Building a Podcast Audience is Hard, But Podcasting Can Still Be a Great Sales Tool

Last updated
November 13, 2020

💡 Podcasts are far more than a smart marketing channel — they’re a conduit for developing relationships that turn into revenue-generating business partners and customers.

💡 “The podcast is such an easy win” that can open “doorways to other collaborations,” says Dani Hao, host and producer of “Spend Culture,” a podcast from B2B fintech company Procurify. Case in point: About 30% of their guests have gone on to become partners or customers.

💡 Audience numbers aren’t the only way to measure the growth of your show — Procurify has a unique approach for measuring engagement with its podcast (hint: they don’t just care about audio).

Think of podcast interviews you’ve listened to recently. Wouldn’t you die to have that kind of conversation with a prospective customer or business partner?

Most companies think of podcasts as another marketing channel, determining their ROI based on the size of the audience and number of leads — and often deciding it’s not worth the effort.

If this is how you’re thinking, you’re missing a huge opportunity for growth, according to this episode of Brands That Podcast, featuring Dani Hao, community and events lead at B2B fintech company Procurify.

Dani is a host and producer of Procurify’s podcast, “Spend Culture,” where she talks to busy CFOs about their company cultures and spending habits.

“Spend Culture” is building a following in its niche, with 500 to 700 listens per episode each week. But that’s not its only metric of success. Dani estimates about 30% of her podcast guests have gone on to become partners or customers that directly contributed to Procurify’s revenue.

“One thing that we always believed in is going for the long-term gains,” Dani says. “We started with building content, and then from that, we can start building out a community.”

From that conversation, here’s Dani’s advice on the unexpected ways a podcast can drive sales and partnerships that grow your business.

Your listeners aren’t your target audience

Most people think your first focus as a podcaster needs to be on growing your listenership. “Brands That Podcast” has pushed back on this assumption before, and Dani drives the point home describing the value Procurify’s gotten from its podcast regardless of number of downloads.

“You'd be surprised to understand how slowly a podcast grows when it comes to the actual downloads and listenership,” she says.

For “Spend Culture,” Procurify turned its focus from download metrics toward others that better indicate the podcast’s contribution to the company’s marketing and sales strategies, including:

  • Views on blog posts, which are repurposed from episodes.
  • Comments and shares on social media assets, inspired by interview content.
  • Shares and engagement among guests’ audiences.
  • Ranking in its category in Apple, Spotify, and other podcast charts.

From one interview, you can quickly create content for multiple platforms that support your content marketing strategy — podcast, blog, social, newsletter, video, PR and outreach, and more.

All of that adds up to people paying attention to your brand, so don’t get hung up on podcast listeners alone.

Podcast interviews also pay dividends down the road in lead generation, relationship building, and partnerships. 

“The podcast is such an easy win,” Dani says, “because it acts like a conduit between the conversation with whoever you're trying to get in front of. And then from that conversation … it opens up a lot of doorways to other collaborations with the company.”

Think of a podcast interview as a touch point in your marketing strategy, and target guests who match your target customer. It’s an easy ask to get a conversation going with a prospect, and those guests will naturally attract listeners within your target market, too.

The best guests aren’t always the biggest names

Dani learned a quick lesson with “Spend Culture” about who the right guests for her podcast would be.

“Initially we were thinking we just wanted basically the most well known CFOs out there,” she says. “But we realized that's actually the wrong approach, because even though we might be getting really great expertise, it doesn't actually fit the audience we want to target.”

Now, they book guests by targeting CFOs and others who fit into lookalike audiences for their current customers, referral partners, and prospective customers.

Early on, finding guests looked a lot like sales prospecting: They created a prospective guest list and did a lot of cold outreach.

Now, however, around 40 episodes in, a lot of their guests are inbound. Past guests refer their contacts to the show, or people just hear the podcast and want to be part of it.

