Building a successful business podcast is about more than strategies and tactics.
Sure, those are helpful down the line, but what’s more important is understanding the core principles of what makes some podcasts just okay, and others amazingly effective.
Over the years, I’ve worked on hundreds of podcasts covering a wide range of industries and business types, and I’ve seen time and time again that there are 8 podcast principles behind the most successful shows.
(Of course, I’m talking about business podcasts here. Hobby podcasts and those designed for entertainment are fantastic, but have an entirely different approach that I won’t be going into in this article.)
Now, there can be many strategies and tactics that will support each of these podcast principles—in fact, you can find a good number of them on our Free Resources page—but the first step is making sure you’ve laid the groundwork for a podcast that truly resonates with listeners.
So before you get into all the “how to” advice out there, I’m going to share these key principles with you to help you make sure you’re setting your podcast up for success from the very beginning.
1. Your Objective
What do you want out of your podcast?
This is an important question that warrants some serious consideration before you start a show.
In other words, you need to start with the end in mind and figure out your objective.
For starters, ask yourself two big questions:
- What am I trying to create?
- What impact do I want it to have?
Over my years spent helping industry advocates start and launch their podcasts, I’ve seen hosts focus on a variety of different goals.
Some have heard they should start a podcast and want to give it a try because it seems like the thing to do.
Others plan to use their shows to build an audience and increase their authority, or they go in hoping to network among industry influencers and position themselves as leaders in their spaces.
And the truth is, you can do all of those things through podcasting.
But if you truly want to make an impact and get the most out of your show, those are not the primary objectives you should aim for.
It will better serve you to focus on using your podcast as a vehicle to develop a deeper relationship with your existing audience while educating, supporting and building trust with your audience and throughout your industry.
In short, your aim should be to add value by creating a show that is a valuable resource for listeners.
For example, let’s take a look at Jen Hemphill’s Her Dinero Matters podcast.
Jen created her show with the objective of helping women change their mindset around money in order to help them feel confident and empowered about their finances.
And that objective is one that resonates hugely with her audience because she offers valuable advice and education that will help them better their lives.
That kind of higher-level purpose is what will allow you to connect with your audience, build trust, and create deep, meaningful relationships.
As a by-product of this deeper connection, your authority soars, people naturally want to connect with you and connect you to other influential leaders, and your audience grows aggressively from people sharing you, your content, and the deep impact you’ve had for them with their own social circles.
They start referring their friends, family, and networks to you because you had such a deep impact on them.
So take some time to figure out how your podcast will benefit listeners and contribute to your industry as a whole.
This will not only give you a clear understanding of what you’re trying to do, but it will also help you figure out the next important podcast principle: your audience.
Key Takeaway: Before you start a podcast, you should know what your goals are and what impact you want your podcast to have. In order to get the most out of your show, aim to educate and provide a valuable resource for your existing audience that will educate, support, and build up trust. This is what leads to strong connections and meaningful relationships with your listeners and authority in your industry.
2. Your Audience
When you create a podcast, you should know exactly who you’re talking to.
Emphasis on exactly.
One major mistake I see podcasters make is trying to appeal to a general audience.
Typically, they do this because they worry about excluding anyone from their potential listenership, but the truth is, that kind of thinking will only hold your show back.
Trying to appeal to a broad group just means your messaging isn’t personalized enough to resonate on a deep level with anyone.
The shows that truly connect with listeners are hosted by people who know exactly who their target audience is, what that audience—in particular—struggles with, and how the podcast can help.
That means creating the show with one specific group in mind.
Ideally, this group will be your best, highest-paying or highest-margin group of customers that you enjoy working with the most—and who get the most benefit out of working with you.
Once you have figured out your niche, you can focus on the primary problem or theme of problems that you help them solve.
The more specific you can get, the better.
A great example of this is Katrina Ubell’s Weight Loss for Busy Physicians.
Just from the name of the podcast, you can see that she is targeting a very specific group of people (female physicians) who want to solve a very specific problem (being overweight).
As a result, her show resonates on a much deeper level with her listeners because she understands the particular challenges they face and what they need to hear in order to make progress toward their goals.
Now, a lot of people try to push back around this by saying that they won’t be able to narrow it down to one audience.
But remember: Even when you pick one specific audience, other groups and other individuals will still listen and get value from your show.
They’ll still interact and engage with your brand; they just won’t be the people you’ve tailored your message for.
And that’s okay.
You’re not excluding anyone by being specific—you’re just resonating to the core of the people you can help the most and have the best ability to impact.
And just as figuring out your objective informs who your audience will be, zeroing in on your niche will inform the other particulars of your show (think content, episode length, release frequency, etc.) because those details will all be decided based on what makes sense for your listeners.
