Starting a podcast for your small business is the absolute best way to grow the most engaged audience you can for your brand.
Believe it or not, podcasting is a great way to practice better positioning for your brand as well. You become an authority, a networker, and a promoter all-in-one. You control the positioning of how you want others to perceive you and your goals.
Podcasting is easier than you think, but the difference between an average podcast and a great podcast is miles apart. To get to “great” you will have to spend time, money, and energy — but that doesn’t mean you have to start that way!
I’ve been practicing online marketing for 15+ years in various roles and podcasting for 7 out of those 15 years. I’ve found the two most important things are:
- Uncovering and practicing solid content marketing strategies.
- Leveraging these new opportunities before your competition does.
Even with all of the podcasts in the world, you can still make your mark for your audience. In this guide, I’ll take you through the thought process, planning, promotional opportunities, and technicalities of starting your very first podcast.
If you’re thinking of starting your own podcast, book a time to chat with me about it. You might want to save this guide in your favorite reader and please share it with others!
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- Getting Started
- Tactics & Strategies
- What topics can I use for starting a podcast?
- Getting unstuck with your story
- How much time will podcasting take?
- Setting goals and measuring ROI for your podcast
- Marketing and promotional strategies for your podcast
- Choosing a name and selecting categories for your podcast
- Promotion strategies for new podcasts
- Engaging your audience; keep the traffic growing
- The most overlooked strategy: Face-to-face networking
- The podcast brand pack
- Get your guests to promote
- The best apps for scheduling/promoting podcast episodes
- Making your podcast evergreen and increasing overall traffic
- Show types and structures
- My Podcast episode blueprint
- How long should your podcast be
- Technical Resources
- The best value microphone for podcasting
- The best audio quality microphone for podcasting
- The best audio recorders or interfaces
- The best microphone accessories
- The best software for recording call recording
- The best software to edit your podcast
- The best apps for scheduling guests & note-taking
- The best podcast hosting solutions
- The best transcription services for your podcast
- The best app for creating podcast artwork
- The best places to get royalty-free music
- The best ways to dampen echo or reverb for your podcast
- The Outro
- Podcast recording dos and don’ts
- Technical editing tips I follow for 99% of my shows
- Podcasting is a practice in positioning your brand
- 3 Final thoughts on starting a small business podcast for your brand
How to start your next podcast; Easy mode
Starting a podcast is “easy!” For those of you that don’t want to read an in-depth guide to starting a podcast including mindset, planning, marketing, optimization, and publishing — read this:
- Pick a topic you’re passionate about and that you can build an audience around
- Create minimal branding w/ cover art for iTunes, Google, Spotify
- Register a domain name and put up a website to have a place to call home
- Select a podcast hosting service like Anchor, Castos, or Transistor
- Buy a decent USB microphone ~$99
- Use Garageband on Mac or Audacity on Windows for recording/editing
- Start with a solo or interview-style show as the easiest way to launch
- Schedule and pre-record the least 4 episodes for your first month
- Make sure your podcasting hosting service is connected to all major distribution platforms
- Optional: Create blog posts for each episode including the audio/video, show notes, and show transcript
- You’re on your way to building your new audience!
Of course, this seems easy if you’re just breezing through the cliff-notes, but there’s a ton more going on behind the scenes to create a sustainable show that will propel your brand forward. Read on to explore the lessons I’ve learned over the last 7+ years publishing audio, video, and written content on the web.
Bonus: A podcast pre-flight checklist
Copy and paste this checklist into a Google doc for safe-keeping. Use this as your pre-flight takeoff checklist. It’s always good to check the basics before burning an hour of recording time.
- Are you and your guest both in the best recording location possible? Lighting, sound, background noise?
- Have you disabled all unnecessary background apps on your computer?
- Mic check you and your guest (plugged in, proper gain, using the right mic, etc)
- Have a few spare minutes to test the recording and listen back? Great time to get your guest comfortable.
- Remember, no “umms” or “ahhs”, before hitting record. Have a sticky-note in front of you as a reminder.
- Have your show notes in front of you so you’re not fumbling or getting distracted during the call.
- How does your guest want to be introduced?
- Prepare your guest for your show format like how you intro, some high-level talking points, and maybe your fun outro.
- Check you and your guest energy level, are we ready to do this thing?!
- Any final questions from your guest?
- Don’t forget to hit record (Seriously? Yes seriously.)
Getting started with a podcast plan
Are you looking to start a podcast as a hobby or a marketing channel for your brand? Let’s explore what’s needed to create a plan and find exactly what we want as a result of podcasting.
Who is this guide for and how is it different from others?
Small business owner
Attract more customers to your brand.
Engage communities and raise awareness.
Leverage to create a solid content marketing plan.
This guide is for small business owners that want to build a brand and grow an audience with podcasting as a major part of their cornerstone content strategy.
Other guides quickly rush readers through the mindset and strategy portions of starting a podcast, which is harmful to the creator in the long-term. Microphones, editing software, and other gadgets feel satisfying because it helps you get the work done, but it doesn’t prepare you for making a podcast successful.
It’s crafted from 7 years of experience, not just for SEO and affiliate links 🙂
Why I love podcasting
After uploading my voice to the internet for the last 7 years, it’s safe to say I love this medium of content creation.
In a world filled with dominating platforms like Facebook and Google, publishing a podcast is one of our few remaining bastions of preserving our own voice — literally.
Here’s the quick and dirty of it all:
- Podcasting helped me grow a loyal audience.
- Podcasting helped me grow many business initiatives.
- Podcasting helped me connect to other individuals I would not normally have access to.
Small businesses and brands can leverage the same opportunity I’ve had over the years to make a real impact on their bottom line. This guide will cover all of the bases you need to launch and foster long-term results.
Why the world needs your podcast
While we’re all looking for that hot new trend to jump on for our marketing efforts, make no mistake, I don’t treat podcasting as a “throw-away” attempt to reach new customers.
I’m extremely passionate about creating a thoughtful dialogue with a touch of entertainment for my listeners. Learn and laugh.
