How to Launch and Grow a Podcast People Want to Listen toFeatured
Marketers are always looking for the “next big thing” — the new way to reach their audience, share their story, and hold attention. Podcasts are nothing new; they’ve been around for decades. But for too long they’ve been seen as a strictly personal medium, built for people to share stories about obscure topics. And don’t get me wrong: I love that about podcasts. I love that if there is something you’re interested in, odds are there’s a podcast about it. But podcasting is still a somewhat new medium for B2B marketers.I know the title of this article is how to launch a podcast, but since I’ve never been one to follow a prompt I’m going to start with why you should launch a podcast (Simon Sinek would be proud).Why you should launch a podcast (or why not)There are so many brand-related benefits of launching a podcast. It is rare to get this type of devoted time from your audience (10 minutes to a full hour, depending on episode length and average listen time), especially with a regular reach of thousands of unique listeners. Podcasting is a powerful medium; there is so much more opportunity to connect with your audience when it’s in this spoken format. Podcasting is accessible and provides an opportunity for real personality and brand definition, while still being a manageable ask for your team.However… with great power comes great responsibility.Podcasting is hard. It is really hard to get right, and really easy to mess up. And, it never ends. Your team will absolutely gain efficiencies as you go, but you still have to give the time to the microphone each week, and (as we’ll get into a little later) consistency is key in this medium. Podcasting is also expensive — to do it right, you have to invest in the necessary team and tools up front. It isn’t something you can spin up quickly (if you do it right), so buy-in can be a challenge. And podcasts are notoriously challenging to measure and attribute marketing success. There are tools in the market and ways to get around it, but if your team needs to be able to measure 1:1 return on marketing initiatives, podcasting will be a tough sell.As someone who has devoted two years to developing a show, I can tell you that I love podcasts, but that certainly isn’t because it’s easy. Identify the north star of your show up front, the reason why you are uniquely suited to tell that specific story, and socialize it often while your team is in the trenches. For our podcast, Better Product, our north star was being a platform for a variety of perspectives — big names, but also early stage startups or unique industries — to share digital product stories with actionable learnings for our audience, because a rising tide lifts all boats. Once we identified this north star, every decision we made for the show was pointing us toward it.How to launch a podcastNow as I step off my soap box, let’s get into how to launch a podcast. Your crucial first step is to build the foundation for your show. You need to find the north star of your show to identify your audience, the problem your show addresses for them, and the differentiator of your show compared to all their other options. This is also the time to align your show’s position with a new brand identity, and the brand of your company.Here are some questions you will need to answer to get the foundation right.What brand impression are you looking for?This is about much more than the cover art for your show. Your brand impression is also impacted by interview style, host and guest personas, marketing channels, and so much more. Do you want to be perceived as the industry expert, or a friend going on a journey alongside your listeners? Do you want the interviews to be buttoned up and highly edited, or do you want the episodes to be more stream-of-consciousness? All of these are strategic decisions you have to make prior to even starting to record. What goals do you have for your show?This step should be driven by your north star. Are you starting your show to share insights from leaders in your industry? Set a goal for the number of household brands to get per season. Is your show going to be a tool for reaching out to sales prospects? If so, set specific outcomes based on qualified conversations set. Since the north star of Better Product was to share a variety of stories with actionable learnings for our audience and raise the whole tide of product, we set specific goals to have industry-leading brands on the podcast, but we also set specific goals for featuring unknown early stage startups and diverse perspectives. We also wanted to use the show as an outreach method to grow our networks in new geographies, so we tracked guest location. One PSA before we move on: You can set goals for the number of episode downloads, but this should not be your primary goal. Downloads are a measure of success, but they are not the outcome. It’s a vanity metric, and you’re going to need something else to keep you going.How will this fit into everything you’re already doing in marketing?This is really important to think through now so you can build good habits early. Podcasts are a demanding medium, but they also create a mountain of residual benefit for marketing teams, and it’ll be crucial to squeeze everything you can out of it. It took me too long to learn this personally, but here’s how the podcast is used by our marketing team today. Website traffic: Each podcast episode gets its own webpage, which drives valuable traffic.Social media: Our podcast has provided constant ammunition for social media accounts, so much so that we actually had to create an entirely separate account to manage all the podcast-related content we had to share.Editorial: Podcast interviews drive at least 2 new articles per month, and we also started a contributed content program to