Podcasting FOMO is real. And lots of businesses have a tendency to want to jump on trends simply because other businesses are doing them. More and more brands are leveraging the power of audio to engage and build trust with their customers.
Why? Because listening to a voice, again and again, creates familiarity. And familiarity = trust. According to HubSpot, only 14% of social media marketers use audio platforms, but of those who do, 68% say audio is the most effective strategy they use. In other words, there’s a major growth opportunity in audio.
But is podcasting right for your business? And if it is, what podcast channel should you try first? Should you run ads? Host your own show? Guest on other shows?
By the end of this guide, you’ll know if podcasting for business is right for you and which method best fits your overall goals.
Before we get into strategy, let’s determine if podcasting is a good marketing channel for your business and goals, at the current stage you’re at.
First, you need to figure out where you stand with your brand/product.
Think about the following:
You need to have the basics down first to get the most bang for your buck.
Podcasting for business requires a certain level of trust in the unmeasurable. If your company isn’t used to investing in channels traditional software can’t track (i.e. organic referrals and dark social), then this isn’t for you.
But if you’re ready and willing to trust the process, invest the time, and convert listeners to customers, then you’re in the right place.
Next, you should think about your goals.
What does success look like for you if you were to invest in a podcast strategy?
Some examples could be:
It could one or many of the above.
The most important thing is to be very clear about what you want your outcome to look like because this will dictate what podcasting channel is right for your business.
When you think “podcasting for business”, your mind likely turns to branded podcasts (i.e. shows you produce yourself.)
But podcasting is so much more than that.
Like social media, podcasting is made up of 4 different channels, each targeting different goals and audiences.
How do you decide which one is right for you?
It depends on your budget, time, reach, and trust.
In the following 4 sections of this guide, we’ll break down each of the channels, what their benefits and challenges are, and who they’re best for.
Being a guest on multiple podcasts in your category/industry is probably one of the most underrated podcasting for business tactics.
There are likely 20-200+ podcasts you could guest on that reach your ideal customers. And possibly more depending on your niche.
Think of it like the “modern-day PR”.
Rather than waiting for that Wall Street Journal hit, podcast tours give you a more systematic approach to getting in front of your core buyers every single week (or month) through pre-built shows.
A podcast tour could take on many shapes and sizes.
Maybe you’re a prominent tech company on a hiring spree and are facing high demand for top talent.
A podcast tour would allow you to appear on shows your ideal employees listen to so you can share your expertise and better position yourself as a top employer.
Or maybe you want to help build your CFO’s personal brand and position them as a thought leader in your industry.
This could have a great residual impact on your brand because it introduces a more personal element to your business. It turns into a “people buying from people” strategy versus “people buying from a brand”.
Those are just a few examples. You can really make your tour benefit whatever your overall goals are as long as you have the internal expertise to bring value to the listeners.
Rand Fishkin, founder of Sparktoro, says: “Out of our 170 paying customers, the majority of them say my podcast appearances are where they heard about us.”
This is a direct result of consistently guesting on podcasts that target Sparktoto’s ideal customer, 2-3 times per week.
The great thing about a podcast tour is the audience is built-in.
The host does all the work to build a strong community, which then gives you the ability to speak for 30+ minutes to thousands (possibly millions) of listeners who are ideal customers.
As you gain momentum and build trust throughout your interviews, you’ll increase your ability to drive new customers directly to your website/channels.
Be prepared to give a simple call to action at the end of each interview that drives listeners to your site.
Almost every interview includes a show notes page on the podcast’s website where they link back to your site.
This is extremely effective for increasing your Domain Authority, which can help improve your organic Google search rankings over time.
Huckabuy went from a domain authority of 10 to 45 over the course of their podcast tour, resulting in an increase of their organic traffic from less than 500 to 30,000+ visitors per month.
There are frequent opportunities to cross-promote or partner in various ways with influential podcast hosts in your industry (i.e. creating other campaigns with them on different channels).
The more value you provide to their audience, the more likely they are to want to partner with you in the future.
You typically don’t need to pay to get on most shows. And if you have the time to DIY and coordinate the tour yourself, it’ll be even more cost-effective.
