I recently had a call with a great show with over 100 published episodes that has never had more than a few hundred downloads per episode. They were putting in a lot of work consistently producing their show but hadn’t figured out how to grow a following within their niche.
Unfortunately, their experience isn’t unique. With over 5 million podcasts in existence, one of the hardest parts about launching a new show is attracting listeners. Besides consistently producing high-quality audio content, what can you do?
Our clients at The Podcast Consultant ask us this question a lot, so I thought I’d collect some of the advice we give them here on the blog. While not all of these techniques will work for every show, they should give you a great starting point.
1. Get Very Clear About Your Audience, Goals, and Resources
“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.”Earl Nightingale
Creating a fantastic show starts with knowing your audience. Who are they? What are their interests? How can your show provide value to them?
The answers to these questions should influence your podcast’s content, tone, and promotional strategies. Knowing where your audience spends their time and which industry leaders they follow will make promoting your show much easier and cheaper.
Next, define your goals and the metrics that matter most to you:
- Are you purely looking for downloads?
- Are you more interested in engagement in the form of comments, reviews, or social media shares?
- Are you hoping to drive sales for your business?
- Or are you simply hoping to build a relationship with guests on the show?
All of these factors are important to a successful show, but you probably can’t maximize them all at once. Defining your goals in advance helps you focus your promotional strategies and track your progress.
Finally, you need to be realistic about the resources you can devote to promoting your podcast. If you’re limited on time, for example, you could focus on promotional strategies that can be automated or outsourced. If you’re operating on a tight budget, you will have to leverage free promotional channels like social media or appearing as a guest on other podcasts.
2. Choose Guests and Topics Wisely
When selecting guests, consider their relevance to your audience, their expertise in the topic, and their existing follower base. Guests, particularly those with a strong presence in your niche or industry, can help to bring in a new audience by promoting the episode to their own audience.
Similarly, selecting topics that will resonate with your audience makes a big difference. Strike a balance between appealing to your target audience and standing out. In other words, your topics should be specific enough to be unique, but broad enough to appeal to most or all of your intended audience. If you want to learn more about how to make your show stand out read our article about how to make your show unique here.
It’s also worth mentioning that guests and topics will likely intertwine. Let’s say you’re a gym with a fitness podcast. If a new workout trend is surfacing, consider inviting an expert in that method to your show. This allows you to cover the latest trends while featuring a relevant guest.
Finally, be sure that guests know when you publish their episode.
I’ve been on a few podcasts where I didn’t find out the episode was published until weeks after it went live. The best shows followed up with me multiple times and tagged me on social channels for weeks after the episode aired.
3. Leverage Existing Distribution Channels
This may seem obvious, but we often see companies with a solid social media presence and newsletter fail to leverage these channels to attract listeners to their podcasts. It’s generally easier to get an existing audience to tune into your show than to start from a blank slate.
You should also share your podcast with industry, contacts, partners, and even your customers if it’s relevant. Let people and companies you mention in each episode know about it, and try to develop channel partnerships with other related podcasts. Podcasts are often willing to trade promotions with other shows, especially if you have an overlapping audience.
Finally, if you already do other forms of content marketing (blogging, webinars, etc.), be sure to cross-promote your podcast on these channels. While it might be less common for someone reading a blog post to immediately switch over to listening to a podcast, backlinks from multiple content channels can help your show’s overall visibility.
4. Consider Adding Video to Your Podcast
28% of podcast listeners prefer to watch video over audio-only shows, and this trend has been growing in recent years. YouTube is making concerted efforts to get into podcasting and Spotify also supports video podcasts natively on the platform.
Even if your current listeners prefer audio-only podcasts, video gives you access to more distribution channels as well. YouTube is the 2nd (or 3rd, depending on your perspective) biggest search engine on the internet, so having a presence there is huge for content discovery.
Additionally, having video for your podcast allows you to slice the content down for short-form video platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube shorts. These platforms are widely used by younger audiences, and their adoption is only increasing.
If you’re not sure how to get started with video podcasting, reach out to us at The Podcast Consultant. We provide both video and audio podcast editing and launch services, and work with over 80 shows today.
