Learn how to measure and evaluate the ROI of podcasting as a marketing or brand channel.
Podcasting is gaining popularity in brand marketing.
Especially among B2B marketers.
More and more companies are launching their own shows, which is great because the opportunities to build brand awareness and trust through podcasting are huge.
However, you can’t start a podcast thoughtlessly, particularly if you’re trying to evaluate the ROI of podcasting as a marketing or brand channel.
You need to know a few things first:
Many people go wrong in that they jump into podcasting because they “see other people doing it” without understanding what this channel is best at.
Podcasting isn’t like SEO – a channel that’s been around for decades with hundreds of thousands of resources dedicated to helping people understand what to expect from it.
It’s not like Google Adwords – a channel where people understand the direct impact of what they pay for (i.e. impressions, click-through rates, exact leads/purchase percentages).
Podcasting is an indirect channel, so it needs to be measured differently.
Once you understand the benefits of podcasting and what your goals are within the platform, you can then determine if it’s worth the investment.
But first, let’s start with the foundations.
ROI = Return on Investment.
If you’re here, you’re likely trying to gauge whether or not the outcome you’re going to get from using podcasting as a channel is going to be worth the money and effort you put into it.
We think of ROI in 2 ways:
Direct ROI are things like building trust, raising awareness of your brand, and developing a loyal audience – these should be your primary focus when it comes to measuring results.
Indirect ROI, on the other hand, could be product sales, new leads or customers, or a shorter sales cycle. These may come as a result of building trust, raising awareness, and gaining an audience but should not be the primary way in which you measure the success of your show.
In order to properly define what your direct ROI will be, you need to:
For example, your goal could be to build an audience, which means the best podcasting channel for you is launching a branded podcast. In order to measure whether you’re building an audience through your podcast, your ROI should be focused on the number of monthly downloads or subscribers.
So if it’s going to cost you $X to run a podcast in-house or to hire an agency to produce it for you, then how many monthly downloads/subscribers make that dollar amount worth it?
What we don’t want you to do is say, “I need more leads, so I’ll start a podcast,” because you’ll set yourself up to fail. You need to be very specific about your goals in order to find the right way to measure the success of the channel.
If you want to grow as a business – whether it’s by building brand affinity, gaining new customers, or increasing leads or close rates – people first need to know you exist, and then they need to trust you.
And the best way to build awareness and trust is through podcasting.
You can do this with 60-second podcast ads or, alternatively, you can be in someone’s ear for 30-60+ minutes through branded podcasts or podcast tours.
The point is, the more your name appears in a listener’s feed, the more aware they become of your brand, and the more they trust you because they know your voice and what you represent.
In this section, we’ll cover all the possible benefits or “returns” you could get from investing in a podcast strategy, from the most obvious to the harder-to-track.
First, we’ll cover direct ROI measurements:
“Building brand” is another way of categorizing awareness, brand affinity, loyalty, and trust:
Podcasting will help you yield all of these things if you present yourself in an authentic and valuable way to your listeners.
While “building brand” is a direct ROI of podcasting, it’s also one of the hardest to track. You could set up an NPS (Net Promoter Score) and track how the score changes from before podcasting to after, or you could run a brand sentiment analysis. But in most cases, you’ll simply need to trust that with each episode, or each guest interview, you’re building awareness, affinity, loyalty, and trust.
Think about when a host or guest from a podcast you regularly listen to hardily endorses a product. Instantly, you build a sense of trust for that product because you respect the host or guest. And because you listen to them endorse this product multiple times, the brand is top-of-mind when you’re faced with the problem that product solves.
The same thing happens to the people who listen to your podcast or your guest interviews. You simply have to trust the process and power of podcasting as a brand-building channel.
Audience building is a direct ROI for branded podcasts (i.e. a podcast that you produce). The way you measure this is through the number of subscribers you accumulate over the course of the show.
You could also look at your download numbers as a general metric of whether your show is growing, but the number of subscribers is a more accurate representation of the audience that comes back regularly and wants to keep listening to your show.
Podcasting allows you to raise awareness for your brand, meaning more people are learning about your company and what you do.
The best way to measure how your podcast raises awareness is to take your total number of downloads plus the total number of impressions for any repurposed podcast content you share on other channels.
So if you’re taking your podcast and repurposing every episode into social posts, blog posts, email newsletters, YouTube videos, etc. you can tally up all the impressions from these posts and add those to your total downloads to quantify the awareness of your show and your brand.