The alternative would be to hire a podcast booking agency.
In order to be truly successful on a podcast tour, you need to be able to teach the audience something they perceive as valuable based on your background and expertise.
For example, if you created a software product for dry cleaners but you’ve never worked at a dry cleaner and don’t fully understand their pain points, this might be tough for you.
It’s important you are a domain expert in the topic you want to cover.
It requires very manual and highly personalized outreach. If you send a templated, generic email to your top 50 podcasts, you might end up with 7 responses, 3 of them saying yes.
You burned through your list of top 50 and will have a hard time gaining interest from the 40 that ignored you.
It comes down to putting in the one-on-one, personalized effort to create a unique outreach approach for every single show you want to guest on.
While podcast tours allow you to increase awareness, it doesn’t give you the opportunity to build an audience that you own.
You’re not technically accumulating an “asset” (i.e. an audience) unless you have your own branded podcast and can direct listeners to your show.
You need to be comfortable with the idea of medium to long-term brand marketing.
Podcast tour results are measured in indirect ways:
While the success of a podcast tour is measurable, it isn’t as clear-cut as a paid campaign.
Podcast tours are suitable for both young and established companies, so long as you meet the criteria we talked about in the intro. (You have a compelling product, strong website, 12-month runway, low churn, etc.)
The most important thing to note is tours are tied to people versus companies, meaning the head engineer at eBay won’t necessarily give a better interview than the head engineer at an emerging startup.
It all comes down to the value you can bring to each audience, not your title.
Use our ‘Top 50% Rule’ as guidance:
If you’re as good or better than 50% of the interviews for a specific show in your space, you’ll be a successful guest.
Podcast tours are meant for businesses and leaders with a generous mindset.
In other words, you have to be eager to give the best possible interview and be the most helpful guest the show’s ever had.
It’s not an ad.
It’s not a 30-minute commercial.
It’s a time for you to share your expertise with the world and help solve problems.
If you can go into your podcast tour with a “teach don’t sell” mentality, you’ll kill it.
Get the complete guide to podcast guesting.
What would happen to your business if you had 1,000-10,000+ of your dream buyers listening to you educate, inform, and entertain them every week?
It could change your business.
That’s the power of a branded podcast.
Now, you’re probably wondering, what could you possibly talk about week after week that would attract listeners and convert them to dream buyers?
It’s important to note most people are not actively in “buy mode” all the time, but almost everyone is open to self-betterment.
They want to learn new ways to improve their lives, level up their careers, brainstorm ideas, etc. without feeling like they’re being sold to.
The goal with a branded podcast is to build awareness and trust with your audience through episodic content that improves the listeners’ lives so when they are ready to buy, they go straight to you.
The possibilities with branded podcasts are endless.
They can be used to tell stories, attract a specific customer base, asynchronously educate clients, or drive your content marketing strategy.
You could also take the “entertain and delight” approach, a trend amongst big brands, where you create and sponsor a show within your vertical purely to entertain the audience and build goodwill.
Some examples of branded podcasts are:
“Breaking Brand” by Buffer – a 5-episode, deep narrative podcast series that takes you behind the scenes as the Gin Lane team prepares to build a direct-to-consumer business and launch its first brand to market.
Buffer’s ideal customers are DTC companies, so this is a perfect fit.
“State of Demand Gen” by Refine Labs – a thought leadership podcast hosted by Chris Walker geared towards marketing professionals looking to conquer the world of demand generation.
Chris says, “We are (literally) driving millions of dollars in revenue through a podcast and LinkedIn organic. Nothing else.”
“Masters” by Shopify – a podcast sharing actionable strategies and e-commerce advice for their customers.
“The REWORK Podcast” by Basecamp – a podcast about a better way to work and run your business.
Branded podcasts can be educational, inspirational, or entertaining.
At the end of the day, you need to figure out what your dream customer deems valuable and give that to them in the form of a well-executed podcast.
Branded podcasts allow you to build your brand as the expert in your category. As a company, you need 2 things:
And podcasting works especially well at helping you achieve these goals.
