As podcasting continues to grow, more and more podcast producers, agencies, and companies are entering the scene offering to help. In a lot of ways, I don’t blame them.
However, I feel bad for the individuals and businesses researching how to start a podcast. The noise to signal ratio is way off. Most “how-to” guides are confusing, conflicting, and incomplete. Amateurs and wannabes are claiming to be experts who clearly aren’t.
Personally, I’ve been podcasting since 2012, producing podcasts full time since about 2016, and working in audio for 20+ years. Even with that kind of experience, I’m learning something new every day. I’ve also surrounded myself with a team of specialists who make it possible to accomplish more than I ever could on my own.
What I’ve found is that most of the people I talk to are trying to figure out what to do, who to trust, and how to find the right kind of help.
If that sounds familiar, this article is for you.
I’ve broken the information in the following “helpful topics.” Skip around as needed.
- What you need to know about your own project before you start looking.
- What you need to know about the podcast industry to have effective search results.
- Tips on how to evaluate and choose the best podcast production company.
What You Need to Know Before You Start Searching for the Top Podcast Production Companies
Too often, people start looking for help before they even know what they are doing. To be honest, too often people start podcasting before they know what they are doing!
You need to get clear on several things before you start your podcast:
- What is your goal?
- Who is your target audience?
- What does success look like?
- What kind of help do you need?
What Is Your Goal?
My clients don’t want a podcast for the sake of having a podcast. They want one because of what it can do for them. Most of the time, podcasting is a means to an end.
Defining your goal is one of the most important things you can do because it will influence everything about your podcast… From what kind of show style you should have to what kind of help you should hire to how much production should cost.
Action item #1: Brainstorm with your team or on your own the reasons for wanting a podcast. List your goal(s) that a podcast could help you achieve. Common goals our clients have are things like:
- Establishing authority in a space
- Generating new leads and sales
- Networking with others
- Teaching and reaching prospects, clients, and teams
- Influencing large groups of people
Bonus tip: If you’re stuck or something doesn’t feel clear enough, ask yourself why a few times. For example:
Our goal is to have a lot of listeners.
Why do you want a lot of listeners?
So lots of people will know about our company.
Why do lots of people need to know about your company?
We are launching a new eCommerce service next quarter and we want to get lots of new leads.
So I’m hearing you want the podcast to help raise awareness around your new service…
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Who is the podcast for? Who are you talking to? It’s much easier to plan your content and create a meaningfully branded show when you understand your audience.
Common target audiences include the existing audience you’re already serving or peers of an industry you want to be serving.
Action Item #2: Define who your podcast listener is. Be as clear as possible. Sometimes it helps if you can find an “interesting intersection” for your focus like home services and marketing business and gaming.
What Does Success Look Like?
It’s also important to have an idea of the results you’d like to achieve with your podcast. This will help you evaluate podcast producers and understand if they can deliver the right outcomes.
Success might look like a variety of things:
- A certain number of podcast downloads
- Increased website traffic
- Increased social media interactions
- Strong consistency of episode to episode listens
- High episode completion rates
- Positive reviews and social proof
- New and/or improved relationships
- New prospects, leads, and sales
- Invitations to speak
- Sponsorship agreements
Make sure your goals are realistic and in line with what a podcast can actually accomplish. That’s part of why I wrote an article on podcast analytics. I frequently find myself teaching our clients (especially our clients who are marketers) how to properly evaluate their podcasts. Good podcast production companies should be able to do this for you.
Action Item #3: Read my article, Podcast Analytics: How to Measure and Use Podcast Metrics to Make Your Show Successful. It will give you context on what to expect and how to evaluate the success of your show.
After reading the article, list your top 1 to 3 outcomes you’d like to see from your podcast.
What Kind of Help Do You Need?
There are 3 main kinds of help you can get in the podcasting space:
- Podcast Consulting and Education. This is where a person or videos teach you the process and you do it yourself.
- Technical Solutions. This is where a person or podcast production agency is handling technical tasks like editing, show notes, or posting online.
- Full Service Podcast Production. Full podcast production solutions typically involve teams that handle everything from planning a show concept to consistently producing and posting episodes.
The main variables here are time, budget, speed, and expertise. How much time does your team have to spend on this project? What is your budget? When are your deadlines? How important is it that you “do it right” the first time? Having a sense of the kind of help you need will help you know what to look for in a podcast production company.
