The Diary Of A CEO Host Steven Bartlett Reveals The Trick That Lifted His Ad Click-Through Rate From 2% To 20%

The Diary Of A CEO Host Steven Bartlett Reveals The Trick That Lifted His Ad Click-Through Rate From 2% To 20%

The Growth Distillery, powered by News Corp, launched its in-person speaker series yesterday and it’s fair to say they got off to a pretty impressive start.

There was not a spare seat in the house at the Museum of Modern Art in Sydney as industry leaders gathered to see British entrepreneur and The Diary Of A CEO podcast host Steven Bartlett interviewed by The Growth Distillery’s Dan Krigstein.

If there is someone who knows how to connect with an audience it is Bartlett: he became a millionaire at just 23 after launching social marketing agency The Social Chain and his podcast is amongst the fastest-growing in the world with 40 million downloads a month.

In the intimate session, Bartlett spoke candidly about his career, including his experience growing up as a minority in the UK.

“The more work you do on yourself the more you realise that the forces driving you are often subconscious and out of your control”.

“For me that force was shame, it was insecurity, it was being the only black kid in an all-white area when we moved from Africa to the countryside of the UK.”

For a long time, this shame and insecurity were what drove him, however, he has since realised the importance of health and relationships and now regularly sees therapists – something he recommends all CEOs do.

“You’d be shocked to know how many businesses I see fail as an investor because the CEO didn’t go to therapy to deal with something that happened on the playground”.

“It’s a shocking number, it’s over 40 per cent.”

Steven Bartlett

The Number One Mistake Businesses Are Making

The number one mistake businesses are making right now is, Bartlett said, is having “a lack of clarity on what your culture is”.

“In 2024 we came out of a pandemic and we had this thing happen which I’d never seen before, which is leaders got really scared to say what they actually want from their team.”

“It became this sort of weird ‘do what you want’” he said. “People started doing surveys”.

Admitting to taking a “contrarian approach” Bartlett said he doesn’t understand the idea of “surveying your team and asking them how they want to work.”

“Because that’s not how culture works. You have a mission you’re on. You have a set of behaviors you need to achieve that mission and you have a set of values you need to every day to show up with to perform those performance behaviors”.

“From that, it’s all reverse-engineered.”

How 1% Improvements Create Results

One of the key elements of building a successful team and culture is focusing on the 1 per cent achievable improvements, Bartlett said.

“In any industry you’re in, it’s impossibly hard to get a team of people to focus on making a lot of big step forward.”

“Big steps forward in any industry are really, really difficult to find. If you set your team that objective, it becomes demotivating and an impossible task. What if I said to you ‘could you find a 1 per cent step forward?’ and the teams get galvanised by that.”

An example of this is a trackpad he controls with his thumb whilst recording The Diary of A CEO.

When the guest says something he braces his thumb which “sends it through the wall to the team who use AI to run that as Facebook ads.”

This takes the best-performing sentences from the whole conversation and uses them as the title and thumbnails on the ads.

“This has changed the game” and increased the ads click-through from one to 2 per cent to 20 per cent, he revealed.

Replacing Himself With AI

One of Bartlett’s more unusual moves is hiring a team of people to build an AI-led podcast to see if it can do better than him as a human podcast host.

“They are trying to fire me as a host, because if I’m gonna get fired, I want to take part in and be the benefactor of my disruption”.

So far, “they’re having tremendous succes,” he went on, adding that he expects AI to transform every industry in the next few years.

“So AI is maybe the most important thing we should probably spent this whole time talking about,” he joked.


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