Every small business faces the same key problem: no one knows who you are yet. The solution to that problem lies in getting exposure to prospective buyers in order to build awareness and credibility.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, advertising will not solve your exposure problem. At the scale you need to get results, advertising will break your budget. Price reductions won’t solve your problem, either. People won’t buy from you at any price if they don’t know you exist. And if you’re already working hard on your publishing and social media platforms (and you should be), what other strategies can you implement? Audio.
Gary Vaynerchuk, the oracle of the internet, says, “The future will be audio and voice focused.”
Podcasts, the main audio medium, are growing fast, and if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to be on them. Once a niche market for hobbyists, podcasting has grown into a mainstream media initiative. As of December 2019, there are more than 800,000 podcasts featuring three million episodes on the internet, and the numbers are climbing daily. National figures such as former President Barack Obama, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, and actress Jenna Fischer all host top-ranked shows.
Small Business Owner’s & Podcasts?
So how can a podcast help a small business owner gain free exposure? Two ways: You can either host a podcast yourself or you can be a guest on top-rated shows.
Hosting a podcast yourself is one of those marketing strategies that’s easy to grab but hard to let go of, meaning a podcast is fun to start but difficult to maintain. Podcasts are expensive, challenging, and time consuming. You will have to do a lot of work to produce and promote your podcast, and you may not make money on the show for several years. Hosting a podcast can be an effective marketing strategy, but you’ll need expert help to do it right. So if you think you want to get into hosting a podcast anyway, consider talking with a company such as Sweet Fish Media that helps entrepreneurs produce podcasts rather than taking on the whole initiative yourself.
Being a guest is a much easier, less expensive strategy than hosting a show, and it produces a near-immediate payoff. As a guest, you can share your message with your hosts, their audience, and your own community. Once produced, your podcast episode can serve as pillar content that you can break down into blogs, memes, quotes, social media posts, and audio clips. As such, podcasts are advertising gold for the small business owner.
Let’s dig into the facts about business podcasting, how to get invited onto top industry podcasts, how to be a great podcast guest, and ways to turn your podcast appearances into sales.
The Facts About Business Podcasting
If you mostly know podcasting through mega-popular shows such as Stuff You Should Know or The Dave Ramsey Show, you should be aware that there’s a whole universe of other podcasts, many reaching into even the nichiest of niche markets. The top categories for podcasts are Christianity, comedy, and music.
If your business overlaps with any of those areas, you’ve got real potential for getting on a lot of shows. But some research says general business is the 10th most popular podcast category by number of episodes, making it popular but not overwhelmed with shows.
What are business podcasts?
Business podcasts range from popular shows hosted by famous entrepreneurs and appealing to large audiences all the way to niche podcasts that are produced and managed by small B2B companies seeking to gain ground as thought leaders in their industries. These shows may talk about anything from broad business and professional topics, such as you might hear on Tim Ferris’ perennially popular podcast, to the nitty-gritty details of a single industry such as higher education marketing.
Who listens to podcasts?
Podcast metrics are notoriously hard to track, but here’s what we do know. About 73 million Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month. Most of these listeners are young or middle aged and trend slightly male. Roughly 85% of them attended college, and 45% earn $75,000 a year or more. In addition to podcasts, these listeners also like public radio and social media. Almost half of podcast consumers listen in the car, but many also say they listen at home or in the gym.
Why is being on a business podcast effective?
People buy from people. Podcasts give you a platform to share your story in your own voice with a highly targeted audience. That audience already knows, likes, and trusts the host who invited you, giving you a little free credibility from the start. It’s the same as if you appeared on a radio or TV show except that the podcast resides online where you can break it into multiple pieces of content for your followers, and it can stay there in perpetuity.
What business podcasts should you listen to?
Listen in on some of the best business podcast shows before you get started so you can hear how the guests sound, figure out what you like and want to emulate, and get the feel of the interplay between guests and hosts. Some top shows include HBR IdeaCast, The Side Hustle Show, and How I Built This.
How to Get Invited Onto Top Industry Podcasts
So we’ve convinced you to give podcasting a try to gain free exposure for your business. How do you get on the right shows? You can either work with an agency that will help you craft a message, do interview prep, identify your best shows, and pitch you to the hosts; or you can do it all yourself. Have the money? Hire a team to do it for you. If you need to DIY it, though, here’s how:
Have a professional website with a media page.
Hosts need to be able to find you, and your business website won’t do that. You need a personal website with a high-quality photo, a well-written bio, and some testimonials from satisfied clients. Your site also needs a media page, which includes any relevant press releases, video and audio samples, and graphics and photos. Make sure your branding is consistent across your site as well as on your linked social media pages.
