The first time I heard a podcast as a listener, I knew it was something I wanted to do myself.
For me, the moment came when listening to a podcast called “This Is Your Life” by Michael Hyatt back in the summer of 2013 when I was on my own journey in finding a better work/life balance and stumbled upon Hyatt’s podcast on personal leadership.
The weekly episodes quickly became a weekly habit for me, and I was virtually always able to find at least one useful takeaway. The commitment was easy; I usually listened with it in the background while driving someplace or another, or while taking my daughter (back then I only had 1!) for a neighborhood walk in the stroller. Yet the connection was powerful. With the podcast playing in my ear, it felt like Hyatt was literally in my head, and that when he talked about his struggles, I was sharing in his journey and he was talking directly to me!
At that point, I resolved to launch my own podcast. As someone who writes very “long form” content, I’ve always been cognizant that there are many people who might be interested in what we have to share, but will simply never read a long “Kitces-style” article. So an alternative format – a podcast – was clearly a plus, as a different way to produce content and reach a slightly different audience that was more interested in learning through hearing than via reading. And I hoped that I’d be able to create a deeper connection with my audience by creating the same kind of "audio intimacy" that drew me to Hyatt’s work as well.
And so I resolved that, for 2014, I would have two strategic goals: 1) launch a podcast; 2) launch this “side business” idea that I had, called XY Planning Network. In reality, #2 launched first and grew so quickly that it consumed all my time to do #1 (not to mention that we separately launched the XYPN Radio podcast in the summer of 2015)! Life doesn’t always turn out as planned! And as a result, I didn’t manage to circle back to starting my own podcast until the summer of 2016, with a final launch at the start of 2017.
Now nearly 2 years, 100 episodes, and 1.6 million(!) downloads later, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes – and what not to do! – when launching a podcast and building an audience. And so, in the hopes that it is useful to at least a few others who may be considering whether to start a podcast as well, I share with you my journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Topics Covered In This Post
- Setting Up A Podcast From Scratch
- Essential Equipment For Recording Podcasts
- Choosing A Podcast Show Format And Style
- Inviting And Preparing Podcast Guests
- What Do You Talk About On Your Podcast?
- Preparing Show Notes And Post-Production Of Each Podcast Episode
- Ideal Podcast Frequency And Consistency
- Launching Your (New) Podcast
- Building Awareness And Promoting Your Podcast
- A Word About (Selling) Podcast Advertising
- Final Tips On Podcasting
- Podcasting: Is It Really Worth It?
- Michael’s Podcasting Resources.
Setting Up A Podcast From Scratch
The core requirement to launch a podcast is actually rather simple: sign up for a Hosting service that will keep the sound file of your podcast and send it out to anyone who clicks the button to download/listen to it, and then get your podcast listed in the various directories that people use to find podcasts in the first place (e.g., iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play).
When I was getting started, the “go-to” platform for podcast hosting was LibSyn, so that’s what I signed up for. No need to be experimental and cutting edge on the core infrastructure of what it takes to distribute a podcast. (The primary alternative now is Blubrry.) With LibSyn, I signed up for the “Advanced” plan for $20/month, both to ensure I had enough space to upload my podcasts (longer episodes require more space), and to get their “Advanced” statistics (and eventually signed up for the basic Blubrry plan as well to compare statistics, which ultimately aren’t that advanced on either platform, as podcasting stats, in general, are very limited!). I set it up once, and haven’t had to worry about it since, which was really the point.
Once your podcast hosting service is selected (which, notably, is entirely separate from your website hosting), you still have to prepare the remaining “assets” you will need to produce your podcast. Beyond the podcast itself, it’s typical to have some kind of “Cover Art” – the image that will be shown on iTunes and other podcast players when prospective listeners look it up and tune in – along with an “intro” and “outro” (the typically-up-to-60-second recordings that welcome listeners to the podcast, and bid them farewell at the end) that are prepended and appended as a standard onto either end of every podcast you record.
To keep the process simple and straightforward for myself, I hired the folks at Cashflow Podcasting to help with the setup process… which meant their team took my business logo to a designer to produce the Cover Art (showing me several options and letting me choose which I preferred), and similarly took the brief introduction and outro I wanted to include and provided suggestions on music and voiceover artists to use to record it (again I just had to choose which I preferred from the available options). The intro is important, because it sets the stage for the podcast listener, especially for those who may be listening to you for the first time, and need a “standard” explanatory introduction of what the podcast is, and who you are as the host. The outro is important because it provides the closing capstone to the episode, and is where you have the best opportunity to tell listeners where to go next (i.e., for more information about you and your services) in the form of a closing “Call To Action.”
It’s also necessary to connect your LibSyn account (where new podcast episodes are “published” and made available online) to the various podcast “directories” where people can go to find your podcast and listen to it (most commonly, iTunes, but also Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, etc.). Although notably, the overwhelming majority of podcast listeners typically come via just iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play (with 80%+ of listeners on iTunes alone, and the latter two connecting to almost all the remaining popular Android podcasting apps), so in practice just connecting to those three will cover virtually all the reach you need to worry about.
