The podcast option: How audio content can help build a B2B business
Thinking about podcasting as a B2B content strategy? Columnist Megan Hannay lays out the benefits and drawbacks of podcasting, and the time and equipment that you'll need.
For B2B marketing, I’m a big believer in focusing on the one or two primary content vehicles for your brand. Some focus on a stellar email newsletter. Others work toward industry-leading blog content. Some create webinars. And others use podcasts.
This doesn’t mean putting all of your eggs in one basket. A newsletter can be used to push out great content. Podcasts and webinars can be featured on a blog. But in a world where content about content is a dime a dozen, a focus on quality means cutting focus in other areas.
And while it’s generally easier to produce than video, developing a good podcast can be a hefty time investment. What’s lost in visuals must be gained in depth. But for the right brand, a B2B podcast can be a great way to learn while branding. If you’re considering a podcast as a B2B content option, this post lays out reasons to pick up the mic, and reasons not to.
The benefits of podcasting
Podcast to learn
As a podcast host, you don’t have to be an expert. You do need to do your research (more on that soon), but if you’re inviting a guest, they get to be the expert, and you get to be the layperson. In this way, podcasting is an excellent learning tool.
This is especially the case for a newly launched B2B business, or a team that’s growing in a new direction. You may have spent weeks or months on market research, but you’re probably still behind on the “who’s who” and “what’s what” of your industry. A podcast can be a great way to learn from industry peers and leaders, giving your team a one-on-one Q&A session with some of the smartest folks in your industry.
Podcast to meet people
Podcasts are an extremely low-pressure marketing tactic. There are few better ways to ask for someone’s attention than to say, “Hey, you’re super smart — I’d like to feature you.”
Podcast to better understand your customers
Interview-style podcasts, especially those in the B2B space, usually include “industry influencer” type guests. I get the appeal — these are folks with large followings, with names that will draw eyeballs. But these are also the folks who have been on ~36,000 other industry podcasts. And if you really want your interview to stand out, you’ll want to listen to all ~36,000 before speaking to them.
But B2B content creators have a great opportunity with podcasts that I don’t see embraced enough: inviting their own clients and customers onto the show.
Industry influencers have produced so much content that it can be difficult to squeeze out new information. This isn’t their fault — they’re influential for a reason. But unless you’re approaching the conversation from an angle no one has taken before, it’ll be difficult to share a completely unique perspective.
Your clients and customers, on the other hand, may not have spent as much time in front of the mic. This is an opportunity to get a new story, and to spend an hour a week conversing with your market.
Plus, it’s these guests’ ideas, stories and concerns that are likely most appealing to your own potential customer base. Check out HubSpot’s podcast for a great example of this. The Growth Show’s guests may not all be HubSpot users, but they certainly fit the mold of an ideal customer.
Podcast to share your brand’s personality
Audio interviews have an intimacy to them that feels more personal than written content, or even social media posts. It can be a great way to get quirky, within the scope of your brand.
You can have fun with your B2B content — it can be weird and still be professional (think MailChimp or Moz). It can take a few episodes to develop a style, but the best podcasts — no matter their target audience — are those in which there’s a rapport between the host and the audience, where it almost feels like the conversation isn’t so one-sided.
The drawbacks of podcasting
Don’t podcast if you’re a control freak
A podcast can take quite a bit of time (see the “investment” section below), and it relies heavily on the performance of the interviewee. If a particular guest is nervous, off-topic, or maybe just not very engaging, you’ll have to decide whether to place the piece anyway or risk losing a few hours of work, and a relationship, by not posting the piece.
Don’t podcast because you like hearing yourself talk
This isn’t universal advice. Some people like hearing themselves talk and are incredibly captivating. But for others, knowing when to end a discussion is a learned skill. Make sure the person you choose as your podcast host can listen as well as they speak and knows when they’ve said enough about a given topic.
Don’t podcast for immediate conversions
Like building a blog or a newsletter list, podcasting is a long-term investment. It’s a branding effort; audience builds over time.
Don’t podcast if you don’t like research
The onus is on the interviewer to prepare questions, not on the interviewee to prepare content. Sending an interviewee a list of questions ahead of time is common, though not always necessary. I don’t do this, as I like my interviews to feel more spontaneous, but each podcaster has to choose what feels comfortable for them.
In addition, to develop solid conversation starters, you’ll need to take a couple of hours to read content by your guest and look into their company and career history. If you’re unable to build a list of questions that connect ideas from their various writings, diving deeper into ideas and opinions they’ve shared — within the scope of your topic — then you’re not going to create a unique episode. The more established your guest is, and the more they’ve written, the longer this process will take.
Plus, being a guest on a podcast where you’re asked to simply regurgitate information you’ve already written in a single blog post feels like a waste of time. And it’s much more fun to interview happy guests.
The podcasting investment
In total, it takes about a full day to develop and post a decent-quality interview-style podcast. For more advanced edits, or additional content creation, more time may be needed. The breakdown below assumes one podcast episode per week.
- Finding and securing guests: 1 hour/week
- Researching guests/creating interview questions: 2-3 hours/week
- Recording the podcast: 1 hour/week
- Editing the podcast (in-house) + adding an intro & outro: 3 hours/week
- Posting and marketing the podcast: 1-2 hours/week
Podcasts are pretty lean monetary investments. It’ll cost about $100 to get started, with an upkeep cost of about $30-$50 per episode, for ongoing hosting and transcription.
- Recording software — I use Skype (free) and Ecamm call recorder ($29.95 purchase).
- Microphone ($40-$300) — It’s tempting to go all out with a mic because it looks cool and makes you feel like a deejay, but I don’t recommend spending too much on technical equipment at first. Find a less expensive option that works for the first few episodes, and once you know whether or not the podcast will be a long-term commitment, you can choose to invest more budget.
- Editing software — GarageBand is free for Mac owners, and it works. Otherwise, I’ve heard great things about Adobe Audition ($19.99/month) and Audacity (free).
- Music — There are plenty of royalty-free music options.
- Transcription — I highly recommend hiring a transcription service for each episode. This is not only for the SEO benefit of written content, but also for hearing-impaired audience members, or those of us who prefer to read our content. There are many transcribing options on Fiverr, and Speechpad is a service that specializes in transcription. Cost is usually around $1/minute.
- Hosting — SoundCloud ($15/month for unlimited uploads) is great for embedding podcasts in blog posts. Libsyn ($5+/month) is a host many professionals use. Both publish out to iTunes, Google Play and other podcast feeds.
Plan to be consistent. If your primary podcaster has many other work responsibilities, there will be an ebb and flow to the podcast. On some weeks they’ll have two or three recordings, whereas on others, they are busy with different projects. Consistent publishing creates a sense of stability and sets audience expectations as well.