I’ve found that the essence of a strong podcast is about storytelling a person or brand’s identity while providing unique conversations with their most engaged audience members. Podcasting is much more about your audience than it is about your desires to reach them. In other words, once you begin to cultivate a following you want to ensure that the content is resonating with them. You won’t find results by podcasting for the sake of podcasting.
Why create a podcast for your small business?
Most business owners — including myself — miss the opportunity to tell our stories. Uncovering the why in all of this. When you do things in the open, especially through a podcast, you’re putting yourself out there for all to see.
Investing in storytelling and transparency pays off in super-fans that want to be connected with your mission or ideals. Even if you’re not making a single dollar through your listener, they will help you amplify your message and get your name in front of someone that does.
You literally control the narrative of your podcast, it’s not subjected to filters or algorithms, you make it what you want for you who you want.
Get your voice heard through podcasting, video, blogging, Instagram stories — just publish.
What can podcasting do for your business?
Podcasting is much more about “broadcasting” than the technical term which is dripping in geeky jargon. To me, broadcasting is another extension of marketing and promotion, thus, you’re creating this podcast to stay top of mind with your audience.
I started my podcasting career with the Matt Report, which was a way for me to grow a digital agency, meet new people in the WordPress space, and find new customers.
Here are a few key milestones I quickly came to realize the podcast was accomplishing for me:
Grow an audience
The natural pay-off of a podcast. Having like-minded people tune into your episodes and amplify your message. My audience in the WordPress space is finite compared to a Marc Maron or a highly-produced S-Town, but it’s the right people listening to the content that moves my career forward.
I learn a lot by interviewing people that are smarter than me in particular verticals I’m not in living and breathing in every day. It also helped me guide certain decisions in business and product design that would have taken me months or even years to research.
Enhancing my network
Your network is your net worth. Business is impossible without forging real relationships with people. Often times that can get lost in a world of social media and automation e-commerce, but a podcast sheds that barrier and connects humans with humans in a very intimate way.
For me, “doing things in the open” is a great way to leverage your audience against your new ideas. One of the most challenging things for any creator is to scrape together an idea into a business and launch it cold. Having an audience allows you to be more fluid with testing ideas and drive initial interest on day 0.
At the end of the day, this is the lowest bar you can strive for if you’re looking to add to your bottom line. Though it’s not to be confused as the easiest bar for you to hurdle over. If you’re finding yourself building a niche audience in a particular market, look to advertisers or sponsorship deals that may be easier to land.
A look at the numbers
One of the inherent issues of podcasting is being able to track the numbers and impact of shows across so many potential devices. It’s a blessing and a curse that there isn’t a single distribution source for podcasts, which skews stats a little further. That said, there are some trusted sources for stats, like the Edison Research Podcast Consumer 2019 report.
- Estimated 144 Million Americans 12 & older have listened to a podcast
- Estimated 90 Million Americans 12 & older listen within the last month
- 74% Surveyed say they listen to podcasts to “learn new things”
Podcasting popularity continues to rise over time as more Americans turn to audio format for education and entertainment. Pay attention to that statistic of listeners wanting to “learn new things” is the largest opportunity that small business owners have to leverage.
If I want to hire a landscaper, I’m more inclined to tune into a podcast about how they take care of grass, or how to find the best quality mulch, versus just Googling for someone near me. Sure, online reviews matter, but if you’re a business owner with equal reviews & prices, having unique content that increases trust with me is that absolute deal closer.
Start telling your story, gain the advantage, hook more listeners, do more business. Before your competition does.
Where does my audience come from; do I want an audience?
Podcasting can be an amazing brand builder for your business. You can find potential leads, amplify your message and connect with customers like never before. The question is: do you even want it?
I was talking to someone that has side-hustle providing services to clients and she was semi-interested in starting a podcast. Her first response was “who would my audience be, will anyone listen?” my response to that is, “do you even want an audience?”
I think everyone has a great story to tell and the question isn’t who your audience is but what you’ll do with an audience once you have one.
This particular side-hustler operates only on word-of-mouth referrals. There’s no marketing or ad spend, not even a website, but more customers would translate to more dollars to graduate to the next level. A podcast can only help drive that revenue up and to the right, so it couldn’t hurt, but having a plan in place to actually make the conversion happen is crucial.
Which leads us right into the next section, tactics & strategies for your podcast.
Tactics & Strategies
Tactics & strategies for your podcast
Now that you’re in the right mindset for starting a podcast, it’s time to tackle some of the tactics and strategies around podcasting.
What topics can I use for starting a podcast?
“I have nothing to talk about, no one wants to hear me on a podcast.”
The typical line I get when I’m talking to a business owner about launching a podcast or video series.
To me, that’s not an excuse to hold you back! There’s plenty to talk about and your audience wants to hear it from you! Everything is content.
This is the easiest way to get started with podcasting. Start with telling your story, which often helps you create great cornerstone content for your marketing efforts. If you’re selling a physical product, showing how this is made, why you decided to sell this product, or even why you went into business in the first place is a solid foundation to kick off your new podcast.
Finding others to interview
Much like I do here on this podcast, I find other entrepreneurs on the South Coast and ask them to open up about their lessons building a business providing unique threads of advice that are unique to our area.
This is the opportunity within the opportunity. If you have a passion to report on fast-changing topics or newly released ideas, turn to live streaming on Facebook or YouTube as a means to export an audio version after. Livestreaming a podcast is another great way to engage an audience live versus passive listening of audio.
Talking about your business is an easy out to start a podcast, but there is some great content to be uncovered. For instance, I’d love to know how past guest Lara Harrington finds new workouts to implement in her business. There’s nothing wrong with aligning your podcasting efforts with your business, it’s the easiest way to show you can earn some return on this investment.
Education for your audience
If you’re starting a podcast to help your business grow, but you feel that your particular business might be too stale to talk about, how about a 3rd degree of education? What big honking education series can you produce that indirectly helps your customers/audience engage with you? Let’s use my landscaper example, maybe you don’t want to talk about your clients, but you could put together a seasonal series of lawn care or review of products.
Getting unstuck with your story
Everything is content; everyone has a story to tell.
A small business owner and podcast host should be able to answer these basic questions:
- Why did you go into business?
- What motivates you to keep going?
- What are your goals?
- Who do you serve?