For our launch, the Cashflow Podcasting team also did all of the technical setup configurations for us on LibSyn, along with supporting us on the configurations for iTunes and Stitcher (which have just a couple of additional steps that need to be completed in a standard process to get your podcast initially listed, and each has their own available directions online for assistance).
Essential Equipment For Recording Podcasts
In addition to completing the technical configuration of the podcast (i.e., podcast hosting service, and connecting to the podcasting directories), and the initial assets you’ll need to go with every episode (e.g., cover art, intro, and outro), it’s also necessary to get the physical equipment to actually record the podcast episodes themselves!
Virtually all laptops today have a built-in microphone, as do most webcams, so most advisors will already have at least some way to record. However, while that level of audio quality is fine for a typical conversational meeting – e.g., a conference call or video chat – the more immersive experience of a podcast often makes any audio flaws much more noticeable. Which means it “pays” to invest into some reasonable, quality audio equipment.
A good starting point is the Audio-Technica ATR2100 microphone for $80, which can plug directly into the USB port on your computer (and comes with a small tripod to stand it up on your desk). You will also want to get a pop filter as well (a small mesh screen that attaches to the front of the microphone and helps to cut down on “popping” sounds that might otherwise get picked up by the mic, most notably when pronouncing words with a hard “p” sound like “pop”!).
After my first year, I decided to upgrade my equipment a bit further and purchased a Rode Podcasting mic, along with a boom arm that could be attached to my desk and make it easy for me to swing the mic over when I was ready to record, and then swing it back out of the way when I was done. The full setup includes the mic itself, the stand, and a proper mounting bracket, though you’ll also still need to get a pop filter (I simply reattached the one I’d already bought for use with my original ATR2100 mic).
In addition, you’ll need headphones that you can use to head your guests talking to you while you talk back to them into the podcasting mic. (You can’t just use your computer’s speakers, or you risk getting feedback or sound interference as your mic may pick up sound reflections of what your speakers are putting out.) I initially used the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x headphones, and later upgraded to some Sennheiser HD280Pro headphones that were recommended to me (which I still use today).
Notably, if you plan to actually record in person with your guests, you will need additional equipment, in particular, a mixer to bring multiple people recording on multiple mics into a single audio file. In practice, I deliberately decided not to do my podcast recordings in person, specifically to avoid needing to deal with the additional complexity of using a mixer!
Instead, all of my podcast recordings occur online, using a web-based platform called Zencastr. The nice thing about Zencastr is that it avoids the need to connect by other means (e.g., a Skype or Google Hangouts call) and record over it; instead, Zencastr is the digital VoIP (Voice over IP) connection to record you with your guest and has a very simple and easy-to-use interface. Just create a recording session, send your guest the URL to connect to, hit the big “record” button when you’re ready, and Zencastr not only records the sessions, but captures them as separate tracks for you and each of your guests (which is helpful after the fact if you need to edit one person’s audio, for instance due to coughing or a background dog barking, without distorting the other person’s talking at the same time). When the recording is completed, Zencastr automatically uploads your sound files to a connected Dropbox folder for you to edit and publish.
However, the fact that I record everything virtually with Zencastr means that my podcast guests will be using whatever they have handy for audio, which again will typically be the built-in mic system on a laptop, or via a webcam. Not the best audio quality. Consequently, I decided from the start to simply buy all of our podcast guests a headset to use. We chose this $50 mid-tier Plantronics headset (solid audio quality, and easy USB plug-and-play), order it from Amazon, have it delivered directly to the podcast guest’s office 2 weeks before the recording, and tell our guests they can keep it complimentary for participating on the podcast.
Choosing A Podcast Show Format And Style
When I was first brainstorming what kind of format to use for the podcast itself, I received advice from all different directions. “10 minutes is a perfect length. Easy sound bites!” “You don’t have to be too short, but don’t go more than 30 minutes, or your listenership will fall off.” “An hour is the perfect length for a good interview.” “Everything you do on the Kitces platform is long and thorough. Stick to the style that works for you.”
The latter was the advice that I took, and I don’t regret it. The Financial Advisor Success is a very long podcast compared to most. Episodes are typically at least 90 minutes, and some will stretch as long as nearly 2 hours. From my perspective, that’s the length I needed to “go deep” with our guests as I wanted to. There are plenty of people who will never listen to our podcasts because they’re long. But there are plenty of people who listen because they’re long (and use that time to get into meaty issues). In other words, just as we’ve found with our long-form blog posts as well, long content isn’t for everyone, but for the subset of people that want deeper content, they’re hungry for it precisely because everyone else keeps it short (or “too short”) to provide substantive value.
