9 things I’ve learned about podcasting for B2B
As Radix Communications’ copywriting podcast nears its sixth birthday, David McGuire shares nine lessons from behind the mic
Whenever I meet B2B marketers or copywriters at an event, one topic of conversation comes up more than any other. The Radix podcast.
And I get that. In B2B, podcasts tend to come and go; few stick around. So to find one that’s been running for almost six years is a bit of a curiosity.
Besides, most content marketers have at least toyed with the idea of running their own podcast. They want to know about the reality: how it works for us, what’s involved, and where it fits into our B2B marketing overall.
If that sounds familiar, read on.
Yes, B2B podcasting works for us
At Radix, we’ve been releasing Good Copy, Bad Copy: the B2B Copywriting Podcast in one form or another pretty regularly since January 2013. (The next episode, our 66th, is a special edition about comedy in B2B – with Craig Beadle of Velocity Partners, Pauliina Jamsa from Siemens, and Richard Preddy, whose writing credits include The Fast Show and Green Wing.)
And yes, it works for us. We may not have the exact numbers (more on that in a minute), but enough new clients have mentioned it while bringing us projects to more than justify the effort. In fact, we’re now experimenting with a second podcast, converting blog content into audio.
Don’t get me wrong: we’ll never have thousands of listeners. Our audience (B2B content marketers and writers) is pretty niche, and that’s fine with us. With any kind of content, the more you’re willing to specialise, the more deeply you’ll resonate, and that seems to be the case with us.
As B2B writers, we’re usually behind the scenes, away from the action. Podcasting gives us an opportunity to unpack the process a little, show there’s more to our craft than just wordsmithing, and actually reveal a bit of personality.
But that’s not to say it’s been easy. We’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way. Here are nine of them…
1. Podcast measurement is annoyingly vague
If you’re expecting the in-depth analytics you’d get from other forms of digital marketing, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. So before you set your KPIs and decide what success would look like, make sure you’re not committing yourself to spending more time collating figures than actually producing the podcast itself.
Partly, that’s because there are so many ways to listen – the analytics from the player on your website is separate to your RSS subscribers. The Beta analytics on Apple’s iTunes Connect is fiddly at best – and although Pocket Casts takes its content from iTunes, who knows how it’s counted? Meanwhile, Stitcher… oh, you get the idea.
You might be lucky enough to have a huge, tech-savvy marketing team that can track down all those numbers and wrangle them into some kind of dashboard. And if you’re a big, famous brand, you may have the audience numbers to make the stats meaningful.
But for the most part, B2B topics are pretty niche. And for businesses like ours (a bunch of B2B tech copywriters in a warehouse), it’s easier to view the data comparatively – so we can see which episodes were relatively more or less popular, and track growth over time.
2. Get plenty of voices involved
One thing we’ve noticed over the six years: the more we feature guests in our podcast, the better it seems to do. Sometimes, this takes the form of a straight interview, like the time we talked to Irene Triendl about content strategy, but it could be much shorter and simpler to get people involved.
For example, in our 50th anniversary special, we asked people to send us tweets and voice memos with their favourite copywriting tip. We ended up featuring 28 contributors, and the result is the most popular podcast we’ve ever made (we even transcribed it in a follow-up blog post).
We see two reasons for this trend. First and foremost, guests make the podcast better. We can get real experts to share what they know – plus the extra voices break up the listening experience and make everything more interesting.
But also, it spreads the podcast to the network of every guest we feature. Because if you’re featured on a podcast, you probably share it – and if your friend shares a podcast they’re on, you probably listen. It’s never the primary reason we’d ask someone to take part, but discoverability is always tricky with podcasts, so it doesn’t hurt.
3. Speak to one listener
Any good marketing content is created as a communication to one person – even if it’ll be seen or heard by millions of those individuals (or hundreds, in our case). The best copywriters have one particular reader in mind, just as many broadcasters literally talk to a photo on the wall.
That one-to-one, personal relationship is all the more important when you’re talking to someone through their earphones. They might be on a run, or on the bus, or even in bed as they’re drifting off – and they’ve invited you to be part of that experience. The last thing you should do is talk at them like they’re a crowd.
Meanwhile, having a clear view of your listener will help you to pitch what you’re saying at just the right level, and ask your guests the questions they’ll find most interesting. It gives your content focus – just like it does for a copywriter.
For us, we know we’re talking to a B2B marketer, with a particular interest in improving their content. (Our secondary audience is other copywriters who want to share knowledge about B2B.) Staying faithful to that individual listener helps to keep us relevant.
4. Don’t count on a tonne of correspondence
In six years, we have yet to discover the magic formula for getting listeners to email in. Our inbox is threadbare at best – which is a pity, as we’d like to have more of a community feel and join our listeners up.
But people are busy. And they’re not usually listening in a context where it’s easy to send us a message. We get that.