The “easiest” place to get content is by looking at yourself in the mirror and answering those basic questions. Your answers will spiderweb out into many areas of content creation. If you still can’t get unstuck from your writer’s block, refer to the often-cited Hero’s journey.
17 phases of the Hero’s Journey
- The Call to Adventure — What got you started in the first place? Why this business?
- The refusal to the call — Business is tough, what held you back in the beginning?
- Meeting the mentor — Was there a single person that motivated you to launch or a defining moment?
- Crossing the first threshold — What was the first version of your business or product? What was your first sale like?
- Belly of the whale — The defining moment where you quit your job and took the leap into entrepreneurship.
- The Road of Trials — The lessons learned as a first-time business owner. Failures are the lessons.
- The Meeting with the Goddess — When you uncovered product-market fit. You had what customers wanted to buy.
- The Woman as Temptress — Battling shiny object syndrome as an entrepreneur. Keeping your focus on your core value prop.
- Atonement with the Father/Abyss — You business is starting to scale, do you remain as the bottleneck or do you delegate to others.
- Apotheosis — You realize you should work on your business and not in your business.
- The Ultimate boon — Uncover the power to scale and systemize your business
- Refusal of the return — Owning a business is freedom; you don’t want to return to a job.
- The Magic Flight — You have to exploit the freedom you have as an owner, don’t b build yourself another job.
- Rescue from Without — Surround yourself with other owners and take mental health seriously.
- The Crossing of the Return Threshold — Understanding the challenges of business and preparing for the hardest battles. Learning to recover from failures.
- Master of Two Worlds — Come to the realization that your business doesn’t define who you are, but that you define your business. You have control over it.
- Freedom to live — Indulge in the opportunity to give back others in your community or social setting because of your business without regard for reciprocity.
There are a million podcasts and content ideas in your hero’s journey, let’s say we start writing the screenplay now, eh?
How much time will podcasting take?
I hate leading with it depends — but — it depends.
If I’m consulting with a business owner that wants to get into podcasting, I often advise against starting a traditional podcast at first. Crazy, right? I thought we were here to learn about podcasting!
Podcasting comes in many forms, like a 30-second video on Instagram or a 3-hour long audio discussion on iTunes — it’s about broadcasting. So start small at first, and gradually give yourself some small wins to measure against. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Podcasting can burn you out real fast if you’re not managing your goals or expectations accordingly. Here’s an example timeline you can replicate if you’re just getting started out:
- Start with your story — Publishing with quick Instagram stories or small audio bites that hook someone in the audience to get engaged with what’s coming next. Maybe you’re testing out a new topic, you’re unsure it’s going to stick, so you sample small stories to see what gets the most shares or comments.
- Dial it up to interviews — You know what your customers or non-profit donors would love? A chance to talk about their business on your platform. Especially if these guests are engaged in similar marketing initiatives, it’s a win for everyone.
- Full-blown production mode — When things really start rocking, your simulcasting a livestream, capturing the audio for podcatchers, turning it into a blog post, and e-mailing it to your newsletter. It becomes the cornerstone of your entire content marketing initiative. This happens weekly and your audience is growing — enjoy the ride!
There’s a saying (or maybe it’s a saying I’ve made up now?) that the first 15 episodes of your podcast are fun and exciting. Once you get the first set of episodes published, nothing can stop you! Then Episodes 15 through 35 show up and become an uphill battle causing most new podcasters to burn out.
Give yourself the opportunity to succeed and achieve small goals in the beginning — this next section shows you how.
Setting goals and measuring ROI for your podcast
Here’s where the rubber meets the road.
When this whole podcasting thing can come crashing down on you or feel like the best thing you’ve done for your brand in years. Notice we still haven’t talked about the technical details of starting a podcast? Because, that’s the easy part, that’s the part you can spend a few hours Googling or read further down this post to learn more about. The mindset and strategy are the most important pieces to make this a win for your brand or business.
You have to have a goal — no matter how small — to measure if your time is worth the investment. Here’s what might go into a typical podcast, like here on Southcoast.fm:
|Editing, uploading, show notes||3|
|Newsletter, promotion, social media||2|
As you can see, it’s easy to sink in a minimum of 8 hours into a single episode, and while the initial creative side is stimulating, you can find yourself getting rapidly overwhelmed by your actual day job.
This is where the goal setting, even a low bar, can help you feel more motivated on those stressed-out days. Let’s look at some early goals you can set for yourself:
100 Audio listens per episode
You can do a lot with 100 people. Imagine a room full of 100 people wanting to hear your story, selling your product to 100 people, or selling 100 tickets to your local event. 100 is a powerful number when you’re getting started.
Episode listens or downloads aren’t everything, but they can certainly help measure early engagement or provide solid direction on where your podcast is headed.
Email signups to your newsletter
This is my favorite goal to work on. If you can get people listening to a podcast AND subscribing to your e-mail newsletter, you’ve created something special. I love small engaged audiences more than big numbers — especially if I don’t have to pay for engagement in Facebook ads.
You sold a product!
Maybe you have a product or service for sale, measuring the success of the show that can be traced back to a product sale is one that really motivates you to keep going. Strategically placed self-sponsored reads in your show is plenty fine if the show is all about you 🙂
Podcasting can become a great instrument for your brand’s success when you shape it into the platform it has the potential to be. My second biggest piece of advice is not to burn out in the early days, achieve small wins, find the unique content, engage your audience and good things will come.
Marketing and promotional strategies for your podcast
Promote, promote, promote — don’t spend hours building out your podcast episodes with the hopes that listeners will just hit that subscribe button on their own. You need to engage your audience in full-force, especially in the early days of being a showrunner.
Choosing a name and selecting categories for your podcast
Choosing a name for your podcast should demonstrate synergy with your existing (or upcoming) brand.
Framing your podcasting goals will help put a lot of this decision work into perspective. If you’re out to just have fun and treat this as a hobby, well, maybe the decision isn’t as crucial as if you wanted this to drive more traffic to a business or sell a product.
That being said, you probably still want to stand out from the crowd so listeners can find you on iTunes — so maybe the decision isn’t that easy.
