The problem with branded podcasts has nothing to do with brand. Instead, it has to do with the association that branded content is inherently self-promotional, has a myopic focus on the brand’s bottom line, and doesn’t actually deliver real value — which all translates to boring in the listener's mind. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can create branded content that serves a real purpose, delivers value, and connects with your audience in a meaningful way. Kierran Peterson is the producer of three podcasts, including HubSpot’s The Growth Show and Weird Work, and an avid podcast listener. At HubSpot’s INBOUND conference, Peterson shared her hard-won insights into how to create a branded podcast that people actually want to listen to.
Why should my company start a podcast?
Podcasts are no longer an experimental medium. Studies show that 40% of Americans have listened to a podcast and 67 million Americans listened to a podcast last month. Research shows that if a person listens to one podcast, they listen to five on average and they tend to make it through most or all of an episode. Can the same be said for your blog posts or white papers? People listen to podcasts in two main places: at home, while working around the house, or in the car, while commuting. Because these activities don’t require their focus, people tend to engage more deeply with podcast content while listening.
Additionally, podcast listeners are typically more affluent, educated, engaged, and trending older — meaning that your enterprise technology buyers are likely represented among them. Podcast listeners are working professionals looking for practical solutions to business challenges or for ways that they can be the hero at work. By speaking to their needs with a podcast, you can position your brand as a valuable resource and set the stage for a fruitful relationship.
But do podcasts work for B2B?
For B2B companies, the value of podcasts is that, by nature, they directly target a niche audience. Someone outside your field probably isn’t likely to sit through an hour-long discussion about cybersecurity or healthcare technology. This means that your listeners are already bought into what you have to say and are intentionally consuming your content because it’s proven relevant and valuable to them. In other words, they are a self-selecting group of potential leads.
Podcasting is a long-term investment in inbound marketing. Use podcasts, published to your website, to draw visitors into your larger content marketing engine where they can find other opportunities to connect. They can drive relevant traffic to your site, improve your search engine rankings, and help grow your email list. Like your blog or videos, podcasts alone will not generate qualified inbound leads. Unlike written content, however, podcasts provide a unique opportunity to connect with your audience on an intimate, one-to-one level that communicates the personality and expertise of your brand better than any other medium.
For B2B companies, a branded podcast also provides the opportunity for relationship nurturing. By inviting guests on the show who fit the profile of your target persona, you not only provide your audience with insight into how other industry leaders are tackling their biggest issues — you have a chance to form a relationship with a top prospect based on shared expertise. You can also leverage these industry leaders’ networks to help amplify your message to a new audience.
Starting Your Podcast
Now that you’re ready to start planning your own podcast, here are some of Peterson’s “best practices” for creating a successful company podcast:
Do Your Research
Go home and listen. Discover who else is making a show in your field. Ask questions like: Who are we competing with? What’s the goal of our show? Do we want to make it in-house? Who is our audience? Give some thought to what type of podcast you want. Is it just you talking? Do you want to have a guest and do an interview? Are you telling more of a story? The sum of those questions equals how much time and money you should be willing to spend.
Train Your Host
Listening to a lot of podcasts doesn’t immediately make you an excellent podcast host. It takes significant coaching and preparation to make a person sound engaging and natural on tape. Peterson advises that you start out with a cheap microphone and keep recording yourself until you like how you (or your host) sounds. Do this all before sitting down to interview your first guest. To sound natural and be successful, lean into your personality and voice as a host. It’s what will set your podcast apart.
Optimize Your Content
There are 400k+ podcasts on Apple Podcasts and 1k shows submitted each week — so you need to stand out. Some of the biggest mistakes to avoid? An unoriginal idea, terrible production value, unlikeable hosts, boring guests or stories, trying to sell something and inconsistent release dates. Remember that at this point, your listeners are interested in learning how to solve their business problems and become better at their craft, so make sure that your podcast is targeted toward their needs at the top of the funnel (rather than on direct pushes to buy your product). Focus on the moments in your guest’s story that will resonate with your audience and ultimately help them solve their own business problems.
Promote Your Podcast
If you’re interested in the topic you’re discussing, then you are already your listener. Figure out where you live online and promote your podcast there. Create a blog post to accompany each episode. Include a transcription or give a short description of what the episode is about, as well as highlights, quotes, and photos. Share it on social and have a dedicated email list so you can tell people when new episodes are out. Discoverability is the biggest problem facing podcasters, so tap guests with wide networks to help spread the word.
If you’re considering starting a company podcast, it doesn’t have to be boring. The relationship the audience develops with you through audio is completely different than with other types of content. For B2B technology marketers, a branded company podcast can provide you with an opportunity to reach your audience in a whole new way while driving listeners into your inbound marketing funnel.