Brands are about more than just selling products. While the ultimate goal of marketing may be to increase ROI, there are many roads to reach that destination than simply shoving product advertisements into the faces of consumers. In fact, one of the earliest examples of content marketing was John Deere’s “The Furrow.” It wasn’t just a catalog, it was also a magazine that established a dialogue between brand and customer by featuring tips for and stories about farmers. Deere provided a resource for its audience, and that move, made in the late 1800s, cemented their place as a popular brand.

Brands continue to use this kind of strategy today in the form of podcasts. They’re not intended as half-hour long infommercials, but rather as a means of strengthening the relationship between a brand and its audience. Not only has this relatively new channel become more and more popular with consumers in recent years, but it’s proved its benefits for brands time and time again. Just like any new content marketing tool, podcasts will take time to adapt and master, but this guide will help you get started and keep the momentum going.

Why Marketers Love Podcasts

Man listening to podcast

Image via Flickr by Go-tea 郭天

Why the phenomenon? Why have podcasts persisted as a marketing tool when others have fallen and withered by the wayside? The best tools are those that adapt to changing technology and consumer interests. Podcasts can easily adapt because they remain relevant to their audiences. Because the podcast is the medium, it’s the people behind them that make them great. Audiences don’t keep coming back just because podcasts are trendy, but because podcasters are providing high-quality, relevant content through a tried and true channel.

Let’s go back to “The Furrow” for a moment. Part of what made this magazine so great was that it brought the brand into the home. Rather than just seeing a John Deere product at the store or on an advertisement somewhere in town, the brand became part of the family, part of their lives.

Podcasts take that idea to the next level by not only allowing consumers to listen in their homes, but also in their car, the train, or at a hotel room on a business trip. With a podcast, brands don’t just become part of the home, but part of the otherwise boring commute or the relaxing free time you grasp at the end of the day.

But how do podcasts actually make your job easier? Of course you want to entertain your audience and build a relationship with them, but if you’re going to be devoting time and resources to it, you deserve to get something out of the whole endeavor.

It all depends on how you use podcasts. Many marketers have found it advantageous to use podcasts to generate guest content. Rather than taking the time to write a lengthy guest article or post for your blog, influencers and other guests are more likely to answer a few questions or share some thoughts over the phone. That conversation can become part of your podcast.

And while many parts of your marketing strategy take plenty of time, money, and other resources, generating podcasts is relatively painless. It requires minor editing compared to a video, and it costs little to produce. Most of the costs involved come up only when you initially begin podcasting. Plus, if you can build a strong podcast that gets consistent views and a regular following, you’ll generate more traffic to your website and increase your SEO. With all that podcasts have to offer, whether or not you should start producing them is really a no-brainer.

Why Your Audience Loves Podcasts

Knowing why other marketers love podcasts is one thing, but you’re not making the podcast for them. Knowing what makes podcasts so great for your audience, on the other hand, will help you narrow down choices when it comes to building your podcasting strategy. After all, you need to give the people what they want!

One of the principal reasons that podcasts are popular is because of their convenience. They easily download or stream onto mobile devices to be listened to anywhere. They’re the carpool buddy during your morning commute. They’re the laugh that you need after a long day. They spare you from boredom while you’re waiting for your oil change. They go wherever you are.

The reason that people listen to podcasts vary. Maybe they need something to distract them when the stress of deadlines starts to get overwhelming. Maybe it’s because they want to stay up on sports and hobbies even if they don’t have time to sit down and watch games or build something. Maybe they’re even looking for some advice to help their business move forward. Whatever the reason, your audience loves podcasts because it gives them what they want. Because there’s a podcast out there for everyone, and those are focused on their interests and bring something engaging to the table.

If the podcast is high quality, the audience also gets a lot for their time. Consumers may not have to pay to listen, but their time is valuable. That commute may be the only time of day they can listen to whatever they want, so they want something worth filling that time with. If a listener regularly tunes into a podcast, it’s because they’re getting high-quality content and interaction in exchange for their precious time.

All these benefits set some expectations for audiences when they click “play” on a podcast. Now let’s talk about how you’re going to meet those expectations.

How to Produce Winning Podcasts

Before we get into any other part of how to produce podcasts, there is some preparation you need to do to ensure success.  Your first step is to establish your audience. Who do you want the podcast to reach? Which demographic is your brand currently struggling to keep interested? Podcasts tend to be regularly followed by younger audiences, so if you’re desperate to reach the 55 and older crowd, you may want to re-evaluate some other parts of your strategy before investing in podcasts. Get to know that audience. Research the podcasts they already enjoy and what makes those work. Find their expectations so you can blow them away.

After you have your audience nailed down, it’s time to pick a topic. Remember that your audience listens to podcasts that discuss their interests, so how will you satisfy that expectation? Most of the time, a narrow topic is better than a broad one, since broad topics tend to stretch podcasts too thin. A narrow, focused topic is more likely to be more informative and enjoyable, which will hit the listener’s interest and keep them coming back for more.

The next step is buying the right equipment. This will likely be the most expensive part of the process, but think of this as an investment.  The cost will quickly pay off, and you’ll only need to make these purchases once (hopefully). Audio quality is an absolute must on a podcast.  Invest in good microphones for everyone you plan on having on the podcast. It won’t do you much good if your audiences have to struggle to hear through the static and distortion of cheap mikes. You’ll also need a reliable software to record the actual podcast. Garageband is a favorite of podcasters, but it’s not the only one.

If you don’t already have someone capable to do this on your team, you’ll need to hire a producer to clean up the audio once it’s been recorded.  Their mission is to ensure high quality recording and clean editing. All of this may sound like more setup than you thought, but the quality of the preparation will shine through in the podcast, and your listeners will notice.

Next, you need to pick a host, preferably someone who has a voice you can listen to, who has personality, and can maintain interesting, relevant, and focused conversation. Maybe they’re already on your team, or maybe you’ll have to bring them in. Take the time to find a good host who’s knowledgable about your topic, because they’re the one who will ultimately make the show, no matter how interesting your content is.

Once you have an audience, a topic, equipment, and a host, you’ll need to set a schedule and length of your podcasts. The best podcasts only have a runtime of about 30 minutes, making them easy to listen to in short sittings. And the more frequent and consistent the show, the better for your listeners and your SEO. Once a week would be great, but at minimum, you should release at least two podcasts a month.

When the preparation’s finished, you’re ready to start recording. Enjoy it and become that household resource that listeners everywhere are looking for.

We expect podcasts to stick around for a long time, in one form or another, so by integrating podcasts into your content marketing strategy now, you’re setting yourself up for a successful future. Happy casting!