Inside Charles Schwab’s “audio funnel”

More than one show, more than one audience

Pacific Content started working with Charles Schwab in 2017, when we first came together to create Choiceology, a show about decision making.

Since then, Schwab’s roster of original shows has continued to grow, and now includes:

As Schwab’s investment in podcasting grows, they’ve developed their own podcast marketing funnel, where each show plays a distinct role.

To find out more, I reached out to Patrick Ricci, Managing Director of Audio Content at Schwab. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the company’s on-demand audio strategy.

Dan Misener: What’s the rationale for Schwab having more than one podcast?

Patrick Ricci: Mostly it’s to reach different audiences — or to reach the same audience in different moments of receptivity.

For example, our newest show, WashingtonWise Investor, is designed to meet an urgent client need. Not to say that prospects can’t enjoy it, but we know that the political landscape is a top investing concern among our clients. The host of WashingtonWise Investor, Mike Townsend, is our legislative-and-regulatory-affairs expert. He’s in high demand throughout our branch network to deliver his investor-focused, non-partisan perspective on the news coming out of Washington. So we’re using the podcast medium to help scale the guidance he provides.

Financial Decoder educates listeners on behavioral finance and other important financial topics, while providing actionable investing and financial-planning insights — including ways that Schwab can help.

And then Choiceology, which is really our flagship show, is intended to reach and sustain a broad audience with diverse interests — when they’re not thinking about their finances. Hopefully, it also vectors receptive listeners into Schwab’s financial help and guidance, including Financial Decoder.

Where in Schwab’s marketing funnel do these shows sit?

Of course, it’s tempting to think of branded podcasts as primarily an upper-funnel medium, since they build brand affinity (when done well) and are off-putting if they’re all about products and services. But we consider Choiceology to be our true upper-funnel show, with Financial Decoder more mid-funnel. And then as I mentioned, WashingtonWise Investor is primarily aimed at clients. So they sit at various points in the marketing funnel, just not at or near conversion.

How do the shows cross-promote each other?

In recent seasons of Choiceology, each episode includes a CTA (audio and web) that mentions Financial Decoder, usually tied to the content of the Choiceology episode. So if a Choiceology episode explores a particular cognitive or emotional bias in a realm like, say, sports, the Financial Decoder mention hints at how that bias might affect your financial decision-making and your portfolio.

We also had the host of WashingtonWise Investor as a guest on the first episode of Financial Decoder this season. And then we’re working to pull all of our shows together in podcast apps where possible, like on an Apple Podcasts provider page.

As you get farther down the marketing funnel, what changes? Tone? Style? Brand presence?

Yes, all of them. Choiceology is largely narrative, at least through the first half of most episodes. We hope it’s entertaining. It’s also intentionally lightly branded. It’s even light on finance — although the topics explored obviously bear on financial decision-making. The stories and the guests on that show are not in any way Schwab-centric. The other two shows are more expository in nature and align more with our master brand and often feature internal SMEs as the guests.

You work in Schwab’s Brand Journalism team, which does much more than podcasts. How do podcasts fit into the company’s overall content strategy?

What we love about podcasts is the subscription model and the fact that the audience opts in. It’s a great medium for recurring engagement. And the nature of audio is that it’s not a passing distraction. It makes a really intimate connection with people and is proven to hold their attention for much longer than screen-based media.

What advice do you have for other brands that are thinking about starting a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) podcast series?

I think you just want to be sure to define the audience and the goals of each show and what constitutes success, because the shows can be very different even coming from the same brand.

I also think that it’s not a decision to be made lightly. You’ll get the most out of all of your shows if you’re fully committed to making them good shows that publish predictably and that give your audience(s) a reason to keep coming back.

As you guys say, creative bravery plus massive commitment is usually a winning formula.

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