The more you can tailor your podcast to your specific audience’s needs, the more deeply your show will resonate and connect with people.
And that’s what it’s all about.
Key Takeaway: Trying to appeal to a broad audience doesn’t work for business podcasts. Your show should target as specific a group as possible and focus on one problem or theme of problems that your audience, in particular, has and that you can help them solve.
3. Your Mindset
Another key piece to successful podcasting is approaching your show with the right mindset.
Too often, I’ve seen people coming in with a main focus of what they will get out of podcasting.
They plan on using their shows to grow their businesses, increase their revenue, expand their audiences, etc.
But building a successful podcast means going in with the mindset that you’re creating a valuable asset to serve your audience and your industry.
That is to say, you must go in with a “provide value first” mentality.
Every decision you make for your show (as I said before, things like content, episode length, release frequency, etc.) should all go back to one question: “What’s in the best interest of my listeners?”
Take Michael Kitces for example.
He hosts what is arguably the most successful podcast out there for financial advisors, aptly named Financial Advisor Success.
And it’s not hard to see why it resonates with so many people in his industry.
Just take a look at the tagline on his About page: “Hi, I’m Michael Kitces. I’m a lifelong learner with a passion for sharing what I’ve learned with others.”
It’s this intention to serve and lift everyone up along with him that makes him stand out.
He has a long-term vision of being a learner, he loves the space and figuring it out, and he wants to share what he learns with others through a lot of different channels and mediums so that he can help other advisors get to the next level with their practices.
When he can identify opportunities to support the industry, his audience, etc., he’s on top of it.
This is very similar to the mindest mentioned in the book Go-Giver. (Definitely worth a read!)
Showing up in service of others and using what you do/what you create to support others is what it takes to create a positive impact.
And having the right mindset is crucial for making that happen.
Key Takeaway: Don’t come into podcasting focused on what you can gain from it. Use your show to provide valuable content for your listeners and better your industry as a whole. Make decisions for your podcast based on one question: “What’s in the best interest of my listeners?”
4. Your Content
What should you talk about?
This is a huge question for anyone creating a podcast, and another area where I’ve seen common missteps among beginning podcasters.
The ones who struggle the most are the ones who decide to use their shows to highlight themselves and discuss why people should work with them.
Another mistake I’ve seen is featuring topic experts and sharing some knowledge—but holding back the important information so that listeners have to pay to work directly with the host in order to learn more about their “secret sauce.”
Creating content in this self-serving way is just about the fastest way to turn people off.
Instead, you should strive to add real value for your audience with each and every episode, whether listeners are paying customers or have never purchased anything from you.
You want to ensure that each episode of the podcast is a standalone resource or part of a sequence that works together to become a resource.
That means sharing enough of your knowledge/your guests’ knowledge so that your audience can learn and grow with every release.
Educate by sharing stories, resources, advice, mindsets, and insights that help people wrap their heads around the fundamental truths that will help them make progress toward their goal.
Center your episodes around specific topics, problems, concerns, or something already going on in your listeners’ minds that they need to understand better.
Brooke Castillo does an amazing job of this with The Life Coach School Podcast.
With episodes like “How to Feel Better” and “Why You Aren’t Taking Action,” she makes sure her shows address particular issues that people in her core audience have, and that each show works as a standalone to help them overcome these issues.
Brooke engages her audience by addressing their unique struggles, and she focuses on helping them understand key mindset shifts they need to make in order to free up their ability to come up with their own strategies that will work for them.
When you base your content on questions you receive from your audience, pressing issues you’ve seen come up in your field, and other pertinent information that will help listeners make progress toward their goals, you are releasing the kind of content that your listeners want and need.
And that will keep them coming back to your show time and time again.
Key Takeaway: Your content should be created to elevate your audience, not yourself. Share information freely, and base your episodes on the things your listeners need to know and understand in order to make progress toward solving the problem that you specialize in helping them solve. Each episode should be a resource in its own right, and everything you release should help listeners take the next step toward their goals. When you do this, the results come pouring in and your show turns into leads, clients, referral partners, powerful networking and authority positioning.
5. Your Schedule
In addition to creating valuable content, it’s also important to create consistent content.
That means picking a schedule and sticking to it.
People who podcast sporadically and only release episodes whenever an idea or interview prospect comes to mind send a confusing message to their audience, and they will quickly be viewed as unreliable.
Instead, you want to release your content on a regular schedule, whether it’s once a month, once every two weeks, weekly, twice a week, or any other frequency.
The key is that you have to commit to releasing at a certain cadence and stick with it.
The best way to do this is to plan ahead and organize your content in advance so that when you sit down to record, you are sitting down knowing what you’re going to talk about. (If you plan ahead well enough, you can even “batch” record by knocking out multiple episodes in one sitting.)
