This is not just another how to launch a podcast playbook.
It’s also an origin story.
And so the lessons learned don’t hang on stirring but vague quotes like “With great power comes great responsibility.” Rather, the teachings form a hands-on plan of attack that aims for you to score, not just be inspired to do so.
Launching a Podcast: What’s in it for Your Business
Launching a podcast is not a small endeavor so, it’s only natural you will want to look into the possible impact and implications for your business. We took a similar approach.
As a marketing team, our ultimate goal is to create value for Landbot in the form of new recurring customers. Part of the equation is generating awareness about our brand and product in the market. Not only that, we want to create trust and educate our prospects on the problems Landbot can solve for them.
Content marketing is the best way to achieve those objectives.
Within content marketing, podcasts have unique advantages. For example, it’s one of the mediums constantly growing in popularity and adoption, globally. According to Statista, at the beginning of 2019, the country with the largest percentage of people who listened to a podcast in the past month was South Korea with 53%, while the US was fifth with 35%. However, in 2021, 41% of Americans 12 or older listened to podcasts monthly which accounts for 61.5% growth in the past three years.
Furthermore, no other medium can capture the attention of our audience for almost one hour every week, create a direct connection with the face (or voice) of the brand and even have them listen to ads willingly.
For instance, The Super Listeners 2021 report showed that podcast listeners scored high in terms of ads engagement and responsiveness. An impressive 76% of the interviewed listeners said they’ve taken action after hearing an ad within a podcast, be it visiting a site, taking out a subscription, or making a purchase. The same report also found that podcast ads are the most recalled type with 86% of participants saying they remember seeing or hearing an ad.
Another advantage of podcasting is a relatively low production cost as well as the fact there’s still a lot of room to enter the space. Sure, there were about 850,000 podcasts at the beginning of 2020 but compared to other media such as blogs (over 570 million publications worldwide) or YouTube (boosting more than 37 million channels), the market is still wildly unsaturated.
All things considered, we decided to go ahead.
Exactly 30 days after we launched the Ungated Marketing podcast, we hit our 10,000th download! A staggering success considering a typical podcast is downloaded approximately 141 times in the first month and the most successful top 10% earns around 3,400 in those first 30 days.
This was beyond our expectations, in terms of how fast we got there. However, it wasn’t a complete surprise and it didn’t happen by accident.
In the following sections, I will share the complete guide to how we launched a successful marketing podcast and achieved an average of 2,000 downloads per episode in just a few weeks.
Our Guide to a Successful Podcast Launch
Our podcast strategy can be summed up in three key stages. Let’s have a look.
Phase One (Planning)
Phase one is all about planning and should not be underestimated. A lot of the success or lack of it in the first weeks of your podcast launch depends on the decisions you make before you even record the first episode.
Initial vs Ultimate Objective
As it is with pretty much every marketing endeavor, you need to be clear on what is the objective you want to achieve with your podcast. In our case, we wanted to generate awareness for the Landbot brand in the marketing community. And inside that universe, we wanted to be a trusted guide for the more creative types, the makers, the ones that desire to build their own playbooks. Why? Because we believe those are the future Landbot customers.
To achieve that objective we needed the podcast to be a valuable source of content, not a sales pitch. So purely talking about chatbots or our platform didn’t really make sense.
We focused on the topics our target audience cares about instead.
If we were being honest, conversational marketing and chatbots are not the only experimental marketing tactics out there. Plenty of marketers break the status quo and deliver results with strategies and approaches not listed in your usual marketing playbook.
How do we become a source of authority and trust on this topic?
That is the question that turned into our initial podcast objective and ended up informing all the consequent decisions we made about the show.
Your initial objective should be rooted in the value you will produce for your target audience in a way that aligns with but doesn't push your brand.
Do you Need an Agency?
Before we proceed any further, let’s address the question of a podcast production agency.
Hiring an agency requires investment before a guaranteed result. Yet, if you are a podcasting newbie with little experience in audio-video production and launch, it can make a huge difference in the initial impact.
Podcasting agencies can help you with everything, from strategy and planning, to hosting and distribution, and more importantly in our case, production and audio engineering. The pricing will vary based on the scope of the work you’re outsourcing. If all you need is someone to clean up and edit your audio, look for a reasonable price per episode and you’re set.
We decided to go with SweetFish for a mix of general podcasting consulting for the launch and ongoing episode production.
How to Work with an Agency?
Every agency will come with its own tried-and-tested playbook on how to launch a podcast.
It’s an amazing source of knowledge that’ll help you find your footing.
However, while the agency provides podcasting expertise, you are the expert on your audience and your needs, as well as more aware of your internal capabilities. To make the most of the collaboration, take the advice you find useful but don’t be afraid to deviate when you feel it’s right. Look at their proposal keeping your objectives as well as your own strengths and weaknesses in mind.
In our case, we had a clear strategy for the podcast and a strong design and editorial team that created a completely new sub-brand and a supporting content plan in-house. It helped us manage the budget as well as play to our strengths and our own podcasting expectations.