Action Item #4: Get a loose sense of your budget and deadlines. Pick the areas you want to work on and try to offboard everything else.
Bonus tip: Rand Fishkin from SparkToro wrote a great article on Why You Should Hire Agencies & Consultants (for everything you can). It might help you decide what kind of help you actually need.
What You Need to Know About the Industry to Have Effective Search Results
Jargon exists in every industry. Podcasting is no different. You’ll achieve better search results by understanding what you’re looking for and how to talk about it.
What Search Phrases to Use When Searching the Web
Searching for Companies Directly
Are you ready to start searching directly for a team or resources to help you with your podcast production? Certain terms are more popular in search than others.
If you are looking to hire a podcast production team, the most common search terms are:
- podcast production companies (about 600 to 1000 average searches per month according to Mangools and Semrush)
- podcast production services (about 200 to 300 average searches per month)
Phrases like “podcast production agency” and “podcast production team” are significantly less popular with 20 to 90 average monthly searches.
If you are looking for consultants or resources to teach you how to podcast, the most popular terms are:
- how to start a podcast (50K to 65K average monthly searches)
- how to make a podcast (10K to 20K average monthly searches)
Phrases like “how to create a podcast” and “how do you start a podcast” are less popular with 2K to 10K searches per month.
The only thing to watch out for is companies running ads to get on the front page search results. The terms are popular so of course companies want to rank for them. There is nothing wrong with running ads (we do it off and on) but they don’t guarantee quality and reliability.
Searching for Companies Indirectly
You can also indirectly search for companies by researching questions you have about podcasting. For example, when you search “podcast ROI,” our article 9 Ways to Determine the ROI of Your Podcast will likely come up.
Many of our prospects and clients have found us this way because they read the articles, appreciate our insights, and want to strike up a conversation. It’s a more organic way to connect than scrolling our homepage and often becomes a win/win for both parties.
Understanding the Language and Terms of the Podcast Industry
Unfortunately, the people in the podcast industry aren’t uniform in the language they use to describe it. Audio “editing” and “producing” technically mean different things but are often used interchangeably by podcasters.
The result is a lot of potential confusion.
Beyond this, there are just plenty of services or tasks that companies like to list because they sound nice.
For example, audio editing, noise reduction, audio cleaning, audio mixing, premium editing, audio equalization, and broadcast standards basically mean we’ll make your podcast sound professional.
Dynamic balancing and volume matching typically means we’ll make the different people talking have similar volume levels so they sound good.
I even saw one company list “sync multi-track channels.” Without getting too technical, oftentimes the interview host and podcast guest are recorded separately (on different channels) to make editing easier. Sync multi-channels simply means things line up and the timing is correct.
These are all things podcast production companies should be doing. Could you imagine a company not syncing channels and the conversation being all out of whack?!
The moral of the story? When in doubt, ask what things mean practically and don’t be wowed by basic standards of practice being met.
Bonus Tip: If you are a word geek like me, check out Podcast Taxonomy and download the White Paper. It’s a document where multiple people in the industry came together and put a common vernacular to podcast production. Did you know there are 8 different roles under podcast creative direction and 7 under audio post-production? Do you even know what post-production is? You will now. 🙂
Tips on How to Evaluate and Choose the Top Podcast Production Company
Tons of podcast production companies and podcast producers exist. The industry has grown now to the point that people are searching how to start a podcast production company! Point being, you have lots of choices and all companies are not created equal.
Ask yourself the following questions when choosing who you want to work with:
Do You Need a Podcast Specialist or Podcast Production Team?
Do you need a person (like an audio editor) or a podcast production team? If you plan on handing off most of the work or are looking for the full service podcast production, hire a team. They will be better equipped to properly handle all of the moving pieces of your podcast and complete it in a timely manner.
Individual podcast producers are good for specific tasks like audio editing but struggle with handling multiple tasks and clients at scale. The other trade off is teams cost more than individuals.
Does the Podcast Production Team Specialize?
Specialization can be viewed in 3 different ways:
- In the services offered
- In the type of shows produced
- In the content area focus
What Services Does the Company Offer?
