On this episode of 'Inbound & Down,' co-hosts Jon Sasala and Danielle Esposito are joined by HubSpot's Senior Marketing Manager of Podcasts Sam Balter, to discuss the marketing platform's slate of podcasts, as well as strategies to consider before launching your own.
HubSpot has been in the podcast industry for well over five years, producing great educational and entertaining content such as 'Skill Up,' 'The Growth Show,' and 'Weird Work.' So, naturally, it was only a matter of time before they dedicated an entire role to the craft. Enter our guest, Sam Balter.
Balter has been working at HubSpot for about four years, but recently transitioned from traditional marketing into podcasting and podcast marketing.
"I’ve been in field marketing, sales enablement, things like that," he explains. "HubSpot had been podcasting for a while before...we had 'The Growth Show,' which we still produce, which is a great show, and 'Skill Up' which is a kind of educational how-to show. And then 'Weird Work' was something that was like, 'Okay, what if we made a mass appeal show, something that…is going to break through the noise."
"They were looking for somebody to host it, I took on the job of hosting, and then from there have been working on marketing and growing the audiences of our other podcast as well," he continues.
'Weird Work' premiered in 2017, and is an example of HubSpot's forays into the realm of branded podcasting—where, for example, the content appeals to a HubSpot user, or someone in the greater industry, but isn't necessarily a commercial for HubSpot, or exclusively about its software. The show features Balter interviewing individuals across all disciplines and learning about the work they do. The catch is, we're not talking about traditional 9-to-5 office work. These individuals have careers that are traditionally weird. He speaks to people who press human ashes into vinyl records, write dinosaur erotica fiction, are professional hand models, and many others. 'Weird Work' is currently in its second season.
Having broader appealing, branded podcasts, Balter and his team were able to experiment with format, specifically ad format.
"We started with originally using HubSpot Academy," he says. "So at first we decided, 'Let's just see if podcast ads work. Can we drive somebody from weird work or from 'The Growth Show' or from 'Skill Up' to an actual website where they sign up for something?' And the answer was yes.
"Then we started kind of evolving our ad strategy over time," continues Balter. "And for 'The Growth Show,' we did something where we instead of promoting HubSpot Academy, we promoted customer stories...and then in 'Weird Work' in the most recent season, we've actually decided to just give away the ad space to customers. Because that's a fun way for us to showcase the customers."
It's clear that Balter has a tremendous amount of experience in this space. Here are some of his many strategies and tips for starting and maintaining a successful podcast:
Produce a show with seasons, not an 'infinite' show.
When starting a podcast, most people aren't thinking about the end of the show, because the show will be great and why would it ever end? But, oftentimes, a show fizzles out, or doesn't quite work out as anticipated. Now, you have a show sitting out there in the ether with no new episodes or updates, and it looks to be a failed attempt.
What if though, you planned for this? Not planning for failure, but planning a finite end. One solid season of a podcast to release. Now, if it doesn't work out, it looks more intentional, and gives you room to pick up again at any point, should you desire.
"A lot of people talk to me about this—on infinite podcasts they're going to start where it's just going to have an endless amount of episodes, is going to occur every week, they're going to get all these guests and then it just does not pan out that way...I encourage seasons as a way to think about this," says Balter.
Have a unique angle.
There are over 700,000 podcasts out there currently. While that number is nowhere near the amount of blogs or YouTube videos online, it's still large enough that you need to produce something of quality to be found.
Think about your key differentiators. What do you have that no one else does, and what information can you bring to the table to set yourself apart? Take those differentiators, and use them to fuel your show. For every one great show that makes an impact, there are thousands of shows that don't. Be the one.
Utilize ads properly.
Study after study, podcast ads prove to be effective. Podcast advertising network Midroll states that podcast ads generate 4.4x better brand recall and a 10% rise in purchase. And, as research continues and advertisers become better aligned with segments of listeners, those numbers are bound to grow even more.
That being said, ad placements shouldn't be abused or used inappropriately.
"I think it's inappropriate when [an ad] takes up too much time," explains Balter. "If you are going to do a podcast that's let's say, 10 minutes... then you're going to run a minute or two minutes worth of ads, that seems to be a little bit excessive to me."
Take advantage of the brand affinity and trust from listeners.
Consider the amount of time—whether you're a podcast listener or a host yourself—that you or your listeners spend listening to a show. Depending on your format, it could be 10 minutes a day, two hours every week, 15 hours a month, etc., etc. That's an incredible amount of dedication and loyalty. Don't ignore this.
Think of Balter's previous anecdote of giving ad space away to customers. That's a surefire way to create an evangelist who will promote your podcast, and in turn, your business. Consider ways to delight your listener-base and turn them into evangelists (or podcast super-fans), as this will power your flywheel and yield positive results.
Stay up to date on trends and advances.
Here's where host Jon Sasala's favorite topic comes into play: the future. Podcasting is a young medium, and although it's vastly grown in its lifespan, there is much more growth and advancement to come. If you're considering podcasting as a serious business endeavor, stay on top of advances like you would any other part of the industry.
Podcast in search results is the next big frontier. Google is already starting to deliver podcasts when you search specific podcast queries. We're on the heels of an incredible advancement—auto-transcription of podcasts, and delivery of that podcast content in SERPs. Yeah, you read that right. Soon, you can search a query and have a relevant podcast returned.
What does this mean for your podcast strategy? Simply, produce great content. Just like any other medium, if you want to be delivered in search, your content needs to be thoughtful, helpful, holistic—i.e., inbound.
Don't let the work, the amount of podcasts, or the future discourage you. This is the time for podcasts.
"It's a great time to be in podcasting," Balter muses. "You couldn't ask for a better situation. More people are listening. Lots of people are talking about it. Tons of companies are investing money in it. It's a good spot to be in."
This Week's One Thing
- Danielle's one thing is Trader Joe's—specifically, she's vibing with their pumpkin waffles.
- Sage's one thing is fun socks!
- Jon's one things are the HubSpot podcasts—'Weird Work,' 'Skill Up,' 'The Growth Show,' and 'Agency Unfiltered.'
- Sam's one thing is a podcast called 'Richard's Famous Food' podcast, where the host takes a deep dive into the history of foods, such as an intense overview of bone broth.
- Sam's INBOUND '19 Presentation
- 'Weird Work' Podcast
- 'The Growth Show' Podcast
- 'Skill Up' Podcast
- 'Agency Unfiltered' Podcast
- Podcast Advertising Generates Up to 4.4x Better Brand Recall Than Other Digital Ads
Do you have podcast strategies to share? Send them in to email@example.com.
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