companies, they know the value of your time and make sure you get the most out of each 22 minute episode.”, the lenght of the podcast will send its message.

2. Credential Matter Even When You Are “Experts”

If you look at The Startup Chat page on iTunes, you’ll see that the author description doesn’t just credit two guys, one of them named Steli, the other one Hiten. Instead it goes for the long line of:

Steli Efti & Hiten Shah: Serial Entrepreneurs, Sales & Marketing Experts, Startup Investors & Advisors, CEOs running multi million dollar SaaS Startups.

The Startup Chat podcast has an interesting author description.
The Startup Chat podcast has an interesting author description.

Instead of saving themselves a bit of typing, Steli and Hiten go for the longer, more detailed description that sets up their credentials for the widest possible audience. While the startup community might know about Crazyegg’s great heatmaps or Close.io’s claim to sales CRM fame, there’s a real possibility that a lot of people won’t know. So what do they do?

  • “Serial Entrepreneurs”: To their audience of entrepreneurs, this shows that they have been in the trenches not once, but multiple times. We can trust them because they gone through everything we have. And more…
  • “Sales & Marketing Experts”: While they are entrepreneurs, their expertise lies in sales in marketing, not development or QA. We know exactly what to expect both from their experience but also – the podcast’s content;
  • “Startup Investors”: Ok, so these guys have been so successful that they have become investors in their own right. This means both that they obviously have made money (investors!), but also that they are serious about giving back and putting money where their mouth is;
  • “CEOs running multi million dollar Saas Startups”: If you weren’t sure, they are still in the sh*t, still running growing companies and walking the walk, which makes their advice also more credible. In a fast-moving technology industry, you have to keep up to date. The best way? Doing stuff, like Steli does in selling Close.io services or Hiten does in growing his SaaS companies.

3. You Need to Set Your Tone and Choose an Archetype

Right in the intro of the podcast you can hear a voice saying that Hiten insisted Steli’s name being first in the credits, “although he has more Twitter followers”. A “Shup up” in Steli’s voice follows this short, yet comical introduction to the podcast. Right of the bat, you know that this isn’t your typical business podcast. Right from the first seconds of hearing it, you know that what you are going to hear, should be unique.

While the advice and tips you might give in a podcast or article might be not just sound, very good but also unique – the tone of the content you present it in is essential in making it sound unique.

Steli Efti at the Spark.Me conference.

In the intro to “The Startup Chat”, we are introduced to the two “characters” that keep their way of communicating through out the podcast. Steli, the crazy sales guy that swears a lot and wants to get you moving and Hiten, the analytical guy that knows a lot, but will say it in less words, with a lot of experience behind it. Steli portrays the archetypal sales hustler, always moving forward, faster than anyone else in the room, wanting to close the deal. Hiten, on the other hand, is a archetypal wise man – the sage. He says less, but in a lot of moments – more.

While Steli has the same on stage presence at conference, such as our own Spark.me, he’s not always like that. While I haven’t met the man, I’m sure Hiten is also “crazy” a lot of the time. However, their podcast personal portray the archetypal experts we want advice from. In an audio environment such as a podcast, the tone they set by playing their roles is as important as the things they actually say.

4. Think Lean To Secure Your Personal Brand

In a recent episode on launching products, Steli and Hiten mention something very interesting. Before they put The Startup Chat online for everyone to see, Steli and Hiten sent the first few episodes to a closed mailing list in order to get feedback and suggestions on how to improve the podcast.

When expanding your brand, be it with a blog or podcast, you need to be sure you won’t compromise your personal brand. Most corporations will react to the potential danger to their brand with just not doing new things, which is why some companies innovate and some stay the same up until the point they fail.

Because it’s your personal brand, you need to be smarter than that, and Hiten and Steli’s minimum viable podcast strategy makes a whole lot of sense since they are testing it with people who already know what their personal brands represent. Both Hiten and Steli have made their personal brands an important way of growing not just their own personal capital, but also their companies. With a smaller, beta audience you can make sure that the message you are getting across to the your audience is aligned with your personal branding strategy.

Not just that, but because Steli and Hiten had time to improve their “product” when they put it on iTunes, it got a lot of glowing reviews, with 5/5 stars after 52 ratings, making it a fast-growing podcast in the iTunes library!

What you can learn from The Startup Chat and projects like it, as a whole is that while the content is very important, the format in which you present it needs to be optimised as well. If you don’t pitch yourself in the right manner, fostering a good personal brand, why would people want to trust you?

By thinking on not just what the benefits of a podcast to their personal brands are, but also how to use their personal brands to give the project more substance, Steli and Hiten are truly on their way to build “probably the world’s best business podcast”.


Ivan Brezak Brkan

The founder of the "Techcrunch of Southeastern Europe" - Netokracija - and ex-Techcrunch writer with years of experience writing about startups, technology and the domain industry!

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