Like any startup, we’ve tested lots of marketing channels and tactics to drive growth for the company.
Podcast tours have worked particularly well.
Over the last 12 months our CEO, Geoff Atkinson, appeared on over 50 industry-specific podcasts. This tour amplified each of our other marketing channels and helped add hundreds of thousands of dollars to our company’s annual recurring revenue.
Now, I’m sure you’re asking: aren’t podcasts huge right now? In our marketing bubble, sure, people love them. But only 55% of American adults have listened to even one podcast. And the percentage of organizations leveraging them for business purposes is even smaller. You are still way early to the game.
There are many ways to leverage podcasts. For example, you could start your own show or buy pre, mid, and post-roll advertising on someone else’s show. However, this article focuses on the execution of a podcast tour, a series of interviews on industry-specific shows in a set period of time where the guest shares commercial insights and raises awareness for a brand.
It is the guide we wish we had in the spring of 2019.
In this article, you will learn:
- The marketing value of a podcast tour
- How to do research for a podcast tour
- How to pitch shows in a podcast tour
- How to prepare for interviews in a podcast tour
- How to promote your appearances in a podcast tour
Let’s get started.
The Value of Podcast Tour
Here are (at least) 5 benefits to going on a podcast tour.
- Quick wins — like any new marketing channel, there is big ROI for early adopters.
Have you ever come across internet threads of marketers looking back fondly on the early days of Google Adwords? Like, between 2001 and 2004 when CPCs were just a couple of cents? Entire companies were built on top of that opportunity.
We are in the same moment with podcast tours right now.
- Most hosts are easy to pitch.
- They are actively looking for guests.
- They care less about background and more about subject matter expertise.
That said, it won’t always be this way. Somewhere down the line, booking podcasts in any industry will get hard. Soon enough, it will feel like the equivalent of Adwords CPCs moving from $.03 to $2.
- Low budget — the only cost is your time.
Podcast tours are like traditional press tours, except you don’t have to spend months on the pitch, travel to location, or pay appearance fees. Furthermore, the host has done all the hard work of audience-building and trust-building, which is transferred by association to you in your episode.
- SEO — reduce the marginal cost of content creation and backlink acquisition.
You know content is important, and also how difficult and time-intensive it is to publish quality stuff and get backlinks on a consistent basis. But consider this — with podcasts, hosts will give you an awesome link in their show notes and you can repurpose each episode for every other marketing channel.
Here are a few examples:
- Convert the audio into a blog post and include important show notes.
- Convert the video into a series of Youtube clips capturing key topical moments.
- Feature the latest episode in your newsletter.
- Embed the episode in an email to important prospects for social proof.
Particularly for all the startups out there with limited time and resources, this is a game-changer. Just appear on a podcast each week for a couple of months and riff on all the topics you aim to cover in your marketing. This will give you a tremendous backlog of content to work with, as well as a bunch of high-domain authority backlinks to rank for various long tail terms throughout your organic funnel.
- Social proof and thought leadership — guesting helps you trade-up the industry chain.
In the same way there is a long tail of keywords, there is a long tail of podcasts too. In a podcast tour, you can start with appearances on the most niche shows in your industry and quickly work your way up to the most popular ones in a matter of months.
With each episode, you are cementing your status as a subject matter authority and other hosts in the industry are taking note, whether you realize it or not. Think of it like pre-targeting, but for podcasting. By the time you are ready to pitch shows with bigger audiences, they will be more familiar and receptive.
We are still operating in an era where the vast majority of podcasts are accessible without a PR team. Booking appearances can take just a few hours or days with a couple of well-reasoned cold emails and direct messages on social, instead of the months or years most expect in industries like television.
- Audience building — audio completion rate is higher than text or video.
Look at your Google Analytics data. Most of your website visitors are probably ignoring or skimming your text and video content. This friction is partly due to the fact that both formats require the full attention of the prospect.
