If there is one wish that every single podcaster on the planet has, it is likely “how can I grow my audience?” (Followed closely by, “how can I make more money from my podcast?”)
Every time we begin working with a client on their first podcast series, we have a conversation about podcasting’s Secret Sauce. And it’s not always the conversation that people are expecting.
My colleague, Jonas, recently alluded to the Secret Sauce and wrote that podcast success comes from making compelling shows and promoting them well. I wrote about how to measure podcast success a while ago, too — you need to measure whether the show is compelling and whether the show is being promoted effectively.
When it comes to promoting a show well, it’s important for our new clients to know that while we are HUGE nerds about how to grow audiences for podcasts, the majority of the work and the responsibility for implementing the strategy will lie with them. Why?
It’s because our clients hold the keys to success — large brands have unfair advantages and huge superpowers for growing significant podcast audiences. Many of our clients have done exceptional work at unlocking those superpowers to develop highly engaged audiences. Some notable examples include Facebook’s guest appreciation strategy, Schwab’s multi-channel promotion strategy, Red Hat’s live event strategy, and Mozilla’s use of Firefox to promote IRL.
These are all impressive promotional strategies and they were all effective at building audiences.
The Secret Ingredient in the Secret Sauce
However, there is one final ingredient in the Secret Sauce that we haven’t talked about before and all of our clients that have found success know how vital this final ingredient is.
You have to do a lot of hard work.
This may seem obvious, but it’s true and it is a huge differentiator. If you want a successful podcast, you have to be prepared to do a lot of hard work.
The Field of Dreams fallacy
Too many podcasters fall into the Field of Dreams fallacy of “if you build it, they will come.” It sure sounds compelling and easy.
In podcasting, here are some of the things that are easy:
- Record an extended interview or conversation and don’t edit it
- Publish your podcast on a wide variety of platforms
- Promote your podcast by writing a single, easy cheque to a single publisher
If you only do the easy things, you’re much more likely to end up in the Field of Nightmares. You will build it and no one will come.
Here are some of the hard things that successful brands do with their podcasts:
- Know your audience and make a show with their needs in mind
- Create a show that no one else can make and make every single minute of every episode a valuable use of your audience’s time
- Get a team of smart listeners to provide feedback and notes at multiple stages of production
- Create an efficient, repeatable process for episode approvals in your organization, which could include marketing, communications, PR, legal, and compliance teams
- Research the most influential podcasts, newsletters, and websites where there is a match for your subject matter and target audience. Then create a highly customized paid promotion plan that features compelling creative designed to drive sampling of your podcast.
- Work with a wide variety of departments within your organization to get access to your most powerful owned and internal channels and then activate those channels with best practices for promoting audio
- Create promotional plans not just for launch, but every single episode of your podcast
- Measure the marketing channels you are using. Dig into the metrics and learn what is working and not working. Adjust your strategy as you learn so that you get better and more efficient with promotion over time
- Conduct audience research to see who your listeners are and what they think of your show and your company
If you do this type of hard work, you will build something great and tell all the right people about it. They will come and they will listen.
There is no EASY button
Hard work differentiates successful podcasts with engaged listeners from run-of-the-mill podcasts with audience troubles. There is no EASY button to find success in podcasting. And if you are contemplating a podcast within your organization, it’s important to go in with your eyes open about how much work it takes to find success.
For those that are willing to roll up their sleeves and dig into doing that hard work, though, the rewards outweigh the effort.