I work with a lot of businesses, helping shape their podcasting strategy. Sometimes that's done as a pure consulting relationship where I leave it up to them to handle the implementation of the ideas. Other times the consulting service transforms into an ongoing relationship between our two companies, either with us doing production or me staying on retainer to help with ongoing efforts. And some don't pan out at all.
One of the biggest disconnects I see with a lot of the short-term clients (or prospects who fail to become clients) has to do with how they perceive the audience of the podcast they want to create.
For many of these business-minded clients, the concept of a listener is a binary one: A person is either a listener or they are not. While that may be demonstrably true, it's not really a helpful heuristic. That view is just too simplistic.
I get why this is a commonplace view: It's how they think about their customers. Someone either is a customer or they're not.
But taking this simplistic view of a podcast's audience often leads to poor podcast planning and implementation, in my experience. A better approach is to create three different podcast audience buckets, not just two:
- Those who haven't yet listened to your podcast,
- those who do listen to your podcast, almost without fail,
- and a new grouping made up of people who change state, from listener to non-listener and back again.
And all three of these groups need attention. Not the same attention. Their own attention. That means having not just one audience engagement strategy, but three different audience engagement strategies. Not just a handful of tactics applicable to only one of those groups, but a slate of tactics that roll up to and serve each of those three different audience engagement strategies.
Yes, that's a lot of work. But when you break down the needs of those groups, I think you'll see there's really not any other approach that will work.
Group One: The Never-Have-Listened
If someone has never listened to your podcast, you're probably not going to win them over with amazing podcast episodes. Again: they've never listened!
This group needs content from you that they can discover and consume without listening to your podcast. They need content that lets them know your podcast exists. They need content that makes it quite easy to sample your content, and also makes it easy for them to say "yes, please, I would like to have some more!"
Not only do you have to create specialized content just for this group, but you have to support that content with the marketing budget that it deserves, exposing your podcast to those who have not yet listened.
Group Two: The Dedicated Listener
Your dedicated listeners need content from you that makes them never, ever want to leave. They need content from you that makes them want to tell all their friends about your podcast.
Yes, this means making excellent podcast episodes. But it also means making other sorts of content. Content that is designed to live where your dedicated listeners live as they experience and engage with your podcast.
You not only have to create that content, but you need to support that content with a community building and engagement budget that it deserves, keeping your dedicated fans well-fed and reinforcing that you do, in fact, have the goods and will always have the goods that they desire.
Group Three: The Dippers & Dabblers
I hate to break it to you, but most of your audience doesn't listen to everything you put out. They pick and choose what they want to consume.
The content you make for this group needs to give them a compelling reason to listen because they're busy people. They need content from you that's fit for their purpose, not just fit for yours. Your podcast episodes, of course, but also your social shares, your newsletter, your videos, and the other content you create that makes your episodes more snackable.
Once again, you have to create great content and then support the decisions of what content you created with research and measurement tools. Because if you don't, you won't know if the content you're making is actually worth it.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Three very different groups with very different wants and needs, so a single audience engagement strategy just won't work.
Being ultra-responsive in your show's Discord server is important to your loyal listeners, but it's not going to help reach anyone who's never heard of your show and certainly isn't a part of that server. And unless that content is packaged in a compelling way, it'll probably be missed by many of those who dip in and out of your show.
A properly funded and well-executed marketing campaign is great at reaching those who have no idea about your show, but it won't have any impact at all on your most loyal listeners, and those who dip in and out probably won't care either.
Spending the time to analyze the listener experience for your show might do a lot to fix any pain points or uncover ways to engender more loyalty to your casual listeners. But it won't impact those who don't know about your show. And it probably won't matter to those who listened to every single episode.
All of these audience engagement initiatives (and so many more) are important. They're just important for different reasons. So focus on making content for the audiences—not just the audience—for your podcast. The rest tends to follow.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.