What you’ll learn
What you’ll need
There are many good reasons why a B2B business might choose to launch a podcast:
Interview and get close with prospective customers
Build a reputation and position within the industry
Use it as a content engine for creating other assets
To generate revenue through sponsorships or ads
But simply having a podcast won’t guarantee growth. Podcast platforms are notoriously bad at distributing content to new audiences. Growing a podcast can feel like a really big lift for most marketing teams.
Getting a podcast started is the easy part. Growing a podcast is the challenge.
Eric Siu knew this when he started Marketing School podcast. But as an agency owner, he knew that if he could scale his show it could act as an extremely valuable top-of-funnel activity to generate qualified leads.
The problem was he was a busy founder focused on keeping his business afloat.
“If I could create a podcast that aligned with my day-to-day workflow and drove business results for my agency, then I’d be fine allocating the necessary resources to grow it,” said Eric.
Eric decided to look at this new podcast how a growth professional would launch a new channel. If he could prove that the show was generating meaningful results for the business, then he'd be happy to pour gas on the fire to accelerate its growth.
There’s a step between deciding to do a podcast and publishing your first episode that many marketers skip over: creating a show premise. Like any recurring piece of content (like a TV show or series), the premise will act as the creative guardrails.
The premise you choose will dictate many creative decisions, like:
Are there guests?
How long are the episodes?
Is the show split into segments?
But the premise will also help make business decisions, like:
Is the podcast going to generate revenue?
What’s the time and money budget?
Who should be involved in the process?
These might seem like basic questions, but they’ll help to set expectations for what the purpose of the podcast is. That being said, the premise can and should evolve over time.
Eric suggests starting with a simple premise that doesn’t max out the team involved.
“Like anything worth doing, it’s going to take some time to build momentum. Design a show structure and cadence that [the host and team] can stay consistent with for months on end without burning out.”
When Marketing School first got published, every other business podcast seemed to be the same structure: 35-50 minute 1-on-1 interview shows. Eric decided that in order to stand out from the crowd, he needed to do something unique.
“While everyone else was trying to replicate top shows like Tim Ferriss, I decided to do the complete opposite.”
Marketing School did everything contrary to the norm:
Two co-hosts, no guests
5-10 minute episodes
Besides being simple and quick to produce, this show structure also allowed Eric to get his first 100 listeners really quickly.
“Because the episodes were short and easy to listen to, it wasn’t a huge ask for me to send them to my existing email list. Leveraging an existing channel I’d built helped the show grow quickly in the first month.”
But there’s a tactical advantage to having short, daily episodes: binge listening.
“I’ve had people tell me that they binge listened to 10 episodes in a row during a long car ride. That’s over an hour of them listening to how I think, solve problems, and am as a person. No other medium feels as personal as a podcast.”
Listening to multiple episodes greatly accelerates the velocity of moving a first-time listener into an avid fan. It also gets your download numbers growing.
“We didn’t do nearly enough audience development early on with Marketing School.”
Eric found that interviewing the audience to learn more about their pain points and why they listen to the podcast was a huge lever for growing the show.
“Audience development allowed us to adjust what topics we covered in the show so that it appealed to our target audience: founders looking to learn about marketing and marketers looking for inspiration for their next campaign.”
Eric did audience research a few ways:
Ask listeners to send feedback through Twitter
Reviews of the show on Apple Podcasts
Short survey sent to email subscribers
1:1 calls with listeners
Asking your audience to leave a review on Apple podcast helps narrow your focus and have the show promoted on the platform. Once he was aligned on what the audience wanted from his show, it unlocked two key insights that allowed Eric to scale to more people:
He knew what topics to talk about. This made production much more streamlined. It also meant that listeners would come back to listen to more because there was a utility value to listening.
Eric could now go out to find more listeners that matched his persona.
Once you've validated who your ideal audience is, you can then begin to invest in promoting your content on channels where these people already spend their time:
Do a "shout for shout" with a podcast that has a similar audience. You promote their podcast on your show and they do the same.
Create an episode around a popular founder or company. Cut up the content and share it with them and their existing audience.
Promote content from the show within existing Slack, Discord, or Twitter communities that match the persona.
Sponsor newsletters that appeal to your target persona.
Eric suggests nailing the audience persona before trying any of these growth tactics. “If your show isn’t focused on a particular persona, it will be really hard to promote it in front of the right audiences.”
“A community is the best retention mechanism that exists because people like doing business with other people. Simple as that.”
As early as possible, Eric suggests building a community function within your show. This creates a new layer of depth between you and your audience that can’t be achieved only through content.
But what exactly is a community?
“If you’re just talking at a group of people, you have an audience. If you’re helping to facilitate engagement between like-minded people, you have a community.”
Here’s how Eric turned Marketing School into a thriving community:
A free to join digital experience: Eric created a private Whats App group that listeners can join to talk directly with Eric and other listeners. Use the joining process as a mechanism for collecting insights about the members so you can provide them a tailored experience.
In-person events: Marketing School Live is an in-person event where Eric gets to talk with with guests speakers and engage 1:1 with his biggest fans.
“It’s important to have fun with the live event. It’s a lot of work, but if you can break-even on the cost of hosting it you’ll build deep relationships with the attendees.”
Invite-only mastermind: Eric has been able to create a new line of revenue for his agency through a paid mastermind community. He works with a select number of founders and investors to scale their businesses and provide guidance.
His advice: start with a free community that gives listeners access to the host and other listeners. “Make sure the members get value from knowing other members, not just from the content you provide. Once you have that figured out, you’ll have a community engine that will fuel the show’s growth forward.”
Most B2B marketers will be expected to produce a return on the investment (ROI) of starting a podcast. But from Eric’s experience, the value of a podcast can be hard to quantify.
“Depending on your business model, tying ROI to a podcast can be really tricky. To overcome this, create leading and lagging metrics that allow you to have a strong sense whether the podcast is generating the desired results.”
A leading metric is a measurement that show initial traction. In the case of podcasting a strong leading metric is number of downloads in the last 30 days. If that number continues to increase, it’s a signal that the podcast is spreading and more people are becoming aware of your business.
Other leading metrics can include website visitors or email subscribers.
A lagging metric is a measurement that’s tied as closely as possible to revenue (or the desired result). The simplest lagging metric for podcasts is to ask during the sales process whether the prospect has listened to any episodes. If they have, then it’s safe to say that the podcast had a direct influence on driving revenue. The same logic can be applied if you have your prospects as guests on your podcast. If they started as guests and eventually became customers, the podcast has a positive ROI.
Alternatively, if you have an offer you give during one of your podcast episodes, you can measure the conversion rate of downloads to conversions.
Marketing School now has 2,000+ episodes over 5 years. It receives ~1M downloads a month and has eclipsed 50M downloads total.
Beyond top-of-funnel discovery, Marketing School is also a major cashflow generator for Eric’s business through sponsorships and paid events.
“Growing a podcast comes down to consistency and designing it to be win-win. Even if Marketing School wasn’t generating revenue directly, it would still be hugely beneficial to me. I’ve designed it to be a content engine that feeds other areas of my business and forces me to stay active in the marketing community.”