A Bootstrapped Startup’s Guide to Podcasting

Even if you don’t regularly listen to podcasts yourself, you’re probably familiar with the praise they’ve recently received as a marketing tool. With an estimated 73 million monthly listeners in the U.S. alone, podcasting offers today’s advertisers a new (and effective) way to reach a large number of consumers.

Consider, for example, that podcast listeners are getting through about 90 percent of a given episode – most without skipping through ads.

Unsurprisingly, advertisers have taken this as an opportunity to bet big.

Podcast advertising spending broke $200 million for the first time in 2017, and is expected to exceed $500 million by 2020.

But they aren’t just spending on ads; more and more brands are beginning to use podcasts as part of their content marketing strategies, too. Spotify, Tinder and GE, among a host of other examples, have all jumped on board with branded podcasts because, as so aptly put in a Fast Company article, “branded podcasts are the ads people actually want to listen to.”

Reaping the benefits of podcasts isn’t just limited to major companies, though. With the right approach, startups can also take advantage of this new, powerful channel to reach a wider audience and gain brand credibility.

Related: Profitable Podcasting: Build Your Nation of True Fans

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

You don’t have to host your own show

Branded podcasts often come with a hefty price tag, which can make them a tough sell for most entrepreneurs. A full season of a branded show can cost upward of a half million dollars, and even reach seven figures for one that is very well-produced.

Fortunately, as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to host or produce your own show to take advantage of podcasts. Simply participating in the podcast ecosystem by joining other people’s shows as a guest can help you effectively reach your audience, too. The only thing you have to invest is your time.

If you’re an expert in a certain field, people want to hear what you have to say, and odds are there’s already a podcast out there that those people are listening to. With that in mind, a good way to start getting involved with podcasts is by reaching out to hosts of podcasts in your field, and offering to share some of your unique insights on their shows. Even if the shows have a small listener base, they can lead to bigger opportunities in the future.

Also, once you build up a solid repertoire of podcasts and have done the work of promoting them, people will see you as a good partner to work with and will keep inviting you back. Sometimes the results can be surprising. In my case, for example, I’ve even had people apply for jobs because they heard me on a podcast.

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Your omni-channel approach shouldn’t stop at creation

While you don’t have to create your own podcasts, they can be a worthwhile investment if you do. Sephora’s #Lipstories, Basecamp’s The Distance and Drift’s Seeking Wisdom have all demonstrated how much value building your own branded podcasts can bring, even for startups and other small companies.

As such, if you do decide to create your own podcast, it’s important to make them available on as many channels as possible. For starters, your podcasts should definitely be accessible for users on smartphones, tablets or other portable devices, as these are where 76 percent of listeners tune in. Needless to say, however, you should also accommodate users who prefer listening on a traditional laptop or computer.

Similarly, the omni-channel approach should extend to the platforms on which you host and promote the podcast. For example, iTunes may be the most common platform, but it’s definitely not the easiest for the more than two billion users of Android devices. With this in mind, you should also consider hosting your shows on other platforms such as YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify and AudioBoom, among many others.

Once your podcasts are live, you should promote them on as many platforms as possible. Embed them on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms, with the goal of creating as many touch points as you can with your audience. Couple this by asking your listeners to subscribe to your channel at the end of the show and to share with their friends. While it may be a simple tactic, it can often be the spark that gets the fire going.

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You must focus on consistency and quality

Regardless of whether you decide to create your own podcasts or participate as a guest on others’, it’s crucial that you make sure your content, your hosts and your guests all align with your brand. This is not to say the podcast must be about your product, but it should be related to the story your brand is trying to tell.

Moreover, you should be sure to constantly produce fresh content. This means releasing shows regularly; whether it be once per day/week/month/etc., the aim should always be consistency. This encourages your consumers to build habits, say, by tuning in for your show every Monday morning on the way to work. Creating an editorial calendar can be a particularly useful practice to keep you accountable and prepared. It also helps to have a few podcasts recorded ahead of time to use as a buffer in case you get sick or if a guest drops out.

Finally, even if you do a video podcast, the most important thing is to focus on audio quality first. If you don’t have good audio quality, you run the risk of quickly turning off your listeners. Therefore, if you choose to invest in anything, buy a good USB mic, and be sure to test your audio first. People can forgive poor video, but poor audio is a deal-breaker. If you think about it, you’ve probably sat through a movie with a fuzzy projector, but would leave immediately if the film was hard to hear.

Despite their recent popularity, the fact remains that podcasts are a young (and often underutilized) technology, particularly for marketers. Many big brands have already begun to produce high-quality audio content for enthusiastic listeners, but there is still a lot of room for startups to up their involvement. Fortunately, getting involved doesn’t have to cost a penny – it just takes a bit of networking and an extra half hour here or there. In the end, it’ll always be worth it.

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