Not that long ago, podcasts were a curiosity, something B2B brands didn’t recognize as worth investing in right away, but then audience behavior shifted away from reading blogs and whitepapers to listening to audio and viewing video where content (high-level or in-depth) could be consumed much more quickly.
Due to this shift, podcasting is now one of the most powerful channels for B2B marketing, but it’s also unknown territory for many brands. It’s not always clear how you launch and grow a show, what you focus on to make the show successful, and how you demonstrate the show’s contribution to your brand’s big-picture goals.
That’s where the B2B Podcast Maturity Curve can help. Based on conversations with our own customers, we created the maturity curve to outline the best practices for launching and growing a podcast or video series as an integral part of your brand’s overall marketing strategy.
In this particular post, we’re looking at Stage 3: Audience Growth (check out our How B2B Podcasts Grow Up series for more on growing an audience from brands who have done it). The goals to complete in this stage are:
- Expand reach to establish and grow a loyal audience.
- To increase or even retain the existing budget, marketing must not only grow the audience but better understand who their audience is and what they want to know about.
But how exactly do you go about doing that? As our CEO Lindsay Tjepkema says: “To know your audience is to know where they are, and I'm not talking geographically, I'm talking about online. Who are they? Who do they trust? Where are they getting their information? What do they care about? If you're at Stage 3, your show is still really getting started. You're definitely established, but it's still a scrappy time.”
And part of that scrappy endeavor to reach more of your desired audience will be accomplished by consistently evaluating the content of your podcast. Is it engaging the right audience either through education or entertainment? Is it achieving brand awareness or thought leadership? What are other similar shows in your industry doing? Most of all, what do the people who listen to or view your show think about it?
See, you have to be curious. You have to keep asking questions. Sure, you’re trying to attract a curious audience to engage with your show, but as a brand, you also need to remain curious about ways to improve your show’s magnetism. All of the answers to those questions begin with knowing what your audience wants and then delivering it to them in the places and ways they prefer.
And if you don’t know where your podcast fits on the maturity curve, take our quick assessment:
Know What Your Audience Wants from Your Show
“It can be a dangerous thing to start a podcast and not know enough about your audience before you start,” says Tom Webster, SVP of marketing and strategy for Edison Research. “If you genuinely make audience-focused decisions, you can do no wrong.”
For example, as Tom points out, your audience may not want the same thing from your show that the top podcasts in your industry offer. Not everyone has the time to listen to an hour-long episode. Some might want a deeper dive into topics while others might want a high-level discussion.
Your show has to speak to your audience about what they’re interested in (in B2B, that usually includes solving a pain point in their professional role), but your show also has to do it in an engaging way. Maybe they want to be educated, maybe entertained, but to do either, you have to really get to know your audience first.
In this section, we’ll hear from brands who have been at this crossroads. They’ve launched a podcast, perhaps even several podcasts, and then to grow their audiences, they took various steps.
Know Your Audience
This data security SaaS brand first focused on identifying their core audience, which was crucial for discovering what interested them most. Auth0’s Senior Global Conference Manager Rebecca Abram joined us on The Casted Podcast to share how she approached it:
“We have really plugged into the identity audience itself. As a company, we like to focus on developers. We’re built by developers for developers. We’re still working on really bringing that technical level to a place where developers want to consume that, but keeping that as our guiding star, as far as making sure the information is digestible and communicable for that type of audience has been really important for us.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Entertain
For the most part, B2B podcasts are educational. If nothing else, the show should deliver a helpful message to the audience, whether that’s about how to solve a problem or what thought leaders in an industry think about current trends.
However, it’s just as critical that you hold your audience’s attention while you’re educating. Still, a content marketer might shy away from the entertainment issue, thinking it too subjective an area to qualify or measure. This is something Vern Tremble, Senior Director of Marketing at Wunderkind and host of the Individuality Unleashed podcast, has carefully thought about: Vern knows that some don’t equate entertainment with B2B business goals, but for him, he sees the two as being directly linked — entertaining content IS a big driver of business goals.
“Data aside, intuitively thinking like myself as a marketer, what do I want to listen to? What do I want to see on a date, or if I'm at the gym working out, or if I'm just driving or writing or flying? What has me engaged? And oftentimes, we want to segment as marketers. Especially within the B2B space, what we think is good content for consumers [is] based on these nebulous, kind of undefined, maybe overly defined persona types… But personas aren't people, and you can't fully personalize based on just individual personas. So, what's been really interesting for us is being able to say, ‘Hey, myself as a marketer, this is what I like to look at as far as a regular entertainment podcast or whatever I'm checking out in my leisure.’"
