The new at-home lifestyle brought about by the onset of COVID has driven a significant increase in the numbers of listeners and the numbers of programs in the podcasting and audio-streaming space, and where the channel was a secondary or tertiary option for most marketers, having a podcast strategy is now part of many marketing plans for 2021.
“Podcasting is still a vast, open space that brands are smart to jump into,” said Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO of Casted, a podcast-centered marketing platform. “When you consider there are about 1 million podcasts, but more than 600 million blogs, you can see how much opportunity still exists for brands to own their own space,” she continued. “And listenership continues to rise dramatically, even in the midst of a pandemic, as people are actively seeking connection. Podcasts that offer that ability to connect an audience with a brand like not other form of content can and, in doing so, build trust and loyalty.”
Research has shown that brands that advertise their products and services or business podcasts enjoy an increase on purchase intent, and major platforms are seeing significant increases. In June, podcast analytics provider Charitable tracked 825 million downloads, up from 600 million in March.
But aside from using podcasts as an advertising channel, how can marketers use podcasts to achieve the highest ROI? One option is to recognize that the content can be leveraged beyond the podcast itself.
“Go beyond simply publishing episodes to also really wring-out that content,” said Tjepkema. “Marketers are getting into these shows they create to also pull blog posts, audio clips for social media, videos, excerpts to embed in web pages or email content and even thought leadership articles. This makes the stretched marketing team more efficient while also serving the audience more content to dig around that initial conversation with a subject matter expert.”
The podcast platform and planning
While most entertainment and social podcasts are often unscripted, or go off-script, the opposite is encouraged for marketers as they plan their podcast strategy, either as creator and host of their corporate podcast, or as a guest.
“People are just now starting to realize that you should not just jump into starting a podcast and a podcast is not something you do for fun for companies,” said Sky Cassidy, co-host of the If You Market They Will Come podcast. Marketers failed to capitalize on the growing popularity of podcasts over the last couple of years, mainly because they didn’t have clear objectives and outcomes in mind. “You have to have a real ROI planned before you start, and it has to align with your corporate goals,” said Cassidy.
Podcast conversations spark consumer connections that lead to conversions in sales of a product or service. According to Voxnest, an audio technology solutions provider, global podcast consumption increased 42 percent during the onset of COVID between March and April.
How can marketers maximize podcast success? Tiepkema mentions shorter, more frequent podcasts to match shorter commute times, and using statistics, facts and figures to make the content authoritive.
However, “[some] shows are publishing richer content less frequently,” said Tjepkema. “This works well for some because while they are publishing less often, like bi-monthly, they are delivering deeper content, so their audience is more likely to make the time to listen because the episodes are really that valuable.”
Content as the cornerstone of quality podcasts
The cornerstone of any successful podcast is content.
“You have to have something to give the audience other than a sales pitch,” said Karla Joe Helms, co-host of the If You Market They Will Come podcast. “As a marketer don’t look to try to monetize your podcast, worry more about building a consistent high-quality content outflow and go from there. People get tired of sales pitches.”
After removing blatant sales pitches, podcast content is also dependent on high audio quality. Marketers should be willing to pay a bit more for higher audio quality platforms and tools. Always avoid podcast segments being recorded in coffee shops, moving vehicles, and at public places with spontaneous loud noises like malls and parks.
Effective corporate podcasts educate their audience on a subject, rather than deliver a blatant sales pitch or provide pointless entertainment. One corporate activity naturally lends itself to the podcast format–the new product line or service launch/rollout. This announcement can be included in educational content that identifies the problem or need being solved by the new product or service.
“It is the most non-captive audience you can have,” said Cassidy. “There are thousands upon thousands of podcasts out there, why would a consumer choose yours? That is the question that you have to constantly ask yourself as a marketer.”
One way to increase the chances of your podcast being selected is to invite guests with large followings, either through their own podcasts, or on social media. “If you are depending on your podcast to grow your brand an audience, you will not get one,” said Cassidy. “Offer content that nobody else offers, and find your niche before you worry about big content. When you do, start with people, brands and entities that already have a large following. Now you have a strategy and you can be in podcasting for the long haul.”
Marketers can get the most out of their podcasts guests by allowing the guest to choose from two or three subjects so they can speak on a subject they are most comfortable with; conducting a prep call for all guests, no matter their experience or popularity level; and encouraging guests to invite their audience multiple times before, during and after podcasts.
“Energy and the audience they bring are everything for podcast guests,” said Helms. “If you nail those two down and combine it with high-quality content any marketing team can execute from there because you have already completed the hard part.”