Recent guests range across expertise and verticals, including Steve Watson, CFO of CFSS Arizona; Helin Patience, CEO of Entreflow; John Kasian, Director of Operations at Signature Analytics; and executive recruitment expert Nakita Gates.

“That's a really interesting shift that we've seen,” Dani says of the podcast’s ability to attract guests organically. “It means the podcast is definitely getting to that level of recognition, which we're pretty proud of.”

A podcast doesn’t end with audio

“We find that the podcast is almost a gateway towards everything else that we produce,” Dani says.

In addition to content repurposed from a single podcast episode — blog posts, videos, and social media assets — relationships with guests have turned into partnerships to host live and online events, develop white papers, and create case studies.

Once the interview is over, you can use the touch point with that guest (and their company) to continue to nurture a relationship that can turn them into a strategic partner or a customer.

The secret sauce to Procurify’s process is its post-podcast process, which includes:

  • A follow up with the typical information — when the podcast will be live, any additional information or documentation needed.
  • What Dani calls a “secondary value add,” a next step based on what they learned in the conversation. It’s some kind of business ask, like a connection with the partnerships team or sales team.
  • Once the podcast is live, a link and promotional materials to the guest, creating another opportunity to continue the conversation.

All of those touch points keep you top of mind with potential partners or customers, without ever delivering an ad or sending a sales email.

“I've had multiple people actually reach out to me from the podcast saying, ‘Hey, now we're looking for a solution. Let's talk,’” Dani says.

Content is more than a lead generator — it’s a value-add

Another unexpected advantage of a podcast? It creates de facto case studies for your sales and partnership reps.

Having a conversation with a prospect about a specific pain point? Send them a podcast episode featuring a guest who addresses the issue.

You can provide prospects similar value by sharing authoritative blog posts or white papers. But the intimacy of a conversation on a podcast is unique. It lets them see themselves in the guest’s shoes and get a deeper understanding of your brand’s approach to the problem.

Podcasts are also more bingeable than written content. You might send one episode and turn the listener into a subscriber, so they’re spending 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour with your brand every week!

See the full value of podcasting

It’s not always easy to quantify the ROI of a podcast. Dani shares some smart ways her team at Procurify measures the value of creating “Spend Culture,” looking at its long-term potential to add revenue for the company.

She cautions, though, “Don't think about the podcast as a pure lead generation tool, because it really isn't. It’s more of a platform for you to build a brand and credibility and content.”

To tap into the full value of podcasting, brands should take advantage of the breadth of content and relationships that arise from a serious podcast undertaking.

At Procurify, the podcast’s rank in the Apple podcast’s top 30 in its niche showcases the company’s expertise and credibility — a feather in their hat they can mention in guest pitches and in other content they produce.

From the perspective of producing a podcast alone, that credibility is gold for landing the best guests and attracting a larger audience. From the company’s perspective, it’s even more valuable: Each of those guests and listeners are potential customers, and that potential grows as the brand’s credibility strengthens.

“I think moving forward, what people actually want is a showcase of your credibility and you as a thought leader in the space you're in,” Dani says. 

“When you’re able to actually host your own platform and showcase the thought leaders in your industry — aside from yourself — that's where the long-term gain is.”

What to consider when starting a podcast for your brand

Thinking of starting a podcast to support your organization’s marketing and sales efforts? Dani suggests asking yourself these questions:

💥 Who’s the target audience you want to reach?

💥 How can you segment that audience to target guests — for example, current customers, prospects, and influencers?

💥 Which guests are on your wishlist? Bigger names can be valuable early on to spread the word, so don’t be shy.

💥 What’s the podcast’s value proposition for guests and listeners?

💥 How is your podcast different from what’s already out there? What do you want your brand to add to the space?

about the author

Dana Sitar has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She trains journalists, writers and editors on writing for the web, and has written about digital media for publications including the New York Times, HuffPost, a column for Inc. Magazine, and dozens of writing and content marketing blogs.