Today we're talking to Jim from Spanish and Go, who joined us previously in episode 1151. Jim and his wife and business partner, May, run a business that connects English speakers who want to travel to Spanish-speaking countries with people in those countries, to help them learn the language and culture.
Unfortunately, Spanish and Go was incredibly affected by the pandemic in a not-so-great way. Jim and May had to cancel several Spanish immersion retreats they'd lined up right before the pandemic began and refund everyone who had signed up. Their YouTube ad revenue was slashed in half. And they had just started a podcast with a membership component to create some extra income.
We talk about some of the things Jim and May did first in the wake of this shock. And we'll talk about the moves they've made since and where they are now. They have a website and brand on YouTube, and now a podcast with a subscription component. They also have a Facebook community, but it's not very active, and Jim is wondering how they can take it to the next level.
Jim also gives himself some advice, if he could go back in time, to talk himself through what was happening when the pandemic broke out. I think you'll find this one helpful if your business has been struggling lately, from the effects of the pandemic or otherwise.
AP 1205: How Do I Turn Viewers and Listeners into Members?
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to AskPat episode 1205. Today, we are speaking with Jim from Spanish and Go, whose business was incredibly affected by the pandemic in a not-so-great way. We're going to talk a little bit about that in the beginning, some of the first things that he and his wife did. They have a website and brand on YouTube, and now a podcast as well. We're going to talk about how the podcast fits into their brand, something that was focused on during the pandemic, among other things. We're going to see exactly the moves they made and where they are now. And, you're going to be quite surprised. I love it.
Pat Flynn: Jim has been on the show before, episode 1151. We do get a lot into community here as well, this is their next steps and where they're taking things. But, it's just pretty crazy to see all that can happen in a very short period of time. And, he gives himself some advice, too, if he could go back in time, to talk him through a lot of what was happening at the time, when the pandemic happened. A lot of people, we go through things, not just because of pandemics and worldwide things, but we go through our own, in our own little world. We have our own little things that pop up, that could push us one way or another. And sometimes, it does not feel great. This advice could be really helpful. I hope you enjoy this episode. This is Jim from spanishandgo.com.
Pat Flynn: Jim, welcome back to AskPat. Thanks for coming back for another round with us.
Jim: Thanks for having me. It's a real honor.
Pat Flynn: For those of you who don't remember, Jim was on episode 1151, spanishandgo.com. Tell us a little bit about the brand and what it does, and then we'll get into where it's come since the last time we chatted.
Jim: Sure. What we do is help connect English speakers to Spanish speaking countries. Whether that's for them wanting to travel to a Spanish speaking country, or even move abroad. Through our videos, we usually try to go over cultural aspects, differences, so that people can understand a little bit more about how life works, and the traditions, and the food and everything, of different countries, before they go and travel there. We also have a language component, to help people be able to connect with the locals and really immerse themselves in the culture of the places that they plan to visit, or even potentially move to.
Jim: Through that, we have our website. We have the YouTube channel. We have a podcast, we have a blog. And, we run our Spanish immersion retreats in Mexico.
Pat Flynn: Now, I remember the Spanish immersion retreats, we talked about that last time. However, since the last time we chatted, this thing happened in the world that stopped people from traveling and seeing people. So, I would imagine that that would have had an impact on your business. Tell us how the pandemic affected your work and what you did from there.
Jim: Yeah. The pandemic really took a number on our business. We had a couple of Spanish immersion retreats lined up, right before the pandemic was announced. So we had to cancel both of those and give a refund to everyone who was going to come along, that ended up being something like $30,000. Our YouTube ad revenue was cut in half, as I think it was for a lot of different channels. And, we were just starting the podcast, so we were pivoting to be able to have some side income with a membership that went along with the podcast. It was rough, at the beginning of the pandemic, for sure.
Pat Flynn: What were some of the first moves you made? Was there any worry? I would imagine that, especially when that much money gets taken away after you thought it was coming, it could almost feel like the end of the world sometimes.
Jim: Yeah. We were not expecting it. We took the YouTube income for granted, for some time, because it just comes in every month and you don't have to think much about it. The views come in and we're getting paychecks from that, and able to live off of that. But then, yeah we had to look at a way to pivot, to see how we were going to be able to survive through the pandemic. Because things were really rocky there, for a moment, not being able to have the retreats.
