Wondery. Gimlet Media. Radiotopia. Earwolf.
Chances are, you recognize at least one of these names as being among the most popular podcast networks out there. Interestingly, these big players in the podcast world only accept the top 1% of podcasts into their fold and average around 50,000 downloads per episode, according to Buzzsprout.
Traditional podcast networks are on the rise for good reason. Individual podcasts band together (often through common themes or genres) and find strength in numbers. Shared marketing and cross-promotion, sponsorship access, and expanded listenership are just a few perks enjoyed by podcasts within a thriving network.
But why should traditional podcasts have all the fun?
B2B podcasts have been playing in the network pool for years, and we’re starting to see serious traction in this space as companies reap the benefits. Brands like Drift and HubSpot are just two examples of companies rocking the podcast network and paving the way for the rest of us.
But for many marketers, the thought of starting one podcast is daunting, let alone two or more. And let’s be honest, starting a podcast network isn’t for everyone. But for many businesses, this often-overlooked marketing strategy can be a golden opportunity for exposure, relationship-building, and growth.
Let’s start by looking at some reasons why starting a B2B podcast network might be perfect for your brand.
Why Start a B2B Podcast Network
Reach niche audiences.
Just like with any marketing channel, the more you can focus in and deliver specific content, the more you can connect deeply with your audience. Dishing up highly relevant, narrow content allows you to make your podcast far more personal with a niche of listeners. When we chatted with our friend Molly Sloan, senior manager of marketing communications at Drift, she had this to say:
“We’re always going to be testing new things, but for us, podcasts are just a really great way to connect with our audience, and connect with a lot of different people...And [podcasting will] always have a role in our strategy because we want to give the content to the people that want our content, and I think podcasts have been a really successful way to do that in a really personal way.”
Follow a hunch.
As a marketer, you know the feeling. You have a theory, or maybe it’s just a strong gut feeling, about something that would move the needle for your brand. So you have a choice: ignore the nudges and risk missing an epic opportunity, or do something to chase down your theory.
Podcasts can be a powerful way to test the waters and see if you’re on the right track. Just ask Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing at HubSpot and current host of The Growth Show.
If you’re a huge fan of all things HubSpot like I am, you are probably familiar with the hugely valuable HubSpot blog that became somewhat of a marketer’s bible a few years ago. Mid-level marketers (like me at the time!) became loyal fans of the high-value content the company was sharing online through their blog. HubSpot loved this connection point with marketers, but found themselves struggling to connect as well with c-suiters. This audience often found blogs too time-consuming, so they generally weren’t reading the great stuff HubSpot was putting out.
“Our theory was, let’s start a podcast and see if we can catch them in those little windows of time when they’re commuting to work or working out or trying to fall asleep at night,” says Meghan.
So that’s just what HubSpot did. They launched The Growth Show in 2015, an easy-to-consume podcast geared at busy decision makers. The experiment paid off. Over five years later, The Growth Show is still going strong and has been recognized by sites like Entrepreneur, Forbers, and Inc.
HubSpot then went on to add shows like Weird Work, Skill Up, Culture Happens, and Agency Unfiltered, creating one of the most successful B2B podcast networks around.
“And I think the most important thing is that we didn't really set out to have a network. Each podcast has a distinct problem that it's trying to solve or a distinct theory that it's chasing down. So every new show that we add, we hope it will teach us something. We hope it'll help attract an audience that's distinct, but we also hope it'll teach us something about podcasting,” Meghan shares.
Share your unique perspective.
Yes, your company likely has deep expertise in its specific area or niche. But that’s not your only differentiator. The people behind the brand make all the difference.
Think about your subject matter experts, your thought leaders, your front line employees, your internal experts (and everyone in between). These individuals bring unique personalities, perspectives, and voices to everything they do. And putting them behind the mic gives audiences a chance to really connect with your brand on a deeply personal, human-to-human level.
“Each of our hosts bring their own flair, and their own personality, and their own stamp on the show,” says Drift’s Molly Sloan.
And as a marketer, allowing your internal hosts to really be in the forefront of your brand’s podcast not only allows for rich relationship-building and audience connection, but it can also take some of the load off of you.
“I truly see the shows as their [the hosts’] shows. I will be helping out in the background, but they’re responsible for booking their own guests and determining the topics for each week, and really shaping the future of their show. I’ll definitely help out from a strategic standpoint...but they’re in the driver’s seat. And I think that really gives them the power to bring their authentic self to the show...and to be able to make those types of connections with our guests, as opposed to having me being a middleman,” Molly shares.
Starting to wonder if a podcast network might be the way to go? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few top tips for getting started.