Identify your target podcast list. (Hint: start small; work up.)
Sure you might be hoping that Noah Kagan will invite to be a guest on his top-rated podcast for entrepreneurs, but he’s as unlikely to ask as you are to be a great guest for him on your first try anyway. Start small and work up. Search LinkedIn for podcast hosts you can reach out to, or use a podcast search tool such as Charitable to discover shows that could be a great fit. Create a list of your top targets and approach them.
Reach out with an elevator pitch email.
While you’ll want to personalize your email to each host, you can create a basic elevator pitch template. Tell your story in brief, be specific, and include social proof. Top hosts may get lots of pitches so you want to make sure yours is clear. The more work you do for the host in advance, the more likely the host is to want you. Don’t forget to include case studies, testimonials, videos, or blog posts that can bolster your case so the host trusts you to deliver what you say you can provide.
Leverage each appearance.
Podcast hosts go to podcasting conferences. They connect on social media. They appear on each other’s shows. If you’re good, they’ll share your name with their friends. Also, if you’re on a well-known show, mention that in your next pitch email to other podcast hosts.
How to Be a Great Podcast Guest
Getting on a show is half the battle. You have to be good once you’re on there in order to get the results you need.
Say something original and actionable.
What you say needs to add value to your host and your audience. Is your message clear? Inspirational? Informative? If you plan to say something that a listener could learn in a quick Google search, don’t say it. Instead, develop a unique personal story, craft creative phrases that will stick with your audience once the show’s over, and make sure the content you share is not a rehash of what everyone else on this show has already said.
You may even want to work with a company to help you do original research before you get started on the podcast circuit. Do whatever you need to do to keep from being a carbon copy of the last 12 guests the show featured.
Optimize your audio.
Your host will love you if you sound clear and loud. So conduct your interview in a quiet, private room with no babies, pets, small children, or loud pipes around. Be sure to speak directly into your microphone. Consider standing up so you can have strong breath support, but don’t wander around. One of our friends recently conducted a podcast interview with a guest who was checking his turkey coop while on the show. The guest’s huffing, his in-and-out volume, and the turkeys gobbling in the background made for a memorable story but a poor quality episode. You can give your host a better experience than that.
Promote your episode.
Many guests expect the host to do all the promotion. That doesn’t work because most podcast hosts are doing this as a side hustle, not a full-time gig. They can only do so much, so give them a hand. Tell your friends about it. Get some quotes from the show, decorate them, and put them on Pinterest. Mention your show on your social media platforms more than once. Write an article that references your show and post it on Medium. Talk about it on your blog. Do whatever you can to help the host push this episode out into the world.
Leave a review for the podcast.
Podcast hosts live and die by reviews. The nicest thing you can do for a host is to leave a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
3 Ways to Turn Your Podcast Appearances Into Dollars & Cents
Podcasts give you exposure, but you can die of exposure. You need more than that to market a small business. How do you turn your podcast appearance into profit?
Have a call to action.
You probably don’t want to do a hard sell at the end of the show, but you can take the time to talk about how people can get in touch with you if they want to learn more about what you’re doing. Ask your audience to do something at the end of the show if it’s okay with your host. The best call to action is one that helps you stay in touch, something like asking people to enter a contest, sign up for a newsletter, or send you an email in exchange for something free. That way you build your email list.
Maximize your relationship with the host.
In any network, a node with a lot of wires wrapped around it is a powerful node. Network theory applies to business marketing. Consider that on any panel, the most important person is the moderator. He or she knows each member of that panel and controls the conversation between them and the audience. Your podcast host is valuable for the same reasons — a powerful network and message control. Keep a good relationship with that person. Their network might be worth more than anything else you get from appearing on the show.
Make influence, not income, your short-term metric of success.
One podcast appearance may not result in a sales boom. That doesn’t mean that podcasting isn’t a viable form of marketing. It just means you have to hang in there for a while before you see a financial ROI. In the short-term, you are building influence, not income, anyway. So focus on using podcasts to help you become the go-to person in your industry, the one people trust. Income follows influence, after all.
There’s no doubt that audio is the next big thing in inbound marketing. You can use it to gain exposure and earn credibility for your company. Yes, it’s a long-term strategy, but in five years, you could see tremendous benefits to your bottom line from investing in podcasts today.
Check out all of the articles in the ‘Marketing Strategies Every Business Should Be Using‘ series: