January 1, 2016

How to Run a Successful B2B Podcast

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If you know anything about lead generation, you know it’s important to balance programs across multiple channels. A multi-channel campaign, properly constructed, will bring in a decent volume of leads at all stages of the funnel.

What are those channels and sources? Most lists include the usual suspects:

  • Search
  • Social
  • Email
  • Company blog
  • Webinars
  • Teleprospecting

But there’s another avenue you might not have expected, which nevertheless plays an important role: podcasting. That’s right. With high-quality content and the right marketing strategy, you can actually use B2B podcasts to capture new leads.

ALSO READ: Infographic: How to Build an Unstoppable Lead Generation Machine

Maybe you have a podcast already. Maybe it’s even a good podcast. But when someone asks you about business value, you have a hard time explaining. This post is for you.

There are plenty of articles out there about how to craft podcast content — have good equipment, spend time on production, use tasteful music, and so on. We’re going to assume you have the finer points down (if not, here’s a good resource from Convince and Convert). Instead, this post will focus on leveraging podcasts as a form of content in a larger lead generation strategy.

Are Podcasts Really Effective in B2B Marketing?

Some scoff at the notion that something as tenuous as a podcast could drive measurable results.

Let’s start there.

If you expect your podcasts to generate leads the same way a webinar or an outbound call might generate leads, you’ll be disappointed. For one thing, podcasts are a passive exercise for most listeners. For another, their purpose is to educate and entertain, not to proposition.  

Once you build a realistic vision for your podcast, you’ll start to see its astounding potential and the numerous ways it can enhance B2B marketing.

For starters, millions of people listen to podcasts. According to Edison Research, 30 percent of the population said they listened to an audio podcast in 2014 — a number that’s been steadily climbing since the early 2000s: 

podcast trends graph

But the beauty of podcasts is that they also directly target a niche audience. A professional ventriloquist probably isn’t going to listen to a lengthy discussion about cloud security. This means you know that your listeners aren’t tuning into your podcast by accident; they are intentionally consuming your content because it’s relevant. 

The proliferation of mobile technology has made podcasts an attractive, convenient alternative to reading (which, as we all know, is super boring). People listen to podcasts on the treadmill, during layovers, or whilst commuting to work. Many of these same people are in your target audience: they’re working professionals looking for practical solutions to everyday challenges or for some way to distinguish themselves at work. By exploiting this opportunity, you can position your brand as a valuable resource and build the foundation for a lasting connection.

How to Use Podcasts for Lead Generation

In addition to qualitative value, podcasts can drive relevant traffic to your site, improve your search engine rankings, and funnel new contacts into your email list. And yet, only 23 percent of B2B marketers say podcasts are part of their content strategy.

Why?

Because they either have the wrong vision to begin with, or they aren’t seeing enough positive results. With that in mind, below we’ll discuss five best practices to help you maximize the lead generation potential of your podcasts.

Pick a Repeatable Format

As with mainstream content marketing, if you want to run a successful B2B podcast, you need to be able to air a substantial volume of episodes on a regular basis. This helps turn one-time listeners into devoted followers who anticipate and share your content. Over time, a podcast can add up to a lot of unnecessary labor if you aren’t “working smart,” so keep your efforts scalable.

Many brands choose a podcast format early on and use it as a template to create all episodes in a given series. Episodes in an “expert interview” series, for example, might each pose a question related to your industry and bring on a relevant thought leader for a 20-minute discussion. If you have the resources, you could even run more than one series at a time, with different formats depending on subject matter, length, intended audience, and interviewees.

thought leader podcast

TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland conducts an interview with Mike Kane at ITExpo.

 

Invest in Distribution

Search-engine optimization (SEO) will help you attract some listeners, but isn’t strong enough on its own to build a stable audience. Unless you’re a household brand with a massive following, people won’t stumble upon your podcast and subscribe unless you make some investments in distribution.

Aside from SEO, you have some of the following options:

  • Social sharing
  • Email marketing
  • Paid media ads
  • Social influencers (podcast guests with a large social following)
  • Employee distribution (have your employees share with their personal networks)
  • Guest blogging (post podcast clips and/or transcripts on partner sites with backlink)
  • Content syndication

Don’t Try to Sell Anything

By itself, a podcast usually won’t generate qualified leads. It’s a piece of content you can use to pull visitors into your larger content marketing structure, where they will hopefully find other opportunities to connect. In other words, it’s way too soon in the buyer’s journey to be pitching products. At this point, your listeners are mostly interested in learning; so if your podcast is laden with pushy sales messaging, they’ll go elsewhere.

Instead, focus on educating and entertaining listeners at their current stage of the buyer’s journey. Most inquiries that come from a podcast will be top-of-the-funnel, so your main objective is to build brand awareness and credibility. How can you add value to a listener’s professional life? What fresh insights will make them feel smarter in front of their CEO?

As your followers and advocates turn into inquiries and leads (which we’ll get to in a moment), then you can initiate the sales process.

Use Appropriate Calls to Action

If your goal is to capture leads or list contacts, you’ll eventually have to ask people for their personal information. Since podcasts are almost always free and open to the public, using calls to action effectively is essential. These calls to action should link to a well-designed landing page where the “ethical bribe” will take place: offer the prospect something of value in return for basic contact information.

In most cases, you’ll either be asking them to visit your website, opt-in to an email subscription, or download a relevant piece of gated content (gated means it’s tucked behind a web form). For example, for a podcast episode called, “3 Trends Shaping the Future of Healthcare Technology.” the CTA offered a free research report on wearable technology. A visual CTA at the end of the podcast transcription was used, like so: 

podcast cta

A few ideas for getting the most out of your CTAs:

  • Use mobile-friendly landing pages (for mobile listeners)
  • Make sure the landing page URL is simple and memorable (website.com/[CTA name])
  • Try text message or SMS-based opt-ins, such as those provided by LeadPages: 

Use Podcasts to Target Specific Accounts

One of the most powerful ways to drive new opportunities is to work your podcast into a larger account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. In a nutshell, that means you’ll be using your podcast to target decision-makers and influencers at companies that could be future customers.

Your sales team can point you toward accounts that are high-value or a particularly good fit for your products and services. Then all you need to do is get in touch with the right people and invite them on your show — perhaps another “expert interview” in an area of overlapping interest. You can run this play live at networking events (conferences, trade shows, etc.) or remotely.

If your interview guests and target companies agree to share the podcasts with their own audience, even better. ABM podcasting is a great way for growing companies to build credibility, drive site traffic, and garner favor with desirable prospects. Triple win.

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No marketing tactic, whether inbound or outbound, is designed to address the entire spectrum of lead generation. Rather, each has an appropriate role to serve within its own capacity. Podcasting is a great way to improve brand awareness, connect with key prospects, and build a contact list for email nurturing.

Stay tuned (get it?) for more advice on ways to drive lead generation, such as product reviews, YouTube videos, and advocate marketing. Have a B2B podcast you’re proud of? Leave a comment and tell us about it.