- What kind of equipment do we need?
- How do we get a podcast on iTunes?
- How much should we budget?
These are the wrong questions. Or rather, they are premature. The first question you have to answer is this:
Who will want to listen to this podcast?
If your answer is “Everyone,” go back to the drawing board. Your business doesn’t serve everyone, so why would your podcast? Especially when podcasting is the nichiest medium around. Only Serial Season 1 appealed to almost everyone, and even then, not really, and even then, are you making Serial? No.
If your answer is “Our customers,” think about that some more. If you want to create more value for existing customers to keep them happy and strengthen your relationship, then maybe a podcast is a good way. But consider whether it’s the best way to do so. After all, they are already your customers. Shouldn’t you concentrate on giving them the goods or services they pay for, so they keep coming back for more and tell all their friends about you? That said, your current customers are an important source of information for shaping this podcast into something valuable. You definitely want them to be entertained by what you make. More on that later.
If your answer is “Prospective customers,” then we’re getting warmer, but be careful. This isn’t the Yellow Pages — people don’t go to iTunes or Google Play in search of goods or services and say, “A-ha, these guys do a podcast about the thing I need. I think I’ll listen!” Nor do people willingly tune into a sales pitch. If your podcast is the aural equivalent of a timeshare presentation, expect crickets. The listener is in control.
To justify your time and energy, your podcast has to move you closer to your business goals. That is, it has to help you attract new customers and equip existing customers to spread the word. That means you have to create something they genuinely enjoy. So the answer to the most important question — who will want to listen to this podcast? — is this:
People who are passionate about something you are passionate about.
Don’t buy a microphone or record a single word until you know what that something is. What are you crazy about that your current and future customers are also crazy about?
For example, Shopify is passionate about entrepreneurship. So it has commissioned a podcast called TGIM (Thank God It’s Monday), “the essential podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs.” The podcast appeals to entrepreneurs and people who want to get into business for themselves, some of whom may be in the market for e-commerce, which is where Shopify comes in. The podcast is also a way to activate the word-of-mouth power of Shopify’s existing customers. It’s easy to make them aware of an interview with Gary Vaynerchuk on TGIM, which gives them something interesting to share with their networks, which spreads the word about Shopify.
Now, Shopify is a pretty big company with budget to outsource its podcast-making and a big, worldwide market it is trying to conquer. You can do this in-house, on a more modest but still effective scale, if you go about it the right way.
A word of warning: Everyone in B2B is passionate about entrepreneurship. To make something that appeals to your particular people, you’re going to want to be a little more niche, a little more diagonal.
What is important to your ideal customer?
That is a hard question. If someone just asked you, “Hey, what’s important to you?” would you even know what to say? I’d have a hard time. But you can ask it in an oblique way and get some useful intelligence.
My friend Ashley Janssen had an opportunity to ask local entrepreneurs what they would do with more time in their day. Their answers revealed a lot about what is important to them. They would spend more time with family, give time to causes that are important to them, or look after themselves better.
Ashley is passionate about all three of those things, but podcasts are niche, so we should start with one. Let’s pick Door No. 2 — people who want to give back. Ashley could do a podcast where she talks to people about what they’ve learned from contributing to a good cause. (That kind of podcast has the added benefit of being spread by both the interviewee and the charity that he or she mentions.)
After she has told the story and shared the lessons from it, then she could segue into a message aligned with her business. “Saving time on day-to-day tasks gives you more time to do good — let me show you how.”
You try it. Use your network to ask your community a question that gets at what is really important to them. Here are some examples:
- What would you do with $1,000?
- Your house is burning but your loved ones are safe — what’s the one thing you rescue?
- You’re going to Mars and never coming back; you can bring the works of one writer, one musician and one visual artist with you. Who do you choose and why?
- A genie grants you one wish. What do you wish for?
Or whatever variation strikes your fancy.
Gather the answers and look for patterns. What resonates with you? What can you see yourself talking about and writing about over a long period of time? That’s the passion that you and your potential audience share. Make a podcast about that, for those people. Now you’re ready to think about the rest.
Now you’re ready to think about the rest. You can do this on your own. I know, because I did. Only you’ll have a head start with the Podcast Canvas!
If you need to move faster, I can help:
I have a limited number of spots available for the following consulting packages:
Let’s Get Started
I will work with you to go from concept to first podcast episode. We’ll make sure we have a solid concept that draws on the passion you share with present and future customers, and we’ll create a plan that encompasses format, length, frequency, distribution and technology.
Let’s Keep Going
I will act as an ongoing resource as you produce your podcast, keeping the production cycle on track, learning from the metrics to increase listenership and refine the message, and advising on how to use social media and other channels to reach more people.
Why should you listen to me?
Good question. Honestly, if you just want to know how to start a podcast, Google “how to start a podcast” and you’ll get 99 million results. I doubt the ones at the top will steer you wrong on the nuts and bolts of the matter.
What I bring is this:
- More than 15 years of experience in traditional journalism, which equipped me to be utterly focused on serving an audience rather than myself;
- A decade of deep interest in independent media producers, i.e. bloggers and podcasters, and an obsessive study of their contribution to the future of media;
- My experience of starting my own podcast from scratch, sometimes learning things the hard way, and always learning new lessons I can pass on to you.
You can see more about my professional experience on my LinkedIn profile.
This experience has equipped me to guide you like an editor or a producer. If you’re making a podcast, you’re in media, and you’re going to need to think like a journalist — what will be interesting and useful to my audience? Otherwise, you risk ending up with self-serving, boring content. The world doesn’t need any more of that.