I’m hesitant anytime I see a service company say they are specialists and then list a ridiculous amount of services they provide. For example:
“We specialize in web design, web development, affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, email, SMS, app development, search engine optimization, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, display ads, audio ads, video production, podcast production, search, dropshipping, eCommerce, SaaS…”
No you don’t. That’s not specialization. Stop it.
For this reason, it’s important to know what is reasonably considered specialization in the podcast space and what to watch out for.
“Strategy is making trade-offs in competing. The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. Without tradeoffs, there would be no need for choice and thus no need for strategy.”—Michael E. Porter, What Is Strategy?
Some agencies will focus on a specific task in the production process and others will focus on all of the tasks in the podcast process. Both of these are reasonable.
For example, you can go to Upwork and search for a podcast or audio editor. They might specialize in only audio editing or do audio and video work. However, it’s very difficult for an individual to handle all the steps of the podcast process at scale for multiple clients.
On the other hand, many agencies have teams to handle the whole process at scale. For example, we offer full-service podcast production and focus on 4 areas:
- Tracking Progress
In order to offer all of that, we have specialized project managers, audio engineers, music composers and sound designers, producers and copywriters, and graphic designers to handle the full service podcast production.
The only way to actually specialize is to have the experience and time doing the service and/or the talent on your team to handle all the different skills necessary.
Watch out for digital marketing agencies that are trying to break into the podcast industry. I’m seeing more of this lately and have been approached by a handful of marketing agencies trying to learn this space.
It might be a “red flag” if you’re considering a digital marketing firm that offers podcast services alongside a bunch of other non-related services.
What Podcast Formats Does the Company Specialize In?
Generally speaking, there are a few different styles of podcasts you can produce:
- A mixture of the two
Does the production company you are considering specialize in a style? If so, what style and how do you know?
Try to find a company that has significant experience creating the style of show you are interested in making.
Watch out for language like “we can do that” or a lack of evidence for the desired show type. This is especially true for narrative shows. Narrative shows require a tremendous amount of planning, interviewing, scripting, editing, revising, more interviewing, more scripting, composing, and… you get the point. Just because someone produced an interview-based podcast DOES NOT mean they can produce a narrative podcast.
Even professionals with experience in similar fields don’t always know what to do. I recently had a discovery session with an award winning radio talent and a recognized movie director. They could outclass me in story development and execution but they did not know how to produce a podcast.
Does the Company Specialize in a Specific Content Area or Vertical?
Another way podcast production companies specialize is by focusing on specific content or on a vertical. I know of agencies who specialize in real estate, business-to-business (B2B), and even in farming.
Not kidding. We lost a bid for an agricultural podcast to a podcast agency that specializes in farming podcasts. Crazy times…
This can be a factor in who to hire but I prefer to look at a company’s expertise. For example, we are currently producing podcasts for health care, real estate, media sales, massage therapy, air purification, home services, and executive leadership.
Do we need to be an expert in each one of those areas? Nope. Our clients are experts in the content and help us with the nuances we should understand. We’re experts in helping them get results with their podcasts and those principles are the same no matter the content.
Is the Podcast Producer Actually an Expert?
There are a decent amount of people and companies trying to get in on the podcast wave. I very much have an abundance mentality when it comes to work in the podcast space. It is exciting to be a part of an industry growing and evolving so quickly. However, many of these newer and younger podcasters have no business saying they are experts and often give terrible advice.
For example, in researching for this article I came across one company that stated their CEO put together two popular podcasts so they knew the niche “inside and out.” Two podcasts and you’re experts now? Please, tell me more…
You have to vet the help you are considering. Get them on the phone or on a Zoom call. Ask them questions about how they work, what their favorite projects are, and what projects were the most difficult. Get them to send you examples and testimonials or case studies. If possible, talk to some of their clients.
Watch out for disconnects in what the website portrays and what the sales person says. It’s easy to fake expertise online.
For example, I know of one production company who word-for-word copy/pasted another production company’s homepage. It’s my friend’s company and he found out because the thief was stupid enough to leave the hyperlinks that pinged back to the original website!
Don’t let yourself be duped by someone like this.
What Systems and Processes Does the Production Company Use?
Another sign of an expert is that they have clear systems and processes. Processes take time to develop, document, follow, and refine. They make high-quality work consistent and easily repeatable.
