The first ever podcast premiered in 2003 as “Radio Open Source.”
In 2005, “podcast” was named word of the year.
By 2016, 21% of the U.S. population had reportedly listened to at least one podcast in the last month – up from 17% the year before and just 9% in 2008.
It’s safe to say that increased consumer mobility has helped drive this surge in listeners (64% of podcasts are listened to on a smartphone or tablet), but it’s impossible to deny that the nature of the format itself – it’s like independent radio on demand – has contributed to the rise of the podcast, too.
So what does this mean for businesses that want to make podcasting part of their marketing strategy?
It means the ability to target your audience with content they can consume on their terms.
It means the chance to make a deeper personal connection with your audience.
And it means increased brand awareness across new platforms where potential new customers might be hiding.
But that’s not really why you’re here.
Podcasts can, of course, also be used as a lead generation tool – something I’ll show you how to do very shortly.
But first I’m going to run through the groundwork involved in creating and recording podcasts.
If you’re already hosting a podcast, you can skip to the second section of this post, “How to Make a Podcast People Want to Listen To,” or, if you’re confident in your podcasting abilities, straight to the third section, “How to Generate Leads from Your Podcast”.
Everyone else, just stick with me and I’ll begin by showing you what you need to set up and launch your first-ever podcast.
Starting a Podcast
There are a few things you’ll need to purchase and prepare before you can get started and record your first podcast.
A microphone – sound quality is seriously important, so buy the best one you can afford. Here’s a list of some of the best microphones currently on the market, at a variety of price points, from $37 to $375.
Audio editing software – this is essential for polishing up your recording and releasing a professional-sounding product. Audacity comes highly recommended. It’s relatively simple to use, as well as being free and open source.
A niche – if you’re already blogging, it makes sense for your podcast to serve as an extension of this (i.e. cover the same themes). If you’re not already blogging, choose a niche that:
- You’re an expert in (or close enough).
- Will see you facing limited competition from other podcasters.
A name – avoid getting too creative here. Choose something that’s simple and descriptive (for example, the name of my podcast series with Aaron Agius is simply “Growth Mapping Podcast”). This helps potential listeners find you, and figure out whether your show is relevant to their interests.
Artwork – you’ll also need a “cover” for your show that you can use when uploading episodes, as well as in any accompanying marketing materials. Again, this doesn’t need to be anything groundbreaking, but it should be:
- Attractive, and
Here’s another example from our podcast:
A place to host it – hosting your podcast on your website is a possibility, but large file sizes will slow your site down (and your hosting company is unlikely to be too happy about it, either). There are a number of alternatives to hosting your podcast locally. I use Soundcloud, primarily because it gives me easy access to their massive audience (more than 175 million monthly users worldwide).
An RSS feed – you’ll receive this upon hosting your podcast. You’ll need it to share your podcast on other sites (such as iTunes). We’ll talk about this in more detail later.
How to Make a Podcast People Want to Listen To
Needless to say, if no one’s listening to your podcast, you’re going to have a hard time generating leads from it.
Here are a few things I make sure to do before and during each episode of my show.
So you might think you can get away with not preparing for your podcast because you can edit it later. I know many people who follow a similar process when writing blog posts, but in my experience you’ll get better results if you start with an outline. This is even more important when creating a podcast, since editing can only hide so much.
While I won’t go as far as writing a script (I know some podcasters do, and if that works for them that’s fine, but in my opinion it’s hard to hide that you’re reading from one), I will use my outline.
My outline will generally include:
- Splitting the podcast into clearly-defined sections, with approximate timings for each one (sticking to a schedule helps to prevent hosts from falling into the trap of spending too much time on a single topic, and being forced to rush through subsequent sections).
- Writing bullet point reminders of everything I want to cover.
Here’s an example from one of my podcast outlines:
Of course, exactly what I include at this stage will depend on the “type” of podcast I’m planning. If I were interviewing someone, I’d prepare the questions I want to ask, and estimate how long I think we should spend on each answer.
Choose timely topics people care about
Again, I approach this in the same way I approach writing blog posts. This includes:
- Using long-tail keyword research tools (like Answer the Public and Ubersuggest) to find questions and phrases people are searching for that could be expanded upon in a podcast.
- Using Buzzsumo (or similar tools) to find trending topics, or establish how well something I’m considering covering has performed for others.
- Looking at the questions my audience is asking me. This might be in my on-site search results, in blog comments, or in the conversations I’m having with them.
