Owning a small business can be a tough gig. Not only do you have a business to run, you’re likely your own marketing team too. When it comes to finding new marketing tactics, it pays to make sure they’re worth your time. Today, we’re going to see if podcasting is the right fit for you.
First things first: who listens to podcasts?
Frankly: a significant portion of the US. According to the 2023 edition of The Infinite Dial from Edison Research, 83% of the US population over 12 years old is at least familiar with podcasting. That’s an estimated 237 million people. 120 million of that population are at least monthly podcast listeners. And, even with pandemic data fluctuations (good and bad) neutralizing, podcasting is continuing a steady upward trend in reach. By the Infinite Dial numbers, 89 million people are listening to podcasts on a weekly basis, and as Sounds Profitable’s The Medium Moves the Message study shows, those audiences actively support brands advertising on their favorite shows more consistently than other mediums. (Disclosure: I am currently Head of Content at Sounds Profitable, but had no influence on this study’s data or presentation).
Are there reasons podcasts wouldn't be right for your business?
You don't have ideas for content.
While branded content can be a breeze in podcasting, your audience still expects a podcast when they load up your business’ podcast. Marrying the promotion of your company with a reason for the average person to listen is key. Take, for instance Sir, This is a Wendy’s Podcast. Wendy’s social media success is undeniable, and they had a banger name for an official Wendy’s podcast.
Why have you likely never heard of it until now? The ‘podcast’ consisted of a nameless host doing a classic podcast introduction with an ad break, getting the advertisement out of the way before the content, then transitioning into an outro. The bulk of the first ‘episode’ was a sixty second pitch for a Doordash promo code.
You want instant results.
Creating a podcast for your business can be likened to starting a diesel engine in cold weather. If you try to just turn the key and expect instant results like a gas car on a spring morning, you’re going to be disappointed. If the time and effort is invested to get it started, though, it’ll run for ages.
If you’re looking for immediate, direct response or a chart on week two that unequivocally demonstrates how much revenue your podcast drove, you likely want to look into podcast advertising instead of producing your own content. Podcast advertising is very powerful, but if that’s what you’re looking for, it might be better to use a service like AudioGO.
Capture an attentive audience
Podcasting is a top-of-funnel tool. A healthy goal is to catch potential customers at the beginning of a purchase cycle and increase your share of mind. A podcast about your business – or even a podcast about your industry that happens to be produced by your business – is going to drive brand awareness.
Posting a blog or a YouTube video might not cause someone to run to your brick and mortar location or load up your e-commerce platform, but if they keep coming back to that content, you’re going to be top-of-mind whenever they think about spending money in your field. Podcasting is particularly good at this, as podcasting tends to garner more of an audience’s attention than, say, passively watching television with their phone in their hand. You’re in their car while they commute, in their ear at the gym, or on a speaker while they do dishes.
Build your brand both in and outside your industry.
Depending on how you implement your podcast, it can become a useful promotional tool both to potential customers and cohorts in your industry. Perhaps you’re a fishing supply company who has enough contacts to interview pro-level fisherman just before a big competition, or a real estate agency that brings on guests to give advice to first-time home buyers.
Whether your podcast is made in-house with existing employees or hired out to a production company specializing in branded content, your show can act as a platform to talk with people relevant in your field for mutually-beneficial promotion.
Build the profile of you and your team
Considering being on mic yourself? Or perhaps considering putting one of your more charismatic team members in the meeting room fashioned into a makeshift recording studio? Stick with it long enough and the podcast becomes the first point of contact many will have with your professional persona. Now potential customers have a voice to put to the company. Sure, your competitor might run more ads on X social platform or Y billboard company, but your new customers know the name of your cat. When they come in, they’ve already mentally bought in to the company and are ready to actually buy as well.
So, is a podcast right for your business?
Knowing who listens to podcasts and how business can use them is helpful, but it might not tell you if one is right for you. Here’s a quick set of three questions to determine if podcasting would be right for your business.
Does the general podcast audience sound like your customers?
While there certainly is no one demographic that for-sure doesn’t listen to podcasts, there are outliers. Business targeting older folks, the very young, or tech-avoidant people might have a rough go of getting an audio-only podcast off the ground. (Note, if you’ve already established video production capabilities, video podcasts have had success bridging the gap of converting audiences who regularly play chat podcasts on YouTube without identifying as someone who “listens to podcasts.”)
Do the end-results of a podcast fit your business and marketing objectives?
As discussed earlier, podcasting is a top-of-funnel tool. If you’re looking for instant results without some pretty big marketing investments (the thing the podcast was originally created to do in the first place), or you’re already happy with your top-of-funnel content mix, a podcast might not be the perfect fit.
Do you have resources that you can dedicate to podcast creation?
It’s absolutely possible to create a quality product while still starting small with podcasting. That said, just like a YouTube channel or TikTok account, you’ll need to allocate some sources. Whether that’s expensing a couple microphones to building an entire studio in a grocery store a la The Jungle Jim’s Podcast.
That said, if the audience is right, everything lines up with your goals, and you’ve got the resources to allocate? Podcasting can be right for your business!
You can learn more about getting started on Simplecast here.
This article was updated rewritten from a 2021 version by Caitlin Van Horn.