I also chose a longer podcast format specifically to fit how I envisioned it would be listened to… which is not sitting at your computer watching/listening to the podcast. Instead, I anticipated that most would listen to the podcast during their daily commute, while they’re exercising, or perhaps taking a walk or mowing the lawn. With a 2-hour format that comes out “just” once a week, there’s enough time for those tasks to be repeated (i.e., commuting to work 5 days a week, or exercising a few times a week) to work all the way through the long-form episode in pieces.
Again, though, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other podcasts that are wildly popular because they are shorter at just an hour, or 30 minutes, or 10 minutes, or less. In the end, it’s simply a matter of thinking about your audience, what they want, and how you can best serve them. If you’re great at providing short takeaways and want to do a daily 5-minute podcast that they’ll tune in to every morning before starting their work day, do that. If you’re better at going deep and want to run 2-hour interviews that they’ll listen to once a week, do that. Our strength is going deeper than anyone else, for readers/listeners who crave that level of depth and substance, so that’s what we did.
Similarly, in terms of the “format” itself, some podcasts have a very structured interview style, with a consistent set of questions in advance. Others are entirely free-flowing conversations. Just as with the podcast length, any/either approach can work, but should be suited to what you want to accomplish or cover in the podcast. If you want to illustrate an interesting range of diversity of perspective in guest views, formulate and ask a consistent set of questions, and see how each guest answers them differently. (Some interviewers like James Lipton from Inside the Actor’s Studio are famous for this.) If you want to go deeper with each guest and explore their own unique journeys, leave the interview more free-flowing.
Personally, I decided that I wanted the Financial Advisor Success interviews to feel like the conversation we might have at a conference talking about the industry and sharing best practices, where we simply sit down and “chit chat” about the business. It just so happens that we then record the discussion, and share it with other advisors later as a podcast! However, I do have a couple of common questions I like to ask, and one that I specifically like to end with, so there’s a consistent point of comparison in views and perspective across all the different guests.
The bottom line is simply to recognize that when it comes to the podcast format, style, and length, the truth is that anything can work, as long as you find a way to make that time valuable, and fit how your listeners can consume it. Don’t overthink what’s perfect for everyone, because nothing is. Focus on the approach that fits how you can best showcase your own knowledge and the perspective of your guests. Or skip the guests and just talk into the mic yourself for the whole podcast, if that’s what you prefer!
Inviting And Preparing Podcast Guests
While some podcasts are simply an individual talking alone into a mic, most podcasts include guests for at least some of the episodes… if only because it may otherwise be hard to come up with a steady flow of topics for each podcast episode, while interviewing guests allows the focus (and diversity of discussion) to be carried by their stories, perspectives, or expertise instead.
The bad news is that means you have to find and invite guests to join you on the podcast! The good news, however, is that a successful podcast itself is a platform for guests to get their message out to the audiences they are trying to reach. Which means, if the guest invitation is a good fit for the audience you’re building as a podcaster, they may want to join you as a guest! In fact, I have been amazed to discover the kinds of doors that have become open to me, and the people I can reach, by giving them the opportunity to be a guest on the podcast! (A benefit for them, and a benefit for me and our audience, too!)
In practice, I’ve found there are five core steps to inviting and hosting guests on your podcast:
1. The Ask. The core of “the ask” where you invite someone to be a guest on your podcast is pretty straightforward, covering 4 key areas: 1) introduce who you are and what your podcast is about (e.g., what themes/topics do you cover); 2) explain the audience (who are your intended listeners, what is the size/reach of the podcast, which helps to clarify the WIIFM [“What’s In It For Me”] for your guest); 3) tie your prospective guest’s expertise to your podcast theme and audience to show why they would be a good fit for the podcast; and 4) explain and set expectations about what’s involved and what they’re committing to (e.g., “all it takes is [10 minutes/30 minutes/2 hours/whatever]”). Make it as easy as possible for them to know what they’re committing to and why it’s a good fit for them, because that makes it easy for them to say “yes”!
2. The Scheduling. Once your guest is on board to join you on your podcast, you need to actually schedule a time to record the interview. Some podcasters set 1-2 “podcast recording days” on their calendar each month, and batch together all their guests on those day(s) (scheduling one right after the other). If the guest can’t make the recording day that month, they’re simply scheduled for the next month (i.e., there are no alternatives). Other podcasters just offer up a series of available time slots on their calendar on a wide variety of days, and let guests choose. Mechanically, you can give guests a list of potential times to choose from, or simply send them a link to your scheduling app and let them complete the process directly. Notably, some podcasters do The Ask first, and then follow-up to schedule a time, while others simply do The Ask and offer up potential recording times all at once.