5. Create Accompanying Collateral
Once you’ve recorded, edited, and published a new episode, your work is far from finished. The best podcasts know that distribution and discovery are at least half the battle, and they create a lot of accompanying social media collateral to support their shows.
Posting new episodes to each of your business and personal social media accounts is a start, but you will probably need to go further to cut through the noise. Most platforms allow image, audio, video, text, link, or a combination of formats, so try creating multiple posts and formats of each to see what works best for your show.
Because most platforms want to keep engagement on the platform itself, it’s also important to create native content regularly. You can use content from your podcast to inspire regular social media posts that are native to the platform, saving you time and mental effort when scheduling new posts.
If you struggle to create unique social media collateral for each of your episodes, reach out to us. We provide content collateral for multiple platforms and formats (video, audio, and text).
6. Appear as a Guest on Other Shows
Being a regular or one-time guest on other podcasts is a great way to promote your own show too. While there are services that can help you book a spot on various shows, it’s also pretty easy to start by pitching a few podcasts you already listen to.
To be an attractive podcast guest, you need to have:
- A compelling and appropriate pitch
- Social proof of your industry knowledge
- Clear communication skills
- Decent equipment and podcast knowledge
Most podcast hosts have all these things, so becoming a guest should be pretty easy.
After you appear on the show, be sure to help cross-promote the episode and thank the host for having you. Good guests are often invited to many different shows in their industry, so be the kind of guest you want to have on your own show.
7. Run Paid Advertisements on Other Shows
If you have more money than time, paid advertisements on other podcasts can be a great promotional channel. Podcast advertising rates vary widely by industry and show size, but some podcasters offer discounts or trades to related shows, so it never hurts to ask.
Host-read ads typically perform the best, especially if the host actually knows (or at least sounds like they know) your show. If they don’t offer host-read ads, then make your value proposition straightforward and leave a little teaser in the ad. Sparking curiosity is one of the best ways to bring new listeners to your show, as long as you can deliver.
Another option is to ask another show to drop your trailer as an episode in their feed. This is a big ask, but if you have close partners or friends with a popular show, it’s a great way to kickstart your listenership.
8. Involve Your Audience
The most common way people find and follow new podcasts is when someone they know or trust suggests it. It could be friends or family members with mutual interests, industry bloggers who reference your show, or other podcasters mentioning that they listen. A podcast is most likely to catch fire when the listeners become advocates for it.
So in addition to getting very clear about who your audience is, you need to find ways to involve them in the experience. Read reviews or listener feedback live on the show, tell listeners to respond to questions on social media, ask listeners to leave you reviews, and encourage listeners to share your show by asking them to tell a friend.
And don’t forget to actually respond when you get some audience interaction. Remember, listeners feel like they know you because you’re in their ears every week, so don’t turn them off by ignoring their positive responses.
9. Include Show Notes and Blog Posts
While most listeners discover new podcasts from word of mouth, other podcasts, or podcast listening platforms, general-purpose search engines like Google can also drive significant traffic. In order for search engines to index your show, it needs to be hosted on its own show website (or as part of your company website), and you need good written content around each episode to ensure it gets indexed.
While you can start by publishing a transcript, detailed show notes or a blog post for each episode is even better. Show notes typically include episode highlights and timestamps, while a blog post takes the content from the show and repurposes it into a 1000-2000 word article.
This is another area where The Podcast Consultant can help. Reach out to us if you need help with show notes or long-form content based on your podcast episodes.
10. Get a Show Audit
Finally, if your show isn’t growing like you think it should, it’s probably worth signing up for a Podcast Audit with The Podcast Consultant. We’ll make sure you’re doing everything correctly, from audio quality to distribution strategies to show content to picking the right host and guests. We often find that shows are missing small but important details, even if they’ve been published regularly for years.
Consistently pushing out high-quality audio is key to podcasting, but it’s only part of the equation. You need distribution to ensure that listeners can find you on any channel, and you need supporting content to enable distribution.
If you’re struggling with your podcast or you’re not hitting the listener numbers you want, reach out to us. We work with dozens of shows to produce podcasts that help them achieve their business goals.