Everyone can make a podcast – of that, Kierran Petersen, Associate Producer of HubSpot’s The Growth Show, is certain.
“I think one of my favorite things about the industry right now is that it’s still so up in the air. It’s still very scrappy. So, you can make it whatever you want.”
And it’s true – for businesses, podcasting is a growing medium with truly dedicated listenership. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital, podcast popularity keeps rising by the week and 86% of all listeners get through all or most of any given podcast they’re tuning into. That’s a fierce fanbase.
But the podcasting world is an elusive one, especially for beginners. That’s why I asked Petersen, who started at The Growth Show in 2016, to help me help you when it comes to getting your own podcast started. Here are five lessons gleaned from our awesome talk to inspire you on your podcast journey (hint: getting a good mic is secondary).
Podcast Lesson #1: It’s Not About You…
“I think that the main thing that I’ve learned making The Growth Show is that what is interesting and good for me is not always interesting and good for my listeners – and they’re the most important thing,” says Petersen.
“That’s been a really big learning curve for me – figuring out what the audience actually likes. When we have these huge people on, they don’t do much better than other guests do – and actually [having a successful podcast] has to do with finding topics that are really intriguing to listeners.”
Or, put a different way: it’s not about you. The sole purpose of podcasting is to connect with an audience – if you can’t establish a connection, then your podcast isn’t useful to you OR your listeners. So, ask yourself: who do you want to reach? Why do you want to reach them? And how? What do they care about?
Podcast Lesson #2: …But You Gotta Love What You’re Talking About
“If you’re very obsessed with something, that's what you should be podcasting about,” says Petersen. “And then within that [obsession], you really have to figure out what the gap is. If there’s something that’s not being said that you wish you could listen to a show about, that’s inherently a really good show. You are not that unique – you are like other people, and if you’re interested in something, [an audience] will be interested in it as well.”
Is there something that your employees are obsessed with? Is there something that you love? (And it doesn’t have to be a grand idea – “There’s a really, really popular podcast that I listen to that’s about pens. It’s literally just about people talking about pens. And I love it,” says Petersen.) Is there something that you feel is missing, either from your niche market or from the podcast-sphere in general? Consider that as your idea.
But go further... figure out how you can talk about it with your own voice, style and brand. Podcasting is an amazing opportunity to deliver educational content in a new way – that is, in an entertaining way. Striking the balance between what engages you and what engages your listeners; now, that’s the podcasting sweet spot.
Podcast Lesson #3: Identify the Podcast Trifecta: Your Idea, Your Goal, And “The Gap”
We’ve talked about identifying your idea – your “obsession” – and the necessity of finding a place in that topic that needs to be illuminated. That’s all great! But here’s the most important question: what the heck is the point to all of this podcasting business for your company?
“For HubSpot, the show has never been lead-driven, right? We’ve never been concerned with bringing actual revenue into the company,” says Petersen. “But if you want to make a podcast that is tasked with bringing in leads, you need to think about it differently. You need to think about how you’re going to give back to that audience.”
Herein lies the biggest failure of attempted podcasts today:
“I think that a lot of companies right now aren’t thinking about their goals and what they actually want out of shows. [As a result], you have a show without any direction. Like, it’s not actually saying anything interesting or it’s not hitting the right audience.”
Fast-forward a year from now and you’ve wasted time and money on a show that’s not actually leading you anywhere. The goal and the idea will probably develop and grow in unison, but let your goal guide your idea.
Podcast Lesson #4: Listen, People!
“You should listen much more than you actually talk,” says Petersen. “I think I listen to five episodes of a podcast a day. And it just makes me better. Like how reading makes you a better writer, listening makes you a better podcaster.”
If you want to become a player in the game of podcasting, you should first become intimate with certain best practices, different show styles and techniques/treatments of sound. (For example, good podcasts have ambient noise – you can’t just record your voice and call it a day.) Are there shows that inspire you? Become a religious listener. Learn from well-practiced leaders.
Podcast Lesson #5: Jump In – The Water’s Fine (And Relatively Uncrowded!)
If your company has the capacity to make and sustain a show – and, according to Petersen, that means having at least one or two people dedicated to JUST podcasting – then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try.
“If you’re trying to get found among a bunch of other shows or a bunch of other companies that are in your industry, podcasting is huge and getting bigger, but it’s still a smaller haystack than blogging or pivoting to video,” says Petersen.
Now is the time to try it out for your company; your show has the potential to get found, even in the noise of the Internet today. It’s a smaller niche – and the more focused your show is, the higher your chances of being discovered.
So, Why Podcast?1. You’ll reach buyers.
“The demographics of the people that listen are very important,” says Petersen.
AKA, the majority of listeners are 18-34 (44%), with 35-54 year olds coming in at a close 33% second. But even more significantly, 45% of listeners 18+ make 75K or more a year.
If lead gen is your goal, you’re in luck: as Petersen puts it, “These are people who can afford to buy things.”
2. You’ll show a new side of your company.
“[Podcasting] allows people to get to know your company in a different way. You get to actually have some heart and go really deep on something that you really care about,” says Petersen.
What comes with obsession? Passion. And when you’re passionate about something, you make others passionate about it, too.
There’s a difference between a brand voice and an actual voice. As a listener, “you start finding that sometimes, you’re friends with the people that you’re listening to. That’s like a type of connection that’s really hard to manufacture.”
So, be yourself, and let that inform your brand!
3. You can generate revenue.
Like Petersen said, generating revenue or leads will have to be an established goal when you’re podcasting. But if you want to make money and establish a big enough audience, you can – with partnerships and ads. Connecting with your audience AND making money? Not a bad deal!
If your business has the capacity to dedicate time to podcast creation, do it. “If you can make a promise to your audience and actually deliver on your promise, you’re already a really good show,” says Petersen.
So, generate your idea, set your goals and identify the gap – and get started.