James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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How to Grow a Podcast Audience in 14 Steps

phone-with-podcaster-on-the-screen-grow-a-podcast-audience

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

Size doesn’t matter… unless it does.

Of course, I’m talking about the size of your podcast audience. 

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Everyone wants to grow their podcast listenership, but few actually know how to do it. I’ll admit, it took the Sweet Fish team a few experiments to solidify our podcast growth strategy.

But now we’ve got it down to a T. We’ve seen it work wonders for the shows our team produces, like our flagship podcast, B2B Growth. (130,000 downloads a month, holla!) 

And there’s no reason it can’t work for your show, too. 

You see, our 14-step audience growth strategy is what we use to answer the question:

How do I grow a podcast audience? To grow a podcast audience, we suggest these 14 steps:

  1. Be strategic with your show’s name.
  2. Plan out your content.
  3. Prepare a launch promotion plan.
  4. Set up cross-promotions with other podcasts in your space.
  5. Pay to promote your show on popular podcasts in your space.
  6. Set up a podcast tour for the host of your show.
  7. Don’t sleep on SEO.
  8. Crush it on LinkedIn.
  9. Repurpose episodes into micro-videos.
  10.  Repurpose episodes into slide decks.
  11.  Use the second biggest search engine: YouTube.
  12.  Produce funny videos to promote your show.
  13.  Leverage your team’s email signatures.
  14.  Get creative with email.

Simple as that. 😉

Jk, we’re not gonna leave ya hangin’. We’re actually going to go into some pretty deep detail on each one of these 14 phases.

No time to waste — let’s do this!

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Psst: This blog post is based on a #BehindTheCurtain episode of B2B Growth with James Carbary and Logan Lyles. To hear this episode and more like it, subscribe to B2B Growth on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

How to grow a podcast audience in 14 steps

The thing about this audience growth strategy is that some of the steps are going to need to be continuously repeated.

Think bigger than downloads. The podcast is the top of your content waterfall.

Logan Lyles

Keep in mind that once you complete step #14, you’re not at the finish line. You gotta keep cranking that content machine to see real growth in your listenership.

Nonetheless, there’s no better place to start than step one!

1. Be strategic with your show’s name

Your show’s name should be your first priority. It’s potentially the most important part of launching a successful podcast.

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The show’s name is of the gravest concern for our team because it’s produced the biggest results for us. If you have a strategic podcast title, you make it easier for listeners to find you

Take B2B Growth, for example.

  • There’s no cutesy fluff. It’s about as blunt as your Great Aunt Norma at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • It’s named after what our ideal listener cares about (not our company name or our company’s expertise). Who’s going to listen to the Sweet Fish Show if they don’t already know who we are? (We also like to name podcasts based on the profession of the ideal listener, like The CIO Show.)
  • It makes it easier to find us on podcast players. We reach our ideal listeners because they’re searching for what our show revolves around: B2B.
  • It shows our dedication to the listeners. We didn’t launch B2B Growth to talk about ourselves. We whole-heartedly want to help B2B marketers get better at work, and that’s what the name reflects.

When it comes to naming your podcast, think about your ideal listener. What will they be searching for in their podcast player? What industry or role are they in?

Once you realize your show is about the listeners and not your company, the name will follow.

[RELATED: Looking to hire a podcast production partner? Ask these 5 questions.]

2. Plan out your content

CAUTION: Tough love ahead.

Basically, if your content sucks, people are not going to subscribe to your show.

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Hey, I warned ya.

Don’t be sales-y

If you put in the time to plan episodes that are genuinely helpful and packed with relevant info, you will not be disappointed in the ROI.

Very important: Do not — I repeat — do NOT use your podcast as a stage to sell stuff. “Sales-y” is an adjective you want to avoid like the coronavirus. People won’t subscribe to your show because they don’t want to listen to an infomercial. They want real insights and real advice that they can use in their real jobs and life.

With that being said, plan topics that you know your ideal listener wants to learn about.

“Your audience will not grow if you do not put thought into the quality of the content you’re sharing.”

James Carbary

For instance, here are a handful of topics B2B Growth has planned for and executed:

Choosing relevant topics

How do you pick topics that are relevant to your ideal listener?

Without getting too much into our SEO strategy (we’ll talk more about that in a second), here’s our process for finding crowd-pleasing topics.

[Rather listen to how we pick episode topics? You can hear it here.]

Google Alphabet Soup:

  1. Determine the high-level subjects the host (for solo episodes) or the guest is an expert in. Example: Podcasting
  2. In Google’s search bar, type in “podcasting a” and see the autosuggestions it populates. Start a list with long-tail keywords the host or guest could expound upon.
  3. Enter “podcasting b” to see what autosuggestions pop up. Continue this process for the entire alphabet.
  4. Now that you have a pretty substantial list of potential episode topics, whittle it down to just the subjects the host or guest can really get into.
  5. Then, do a competitive analysis of those keywords. Find out what’s already ranking on Google’s first page of results. Consider ways your content could outrank the current top three results. How can you add more value to your episode outline?
  6. Record the episode focusing on the predetermined subject and using an outline.

