All models are wrong. Some happened to be useful. That statement is an accurate reflection of my feelings about how podcasters utilize—or try to utilize—marketing funnels for their shows.
No, this is not a primer on marketing funnels. But I will summarize the concept simply: a funnel moves people from awareness to consideration to purchase. That's it.
Broadly speaking for podcasters, that means making a lot of people aware of your podcast, then getting some of them to consider listening to your podcast, and then getting an even smaller set to actually listen. Not really purchasing, unless you’re selling a premium or private feed. Then more power to you.
(Quick note for the marketing pros in the room: Yes, I’m aware of using a podcast as part of a marketing funnel. But I’m not talking about that today. Let’s move on.)
So that’s all there is to it. Seems simple, right? Sure. Perhaps too simple.
Flawed Funnel Thinking For Podcasters
I’ve a few issues with the simplicity marketing funnels describe and the panacea far too many marketers claim them to be.
To start, I think the metaphor of a funnel itself is wrong. When you break it down, the job a marketing funnel performs bears little resemblance to what we use actual funnels for in the reals world. If I use a funnel in my kitchen, say to pour olive oil out of the big glass bottle and into the small squeeze bottle I keep beside my stove, the funnel’s job is to make sure I don’t spill oil all over my countertop during the transfer. Unless I screw up big time, every drop I pour in at the top of the actual funnel comes out the bottom.
Marketing funnels don’t work like that. They’re leaky, with not just some but the vast majority of people never progressing through the funnel at the top. It’s just not realistic to think every awareness exposure will lead to a conversion. This literally never happens, and no marketer thinks it does.
In reality, the marketing funnel behaves more like a sieve or a filter, helping the right people progress through the process. But “marketing sieve” doesn’t sound nearly as sexy, so I’ll not be dying on that hill.
You and I both know that not every single person made aware of your show is going to consider listening to your show. How many billboards do you look at as you drive by and immediately forget about because they aren’t for you? How many commercials do you see or hear that don’t resonate with you?
None of them are worthy of your consideration. And more importantly, it’s not worth it for the company or brand to try to move you to the consideration set. If you’re not the target audience, then they do not care about you. And that’s OK.
As podcasters, we need to be OK with that too. You need to make it abundantly clear who your podcast is for. A new person needs to be able to quickly move on if your show is not for them. That isn’t a bad thing! Someone looking for a new mobile phone isn’t a good fit for my show, even if they are made aware of my show because of an episode where I talked about mobile phone apps for podcasts.
If you’re using mystery and intrigue on assets you’re making for awareness—stop. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by hiding exactly who your content is for.
Another beef I have with funnels is this: actual funnels have a single entry point. The top. That’s it. There’s no “side hatch” on my kitchen funnel, so I can’t add oil into the middle of my funnel.
But in reality, people can do encounter your podcast’s assets of all forms in lots of ways. Not just from assets specifically designed for the awareness stage. It’s possible—likely, even—that one of your social posts announcing your latest episode will be surfaced to someone via an algorithm. That may be the first time they’ve heard of you or your podcast, and they click. That’s great! But only if they’re going to have a good time on that click. What did you share? And audiogram? Then what do they do? Was it a direct link to your .mp3 file? Did they like that experience? And… what are they supposed to do after that?
Or maybe they were searching for a topic and the search engine offered up your episode detail page. The searcher has no idea who you are or even that the page they are clicking through to is for a podcast. Or maybe they were watching YouTube and one of your videos—a clip or the video-version of the whole episode—is either suggested or auto-plays. Will the new person have any idea what’s going on when they view the page or watch your video? What can you do to make that experience better for those who skipped the awareness stage?
And then there’s the problem of gravity. Every marketing funnel, be it for podcasts or anything else, assumes linear, top-to-bottom refinement and progression. Prospects are made aware of the brand at the top, they consider it at the middle, and they convert at the bottom. Without any ability to move back up the chain.
That’s not how it works in real life. I’ve done enough attribution modeling and actual click path analysis over the years to state confidently that individuals will bounce around through funnel-optimized content in completely random patterns, providing zero discernible patterns when examined on an individual level.
Let me state that clearly: It is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy what a single person is going to do once they've entered your funnel. Yes, I know there are probabilities. But I assure you that an individual will do weirder things with your content than you can possibly imagine.
En masse, behaviors are easier to predict. Big budget funnels can and do pay off for many marketers. Even podcasters. So no, I’m not anti-funnel. But please keep in mind that this is a numbers game. Podcasters with more modest audiences often don’t have the ability (or funds) to shove enough people through a well-crafted funnel to see mass behaviors emerge.
Setting up a successful podcast marketing funnel is by no means a quick fix. And what works for a SaaS company may not work for your podcast. So as I say often, choose how to spend your time wisely.
There’s A Podcast Conference In Phoenix In October 2021!
Are you coming to She Podcasts LIVE? It’s happening in mid-October in Scottsdale, which is a suburb of Phoenix (I said that just to trigger the Snotsdale peeps). Since I live here (Phoenix, not Scottsdale, but close enough), I’ll be attending.
So let’s address the elephant in the room: Me, a cis-gendered dude attending a podcast conference designed for female, female-identifying, and non-binary podcasters, audio content creators, and storytellers?
Correct. I’m attending. She Podcast doesn’t exclude men from attending, and I’m looking forward to learning from and interacting with a bunch of super-smart podcasters who aren’t dudes!
I’m going. I’ll attend sessions, parties, and do the thing I love to do at podcast conferences: chat with other podcasters who also want to make podcasting better. I’ll very likely be masked up the entire time, even though I’m fully vaccinated. Heck, I may even have taken the booster shot by then, if that’s available to me.
If you’re attending, please drop by the table and introduce yourself. I’m going to have some super-seekrit swag just for listeners of Podcast Pontifications who I meet in person. So come say hi!
To further tempt you, Jess has given me a code to share with you to save on your registration. Use AZPOD when you register and you’ll save $100! How sweet is that?
(No, that was not a paid endorsement of She Podcasts. It’s a free endorsement because I support the conference. I paid full price for my ticket because I support the work that Jess, Elsie, and everyone else at She Podcasts are doing.)
If you got value out of today's episode, please return some of that value either via a value-for-value enabled listening apps by boosting me some Satoshis—I'm almost up to 20,000 sats! No, not dollars. Dollars would be nice. Baby steps. I also tend to spread the sats around to encourage others to use them.
But if that's not in the cards for you because let's face it, the onboarding process for the value-for-value is way too complicated for the vast majority of people, so don’t feel bad if you find it too frustrating; then please visit BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and sign up for a virtual coffee contribution. Or 12 virtual coffee contributions. That works!
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.