Podcasting and podcast promotion matters for professionals looking to grow their digital marketing presence and the 2019 Podcast Consumer Report reveals continued positive trends. According to Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer, several stats from the report are critical:
- 70% of Americans have heard of podcasts (up from 64% in 2018)
- 51% of Americans (12 or older) have listened to a podcast (20 million more than last year)
- 32% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly (up from 26% last year)
- Nearly one-quarter of Americans listen to podcasts weekly (up 5% percent from last year)
- 40% of Americans 54 or younger listen to podcasts monthly
- Podcast listeners are more likely to earn $75,000+ per year
- 93% of podcast fans listen to most of an episode
- 54% of podcast listeners are more likely to consider buying an advertised product
Now is the best time to have a podcast.
The barrier to entry is much lower in podcasting than other popular mediums today. In fact, podcasting has an unfair advantage over other kinds of marketing. Some argue that podcasts are more popular than blogs and it’s hard to ignore the massive acquisitions and adaptations happening in the space.
Since we switched the direction of my company to focus solely on podcast strategy and production in 2017, we have seen first hand the value and potential that podcasts hold for companies and brands. Podcasting is on the rise, and the best time to jump in is now.
If you are intentional with what you produce and how you grow your podcast, podcasting can bring you real results.
Podcast Promotion: How Do I Grow My Audience?
This is a question I see being asked often. After doing a few quick Google searches, most of the results sound good in theory but don’t have much evidence to back them up. To remedy this, I’ve compiled evidence from our experiences producing podcasts combined with some real numbers and research.
We’ll approach answering this question from a few different angles:
- What to do before you launch vs. after you launch your podcast.
- How to promote to existing listeners compared to non-listeners.
- The 8 action items you can start using now to see positive results.
Before Launching Your Podcast
Anytime we’re approached by a new prospect wanting to produce a podcast, I ask a few questions including:
- What is the goal of your podcast/what are you hoping to accomplish with it?
- Who is your target market?
What is your goal?
You want to define what success looks like before you start anything. Most people think about total downloads or listens as the main factor of podcast success. That’s not always the case.
For example, lots of impressions and broad podcast promotion aren’t always the top concern for the clients we’re working with. As Seth Godin writes, it often makes more sense to reach the right people rather than all the people.
One of the shows we’re currently producing is The Sharpest Tool for Scorpion. One goal is to produce content that will help educate the home service professionals they work with, so engagement is an important metric for our success.
At the time of writing this article, over half of our episodes have a 78% or better consumption rate and several episodes surpass 110% consumption, which means those episodes are being listened to more than once. We are letting that information help guide our decisions moving forward and thus creating a podcast that is achieving one of its main goals: engagement. Consumption rate is a big determiner for our show and many others.
The majority of people creating a podcast are looking to get something out of everything they are putting into it. There are many ways to have a successful return on investment with your podcast. Determining what that looks like upfront and making it your goal is step one.
Who is your target market?
The other factor you need to know is who is your target market. It’s very tempting to come up with an idea, record it, and publish it to the web. However, your chances of success will be much higher if you research your ideal audience in advance.
It’s a tried and true principle followed by many of the best marketers I know. Scorpion’s Chief Marketing Officer Corey Quinn discussed it in terms of knowing your customer and perfecting your list on my podcast. Neil Patel cites another study where 34% of 2,000 U.S. adults “broke up” with a brand because they were receiving poor marketing messages. Kai Davis talks about it in terms of focusing on a specific audience as a consultant on the WP-Tonic podcast and I was able to discuss it in terms of conversion copywriting with Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hackers.
Knowing who you are talking to, where they are, and what they care about are all critical factors for your podcast’s success.
How I applied these principles before launching episodes of Creative Marketing Brief.
Our team recently launched a new podcast for marketers and digital professionals, Creative Marketing Brief. The show is a 90-second, daily podcast designed to quickly inform the listener of actionable or inspirational tips on being a better marketer.
As outlined above, I put a lot of research into answering those two questions in the context of this project before I ever recorded an episode:
- I surveyed several digital marketers on their pain points to learn they needed a quick and easy way to curate information and stay informed.
- I analyzed my personal podcast to see which topics and guests drew the most interest.
- My team and I researched places like Quora, blog comments, and Reddit to see what my target audience was talking about.
