This Where Are They Know episode is kind of a crossover, if you will, because we originally talked to this guest on the Smart Passive Income Podcast. In Episode 311, “How to Build an Audience with Your Hobby,” we talked to Phil Lichtenberger from Scanner School. He was a Power-Up Podcasting student who had taken what he learned and used it to build a strong following in a niche topic about his passion—radio scanners. For this episode of AskPat, I thought it would be a good time to bring him on and see where he’s at, what challenges he’s running into, and how I might be able to help.
The first thing I go over with Phil are more specific ways that he can take his website, podcast, and YouTube channel to the next level, including exploring keyword research. These are strategies that are useful for anyone in a product-oriented space. We go over how creating a set of content around a new piece of gear can help you rank really highly, because your unboxing/first impressions post leads naturally into a more in-depth review or a demo. We also have a quick brainstorming session about who in the industry he might be able to bring on his show to expand his audience even further.
Another important topic I touch on with Phil is burnout. It’s real, and if you’re making something on the side like Phil is, it’s really important to take at what you’d like to get done and how you’re going to accomplish that. I recommend taking all those things you’ve been meaning to get to and putting them out in front of you on sticky notes, so you can prioritize and really hone in on what you need to do and when you’re going to do it. I’m so proud of what Phil has accomplished, and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
Today’s sponsor is FreshBooks, who make the best financial management software out there. It’s ridiculously easy to use and their interface is highly-visual and super-intuitive. You can actually get an unrestricted, thirty-day trial for free; just go to FreshBooks.com/askpat and enter “Ask Pat” in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1,103 of AskPat 2.0. You're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur just like you. And today we're talking with Phil Lichtenberger from Scanner School. You may recognize that name if you've listened to my other podcast, the Smart Passive Income Podcast, because Phil was actually a guest on that show, talking about his success with his recent podcast that he's started to help people just understand more about the scanner hobby industry, which is where Phil came from. He's always my classic example for how you don't need to podcast in a large niche to do very, very well. Phil has superfans now. He's got just an amazing Facebook group and people who show up for all of his lives now as a result of his podcast and now he's trying to do more.
However, as we all know, as we try to do more, there's only so much time to do these things, so what do we do? How do we manage that? We're going to talk with Phil, get an update from him, but also talk about, well what can he do next, where should he focus? And this should be a good conversation that a lot of you could potentially relate to as well. So here he is, Phil Lichtenberger from Scanner School podcast and check him out also at ScannerSchool.com. Phil, welcome to AskPat 2.0. Thanks for being here, man.
Phil Lichtenberger: Thanks for having me back, Pat.
Pat: Yeah, and back, not because you were on AskPat, but because you were featured in Episode 311 of the SPI podcast titled “How To Build An Audience With Your Hobby.” You have a website and a business called Scanner School, a podcast, same name, and it's awesome. And just really quick remind people, what do you do?
Phil: I do a bunch of things. But as far as what you talk about with Scanner School, it's a podcast. Again, thanks to you, Pat, because by listening to SPI I kind of got interested in podcasting and I said, “Well I could probably do this for my own thing.” And we're getting close to episode number 100 so as you and I record this, I'm at eighty-nine so one hundred’s just around the corner.
Pat: That's epic.
Phil: Yeah, it's good. It'd be nice to hit triple digits.
Phil: Thank you.
Pat: And I remember you posted in the Facebook group for Power Podcasting that you have superfans now in your space.
Phil: I do. And I actually have the trifecta on your latest book. So I've got the digital, the print, and the audiobook. I'm an audiobook fan so I listened to it in about two days it took me to listen to the book. And as I was going through it, I put into practice what you were talking about in there and I mean, it pays off immediately as what you have in the book. So, even though I had a couple of superfans already, just doing what you were showing really amps it up that much further. So thanks again for putting that book out there.
Pat: Yeah, yeah. No, thank you for saying that. So where are you at now? Tell us what's going on and we'll see what we can do to help you.
