And these folks aren’t just listening passively: 65 percent are willing to purchase products they hear about on podcasts.
So how can you tap into the power of this type of media to raise brand awareness and communicate important messages to your target audience?
To answer that question, I talked to Griffin Caprio, CEO and cofounder of Dante32, an end-to-end podcast partner for businesses. He talked me through some basic tips for how to launch a podcast successfully – and how to avoid common mistakes.
Here, I highlight Caprio’s seven tips for any business thinking of starting a podcast.
Tip 1: Define Your Goals for the Podcast
Podcasts can function in two distinct ways: as revenue streams or as parts of a larger marketing effort.
The “revenue stream” model is the one most people are familiar with: someone creates a podcast as a form of art or entertainment. They aim to get as many listeners as possible so they can sell advertising or entice sponsors. In this model, the podcast is meant to drive revenue in and of itself.
But that’s not the model that’s relevant to most startups thinking of starting a podcast.
For most startups (unless you’re in entertainment or media), the podcast model that suits your needs is the podcast as a form of content marketing. In this model, the goal is not to reach as large an audience as possible but rather to reach a targeted audience of potential customers so you can…
- Educate them about topics relevant to your industry.
- Raise awareness of and affinity for your brand.
- Build credibility for yourself and your brand as thought leaders.
- Engage with them as listeners and guests.
During our conversation, Caprio emphasized the importance of recognizing this distinction and understanding what you want to accomplish with your podcast before you start.
That’s especially true if, like most of us, you plan to start your podcasting journey by researching how to make a podcast online. Most published advice is targeted to people who intend to make the revenue-generating type of podcast, which won't be very useful to those who want to market with their podcasts.
“If you wanted to do a product video, you could talk with the guys who directed The Avengers,” said Caprio. “And they’d give you plenty of insights about what makes for good video. But in the end, it probably wouldn’t be very useful to what you’re trying to do.”
The rest of these tips will assume you’re aiming to make a podcast as part of your marketing efforts.
Tip 2: Define Success for Your Podcast
You’ll never know if your podcast is working unless you define what success looks like at the start. Typical success metrics for content like podcasts include…
- Listeners / subscribers: This measures your audience and is a great way to assess the reach of your podcast content. But this number alone won’t tell the whole story.
- Downloads: While downloads offer one measure of engagement, they’re not the only measure, especially in the world of podcasts as a marketing tool. Caprio noted that between 60 and 70 percent of his clients’ listeners tune in via web browser – no download needed.
- Listening duration: This helps measure how much of your message your audience is actually hearing, regardless of whether they download an episode.
- Engagement: Besides downloading and / or listening, this could measure how much listeners are interacting with your content. Are they commenting about it on social media? Typing in a direct response link you mention on an episode? Sharing it with friends?
The goals you establish for your podcast should be based on how you expect the metrics above to correlate with sales. So if you estimate that, for every 25 listeners, you’ll get one qualified lead, and you know you have a 33 percent lead-conversion rate, you’ll need 75 listeners to translate to one sale. And so on.
Tip 3: Get Serious About Content Planning
“A lot of businesses under-invest in content planning,” said Caprio. “Podcasting – and any type of content – looks easy in isolation: ‘I’ll just write this blog post,’ or ‘I’ll just record this episode for 30 minutes.’ But it’s in month two or three where it starts to get harder.”
It’s common, he added, that a business doesn’t plan adequately and finds itself in a situation where it hasn’t released any content for a few months, because the person in charge got busy or the team wasn’t sure where they were going with the project.
He also noted that it’s important to think about the long term from the beginning: how will you keep your listeners engaged? Even if you stick to one format for the life of the podcast, it’s important to find ways to tell different stories or illuminate different sides of an issue.
If you’re struggling with this part, Caprio recommended thinking in terms of what your listeners will get out of your podcast: what can you offer them that has real value?
Tip 4: Figure Out How the Podcast Fits into the Rest of Your Marketing
“What’s your brand voice? What’s your point of view? What ideas are you trying to get across? Where do you want to be – and where don’t you want to be?” said Caprio, emphasizing that a company podcast should align with the rest of the company’s marketing materials.
He also emphasized that podcasts tend to breed an informal tone, because the experience of recording is a lot like having a conversation. But if the rest of your marketing materials are formal, a casual podcast could feel disjointed and confusing to listeners.
Then there’s the question of where the podcast will live, how you’ll promote it, how you’ll encourage people to listen, whether you’ll use it to promote your products and services, and who you’ll invite to be on it. These all need to fit into your larger marketing program.
Tip 5: Don’t Skimp on Audio Quality
While almost anyone can create a podcast with equipment they have around the house, Caprio emphasizes the importance of investing in professional recording equipment.
More than half of the population has listened to a podcast at this point. We know what high-quality audio sounds like, and we know what low quality sounds like. If your sound isn’t good, listeners will focus on that rather than what you’re saying. More importantly, they’ll associate the quality of your sound with the quality of your offerings.
Most startup founders will be relieved to know, too, that high-quality audio isn’t cost prohibitive. “Most of our clients get started for $500, all in,” noted Caprio.
Tip 6: Measure, Evaluate, and Adjust
Generally speaking, Caprio noted that having 500 to 1,000 listeners per episode is a “massive” audience for a business podcast.
“You only need a handful of listeners to become leads and customers to justify the whole investment,” he said.
But the exact numbers are different for every business. So while it’s important to establish goals at the outset, it’s also likely you’ll have to adjust those goals based on how your actual podcast performs.
You may also have to adjust the podcast itself, based on what resonates with your listeners. Maybe an interview format works really well for you; maybe it helps to answer questions that come in through the website.
Regardless, keep in mind that podcasts are new territory for most businesses, so it’s normal to have a steep learning curve. The key is to treat every data point as an opportunity to improve, adjust, and move on.
Tip 7: Consider an Internal Podcast
For the most part, these podcasting tips assume you’re using your podcast to market to an external audience, but that may not be the case.
“A lot of companies are starting to do closed podcasts,” Caprio said. “They’re not publicly available. Instead, they’re used to boost retention, help with recruiting, or support information dissemination.”
Internal podcasts can be especially effective if you have a large company that makes all-hands meetings impractical or have a lot of remote workers.
More Tips for Launching a Business Podcast
If you’re intrigued by what you’ve read so far, I highly recommend Griffin Caprio’s recent post Branded Website Podcast Best Practices, which offers more technical recommendations for setting up and managing your company’s podcast.
If you’ve decided that a podcast isn’t in the cards for your company right now, but you’re still intrigued by the power podcasts have to connect you to your audience, check out our article on how to pitch yourself (or your company) to podcasts as a guest.