- My team and I reviewed marketing books on Amazon to see what was rated well and what people were saying in the comments.
It was only after doing those things that I started creating episodes. As a result, our little 90-second show saw over 500 downloads within the first three weeks of launch and it is currently growing by over 30% a week without much additional promotion.
Additional factors for a successful launch.
Sound quality and content matter. I occasionally run across debates of which is more important: sound quality or content? The short answer is, yes.
Think of it like a pair of scissors. You can’t cut effectively without both blades. In the same way, sound quality and content are necessary for an excellent podcast.
At my company Come Alive Creative, we focus on these three characteristics of amazing podcasts:
Think of your favorite popular podcast. I bet it is technically edited (sound quality and style), strategically organized (both as seasons and episodes and in how it’s accomplishing its goal), and that it sounds human (natural, appealing, and interesting to listen to).
Good podcast promotion doesn’t matter if you have a bad show.
Whether you are preparing for launch or already have a running podcast, make sure it’s the best it can be.
How to Promote to Existing Podcast Listeners and Non-Podcast Listeners
Another important distinction we should make regarding podcast promotion is the difference between marketing or promoting podcasts to people who already listen to podcasts and people who don’t.
Who you are marketing to will be different depending on your goals and the style of your podcast. The methods I discuss later are more appropriate for existing podcast listeners, so let’s spend a bit of time understanding how to onboard the non-listener.
They don’t know what you know.
Like any specialized field, there is a barrier to entry. There are acronyms and jargon we use as podcasters or podcast listeners that not everyone understands.
If you watch this interview that Edison Research conducted about podcasting with people who have never listened to a podcast before, you might be surprised at how little people know about podcasts.
It’s eye-opening. People who own iPhones don’t even realize they have a podcasting app already installed! We have to promote to people who have never listened to a podcast before differently.
Talk about podcasting differently.
Tom Webster gave an excellent session at Podcast Movement 2018 where he argued that we need to do a better job explaining podcasting to the general public. He emphasized that the language we use matters.
“Show” is an easier term to understand compared to “podcast.” The word “listen” is much simpler than “subscribe.” Non-listeners don’t understand how to subscribe and can think it requires a payment. Pretend you’re talking to a grandparent—would it be easier for them to “listen to your show” or “subscribe to your podcast?”
Meet people where they are.
Dan Misener from Pacific Content calls this concept “growing the pie” and covers many great examples of this in his How to Grow a Podcast Audience CreativeLive course. Think about where people who don’t know about podcasts are and how you might be able to reach them. Examples include:
- Event flyers
Misener highlights that it’s also important to consider how you promote:
- Series-level promotion vs. Episode-level promotion. Think of how HBO promotes Game of Thrones as a series compared to how they tease an episode.
8 Actionable Ways to Improve Your Podcast Promotion
Now that we’ve covered the basics of making an excellent show and understanding who you’re talking to, let’s look at eight ways we’ve experienced or witnessed podcast growth.
Remember, there is no one way to do this and this list is in no particular order. Factors like your goal(s), audience, and skillset will all affect what you do and how you do it.
1. Consistency is key!
This is one of the most tried and true tips for podcast promotion we’ve discovered and I mean consistency in most senses of the word.
- Frequency – Whether you’re posting daily, weekly, or bi-weekly, find your rhythm and stick with it.
- Duration – Podcast length also benefits from consistency. While the “best length” for your podcast varies, making it consistent from episode to episode helps the listener know what to expect.
For example, one of our prior clients posted new episodes weekly and over the course of 10 weeks we were able to increase their listenership by 16%. After some issues came up on the client’s side, he wasn’t able to publish new episodes for three weeks in a row. As a result, we saw listenership drop by 30%.
2. Be a guest on other people’s podcasts.
Many positive results can come from guesting on other people’s podcasts. For example, MeetEdgar was able to accomplish several major milestones through guest podcasting:
- 1.25 million site visitors
- 100,000 email subscribers
- $329,000+ in monthly recurring revenue
The funniest part? They did it all without a podcast. They simply guested on 100 podcasts.