Your name in the podcast title
This is a no-brainer if you’re building a personal brand but also might help in people discovering your podcast regardless of the personal brand take. Think of being the business owner that hosts a show. Users might not know the creative podcast name the business name, but they know you.
Keywords in the podcast title
It’s safe to say that generic keywords your users might be searching for will help you get found, but you can’t get away with stuffing your title full of them. Apple and other search engines are way too smart for that these days, but having a primary one doesn’t hurt. It is the easier route to take and will dump you into highly-competitive search results, but it can help in the long-term.
Creative and provocative titles
Look at this podcast title, for example, We Are Here. It’s a creative title that I decided to use to lift up the entire South Coast area. It’s an ode to tell the world that there’s a lot going on here, don’t overlook us. The negative is, it’s a failure for search engines. Generic words that are hard to identify with one singular podcast. It’s why I leave southcoast.fm in my title and will rank for the keywords “south coast” at the very least.
Powerful episode titles
I’d argue that you might spend more time on your episode titles to drive the initial click. You can optimize for traffic by spending time thinking about an impactful title or provide the keywords most valuable to you.
The podcast description
Another bastion of hope for getting found in iTunes, Google play or other podcasting apps is the show description. Like everything else SEO related, you want to be careful about keyword stuffing, and catching the reader’s attention is even more important here. Giving someone a reason to subscribe/listen and showcasing your unique value is crucial here. It can also serve as a great section to highlight some of your past guests as a means of accomplishment or snag some search terms.
Promotion strategies for new podcasts
For you podcasting newbies still trying to find footing with show topics or content, here’s the magic trick: the early days of starting a podcast is your content! Everything is content.
Starting with your story, while creating a bond through transparency, is a very powerful method for connecting with an early audience. Turn the early lessons of this audio journey into the very topics you use to produce and promote. Here’s a rough outline that you might try:
- Start with as little as possible and embrace it. You don’t have to go all out and buy the best equipment that you’ve read about. Start with recording on your phone in your closet, and keep it real. Share that you’re new to this podcasting thing and that you want to see where it takes you. Ask for feedback and get your would-be subscribers engaged early on.
- After a few episodes of traction, you might invest in a solid microphone and begin shaping a unique story arch to your episodes. Producing your show is starting to fall into place! Sharing in the progress with your audience deepens the connection and gives them a sense of investment in the whole process.
- You know my catchphrase by now, right? Everything is content. Everything you’re doing above shouldn’t be said on just your podcast, but snap some Instagram photos or pump out some Facebook posts to get it all moving full-circle. Bonus points if you’ve already started a blog — but if you haven’t….
- Consider registering a domain name to make things more professional. If you’re already doing this for your brand or business, you’re good, but you may even consider owning a URL that connects to all of your podcast content. A major goal with podcasting or any content creation is to own the home base of where it all lives. You don’t want to find yourself pushing all of your unique content to Facebook, Medium, or Anchor.fm for your shows.
- For the icing on the cake, time to start collecting e-mails! I always recommend Mailchimp for beginners, as it’s a great platform that is free to start. And you can leverage your early day content to drive people to signup so they can become the first to know when new shows are published. Again, this is another channel for you to own a direct relationship with your customer, without having to pay for pricey ads or low organic engagement on social media platforms.
Engaging your audience; keep the traffic growing
As your episodes start to hit a certain level of audience listenership, growth might start to plateau. You’ll need to find new ways to engage your audience and keep them interested in tuning in. Here are a few ways you can go about that:
Promotions and giveaways
When I first started this podcast, I ran some promotional giveaways for people that joined the newsletter. I had my guests offer a small prize (giftcard, free services, etc) to use in a random giveaway. There are some minor drawbacks, like getting people to join the list simply for the giveaway, but I managed to maintain subscribers to the podcast.
Once you gain enough traction for your regular podcast, introducing livestream events where you can field some questions and answers is a great way to gain feedback from your fans.
Engage through e-mail
One great way to get reviews on iTunes or other platforms is to ask your email list to leave a review and you’ll read the reviews on the podcast. That’s a great way to make someone feel appreciated for spending the time writing the review.
Call-in or voicemails for the show
Take the level of engagement to the next level and ask your audience to send you a “voicemail”, a simple audio recording, of a question for the show. Play it in the episode and you’ll keep them coming back!
The most overlooked strategy: Face-to-face networking
Face to face networking is still the most underrated strategy when launching your new podcast. You have to get out from behind your desk and shake hands with others that might be interested in listening to your show. The idea is to get as many super-fans as early as possible that will share and promote your show for you.
I hate business cards; I used business cards
If there’s one old school business belief that I hate most it’s carrying business cards.
Them: “Do you have a card?”
Me: “No! Just go to my website or Google me.”
Sometimes I’ll just ask for their email and send them a message on the spot if I think it’s worth connecting. Then came the We Are Here podcast, a local podcast that I would largely be promoting at events and meetups on the South Coast, and getting people to remember to subscribe to the show would be a bit more challenging. Most people aren’t conditioned to listening to podcasts yet, even with a growing number across the US, I didn’t want to lose someone to searching for a podcast app or through the immense library of iTunes.
Handing out a business card that’s specifically aimed at pushing people to my subscribe page and having clear branding visible was very important to me. So I folded, no pun intended, to using business cards as a promotional handout. You might even find some laying around a local coffee shop or two.
The /subscribe call to action
Don’t forget to subscribe at southcoast.fm/subscribe!do it!
Sending people to my /subscribe page is the primary call to action I keep consistent across all of my podcasts. First, it serves as a central page that I can list all of my social profiles, links to podcast outlets, and most importantly — my newsletter.
There are no other distractions on the page, I only want them to focus on connecting with me where they’d like to. It’s also a useful page to measure engagement, I can look through my analytics to see how many “direct traffic” users vs traffic that clicked a link on the site within some other content.
It’s also great for conversation and telling someone the best way to connect is at your subscribe page, everything they need is right there.
The podcast brand pack
You probably started your business by creating a logo first, which is great, but it’s only a fraction of what you can do for branding all the content in your business.
Creating a podcast “brand pack” helps in a few ways:
- Use your brand identity across featured images, banners, podcast cover art, and episode art.