Differentiate Your Show’s Content
Since there are so many podcasts out there (over 2 million B2B podcasts), one of your tasks that will improve your show’s value is to differentiate your podcast from all the other noise.
Janes’ Senior Marketing and Events Coordinator, Joshua Wales, was laser-focused on this conundrum when he created The World of Intelligence podcast that serves the open-source defense intelligence community. Josh calls this “sharpening the difference,” a term he picked up from a lecturer many years before.
“So it’s really simple, but sharpening the difference in marketing is what allows you to innovate and be ahead of the competition and just always adapting and evolving each year and each month,” Josh says. “Because if you’re not able to continue sharpening your difference, then you’re going to fall behind.”
For Josh, it required a lot of vital research to understand how Janes could speak to the intelligence community like no one else. “When I looked up podcasts in intelligence and defense, even that industry is just full with endless podcasts from companies, so you do really need to spend hours realistically listening to them and see how your company would be able to fit into that market and how you can actually differentiate and plan for how you’re going to differentiate. Because that word differentiation is really important in marketing.”
Speak to Multiple Audience Segments
Once you know who your audience is, what they want, and how you can stand out from the crowd, the next thing to determine is what you can do to make your show even more magnetic. Perhaps that means finding the most authoritative guests for your next season. Or it might mean you decide to do a series focusing on a single topic instead of seasons focusing on many topics.
But it might also mean you need to create multiple shows, especially if your audience is vast and made up of different segments with different interests.
That’s exactly what HubSpot did. Before most B2B brands had dipped their toes in podcasting, HubSpot recognized that for their audience, written content was losing its effectiveness. However, podcasting, video, and even TV were hot channels where they could reach more listeners and viewers. And they didn’t just create a successful podcast (for example, The Growth Show), but to serve the brand’s various audience segments, HubSpot built a whole podcast network.
As Meghan Keaney Anderson, former host of The Growth Show, shares on The Casted Podcast, HubSpot intentionally leveraged different shows to fill a unique space in the market and, by doing that, attract new audience members. Meghan offers tips on how to establish your audience, understand your shows’ myriad purposes, and measure the channel’s success.
Similar to HubSpot, Salesforce has also created many shows to connect with different segments. With more than 30 podcasts and hundreds of episodes highlighting different topics, like Blazing Trails, The Marketing Cloudcast, and Salesforce Spotlight Series, Salesforce’s reach includes North America, Europe, and APAC. Each show allows the brand to not only speak to individual parts of the audience, but they also provide a sustainable source of content that Salesforce wrings out across its entire community.
With a wealth of informative resources, Drift struck upon the podcast idea as the most effective way to get their content to their audience (and launched the very successful Seeking Wisdom), but it quickly became clear that one show would not be enough.
As Molly Chill (Sloan), Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Drift, says, “The need to have a network instead of just one show really evolved over time, and we just recognized as a company: we’re growing, we have a lot to share. Why only have one show when there were a lot of different people that we could speak to?”
However, Molly cautions that a multi-show network might not be best for every company and urges brands to look at their audience and determine if there’s a need for another show. On the other hand, if you find your audience has niche interests, Drift’s approach might be right for you.
As Molly explains in an episode of How B2B Podcasts Grow Up, after Seeking Wisdom took off, “We got three different shows geared at very different audiences, but all ultimately were helping build the Drift brand and reaching different people in different niches. So we still have this show, it's geared towards operations. We have another show called Growth that is geared more towards product managers and growth marketers. We had a show called Build that was also geared towards more senior product managers, people at bigger companies, people with growing companies. And so it's just really helped develop our brand at every kind of intersection of our company's growth.”
Re-evaluate Your Show from Your Audience’s Perspective
Trying to see your podcast or video series from your audience’s point of view is one of the best ways you can take what you know about them and use it to gauge which parts of the show continue to engage and which parts need work. Ultimately, this should be an ongoing gut check for as long as you create your show.
Take it from an expert: When Stephanie Cox, CEO and host of Real Marketers at Lumavate, launched her first podcast (Mobile Matters), the goal was to establish Lumavate as experts in the digital marketing space. Stephanie did that by inviting well-known guests to come on the show and discuss interesting topics, but when she finished the first season, she had a massive realization, one that would radically change her show for the better.
