How to Start a Business Podcast That Converts
Before you start a business podcast, you need to clearly define who your ideal listener is in order to create a show that caters to their specific needs.
Business podcasts are popping up at an ever increasing rate as the medium is now expanding beyond the realm of startups and dotcoms. MasterCard has Fortune Favours The Bold, Microsoft has .future, and even McDonalds has The Sauce.
Everyone is trying to get in on the boom. And with good reason. Done right, business podcasts can help companies reach new audiences and get more customers. The problem is, they’re often done wrong.
Nobody wants to hear a 10-episode series about how fantastic your product or service is. They don’t care. Likewise, nobody in their right mind is going to sit through hours of tedious, meandering “banter” hosted by a reheated Joe Rogan imitator. Life is too short.
For some reason, when it comes to business podcasts, companies seem to forget the fact they need to create something people actually want to listen to. If a podcast is bland and uninspiring, no amount of marketing and promotion can save it.
The core tenant of Podcasting 101 is to create a great podcast. There are no shortcuts or hacks. If you aren’t committed to creating compelling audio, you’re never going to land the customers you want. It’s important to understand this first before you start a business podcast.
Is a Business Podcast Worth the Effort?
Starting a business podcast sounds like a lot of work. And it is. So is it really worth all the hassle? Wouldn’t your time and money be better spent on something else? Well, that depends.
As a marketing strategy, podcasting works best for businesses in a well-defined niche with a very specific type of customer. For example, freelance graphic designers who want to get more clients, business thought leaders who need to protect their intellectual property, recent graduates looking for a job etc.
Generally speaking, the narrower your target audience, the better the results you’ll have with podcasting. So if your business sells to a very broad and diverse range of consumers, then podcasting probably isn’t right for you. In those cases, your time and money would be better spent on building a strong social media and paid search presence.
Podcasts Help Businesses Win the War for Attention
But if you are running a niche business, what makes podcasting so effective? In a word, it’s attention.
When listeners hit play on a branded podcast, they are getting a lot of one-on-one time with that company, which is a very valuable proposition. When people listen to a podcast, they often stay engaged for more than 30 minutes at a time. Much longer than they do with the average YouTube video or blog.
Prolonged periods of attention combined with a personal and intimate listening experience is what makes podcasting so powerful. It’s hard to think of another medium that rivals podcasting in terms of quality of engagement. Commenting on the opportunity presented offered by business podcasts, Matt Lieber, co founder and president of Gimlet Media said:
Brands know that podcasts are an effective way to reach an audience that otherwise is hard to reach in an engaging way with a longer story that can only unfold over time.
Remember your podcast doesn’t need to please everyone. The only people that matter are those likely to purchase your product. Podcasting is a unique way to communicate your mission, vision, and values to an audience who actively wants to hear it. So when they do eventually have a need for what you are offering they’ll come straight to your company.
Starting a Business Podcast on a Budget
Brands like MasterCard and Microsoft are now making six-figure investments in their branded podcasts. While still relatively cheap compared to other national media campaigns, obviously this isn’t a feasible investment for most small businesses.
Producing a show that sounds like This American Life requires lots of travel, editing, unique sound beds, and music transitions, which isn’t cheap. Fortunately, businesses can still create great podcasts using much simpler formats.
It all comes down to building a deep understanding of your ideal customers and building a podcast around those insights. Below, we’ll outline a 3 step process that will help you plan and start a business podcast that your ideal listeners will love.
Step 1: Start With Who
If you don’t have a clear idea of who your podcast is for, listeners won’t either. You need to start with the end in mind and build a podcast designed to deliver a specific result to a specific group of people. So before you get going, you need to answer two key questions about your business:
- Who are your best customers?
- Who are your most profitable customers?
- Who do you most enjoy working with?
- Which customers are most likely to refer others to your business?
- What problem do you solve for those customers?
Your answer to the first question should help you define a narrow target audience. These are the people you’ll design your podcast for. As mentioned previously, the more specific this group is, the better results you’ll have.
Of course, as your podcast gets going, it may start to attract other types of listeners too. But without a specific listener in mind, it makes the decision making process much more difficult.
Knowing who your podcast is for and what problem you solve for them makes planning your podcast easy. Ultimately, everything relates back to one simple question:
What is in the best interest of my ideal listeners?
With this in mind, you’ll be ready to begin mapping out a roadmap for your podcast.
Step 2: Choose a Podcast Format, Length, and Style
There are no rules set in stone when it comes to podcasting. There are lots of potential styles and formats that would be valuable to your ideal customers. However, you’ll want to choose one that makes sense for your business and won’t be too labour intensive to produce.
The vast majority of business podcasts tend to fall into two main categories:
Teaching format: Where you simply record yourself talking about a particular subject.
Interview format: Where you bring on guests and interview them about their area of expertise.
Note: Both of these formats also work with a co-host if you don’t feel entirely comfortable presenting on your own.
In terms of managing the workload associated with your podcast, one of the most efficient and flexible formats is to record 30 minute teaching episodes with occasional interviews with guest experts. However you might want to experiment with a different approach. As long as your podcast delivers lots of value for your ideal listeners, that’s all that really matters.
Again, when it comes to frequency, there are no hard and fast rules. But you’ll probably want to maximise your potential reward with the least amount of effort. If that’s the case, then weekly publishing is the way to go. Your audience will still have plenty of content to sink their teeth into, and you won’t be overwhelmed trying to release multiple episodes a week.
