Here are the 3 biggest challenges for podcasters:
- Making a great show
- Marketing the show
- Sustaining the show
The Challenge of Making a Great Show
This is by far the hardest challenge to podcasting. Money can fix the other challenges but it takes a certain amount of creativity and awesomeness to make a great show. A boring shows and even good shows are never recommended by people. People only talk about and encourage others to listen to great shows they love. To make a great show people love, you have to give the listener a lot of value in the show. Figure out what you want the listener to get out of your show then figure out exactly how you can maximise that in each episode. This pretty much always takes years to accomplish. Just like nobody picks up a guitar this week and is signing a record label next week. It takes a lot of practice on storytelling, production, writing, figuring out the format, finding your voice, and style. Ira Glass, from This American Life says it took him over 9 years to figure out how to be great on the radio. So expect this to take a while.
Before moving on to marketing, the show has to be great. If you spend a bunch of money to acquire a bunch of new listeners and they don't even finish one episode much less subscribe and listen to many, then you just wasted all your marketing money and time.
To get great, listen a lot, practice a lot, get a lot of feedback, and get a good mentor.
Listen to a lot of shows on varying styles and techniques. Cherry pick your favorite part of it and put it in your show. After all, you started podcasting because you have good taste right? So put that good taste to work by only publishing what you would appreciate. Also, listen to podcasts about podcasting to learn all the tips and techniques from the pros.
Practice a lot by doing, making, and publishing. It doesn't matter how many books you read or videos you watch or podcasts you listen to, you can only get good by being a practitioner. So get your train a moving, get on a consistent schedule of releasing content, and put out a lot of content. It might take a year of publishing before you finally figure out what you're doing. But it's worth it.
Get a lot of feedback by asking everyone you can what they think of the show. Ask questions like "Did you listen to the whole thing?", "At what point did you turn it off", "At what point did you drift off or get bored?", "From 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this to a friend?" If they say 9 or 10 it means you've got a great show. If they say 7 or 8 they are just being nice and if they say 6 or lower it's a no. Questions like this will help you understand where your show falls down and how to improve.
Get a mentor by networking like crazy. Go to local meetups, meet as many local podcasters as you can, message all your favorite podcasters online, and build relationships with everyone. Through serendipity I found two mentors who have been amazingly helpful, all from just being out there and helping others. You can also check out AIR media where you can hire a mentor. A good mentor is a fast track to a great show.
The Challenge of Marketing a Show
Marketing is a skill all on its own and a lot of podcasters don't even know where to begin. Good marketing is not bad or sleezy. It's not spammy or annoying. Good marketing is helping people with something they need exactly when they need it. It takes time to get good at marketing to the point that it's good marketing. The only way to get good is to practice.
The best marketing strategy is to make the very best show in your category. Focus on creating top notch quality show before even thinking about marketing. Because word mouth is king and people will only talk about shows they LOVE.
Here's the secret: marketing a podcast is no different than marketing anything else. And lucky for us there are a ton of podcasts and books out there to help you learn how to market. Here are a few:
- Online Marketing Made Easy
- Growth Marketing Toolbox
- Social Media Marketing
- Build Your Tribe
- Everyone Hates Marketers
- Pat Flynn Smart Passive Income
- Masters of Scale
- How I Built This
- Tim Ferriss
- Startup School with Seth Godin or Akimbo
- GaryVee Audio Experience
- Anything by Seth Godin
- 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
- Blue Ocean Strategy
- Small Giants
- Crush It
- The Tipping Point
If you can get through all that material and practice marketing your show, you'll do great. It takes a lot of time to get good at it and build something up so don't feel down if it's not happening fast. It may take a few years for all your marketing effort to feel like it was worth it. But when it kicks in, it really can be amazing.
I'm a big fan on growing a large social media following and am more than happy to share my strategies for doing that.
What's nice is a lot of the marketing strategies you can use today are all free through social media and doing promo swaps. With added money you can really add gas to the flame but it's best to get good at marketing with no money first so you know how to best effectively use money with marketing. After all, after government spending, marketing is the 2nd biggest waste of money there is.
The Challenge of Sustaining a Show
This is either burning out because you aren't getting the value out of podcasting as you thought, or sustaining a show means making money from your show.
A lot of podcasters get this great idea to podcast, make 4 episodes, then quit. They either thought it was too hard, or didn't get any value out of it. This is like planting seeds in the spring and then quitting your farming in the summer. It takes time for things to grow, and it takes time to learn the skills to overcome the obstacles. First it's good to set healthy goals. Ones that are achievable and give you the feeling of success. Then it's a matter of self discipline to keep going even through the challenges to be there when it's harvest time.
It's possible to make podcasting your full time job and have it be profitable. But that's a moonshot. Probably less than 5% of all podcasts make enough for their creators to work it full time. That's an extremely low number and it means you are going to have a very hard time getting there. Making money on the show is 3rd in our list because it's only after you make a great show and know how to market it that you can think about it making money. Shows with no listeners don't make money.
Shows make money by reading ads on the show and doing direct support from things like Patreon. There is also merch sales. But the biggest money makers are shows that have hosts who have other products they are selling like classes, books, and webinars. When an expert establishes themselves and makes a popular podcast, people listen because they want to know more about that topic. And when they need even more help, they already know and trust that podcaster, so it's an obvious choice to purchase their book or online course. Learning how to make money on the show is another skill all on it's own. Some networks and companies can help find sponsors and take a significant cut of the revenue for doing so.
Do you have a big challenge that doesn't fall in these categories? Tweet at me, @lime_link and tell me about it.