With more than 104 million people listening to podcasts monthly, it’s no wonder businesses are scrambling to add podcasting into their 2021 content marketing strategy.
Podcast consumers are more educated, wealthy, and likely to spend money and adopt new technologies than the average consumers. They present a $302 billion market for the auto industry alone, and studies show they are 54% more likely to consider brands they hear about on podcasts. Even SMB owners are a large cohort of listeners, with 39% of SMB owners reporting listening to podcasts, 65% of whom listen weekly. As a collective, the podcasting community presents a promising opportunity for B2B and B2C organizations to reach target, even niche, audiences.
What many organizations may not realize, however, is that the low barrier to entry into podcast production is a red herring on the path to podcast success. Many companies jumping on the podcasting bandwagon are quickly realizing they’re missing the mark when it comes to creating traction with their shows. As Ben Gregson, a founding member of podcast production company Crate Media contends, “It’s not that hard to start a podcast. It’s much harder to get people to listen.”
What are companies getting wrong?
The overwhelming success of a number of “unscripted” shows has created the illusion that simply recording and publishing conversations on trendy topics will attract a following. It’s the old if you build it they will come fallacy. But that’s simply not the case with podcasts.
Podcasts are products that consumers purchase with their time. They’re an investment, as they’re not easily skimmable like blog posts or YouTube videos. They take time and commitment to really digest (most listeners spend about 7 hours listening each week, often to 4–6 shows). From the consumer standpoint, choosing which podcasts to exchange valuable time for is a delicate process, and only the best podcasts make the cut.
As any business leader or marketing expert knows, developing and launching a product takes months, if not years, of research, planning, testing and refining before launch, and then continuous iteration and strategic development once the product reaches the market.
Following basic product development and marketing principles is imperative to podcast success. If you want to produce a company podcast that effectively attracts listeners, engages your audience, and acts as a channel to garner brand awareness, generate leads, and increase loyalty and retention, then you need to be strategic. You need to create a product consumers want on their digital shelves. But how?
How to Drive Podcast Success
Here are five guidelines you should internalize to ensure your podcast gains and retains listeners by delivering optimal value.
1. Do your research
As with any new initiative, your podcast must be grounded in research. Identify your market, industry, audience, and competitors, and then study the trends and dynamics within them. What are people talking about? How are they consuming content? Do they listen to podcasts? Where is the demand? Is there anyone already covering the topic? If so, how? Where are there gaps that need to be filled? You may even conduct a SWOT analysis of your landscape.
Above all, the #1 question to ask when starting a podcast is: “Is the podcast the right medium for my message and for my audience?” Your research should tell you that answer.
2. Start with a strategic plan
If you are confident that a podcast is what your audience and your industry needs, then your next step is developing your strategic plan. Follow the GOST method (goals, SMART objectives, strategies, tactics) to outline your strategic pathway to success. Is your goal to capture leads? Increase share of ear? Build your CEO’s thought leadership? You will work backward to ensure the podcast (your tactic) feeds into your overarching brand goals.
Then, build your strategic GOST plan for launching and marketing your show. This includes your editorial calendar. If your goal is to build thought leadership and your SMART objective is to earn 10,000 downloads by the end of the year, then what kind of content will you produce to achieve that? This is where your audience research comes in. What topics are your prospective listeners interested in? What format is the best for delivering that information — interviews with experts, narrated audio stories, casual conversations with internal leadership? You need to plan for how you will attract listeners while also ensuring your editorial decisions align with and move you toward our brand goals.
3. Work with a production partner
As tempting as it is to cut costs by producing your podcast in-house with one of the many anyone-can-do-it, all-in-one podcast production tools, don’t. Those tools are excellent for hobbyists or even professionals who have a team to conduct quality control; however, a corporate podcast must convey enterprise-class production quality. The same way you would work with an ad agency to create and launch your expensive advertising campaign, you should work with a podcast production company to produce and launch your podcast. By doing so, you gain access to a team of experts who already know the space and how to make great quality shows. A reputable production partner will, at the very least:
- Provide or advise you on the equipment you need to sound great
- Provide or advise you on cover art, title, theme songs, transitional music, and SEO guidelines for your episode titles
- Provide all of the editing and post-production services to help your podcast sound top-notch
- Set up your podcast syndication on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc.
- Help you launch the show, publish consistently and track metrics
4. Repurpose your content
Podcasts are a fountain of content. At Strategic Momentum (where I help produce and market the show), our motto is, “Record once. Syndicate many.” Video podcasts should be clipped into short segments for IGTV or TikTok. Aural podcasts should be used for audiograms. Recordings should be transcribed and used for blog posts and whitepapers. Tips, advice or stats mentioned in your episodes can be curated into infographics, Slideshare decks, and mini slideshows for Instagram and LinkedIn (check out my piece on microcontent). It’s not about quantity, it’s about reaching your audience wherever they are (given that your message is of value or importance).
But remember, your content must still fit into your overall company marketing plan and brand goals. A repository of content is essentially worthless if it does not capture and engage your audience effectively. Remember the Pareto principle: 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results. If one podcast episode was particularly popular, focus on repurposing that episode more often and frequently than the others.
5. Measure and iterate
Finally: measure, measure, measure. Episode downloads are the most common measure of podcast popularity — especially because they determine a podcast’s eligibility for advertising. However, simply measuring downloads is like measuring footfall through a department store without measuring sales. Corporate podcasts must measure ROI with a broader range of metrics.
A sentiment analysis of reviews will tell you if you’re hitting or missing the mark among your target audience. Subscriptions will tell you how many people are interested in coming back (though ascertaining the exact number of subscribers is not possible at the moment). Further, specific episode metrics will inform you on which topics or guests are more popular. Metrics from all of the repurposed content created from that episode will tell you which content overall performs best. Website traffic and on-page conversions are also critical to determining effective calls to action. You need to capture all of these data points and create a system for habitually reviewing them. This will help you strategically determine the kinds of content you create next, while also creating checkpoints that mark your progress towards overall objectives and KPIs.
Podcasts are the medium of the future. IAB predicts that podcasting will be a $1 billion industry by 2021, already capturing 50% of the American public. There are myriad reasons for the phenomenal growth and popularity of the industry — telling signs of evolving consumer taste. So if you do intend to capitalize on this upward trend and deliver value to people through audio-centric content, follow these guidelines to make sure you are on the path to success from the very start.
A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategic Momentum blog.