Phil: Sure. So I wrote to you about a couple of different things, but the latest thing I wrote you about was keyword research is really way over my head. I know you've talked about it a few times in the past, but I want to make sure that the content that I'm putting out there . . . I mean, I'm going to say it's greedy. I want people to able to read my content, right? I want to be able to get there. But the flip side of it is I want people to see the content, because what I'm putting out there, I believe can help more people understand the scanner radio hobby, which is what my podcast is all about. I mean, I think I know what people are looking for. I mean, I go through Facebook groups and I try to ask the public. Ask the public is very little limited as to what's being asked on my topic.
I hang out on national forums and that stuff. So I go through a lot of the newbie sections on there. A lot of the ask questions, the how questions, the why questions, and I use those as topic building. But you always say the keyword research is what you and your team does in order to write better articles and to make sure that they're out in front of people. But to me, that just seems like it's a mystery to me.
Pat: Yeah, it's like a science.
Phil: And I just don't get it.
Pat: What have you tried so far?
Phil: Well, I've tried going on, say, looking at YouTube videos on how to do keyword research. I've got a couple of those really limited trials. I haven't really gotten too far into those because I've been afraid to sign up for the trials because I knew I was not going to be able to understand it right away. So I really didn't want to take advantage of those pieces of software before then.
But just really just going into Google and just start typing the question to see where Google auto-fills it in. And other than that, I've just been writing just basically what my gut feeling is what somebody is looking for. But I've learned in the past that just because I think that's what somebody's looking for, that doesn't necessarily mean that that's the right phrasing to use.
Pat: I think with your particular industry, there's a few things that to me just make complete sense in terms of keywords. For example, taking a particular piece of tech, like a scanner or something in your industry and just adding the word “review” or “demo” on top of that. Right? Those are things that people are likely searching for. Are you creating content to support those searches?
Phil: Actually, I have. I did create some content to do those. Two new radios that came out, I did an unboxing and I did a review page. I actually bought the domain with the radio name plus “review” at the end of it. And it ranked really well on Google, but my problem with timing just happened to be that I couldn't keep the page upgoing and now I'm like two or three pages deep into Google by the time you find it. But I started strong doing that. But I haven't really followed up with too much on those as well.
Pat: Yeah, I mean that's where I would start, with those kinds of things. I wouldn't even get to the point where you need to get the domain name for the other thing. I know that was a popular strategy back in the day. I mean I did that with security guard training and I even have a website about in-ear headphones and other things that were kind of random like that. And honestly, since you are in this space and you have an authority website, you should be utilizing that authority website and not worrying about the other domains.
Maybe it can be useful because you have a podcast and you can use that to forward to the tutorial slash demo slash review on your website. And the key thing about keeping your pages up there for longer is to have meatier content that is everlasting, meaning, I don't know and I haven't seen any of these demos or reviews that you've done, but extensive reviews and spending time to make them really, really great, talking about all of the things.
And you can have multiple parts, too, as well. So for example, maybe there's a first look and you unbox it and it's called “unboxing the” blank, whatever the name of the tool is, and then first impressions. And then it's just your take on the first impressions with a few images. The images are also going to be using an alt text that is matching the keyword. So that's another important thing. So that again, Google goes there and basically, they have these things that crawl through your website and go, “Okay, let's see how relevant this post is about this topic.” And what they end up doing is they go, “Okay, it seems kind of relevant. Let's put it in the higher end on the search results and see if it gets any clicks.”
And if it gets clicks, great, it's going to stay there. If not, or if people . . . I mean there's like a million factors, right, Phil, in SEO? That's how long a person is on that website, which is why that longer content is better, or helping people go from one article to the next. That's why a first look is good because then you can come out with the extensive demo and review and have both linked to each other, which adds kind of a Wikipedia-style element to your website of different crossover things that do relate to each other.
But then there's the factors of how people are clicking through. So the impressions that there are on Google versus the number of people who actually clicked through is really important. That click-through rate's going to be really important, too. And I'll tell you, the hardest thing about all this is Google's not really helping us. Meaning, you might search for a topic now and you don't even see the first result until you scroll down because you see Google's description of it and then you see a whole array of links to Amazon and then you see an ad and then another ad. And it's like even if you have the first result, it's not going to work as well.