Building Podcast Concept
Next on your checklist comes the heavy-loaded stage of creating a detailed concept of your podcast.
It’s all about firmly defining your:
- target audience
- podcast name
- episode length
- publishing schedule
We knew there were a lot of marketing podcasts out there, most of them interview-based.
As per our initial objectives, our premise was that in every episode of our podcast the listener should take away something they can apply to their own marketing job. For this to happen, we needed guests with hands-on marketing experience, actively trying out different tactics, with authority in their field, and willing to share what they learned.
Following the same reasoning, we decided to deviate from the suggested podcast naming guidelines as well as the Landbot brand itself. The idea was to truly highlight the outside-the-box spirit of the podcast as well as increase the honest value factor.
We decided to go with the name Ungated Marketing.
It’s a reference to breaking away from gated content as an outdated marketing tactic while, at the same time, unlocking the gates for marketers to be more creative.
Besides that, we also felt that Ungated as a concept was strong enough to live as its own brand and evolve to be more than a podcast in the future – an event, a community, who knows? The important thing is, we were planning with success in mind, leaving ourselves some open (ungated 😄) doors, should we want to cross them one day.
Regarding the format, episode length, and publishing schedule, we were pretty conservative.
We decided on having a single guest per episode, a simple interview format, 40 minutes conversation, published weekly.
It’s a best practice that just works and is aligned with the investment we could make at the time.
To spice things up a little we added the rapid-fire questions near the end (not groundbreaking) and a little challenge that always closes the podcast with a funny or sometimes awkward moment.
Create Guest Outreach Pipeline
When it comes to guest outreach, we didn’t follow any sort of playbook.
Quite honestly, months before we even hired an agency or decided on a name for the podcast, I reached out to a couple of dream guests and pitched the idea of having them on the show. Rand Fishkin and Chris Walker were kind enough to accept and became guests number one and two. This set the standard for everything that came next.
I have to admit that at that point I was looking at people I admired, I knew would be great guests, and had a good number of followers in our target audience. The topics for the actual conversation would come later.
And that worked for a short while – until it didn’t.
The strategy was perfect for creating the initial buzz, getting us noticed, and allowing our own team to see what’s possible. But not every guest who has experience and insights worth sharing is a big name. More often, it’s the opposite. Furthermore, many guests have enough to share on a variety of topics which can lead you to an episode of having talked about “everything-but-nothing”.
We quickly realized that it’s better to align a topic and a guest from the start, even before inviting them.
So today, if we have a guest we want to feature, we focus the episode on a specific theme or experiment. Alternatively, we determine a topic we want to discuss and find people who are experts on it. This approach results in smoother guest management, content creation, distribution, and a better episode experience overall for the listener.
Phase Two (Execution)
Once you have a plan in place, there’s nothing left to do but to put it into action.
Guest research is crucial to episode success.
Similarly to the guest-vs-topic dilemma, the way we do research changed with time as we began giving the episodes a single focus. Regardless of the guest’s general accomplishments (roles, experiences, publications, appearances, etc.), today, we zero in on a specific topic, the one that offers the most unique point-of-view.
While having a general overview of the guest is important, don’t let it mislead you. Always tap into their social media to see what they are talking about now. As people grow professionally, opinions change, so don’t fall into that trap. For instance, Rand Fishkin mentions on the first episode of Ungated when discussing his sources-of-influence tactics, he still gets asked about SEO today even if he left that behind a few years ago. Peep Laja suffers from the same malady regarding conversion rate optimization.
In other words, whatever topic you have in mind, make sure it is relevant to your guest as much as it is relevant to your audience.
Another adjustment to the research process we found helpful over time was assigning the guest research to the writer in charge of repurposing the content of that given episode instead of me or our guest relations manager. This way, the writer is familiar both with the guest and the topic beforehand and can process the raw content more efficiently.
Preparing the Interview
Having a topic to focus on is a start, but it's still just the first step of the interview journey.
In the beginning, SweetFish was a great help. They provided me with excellent resources about how to ask good interview questions which specifically focus on drawing out the guest's unique point of view.
The gist of their advice in crafting question interviews is to guide your guests to explain not just the WHAT, but also the WHY, and the HOW for their specific point of view.
I always start the recording with a solid list of questions and I usually throw in a few follow-up questions that pop up from the natural flow of conversation.
We share the topics with the guest a few days before recording and I spend the first 15 minutes of the call chatting off the record, but we don’t share the exact questions in advance.
Editing the Episodes
Episodes are hardly ever recorded perfectly.
The first type of edits you need is the technical bit. As mentioned before, we outsource to SweetfFsh media. They have the expertise and resources to do it with quality and speed which we couldn’t manage otherwise.
The second type is contextual and requires a great deal of objectivity on your part. No matter how well you prepare for the interview, you can never anticipate where exactly it will take you. The answers might not go the way you expected or not offer as much value. In this case, we try to evaluate the value of individual answers or their relevance to the central topic.
The Art of Repurposing
When done right, an interview is a treasure vault of original content. It would be a waste to not exploit it to the fullest.