- Leverage the artwork to highlight guests you bring on to the show and share it with them to share on their social media posts.
- When you get interviewed on a podcast, it’s a great resource for the host to use in their own content or blog posts.
I’ll mention a few resources below that will help you DIY your own brand pack, but you should connect with a digital artist to help you think through a complete solution. Here are the digital assets I’ve created for the southcoast.fm podcast:
- Social media banners
- Podcast cover art and episode art
- Blog featured images for highlighting a guest + non-interview shows
- Instagram “quote” images
The strategy here is to come up with a collection of digital assets that are easily shareable and stay consistent with your brand. When someone views your content or Instagram post, they know it’s part of your podcast.
Get your guests to promote
You did not do all of this work for nothing!
If you run an interview show especially, getting your guest to spend some time promoting your show is critical. Think about it, you’re doing all of this work to run a great podcast and giving them your most valuable asset — your audience. Here are just a few things you can ask for in return:
- Get guests to share your episodes and digital assets from your brand pack.
- Ask them to link your episodes on their About or “as seen on” pages.
- Ask them to be included in their monthly newsletter or social media groups.
- Hit them up for a guest they’d recommend to be on the show
When everything is content, your guests should be willing to reciprocate on these demands. The content you’ve spent 8+ hours is a boon to their marketing efforts as well — let them know it!
The best apps for scheduling/promoting podcast episodes
Promoting your content is just as important as creating it, but you don’t have to let it weigh you down. Here’s some software that can help you with your promotional efforts:
Buffer can connect up to your favorite social media sites and allow you to schedule your posts across the day, week or even a month. Connect multiple accounts to share the same message across platforms, making your life slightly easier.
I’ve already mentioned this app for creating cover art for your podcast, but it’s also great for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook artwork as well.
A staple app for listening to podcast episodes, but also powerful for promoting your own episodes. There’s a nifty share feature that will clip your audio into a shareable video file sound byte. Use this to share away on any of your social channels.
Don’t overlook this powerful little app. If you’re planning on sending emails about new episodes (and you should be!) you can do it on the go with their mobile app. It’s not going to give you all of the features of the full-blown website, but it’s still great.
Making your podcast evergreen and increasing overall traffic
The work isn’t over!
The best value you can extract from your audio podcast is creating additional evergreen content around it. By simply uploading your audio to a podcast host, you’re doing it a disservice by constraining it to a single platform. In this section, we’ll uncover how you can make your podcast episodes available to organic search traffic, video, and shareable on social media.
As you already know, I’m a huge fan of cornerstone content. It’s like a legend on a map for your audience, creating one piece of content that guides them to many other pieces of content on your website. Each podcast episode can serve as a cornerstone to many other pieces of content to create. More content, more audience engagement. More business, more revenue.
For example, you wrap an hour-long conversation with an expert with 1,000 words in a blog post that carries all of the searchable keywords your audience or potential customers are searching for. Which then spawns into maybe 2 or 3 other blog post topics down the road. Need to load up on Facebook or Twitter posts — easy. How about filling out that e-mail newsletter? You’ve got plenty of content available. Compound this strategy over a few months and you’re a content creating machine.
Show notes vs transcriptions vs post
If you’re looking to supplement an episode’s blog post or perhaps the nature of your show doesn’t have the foundation for a blog, show notes, and audio transcripts can help go a long way. Not only does it allow listeners to scan the conversation without having to listen to the whole thing, but it can also serve as more searchable keyword content to attract visitors.
I’ve used podcast transcripts as an archive to find ideas or recall links that I’ve heard mentioned in the show.
Both approaches above lend to “natural” search engine optimization. Essentially you’re giving search engines, like Google, the necessary indicators to have you appear in search results when someone is looking for a particular topic, product, or service.
Recalling the stats from the above section, if most podcast listeners are tuning in to learn something new, this is a huge opportunity for you to create engaging content that educates them, with an intent to purchase. Getting your title right will certainly help with more clicks.
If you’re looking to rise in Google search results, link building is still the most effective method with podcasting dripping in opportunity. Not only will sharing your podcast episode blog posts help amplify social media shares, getting your guests to link to it from their website will slowly boost your ranking factors.
Another huge opportunity within repurposing content is starting with a video and transitioning it to audio content for your podcast. You can also upload audio to places like YouTube, but it doesn’t have the same spark as if you actually recorded a video episode first.
Recording interview shows with apps like Skype or Zoom allow you to record the video and then extract the audio from it. This is popular for shows like the Joe Rogan Experience, where he dominates on both YouTube and his audio podcast. Because JRE shows are generally 2 hours long, they take it a step further and have a channel where they publish clips of each episode as teasers for the rest of the show.
Show types and structures
Not all podcasts are created equal which affords you greater creative control over the direction of your show. Think about the type of show you want to publish, but remember, it’s not set in stone. This is your platform!
Solo episodes & interviews
I’m combining these two types together as they are arguably the most popular type while often being intertwined by a show host. I will publish mostly interview-style shows while sprinkling in the occasional solo monologue around a particular topic. This is the go-to method for creating a podcast to help educate a listener.
By all accounts, probably the most “fun” you’ll have created a podcast, depending on your topic. I enjoy hosting roundtables, especially around newsworthy topics, because it keeps the show fresh. Audiences enjoy fresh opinions from a host of people (or characters) which gives you a chance to hit the sweet spot of education and entertainment.
Shows like S-Town and Wolverine are tremendously entertaining, with very large budgets to back up their production quality. It’s a double-edged sword for creators while pushing the boundaries with what brands can do with audio, it also means competition to stand out is heating up every day.
My Podcast episode blueprint
Here’s the thing, podcasting can be as easy as recording yourself or a conversation with someone else and uploading that to your website. And that might be fine for some, but if you want to capture your listener’s attention as fast as possible while sprinkling in some ads or call to actions, you have to think about the structure. Here’s a simple blueprint that lays out a common show structure:
Part 1: The catchy sound byte
No music, host introduction, just a really great sound byte from your guest that you’ve pulled from the episode that really hooks the listener. Often times you might be interviewing someone that your audience doesn’t know and the uncertainty could sway them not to invest in the whole 45 minutes of listening. Pulling one awesome sound byte from the show and making that the first thing people hear, is a great way to pull them in.