Jim: We went from planning on having the best year ever to having our worst year ever. So, by coming out with the podcast and the membership, we were able to supplement our income and have a little bit more of an intimate relationship with our audience through long form content. Something that we had always wanted to do, anyway. But, that started off slow and it has definitely progressed quite a bit since the last time we spoke.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. We did something similar. We created a community ourselves, SPI Pro, which came during the pandemic as well. We had actually been planning to do that for a very long time, but it was because people were craving community and craving connection that we knew that this was going to work. Right now, it's really at the center of our business now. It's actually changed everything.
Pat Flynn: How much has the membership and the podcast now become integral into what you do? Or, is it still getting momentum and everything else has now finally picked back up?
Jim: Well, everything else has picked up and we've been able to over two-and-a-half X our membership growth. We went from 60 members since the last time we spoke, to over 155 podcast members. We had 30,000 downloads of the podcast the last time we spoke, and now we have over 400,000. That's a 13 X growth in downloads. And, the YouTube channel continues to grow, even though we haven't been publishing as often. Lately, we've been a bit more consistent. But even still, we've grown 37% just in subscribers, since the last time we spoke. Everything is, for the most part, normalized. We were actually able to announce a couple more Spanish immersion retreats and we sold those out. Those already happened and it's just night and day, compared to the last time we spoke.
Pat Flynn: That's great. You've weathered the storm, as they would say. That's absolutely fantastic. I was going to ask about the retreats and those coming back. Those are probably going to be even better of an experience now, that people have been waiting for this and you've been waiting for it. I'm excited to hear how that goes.
Pat Flynn: As far as the memberships, it's interesting. I have a number of students who are in the travel industry and they said the exact same thing. It was the best of times, then it was the worst of times. And now, it's even better than it was. Things are picking up and they're gaining even more momentum as more people are coming back.
Pat Flynn: If you could go back and tell yourself when the pandemic started, a piece of advice, what do you think you would say to yourself to maybe calm yourself a little bit or at least keep your head on straight?
Jim: I would say that focusing on consistency and just providing a lot of value on a regular basis, connecting with the audience, trying to get even more personal with the interactions we're able to have with our audience would eventually pay off in dividends. That's basically the advice that we really could have used when things were looking really rough.
Jim: It's easy to take for granted the element on consistency, and being able to reach out and speak to your audience directly. But, when you have a dedicated audience, they're there for you. And, they're there to help out and we received a lot of messages, people checking up on us, making sure that everything was okay. A lot of people said they'd really like to be able to travel again, but they're not comfortable with the pandemic and everything. I think our audience is stronger than it ever was before and the business is stronger than it ever was before as well.
Pat Flynn: That's awesome. I'm so glad to hear that. Tell me about the podcast. I'm curious to see how shifting from YT/blog and moving into a podcast, what is different? What do you like about that? What is special about it for you?
Jim: Well, coming from YouTube, which was previously our focus, or when we started out it was our main focus, what we really like about podcasting is the long form format allows us to go way more in-depth into certain topics. And, the listen time, the average listen time is way up there in comparison. We can spend hours, and hours and hours working on a video, and maybe the video's 15, 20 minutes long, and then you're lucky if you get five to seven minutes average watch time.
Pat Flynn: It's so deflating, isn't it, sometimes?
Pat Flynn: Jeez.
Jim: It really is. So with the podcast, we consistently get over 90% listen time. Some episodes, it's beyond that because people must go back and listen to certain sections, so you get over 100% listen time on an episode. It's just insane to me.
Jim: I think listeners are spending so much more time listening to you. You create a much more deeper connection and people reach out. They bring up things from episodes that we forgot we even talked about. It's just funny because sometimes, you get the vibe that people listening to you know you better than you know yourself. It's like, "Oh, did I say that in episode 84?" Or, whatever. Yeah, it's really great. We really enjoy it.
Jim: I also enjoy, from being a perfectionist, that if there is some sort of mistake or something that we need to update for whatever reason in a podcast episode, we have so much more control. We can go back, we could add a sponsor to the episode, we could take one off. We can update information, we can fix mistakes. That's just something I really wish YouTube would allow you to do. Especially once you get to a certain point, when you can prove your credibility that you're not just going to spam the system, if you could fix little errors, like a misspelling in the title for example. I really wish YouTube allowed you to be able to do that sort of thing.