I’ve experienced some of this success as well. I was featured on an episode of the Matt Report in March of this year and both Matt and I encouraged the listeners to go check out my personal podcast. My monthly listenership doubled by April! I also had a prospect reach out to me specifically because he heard me on that podcast. We closed a deal with his company within a few weeks.
I’ve also been featured on the Podcast Hackers podcast over the past few weeks where I promoted my personal podcast and our new Creative Marketing Brief podcast. Since then, my personal podcast has seen a 22.4% increase in downloads from last week and Creative Marketing Brief increased by 31.1%.
I don’t entirely contribute the growth to only the podcast guest appearances but they do play a strong factor.
3. Cross-promote on other podcasts.
Podcast “cross-pollination” can be incredibly effective for podcast promotion. This means trading segments or entire episodes with other similar casts; you feature them and they feature you. In one case, a podcaster saw an increase of 100,000 overall downloads within a month of doing a podcast swap.
In another case involving Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories podcast, he went from a few thousand downloads per month to 100,000 downloads per month after being featured on Snap Judgement.
Find similar shows and see if it makes sense to arrange some cross-promotion.
4. Leverage the visual and written components of your podcast.
Podcasts aren’t just audio. You have the cover art, titles, excerpts, show notes, and transcriptions. These aspects should be utilized to help your podcast promotion be more visually appealing, discoverable, and accessible for your audience.
Podcasting is a surprisingly visual medium. Take a look at your podcast player. Which of the podcast covers stand out to you? According to an email conversation I had with Andy Crestodina, CMO and Co-founder of Orbit Media, there are three main design traits that help your podcast stand out from the crowd:
- Large text with strong contrast
- Elements surrounded by whitespace
This is a big reason I used a picture of my wife mock listening to a podcast on the cover of Podcast Bytes.
Dan Misener goes on to argue the same thing in his CreateLive course Product Packing for Podcasts.
“I would argue that your very first job is research… Before you begin, or if you’re thinking about a rebrand, you wanna go through and look at what is out there. You need very strong, very visually compelling artwork. And a great place to start is right here on your computer desktop iTunes… They tend not to feature crummy artwork. Even if it’s a great show that has crummy artwork, that may be a ding against it and they may not feature it.”
Along with the audio, every podcast episode has a written component and this means elements like titles and search engine optimization (SEO) matter. Copywriting is far too big of a topic for me to cover in depth in this article, but because it holds serious weight, I’ve highlighted the basics necessary for strong copy.
Consider the basic elements of each episode:
The Title – this should be clear and engaging.
The Excerpt or Summary – this is what is typically featured on the different podcast platforms and apps as well as the post excerpt on your website. Again, briefly give the listener a reason to listen to your show. Make it concise and interesting.
Show Notes – This is the longer form copy that is typically on the website post associated with your podcast. Treat this as you would a blog post. Keywords and phrases matter for the post’s SEO, so make sure you’re listening to trustworthy sources for advice (yes, SEO matters in podcasting).
Transcriptions – There is a prevailing misconception that transcriptions are good for SEO. While I’ve seen little evidence to support this claim, they should be included for accessibility reasons. I literally had a conversation about this earlier this week.
Many people live with a disability. According to disability specialist Kait Paschall, 20% of adults living in the U.S and the U.K. report having a long-lasting disability and 70% of disabilities are invisible. In addition, your audience might not be in a position where they can listen to the podcast episode but they still want a way to consume the information. Transcriptions are a great way to share your episodes beyond their audio versions and reach a larger audience.
A few transcription solutions:
- Rev – Great for accurate, quick transcriptions that are typically post-ready.
- Trint – Great for affordable, quick transcriptions. We typically use Trint for when we need raw internal notes. There are a fair amount of mistakes so you should review them before posting on your website.
Additional resources for learning how to improve your podcast copy.
- Copy Hackers – Joanna Wiebe is one of my favorite copywriters and the resources she provides on Copy Hackers are excellent.
- StoryBrand: Creating stories that stick! – This is my summary of all of StoryBrand Founder Don Miller’s free courses and material. It would be helpful for creating your podcast website.
- Moz Blog – An excellent SEO resource.
- Yoast Blog – Another excellent SEO resource.
- Backlinko – More excellence.
5. Craft your call to action (CTA).
This is an interesting concept in podcast promotion because there is a lot of conflicting advice. Some people like Jonathan Messinger from the Finn Caspian podcast argues that no one has the answer, while Dave Jackson from School of Podcasting thinks you should have one clear and concise CTA.
