We are in a golden age of podcasting at the moment as evidenced by Spotify’s recent acquisition of podcast producers Parcast and Gimlet Media and plans to spend another $500M on podcast-related acquisitions. While this is not a call to start a podcasting company, the recent growth in popularity of this medium has brought it into the mainstream and continues to offer a phenomenal way to promote your startup. As discussed in previous articles in this series, the key is to create informative and entertaining content that will engage your listeners allowing your startup to build trust and prominence in the community. In this article, I will outline a playbook for getting your podcast going.
Picking a theme and format for your podcast
Producing podcast episodes is not terribly difficult, but it does take an appreciable amount of time and effort, meaning that you want to be sure that it will effectively reach the right audience. You will have a stronger listenership if you stick to a theme targeted at your audience rather than an ad hoc collection of episodes. The question to ask yourself is: “What do my customers want to learn?” Let’s consider an example to illustrate this point.
Imagine that you were running a startup that uses AI and willingness-to-pay data to provide optimal personalized pricing to individual e-commerce shoppers. The first thing to do as always is to identify your ideal customer. After some brainstorming, you conclude that the ideal customers for your product are marketing executives, product managers, and founders at online retail companies. Although their roles are a bit different, they have one thing in common: they want to know how to get more shoppers to make purchases on their e-commerce website.
At the same time, the topic of pricing might be a little too specific for this audience, and while this is a burgeoning field, you are not sure if there is enough material to create a dozen or more episodes around pricing alone. Therefore, you decide that your podcast topic will center around marketing for e-commerce companies. Although the above was an example in an area that might be different from your own, you should perform a similar analysis with your ideal customer.
After you have picked a topic area, the next question is what format will your podcast take? You really have three choices: the host leads a one-sided discussion, the host interviews others, or a combination of the two. In general, podcasts that center on the host interviewing guests tend to be more entertaining and popular while those where the host leads the discussion can be a lot more tactical and informative. Having chosen a topic and format, it’s time to create your podcast series.
Recording and publishing your podcast
Before starting our own podcast at Beta Boom, called Startup Basics, the biggest impediment for me was simply being overwhelmed with the necessary steps to get it off the ground. Fortunately, I met a gentleman named Rodrigo who hosts a podcast for engineers seeking to transition to effective managers. Rodrigo’s advice and encouragement were instrumental for us to launch our podcast, and I hope that the following advice will help you do the same.
Podcasting starts with recording your first episode. For that, you really need two things: a good microphone and an audio recording and editing program. In terms of microphones, I would recommend getting a solid but reasonably-priced USB mic such as the Blue Yeti or Blue Snowball iCE condenser microphones. (Click here for a longer list of great podcast microphones.) At Beta Boom, we use the moderately-priced Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone, and I would also recommend the Rode Procaster mic, which is a little more high-end but still reasonably priced.
Next, you’ll need software allowing you to record your episode. There are a number of good options here, and everyone has their preferred program. (Click here for a list of popular audio editing software for podcasts.) However, I personally cannot say enough good things about Hindenburg, which makes recording and editing episodes a breeze. If you opt for interviewing guests on your podcast, you will likely need to record them remotely. There are also some excellent choices for recording interviews remotely with my favorite being Cleanfeed. Also, you will likely want to add in some nice royalty-free theme music. My favorite source for quality recordings is Premium Beat.
After you have recorded and edited your episode, it’s time to distribute it. This part can be a bit confusing since you actually need to both host your episode on a podcast hosting platform and submit it to such as Apple iTunes. The reason you need to first upload your episode to a podcast host is two-fold. First, these services optimize performance around delivering audio files. Second, they also provide an RSS feed, which other channels like iTunes use to gather and display information about your podcast to their audience. There are a number of great podcast hosting platforms, and we use Libsyn at Beta Boom.
Once you have created an account on the platform of your choosing and added your episode, you’re ready to submit it to distribution channels or directories. Some of the most common ones include:
The process varies slightly for each of the above, so it’s wise to check their websites for the steps you’ll need to take. In broad brush strokes, you’ll first need to submit information about your podcast, add the RSS feed to where your podcast is hosted, and wait for your podcast to be approved. And voila, your podcast is not available to millions of listeners.
Have reasonable expectations
As with most of the marketing activities I’ve discussed, it’s rare that you will have an audience that is thousands of listeners strong right from the start. Instead, you will likely start with a handful then build to a few dozen in the first few episodes. That is why it’s important to stick to a regular cadence of creating and publishing new episodes. I recommend compiling a season of at least a dozen episodes and releasing them on a weekly basis. At this length and frequency, you should get a fair gauge of the effectiveness of podcasts as a marketing tool for your startup.
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