It also helps to have a regularly scheduled time to record.
Of course, this can be flexible and change as necessary, but setting up a routine will help you get in a rhythm for getting your content out there.
This isn’t about being robotic—it’s about making sure you show up when your listeners expect you to show up.
A great example of a podcast that has set an expectation for listeners and stuck to it is Neil Pasricha’s 3 Books.
He releases his shows on the exact minute of every new moon and every full moon.
It could be 1:35 am on a Tuesday, 9:14 pm on a Friday, or anywhere in between—if it’s a new moon or a full moon, his show will release.
His fans know to expect this, and he doesn’t disappoint.
So whatever you decide works best as a release schedule for your show, set that expectation and meet it.
If you’re having trouble deciding what the release schedule should look like for your show, I would recommend you consider starting off with weekly episodes.
Over the years, I’ve found that weekly releases are the best schedule in terms of the ratio of effort to results.
It also allows you to add a lot of value without overwhelming people or giving them too much to consume.
But if that sounds like too big of a commitment, start with every other week.
It’s more important to be consistent than to have more content, especially if you end up with ages between releases because you’re having trouble keeping up.
Another important thing to consider is that you should be planning to keep up this release schedule for the long term.
That’s not to say that you have to podcast forever; if your show isn’t working or you get to a point where it’s no longer serving effectively, shut it down.
But you should at least show up with the intention of podcasting for a good while.
That’s another thing 3 Books has done masterfully.
The host has set it up as a long-term quest to discover the world’s most formative books, 3 at a time—for 15 years.
Again, the key is to commit and deliver.
So take some time to figure out what makes sense for your show, and then go out and do it.
Key Takeaway: Be consistent. Sporadic podcasting does not go well. Choose a release schedule that makes sense for your show and stick to it so that your audience knows what to expect and trusts you to deliver. *Consistent content is more important than frequent content.*
6. Your Marketing
Do you have a plan for what happens when your episodes publish?
This is absolutely crucial for spreading the word about your podcast.
I’ve seen podcasters set up their shows with a “build it and they will come” approach, but trust me, this does not work.
Neither does simply promoting your podcast as a whole by telling people to check it out and subscribe.
You need to have a plan—and even better, a repeatable system—for spreading the word about every new release.
Remember when I said your episodes should all be a resource in and of themselves?
Promote them as such.
At the very least, you should post each episode to your website and have automatic social media posts set up to go out with every new episode.
Better yet, email your audience to alert them about your latest release and schedule social media posts to do the same.
The more consistent your method of sharing episodes, the better.
Bobby Klinck, host of The Certified BADA$$ Online Marketing Podcast, does this about as well as I’ve ever seen.
For each episode he releases, he emails his list with fun, well-crafted messages explaining the concepts the episode will cover and why they’re important.
They’re not just a “Hey, I have a new episode you should check out!” type of message.
They’re thorough and thoughtful, and often entertaining.
He’s also very active on social media, and he puts his podcast out there and in front of people there, as well.
It all boils down to the same thing: Get your show in front of the right people and share each episode as the valuable resource it is.
Key Takeaway: Your podcast isn’t going to promote itself. You need to have a plan and system for spreading the word about each and every episode so you can get your content in front of the right people. Email your audience about every new release and spread the word on social media so people can engage with your show.
7. Your Funnel
So you’ve gotten your show in front of the right people. What happens next?
You need to move those people through your “funnel”.
In other words, you should be guiding them toward your next-step offer that will get them a bigger result.
But that doesn’t mean pointing them to the Buy Now button the first chance you get.
In fact, that’s a good way to scare them off.
More often than not, the people listening to your podcast won’t be ready to buy right away.
According to a study shared by direct response marketing legend Dean Jackson, 85% of new leads—even interested leads that are a perfect fit for a product or service—aren’t ready to buy until anywhere from 90 days and 18 months out.
Your podcast is what engages and nurtures your leads in the interim.
It allows them to self-educate and interact with your content as they are learning to know, like, and trust you.
And along the way, you can share calls to action and outline clear steps listeners can take to interact with you when they’re ready for a bigger result.
I’m talking something deeper than making a blanket request for people to follow you on social media, but not as intense as trying to get them to buy something right away.
You need to be somewhere in the middle.
Focus on one or two easy, clear calls to action that listeners can follow when they want more of your content but aren’t quite ready to work directly with you yet.
Typically, this will be directing them to a web page for an opt-in like a checklist, ebook, webinar or email series.
Whatever it is, it should be a step on a ladder toward the solution you have developed for your audience’s specific problem.
Someone who does a great job at this is David Phelps of the Dentist Freedom Blueprint podcast.