As noted earlier, we follow a 4-part process:
- Track Progress
We have Basecamp templates designed to spin up new projects with the press of a button and a company wiki with corresponding how-tos for every step of producing a results-driven podcast. It makes it incredibly easy to get our team on the same page and is part of the reason our fulfillment flows so smoothly.
Whoever you decide to work with should have tested and proven processes and systems.
Who Will Be Working on Your Podcast?
This is an important factor to find out about when vetting companies. Who is going to be working on your podcast? Sometimes it’s the person who sells you the service. Sometimes it’s not. Some companies keep service in-house and others contract to editors from other countries. Some companies put dedicated individuals or teams on your show. Others put your episodes in a cue and they are edited by whoever is available first.
For my team, we keep everything in-house (no random outsourcing) and we organize our team so the same people are working on the same projects. You’ll likely talk to me for the sales call and if you decide to go with us, I’ll get you introduced to your project manager who runs the day-to-day. And in the rare occurrences when someone else needs to jump in and help because of emergencies or vacations, we have clear systems to keep your podcast consistent.
What are You Actually Paying For?
The cost of podcast production services varies greatly. It can range from ten dollars per episode to thousands of dollars per episode. In most cases, the cost should be justified depending on what kind of show you’re producing and what kind of podcast services the product team is providing.
However, you should watch out for unnecessarily inflated costs. Some teams have physical locations and large offices. This creates higher overhead and business expenses that typically get factored into your quotes. Also, the teams who aren’t experts or don’t have systems in place (covered above) run inefficiently and thus have higher costs (or don’t know how to properly price to begin with). Another area you may see this in is how the company handles things like episode revisions or out-of-scope work.
For us, our team is fully remote and distributed. We’ve been running it that way since the beginning in 2014. We are intentional with the tools and softwares we invest in and we run a tight and mighty team. The result? We are able to put the costs towards getting the work done well. We focus on what matters.
Where is the Production Team Located?
Similar to if the production company has a physical location, I noticed many people search the phrases “podcast production in (specific city)” or “podcast production near me.”
It isn’t necessary to be near the production team you want to hire. With today’s technology, working fully remote is completely acceptable and often preferred. My whole team and all of our clients are remote.
Only in special circumstances will you need to be in the same location. For example, if you want to rent studio space to record. However, even then, you don’t need a podcast studio. Most general audio recording studios are well equipped (even better equipped) to help you record a podcast.
What are the Company’s Values?
This one is extremely important but difficult to judge. Many companies haven’t thought about their values (especially if they are young) or they have values they don’t practice.
Values are the way companies do business. They act as a guide for how a company conducts itself. Every company has them, it’s just nice to know what they actually are before entering into an agreement.
Our values became very clear when we started using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to run our business in 2019. EOS is a simple system that has had a huge (positive) impact on our business.
We have 4 values that guide everything we do: Charity, Expertise, Intentionality, and Integrity (you can read how we define them on the Come Alive Creative About page). They guide how the team is held accountable, how we conduct ourselves in business, and how we plan for the future.
Do You Get Along?
This is an often underrated yet seriously influential piece of success. Podcasting is a longtail move. We’ve been working with some of our clients for over 4 years. Other clients have come back to work with us more than once. Long term relationships don’t work if you aren’t committed and enjoy the company of the other person.
Again, talk to the team you will be working with. Listen to your gut and choose the company who can do the job and who you want to work with.
Watch out for companies who say yes to everyone. Not everyone is a good fit. We turn away prospects for a variety of reasons and that’s ok. We love what we do and want to continue loving what we do while working with amazing clients!
Also watch out for companies who treat you as a number. You can usually tell this if they talk more about themselves, what they can do, and/or the sale. It’s a huge red flag if they aren’t asking you questions about your needs or they aren’t listening in general. Companies like this typically don’t care and you get nickel and dimed for it later.
“We chose Come Alive Creative over the competition because, in all sincerity, they cared more.”
Cheryl McRaeDirector of Corporate Marketing, Scorpion
7 Recommendations of Top Podcast Companies
There is a lot to consider when hiring a podcast production company. Hopefully this article has given you insight into how to choose the right podcasting help for your goals and needs.
With that said, I want to offer a few suggestions of companies to consider. But Jeff, why are you suggesting your competition?!
Because I really want you to find the best help.
I actually believe there is plenty of work to go around.
Podcasting is an amazing medium to work with and it’s my hope you can find the perfect fit for your company.