One of the first decisions we made when planning the podcast was to create an original article based on every single episode. Most podcasts publish a transcript or a summary of highlights which is not bad but it doesn’t offer any additional value. The idea behind the articles was to create what could easily be a stand-alone piece of content regardless of the podcast. Sometimes the articles follow the structure of the interview, other times the ideas are rearranged to fit the written format better. Whatever the case, the blog format introduces the ideas discussed in the podcast to audiences who prefer to read as well as occasionally increases organic visibility by ranking on Google.
The second content type on which we zoomed in was micro-videos. While the agency suggested we prepare one micro-video per episode along with some image quotes, we decided to forgo the quotes and bet everything on the micro-videos. We started producing, first, two, and now four per episode dividing the work between the agency and our internal resources. The micro-videos proved to be the most popular engagement triggers on social media as well as the most shared promo-bits by our podcast guests.
An essential part of Ungated Marketing's success was distributing and promoting the episodes on social media, both organically and via paid ads.
Paid distribution includes both Facebook and Linkedin Ads with an overall monthly budget of two thousand euros. Our main strategies included targeting people with interests and job functions that are very aligned with the content and topic of each episode as well as retargeting to people who have previously engaged with the podcast.
That being said, while the paid distribution is definitely working and helping boost the interest, the organic part was and still is the main source of engagement.
And the most successful assets in both cases? The micro-videos.
Organically, we promote the episodes not just on the newly created Ungated Marketing Podcast Linkedin channel but also through individual profiles of the marketing team members. Each of us takes a personal approach to whatever we enjoyed about the episode the most.
Last but not least, every guest is a potential distribution channel. We don't require our guests to share their episodes in any way. We don't even ask them to. But we do make it easier to do so and appreciate it. The effect of Rand Fishkin sharing our micro-videos in his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts was one of the factors that made Ungated Marketing skyrocket to 10,000 downloads in one month.
Recently Dave Harland reached similar heights by sharing his episode on social media and his weekly newsletter.
The key here is to create something so valuable for your guest that he will want to share it for his own benefit. You win, they win, the audience wins.
Measuring the Impact
I'm not going to lie. Our first goal set for the podcast was to produce eight high-quality episodes consistently. As we had no reference to what downloads or engagement to expect, it was mostly about getting out there and doing it as well as possible. Getting eight guests, executing all the steps, and publishing on a weekly basis without missing any deadline seemed like a big enough challenge, especially considering we had only 2 episodes recorded when we launched.
Still, downloads were our main metric to watch, as that is perhaps the most effortless podcast metric to access. Though what is more important (and much less precise) is the social engagement on each episode – the reactions, comments, shares, and discussions inspired by the episode or repurposed content. Today, after the articles had a chance "to settle" online, we also started to track the organic impact via Google search and possible strategies to improve the ranking of individual episodes.
In the beginning, it's essential to watch the impact and push the distribution but focusing on tracking and achieving internal qualitative goals might be the best bet.
Phase Three (Assess & Adjust)
After 12 episodes published and closing in on 30,000 downloads, we're doubling down on Ungated Marketing.
Though, it's not just about the numbers. We have been getting many encouraging messages from other marketers that show us we're on the right track. The team is excited about what they're doing and the exposure we're getting. At times, the momentum is overwhelming.
The podcast is working beyond the initial success because we didn't just stop, congratulated ourselves, and kept going without retrospect. After the first weeks since launch, we identified roadblocks in the workflow from guest communication, agency collaboration, episode focus, and repurposed content creation, and we acted to remedy them.
Publishing every week and coordinating production with the agency has been challenging – different time zones and holidays made for some last-minute late-night publishing schedules, but we always pulled it off. We now maintain two episodes recorded in advance and a pipeline of one new recording per week scheduled six weeks into the future.
We plan to take a break after 24 episodes and do a complete retrospective at that point.
To put it plainly, if you want your podcast to make an impact and grow beyond the initial splash, you need to constantly review and re-think what you're doing and be honest when something isn't working.
Final Words: Biggest Success Factors
Content is king, no matter the rumors. Quite frankly, it might be even more critical than ever as experience and value pull the greatest weight in terms of audience motivation to spend their time and/or money on whatever you have to offer.
More importantly, consistently valuable content leads to compound growth.
When your listeners identify with your premise and love the content you're publishing, they will consume more of it. Every new satisfied listener will come back the following week, or even better, go binge listen to the entire past archive. Our best episodes continue to grow in downloads months after they were released.
What I would like you to take away from this “How to Launch a Podcast” playbook is to trust the process and the team. Our decision to publish weekly was not easy, but we knew it was necessary to grow fast. It required a repeatable process, well-defined roles, a project management system, and flawless execution. We created a detailed workflow in ClickUp, from guest invitation status to research and content creation.
The whole experience was a challenge for every person on the team, and, I guess, not playing it safe and not being satisfied with "half-baked goods" is what made the true difference in the 30 days of the launch. After that, it came down to reviewing and adjusting the process, doubling down on what we saw worked, and pushing ourselves to deliver the frequency and quality we set as our standard from the start.