By showing up every week (or day, or every few days), delivering content that your audience finds valuable, you’ll keep them coming back, and over time more people will know about you, trust you, recommend you to friends, and when it comes time to purchase a solution for a pain they feel: you’ll be at the top of the list.
It also gives you the opportunity to own audio.
Regardless of the number of shows in your category, you can create a category-leading show by providing the most helpful information for the people you want to eventually buy from you.
Any marketing channel you don’t own will either diminish in returns or get more expensive over time (i.e. Instagram ads, SEO, YouTube ads, etc.)
As more brands dive into the world of performance marketing, the price pressure increases within those channels making it harder for you to own the space.
By producing a branded podcast, you’re able to fully own your audience. Your ability to increase brand awareness is fully in your hands.
Not Google’s, not Facebook’s, not LinkedIn’s.
You’re able to create a direct relationship with your listeners with no middleman involved.
It’s actually easier to build key relationships with guests (and turn them into customers, co-marketers, partners, etc.) through branded podcasts than with podcast tours.
You control the interviews themselves, which means you have a slew of possibilities when it comes to relationship building.
You can take an account-based marketing/sales approach by reaching out to the thought leaders or decision-makers from your top 50 dream customer accounts and inviting them to be guests on your podcast.
Rather than approaching them with a cold sales email, you are delivering on the value that you’re looking to achieve with your podcast.
Important: This is not a bait-and-switch approach. This isn’t a time to sell to these dream customers. Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn from them and share their insights with your listeners. It’s just that it’s natural for serendipitous relationships to develop out of this, and we’ve heard of some amazing partnerships or results that have come as a result.
A branded podcast can become the pillar content engine that fuels your marketing channels.
In other words, you can turn one episode into 20-50 pieces of content – think articles, newsletters, long-form Twitter threads, LinkedIn posts, Instagram reels, audio clips for your sales team, etc. – and then share this content contextually within the platforms your customers interact with.
What we don’t want you to do is grab a few quotes from the episode, share them on social, and tell people to click the link to listen to the show.
It’s important you actually pull all the valuable takeaways and translate them into engaging posts within each platform.
The more you educate and inform your buyers, the more demand you can generate.
Check out our guide to podcast marketing.
Producing a branded podcast will always be more expensive than running a podcast tour because creating and distributing high-quality content requires a much higher level of time and money.
Whichever path you choose, know that a branded podcast will require a large investment one way or another.
If you run an interview-style podcast, you need to be prepared for the guest management aspect of it.
Research, guest outreach, bookings, interview prep, reschedules, no-shows.
It’s a lot to manage.
If you aren’t willing to dedicate yourself or someone on your team to this task, you might want to consider hiring outside help.
If you build it, they may not come.
Just because you release episodes on a regular basis doesn’t mean your audience will automatically grow.
Branded podcasts require a very proactive strategy.
This goes back to using your podcast as a content engine.
The more you share, the more you educate, the more value-driven content you create, the more traction you’ll get.
But if you simply record and release episodes without the post-production marketing magic, it’ll be much harder to see results.
Like we said in the beginning, podcasting for business relies heavily on the unmeasurable.
The path the audience takes from listening to an episode to purchasing/signing up for your product or service can take many twists and turns.
But at the end of the day, it’s important to pay attention to your download numbers.
Even though they may not directly attribute to sales, downloads are an important indicator that your podcast is growing.
And if your podcast is growing, your brand awareness is growing right along with it.
Branded podcasts are best for companies who want to build an audience rather than borrow someone else’s.
If you have the mentality for long-term investment (of both time and money) and want to get to know your target customer on a more personal level, then you should consider starting your own show.
This is also great for those in need of a content machine. As we mentioned earlier, your podcast can act as your content pillar and better equip your marketing team to share engaging, authentic, and helpful content on all your platforms.
Your marketing approach should be rooted in delivering value and positioning yourself as an educator, even if the person on the other end isn’t ready to buy from you.
This is a huge and highly underutilized opportunity for many companies.
At its core, an internal podcast is a way for you to communicate with your team or prospective hires.