Make it entertaining
It kind of goes without saying that podcasters who entertain as well as educate will find it easier to grow their audiences and in turn, get a better ROI.
Unfortunately, “how to be entertaining” isn’t the easiest thing to teach. It comes much more easily to some people than to others, and if you try too hard, you’ll sound forced and unnatural (which might be entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons).
That said, here are three simple things that help make my podcasts more entertaining. Try to bear them in mind when recording.
- Be yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to joke.
- Keep things lighthearted and don’t take yourself, or your podcast, too seriously.
Personalize your podcast
Audiences respond better to people they feel they can connect with – whether that’s in a blog post or a video, or on a podcast.
Thankfully, it’s easier to connect with your audience in a podcast than a blog post (and easier again in a video). Or it is, if…
You use your authentic voice.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Allow your personality to come across as you talk (a good tip is to try imagining that you’re talking to a friend, but you need to err a little on the side of caution because your mother’s in the room).
In addition to this, help your audience get to know you by sharing facts about yourself and using your own experiences to add context to the subjects covered.
Prioritize sound quality
As mentioned earlier, a good quality microphone goes a long way, but it’s far from the only factor that will help enhance your podcast’s sound quality.
Choose the best available recording space – ideally a quiet room with soft furnishings. Avoid rooms with too many hard, flat surfaces, since these reflect sound and cause reverb.
Record in a high resolution – ideally 24 bit, 48 kHz. This will help you retain sound quality if the file needs to be compressed.
Record remote guests separately – the sound quality on VoIP services is generally quite poor. It’ll sound even worse next to a high-resolution recording. Instead, record in each location separately and merge the files together later. You can also use Zencastr which does exactly that.
Edit your podcast for sound quality – editing can help improve content flow. It can also help improve sound quality. Set your podcast to the industry standard for volume (-16LUFS for stereo, -19LUFS for mono) and leverage features that allow you to filter out unwanted noises and frequencies.
How to Generate Leads from Your Podcast
Now that you know how to launch a podcast and how to ensure people want to listen to what you have to say, let’s talk about how to turn it into an effective lead-generation tool, beginning with…
CTAs are going to be the most important element of your podcast when it comes to generating leads, but where you include them and what you ask your audience to do is critical.
Where to include CTAs
As with any form of content, not all your listeners are going to stick around until the end of the podcast (in many cases, the majority of them will be gone long before you wrap up). This means if you’re only including CTAs at the end of your podcasts, you’re probably (almost definitely, in fact) missing out on a huge number of leads.
While you should certainly include a CTA as you wrap up (or just before) you should also include them…
At the start of the podcast
By this I mean during your introduction, before you launch into the main portion of the content. I don’t mean that the first words out of your mouth should be a call-to-action.
Just before the majority of listeners switch off
As I mentioned above, few listeners will stay until the end of a podcast (in fact, around 3% will only listen to the very beginning) and understandably, abandonment rates increase in line with the length of the podcast.
In order to maximize the number of leads you get from those who only listen to a portion of your podcast, look up the average listening time, and include a second CTA a minute or so before that point.
At the end of the podcast
Anyone who’s listened to your podcast in its entirety should be highly engaged (unless they happen to have left the podcast playing and walked away) so needless to say, it makes sense to leverage these listeners to their full potential by wrapping up your podcast with one final CTA.
What to say in your CTAs
Including the right types of CTAs in your podcasts is essential to generating as many leads as possible. Most of your listeners will be at the bottom of the sales funnel, so they won’t respond well (or at all) to CTAs that are designed to get them to buy.
Instead, you should…
Create CTAs that are consistent with the topic of the podcast
Add value to your podcast by creating CTAs that point listeners towards additional, relevant content that will help them explore the topic in more depth.
CTAs need to go further than simply telling listeners about a piece of content and what they need to do to access it. They should also demonstrate the value in acquiring and consuming that content.
Within your CTAs, outline briefly but specifically what listeners will learn from the content. If possible, demonstrate how this information will impact their business, too.
Invite customers onto your show
This is great for relationship-building – and not just with the customers that come on your show. The fact that you’re talking publicly with your customers on a platform like this demonstrates that you’re open and approachable (something that increasing numbers of brands are coming to understand the importance of).
It’s also an excellent way for you to learn more about your customers’ pain points and what changes you might need to make to help them overcome them.
Most importantly however, if you ask your customers what they like about your product or service – why they chose to use it and how it’s specifically benefiting them – it can help you generate leads from your podcast, too.