Phil: I'm guilty of that too. Yeah, because I do pay for ads for other projects I'm working on. So the whole shopping thing, I know what you're talking about. And then if you hit, with my website, with Scanner School, which is great, now I had that extended meta on there. So it's almost like that whole first half of the Google result is just all of me and my extra pages that are in there. So it definitely does pad it up. But not to cut you off, but just to go back to what you've been saying. So with the domain name, it does point . . . I think we talked about this on one of your office hours. So I took that advice and I created the review page internal to my Scanner School page.
Phil: And basically with the domain name does is it just points right to that blog post. So it's easier just to say, “Here's the webpage on the podcast,” and then it takes them right to that actual page. I did do a first review on one of the products, which was basically just a couple of JPEG images, which is really all we had at the time. And I made probably about a five-minute YouTube video on that and just had the pictures sliding in and out, zooming in and out, just showing the key features of the radio. So that was one of the reviews I've done.
The other one I did was a really poor experiment where I did a live unboxing on Facebook. It was about an hour and a half long because I was unboxing it, answering questions, giving my real-time, like this is my initial thoughts on the product. And then I ripped the video off of Facebook and re-posted it to YouTube where it just got basically demolished by comments. So it was a really, really good learning experience where they might work great for Facebook but it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work just as well someplace else. So that review has to get redone, but it also needs to be updated because it's been out for a year. So I need a followup to my initial.
Pat: Yeah. And again, because you're in a product space, that is where I would start and honing in on what those demo videos and those reviews are like and fine-tuning them. Even creating a system so that when a new product comes out you just go, “Okay, new product, let's do it,” and you know what to do already, is going to be helpful. And I'm glad that you're experimenting, too. That's the biggest thing. You're seeing what works and seeing what doesn't. I would also look at some pro reviewers of products on YouTube just to kind of get a feel for the flow and how it kind of works. There's some great reviewers like Unbox Therapy and MKBHD now. Those are higher level. They have a lot of money. They can put a lot of team effort behind those.
So even looking at one, Podcast Stage is, or it might be Pod Stage or Podcast Stage. He does a lot of podcast reviews on gear and things like that, but he's just really to the point and they're short but you get what you need and they rank really high for all of those products. He might be a good sort of person to analyze to see how he's doing his reviews for his podcasting stuff, you being in the scanner stuff. And so that that can be a good sort of a lead for you to kind of check out. But going back to what we were talking about earlier, keyword research, I mean, it's not as important as it used to be and it's because of what we were just talking about. I think that now business is starting to shift toward community, starting to shift toward having fans and repeat customers and you're doing all those things, which I think is fantastic.
And what the beauty of that is, I mean, you could spend ten hours a week focused on keyword research and what to write about next and those kinds of things. Or you could spend those ten hours really getting to know your community, really getting to know your audience, engaging them to a point where they're likely going to invite new, warmer people in that are going to be at a higher level than anybody new that comes in cold from Google.
But obviously, there's best practices, right? So making sure to include those important keywords based on what you know people are searching for. And keyword research tools are great. I think just going with the autofill at a minimum is a fantastic strategy. Google is basically saying, “Hey, you should write about these topics,” right? Versus you trying to guess.
And then scrolling all the way to the bottom of those Google searches to the related searches are going to give you another piece of the puzzle as well. Because that's basically Google telling you, “Hey, in addition to this specific phrase, here are some other phrases that might be interesting for you to talk about.” And they may or may not be related to what you're talking about but they are related, and so that's important to know as well. And again, these are all free. Anybody can do this right now. And so it's just these little things go a very long way over time. But I mean you could get access to a tool like Ahrefs and spend a hundred dollars a month to get access to that to really define like, here are the forty keywords that relate to this one topic that . . . It's just kind of, sometimes it's over the top, I think. So I wouldn't worry about that right now.
That could be something to invest in in the future. But for right now, I think at a minimum it's these product demo reviews that are going to be key for you and establish your expertise in this space as well as just fun strategies and tips using those items, which then can reference back those items and the reviews on them. Plus getting involved with your community and actually not going to places that are outside of your community to find out what's right, but going to your people, going to those superfans that you've built and having them guide you and they're going to bring new people in themselves.
Phil: Right. In fact, I even have them . . . I do a once a month segment where I kind of stole from you a little bit. I have Ask Scanner School. I wonder where I got the idea from?