Tips for Starting a B2B Podcast Network
Establish the need you are filling.
The bottom line in this: don’t start a podcast just to start a podcast.
Before you start adding shows to your network, get a lay of the land from your audience’s perspective. Over and over again, go back to your listeners. Who are they? What are they needing from you right now? How can you bring something new to the table they can’t currently get from the market? When and how do they listen to podcasts?
“Too many brands start a podcast without knowing why. They just do it to check a box because their competitor has a podcast or they think it would be fun. And they don’t know what they’re trying to solve with that podcast or what need they’re filling...And podcasting is hard enough to grow as it is without knowing why you’re growing it or what need you’re filling or why you exist, to begin with,” says Molly.
Starting a new podcast has never been easier with the tools and techniques right at our fingertips. But as Molly pointed out, what good does it all do if no one’s listening?
Create focused shows.
We’ve all heard it before, “You can’t be everything to everyone.”
Yet, so often as marketers we fall into this trap of trying to please the masses. Sometimes it’s a matter of budget or time constraints, and other times (let’s face it), we just get a little bit lazy.
But here’s the truth: narrowly focusing in will serve your audience so much better—and up your ROI in the long run. The more you can tailor your podcasts to specific audiences and niches, the more you’ll resonate with listeners and form deeper, more loyal relationships. And we all know that’s key for growing the bottom line.
“As we grew our following, we saw a need for more shows. And so we decided, ‘Why only have one show when there’s a lot of different people that we can speak to, and we have so many different talented people here at Drift who are really passionate and really smart, and have a lot to share with their respective audiences?’” Molly asks.
Choose a passionate team.
The best podcast hosts know their stuff, meaning they are experts on the topics at hand. But that’s not good enough. Too often brands put subject matter experts behind the mic but the podcast falls flat. Why? Because the hosts don’t bring the passion, energy, and mic presence needed to appropriately engage listeners.
Ever downloaded an audiobook you’ve been dying to “read,” only to bail quickly because the reader’s monotone voice makes you want to take a nap? Even though the content is great and the topic is of interest to you, there’s only so much blah we can take, right? The same goes for podcast hosts. If the person behind the mic isn’t a skilled communicator with passion oozing out, listeners aren’t likely to stick around for long.
Stick to a process.
Process might not be sexy, but it’s core to a successful content strategy. When it comes to running a successful brand podcast, there are lots of moving parts and pieces, including multiple cooks in the kitchen usually. And things can get really overwhelming, really fast.
Heading into podcast development, promotion, and ROI measurement with a clear plan in place that aligns with your overall content strategy makes all the difference. Even though diving into production probably feels a heck of a lot more exciting than planning and process, you’ll thank us later if you slow down and develop these things ahead of time.
Want a peek behind the scenes of a successful podcast process? Tune in to our conversation with David Poole, marketing director at Georgian Partners, where he shares his six-part podcasting process.
Once you know your process, then you can make sure you’ve lined up all the right people and tools to make the magic happen. Double-check that you have all the (wo)manpower and tools you need to not only create your podcast, but to properly syndicate, promote, and extend the value and shelf-life of your work. (We happen to know a thing or two about this at Casted, wink, wink!)
Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.
One of the biggest mistakes we see brand podcasters make is leaving so much value on the table after an episode hits the scene. We’re all crazy busy and it’s easy to wrap a project and then go headfirst into the next thing without making sure you’ve wrung out all the goodness of what you just finished.
With podcasts, episodes are often launched into the audio universe with only a tweet or two heralding their arrival. What a shame! There is massive untapped content potential in each and every podcast episode you produce. Here are just a few deliverables that can be easily pulled out of a single episode to feed your marketing machine:
Blogs and/or blog series
Transcripts for SEO traffic (and more!)
“There are all sorts of secondary benefits to doing podcasts, and for me, one of the biggest ones has been for The Growth Show in particular. It’s created access points to some of the most incredible business leaders and stories that I’ve ever come across. We just wrapped a season where we did stories of companies that pivoted during, after the crisis hit. And those stories, I have resurfaced and reused in scores of different ways, on blog posts, in speeches, in just lessons out of that for our own company and team. And so it just creates this conduit for exposure to really exceptional ideas. And then one of the big mistakes I think people make and I always encourage my team to remember is: it does not have to only exist in the podcast world. We can then repackage that across social, across blog content, etc. And that is real magic because it creates a real fodder for a multimedia marketing team,” shares Meghan.
When it comes to maximizing your time, efforts, and return on brand podcasting, we are your people. At Casted, we’re helping you squeeze every last drop of your podcast using our platform built just for B2B brands like you. Want in? We’d love to show you around.