Jim: But, that's the power you get when you have your own podcast. It feels like you're actually the owner of the content that you're producing, rather than once you hand it over, it's up to the platform to do what they want with it.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. Although that being said, on YouTube obviously we have the advantage of algorithms, and a better search engine and all this kind of stuff, so it's easier to be found. And of course, you've built this audience there and then have been able to migrate many of them over to the podcast. But, how are you getting people to discover the podcast? I'm curious. And, I'm sure there's people who are discovering you for the first time on the show. What are some strategies you are implementing to grow the podcast listenership specifically?
Jim: I think the two most powerful marketing aspects of getting people over to the podcast is mentioning in the YouTube videos that we have a podcast. We usually try to casually throw it in there. If we're talking about a certain subject, we can usually refer to a related topic that we've covered in the podcast, and then just casually bring that up. So people know, "Hey if you want to practice your Spanish listening comprehension because the podcast is all in Spanish, we actually talk about this topic in more depth in this episode, so go check that out." And then, as you said, sometimes YouTube will pick up these things and the algorithm will really put your video in front of tons of people, and then that in turn is bringing more people over to the podcast.
Jim: Also, doing collaborations with other podcasts has been huge, especially other podcasts that teach Spanish. We're not against bringing other people on the podcast, because everybody has their own niche. Even with teaching Spanish, there are multiple niches. There are people who only teach Mexican Spanish. There are people who only teach Spanish from Spain. There are people who only talk about cultural aspects. There are people who talk about more travel topics. And, others who talk about more grammar. We've become friends with a lot of people in the space, and we'll do collaborations where we're on their show and they're on our show. And, we always see a spike in downloads when we do a collaboration.
Pat Flynn: That's so great. Thank you for that. That's actually really, really helpful, especially for the beginner podcaster. This month, a lot of people are starting their podcasts, beginning of the new year, so this is really encouraging.
Pat Flynn: You had mentioned podcast members. I'm curious, you said you have a membership. Could you describe what that is and how that relates to the podcast specifically? And, how are you getting people from the show or your brand, into the membership?
Jim: Basically, the YouTube channel is more in English, it's for people who maybe want to learn Spanish and who are motivated to learn some to be able to travel more. It's more beginner focused. The podcast is all in Spanish and the membership that we have with it gives a bunch of exclusive materials to our students who sign up.
Jim: So with the podcast membership, they get a full transcription of every episode that we have. They get basically a bonus podcast that goes along with every single episode that we have that is available to free to everyone. We have the breakdown section included in the membership, that is a podcast essentially in English, where we break down the most important words and phrases from every episode of the podcast. We have basically double the content, once people access the podcast membership.
Jim: That also has a PDF, so people can go through and see the different words and phrases, if they want to copy and paste them, and save them for their studying on the side or for their AnkiApp, which is a vocab study application. And then, we also have a quiz that goes along with every episode, so that people can test their comprehension. So it's full of exclusive materials to help people improve their comprehension, expand their vocabulary, expand their knowledge of more specific words and phrases that you might hear from different countries. For example, my wife, May, she's from Mexico, so the Spanish we use on the podcast is more Mexican Spanish. But, when we have guests on, they might use different phrases that we can then explain more in-depth in this breakdown section.
Jim: And, the way we promote it is, at the beginning and end of each podcast episode, we mentioned that they can get access to exclusive materials by signing up over at our website to improve their listening comprehension and really boost their vocabulary.
Pat Flynn: I love that. So are you saying there's essentially a separate feed that people can get access to, that they have to pay to get access for? And if so, what mechanisms, what software are you using to manage that?
Jim: Almost the whole time we've had the podcast membership, the breakdown section has just been a separate audio that they would have access to inside of Teachable. We have our course laid out, they have the transcript sub-lecture. And then, there's the breakdown section sub-lecture that has the specific exclusive audio, as well as the PDF that they can access there and the quiz. So basically, three sub-lectures within Teachable.