By following this method, you’re taking the searcher’s intent into consideration. You’re also setting yourself up to create thoughtful content.

Don’t over-plan

You could go on and on with the content planning process, but at some point, you gotta record the thing.

While it’s crucial to plan helpful and thought-provoking content, it’s also important that you actually create it. 

Once you’ve gone through the planning process a few times, it should become easier to spot topics your listeners will love. Content is a muscle — it takes reps to strengthen it. Ya feel?

3. Prepare a launch promotion plan

Congrats! You’ve made it to the launch of your new podcast. Now, to sit back and relax… 

Sike!

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There’s still some work to be done. You want your show’s launch to be successful, right? Well, there are two main ways to ensure your podcast starts out on the right foot.

Have a queue of episodes

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I find a new podcast I think I’d really like, and then I see they only have one episode released.

I’m not going to subscribe to a show with only one episode. And neither is your ideal listener.

So, our advice is to have 8-10 episodes recorded and ready to rock once your show launches. There are several benefits to doing it this way:

  • You look more credible to listeners.
  • You’re able to draw people in and get them hooked with multiple episodes.
  • The total number of downloads will be greater than if you only released one episode (which is helpful when Apple Podcasts is ranking your show in their platform).

“A lot of people view the launch of their show as the finish line when it’s really just the starting blocks.”

Logan Lyles

Get ratings in Apple Podcasts

Apple Podcasts remains in the #1 spot for podcast platform market share. Thus, it’s smart to stock up on reviews and ratings (ESPECIALLY ratings) within the podcast player people use the most.

To increase your show’s credibility come launch time, ask friends, family, your entire company, and your network to check out the show. Encourage them to leave a rating in Apple Podcasts if possible. You could even try giving away a prize like Airpods or a book to a few of the people that leave a rating.

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Ratings help you rank organically for search terms within Apple Podcasts, but they also help your show look credible to potential guests (ideally, you’re doing Content-Based Networking with your podcast)

4. Set up cross-promotions with similar podcasts

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Finding other shows related to yours with similar audience sizes that are willing to trade promotion spots can help get your show on the radar of more ideal listeners.

Disclaimer: This step won’t be as effective for brand new shows with small listenerships. After you gain some traction with the other tips in this article, you should be able to move on to cross-promoting.

5. Pay to promote your show on popular podcasts in your space

Similarly to step #4, you can attain new listeners by paying for ad space on a popular show with the same type of listeners that you’re trying to attract.

To find other shows related to yours, use something like SparkToro. This tool makes it easy to plug in keywords and find related shows, blogs, and media channels.

Pro tip: If you plan on advertising on another podcast, make it for at least a month’s worth of episodes. People need to hear about your show multiple times in order to remember to check it out.

6. Set up a podcast tour for the host of your show

Getting the host of your show scheduled as a guest on other podcasts can boost the size of your audience. Being a guest on the right podcasts will increase your show’s exposure to people already listening to similar shows.

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Tips for scheduling a podcast tour:

  • Use a service like Interview Valet for landing interviews.
  • Be thoughtful about how you pitch to each show. Relate to their needs.
  • Did your host write a book? Suggest using the book’s content as main talking points.
  • See if the other show is up for an hour-long call with 30 minutes being dedicated to their episode, and the other half being dedicated to yours.
  • Here’s a LinkedIn post I wrote about other things you can do to get booked as a guest on other shows.

No matter what shows you’re trying to get on, make sure to offer as much value as you’re gaining.

7. Don’t sleep on SEO

A big part of our audience growth strategy is SEO. Yep, that means written content!

Reference your keyword list

Remember Google Alphabet Soup (step #2)? Thanks to that approach, you should have a list of keywords that your content can potentially rank for in Google.

And, thanks to your podcast, you have some of those long-tail keywords described in depth by industry experts (your guests). That means all the research has already been done. 

It’s like your past self is handing your present self a perfectly optimized article on a silver platter.

The difference between you and them

You know what the best thing about writing SEO-friendly articles based on your podcast is?

The expertise.

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Any blogger can go and spin up an article based on recycled content they find on the internet. A lot of the pieces currently ranking for your targeted keywords are probably just that: online research conducted by a non-expert.

That can be the difference between your content and theirs. Yours is based on the knowledge and experience of specialists — the words right from their mouths. Other companies’ content isn’t.

Adding value

In order to outrank the posts currently showing up in Google for your targeted keywords, you need to add value to your content.