There are 2 ways to execute this:
Private internal podcasts are great for companies that want to share proprietary information exclusively with their teams, while public internal podcasts are a great way to give prospective hires (or anyone who wants to listen) a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of your company.
One of the easiest ways to execute an employee-only, private podcast is to put out messages from the leadership team.
This could be your CEO sharing weekly messages during a crisis, or it could be your CMO or CFO releasing an update on new work or growth opportunities on the horizon.
You could also “pass the mic” and have different departments join in to share their successes of the week. Or turn it into something more light-hearted to build culture and have different people throughout the company share personal things about them (i.e. their bucket list items, what they like to do for fun, favorite foods, etc.).
You might even consider recording a series of episodes specifically for onboarding.
For example, if you’re onboarding a new marketing team member, you can create a stand-alone marketing onboarding podcast. In each episode, you talk about successful marketing campaigns, what the company and team goals are, tips from managers on their team, and more.
Many high-profile companies use public internal podcasts to recruit new talent and give listeners an inside look at their company culture and/or processes.
In other words, you want to give listeners an authentic view of what your culture is like to help attract top talent.
Your leadership team can use an internal podcast to communicate with the company as a whole on a consistent basis.
This can be during times of crisis, change, or a regular means of communication from the top down.
It helps teams feel more connected and united.
You could use your internal podcast to entertain or provide more insight into what other team members are up to.
Empowering teams, departments, and individuals to participate will help create camaraderie throughout the entire company.
Especially if you run a large corporation or are a remote company and need ways for employees to connect and learn from each other.
Give outsiders a peek into what life is like at your company.
Interview employees, management, and leadership teams so everyone gets a sense of what your culture is like and the type of people you work with.
The more you open up, the better and more aligned your prospective hires will be.
Internal podcasts are also great for sales teams.
If your sales team gets a list of common questions, you could create a series of short episodes where you dive deep into answering each one.
You can then share those clips with the sales department, which they can then share with customers asking those same questions. It allows the customer to gain a deeper understanding of your philosophy, on their own terms.
It could be hard to get employees to listen to the podcast.
They might not want to dedicate the time or might not think it’s valuable to them.
This really depends on the culture you’ve built and the value you present to your employees in your podcast.
Pro tip: The more you get your teams involved, the more they’ll want to listen. Make it fun! Remember, this is a reflection of your employer brand.
Running an employee-only internal podcast can get tricky depending on privacy and security issues.
However, there are a few platforms you can use to distribute your show:
Check out the comparison chart in this article to see which one best fits your needs.
In order for your internal podcast to really have an impact on your employer brand, you need to be consistent with it.
This means you need a team dedicated and responsible for making it happen. You’ll need a host (or hosts), someone who can help schedule interviews, and an editor/producer.
Of course, you can go as complex or as simple as you want with this, as long as the style matches your goals for the podcast.
Because this is an internal show, it’s beneficial for any brand – big or small.
It’s especially great for remote companies in need of a consistent channel to bring employees together and share unified communication.
But really, any brand that wants to leverage audio’s ability to help the employees and/or prospective hires feel deeply connected to a company can benefit from the power of an internal podcast.
Want to learn how to create an internal podcast on your own? Check out this guide.
Similar to podcast tours, there are likely 20-200+ podcasts your customers listen to that you could sponsor.
But unlike podcast tours and branded podcasts, podcast ads offer you a much faster way to get in front of those listeners.
There are 2 routes you can take with podcast advertising:
These are typically 30 to 60-second ads played before, during, or after the show. Depending on whether you’re a sponsor or a self-serve ad will determine whether the host reads your ad themselves (sponsorship) or if pre-recorded/announcer audio is played (self-serve).
So which is better?
Host-read ads by far outperform announcer reads. We’re talking 59% higher recall of a product/service if the host talks about it versus an announcer.
Because hosts are the “influencers” of the podcast world. Their listeners trust them, which means if the host backs a product or brand, their listeners are more likely to as well.
Check out these examples of Squarespace sponsored ads to get an idea of what your ad could sound like. Or check out this article detailing how and why Ahrefs (the popular SEO software company) spent $51k on podcast sponsorships.
This is definitely the fastest way to get in front of your target audience.
