In college, I started a small Etsy shop and blog from the storage closet in my sorority house. A few years later, and through a very non-linear journey, that small Etsy shop grew into an internationally recognized sweatshirt brand & that little blog led to bestselling books and a publishing career. Now, I'm obsessed about helping other women uncover what they're made to do and take steps to make it happen, too.
Every Wednesday, I send my insiders exclusive resources, ideas, and advice directly from me.
I know, I know. It seems like everyyyyone is starting a podcast these days. Besides the TikTok phenomenon, it’s like the cool new thing to do.
And I get a lot of questions from this community regarding whether or not starting a podcast is a good idea for your creative businesses.
Before I started my podcast in the fall of 2018, I took a look around and saw that some people were launching podcasts in ways that just didn’t seem effective to me.
This is typically how it’d go: They’d make a post on IG announcing their big, grand decision to start a podcast. Then, within a few days or a couple of weeks, they’d make another post and say, “PODCAST IS LIVE! GO SUBSCRIBE!”
Knowing what I know about building online communities, and how difficult it can be to get them to move platforms (especially based on one post and maybe a couple of IG stories of your own), I wondered if it was even all that effective.
I’ve later come to find out that many people who have launched podcasts like that are frustrated now, over a year later, because while they may have a decent sized audience on IG, they’ve had a HECK of a time growing their podcast.
For example, I have friends with hundreds of thousands of instagram followers who only get a couple thousand downloads on their podcast episodes.
Something isn’t adding up there.
So, I decided to do it differently. I put together a ninja launch strategy to flood my subscriber base and start out as strong as possible while it was new. I asked my podcast manager to help me execute it and holy canoli, it was effective. We landed a #2 spot on the Top Charts in all categories (above Joe Rogan) and accumulated over a million downloads in just a couple months.
Now, over a year later, we average between 40,000 and 50,000 downloads per episode consistently, with some episodes reaching over 65,000 downloads — and have been able to turn our podcast into a very financially lucrative arm of the business on it’s own, as well as a killer marketing platform for other products of mine, such as my books.
I’ll dive into that process and my launch strategy in another post but my point of telling you that story is that it’s NOT as simple as just slapping a podcast up there and expecting it to grow your creative business.
The goal of any platform you use for your business – podcast, instagram, YouTube, or anything else – should be centered around online community development.
That said, it’s important to know that podcasting should be something to look at as a way to leverage your existing audience rather than as something that will grow your existing audience. That’s not to say you won’t be able to grow your community through a podcast at all but it is important to understand that a podcast is not part of a search engine, like YouTube.
In other words, you don’t go viral with a podcast in the same way you can on social platforms, and it isn’t a search engine like YouTube, Google, or Pinterest are.
Yes, people can stumble upon your podcast or find it through a friend but if that’s what you’re depending on to grow your business, you’re going to spend A LOT of time and energy creating the content for what will feel like a not-so-solid return on your investment.
You’ve got to have a strategy and know what you’re using it for (aka where are you driving your listener base when it comes to purchasing something from you, even if it’s small?), how it fits as a marketing tool in your business rather than a business model itself, and whether or not you’re ready to tackle this new medium.
Before we dive into whether or not you should start a podcast for your business, I want to first cover why podcasting can be a great addition to your “brand arsenal.”
So when do you know your business is ready for a podcast and it will actually help you instead of frustrate you? There are three keys to understand.
1. YOU’VE BUILT AN ENGAGED AUDIENCE THAT INTERACTS WITH YOUR CONTENT DAILY, SENDS YOU DM’s, ASKS QUESTIONS, ETC.
Notice, this doesn’t say HUGE audience. It says engaged audience. A friend of mine has successfully built an engaged audience of about 6500 followers on Instagram who follow her for marketing advice specifically, and she could easily start a successful podcast.
Her community knows what they come to her for, they’re sold out for what she shares, believes in her content and expertise, and would more than likely subscribe to a podcast to get even more of the education and help she’s putting out into the world. You can do the same.
Pick a platform you’re comfortable with and that you can start for free, focus on a niche you can bring expert level insight to, build a bought in community around it, make that community feel like they’re all best friends with each other and you, and THEN direct them to communicate with you in a new medium, such as a podcast.
2. YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU’RE DROWNING ALREADY TRYING TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESSFUL.
It wouldn’t take away from what is currently putting food on the table, but instead, enhances and supports those products or services! This comes back to what I was saying earlier.
The best time to start a podcast in your business is when you have a bit of a lull between busy seasons, and can spend a couple of months to plan, prepare, launch, and grow it well so that it ultimately serves as a strategic marketing tool and way to serve your audience for free.
On the flip side, if you were planning to create a podcast to replace income from something else, I’d think again (unless you already have an engaged audience and know you can get a ton of them over to listen).
The bottom line here is that when you’re beginning a podcast and in the growth phase, you want this to be a tool that leverages what you have to offer rather than banking on it to put enough money in the bank with advertiser deals.
3. YOU’RE READY TO PROVIDE MORE VALUE TO YOUR AUDIENCE AND THEY’RE ASKING FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION THAT YOU CAN IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUILDING OUT ON.
And last but not least, you’ll know it’s time to launch your podcast when your people are ASKING for it. A lot of people launch podcasts simply because that seems like the thing to do even if NOBODY is ready and excited to listen because again, this is different from a platform like YouTube or social media where a piece of content can randomly pick up traction just for existing and being interesting.
So, when considering a podcast, planning what to make it about, preparing to launch, consider what you’re asked for or about the most. And then serve that need with your audio content. Whether it’s mini trainings on Keto, political input, parenting advice, or something else. Pivot your content around the subject or couple of subjects you’re asked about most.
Bottom line, the basis of business – any business venture whether it’s creating media, a product, or a service – is to give your market what they want. Do you know your market? What do they want? Are they asking for a podcast or deeper level content?
If not, get to know your market a bit more first.
If so, deliver on that and publish that podcast!