3. The Prep. There’s a famous saying amongst lawyers that you should “never ask a witness a question you don’t already know the answer to,” because the point of the witness cross-examination is not actually to find the answers, but to stage a delivery of the answers to the audience (in their case, the jury). When it comes to podcasting, you don’t necessarily need to know the answer to every question in advance – as often the whole point is to share a learning experience with your audience – but it is crucial to have a strong knowledge of your guest, their expertise, and any other relevant information, so you can stage a good interview for your audience by knowing what questions to ask that will elicit an interesting conversation in the first place. So read up on the guest’s background, ask them questions in advance if you need to get to know them better, read their book if they’re an author, etc. Ultimately, it’s up to you about whether you fully write out questions in advance, or simply do background research on your guest, and whether you share the questions in advance, or simply ask them as you go to make your podcast more conversational. Either way, though, you must prepare and do your own homework in advance, to be prepared to ask questions and/or have a “good” conversation that allows the guest to really showcase their expertise. As a part of the prep process, some podcasters will also schedule a separate check-in session a few days in advance of the recording itself, just to test the podcast equipment and the guest’s connection to ensure the recording itself will go smoothly when the time comes. The prep phase is also a good time to check in whether the guest has any questions or concerns, and/or if the guest has any resources they intend to share with your audience (that you might collect in advance and make available with the Show Notes of the podcast).
4. The Recording. When it’s time to record, the guest and what you’re recording (i.e., your conversation) should be your only focus. Depending on the guest and their own experience being interviewed, there may be a little nervousness, so some initial chit-chat to set them at ease can help. Before starting the podcast, always be certain to re-set the expectations as well, including a reminder of the theme/focus of the podcast and the nature of the audience, how long the recording will take (and double-check if they have any time constraints so you respect their available time), and what you’ll be doing with the recording (e.g., we’ll be recording the whole conversation but editing it down to XX minutes). And ask if they have any other final questions or concerns on their mind before you hit the record button, so they can start the interview without anything else on their mind!
5. The Follow-Up. After the podcast is done, your guest’s first thought will likely be “I wonder how that went? Was I any good?” So take a moment to reinforce that the podcast interview went well. When the podcast itself airs, it’s another opportunity to show appreciation to the guest for their time and shared expertise, affirm that it was a good interview/episode, and provide them the link or other way to proudly share out the podcast to their own friends, family, colleagues, and other audiences they may have.
Notably, the process and these key steps occur in a fairly repetitive manner for each podcast guest over time. As a result, I’ve simply created a series of email templates (using PhraseExpress) which have a few blanks to fill in to be contextually relevant for the particular guest I’m reaching out to. There’s one email for The Ask (and I include Scheduling options in The Ask), a second to confirm the agreed-upon recording time for guests and ask them where to send their complimentary headset, a third that goes out 3 business days in advance to confirm the time and give them instructions to connect for the recording itself via Zencastr, and then a final follow-up email that goes out the morning their podcast episode goes live to let them know how it came out and where to go to listen to and share the episode.
What Do You Talk About On Your Podcast?
For many advisors who are thinking about starting a podcast, the biggest worry beyond finding guests is simply figuring out “what, exactly, do I talk about with each guest?”
As noted earlier, podcasts can have a wide range of formats, from a highly structured series of questions (that may be shared in advance, or even be identical for every guest) to an open, free-flowing conversation. Ultimately, the key is not to figure out the one “best” format and approach, per se, as much as it is simply finding the structure that best allows you to have the conversations you are comfortable with, that creates valuable content to the end listener you’re trying to reach.
In that context, the real answer to the question “what should you talk about on your podcast” is: “Whatever the listeners you want to reach would be interested in hearing about!?” Or stated more simply, it’s less a matter of figuring out what you’re going to talk about, and more a concern of figuring out who you’re trying to talk to (and then simply talking about what’s relevant to them).
Thus, if your own specialization as an advisor is working with retirees, then your podcast should talk about the challenges that retirees face. If you work with female entrepreneurs, talk about the issues that matter to female entrepreneurs. If your niche is doctors going through residency, podcast about the concerns that matter most to doctors in residency.
Remember, a podcast becomes “successful” because listeners tune in regularly (and ideally, tell their friends/family/colleagues about it, who in turn also become regular listeners, and tell people they know, who then become listeners as well, etc.). And listeners tune in regularly for content that speaks to them, and the issues that they are concerned about or want to learn more about. Of course, some people also listen to podcast simply to be entertained… but to the extent that your goal as a financial advisor is to grow your business with a podcast, your goal should be not merely to entertain, but to use the podcast as an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and credibility to solve the problems that matter to your listeners. Because that’s what will make at least a few of them be willing to make the leap from someone who listens to your podcast to someone who also contacts you to do business, too.
From a more practical perspective, many podcasters figure out what questions to ask their guests, or what topics to talk about, by surveying their prospects and clients or even literally taking (appropriately anonymized) questions from their prospects and clients, and making them topics for discussion on the podcast. After all, the most straightforward way to address the issues that are on the minds of people like your prospects and clients are to outright ask your prospects and clients what’s on their minds, create a podcast around those questions and their answers, and then share it with any (hopefully similar) listeners who want to hear the answer, too!