In addition to basing your articles on words directly from professionals, you can add more value by… 

  • Having a higher word count
  • Cutting out the fluff
  • Including graphics and tables
  • Featuring sub-headers and lists that make the article easier to read
  • Including embedded videos
  • Embedding the podcast episode

Also, take the searcher’s intent into consideration. Does the content actually answer the searcher’s question?

8. Crush it on LinkedIn

LinkedIn: the digital study hall for B2B professionals.

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I freakin’ love LinkedIn for a lot of reasons. But the #1 reason is that it makes it so easy to build and learn from your network.

The benefits of being active on LinkedIn

When you’re a B2B podcaster, it helps tremendously to be active on LinkedIn. You can… 

  • Connect with potential guests
  • Get to know former guests better
  • Learn about new insights
  • Connect with other podcasters
  • Grow your podcast audience
  • Share your knowledge with your network
  • Get your industry questions answered by experts
  • Uncover new business opportunities

To take advantage of all the benefits LinkedIn offers to B2B podcasters, there are a few pro tips that can help.

How to grow your podcast audience w/ LinkedIn

Boost the number of views you get on your LinkedIn content by… 

  1. Writing status updates instead of LinkedIn articles.
  2. Writing paragraphs that are only 1-2 sentences long.
  3. Putting any links in the first comment instead of the status update itself.
  4. Using proven frameworks like lists, failure posts, or playing the Devil’s advocate.
  5. Replying to every comment on your post.
  6. Starting engagement group messages with coworkers or friends.
  7. Engaging with other people’s content.
  8. Adding your popular LinkedIn updates or podcast episodes to the featured section on your profile.
  9. Sharing actionable advice and insights from your podcast episodes (not just teasing/promoting the episode).
  10.  Using a showcase page for your podcast that people can tag in status updates.

“Make sure you’re sharing value in your LinkedIn posts and not just teasing an episode.”

James Carbary

Keep in mind, LinkedIn isn’t for direct conversions. Think of it as a channel to share valuable industry insights and learn from other influencers.

9. Repurpose episodes into micro-videos

Video is a fantastic way to share podcast content on social media.

What we’ve found is that people rarely engage with audio clips on social. They’re just not that effective.

That’s why we record video in addition to audio during interviews in-person or over Zoom.

Micro-video framework

Our shows’ micro-videos (normally a minute or less) perform well on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Our approach to micro-videos includes:

  1. Locating the best and most actionable insights within the episode to extract and edit.
  2. Adding captions to the video so viewers don’t necessarily need their sound on.
  3. Writing headlines that will grab the viewer’s attention.
  4. Using branded frames around the video’s border.
  5. Posting to multiple social media channels with smart and engaging captions.

Remember, it’s not all about production — it’s about the quantity and quality of the content. If you only want to put out highly-produced videos once in a while, you’re going to lose your audience’s attention.

PPC campaigns

Since you’re already posting micro-videos to your social accounts, why not put some *oomph* behind them?

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Running paid ad campaigns with your micro-videos is an effective way to drive demand and inbound opportunities for your sales team. 

Take it from somebody who knows! Dylan Hey of Hey Digital continues to master his PPC craft with micro-videos and he’s gotten pretty darn good at it.

10. Repurpose episodes into slide decks

Slide decks kill on LinkedIn.

To publish a slide deck on LinkedIn, be sure to use the document feature for the best looking results.

They also work well on Slideshare and Instagram.

Being something our team is relatively new at, we had no idea the true potential slide decks had.

Slide deck design

When designing slide decks, we like to change up the templates frequently so they don’t start feeling stale.

We suggest using bold colors and professional-looking graphics.

Slide deck content

These interactive decks aren’t just pretty to look at either. They have substance. When we decide to produce a slide deck featuring a podcast guest, we use only the most helpful advice they offer.

We also make sure to include contact information of the guest and where people can learn more about the topic (aka, your podcast).

11. Leverage the second biggest search engine: YouTube

Lucky for you, since you started recording your podcast episodes for micro-videos, you have full-interview episodes to publish on YouTube (the second largest search engine out there)!

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Tips for optimizing your YouTube videos:

  • Design YouTube thumbnails that will grab the viewer’s attention. Check out the thumbnails we use on B2B Growth’s YouTube channel.
  • Include a simple, branded intro and outro in each of your videos.
  • Use your targeted keyword in the title of your video (should be the same title as the corresponding blog article).
  • Embed the YouTube video in the corresponding blog article.
  • Start getting discovered for topics you cover on YouTube!

Plus, by embedding the YouTube video in the blog post, you’re increasing the time visitors stay on the page. BombBomb does a stellar job of this.

12. Produce funny videos to promote your show

There are not many things better than making someone laugh. 

Producing funny videos helps to grow your podcast audience because they’re memorable and make viewers feel good about your brand. If you can make a funny, relatable video, people will be looking for more content from you.