Part 2: Intro clip
You might make yourself a catchy 5-10 second intro with some background music, the tagline of your show, and a call to action that plays at the top of every episode. This is probably the most common setup for most podcasts I listen to. I prefer to make my own intros, using my own voice but some shows will outsource the vocal work to someone else.
Part 3: Ad or call to action
Before the meat of your podcast runs, you want to hit the listener with their first ad read or call to action. It’s usually primetime listening and where most sponsors expect to be placed. This isn’t true for every podcast, and I’d encourage you to test placements.
Part 4: Intro
I like to intro my guest with a little context around why I chose to talk to them and what some of the key takeaways might be. I usually keep this no longer than two minutes in length, while also using it as an opportunity to talk directly to my audience. Asking them for feedback or presenting call to actions that are important to me.
Part 5: Another ad or call to action
You’ve primed the listener with context and what they should be excited for — they’re ready to dive in! So right before the conversation starts, give your sponsors or you call to actions a little more love. Again, placement here can vary, some hosts will place this in the middle of the recording or weave it into the actual conversation they are having with the guest.
Part 6: The content
The whole reason why your audience shows up! There’s not much to say here other than thinking about the type of show you’re producing and where you might place the ads or call to actions throughout.
Part 7: Wrap it with a final call to action or ad
Great brand builders know that the key to getting their message across is repetition. Customers rarely buy based on the first ad they hear, but after 20 or 30, they’ll begin to identify and form trust with the brand’s messaging. So you might feel like 3 spots for promo or call to action is overkill, but it isn’t, it’s just right.
How long should your podcast be
Based on this research, the average podcast is 43 minutes and 23 seconds, which doesn’t mean yours has to be any shorter or longer than this.
Some of my favorite podcasts are over 2 hours and others are under 15 minutes, and I listen to them accordingly. For example, if I know I’m going to be driving for any length of time, I’ll tune into the longer episodes or if I’m just getting ready in the morning, the 15-minute episodes will do. There’s no perfect answer here, as you’ll let your own creativity and audience discover that over time.
The technical bits of your podcast
Marketing plan? Check.
Okay, it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty of podcasting like software, hardware, hosting, promoting and getting it set up on your website. Again, a lot of this stuff can vary depending on your technical capabilities, where your website is hosted, and what goals you’ve set for yourself.
Luckily, it’s easy for you to get started, but investing a few more dollars and time can set you in motion for the long haul.
We’ll start with the hardware and move all the way through to uploading your episode, let’s go!
The best value microphone for podcasting
Here’s the thing, you might not want to start a podcast right now, but I guarantee you that you’ll be asked to be on one sooner or later. Getting a good mic is just as important for your own show, as it is to sound good as a guest on another.
Audio-Technica ATR-2100-USB Cardiod Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
At the time of this post, it’s right around the $70 price point and worth every penny. It’s light, compact, easy to carry around, and you can use a variety of mic stands to mount it in. I recommend this to everyone who wants to start a podcast or be a guest on another show.
There are other high-end mics that require more equipment to run and come in at 3x the price, great once you hit a certain level of podcasting, but unnecessary in the beginning.
The best audio quality microphone for podcasting
If money is no object and you’re looking for the absolute best sounding mic, these microphones are for you. A heads up though, you need more equipment than just the microphone themselves, which make the dollar investment even greater than our value microphone. These microphones don’t use USB to connect to your computer, but standard audio XLR connections.
Used by very large shows like the Joe Rogan Experience, this mic delivers superb performance. Costing nearly 4 times the value mic I recommend, it shines for brands that want to invest in the best quality possible for their podcasts.
The microphone I use for my podcasts, it delivers rich vocals and is slightly more portable than the Shure SMB-7. You still need extra power to drive the mic, but it sounds great. I like it because I can use it with their boom arm or on a microphone stand fairly easy.
The best audio recorders or interfaces
Here’s the extra equipment you’ll need for the high-end microphones, recording in person, or on the go.
ZOOM makes a range of handheld audio recorders, but I love this one because I can hook up up to 4 XLR microphones and adjust the gain for each channel. It has a nice visual graphic display so I can monitor levels and the microphone built-in is great when you don’t have an external mic to plug in to.
This is a fairly new product, and I don’t have experience with it yet, but it looks amazing. Basically expanding on my recommendation above and creating a whole portable production command center.
Like ZOOM, Focusrite has a wide range of products you can use. I have their smaller 2 channel device for plugging my XLR microphones directly into my laptop or PC. It’s super portable and it’s an attractive looking device on a desk.
The best microphone accessories
There’s always more to buy! Depending on what microphones you chose above, grabbing some of these accessories might help streamline your workflow.
This boom arm is made specifically for the Heil microphone and fits perfectly on your desk.
Made for RODE mics, which are also highly praised, you can use this desktop boom arm for the Shure SMB7
Small desktop microphone stand
Primarily used as a stand for drummers, I use this to place on my desktop and it’s built like a tank.
Just your standard microphone stand, I have a few of these when I’m recording in person.
The best software for recording call recording
If you’re going the route of creating an interview show and you don’t want to record in person, try recording your calls right over the web. Here are the most popular apps I’ve used to record calls for interview podcasts.
Easy and affordable. Works only for Mac and Skype, but has a nice split-track feature that I find very useful.
Open Broadcaster Software is an open-source app that is free to use and download. It’s a little complex to set up if you’re not that tech-savvy, but it can record your screen, webcam, and mic input. If you’re recording a skype call or other VoIP session, this can work really well.
Almost becoming the norm these days for teleconferencing, webinars, and now podcasts Zoom offers an easy to use the platform to record your calls. It’s a paid service, but it’s great if you want to snag some video with your calls and even integrate with 3rd party transcription services.
Built for podcasters in mind with free and premium plans. Send a link to your guest and Zencastr will place you in a room with chat and voice features to get your interview underway. There are some great post-production features too when you decide to upgrade to premium. I really enjoy this app!