give our podcast guests another medium to share their thought leadership.Events: We have never had a shortage of event cohosts because of our extensive podcast network. We built almost our entire conference lineup based on past podcast guests!Partnerships: We’ve developed a network of partners around the world, and our marketing team has optimized those partnerships for events, content collaborations, and more.What team do I need?This is an important time to note that we hired a partner, Share Your Genius, to help us with the nuts and bolts of launching a show, and to manage all production needs. Identify what you want to manage in-house with your team’s time and expertise, and outsource the rest to a partner who lives and breathes podcasts (if the budget’s there). I cannot imagine having to do this show without our partner. How will this impact your business?This is an important part of the launch process since, as previously mentioned, podcasting can get hard and you’ll need to be clear on the business impact early, to carry you through the valleys. Align with leadership on the ideal business impacts of your new show. Is it using the show to identify relevant prospects? Is it brand awareness? Is it thought leadership on a specific subject? Tie these business goals back to the metrics you set earlier, and be sure to track the things that matter to the business. How to grow your podcastLaunch it rightOnce you’ve built out the high-level strategy for your show, it’s time to build a 30, 60, and 90-day launch plan. The first 90 days are crucial for your success. For Better Product, we released a batch of six episodes at once to allow for binge-listening, and our launch plan was a beast. It consisted of show messaging, show promotion strategies customized by platform, a paid advertising campaign, partnership and advocate networks to help us share, and a promotional “road show” to pitch the podcast at events. We printed and shipped out t-shirts, stickers, posters, and more, and I lost count of how many emails and LinkedIn messages I sent to relevant people in the industry asking them to listen and let me know what they thought of the show. And that doesn’t even mention all the “reminders” (read: badgering) I sent to those first guests to help us grow the buzz in their networks. Build out your launch checklist, get all the hands you can on deck, and then get it out the door.Contrary to what you may be thinking after reading up until now, I still believe, when in doubt, get something out the door and then adjust. Don’t plan yourself to death; audience development takes time. Your show is going to shift, change, and improve over time, so as long as the product is something you’re proud to have your name attached to, I say release it. Reflect and adjustNow that you have something out in the wild, the fun part begins. Rigorously track metrics that matter, including downloads, consumption (how much of the episode people listened to), and engagement (reviews, shares, subscribes).Measure your marketing channels, and keep an eye on your early guests. How are people responding? Are your guests sharing? This is an important time to figure out what channels are working (and which aren’t) so you can prioritize your efforts and get into a good ongoing cadence.Build a community around your showIn the grand scheme of media, podcasting is still relatively elementary. It isn’t always easy to figure out who is listening, why they listen, what they’re looking for, and where they go after they’re done listening. So if your interaction with your audience begins and ends with the podcast episode, you’re going to feel lost. That is the power of community: It brings like-minded people together, keeps them coming back, and gives them a shared experience that develops loyalty. Lean into your north star and draw your listeners together on a medium where you can learn more about them. We launched the Better Product Community as a way to bring our podcast listeners into one place, and the inspiration came from simply wanting to know more and hear more from the people who listened to our show. Now, the community is nearing 1,000 engaged members who we engage with over email, at events, and more. Lean on this community to grow your show — word of mouth is huge in the podcasting space. And my favorite part about growing a show is that podcasting is a positive sum game. People often have more than one show in their rotation, so shows build each other up. Bring other podcasts into your network, and share the love.Don’t take your foot off the gas Although I now realize this has been the message this entire article so you may be wondering why I’m telling you to sprint a marathon, it’s important that you keep rolling and keep trying new things. Just like in any other marketing channel, if you stall or take your foot off the gas, your listenership will plateau. Be where people are when they’re making decisions about what show to listen to. Make it easy for your advocates to advocate for you. Keep experimenting with new ways to engage your audience. Try new episode styles and get feedback from your listeners whenever you can. Podcasts are an incredible medium with the ability to create a connection with your listeners and tell powerful stories in a whole new way. Successful podcasts have so many brand benefits for businesses, and humanize them in a way that other marketing channels never can. When done right, podcasts create incredible opportunities for thought leadership, network growth and community, but to be done right requires a significant investment, patience, and dedication.If you want to learn from the people who’ve taught me, check out Share Your Genius and tell them Ellie sent you. And if you want to listen to the Better Product Podcast, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you listen. Signing off!