He offers both additional resources and classic opt-ins by including a quick mention in his intro of where listeners can find more information on his other website and sharing in his outro that listeners can text certain keywords to a phone number in order to receive a free newsletter or a free copy of his book.
Additionally, he has a section at the bottom of every show notes post that spells out how to get a free retirement scorecard, attend a workshop, apply to visit his mastermind, or work directly with David.
All of these next-step offerings are non-intrusive and allow listeners to take the next step when they are ready.
This is how you guide listeners through your funnel at their own pace.
These kinds of offers allow people to easily move along the process without feeling overwhelmed.
And as they engage with your content more and become confident that you can solve their problem, your next-step options become more and more enticing over time—even if they don’t change.
Key Takeaway: Your podcast is the perfect engagement tool to help people move through your funnel. Include one or two simple, clear calls to action that guide listeners toward your next-step offer in a non-intrusive way so that they can take the next step when they are ready.
8. Your Offer
With the first principle, I talked about starting with the end in mind to figure out your objective with your podcast.
That idea holds true when it comes to nailing down your offer, as well.
It’s okay if you plan to develop additional offers down the line, but before you get started with a podcast as part of your business strategy, you need to have decided on at least one main product or service that you’ll design your funnel around.
That way, when the time comes to educate your audience about your offering, you know what kind of results you can get them.
Now, I have seen people use their shows to grow their audiences before they develop an offer, and that’s not necessarily bad—but it’s definitely not the optimal approach because it tends to create additional, duplicate work as they recreate their messaging.
I’ve also seen podcasters go in with a couple of offerings that they’re still figuring out when they start, and again, it can work out with that approach.
But the ideal and most consistent way to generate a solid ROI from your podcast is to start your show after you have developed and refined a specific, repeatable offering that consistently helps people in your target audience solve a problem and get great results.
Preferably, it will be something you have actually sold to people in your niche.
Take Andrew Youderian of the eCommerceFuel podcast for example.
He has created a private, vetted community for higher-level eCommerce entrepreneurs to connect, share ideas and help each other flourish.
Here is his exact offer:
Imagine an eCommerce Forum Where You Can…
- Leverage the knowledge of 1,000+ high-revenue store owners to grow faster
- Tap into a global network of peers at industry events & when traveling
- Learn how others solved the exact problems you’re struggling with
Well, that’s exactly what we’ve built at eCommerceFuel. We’re the world’s only private, highly vetted community dedicated exclusively to seven-figure plus store owners.
It’s specific and spells out exactly how it helps people in his audience.
Not to mention—it has been sold out for years.
That’s the power of knowing and communicating the exact problem you solve, how you solve it (aka. your offer) and who you solve it for.
But what if you want to monetize your podcast through sponsorships instead of creating an offer?
That is always an option, and it can work—but it’s not the approach I typically recommend for coaches, consultants, premium membership businesses, professional services, online course creators, etc.
With these kinds of businesses, you’ll find your highest podcasting ROI comes from using your show as a way to educate, motivate, and build trust with your audience who become high-value, life-long clients over time. (For more on this topic, check out a blog post I did on podcast sponsorship.)
This is a powerful, proven strategy that can easily be hindered if you dilute your connection with your audience by throwing in sponsorships.
Instead, I recommend focusing on providing value in a way that connects with your audience and working on your funnel to guide them toward your offer as a way to help them get the result they want.
And it’s not just for those who haven’t become customers or clients yet.
Even after listeners move on to purchasing your main offer, you can still use your podcast as a way to continually engage with them.
That will deepen the relationship and create more long-term interaction.
And that’s where the customer-for-life dynamics can flourish, they can turn into your raving fan that refers you other clients, connects you with speaking opportunities, etc, etc.
So take some time to figure out what it is that you can do to help your specific audience and design your podcast to be a stepping stone for listeners to take on their way toward solving the problem that you specialize in helping them solve.
Once you’ve got that nailed down, you can begin crafting the messaging that will lead members of your audience to your offer when they’re ready to take the next step.
Key Takeaway: The optimal way to monetize your podcast as a coach, consultant, premium membership business, professional service, online course creator, etc. is to have a specific, unique offer that continually gets people results. This offer is what will ultimately lead to your best ROI for your podcast.
Now that you have an initial understanding of the 8 Podcast Principles, it’s time to move into strategizing the best ways to align your show with each one.
Check out our Free Resources page to find articles outlining tactics for everything from targeting your ideal audience to mastering your funnel.
You’ll also find our flagship book, Podcast Principles: How To Create The Perfect Business Podcast that goes deep to share our proven process for using these principles to start a world-class podcast for your brand.
And finally, you’ll find free workshops, as well as our Podcast Principles Scorecard to help you understand your own situation and how the Podcast Principles can apply for you and your brand.
Do you have more ideas on what makes a successful business podcast? Share them in the comments!