Host podcasts on customer pain points
Focus episodes on specific customer (or potential customer) pain points, then explore ways to overcome these pain points – both with and without your product.
Again, showing how your product or service can help solve problems that are common to your target audience is a near-foolproof way to drive leads. Just be sure not to focus the episode entirely on your product. The “sales” element of it should be subtle. Include your product as one of a number of ways to solve the pain point in question.
To find these pain points, talk to your customers. What questions are they asking on sales calls, in emails, on social media, or on live chat?
Make sharing details as easy as possible
Arguably, the biggest barrier to generating leads through podcasts is a practical one – when we listen to podcasts, we’re often simultaneously doing something else: driving to work, walking the dog, in the shower, or cooking dinner.
All of these things make acting on a CTA much trickier than when we’re consuming most other forms of content. When we’re reading an article, for example, we’re interacting directly with the device we’d use to respond to the CTA. Completing a form when it’s right in front of us is easy. It’s not so easy when the device being used to consume content is in our pocket or across the room.
Unfortunately, there’s not (at least currently) a perfect solution to this problem. You simply have to make opting-in as pain-free as possible.
Opt-in by text is preferable to asking listeners to visit a page and fill out a form. Services like ez texting will assign you a short, easy-to-remember number. You then ask listeners to send a short message (the shorter the better – something as simple as “yes” or “in” generally works fine) to that number if they want to receive more details or take you up on your offer.
Asking customers to opt-in by email can work too – if your address is short and simple to remember (this also eliminates the need to use a third-party service).
Alternatively, if you’re set on sending people to your site and asking them to fill out a form, direct people to your homepage, not an internal page. Don’t make customers work to find or fill out that form, either. It should be right in front of them as they land on the page and should feature three fields at most – ideally less.
Ask yourself how much information you need, and what’s superfluous (or could be collected later).
Chances are, all you really need is an email address.
Growing Your Audience
Growing your audience – i.e. consistently gaining new listeners – is key to driving leads. That’s not to say that retaining listeners isn’t important – it is – but eventually you’re going to reach saturation point. Most, if not all, of your regular listeners will have converted (by that I mean they’ve handed over their details and are “leads” – not that they’ve necessarily bought anything from you).
If you want new leads (which of course you do) you need to implement a strategy that ensures you’re steadily gaining new listeners.
Let’s run through some of the best methods for reaching potential new listeners and in turn, growing your audience.
Submit your podcast to relevant sites and directories
The more places your podcast appears, the more potential new listeners you can reach, and the easier it will be to grow your audience (bear in mind that you’ll need an RSS feed to submit your podcast to most sites and directories. As mentioned earlier, you’ll receive this once you’ve successfully hosted your podcast).
Google Play is another biggie. Unfortunately Play’s podcasting service is only available to residents of the U.S. and Canada. If that includes you, you can publish your podcast here.
Other sites and services include Stitcher, SoundCloud, Libsyn, PlayerFM, Podcast Directory, iPodder and Pocket Casts. Note that some of these sites actually pull in podcasts directly from the iTunes’ API. That means you won’t need to submit your podcast separately, although you’ll probably want to double check that the site in question has yours listed.
Turn each podcast into a blog post
This will allow you to use the concept, themes and the content itself to reach even more potential leads and drive traffic directly to your site. You can also use the post to boost your podcast listeners, by highlighting where the post originated from, and directing readers to where they can listen to it (along with other podcasts you’ve created).
That said, don’t just transcribe your podcast. Your blog post should be based on your podcast, but it shouldn’t be an exact replica of it. To do this, make sure you:
- Alter your wording to help the content flow.
- Expand on themes.
- Add quotes and sources to back up points.
- Format it as you would any other blog post (with appropriate subheadings, images and so on).
Upload all your podcasts to YouTube
That said, it is a video sharing site – something we need to bear in mind when adding podcasts to it.
Often when audio is added to YouTube, it is accompanied by a single, static image (in place of a video). This makes for a relatively poor user experience.
Instead, try creating slides that add value to YouTube listeners (this will also enable you to leverage the podcast further, if you upload those slides to SlideShare).
Better yet, try filming yourself recording the podcast. This will take some additional work (in terms of materials and editing) but it’s by far the best way to maximize the value you offer to YouTube audiences and the value you get from the site.
Cross-market with your other audiences
Maximize exposure of your podcasts within your existing audiences by promoting it across all relevant channels. This might mean:
- Sending out notifications to your email list (or at least mentioning your podcast within your email newsletters).
- Posting about the podcast on your social media channels (and increasing exposure with paid social).