Phil: But it's a once a month segment where I have people either use SpeakPipe or a local telephone number. They can leave me a voicemail and gets their voice on the podcast to ask a question then and I respond to it directly. So it gives me something else to get other guests on who might be experts in that or just expand on that topic to come out with something else to talk about. So that's been helping me out as well. And also, I'm bringing back . . . I used to do a once a month Facebook Q&A where it was just real-time, like office hours. So all that's kind of solidify what to talk about, what people are asking for, as well as build the community. So I've been trying to do all that.
Pat: That's great. Have you utilized your podcast and that platform to invite companies on your show and product owners, product creators, like the inventors of these things?
Phil: So there's some software out there. We actually just had the project manager of one of the pieces of software come on the podcast. We had a really great interview. That was good. But some of the major manufacturers . . . There's only two really main hardware manufacturers that create these radios. And I've asked and neither one want to answer or get back to me. So that's tough. There was another software company out there that just said, “No, I'm not interested in doing this anymore.” But they've just recently given up the project and gone to an open-source so somebody else has now taken over that. So I'm going to reach out to him. Yeah, so I've got a list of like a dozen people I would like to ask to come on the podcast still. So I still have to work through that. But it's very tough. It's a very tough market, really, to get some people in.
But I do have related niches to this. One of them has been monitoring airplane traffic, where basically you actually track the flights with a flight tracker website where you can actually pinpoint. We can actually do that with our own radio gear. So I had one of the people from that company on and we talked about his hardware and what people can do with it. Another guy who runs an airline scanner radio website. So he was on talking about his product and all that stuff too. So those kinds of things I did reach out to and were able to get those people on. I would love to get more of the hardware or the manufacturers and those kinds of things on, but so far they haven't really panned out yet. So I'm kind of hoping once I hit that magic number of a hundred, it gives me a little bit more of a leg to stand on, I guess, when I—
Pat: More credibility, yeah.
Phil: Exactly, yeah. Yep. Definitely.
Pat: No, I mean, you're doing all the right things. And I think that in this particular niche, it may be a little bit slower than others because of just the nature of it and the topic. But I mean, you're owning this space right now or you're getting close to that in terms of the content and the information that's getting put out there. So I would just continue to lean into that and who you've become in this space. And I don't know if you believe that or not, but I do, and I see it from my end. And I know your fans do too. How do you feel about where you're at in this space right now? I'm curious.
Phil: Definitely overwhelmed. That's the problem.
Pat: Tell me why. What do you mean by overwhelmed?
Phil: I mean, I definitely suffer from burnout, which is another one of those things I had asked about earlier when I was submitting the AskPat. We can touch on it right now if you'd like.
Pat: Yeah, sure.
Phil: But I mean, I routinely hit a burnout state like every two months. So one of the things I did subscribe to was your Amp'd Up Podcasting and not to sound like I'm a superfan right now, which obviously I am, but . . . So using the tools that you've put into there, right? So I'm actively trying to hunt out somebody now to do the podcast for me. Basically, I just want to sit there and record. I want to edit the technical stuff, but let somebody else put the sandwich together and serve it on a platter, publish it, blog post it, get it posted, get the images up there.
I'm at the point where it's it's been eighty-eight Sundays of me doing this, and I'm done with it. Right? So I'm kind of actively looking for that right now. I'll come out there and I'll say, “Oh, I have this product that I'm working on.” So I actually sold a course, and I did it as a live course, but I had to go back there and make it an evergreen content. I have to go on there and actually build a Teachable [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]. So it's like trying to find time for that. I have a bonus piece of content that I was going to put out there and I lost my computer that I was building it on. So I have one guy who's like, “Where is it? Haven't gotten it yet, haven't gotten it yet.” So I keep writing down, “I've got to get this done.”
Phil:So it's a lot of things that are out there that I know I would like to be doing, like more reviews or updating my reviews or getting the next piece of the project done. A mastermind group has definitely helped me out through that as well. So I can't recommend anybody trying to find a mastermind. And again, that's something else that came together from the SPI community was in one of the Facebook groups, I don't know which one it was, but somebody was saying, “Hey we're going to put a mastermind group together.” And this person actually grabbed everybody's availability. He charted it out. I was able to find three other guys who are other fans of yours and we now have our Armadillos, we call ourselves, the Armadillos Mastermind Group.
Pat: Nice. Dude, that makes me so happy. That's so cool.
Phil: We're actually meeting tonight. Yeah, we're meeting tonight in a couple of hours. So they're all kind of jealous I'm on, talking with you right now.
Pat: Hey, tell them all I said hello and thank you.
Phil: Will definitely that. Yep. Will definitely tell that.
Pat: On overwhelm, and some of these things were decisions that you made. Some of these things were unexpected surprises and not . . . just adding to all of it. And then there's all the possibilities, the opportunities that are in front of you as well, which is, I know, just irking at you because it's like, “If only these things were done, I could finally start doing these things that I really want to do.” And I think what needs to happen is number one, if you haven't done this already, write down all of the things that are just on your mind that need to go away.
I would put one on a Post-it note and then I would take those it notes and go, “Okay, of all of these, which one am I going to focus on tomorrow or the next time I have time?” And just only see that one, work on that one until that one's done. As soon as that one is done, rip it up to shreds and throw it in the garbage. And then you move on to the next one. You're going to see progression toward these things that you do want to do because these things are now being taken care of.
And I think just sometimes we have so much going on in our brains that we forget to, “Okay, let's organize what's going on and let's tackle them and let's get it done.” And I think that that's going to slowly get you away from the overwhelm and hopefully to that point where again, in two months you're not overwhelmed, but you're actually excited because you're like, “Wow, I have a little bit more freedom now.”
And honestly, I have to do that every once in a while too because I have the sort of likelihood of saying yes to more things than I should. And so I get to the point where I go, “Okay, well let's put everything on the table,” literally, and go, “Okay, well what needs to happen? What do I have to give up? What do I need to do now before anything and what's going to just take a few minutes that I can tackle tonight?” and those kinds of things. Once you start to see them you can start to organize them a little bit. And some of those things I can do on my own, some of those things I honestly need to ask help for or favor for. And only when I see them, then I can handle them.
Phil: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I definitely agree with that as a hundred percent. I do the exact same thing now with myself. I have a VA who's helped me out. I just hired somebody to do Google ads for me because I can't even bother with that anymore.
Pat: Great, you're chipping away.
Phil: I am definitely chipping away at it. In fact, even with my mastermind goals, it was starting to be like it would have like two or three goals, one primary and then maybe like three secondary goals. And I'm the guy who's like, “Yeah, here's twenty-seven things I want to get done this week.” It would just carry over. So right now I'm only managing one major thing and then three secondary goals.
Phil: I have another sheet, another reminder tab in my Mac here that just says business goals and they're all just listed in there, so everything that was put on the back burner. That's the problem, right? That the space that we're in it's just there's not enough hours in the day and I'm juggling a nine to five so it's like I always sit back and go, “If I can get rid of nine to five, I wouldn't get paid for anything, but at least I'd have time to get everything done.”
Pat: This is true.
Phil: But even still, I'd probably fill in the gaps so I'd still be in the same boat, you know?
Pat: Yeah. I would recommend from this point forward and we'll try, if you don't mind, we can connect with you again—
Pat: ..in a few months to see how you're doing and hold you accountable a little bit. But I'd love to see a little bit more breathing room when it comes to, “Let me focus on this one thing and then I'm going to conquer that, or get through this and then move onto the next one, versus multiple.” And it seems like you're headed in the right direction already. You might even be able to lean in and push in on that focus a little bit more.
And that's, honestly, what I've had to do as well. And this is why I'm starting to say no to more conferences and those kinds of things because there's just only so much of me to go around and only so much time in the day, and I want to be healthy. I don't want to be overwhelmed because when I'm overwhelmed and stressed out, I'm helping nobody. Right?
Phil: Right. Yep. Oh, you definitely feel it. You can't do anything at that point.
Pat: So what's the next thing? What is the next thing on your list right now?
Phil: Well, my next thing right now is I have to hire somebody to do the podcast. So I've actually reached out to one of the agencies that you recommend, and just for your information, they've been very slow to respond. So just maybe something that you're aware of.
Pat: Thank you for telling me. Slap around a little bit.