“If you think about the first season we had with Mobile Matters,” Stephanie says, “We had brands on like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, MGM, huge brands that everyone knows, and none of those were customers… We're a startup, a scale-up company. Not everyone's heard of us, but when you can put our name next to Google or next to Amazon, next to Microsoft, it gives you a ton of really great brand value, and there's a perception that you're in the same class as them, which is really fantastic, and that's, I think, been a huge benefit.
“And, then with the switch from Mobile Matters to Real Marketers, like I said earlier, it's taken on a life of its own. It started as the name of our podcast. We'll be launching a whole community for real marketers, and it's becoming part of what our brand illuminates about. We're for the ones with the crazy ideas, we're for the people that need to move fast. That's what our platform allows you to do.”
In the end, Stephanie remained curious about what the podcast was doing, who it was serving, and when she determined it wasn’t serving Lumavate’s audience as well as it could, Stephanie made the podcast even more successful and engaging.
What Are Other Podcasts Doing?
Some folks don’t get excited about competitive research, but how else can you get an idea about the demand for your podcast? You just have to ask questions: What are other successful B2B podcasts and videos doing? Are their goals about brand awareness or thought leadership? Which formats are performing best? What kind of guests are they interviewing?
First, you create a framework for your research based on what your brand’s goals are. Typically, you want to know:
- What topics do audiences like?
- What are their favorite B2B podcasts or video series?
- What kind of podcast structure do they prefer? Entertaining or educational?
- Where do they prefer to engage with podcasts?
Some of the things you’ll want to accomplish in the research are:
- Identify both your direct (usually in the same industry and targeting the same audience) and indirect (usually with some topic and audience overlap) podcast competitors.
- Narrow that list down to 3-5 of your main B2B podcast competitors, the ones who are most relevant to your audience.
- Get to know your competitors’ podcasts. Listen to some episodes, take a look at their website, and explore their blog hub.
- Look for the channels they promote their shows through.
- Check out audience reviews of their content.
Once you compile the research, you can make more well-informed decisions about strategy and engagement.
What Topics Is Your Audience Interested In?
One helpful offshoot of competitive research for your content team is finding out what the general audience wants to learn about or what they consistently enjoy listening to podcasts about. You can discover a lot of useful ideas when you research what marketers are searching for in Google and YouTube.
For example, you can use keywords to determine what people are interested in and then add that coverage to your own content. Google Trends is a solid tool that will show you search behavior, but you can also narrow things down to a specific geographic area too. It might also be worthwhile to review public forums to see what users are asking questions about.
What Does Your Audience Think of Your Show?
So how can you know that you’re creating content that your audience wants? By connecting with your #1 source of feedback — your audience. What resonates with them? What’s missing? The thing is, many of us marketers forget to do this, as Casted CEO Lindsay Tjepkema points out.
“Stage 3 is a great time to get a pulse check on your audience and their feedback on your show,” Lindsay says. “So, this is one of the biggest missed opportunities for podcasts in this stage of growth. And let's be honest, marketers in general, we get so caught up in talking about what our audience wants from us that we usually and quite often really forget to ask them."
Sometimes, you can get a lot of good information from weekly contact with customers as in the case of Misfit Media. Brett Linkletter, CEO and host of Restaurant Misfits, had already expanded the brand’s content into video and was promoting it through social media and YouTube, but he didn’t expect the feedback he got from his audience.
“The whole reason we wanted to do a podcast in general was we’re pretty active on our content in general, like posting through social media and being active on our YouTube channel and stuff like that,” Brett says. “I mean, we push out a lot of content in general, but during COVID, I think actually COVID was what led to the podcast to start with, because we had a bunch of our clients saying, ‘Hey, Brett, love your guys’ content. But I’m a restauranteur, I’m usually on the go, or I’m in the kitchen or whatever the case. I don’t have time to watch a 20-minute, 30-minute YouTube video and sit there and just look at my phone or computer.’ They asked if we had a podcast actually initially. And that’s when I had the idea, ‘Oh, damn, maybe we should do this.’”
This led Brett to create a podcast and lean into audio content to reach more of his audience in the channels they prefer. In addition to direct customer feedback like this, you have several other options from more general indicators that show the growth of the audience to more detailed surveys and polls to better understand your target audience.