If you’re running podcast ads, you would use the total number of downloads for each episode you run ads on.
If you’re on a podcast PR tour, it would be the total number of downloads per episode you guest on plus any impressions for repurposed content from your interviews.
Prompting consideration means you’re inviting people to check out your product or service if they feel the pain you solve.
In order to measure this, you would evaluate the number of listeners that listen through to the end of each episode and hear your brand’s CTA.
For example: “Thanks for listening to another episode of Brands that Podcast! If you’re looking to reach future customers on podcasts they love, check us out at lemonpie.fm to learn how we help you make the biggest impact.”
You can also use the same measurement for podcast ads where you evaluate how many people you’re inviting to consider your brand by looking at the number of downloads per episode your ad is on.
Similarly, for podcast PR tours, you would measure the number of downloads per interview where you talk about your brand and provide a CTA for the listeners to check you out.
Think of this as a mental impression. Any time a listener hears about your brand on a podcast, you’re instantly top of mind. The best way to measure how often you stay top of mind is similar to how you measure prompt consideration.
For a branded podcast, you would track the number of listeners who make it to the end of each episode where you include your brand’s CTA.
For podcast ads, you would track the number of downloads per episode your ad runs on.
For podcast pr tours, you would track the number of downloads per interview you give (so long as you mention your brand throughout the interview or provide a branded CTA at the end.)
If you’re running a branded show or are on a podcast guesting tour, you may build serendipitous relationships with the guests you have on your show or the hosts who interview you.
These could potentially lead to business-related opportunities such as co-sponsorships and collaborative marketing projects, or you may even start a business together.
The way you would measure this is by the total number of partnerships or sales prospects that result from the relationships you build through podcasting.
Your branded podcast or even any guest interviews you give on a podcast tour can be used as a center point, or flywheel, for content generation.
This means that you’re using your podcast to create other forms of content you can share throughout your marketing channels.
You could measure the success of this in a few ways:
For example, you may generate 50 pieces of content from each weekly episode, which then increases your total number of impressions by 20%, and you see a 5% growth in followers since you started sharing this content.
Next, we move into some of the indirect benefits (ROI) of podcasting. These are things your podcast strategy is likely to do, but they’re not the primary reason why you should be using this channel nor should they be used as the primary way to measure its success.
An increase in sales could mean an increased close rate, a shorter sales cycle, or higher buyer intent as a result of hearing about you on a podcast or being a listener of your branded show.
The way to track this is through good sales attribution, and it needs to be in place before you start your podcast strategy in order to have a “before” number to compare against.
In other words, you need to know what your close rate is before starting a podcast, going on tour, or launching ads compared to what the rate is after. And the same applies to the length of your sales cycle.
You also need some sort of qualitative attribution to know whether the podcast efforts are the reason for the increase in sales. This means you’re gathering feedback from new customers about how they heard of you. You could use an open form field on your website or include it as a question in your one-on-one sales process.
As an example, this could allow you to see if when someone mentions they heard about you on a podcast, the sales cycle shortens from 4 to 3 weeks as a result of all the direct ROI and brand building you’ve done with the channel.
Many podcasts publish show notes that then link to your website creating a high-quality backlink that can help boost your SEO. This is a great way to measure the indirect ROI of a podcast PR tour.
You can use link tracking tools, like Ahrefs, to measure the number of backlinks to your site as a result of your podcast guesting strategy. Over time, you may see your website’s domain authority increase from these backlinks, which increases your chances of ranking higher on search result pages.
Podcasting can also increase the number of quality leads that come to your site. In order to measure this, you’re going to need a solid qualitative attribution system that captures “dark channels” like podcasting.
Typically what happens is someone will hear about you on a podcast you were a guest on, or they’ll be fans of your show, or they hear one of your ads, and eventually type in your brand’s name into Google or type in your URL.
The problem with this is your CRM system will qualify them as a “direct” or “organic” lead even though the podcast did most of the heavy lifting.
So you need an attribution system that allows you to capture qualitative feedback from your leads that asks them where they heard about you. At the very least, this would be a dropdown option in your contact/book a call form. But the best option would be to add an open field to that form that allows them to type in exactly how they heard about you.
You’ll also want to tie this submission all the way through to the end of the sales cycle so you can measure how many high-intent leads turned into customers.
There are 3 ways you can get into podcasting for business:
Note that all channels raise awareness and build trust, which goes back to the direct benefits we discussed above.
Now, depending on which channel you choose dictates the exact ROI you’ll experience. This is why it’s important to define your business goals first, and then figure out which channel best serves those goals.
Sponsoring podcasts that target your company’s ideal audience will help you prompt consideration and stay top of mind.
Ads introduce listeners to your product (i.e. raise awareness), help build trust inherently through the trust the audience has in the host (i.e. prompt consideration), and keep your brand top of mind.
Podcast ads shouldn’t be used as a way to immediately increase sales. Remember, this isn’t Google ads.
When someone types in “project management software” into Google, you can be relatively sure they’re looking to purchase or test a project management software. The intent is high.
With podcast ads, the intent isn’t as clear because listeners are there to get value out of the episode vs. searching for a specific product that’s being advertised to them.
So with that being said, you should approach podcast sponsorships with the primary goals of raising awareness, building trust, prompting consideration, and staying top of mind. Indirectly, these things can eventually increase sales and revenue. But that shouldn’t be the driving factor behind your campaign.
Going on a podcast PR tour (a.k.a. podcast guesting) helps build deep trust. Again, all of these channels build trust, but guesting takes it to the next level because you’re in someone’s ear for 30-45+ minutes versus 30-60 seconds.
You’re the content they want to listen to, and not the ad they skip over.
Podcast guesting also positions you as an expert in your industry. You’re seen as someone who teaches and brings value to an audience for free, which builds goodwill and brand affinity.
Eventually, the more you appear on podcasts that target your ideal audience, the more likely you are to drive new customers. If you have the right attribution systems in place, you’ll start to see more and more people say they “heard about you on X podcast.”
But again, the primary purpose is to build deep trust and awareness of your brand and the people within it.
When you produce your own branded show, you’re able to build an audience you completely own, which inherently builds trust and awareness over time.
This is also the best channel if you’re looking to create a content flywheel because it allows you to repurpose every single episode into multiple pieces of evergreen content you can use throughout your other marketing channels.
Whereas with podcast guesting you’re likely touching on similar topics repeatedly, podcast production forces you to create new content each time.
To summarize, you should always measure the success of the podcast channel based on the direct ROI it’s best at. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t measure and track the indirect ROIs, but those shouldn’t be your main indicators of success.
Let’s put it all together now and walk through how you measure the returns of your investment in a podcast strategy.
Step 1: Set up your goals. What are the benefits you’re looking to achieve with podcasting? What are the returns that are most important for you to get out of your investment?
Step 2: Set up measurement. Make sure you have a way of measuring the goals you outlined in the first step.
Step 3: Determine what it’s worth to you. How much are you willing to invest (time and money) to achieve the goals you defined in step 1?
Step 4: Measure that worth against the cost of executing the strategy. This will help you determine if that particular podcast channel is worth the investment.
Let’s say you’re the head of demand generation at a SaaS company that has a software product for lawyers.
Your main goals are to:
The best podcast channel to meet these goals is a branded podcast.
Now, you have to ensure that your attribution model has the ability to capture “dark” channels from lead to revenue – “dark” meaning an automated system doesn’t capture it.
To measure and track your content flywheel, you could do something as simple as setting up a spreadsheet that tracks the numbers of posts you generate from your podcast. You could also track the number of impressions or followers that content generation is driving.
To measure whether or not you’re building an audience, you need podcast hosting software that tracks follower/subscriber growth.
To measure driving more motivated buyers, you need an attribution system that captures podcast listeners coming to your website and converting into customers.
Now that you have your measurement systems in place, you want to ensure that your website converts and you have product-market fit. Basically, you need to make sure your positioning is locked in.
If your positioning is solid and your website is set up to convert listeners to customers, you’re ready to measure the details (if you care to measure things outside of awareness and trust.)
First, ask yourself the following questions:
Put a number or value to each of these benefits to understand how important they are to you and how much you’re willing to invest. And finally, compare the cost of running and maintaining your podcast to the value you set above.
So if an agency charges $10K a month to run your podcast, and in return, you can:
Is the return worth your investment? Is the juice worth the squeeze? If the total sum of the value you place on each of those benefits is greater than the $10K/month, then the answer is yes.
Yes, you can add up your values, compare those to your investment, and figure out if the ROI is worth it or not.
But in order to truly succeed in the world of podcasting, you need to believe in:
And most importantly, you need to believe that before anyone can convert into a lead or customer, they need to know you and trust you.
If you do, then there’s no better channel than podcasting.