- Mentioning your podcast when you write a guest post or for whatever reason, appear on another site.
- Including details of your podcast in all offline marketing materials.
Invite influencers onto your show (and cross-market with their audiences)
If you’ve ever asked someone to contribute to a blog post, you’ll be familiar with what’s involved here – in short, you’re locating influential figures in your industry and asking them to appear on your show. You might ask them to join you as a co-host, but more likely, you’ll ask if you can interview them.
This lends credibility to your show (or blog) and can help you reach new audiences (assuming the influencer shares your content with their audience).
That said, I’d encourage you to be a bit more selective when approaching influencers to appear on a podcast than you might be when you’d like someone to, for example, provide a quote for a blog post.
This is because the resulting interaction you’re going to have with this person will be far more personal, with a lot more back-and-forth.
A great interview should flow naturally. It should feel off-the-cuff and like a real conversation – even if most of what you ask is pre-planned. Simply asking a question, waiting for an answer, and asking the next question is poor form – as is asking the same questions the influencer has answered many times before.
“They’ll ask you a question, you’ll give an answer and then you can almost hear their eyes scan the paper they have in front of them as they move on to the next question on the list. It’s disrespectful to the guest, but that’s not my real problem with it. My problem is that it makes for really boring audio.” Ryan Holiday, writing for Thought Catalog
Achieving all of this gets easier the more familiar you are with the person you’re interviewing and their work.
Retarget visitors to your site
Leverage retargeting ads to get your podcast in front of people that have recently visited your site (they offer an excellent return on investment – “a 2x (or higher) ROI is common with retargeting ads.” – Noah Kagan)
You might want to promote your podcast as a whole, or you might want to match visitors to specific episodes of your show that they’re likely to be interested in, based on the actions they took on your site.
For example, let’s say I know someone’s visited this blog post I wrote about why video is my favorite form of content, and that I also know they’ve spent long enough on the page that I can reasonably assume they read the post in its entirety (or pretty much). I might then target them with an ad that promotes episode 22 of my podcast, “How to Leverage Video Marketing for Your Business.”
If you’re new to retargeting, you can find out how to get started here. If you’re familiar with the concept and feel comfortable jumping straight in, you can do this in AdWords, or with a service like AdRoll.
Run ads on Facebook and Twitter
Both Facebook and Twitter’s ad services offer platforms for promoting your podcast (again, as a whole, or specific episodes) to highly-targeted audiences.
You’ll probably want to experiment with targeting ads according to interests…
…as well as – on Twitter – keywords (i.e. users posting tweets that contain your chosen keywords) and followers (i.e. people with similar interests to the followers of the accounts you choose to target).
You might also want to experiment with Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences. To use this feature you’ll need a list of at least 100 email addresses (and at least 100 of them will also need to be registered with a Facebook account).
Facebook then creates a “lookalike” list of users that share similar traits to those in your original list. Once that list is complete, you can promote your podcast to the users within it, who, all being well, will share similar interests to your existing customer or subscriber base.
But what about ad types?
Since you’re promoting content that lives externally to the sites you’re advertising on, you’ll want to choose the “traffic” ad type on Facebook, and on Twitter, “website clicks or conversions.”
Run ads on Overcast
Overcast is a podcast player for iOS products. It’s free, and supported by ads, which means you can use the platform to promote your podcast in the best possible place – right where people will be listening to it.
The price of your ad depends on your niche, but handily, Overcast will tell you approximately how many “taps” (i.e. clicks) and subscribers you can expect for that price.
All ads will run for 30 days from the date of purchase, but it’s well worth noting that ad space is limited (very limited) with only so many “slots” available in each category. That means you’ll have to act fast if you want to advertise on the platform. Thankfully you don’t need to keep checking to see if slots are available in your niche – you can request to receive a notification when one opens up.
Advertise on Quuu Promote
Quuu Promote is the second arm of one of my own products – Quuu. Quuu is a service that hand curates suggestions for social media posts for its users. Quuu Promote helps fuel it. You pay for us to push your content out via our Quuu users to their followers (so long as it meets our quality guidelines).
Pricing is based on a 30-day promotion period and costs between $30 – $50 (depending on your niche). This will generally result in 200-300 shares (this will depend upon the popularity of your niche).
So now you know how to create a quality podcast, grow your audience, and use it to generate leads. Do you have any tips (either for creating podcasts or using one to generate leads) that I’ve not covered here? As always, I’m keen to hear your thoughts – you’ll find the comments just below: