It’s likely because of the major roadblocks that marketers still face in the podcast marketing space. Two podcast experts weigh in on the biggest challenges and strategies to tackle them.
Currently, there are two main ways to discover podcasts: Search through top-ranking podcasts in various genres or get recommendations based on what you’re already listening to.
This makes it very hard for lesser-known shows to get discovered organically.
“It's really hard for podcasters who are creating amazing content and are great creators to figure out ways to get in front of their audience,” says Alanah Joseph, head of creator partnerships on the HubSpot Podcast team.
At HubSpot, Joseph says our podcast network addresses this by leaning into our cross-promotion strategy – this means placing ads across various shows across our network while ensuring audience alignment.
“Instead of going out and trying to find new audiences, we are leveraging the audiences that we already have and sharing those audiences in a way that helps boost discoverability for the podcasts,” she says. “And then also because we have a community and we can leverage that ad inventory.”
However, not every brand can go this route. Brands with access to a large ad budget opt for paid advertising, as that ensures you will gain more exposure and reach your desired audience.
“Short-term strategies will most often be paid media, like promoting on a podcast player or running Facebook ads,” says Principal Podcast Producer at HubSpot Darren Clarke, as a way to tackle discoverability. “These plays usually give great results, but won't necessarily be 'sticky.'”
Other tactics include cross-posting on multiple channels and growing your social media presence. Many podcasters post the video version of their content on YouTube to broaden their reach and get an SEO boost.
On social media, discovery is much easier. You can build a community there, market your podcast, and direct traffic to your series.
“These types of organic growth strategies take a long time to register any significant results, but over time, if done well, will essentially give you much more control over your distribution,” he says.
Growing a community is another key way to help with discoverability. Things like attending podcasting events and reaching out to fellow podcasters will help you build a network of people who can share their audiences with you.
For instance, being a guest on another podcast whose audience aligns with yours can be incredibly valuable for brands with limited resources.
“The audience gets to meet you, gets to learn about you, get to understand your values, [and] why you have a podcast,” she says. “All of those things are important for not only driving traffic but also building retention and loyalty.”
Clarke echoes this sentiment, saying that when you guest host, having a compelling message and an inviting call to action is necessary for it to serve as a growth lever.
He further cautions that promotion, marketing, audience building, and community development are all growth mechanisms that require different approaches. As such, they’ll require a different set of expectations and ROI.
As marketers, data is our lifeline. It tells us who our audience is, what they’re responding to, and much more. Joseph says with podcasts, data insights are limited.
“With tracking and reporting, the biggest issue in the podcast industry is as a listener, you are not able to accept cookies,” she says.
This means that podcast marketers are restricted in the information they’re able to gather on their audience, particularly tracking how they’re behaving after listening to an episode.
What you typically get is the following:
- Listens (unique listens, average listening time, etc)
- Subscriber count and trends
- Downloads (total downloads, average downloads, etc)
And often, Joseph says, you have to compile data from several sources which is not always accurate or reliable.
One key piece of data that’s missing is listener demographics, such as gender, age, and education. As a result, building out a strong social media presence becomes even more important in understanding your audience.
From LinkedIn, for instance, you can discover a person’s title, identify where they are in their career, and why they’re tuning into your podcast.
Despite these roadblocks, Joseph believes that tech is finally catching up with the world of podcasting.
“There's a lot of innovation right now and a lot of people are developing cool technology to support this large group of creators,” she says. “So, I feel optimistic that some of these things will be solved.”
Diversity in Voices
While this challenge isn’t specific to podcast marketing, it does affect the industry as a whole.
Joseph mentions that there’s still a lot of work to be done regarding the diversity of voices in podcasting.
“In the beginning [of building the HubSpot Podcast Network], more so than now, that was the big challenge that I faced,” she says, “How do I create a network that's reflective of the American workforce?”
This is especially true in the business genre, where top-ranking shows are not led by BIPOC creators. As a network, you want to have a list of strong shows but you also want to make sure it’s balanced in representation.
“I'd love to see more women and more people of color rise to the charts in our genre specifically,” she says. “That's something that we're actively trying to work through and have been for a while.”
There’s no doubt that there are still a lot of challenges within podcast marketing, as platforms and search engines catch up to this thriving industry. However, there are still many workarounds that brands can leverage to reach their target listeners and grow their subscriber base.