Funny video examples:

Make sure you always have a clear call-to-action at the end of your videos. “Subscribe to the Podcast” with the Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify logo under the text is great.

Funny works and you should absolutely be using it.”

James Carbary

Pro tip: Make sure you’re running paid campaigns behind your funny videos to get as much exposure as you can on a piece of content that will genuinely engage your potential listeners.

13. Leverage your team’s email signatures

You and your team are emailing people all day long… why not use that to your podcast’s advantage?

Use a tool like Sigstr to create professional email signature graphics for your entire team to promote your show.

14. Get creative with email

Growing your podcast audience through email is possible, but you gotta get creative.

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Sending your email list a link to the new episode isn’t going to cut it. Try sending people to your micro-videos on Instagram or LinkedIn. You can do this by… 

  1. Including a screenshot of the video right in the email body.
  2. Link the screenshot to the video in whichever social channel you want to push people towards.
  3. Giving a few takeaways they’ll get from watching the video.
  4. Writing an attention-grabbing subject line.

By pushing people to your social accounts, they’re more likely to actually engage with the content you send through email. This is something they can’t really do when you send them back to your website. 

Besides, haven’t they already seen your website if they’re on your mailing list?

A few newsletters that inspire us:

Email is still a very viable channel for growing a podcast audience. You just have to be thoughtful and creative about engaging your audience there.

5 more quick tips to grow a podcast audience

Thought we were done, eh? Well, we’re going to throw five more quick tips atchya. How’s that for value?

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1. Create structured series within your show

Once you start generating consistent episodes, it can be helpful to listeners to create miniseries within your podcast.

B2B Growth examples

For example, B2B Growth has several ongoing miniseries including:

  1. #BehindTheCurtain
  2. #CEO
  3. #H2H (Human to Human)
  4. #DemandGen
  5. #HowtoPodcast
  6. #5Things
  7. #Agency

These subcategories let the listener know the type of content they’re getting into, whether it be behind-the-scenes stuff or tips on how to start a podcast.

More examples

Another instance of structured series in a podcast is #VideoInFocus by Creating Connections (Vidyard). These special episodes focus entirely on video production, while the rest of the episodes have a more general focus on rediscovering the human touch in digital marketing.

2. Interview people on the frontlines

Sure, it’s exciting to get some big names on your show. But the real way to make your content go further is to interview practitioners on the frontlines of your industry.

They’re the ones who are going to… 

  • Share the episode
  • Refer you to their colleagues
  • Want to be interviewed again
  • Offer practical industry advice
  • Relate to your audience
  • Want to keep in touch with you after the interview

[RELATED: I really dig into this idea in my book Content-Based Networking.]

3. Interview internal experts

Who better to have on your show than the specialists from your own company?

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You have subject matter experts right at your fingertips:

  • Your CEO
  • Other executives
  • Consultants
  • Directors
  • Managers

Not to mention, it’s a lot easier planning out a thoughtful episode outline when you already work with the guest.

4. Make your host the face of the show

When you’re working your way through this audience growth plan, you’re going to want to be publishing content on LinkedIn from an actual person, not your company.

You see, people trust other people. They don’t want to be interacting with a faceless brand. Think about the influencer movement on Instagram — you want to put a face to your content.

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The cool thing is that you can use all the content being created to post under multiple people from your company. Imagine having an army of industry influencers on your team, all promoting the incredible content from your podcast.

5. Dedicate a section of your website to podcast content

Or, pick up an entirely separate domain to showcase your episodes.

Take these shows for example:

  • The Customer Experience Podcast (BombBomb)
    • Place an introductory video of the show and the host at the top of the page.
    • Feature prominent Subscribe buttons.
  • The Sales Engagement Podcast (Outreach.io)
    • Include a searchable player above the episodes and blog posts.
    • Collect emails from the podcast’s homepage.
  • Micro Influencer Podcast
    • Place an audio spotlight at the top of the page introducing the show or featuring your best episode.
  • TechTables (Joe Toste & Nagarro)
    • Use Drift or another chat tool to foster engagement.
    • Set up chatbots to ask engaging questions about the content the user wants to find.
      • Examples: Are any of these of interest to you? What sort of content are you looking for? Want to subscribe to the show?

Making the user’s experience as frictionless as possible when it comes to finding your podcast is key for audience growth.

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You made it!

This plan will inevitably help you grow your podcast’s listenership.

Walking away from this article, we hope you remember to… 

  1. Be strategic with your show’s name. It’s about the listeners, not your company’s expertise.
  2. Plan out content ahead of time (but don’t over-plan).
  3. Repurpose the content from your interviews.
  4. Nurture your relationship with your audience and guests.

Until next time!

For more B2B marketing knowledge bombs, subscribe to B2B Growth wherever you listen to podcasts.

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