The bottom line, though, is that the entire podcast conversation, the questions that guests are asked, and even the selection of guests themselves, should all be framed around the idea of: “What issues are on the minds of the kind of people that I want to do business with, and how can I use this podcast to give them answers [or at least potential solutions]…?” Which is not only valuable for the listener, but builds trust and becomes a means to demonstrate the advisor’s own expertise and credibility.
Preparing Show Notes And Post-Production Of Each Podcast Episode
It’s typical for a podcast recording to include “Show Notes,” which are essentially a list of references, resources, outbound links, and similar supporting information and details about what was discussed on the podcast episode that are included at the bottom of a web page where the podcast is shared (typically on your website). In some cases, Show Notes are intended simply to provide additional follow-up information for listeners. In other cases, the Show Notes are where guests can more directly include their books/products/services or whatever else it is they want to get greater visibility for on the podcast. (Remember, there often needs to be a WIIFM for the guest, too!)
To produce the list of relevant references for the Show Notes, I simply take light notes while doing the podcast interview itself using Evernote. The goal is not to take detailed notes of the entire podcast – after all, the whole episode is being recorded in the first place! – but to capture either key talking points (to produce a summary of the episode), or key resources that are mentioned (to include in the Show Notes). Even with a 90+ minute podcast recording, my notes typically run no more than a single page, but help tremendously to remind me of what to highlight during the show summary and include in the Show Notes.
In fact, the first thing I do after each podcast episode is recorded with the guest is to go back and record the roughly-2-minute introduction to the podcast (where we introduce the guest and what we will be talking about in the interview). The podcaster’s “secret” is that it’s far easier to record the guest introduction about the podcast and what you discuss after you do the interview itself, where you can refer back to your notes to figure out the key points to highlight. Thus, as soon as I’m done recording with each guest, I refer back immediately to my notes – while the interview is also still fresh in my mind – jot out a one-paragraph summary of the key items, and immediately read that loose “script” of the introduction and record it in a separate sound file to prepend to the front of the recorded interview.
Once the episode itself (and the associated intro) is recorded, it’s time for the “post-production” process of editing the podcast. In reality, this can actually be the most time-consuming part of creating a podcast, as editing the interview (splicing sound files together, prepending the intro, and potentially doing finer edits of the entire interview to remove irrelevant sections, fix/edit out any background noise, etc.) can take 2X to 5X the time of the interview itself. (I.e., a 20-minute interview can take 40-100 minutes to edit!)
Fortunately, there are a lot of solutions to help, from self-directed tools like Anchor.fm or Descript, to third-party service providers that will do all the editing and other post-production work for you. We use a service called Cashflow Podcasting, which handles the entire post-production process for us – which means my time as the podcast host is no more than the time it takes to procure the guest and actually record the interview itself (and the brief intro I record shortly thereafter).
Ideal Podcast Frequency And Consistency
Podcasts come in a wide range of frequencies. A few are daily, many are weekly, some are monthly, a few have other publishing cadences, and a few are simply produced whenever the podcaster decides to make a new one.
From a practical perspective, the truth is that “anything can work,” but with two important caveats.
The first is that while any frequency is viable, once a particular cadence of podcasts is chosen, consistency becomes the real key to success. Because podcasting is a regular ongoing content medium, it works best when listeners become regular listeners. And listeners become regular listeners because they receive podcast episodes on a regular basis, such that it becomes part of their regular habits to consume your podcast on the day or week you regularly release it. In essence, consistency of any particular frequency is more important than what frequency in particular you choose.
The second caveat is simply to understand the available time and interest of your audience, especially in light of the kind of podcast content you’re producing. If you’re going to produce a daily podcast, recognize that most people don’t have a lot of time for a daily commitment. If your podcast is weekly, it can be longer, since you’re “just” asking for listeners to tune in (and carve out that requisite time) once in the span of a week. Monthly podcasts have even more room to be longer, because the listeners have an entire month to listen to it (in chunks over time if necessary) before the next episode releases.
Of course, if the goal is to eventually get clients and develop new business, there’s also a practical reality that, as with any drip marketing, podcasting works best when it’s frequent enough that the odds are good you’ll actually get your message in front of your audience at the exact time that they need to hear it. While monthly content can be feasible for this, I’d argue that to reach prospects as close as possible to their moment of need (when they might actually call you for help!), aiming for weekly or bi-weekly is probably ideal.
But again, consistency at whatever frequency you choose – so your podcast becomes a habit for your listeners – is more important than any particular frequency. So first and foremost, choose a frequency that you yourself are prepared to commit to and honor and stick with.
Launching Your (New) Podcast
Podcasting, like any kind of content creation – or any type of marketing, for that matter – is not merely an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon. Building a podcast audience takes time. And effort.