When you’re entering Stage 3 of the B2B Podcast Maturity Curve, you might not have good engagement metrics at your disposal… at least, not yet. But you can get a general sense of what your audience thinks about your show by tracking some basics, like views, likes, shares, and followers. While these won’t give you in-depth engagement feedback, they will indicate if you’re on the right track. Also, don’t forget to ask your audience to subscribe, rate, and review your podcast or video series at the end of each episode.
Social Media Polls
Social media platforms are great for showcasing and promoting your content, but through social listening, you can also learn a great deal about your audience, what they want, what they don’t want. Some platforms also let you mine deeper audience feedback. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to create polls — great conduits for feedback that often see high engagement.
Creating a poll is something of an art, but basically, you want to ask questions that both pique the interest of your audience and get answers that will help you improve your show. You could start off with something like: “What’s the most annoying way a salesperson can contact you?”
- Social media
This gives you important info on your audience’s preferences, plus it’s likely most respondents will have an opinion to share here. Then you could move into more content-marketing-centric questions, like: “What type of content do you enjoy the most?”
- Blog posts
The most important thing for encouraging a response is to just not make the poll feel corporate — keep the tone fun and use an angle that puts your audience at the center of attention (instead of your brand).
Similar to social media polls, another way to encourage audience feedback is to offer short surveys — under 10 questions with a star- or number-rating system — to your audience and existing customers. Depending on the questions you ask, you can get more specific feedback about what’s working and what’s not. For example, some of the questions you might want to ask are:
- What do they like/dislike about your content?
- Which content do they prefer?
- Which formats do they consume the most (from you and other brands)?
- What made them convert into customers?
- Why do they continue to consume your content (or why did they stop)?
If your audience has already done your brand the favor of reviewing your show, you’ve got a wealth of feedback at your fingertips. Read your reviews and take them to heart, whether they confirm your topic and format instincts or they offer recommendations about how to improve your show content.
But organic reviews aren’t enough. Encourage your audience to rate and review your show at the end of every episode. They can do this right on their favorite podcast platform, or you can push an email or social media campaign at them too. Then you can take the positive reviews and place them on your show pages to give new listeners and viewers a crowd-sourced seal of approval. But don’t forget the less-than-positive reviews; these are perfect for upping your show’s quality.
Include FAQs on Your Site
If your brand gets a lot of podcast feedback from the people they’re talking to everyday, don’t let that deep pool of information go to waste — this resource can guide your audience through the buying journey. You can easily gather up the questions your leads and existing customers ask and create a FAQs post in your content hub or a FAQs landing page on your website. Ask any salesperson, and they’ll tell you it’s a lot easier to convert well-informed leads.
Another key way to expand your audience reach is to strategically make your podcast or video series available on all the platforms your audience prefers. By having your show in the top directories, you can generate an RSS feed and significantly increase searchability. That might mean going beyond the obvious hosting platforms, like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
Budget and the goals of your podcast are your main determiners, but you’ll also want to look into the individual capabilities each hosting platform offers to choose the one(s) that are right for your brand.
Check out Databox for a wide selection of the other hosting platforms out there, and note that most B2B podcasts use multiple platforms. More than half use at least two, many use three to four, and around 10% use five or more hosting platforms.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to check out the Casted platform where you can not only host your podcast but track your content marketing performance and identify your audience in detail.
Stay Curious and Grow Your Audience
Every marketing channel you have needs to achieve the same overall goals, but a podcast or video series accomplishes things that no other channel can. As Jay Acunzo, host of Marketing Showrunners and one of the great voices in B2B podcasting, says, “Customers spend time with you, they trust you, and they take more action on your behalf.” In other words, a B2B show can build relationships with an audience like nothing else can.
Staying curious about how you can do things better is a huge part of succeeding in two important brand goals: Lifetime customer engagement and value for the business. Think about it. You serve your audience by delivering information they’re curious about, and to do that well, you have to keep the torch lit within your brand and your creative team to ask new questions, to re-evaluate your approach to make sure the show keeps growing and drawing in potential customers, and to really listen to all the feedback you can get from the center of your show: your audience.
For more on Stage 3: Audience Growth of the B2B Podcast Maturity Curve, check out our How B2B Podcasts Grow Up episodes:
- Episode 4: The 3 Keys to Audience Growth
- Episode 5: Grow Your Audience, Grow Your Brand
- Episode 6: Making Your Podcast More Than Just a Podcast
If you’d like to see where your B2B podcast is on the curve, take our quick-and-easy assessment.