The best software to edit your podcast
Your first few podcast episodes might be fairly straight forward, with barely any editing at all aside from chopping off the beginning and end before uploading. I do that with a show I co-host called The Brad and Matt Totally Unoriginal Random Show and it works perfectly fine for our audience. If you tune into We Are Here or my other show The Matt Report, you might find slightly more edits like an intro, some music, and transition sounds.
I’d have to give the advantage to Mac and iOS users here, because Garageband is a very capable podcast editing app that can be used on your laptop or mobile device. It’s easy and intuitive — a perfect companion for beginners.
Not the best looking piece of software ever created, but it’s free and powerful. The de facto choice for Windows users, and it even supports Mac desktops. You can really cut your teeth in podcast editing or even use it for full-blown music production.
This is the app I use, simply because I use other Adobe apps and I’m very used to the workflow at this stage in the game. Audition does have some nice features for enhancing your podcast audio and removing most background noise but does come at a monthly subscription cost to Adobe.
The best apps for scheduling guests & note-taking
I can’t stress enough that the logistics of podcasting can be a real soul crusher. It’s fun to do your first few episodes, but once things start rocking, keeping it all together can be the biggest struggle. You might consider hiring someone to manage the podcast for you, or use some of these tools to keep production rolling.
This is the heartbeat for scheduling all of my guests for interviews. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand the jousting match of available times through e-mail. Setup a Calendly account and send someone your private link to pick a time that works for them. Calendly will send out the automated calendar invites, making your life a little easier.
I love this simple note-taking app and use it for nearly everything. This is great for formulating your notes for each episode, even taking notes during your recording. Super-lightweight and works across desktop and mobile.
I’ve been writing this entire guide in Notion, and while I’m not in love with it like most people I know, the flexibility for creating long-form content is decent. Inherently a blank canvas for content or data, it can also be molded into a solid idea board for your planning needs.
The de facto online document sharing tool, this can act as your home base for show notes, file sharing, and resources. Podcasts that do a lot of round-table or news-like topics can use this to share show notes with multiple guests which is great for sharing during recording. As a host, if you prepare an outline for a guest, you can also send them documents to fill out ahead of time.
The best podcast hosting solutions
This is where things get a little tricky and most people drag their feet on. It’s why things are still a little complicated in the podcasting space, but there are tons of solutions being released every day.
For free podcast hosting & submitting to major podcast platforms
This is a free platform, now owned by Spotify, that comes with some very nice features. You can record calls right on your mobile phone, do light editing of your show from their app or website, and it will submit to all major platforms like iTunes, Google, and Spotify. Totally free.
There is one caveat: We all know what happens to big platforms that offer us free stuff — we are the customer. I’m not sure what they will do with your audio in the future, or limit your time, subscribers, etc. Something to keep in mind and what brings me to my next solution
For paid podcast hosting.
Starting at $190/year, Castos is my preferred method for hosting a podcast, especially one that represents your company brand. You get what you pay for and with Castos, you’re paying for podcast hosting without the corporate influence. They have a few nice features too like auto transcriptions, integrating with YouTube and more. Check out this video I did for an overview.
Seriously Simple Podcast plugin for WordPress
This plugin is owned by Castos, but allows you to freely host your podcast directly from uploading it to your self-hosted WordPress website. You’ll still have to submit your podcast to all of the major platforms, but they do offer support docs to help you with that https://support.castos.com/collection/4-seriously-simple-podcasting
Another “indie” paid hosting service for podcasting, with some unique features that separate it from the rest of the pack. One killer feature of this platform is a unique website for each of your episodes. You can also host multiple episodes out of one account, along with adding unique collaborators. Plans start at $19/mo.
The best transcription services for your podcast
If cornerstone content is part of your strategy, it’s useful to turn to transcriptions for readers to scan. Here are the two websites I turn to for transcriptions:
You really can’t beat the price at .10 cents a minute for transcription services. It’s all computer learning-driven, so don’t expect it to be perfect, but it works great for scanning through a long conversation. I use it on this podcast.
At 1.00 a minute, it’s higher priced for an AI service, but the accuracy is better and it has nicer collaborator tools in the website. I used this service before Temi.
The best app for creating podcast artwork
I’d prefer you hire a local artist to help you with brand identity and build out a strong brand package out of the gate, though I can understand if you don’t have the funds to do this in the beginning. Chelsea Arruda helped me with Southcoast.fm & The We Are Here podcast assets.
Hands-down the best solution for someone without design chops as they have 100’s of templates to choose from and all of the necessary dimensions for major podcasting platforms. While their mobile app is just as powerful, the upsell nags do become tiresome after a while.
If you’re planning on making your own graphics, or you already have a design team in-house, here’s a few important links for knowing the size of images you need on each major platform:
The best places to get royalty-free music
If you’re creating unique intros and transitions, you might find yourself looking for some royalty-free music to use. Here are just a few sites to take a look at.
This is the primary site I use for finding my music. At $120 for a year subscription to all of the music, it’s a great deal. I interviewed the owner of the service if you want to learn a little more about him.
A huge library of music and sound effects for your podcasts. I know a lot of big YouTubers that use this service for vlogging and video production, so I’m sure you can score yourself a coupon code somewhere to get things slightly more affordable.
The best ways to dampen echo or reverb for your podcast
All of the best equipment in the world won’t do you any good if you have harsh recording conditions. Consider some affordable materials that will help dampen the echo or reverb in your room.
Super flexible to hang in front of you or over your computer monitor right at your desk. Even better, lay some out over your hardwood floors with bare walls and high ceilings.
An affordable solution you’ll find in most sound dampening tutorials. You can places these directly on your walls, or glue them to solid poster boards for portability. I have 2 boards sized 2′ x 3′ with the foam panels that I can move around my office depending on where I’m recording.
This is an accessory that plays well with the blankets and foam boards. I use a T stand and hang the blanket on top of it, which allows me to place the blanket as a backing anywhere in my office. You could hang the panels of foam too if you got creative.
Professional grade materials
You can purchase professional-grade wall treatments or panels from a number of vendors, but I’ve heard good things about Audimute.com as a source for high-end products. You can order them in multiple sizes, styles, and colors.
Before we close things out, here are a few parting tips for creating a small business podcast.
