Podcasts are a great way to reach your target audience on a deeper, more engaging level, but you may be wondering how you can start your own B2B podcast in 2017.
Not only are podcasts convenient for listeners, they’re a relatively simple, cost-effective content opportunity for marketers. Also, it’s a flexible format; it takes just few steps to convert content you already have (videos, webinars, even blog posts) into podcast episodes.
In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, we share some of our own lessons learned over the past six months, outline what you need and don’t need to know, as well as chat with Robert Strong, also known as Handyman Bob, a local radio personality in the Portland market, who shares his tips for successful interviews.
Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.
Why should you podcast?
At first glance, it may be easy to say B2B podcasts are just a trendy content platform. But the facts tell a different story. Edison Research, in their Podcast Consumer 2016 report, shows podcast awareness, overall listening, and monthly listening have all increased year over year since 2008.
An estimated 57 million Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month. To put that in context, that’s about the same number of Americans who Tweet each month.
And podcasts have a long shelf life (definitely more than other trendy marketing platforms such as Snapchat). On Act-On’s Rethink Podcast, for example, we regularly get folks listening to archive episodes recorded several years ago.
Other stats from Edison’s research:
- Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016.
- Monthly podcast listenership has increased 75% since 2013.
- 64% of podcasts are listened to on a smart phone or tablet.
And Apple reported its listeners downloaded more than 10 billion podcast episodes in 2016.
We’ve established that there is an audience for podcasts. But how do these episodic series benefit your business?
- They’re an opportunity for your company to have a 10- or 20-minute or even longer conversation with your audience. And many people are listening to your podcast while wearing headphones, which is a very unique connection to a prospect.
- They’re an opportunity to establish your company or someone specific within your company as a thought leader.
- They’re an opportunity to establish relationships with thought leaders, business partners, and others that you may interview as guests on your podcast.
- They’re a way to meet your audience where they are, and in a format they can easily consume, whether they’re at the gym, having their morning coffee, on their commute, or working on other projects in the office.
As Kevan Lee of Buffer wrote in his beginner’s guide to podcasting, “Done right, there are many advantages to starting a podcast of your own – new audiences, less competition, and greater intimacy among them.”
How do you get started on your Podcast?
The first step to starting your podcast is making the commitment. While there is a low bar to getting a podcast recorded, edited, and put online, you still need to make the time to do this every week, every two weeks, or every month. You also need time to reach out and schedule guests, research topics, and so forth.
At Act-On, we recorded some great podcasts in late 2014 and early 2015, but then other priorities arose, momentum was lost, and the podcast went dormant.
Prior to relaunching our Rethink Podcast last Labor Day weekend, we created a treatment that outlined our business goals and publishing schedule, listed some thought leaders we hoped to interview, provided a sample show rundown, and gave an overview of technical requirements and costs (of both equipment and human resources). We then shared this treatment with various stakeholders, from the CMO and more immediate managers to graphic designers, website designers, blog editors, and so forth.
Other points to consider and make decisions on include: Where is the podcast going to live on your website? Are you going to host it on your own, or use a third-party service? Who is your target market for the podcast? What would be your show’s title?
Another consideration is: What format type will your podcast be?
Types of Podcasts
I group B2B podcast formats into five buckets – Solo, Interview, Multi-Host, Reporting, and Narrative.
Solo – This is often a scripted podcast featuring one individual. Just as you wouldn’t have only one voice in your webinars, blog posts, videos, and other content, you should avoid having only one person featured in an entire podcast.
Interview – This is perhaps the most popular format for podcasts. It typically consists of one or more hosts interviewing one or more guests about a topic.
Most of our Rethink Podcasts are in the interview format, where we have someone from Act-On ask questions of a guest. This has included Michelle Huff, our CMO, as well as industry influencers such as Scott Brinker, Matt Heinz, or Jill Rowley. We’ve also had our marketing directors take on interviews; for example, Paige Musto, head of corporate communications, interviewed her peer Suzanne Tong over at Puppet about their rebranding experience.
Multi-Host – This is just what is sounds like; it’s a show with two or more hosts. They can chat amongst themselves on a particular topic or they can interview a guest.
Reporting – This is your typical NPR show or podcast, where the interviewer is reports on an issue and brings in an interview or two to support that reporting.
Narrative – This is the style of public radio’s This American Life and Serial, and uses a mix of the reporter/host and guests telling a story, which could be true or fictional. These are among the most popular podcasts for listeners. However, they are not just created by only the likes of the NPR crowd; businesses can do them, too. I recently listened to a narrative-style podcast from a website development company that told the story of how the launch of new design of their website almost went terribly wrong.
What Kind of Equipment Do You Need?
Handyman Bob and I are advocates for the KISS principle: “Keep it simple, stupid.” You can spend hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars on microphones, mixing boards, head phones, and other equipment. But you don’t need to.
When we relaunched the Rethink Podcast, I had no idea how I was going to record interviews between our CMO and our guests, who were in different cities and even in different countries. What do you do when that happens? Yep, you turn to Google. My search results turned up a lot of advice (some of which was credible, some of which was not, and most of which was incomplete).
Based on that research, we started down the path of recording remote interviews via Skype. Of course, Skype doesn’t allow this through their service (at least not the basic service that I had), so I ended up buying a piece of software that supposedly would record any Skype call to my PC. … It didn’t.
I then attempted to record the interviews directly into a digital recorder. This was an elaborate setup that had cables going from my PC to the digital recorder to an external microphone, all while I observed the Skype call on a separate tablet or smartphone. Again, bad idea. Our first interview, with Brian Carroll, was never saved on the digital recorder (still don’t know what happened there), and we had to reschedule (thank you, Brian!). Another interview had to be rescheduled when we couldn’t get the audio from the interviewee to work. That resulted in a very polite yet stern “WTF?” from my bosses (not something I recommend if you want to advance your career).
Ultimately, I went to a tool we already had available and used on a daily basis – our WebEx account. I could schedule and record the calls just as I would any other conference call. I then downloaded and converted the file into an MP3 format. So far, knock on wood, this has worked perfectly.
My advice is you should try to have the podcast interviews in person whenever possible. But most times that isn’t possible, especially for a B2B company. For those occasions, examine the tools and resources you already have available. Most B2B companies have some type of conference call tool they use; if you have one at your disposal, see if you can use it to record the call so you can then download it and convert it to a file format that can be edited and saved as an MP3.
If your only choice is via Skype or Google Hangouts, then make sure you test, test, test your setup. And be ready for mysterious hiccups.
As for the rest of your equipment requirements, you’ll need a microphone, headphones, something to record your B2B podcast (digital recorder, or software on your computer), and software to edit the podcast.
There are too many options at various price points to list them all here. That said, keep the KISS principle in mind. Start small, with what you have (even the voice memo on your smart phone will work), and then allow your equipment to evolve as your show grows. Mark Grimes, a Portland startup founder, angel investor, and co-host of the Tiny House Podcast, said his show used a $50 digital recorder for much of its first year.
To close, don’t get too caught up with the B2B podcast production tools. Instead, focus on what you want to know and who you want to ask it of, and then get out there and record these experts.
“No matter what the medium, content is king,” Handyman Bob said. “If you provide what people want to hear, they’re going to come back. What you want to be is ‘appointment listening.’ You want them looking forward to the next announcement in their email that your podcast is available. That is when you’ve hit your success.”