As podcasting is becoming more and more popular, I’ve had many people reach out to me who are interested in the best ways to develop their own podcasts. This is usually for one (or more) of three reasons.
- To promo a company or product.
- To showcase personal expertise.
- To spread a specific message or belief system.
This site, as well as other resources I have, such as this book and my podcast on podcasting, Build A Big Podcast, are full of the specifics, so for this article, I’ll focus on five basic elements you need to consider to have a successful podcast.
“Top 5” Steps to Podcasting Success
Step 1 - Selecting the Right Topic (and Niche Within a Topic)
This is one of the most important things that you can do as a podcaster. You need to choose something that you’re passionate about and, unless your podcast is a diary of you going from total beginner to some level of expertise, you also need some existing knowledge. You don’t have to be a genius about your topic to have podcasting success, but it will be much easier to produce high-quality content if you love what you’re talking about and know enough to guide the direction of the content you create, even if it’s by getting the majority of that content via guest interviews. If you don’t have these things in place, your podcast could take up all of your time and energy – which means no money!
Questions to ask yourself when selecting the right topic for your podcast:
- What topic would you like to cover?
- Do you know anyone who does this already? How did they start?
- Is there any way you can monetize this?
- Is there an existing audience for this topic. Can you find these people?
- Are you willing to put in the work required to be a successful podcaster?
- Would you rather talk about yourself and your experience with the topic or talk to guests and share their experiences? Why?
Step 2 - Finding the Right Audience
The next step to building a successful podcast is finding people who are interested in the topic of your podcast. There are many ways to find these people. For example, you can go on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and look at related groups or reach out to already-existing associations associated with the topic.
Questions you should be clear on before reaching out to people about your podcast:
- Who am I speaking to?
- Where do I fit into my market segment?
- What problems exist within my target market and how do I solve these problems?
- What is the benefit of listening to my podcast?
- What makes my podcast different from other podcasts?
Step 3 - Creating the Right Content
If you know the people you are podcasting to, you’ll know the content those people want from you. If you don’t, set up one-on-one sessions and ask, “What do you want from me?”
This sounds obvious, but it’s the best thing you can do to stay on top of trends and the changing landscape of the topic on which you podcast. You don’t want to be an “expert host” that is so far removed from his listeners they can’t relate to you.
In short, you need to have boots on the ground.
A Non-Podcasting Example
My wife is a photographer. She’s not a stylist or a makeup artist. But she’s the one in charge of a shoot – she tells the stylists and makeup artists what to do.
This can be easy when a client is very clear on the type of photographs that are needed for a project. The client works with her on what they want the end result to look like.
Then she does it.
But there are some things makeup artists or stylists know that she and clients don’t. It’s the makeup artists and stylists who have an ear to the ground and know what’s happening as far as new and upcoming trends.
Because of this, even though it’s my wife who is in charge of a shoot and has the ultimate decision-making power, it can be helpful to let a stylist or makeup artist have some freedom as far as their work goes. She’s still giving them guidelines, like “do something upcoming,” but she’s not controlling every single aspect of what they’re doing.
The result when she does this is that she looks on top of trends. And companies see this and want to work with her because of this.
Some Podcast Content “Basics”
Here are some very basic questions you can ask guests and other experts that you talk with:
- Where did you come across this information? How did you come across this information?
- What was your experience?
- Any advice for somebody who would like to do something similar?
- Anything else we should know? Anything I didn’t ask?
- When were you first introduced to this idea? What about it resonated with you?
- Had you ever tried anything like this before?
- What made you decide to give it a shot?
- What's been working well for you?
- What hasn't worked well for you?
- What do you need help with?
Step 4 - The Right Marketing, Promotion, and Distribution
You want your podcast to be easily accessible to people looking for it. Here is a list of podcast directories you will find helpful in making this happen. At the very least, make sure you are included in the major podcast directories – Apple, Amazon, Google, and Spotify.
You can’t assume people will automatically find you on these directories. You need to make sure the listeners you want to hear your podcast know you exist. Online, forums, Facebook groups, and pages linked to related associations (you may need to ask for a link) are a great place to start.
As far as marketing your podcast, I wrote a book on it. It goes much deeper than I can in this article and will get you the foundation you need when it comes to connecting with the right audience and delivering content that audience wants in the way that they want it.
How can you start now? Creating the “right content” and being consistent with it is half the battle. When you do this, and you find the right audience to listen to it, they will do your marketing for you by telling others.
Consider these three things for best results:
- Being consistent with episode quality.
- Regularly releasing new episodes.
- Being approachable and responding to people who reach out to your via social media and in other ways.
As your podcast becomes more and more popular, you can slack a bit on episode frequency and how you respond to listeners (people don’t expect personal responses from a “big” podcaster with lots of listeners – they understand you may be too busy to do this), but you can never slack on episode quality.
Step 5 - Listening to the Right Feedback
You should be open to receiving feedback from listeners, however, be are that all feedback isn’t “the right feedback.”
Quality feedback comes from somebody who is invested in your show and wants to help you make it better, not random people who happen to hear what you’re doing and immediately want to criticize it. Be open to feedback from other podcasters who are in the trenches with you and know what they’re talking about, not people who just want to hear themselves talk, and you happen to be on the receiving end.
If you really want feedback and are willing to change what you’re doing to make your podcast better, hire a professional.
Podcasting Success is a Long-Term Process (and “Success” Changes)
Very few podcasters come out of the gate and experience quick and meaningful success. Those who do often find they are ill-equipped to sustain that success when the things that have enabled it change.
Like changing markets or listener preferences, your version of “success” will also change. What you want for your podcast now will be different than what you want for your podcast in five years, assuming you are still podcasting.
Here is the bottom line: You get to choose what “podcasting success” looks like.
Keep this in mind as you establish and grow your podcast as it’s easy to get caught up in the desires of others and, because of this, neglect your needs. Also remember that if you’re going in one direction and find it doesn’t work for you, you can always try something else – this is what moving forward in podcasting looks like.
Maybe you’ll get where you think you want to go. Maybe you want. Podcasting, like life, is a process. Focus on the process and the results you’re looking for will emerge.