Podcast recording dos and don’ts
I know a lot of podcasters that are audio engineers first and foremost — that’s not me. I follow the 80/20 rule for most of my podcast production, so I can move through the process a lot faster.
I’ve listed a lot of great equipment in the previous section to help you get better audio at the source. I’ve seen other guides that focus heavily on editing and the dynamics of audio, but to me, if you capture great audio at the source, there’s less time spent editing and more time creating more content. Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the years:
- If you’re recording over the internet with a guest, make sure you have a good internet connection. Check your wifi signal, make sure you’re on your access point. If you can plugin to ethernet, even better. Sounds foolish right? Well, you’ve never come home from the coffee shop and have your laptop connect to another XFINITY router nearby and drop your interview halfway through 🙂
- Make sure all apps that use the internet, like chrome or dropbox syncing files, are turned off during the recording. Those bandwidth eating gremlins can cause audio quality issues.
- Triple-check that you’re using the correct microphone before you start recording! I’ve done hour-long shows only to find out I was using my webcam microphone instead of my good podcasting mic. Don’t fall victim to that mistake.
- If time allows, run a quick recording test with your guest that you can listen back to before going into the real show. Make sure your guest isn’t falling into the same traps above!
- CAUTION: Careful of Apple earbuds! If you or your guest are using the Apple earbud microphones as a last resort, make sure the mic — which is built into the cord — isn’t rubbing against clothing or hair. This causes a large amount of static and is nearly impossible to fix in post-production.
- Dampen as much echo or reverb as possible. Don’t search for “soundproofing” but “sound dampening” when you’re looking to solve this. You can put some pretty affordable materials in place as noted in the previous section. A moving blanket draped in front of you can go a long way.
- If you’re recording a video podcast consider good lighting and good camera angles.
- Face your window, don’t have harsh lighting shine through from your back.
- If you use a laptop, consider getting a USB webcam to produce a better angle and a more attractive background setting.
- Consider investing in a flexible LED light if you do a lot of video-based interviews
- Always run a local backup recording if you’re a guest on another show, or ask your guest to run a local recording as your own safety net.
- Life comes at you fast, always have 2 – 3 podcasts in reserve to publish when you can’t fit it into your busy schedule.
Technical editing tips I follow for 99% of my shows
I primarily use Adobe Audition for all of my podcast editing, but that shouldn’t stop you from following this general list of audio production tips.
- Killing background noise. This starts best when you can solve a noisy environment right from the start. However, for small background hums from an AC or computer, most apps have a method for removing a constant low-pitch sound.
- Making sure all tracks are “normalized.” You don’t want the listener constantly fiddling with the volume of their phone or car radio. Keep tracks consistent across the show which includes your intro, content, and your outro. I normalize all tracks to -1 db
- Keep it mono. This probably changes if your podcast is all about music or if it’s a highly produced entertainment, but for interviews an education, I convert all tracks to mono.
- Export at a lower quality, like 128kbps. This makes the file size smaller while still retaining audio quality. Smaller files are great for anyone using a mobile device that might be in a spotty service area.
- Cut the fat from your material! I’ll often cut out the part of a discussion that doesn’t provide value or doesn’t work well with the narrative. If editing out parts of a conversation feel too jarring when you listen back to it, a nice smoother over is to lay over transition audio, as if you’re switching chapters.
Phew, there’s a lot to consider when you’re running a podcast! By now, you’re on your way to becoming an absolute recording powerhouse 🙂
Podcasting is a practice in positioning your brand
Look, if you’re doing this stuff as a hobby, you probably don’t care all that much about making this effort work for your brand. This entire process of content creation is a holistic approach to practicing positioning.
You control the script — literally — to your audio or video content series. When you leverage podcasting as the cornerstone for all content creation, you are acting as “the producer of positioning” within your organization. Forcing yourself to connect the dots across all content marketing and promotional mediums to ensure the episodes don’t just stop at the outro and become something that spans your entire marketing spectrum.
A process that makes you look a lot harder at where you spend your time and how you want to maximize your return on this investment. You might even call it a confidence builder for your marketing team as you begin to draw lines in the sand creating content and positioning on what really matters, tossing away the “busy work” of lackluster content creation.
Packaging up a series of shows or an entire season that can be placed in front of your prospective customer’s eyes to entice them to do business with you.
- Have a buyer that wants to learn more about how your product is built? You have a series about that.
- Looking at a team of executives that are thinking about investing in your organization? They can tune into your origin story to get an unfiltered look at your passion.
- Want to increase your word of mouth to land more sales? Luckily you’ve been networking with the right guests on the show that help amplify your brand.
Positioning or branding is perpetually in motion. It will continuously swing as the markets and buyers shift around your business. Having a plan for your podcast marketing efforts helps you keep all the wheels turning so you don’t miss a beat.
3 Final thoughts on starting a small business podcast for your brand
Podcasting is a powerful tool to meet new people, broadcast your message, and connect with an audience that your website or even your traditional marketing channels can’t offer. I want every business or brand on the South Coast to at least try their hand at creating this kind of content to invest in producing strong content for the future. I hope this post has given you a little knowledge and motivation to get your new podcast up and running today. Now, here’s 3 tips I’ll leave you with that every podcaster should hear:
- Start a series; take time to re-energize — I’ve written 11,000+ words in this guide and if you can’t tell, there’s a lot that goes into podcasting. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you don’t let it get out of hand. Start small or start with a mini-series, give yourself a short runway to produce content and promote it to measure success.
- 90% Promotion 10% Content — In the early days, you want to spend more time promoting than you do create the content. When I launched this podcast, I did a short first season introducing you to some of the South Coast female founders that I found interesting and within my network. After recording a bunch of episodes, I had plenty of runway to promote, talk about podcasting at events like Content Camp, and build up the Facebook page audience. I found my early success with my newsletter subscriptions, and have received some solid feedback so far.
- Reach out if you need help — You don’t have to go it alone! Ask your marketing team or current marketing consultant about starting a podcast. Use this blog post as an outline for talking points and build a plan from there. You can always reach out to me with your questions.
That’s a wrap! I hope you’ll launch your next podcast right here on the South Coast and if you do, let me know about it in the comments below. Please consider subscribing to the show and sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!