Jim: But, since the last time I talked to you, Apple Podcasts released basically a podcast membership, where you could sign up if fans wanted to.
Pat Flynn: A subscription service.
Jim: Yeah, the subscriptions. That's right. And, we decided to put the breakdown section on there, as a separate tier. If they just wanted the breakdown section, they could subscribe to that feed so they get that feed directly on their iPhone, or however they listen to the podcast. So basically, it's a separate tier that we have offered for that as well.
Pat Flynn: And, may I ask you what the price points are for those tiers of memberships?
Jim: The most affordable package is the Apple subscription, so that's 4.99 a month. That gives them access to all the breakdown section audio. Then, we have a just the transcripts tier, where they can access only the transcripts for every episode, that's 7.97 a month. And then, the basic membership, which includes the breakdown section, also the transcripts, and the quiz and everything else I mentioned, all of our membership materials, for 17.97 a month.
Pat Flynn: That's great. That's great. Is there a community element to this as well, or is it simply just additional access to these things?
Jim: We had been doing yet another tier, which included classes on the weekends, which was our plus membership. But, now that we're able to travel again, that gets a little complicated because our plan is to visit every Spanish speaking country, and when we're on the road, it's really difficult to know what the internet's going to be like, so we decided to end that. There is a Facebook community that goes along with the basic membership, but honestly it's not very active. It would great to get some advice as to what we might be able to do to get that to be a little bit more active. But, everybody whose in the membership has access to that, there's just not a lot going on there at this point.
Pat Flynn: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. For anybody interested in building communities and engaging communities, we at SPI have been running these free workshops on YouTube called Open Circle. We are big fans of Circle as a community platform, but all the information is relevant to any community on any platform. And, Open Circle Two was actually run with our community manager, Jillian. She spoke about all the different kinds of things you can do in a community to encourage people to engage, and to interact and to make them feel like they're a part of something instead of just, "Oh, I'll pop in when I have a question," and that's it. People being proactive with sharing, and collaboration and things like that. I'd recommend checking that out for sure, because that's another whole hour of podcast that we could just discuss in and of itself.
Pat Flynn: But really, it's about also the onboarding process in communities. Helping people, right from the get-go, understand that yes, this is the right place for them. There's people like them here. And, that you can show them around, and get them to interact and start engaging right away. It's Jay, on our team, who's the community director, he akins it to Crossfit. If you ever have experience with Crossfit fitness gyms, when you are welcomed into the community, they literally walk you around and introduce you to the people that are there. And, show you how to use the equipment and give you a tutorial, and all these other things that make you just feel like you're already a part of something. And online, it can be very difficult to remember that okay, people often are going to feel very overwhelmed going into a space where there's maybe conversations already happening. And, they're going to feel overwhelmed and maybe shy, so we need to encourage.
Pat Flynn: So, those Open Circle series could be really great and I think the community element can always be a great thing because people sometimes come for the content, and then they stay for the community. They make friends there, it becomes an identity of theirs. It just enhances your brand overall, to what I talk about in Superfans. But at the same time, it's not as passive as a Teachable breakdown with the transcript, or a course that people could just get access to. It does take some work. And, we've built an amazing team to help support the community, so I just want to paint that perspective as well. I hope that helpful.
Jim: Yeah, definitely. Thanks for breaking that down. That's where we're at, too, is we are always running at 110%, trying to keep the YouTube channel active and stay consistent with the podcast as well. We do have a small team and it's great to know that you're able to delegate some of that onboarding to help people feel welcome and engage, even if you can't be the one talking to everybody who comes in and giving them that introduction.
Pat Flynn: If you have a team member, for example, send a direct message to somebody who's brand new, it makes them feel really special. Yes, you can automate that as well. But actually, a part of the onboarding process that's really important is to help people know what to do next. It's like the difference between going to a party and you're like, "Where do I even begin here," to walking into a banquet hall, and there's a table right there and it says, "Hey, sign your name here. After you're done here, go over here. And then after you're done there, go over here." It's answering that question, okay now what? "Fill out your bio and then leave an introduction in this space over here." Okay, now what? "Okay, now that you've done that, go over here, and start exploring and figure out a topic that you want to get involved with." Okay, now what? "Subscribe to that topic and ask a question so that you can get your question answered." Okay, now what?