The starting point is to spread the word to those you already have a connection with. That includes any existing marketing/mailing list you may have (e.g., from an existing drip marketing, newsletter, blog, etc., along with all your social media contacts), as well as an announcement to all of your prospects and clients, along with any centers of influence you have a relationship with. Bear in mind that even if it’s not someone you may do business with directly – e.g., an existing client – it’s still someone who may find your podcast valuable and share it with others who might become clients someday. In fact, a good podcast that’s highly relevant to your ideal target client is a highly effective way to get people to refer you (because they’re not referring “you,” they’re referring your valuable podcast content that will turn them into future clients later!).
The other reason it’s important to make a big-splash announcement for the launch of your podcast to anyone/everyone you have a connection to – beyond literally starting the process of building an audience – is that your first listeners can also leave you your first podcast reviews. Which are crucial, because a major driver of what shows up in the podcast search results on platforms like iTunes (which still accounts for 80%+ of all podcast listeners) is the number of (and quality of) the reviews that have been left. Which means not only is it important to spread the word about your podcast when you launch it, but it’s also not a bad idea to specifically ask your early listeners to leave you a (favorable) review. Some new podcasters even offer some sort of giveaway or freebie to listeners who leave a review to encourage them to do so.
To further amplify podcast visibility, some new podcasters will record a number of initial episodes and release them at once in a burst – for instance, launching the first 5 episodes of a weekly podcast for 5 days in a row (Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday), and then starting the weekly cadence thereafter. Historically, this approach was popular because a burst of episodes all in one week meant a larger volume of downloads all in one week (since newly-active listeners won’t just download 1 episode per week for 5 weeks, they’ll download all 5 episodes in 1 week), and a podcast that had an “explosive” number of downloads as a new podcast had a better chance of being listed in iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” section, increasing the potential to quickly gain more new listeners. However, recent tracking in the podcast community suggests that the “New And Noteworthy” section is now more hand-picked by Apple than automatically qualified by a high volume of launch downloads, which means it may no longer be an effective approach to break onto the “New and Noteworthy” list (and for many advisors with more "niche" podcasts, they weren’t likely to attract many new listeners with a highly targeted podcast by being on the front page of iTunes anyway?).
Nonetheless, some will still engage in this multi-episode-launch strategy simply because, if they’re confident that their initial podcasts are good, it’s an effective way to quickly engage listeners by giving them an opportunity to “binge” from the start and really get engaged with the podcast. On the other hand, there’s also a risk that new listeners burn out quickly (especially if it’s a longer format podcast), and it puts more of a burden on the podcaster to produce so many episodes at once up front. To each their own about how they want to engage their audience, but at this point, view the “multiple episodes at launch” strategy at best as a way to more deeply engage new listeners you can already reach at launch, not a path to more listeners by trying to crack the “New And Noteworthy” listings.
Building Awareness And Promoting Your Podcast
In the long term, though, the real way to build a strong podcast audience is simply to produce great podcast content that is highly sharable (by listeners, to other people they know who might become listeners), and to take proactive steps to build awareness.
Effective awareness-building steps include:
1. Be A Guest On Other Podcasts, Too. Being a successful podcaster isn’t only about recording your own podcast and sharing it out. It’s also about being a guest on other podcasts. The reason is not merely about trying to “pay it forward” to the podcasting community, but more specifically that one of the best ways to build awareness of your podcast, amongst people who listen to podcasts, is to try to be a guest on other podcasts that already have listeners who might also be interested in your podcast, too! So if you’re doing a podcast on retirement, try to find other retirement podcasts to appear on. If you’re doing a podcast for small business owners, try to find other podcasts on entrepreneurship to appear on, etc. You don’t have to just build your own audience from scratch. Build your audience by making yourself known to other audiences. (It’s OK, most people who like podcasts listen to more than one, anyway. So you’re not taking away from someone else’s podcast by appearing on their podcast hoping to get some of their listeners to listen to you, too. Just be certain you’re showing up as a good guest and genuinely trying to add value to their podcast listenership. That’s what will be most likely to get the listeners to want to check out your podcast, anyway.)
2. Try To Attract “High Profile” Guests To Your Podcast. It’s common for guests on a podcast to highlight that they were on the podcast… which means when you appear as a guest on someone else’s podcast, you should promote them. And when a guest appears on your podcast, they will likely help to promote you. Which means, once you get a little momentum and can attract some podcast guests to your podcast who have a sizable following of their own (e.g., they’re a popular podcaster themselves, or have a widely read blog, or a big social media following, or are simply a “center of influence” in your shared community), you can often further amplify the growth of your audience by having a high-profile guest share out that they were on your podcast to their readership/listenership/followers/customers/clients/etc. Notably, though, high-profile guests want to be certain the podcast is worth their time… which means unless you know someone with a big audience from whom you can call in a personal favor, wait on this until you’ve got at least some regular audience and listenership already (that increases the WIIFM for the high-profile guest), and then make your Ask.