If you’re planning a new podcast, that means you might want to go easy on features that rely heavily on listener participation – like regular mailbox episodes, or competitions. In our experience, asking for contributions in the podcast itself is never enough; you also need to head out into Twitter and LinkedIn, and even email potential contributors direct. You can only do that so often.
5. Pay attention to diversity
Mostly, podcasts feature very few people at a time – at most, three or four in an episode. In that context – and especially if you’re sourcing guests from among your own network – you can easily end up only featuring people who look and sound like you.
In short, if you want a diverse podcast, it won’t happen by accident.
Even something that sounds simple – like maintaining a reasonable gender balance – actually takes concerted thought. We literally count the male and female voices we feature and check that, over a period of time, they even out.
(It’s not always practical to balance individual episodes, because so few people are involved, so we look at how we’re doing overall.)
Full disclosure: other kinds of diversity are proving tougher to crack (especially as we’d never want to ask someone for representation reasons alone). But that’s the world of B2B, to an extent.
And if you want an interesting podcast, think about variety in its broadest sense – the kinds of voices people will hear. For example, a variety of nationalities and regional accents, or ages, will stop you sounding so homogenous.
6. Hello to Jason Isaacs
The BBC’s flagship cinema programme, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, is a podcasting masterclass in itself. But when the main hosts are away on holiday, it’s never quite as good – for one simple reason: the guest presenter is a movie expert who knows too much.
Mayo and Kermode may joke about being “presenter and contributor” rather than equals, but it’s a vital distinction. While Mark Kermode gets on with being erudite, Simon Mayo takes a different role: the avatar for the listener. He asks for clarification, pokes fun at his colleague’s cinematic theories, and steadfastly refuses to share any opinions – or even to remember previous conversations. It’s no accident; he knows the listener may not have heard that episode.
Similarly, it might be tempting for everyone on your B2B podcast to show how much they know, all the time. After all, they’re probably experts, and the chances are you’ve chosen them to draw upon their reputation and demonstrate your chops in a certain area.
But two experts talking at a high level is seldom engaging. If you want your listener to learn something, it can help to have someone participating in the discussion on their behalf – asking the questions they wish they could ask. It takes more restraint than you’d think.
7. Fit around your listener’s life
Much as we might love to produce a sprawling, two-hour weekly epic (see point 6), we need to be realistic. Your listener only has so much time in their day. And when you realise that, it’s kind of a good thing.
For starters, a self-imposed time limit can stop you getting too self-indulgent. Chris Marr’s Content Marketing Academy podcast is always crisp, and to the point – it’s as long as it needs to be, and never a minute longer.
We’ve found a fixed(ish) podcast time is like having a word count limit when we’re writing. We agonise over all the good things we need to leave out, but the finished article is stronger when only the best bits make the cut.
And thinking about your listener’s lifestyle can also give you ideas. For example, our new audio blog series is aimed squarely at marketers who don’t have time to read – like Audible, but with blogs. Our first thought was how to make our content more convenient; the new format flowed from there.
So if you get the chance to actually talk to a listener, take it. Feedback is gold.
8. Make promises… and keep them
One thing you notice with new podcast series is that they often start in a blaze, all brilliant ideas and enthusiasm, and then become slightly less regular until, eventually, they stutter and stop.
Finding time to record, edit and publish a podcast regularly is difficult. Especially, there will be other, more pressing priorities (here at Radix, it’s usually client work – but even if you have a big, dedicated marketing team, your subject matter experts will usually have other things to do). It’s easy to say “we’ll skip it, just this once…” or “we’ll delay it a week”.
That’s why it’s important to make promises to your listeners. In each episode, tell them when the next one will be, and – if you can – what it’ll be about. Because now you’ve said it, you actually have to do it.
9. Script it like you’d say it
Finally, years of reading podcast intros and outros have taught me one thing: long, grammatically-correct sentences are not your friend. At least, not when you’re speaking.
If you write a script like it’s a piece of written copy, you’ll likely find it sounds stilted and false when you read it aloud. Because your natural, spoken language is really quite different. We talk in fragments – with inference, and repetition, and pauses, and… you get the picture.
Likewise, the easier you make it to read, the fewer takes you’ll need. So make liberal use of dashes when there’s a break in the sentence – like this – and use italics and capitals to remind yourself where to read with emphasis… like SO. Need to slow down to make a point? You. Can. Use. Full. Stops. Wherever. You. Like.
The point is, the grammar is not important. It’s how it SOUNDS when you read it.
(Actually, there’s a whole section on scriptwriting in the B2B copywriting training course – so if you’d like to know more, I’ll see you there.)
Every day’s a school day
I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in podcasting. But we’ve been doing it longer than most, we try to make each episode better than the one before, and it genuinely does bring us the kind of clients we most want to work with. If these few tips can give you a head start along the way, I’ll be glad to have helped.
And if you happen to be one of our listeners, please do get in touch. Our inbox is lonely.