Blog posts? Check. Whitepapers? Check. Now it’s time to build your audio strategy
- A new podcast endeavor deserves a well thought-out strategy.
- Quality audio content comes from understanding your audience.
- Identify the metrics that actually indicate success.
More than 150 million Americans listened to podcasts in 2019—that’s 100 million more than the entire UK population.
Advances in smartphone and streaming technology are likely responsible for some of this uptick. However, popular podcasts like Reply All, Serial, and Planet Money have also paved the way, inspiring individuals and brands to experiment with everything from true crime to financial planning and online therapy sessions. But is audio content really worth the investment?
It’s no secret that audio takes time. Mark Jones, host of The CMO Show has claimed that pre- and post-production can take his team anywhere between 10 to 15 hours. So before you press record, you need to make sure you have a captive audience—and a plan for keeping them engaged.
From developing episodes with a specific audience in mind to teaming up with other creators and guiding listeners down the marketing funnel, here are the considerations you need to make when incorporating podcasts and other audio formats into your content marketing strategy.
Know who you’re talking to
Different media have different audiences. That may seem obvious, but plenty of brands make the mistake of assuming that their viewers and readers are the same as their listeners. More often than not, they’re not.
Brands need to know who their listeners are in order to design a strategy and deliver programming that drives ROI. Start with market research to pinpoint who’s consuming audio content in your space, then complement that with persona development based on your specific offerings. Which of your customers are also likely to be your podcast listeners? What stage of the funnel are they at, what questions are they asking, and what problems are they trying to solve?
Combining empirical research and empathetic reasoning will enable you to find the sweet spot for your audio content.
Invest in your show’s success
So you know what kind of podcast you want to create, and who you’re creating it for—perhaps you’ve even started to produce episodes. Now you need to ensure that you’re raising awareness.
To that end, a pay-to-play approach can be effective, and eventually lead to organic earned attention. With this strategy, you typically sponsor other well-established podcasts in order to promote your show or your offerings. This may mean getting the hosts to give your brand a 15- or 30-second shout-out, or it might let you influence the editorial content that will be aired. You could even sponsor an entire podcast episode, like TNT did to promote their miniseries The Alienist.
Get creative with sponsorship opportunities by partnering with niche agencies or digital media brands. You’ll be able to access new creative talent, technology, and expert experience—which allows you to build a stronger foundation for your brand’s audio content strategy going forward.
There’s good evidence that investing in sponsorship and contributed content is worth it in the end. “The Podcast Consumer 2019” report from Edison and Triton shows that 54 percent of listeners are more likely to consider the brands that they hear advertised on podcasts.
Take a top-down approach
Like blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, and other content formats, audio can be tailored to a specific point within a brand’s customer journey. Take financial services company Charles Schwab, for example—its two podcasts cleverly target different audiences and are branded accordingly.
Not only that, but the company has a podcast strategy that leads listeners down the marketing funnel—much like more traditional content formats would. Nearly every episode of Choiceology introduces listeners to Financial Decoder, both in-episode and on the podcast’s landing page, in order to enable discovery and move audiences toward more bottom-of-funnel content. Through this cross-promotion of its own content, Charles Schwab has been immensely successful in driving awareness of its services and engagement with the brand.
Referrals from other podcasts also help with this. If audiences are introduced to a new source of audio content by a trusted brand, they’re more likely to listen and engage with it. According to Edison and Triton’s research, 93 percent of people who start a podcast will listen to most of the episode—which means referrals won’t go unheard.
Podcast discovery and engagement can be tricky to measure, but when you create an audio funnel, new leads can be more easily attributed. As mentioned earlier, producing audio content can be a sizable investment, which is why you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
Measure consumption, not downloads
Those who listen are listening a lot. It’s been found that the average American tunes into six podcasts per week—and 12 percent listen to 11 or more shows weekly. Therefore, your first priority shouldn’t be acquiring more listeners; it should be figuring out which listeners are actively engaging with your content.
This is where average consumption—how much of a podcast an audience listens to—comes into play. Even more than tracking downloads, this metric demonstrates the success of a piece of content by exposing whether a listener has truly interacted with it from beginning to end. If 100 percent of a podcast episode or audio clip is played, it’s fair to assume that the content provided some form of value, be it education or entertainment, to the audience.
It’s not enough to simply identify your target demographics and ideal audience personas. You should also make informed decisions about the style of your audio content—its tone, its humour, its structure, and its length, for instance. In the end, real engagement comes from knowing what people want to listen to.
Tuning into the future
For consumers of modern content, there’s never a dull moment. Whether they’re cooking a meal, riding the train, organizing their inbox, or running a half-marathon, they’re likely engaging with some sort of media at the same time. More and more, the medium they prefer is the podcast.
This should come as no surprise to marketing professionals. Everyone talks about how essential it is for brands to tell engaging stories—and what better way than with audio content? That’s been our main mode of storytelling for pretty much our entire existence, and now that so many companies are interacting with their customers via content automation and AI, having that human voice is more meaningful and impactful than ever.
As streaming grows even more ubiquitous, the number of people consuming audio content in the US has grown from one-third of the population to two-thirds. And its use as a marketing tool shows no signs of slowing down, as new audio-focused social platforms like Clubhouse emerge on the scene, and global giants like Apple plan to launch their own original podcasts.
There’s still no perfect science to calculating the real impact of this medium; but as long as you have a definitive measurement of ROI, and remain committed to building stronger customer relationships, you can drive a successful audio content strategy for your brand.