3. Syndicate Your Podcast (In Various Ways). Because the key to growing a podcast audience starts with simply growing awareness that your podcast exists in the first place, the biggest challenge is simply getting your podcast noticed, at all, in a crowded marketplace. In this context, it’s important to syndicate – make copies of your podcast available – as far and wide as possible. Which means not only making it available in iTunes, but also other podcasting syndication services (e.g., Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher) that have at least some listenership. It also means finding other ways to get your podcast shared and syndicated. For instance, if you’re pursuing a particular niche, are there trade or similar publications in that niche that might also publish/share out your podcast? Are there bloggers who themselves collect and share out (i.e., curate) popular content for their audience who might include your podcast in your selected readings (or listenings)? Who else can you share your podcast with that has a listenership or readership of its own that might re-propagate it further?
A Word About (Selling) Podcast Advertising
For most podcasters outside of the world of financial advice, the primary way to generate income from a podcast is to sell advertisements – where a sponsor pays to have their product or service mentioned on the podcast, or may outright buy time to actually have an audio ad shared with the listeners during the podcast. Sometimes the podcaster themselves reads the ad (known as a “live read”), while other times it’s pre-recorded. Sometimes the ad is played at the beginning of the podcast (known as “pre-roll”), often in the middle (“mid-roll”), and occasionally again at the end (“post-roll”).
Whatever the ad type, the fundamental goal of the advertiser is to create awareness with (and often, to also have an outright Call-To-Action for) your podcast listeners. Not unlike a radio ad, or a newspaper ad, or a magazine ad, or a billboard ad. Podcasting is simply another medium where a business with a product or service to sell can try to build brand awareness and acquire customers.
Pricing for podcast ads is typically measured as “Cost Per Mille,” also known as CPM, which is a cost per 1,000 listeners (“mille” is Latin for "thousand"). Typical ad rates (across a wide range of podcasts and industries) are about $25 CPM for a 30-second ad or $40 CPM for a 60-second ad. In other words, if your podcast grows to average 2,000 listeners each episode, you can get paid $25 each for two 30-second ads per episode, or $200 per month for four weekly episodes (at $50 per episode for the two ads).
If that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of money for podcast advertising… that’s the point. Wildly successful podcasts like Joe Rogan Experience that get 10s of millions of downloads every month can quickly add up to millions in income and a podcast that gets “just” 1M downloads per episode and airs weekly can generate $200,000/month in ads with two $25-per-30-second ads each episode. But for financial advisors, whose entire audience is more likely to be measured in the thousands (or even just the hundreds), the advertising revenue may be almost “negligible” relative to what financial advisors can otherwise earn from their advisory firms. Not to mention the hassle of disclosing your podcast as an Outside Business Activity for RIA or broker-dealer compliance, and dealing with the hassle of finding podcast advertisers in the first place (who themselves tend to focus on the small number of high-download-volume shows rather than pay for smaller/newer podcasts).
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean podcasting itself isn’t worthwhile and potentially quite lucrative to a financial advisor. But rather than thinking about third-party advertising, the best way to view a podcast as a financial advisor is that the entire podcast is a first-party ad for your own advisory firm. During which you’ll get to create value for your listeners, and demonstrate your own expertise, from one podcast to the next, establishing trust and credibility that can eventually turn podcast listeners into prospects and clients.
After all, from the financial advisor’s perspective, getting just one new client from the podcast all year may generate as much or more in revenue than a year’s worth of third-party ads might have done anyway (i.e., one client with “just” a $250,000 rollover at a 1% AUM fee is as much as a year’s worth of ads for 2,000 listeners anyway). And a podcast executed successfully should generate far more than just one new client per year! Especially if those “ad spots” are filled not with third-party ads, but are moments where the advisor talks about their own business and services that they can provide to listeners who might be interested!
Final Tips On Podcasting
For financial advisors who may still be nervous about starting a podcast – or are excited to move forward and just want a few more final tips – a few additional thoughts:
- Don’t Overthink It. The most successful financial advisors are very conscientious and are especially good at thinking through a challenge from all perspectives. Which is a great skill for a financial advisor, but not always a great skill for a prospective podcaster. You can only control a conversation (e.g., an interview with a guest) so far. And most people won’t remember what you said an hour after they’re done listening to the podcast anyway. What they’ll remember is just the key insight or two you gave them. So don’t overthink it or try to overprepare to perfection. Just try to make sure your listeners will come away with at least one key idea or insight every episode that makes their investment of time worthwhile.
- Prepare For Your Guests. While it’s important not to overthink it about the podcast, it is still important to prepare for your guests. While not every conversation has to be (or can be) a perfectly crafted and scripted flow, it’s crucial for you to know your stuff about the subject matter at hand… if only to be able to ask relevant and intelligent questions for your listeners to hear the answer to. So read the guest’s book, or at least read up on their bio, talk to them a little in advance if necessary to better understand their views and perspective… so you can have a constructive conversation (that you can then record and share out to your listeners!).