Of course, you can publish more frequently if you want. But make sure you have the capacity to take on the extra work. Keep in mind that consistency is key. You need to become part of your listeners regular routine. So when you decide on your publishing schedule, stick to it. Missing or skipping weeks because you are busy can be quite costly in terms of lost listeners.
Step 3: Creating Content that Converts
To create content that converts listeners into customers, you need to give valuable, actionable advice in every episode you publish. Your listeners should be able to get results off the back of your podcast before they even begin working with you. That way, they have proof that you are trustworthy and can actually solve their problem.
Teach, educate, and advise. Don’t sell. In fact, if you try and sell your product or service in your episodes, it’s guaranteed to turn listeners off. That’s not the point of podcasting for businesses. The goal is to demonstrate how knowledgeable you are and that your advice actually works in the real world. So when your listeners want bigger results, they’ll come to you.
The process for creating great content will vary depending on the format of the episode. But whether you’re teaching or interviewing, the goal is to deliver useful information to your listeners as clearly and concisely as possible.
Best Practices for Teaching Formats
If you’re teaching, it’s not enough to simply reel off lots of facts and information in each episode. Doing so makes for a pretty dry and tedious listening experience.
Educational content still needs to entertain, and it should be packaged in a way that will be of most use to listeners. So if you want to help listeners learn from your business podcast, what’s the best way to go about it?
Colin Gray, founder of The Podcast Host, said you need to approach podcasting in the same way a teacher would their lesson plan. Here are 4 key elements he recommends for maximising the learning potential of your podcast:
Give a “Scaffold” in Your Introduction
"This is the bit people often get wrong. They think their introduction should just be a teaser of what’s coming up in the episode. And for certain types of shows, this can work well to help keep listeners engaged. But if your goal is to teach as successfully as possible, you should give them the whole thing up front in summary form.
You’re essentially giving away the punchline at the beginning. Because when people know what’s coming they can better process the information they’re receiving. Whereas if they don’t know what to expect they’ll often struggle to keep up. In education it’s called scaffolding. The introduction to the lesson should give students an overview of what they’re about to learn. This really aids the learning process."
Cover The Theory
"Following your introduction, it’s time to get into theory. This is the part we usually think of as ‘teaching’. You need to communicate and explain your subject matter as clearly as you can."
Provide Real-World Examples
"The best way to get people to engage with the theory you’ve laid out is to make it real for them by telling a story about it. This could be a case study or a specific example showing how the theory can be put into action. If you don’t have an example of your own, then reference one from somebody else. Showing how the theory works in real life makes a huge difference, but people often miss this out in their episodes."
Set Actionable Tasks
"Your conclusion should provide listeners with a summary of the key points covered in the episode. But you should also set them a task that will allow them to put what they’ve learned into action. Doing so achieves two things. Firstly, it makes them actually go and do it. Very few listeners will take action unless prompted.
Secondly, when they perform the task, your listeners will get a little hit of success. They’ll be able to point to something they did in the real world based on listening to your show. That triggers an endorphin hit related to your show, which will encourage people to come back and listen to your next episode."
Keeping the needs of listeners in mind as you plan your episodes will help you create better educational content.
Best Practices for Interview Formats
If you are interviewing a guest expert, the key to a great episode lies in the preparation. You need to make sure you do your homework before you sit down and speak with them. As the interviewer, it’s your responsibility to capture great material.
Note: If you need help sourcing guests for your podcast, check out our new MatchMaker service. It’s like Tinder, but for podcasters!
Skye Pillsbury runs the Inside Podcasting Newsletter and hosts a podcast of the same name where she interviews some of the biggest names in podcasting about their craft. Here’s her advice on how to ask better questions in your interviews.
“If you ask the same questions everyone else does, you’re probably going to get a rehearsed answer. Personally, I try to take the questions they’ve been asked before and take them one step further. For example, ‘I’ve heard you say X, but I didn’t really get a sense of Y. Could you talk a bit more about that?’
“Forming your questions in this way achieves two things. First, by conveying what they’ve already said elsewhere, you immediately move the conversation into more interesting territory. And second, you’re showing your guests that you actually pay attention to what they’re doing.”
Drawing up a list of great questions is important, but that alone doesn’t guarantee a great interview. It’s important to retain a degree of flexibility and openness during the conversation.
“In the best case scenario, you’re not just going to be reading off your list of questions. You’re going to start the conversation with questions and then your guest is going to take you on a journey. So you should follow their lead on that.
“It’s hard to get to a point where your feel confident not bringing written questions into the interview. Having them on hand feels like a security blanket. But trust me, if all you do is read off those questions the interview isn’t going to get to the place you want. Sticking to a rigid outline prevents you from getting into areas of real depth with your guests.”
Initial questions can help point your guest in a particular direction. But as an interviewer you need to rely on spur of the moment follow-ups to make sure you get the best possible final episode. Try and place yourself in the shoes of your ideal customers and ask your guests for their advice on solving some of the main challenges you’re likely to be facing.
Remember, there’s lots of strong competition out there. You probably won’t be the only podcast within your niche. So you need to make sure listeners come away from your business podcast with the impression that time spent listening to your show is time well spent. And that starts with careful planning and preparation.