A few notes:
- Tons of production teams exist.
- I know some of the following companies personally and others I don’t.
- No one has asked to be on the list (and for the love of all things holy, do not email me asking to include your company).
- I am not receiving affiliate sales or commissions for these recommendations.
These are just a few companies I appreciate and respect.
Come Alive Creative
If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s us. We are focused on producing results-driven podcast and we currently help our clients in two ways:
- Full service podcast production: Everything you need to plan, produce, publish, and track your progress. This is our most popular service and our typical partners for this service are marketing specialists and teams of larger organizations.
- The Podcast Launch System: This is the group course we started offering at the beginning of 2021 and it takes you from not understanding how to podcast to launching a results-driven podcast within a few months. The system is based completely off of the processes our team uses for our full service productions and it’s been refined by 6 years worth of experience. Our typical students are business owners, entrepreneurs, and experts who want to take all of the guesswork out of launching a show.
Lower Street is a next-level podcast production agency for ambitious companies. It’s based in the UK and headed up by Harry Morton. Lower Street’s current ideal clients are 7 and 8 figure agencies and enterprise companies.
Despite “technically” being each other’s competition, Harry and I try to connect regularly to discuss many issues and wins around running a podcast production company. Harry is a standup gent and I would absolutely trust him with my podcast.
“We partner with agencies and enterprise companies who want to produce the best podcast in their industry to drive thought leadership, brand awareness, or new business. Having created thousands of episodes with our clients, we’ve learned what it takes to produce a next-level show that stands out from the crowd to build a loyal, highly engaged audience.”—Harry Morton, Lower Street
Solid Gold Studios
Solid Gold is a podcast studio based out of South Africa and led by Gavin Kennedy. They currently help the DIY, small business, and large corporations but are unique in that they offer studio space and production.
I’ve only been able to chat with Gavin a few times but I’m good friends with a few people who use his team for their podcast needs. Gavin knows his stuff and the shows I’ve heard him produce are solid.
“To be understood, you must first be heard!”—Gavin Kennedy, Solid Gold Studios
Sweet Fish Media
Sweet Fish Media is another podcast company specializing in B2B podcasts. I haven’t worked with them personally but I follow James Carbary on social media (along with a few other people on his team) and think he really knows his stuff.
Their ideal customer is VP of marketing of a SaaS company with 50-50,000 employees.
“Sweet Fish is a B2B podcast agency, powered by a fully remote team of creatives and strategists. They’re on a mission to leverage B2B podcasting to foster meaningful relationships that make work & life more fun.”—James Carbary, Sweet Fish
Cashflow is a podcast launch service and production company founded by Ben Krueger. Their target audience is coaching, consulting & personal brands looking to scale their audience and client base through high-value podcasting for their communities.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Ben once and know someone from his team. While I’m not very familiar with the production of Cashflow’s shows, I respect the way Ben handles business and think his team has a good reputation. His team and my team service different target segments so we often send each other prospects when they are a better fit with the other.
“You be the topic expert and the host, and partner with a team of professionals to help you host a world class podcast that gets you more clients.”—Ben Krueger, Cashflow Podcasting
Heard Pods is an audio/video production company that empowers entrepreneurs and executives co-founded by Adam Vazquez. Heard is another company that I’m not as familiar with their production but I have known Adam for a while.
Adam is a smart and savvy businessman. He has been very intentional about the company he’s helping build and the clients he’s serving.
“We started Heard to embrace a hobby (audio + storytelling) but have since scaled by hiring incredibly talented producers and marketers to lead our clients’ shows.”—Adam Vazquez, Heard Pods
Pacific Content helps clients amplify their voices and connect with their audiences through originally branded audio content. They are working with big companies like Ford, Adobe, and Charles Schwab.
I haven’t interacted with Pacific Content directly but I have a ton of respect for their team and the work they produce. I mostly follow Dan Misener and appreciate his insights on podcast development and the state of the industry. If you’re looking for a thorough narrative-style production, check out Pacific Content.
Thanks again for reading. Deciding on a podcast production company for your team can be difficult and confusing. Hopefully this article will help you on your journey. If you have any additional questions, reach out to me on LinkedIn (I talk about podcasting a lot there) or sign up for our newsletter series to see if having a podcast is right for your business.