- Do What You Do Best And Outsource The Rest (Of The Technical Stuff). Most financial advisors are “finance people” or “people people,” they’re not “sound people” or “techie people,” which makes the sheer technical logistics of recording and editing a podcast daunting. But they don’t have to be. Because you don’t have to do that work. The rising popularity of podcasting has created a rising number of service providers to help people with every possible aspect of doing a podcast, from launching to the post-production editing of each episode. Yes, this does cost some money, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may have to put in a little more time with hands-on editing work to make up for what you cannot outsource. But ultimately, for advisors who are willing to put a little budget towards the process (ultimately, we spend about $15,000/year for what is an admittedly very long [and therefore expensive] podcast to edit and transcribe), it really is possible to take podcasting to the point that your only time commitment is the time it takes to invite the guest, and actually do the interview.
- Get A Transcript. In addition to of course recording and editing the podcast, we also get every podcast transcribed, and post a copy of the transcript below each episode listed on our website. Our transcription service of choice is Speechpad (we also tried Rev, but found Speechpad a better balance of good quality and low cost). Speechpad does a fairly good job of transcribing interviews (though we do give it one final pass to correct industry jargon they may not have translated, the occasional sentence they didn’t make out properly, and just to clean up the “filler words” that you may not notice in a conversation but you definitely notice in a transcript). The benefits of getting a transcript are two-fold: 1) some people simply prefer to read than listen (even for long podcast episodes like ours), so there’s benefit to repackaging the content in multiple forms; and 2) a lengthy transcript itself is good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on the topic of the podcast, so turning not-indexed-by-Google audio files into full-length-transcript-indexed-by-Google articles gives a much better search engine reach for the indefinite future for content you already produced.
- Don’t Overedit It. Beyond the challenge for newer podcasters that will you have a tendency to overthink how to do the podcast, you may also be inclined to over-edit the first few podcasts you create. If you’re not used to listening to yourself being recorded… you probably won’t like it. We’re just not used to hearing ourselves, and because we’re often our own worst critics, we only hear the parts we dislike and want to change. If you’re editing yourself (i.e., literally doing the post-production work to clean up the sound files because you can’t afford to outsource it), this may be unavoidable, as you typically have to do at least some light post-production editing just to ensure the sound quality is good, and perhaps strike out the occasional true “screw-up.” But if you really want to know if the podcast is “good,” don’t listen to it yourself; give it to some people in your target audience (e.g., clients you already have a relationship with), ask them to listen and give candid feedback and constructive criticism, and act accordingly based on what they say. Personally, I haven’t gone back and listened to the final version of any podcast I created after the first 3 (out of over 100 now); instead, I give it to people I trust to give me good feedback, and I let the outsourced editing team (not me!) do the work to make sure everyone sounds good. I realized quickly that I was going to be my own worst critic, and not in a constructive way.
Podcasting: Is It Really Worth It?
So in the end, is podcasting really worth it?
From my perspective, the results are an unequivocal “yes.” With a steady listenership of 10,000 to 15,000 downloading every new episode and a cumulative reach of 1.6 million over the span of nearly two years, podcasting has allowed me to develop a special relationship with an audience, unlike any other. Even as an active blogger and a professional speaker… there is a uniquely intimate experience of literally physically being in someone’s ear (given the ubiquity of headsets and earbuds) sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Consequently, I’ve found that our podcast listeners are actually more loyal, more regular listeners, and more importantly (from the business perspective) more likely to have connected personally with me as an expert through the podcast than “just” through other content mediums. In part, I think that’s simply because as human beings, we connect more directly to other human beings when we can hear (or see) them communicate, than merely from the written word alone. And while a 1-hour speech in front of an audience is powerful… it’s not remotely as impactful as having an ongoing conversation with the listener, every week, week after week, for months (or even years) on end.
Of course, each advisor with his/her own podcast will have their own goals. But the truth is that, in a world where most advisors can be wildly successful with no more than 50 great clients, you don’t even need an audience of millions or hundreds of thousands or even a single thousand. Reaching just a few hundred people, with content that is uniquely relevant and valuable to them and demonstrates your expertise and credibility can be enough to move the needle in your own business, when clients are as valuable as they are in the long run.
The key, in the end, is simply to stay inexorably focused on the listener you want to reach. What content can you create that they’d want to listen to in order to gain a new perspective on a challenge, answer a question they’ve been wondering about, or help them solve an issue they’re facing. Which, really, is all most of us as financial advisors try to do with our clients, anyway. Podcasting simply allows a means to reach a far wider audience, and give them a taste of the ways you can help… and give them the opportunity to engage you for more help, as their financial advisor, when they’re ready.
Michael’s Podcasting Resources
Podcast Post-Production & Support
Podcasting Recording & Transcriptions
Disclosure: Michael Kitces is a co-founder of XY Planning Network, which was mentioned in this article.