Even in my recent interview on Podcast Hackers, the host Craig Hewitt mentioned seeing a positive difference when he limited his CTA to “share this episode with someone who will benefit from it.” Listening fueled by sharing is an idea Podnews recently wrote about as well.
Here’s what I think:
- Look cross-industry – Only recently are podcasters digging into the concrete numbers. Digital marketers have been tracking everything since forever. Look for good resources on CTA best practices from them and see what you can test on your podcast. Hubspot’s 31 Call-to-Action Examples You Can’t Help but Click is a good place to start.
- Make it easy – You need to remember that two-thirds of people are listening to podcasts via mobile and smart speaker, up 10% from last year. People aren’t sitting in front of their computers. Make your CTA simple for them. I try to shoot for one simple, easy to remember CTA and I try to repeat it at least twice. Experiment with the ways you can say the same thing differently: “Listen to the new episode at JeffLarge.com” or “Just Google Jeff Large Podcast for the latest episode.”
- Break the norm – One universal truth is that the human brain learns to filter out what is unnecessary. It’s the reason we learned to ignore banner ads and sliders in web design, why I’m so sick of being asked to “smash the like button” and to “jump into it” by YouTubers, or why I always skip the pre-recorded sponsor rants on the Tim Ferriss podcast. It’s the same reason presentation specialist Rich Mulholland argues that you shouldn’t put your logo on every slide of your presentation. How can you make your CTA stand out from what your listener has grown to expect?
- Self-promote – I send people to the website where my podcast lives. Social media networks and podcast directories are designed to keep people on-site and engaged. I don’t want to give them more users; I want to get more people interacting with my content.
6. Be discoverable.
This is a given for podcast promotion but it can be complicated and overlooked. Make sure you submit your podcast’s RSS feed to all of the major distribution networks so it can be found easily, anywhere.
Here are the platforms we make sure to include whenever launching a new show:
Google Play (Google Podcasts typically gets added automatically and you can check here)
7. Repurpose your content.
If you aren’t recycling or reusing your content in at least three different ways, you’re doing your audience and yourself a disservice. This is a subject I’m passionate about and have written and spoken on several times. In short, it’s a better strategy for maximizing your content’s reach while saving you time.
At a basic level, all of the podcasts we produce have show notes. As stated above, our show notes include an excerpt and notes, typically with some quotes. The excerpts are intended to be easily reused in newsletter promotion for the episode and the quotes are turned into social media copy, images, and/or audiograms.
It’s one of the many ways to stretch your content further.
Social media, while often a vanity metric, can work well for podcast promotion when used properly.
According to Edison Research, “Podcast listeners are much more active on every social media channel (94% are active on at least one – vs 81% for the entire population).”
Plenty of social media experts exist and I think it’s worth finding a good platform specialist(s) and listening to them. That said, there are two principles we use in our campaigns:
- Sell the story, not the medium – This goes back to using the right language. People don’t typically care that you released a new episode. We’re dealing with the attention economy and time is the most scarce resource we have. If you want to get someone to click play on your link, you need to sell why the guest is interesting, what the listener will learn from it, or why they should listen at all.
- Understand the platform – Each social media network is different and requires its own touch. For example, audiograms or short informative posts work well on Twitter, whereas medium-length, personal reflections on episodes seem to work well on LinkedIn. While some universal truths exist for social media, you don’t have to have a presence on all of them. Pick the platforms that work for your target audience and use them well.
Ready to Improve Your Podcast Promotion?
As you’ve learned from by now, podcast promotion is constantly evolving. There are no “silver bullets” and every podcast and podcast audience is different. You can expect this article to be revisited and updated often. For now, I want to encourage you on your journey.
The best time to start a podcast is now. Tomorrow will be harder. I was just having this conversation with a marketing friend – just imagine if we started three years sooner than we did? Five years? 10 years?
If you’ve already started one, kudos to you! Now, take some of the things you’ve learned and make it even better.
If you’re looking for a turnkey solution for your business’ or organization’s podcast, sign up below to receive our four-part process explaining how we produce podcasts and more information on how we might be able to help you.
All the best and happy podcasting!