Phil: Yeah, I don't know if they're overwhelmed or whatever, but I emailed him on Sunday, so already it's Thursday and I've gotten one response back saying, “Oh yeah, we'd like to talk to you. Can we schedule a call for Wednesday, Thursday?” I responded back saying, “Wednesday, Thursday works great for me. You give me a time and I'll see if it works.” And I haven't heard back from them, so I don't know how well that one's going to work out. But I think you know who I'm talking about.
Pat: Yeah. Can you forward me that email so I can just do something with that?
Phil: Yeah. Not a problem.
Pat: Thank you.
Phil: But there was another guy in the Amp group who recommended a couple of people. I have to reach out to them as well. So I'll be reaching out and see if I can at least get that offloaded. I think if I can offload the podcast that'll definitely open up . . . Like I said, it's my Sundays. Basically, Sunday's recording, editing, creating the images, getting the headliner going, getting everything published, getting it uploaded to Libsyn, getting the social media stuff getting up and running.
Pat: How much time will that save you when you have somebody else do that?
Phil: It would save me an entire day, basically. So I would get back my Sundays.
Pat: Yeah. So worth fighting through for sure.
Phil: Oh, definitely. Yep. If it costs me a couple hundred bucks a month, to me that's . . . If I put dollars and cents to my hours, that's an entire day. To me, that's totally worth it. You know, three hundred dollars a month . . . which was that what that company would have charged, I think, completely a no-brainer for me.
Pat: Cool. Well, let's get a move on with that. But yeah, I love it. So I think where I wanted to go with what we just talked about was imagine the breathing room that will happen when you take action on this and you're doing that, and now you're waiting on others. So let me see how I can help you with that. But yeah, we're heading the right direction, Phil. I can't wait to chat with you again and see what else you open up and what that does for you. I think just for mental health purposes, this is an important thing to do. But even with the goals that you have and all the other things that need your attention, we got to do it and I think a lot of people listening to this can relate. So thank you for being open and vulnerable and sharing this here today.
Phil: Oh, not a problem. I want to thank you again for having me back on one of your podcasts. I definitely appreciate it.
Pat: Yeah, man, you got them both now, which is cool.
Phil: That's right.
Pat: We'll have to get you on any of the new ones that come out eventually in the future. But where can people go to find out more about you?
Phil: So I guess with the podcast the best way to get ahold of me would be Scanner School, which is my website ScannerSchool.com. The podcast is called Scanner School and you can find me at Twitter, Instagram. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all have the same name, it’s ScannerSchool. Except I think Twitter actually has an underscore between them. Everything else is all one word. So again, it's a ScannerSchool.
Pat: We'll have it in the show notes and obviously if you want to listen to more of the origin story of Scanner School, head on over to smartpassiveincome.com/session311 to check out how to build an audience with your hobby with Phil on the SPI podcast. It was a great episode. I still get comments about that, actually.
Phil: So do I.
Pat: Thanks again, Phil. I appreciate you.
Phil: Alright. Thanks again, Pat.
Pat: Alright. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Phil Lichtenberger. Again, you can find him at ScannerSchool.com or just look up his podcast, Scanner School. That's all you have to do, and check out how awesome he is. Phil, thanks for being a star student for coming on, being vulnerable, sharing more about your story. And I look forward to hearing more about your hundredth episode. Congratulations to you on that. I think you just passed it, actually.
Man, so proud of you. Keep up the great work and hopefully, we can find even more acceleration in your success here as you start to enjoy what it's like, both pros and cons with success. Because when you get to this point, there are more challenges, new opportunities and new challenges that come with that. So just proud of you, man, keep up the good work.
And to everybody out there taking action, we're at the start of a new year here, a new decade, which means new opportunities for all of us. Hopefully, you are focused and if podcasting is something you'd love to do, I'd love to help you. We have courses. Go to smartpassiveincome.com and just scroll down the page. You'll find some of our favorite courses to help you with your podcast, no matter if you're just starting out or if you have gotten started already. We have Power-Up Podcasting, which Phil's a student from, and also Amp'd Up Podcasting for those of you who want to take it to the next level. Just a lot more going on there too. So just, yeah, get your podcast up and running. It's a perfect time to do that. Anyway, Team Flynn, you're amazing. Take care and I look forward to serving you in the next episode. Until then, as always, Team Flynn for the win. Peace.