Pat Flynn: It's just now what, now what, now what. That's how, within the first 15 minutes of a person's experience they're like, "Oh, this is great. I feel comfortable here, these are my people and look at all the activity." Again, just some tips for you.
Pat Flynn: It does seem like you have all the things in place that you need for some amazing growth here, in 2022. What are the big plans, other than the retreats, that you have in mind for the brand and where you're going from here?
Jim: Well yeah, we definitely want to keep going with the retreats. We'd like to do three sets of two every year, so basically we have two weeks. The first week is beginner intermediate, the second week is intermediate advanced. People will usually join us for one or the other, in a different city, to improve their Spanish and experience a different city.
Jim: We'd like to continue to grow the membership and maybe see if there's a way we can better automate the sales of our retreats. Because again, our focus is on being consistent on the channel and the podcast, and sometimes we get so caught up in this admin work behind the scenes that we're trying to just figure out okay, how can we consistently bring in customers for these retreats and for the membership, but still focus on recording for the podcast and the YouTube channel? We know that, basically every day, our priorities basically have to be recording content or editing that content.
Pat Flynn: Right, right. And then, on the recording days, maybe getting a little bit ahead of yourself with that processing and things like that. And of course, it can be hard to do this, but letting go of some of that editing work, to have somebody else come on and do that for you so that you can create more, or so that you can be more present. Or, so that you can interact with more people in the community. It's just you're juggling a whole bunch of balls and it seems like you're juggling them all together, but you're adding a few more balls. Okay, well maybe we can bring some other people in for help. It's always a challenge.
Pat Flynn: But I'm very proud of you, and where you and your wife have come from to get here, especially through the pandemic and coming back on the other side of this even stronger. Your channel, with 139 uploads only. That's not that many. Actually, no. You have 160 uploads and 139,000 subscribers. That's incredible. Some very famous YouTubers like MKBHD said their first 100 videos were for less than 100 subscribers, and now they're in the double digit millions now. So, well done on that start.
Jim: Thank you.
Pat Flynn: Keep up the good work. You've been doing great stuff. Where can people go to watch and now also, remember, listen to your work and get more involved?
Jim: Well first, I want to say thanks so much for your advice, Pat. You've really been an inspiration and have helped us out a ton with your advice. Not only just from our last conversation, the last time on AskPat, but just everything you produce. The Income Stream was really helpful during the pandemic.
Jim: People can find us on spanishandgo.com. And there, we have our links to all of our socials. We're at spanishandgo.com pretty much everywhere. Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. And the podcast, still at spanishandgo.com for the podcast.
Pat Flynn: Thanks, Jim. I appreciate you and keep up the great work. I'm sure we'll connect again soon.
Jim: Sounds good. Thanks, Pat.
Pat Flynn: All right, I hope you enjoyed that episode with Jim. Jim, thank you so much and congrats to you on your success and coming out of the craziness with even more strength and excitement. A lot going on, obviously, and I loved the discussion about the memberships, and the exclusive content and how you use Teachable. I love the fact that you're using Teachable in conjunction with an online course. It doesn't have to be Teachable. We use Teachable ourselves, but any online course platform, to go along with your podcast content. A great way to provide even more value and upgrade for those who want to go deeper. So well done, appreciate you.
Pat Flynn: And if you're listening to this, thank you. I appreciate you listening all the way through. Make sure you subscribe to the show, if you haven't already. We've got some fun stuff coming your way, some more coaching calls coming your way. I think I may have said last week that we were going to be done with the "Where Are They Now?"s. This was sort of a "Where Are They Now?," Because Jim came back on. His story was just so great, I wanted to capture it. So, Jim, thank you again and look forward to coaching stuff that's happening here.
Pat Flynn: And if you'd like to receive coaching in the future, just head on over to askpat.com. You might be a guest here on the podcast and we could chat through some stuff, and I can help you out along the way. I look forward to serving you then, potentially. Askpat.com, make sure you hit subscribe. Thank you so much for the reviews. Happy New Year to all of you, if I haven't already said that to you. 2022, here we are. We're in it. I'm here for you, we're in this together. Cheers, peace out, and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to AskPat at askpat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski. And, our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.