If you are willing to pay for placement, it’s much quicker to get that strategy up and running than it is to secure interviews or produce your own show.
With podcast ads, you simply create a list of shows you want to sponsor, ask for their media kits and pricing, and if it’s in your budget, you can hit the ground running pretty quickly.
This is also the fastest way for you to test your market.
While ads are not a perfect indicator of podcasting for business as a whole, this strategy does allow you to see how well a tour could play if you don’t have the time to dedicate yourself to one.
Podcast ads also have the furthest reach out of any of the methods we talked about today.
While podcast tours also have incredible reach, podcast ads give you the opportunity to show up on shows that may not make sense for you to be a guest on.
If your brand is geared towards women but your CEO/founder is a man, it might be harder for him to get interviews on shows predominantly featuring female guests. Instead, he can sponsor these shows and still get the brand name in front of his ideal customers.
Trust can either be a benefit or a challenge of podcast advertising. It all depends on whether the host reads your ad or not.
If you can leverage the trust of the host, your ad will likely outperform an announcer-read ad because it’s like a trusted friend recommending your product to thousands of listeners.
Tim Ferriss experimented with dropping sponsored ads and instead switched to a fan-supported model where the audience pays to listen, but the feedback to bring back ads was so overwhelming that he reverted back pretty quickly.
He explained, “After weeks of consistent feedback from my audience, it’s now loud and clear that my vetting and sharing of sponsors is better received and a better fit.”
People trusted his opinion so much that they used him as a source for new products to try.
This is a pay-to-play game.
For top-tier shows, ads can range from $3-5K per 30 to 60-second slot ($25-$100 CPMs).
Our recommended ideal test budget is $25K for 1 million impressions (i.e. people hearing your ad), spread across 6-12 shows.
Pro tip: Try to keep your CPM below $50. If you find yourself above $50, take the time to really evaluate whether that show is worth the spend.
Of course, these are broad best practices.
You can always test with smaller, niche shows first and allocate $1-2K to see what performs best for you.
While ads are a quick way to increase brand awareness and sales, they are the worst way to build long-term brand value.
Podcast advertising doesn’t allow you to form a personal connection with the audience because it’s a 30-second clip versus a 30-minute, value-driven conversation where you’re positioned as the expert.
If you want to build brand value, be the content, not the ad.
How many times have you hit the skip button on an ad? Whether it be on YouTube or a streaming service, you’re choosing not to engage with ad content.
Podcast ads are no different and are being skipped at an increasing rate.
Power podcast listeners want to get to the meat of the episode, which is yet another reason why being the content and not the ad is important.
A podcast advertising strategy is great for B2C brands that want to pepper a wide audience and build trust over time with meaningful sponsorships.
It’s meant for brands who are either not a good fit for podcast tours or don’t have enough bandwidth to create a branded show.
Especially if you have multiple customer personas that you need to reach quickly.
We also recommend podcast ads for those who simply struggle to produce content that is better than what’s already out there.
If you have the budget and means to launch a podcast ad strategy, it is 100% worth a try.
Pro tip: Make attribution more specific by offering a specific coupon code or URL just for podcast listeners. While people are likely still going to choose to Google you or go directly to your website, you’ll have a better shot of measuring and attributing sales directly to your podcast advertising strategy.
Check out this podcast ads masterclass with Glenn Rubenstein to learn more.
That was a lot to take in.
Let’s do a quick summary for the skimmers of the group:
Whichever route you choose, we hope this guide helps you find the strategy that best fits your business goals.
Because let’s face it, podcasting for business is a world you don’t want to miss out on.
What Podcast Strategy Should You Use: Prefer to listen to the article? Check out this episode where Erik and Jeremiah break down the 4 podcasting channels you can use to grow your business.
The Definitive Guide to Podcast Guesting: If you’re interested in embarking on your very own podcast tour, this guide is for you.
Everything You Need to Know About Internal Podcasts: Our goal with this article is to give the best advice we can, for any company wanting to launch an internal show.
Lessons from $20 Million Spent on Podcast Ads: If you want to start running a podcast advertising campaign, listen to this before you do anything.