The magic of podcasts is that they work in a multi-tasking environment. Your prospect could be listening while commuting to and from their job, cooking dinner, or walking the dog. That’s why the average completion rate (around 93%) is significantly higher than any other content format.
In today’s age, ear share is the best proxy for mind share. With podcasts, you are getting right in the AirPods of your ideal buyer to share your stories and expertise. As a result, they get to know you better, remember you more vividly, trust you more, and research you after the fact.
Research of Podcast Tour
Here is how to find topically-related shows, hosts, and other guests in order to book shows for your podcast tour.
Finding podcasts to book:
- Search for generic and long-tail keywords in each of the major podcast players.
Each search engine returns slightly different results, so it is important to run all the variations in each one.
- Start with category terms for your topic like “b2b marketing”.
- Follow that up with sub-categories like “b2b lead generation”.
- And conclude with adjacent categories like “b2c seo”.
- Also look at the “you might also like” sections in each search to pull additional shows.
2. Search for media doppelgangers in each of the major podcast players.
It is likely the case that other influencers in your industry have embarked on podcast tours. Good! They have already done most of the hard work for you finding good podcasts to appear on. Enter their names in each of the podcast search engines to pull additional shows that may not have appeared in your category and sub-category searches.
3. Search Amazon author pages to find more similar guests.
Authors were one of the first groups of people to pick up on the podcast tour concept, so they have a great “paper trail”, so to speak, of appearances to track down. Go to the Amazon page of a reputable author in your industry and scroll down to “customers also bought items by”. Enter each of those names into the podcast players to get even more show ideas.
4. Use Podchaser to research categories, rankings, and new shows.
This is our favorite podcast database to use because of the filtering capabilities. Treat it like your vacuum to pull-in all other shows. With Podchaser, you can filter by release date, episode length, number of ratings and reviews, and so forth. The other search engines are notoriously primitive in this regard.
5. Use key Google Search operators to find shows in organic results.
This is the largest index out there, so you would be wise to use it. Here is a great list of search operators to use. Scroll through the first couple of pages or so on each query to add shows missing from your current list. Oftentimes, you will find great listicles that rank the best podcasts in your niche.
Organizing and targeting shows and hosts:
- Pick your targets and build a spreadsheet.
It depends on the industry, but at this point you should have a list of roughly 25 to 50 shows to pitch.
If you are a relative new-comer to your industry, I recommend starting with the smallest podcasts and building from there. Highlight each of those shows in green and research everything about them.
2. Listen to 1 to 2 episodes of each target show to get a feel.
You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by starting the research process with listening. Pull up an episode from each of the target shows that is at least tangentially related to your topic and press play.
Pay attention to:
- The format of the show
- Whether guests come on
- The tone
- Typical questions
- Any special sections
- The likely audience.
Then ask yourself:
- Is there a different perspective you could bring to a future episode?
- What new value could you bring?
This will give you an immediate sense for whether you should keep pursuing the show. It will also help with your pitch.
3. Use ratings and reviews as a proxy for additional quality.
There is no easy way to get reliable information about podcast listenership while building out a podcast tour schedule. If you were planning to advertise on a show, you could ask the host during the negotiations to give you the metrics. But you do not want to pursue this tactic for a podcast tour if you are just starting out and trying to get traction in the industry.
Initially, our recommendation is to use ratings and reviews as a proxy. Look for at least 10 ratings and reviews in each of the major podcast search engines, like Apple and Spotify. It isn’t much, but it provides minimum evidence that the show has some sort of audience to work with.
In addition to ratings and reviews, I also recommend looking at the show’s website and social media channels. Does the content resonate with your brand? Are they publishing consistently? With the website, you can pop the URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to check the domain authority. That will let you know if there is potential for a good backlink as well.
4. 3. Research each host in Google and on social media.
Enter each host’s name in Google and look at the first 2-3 pages of search results.
- Note any articles they have written or been featured in, and click-through to their social profiles.
- On platforms like Twitter, look at the tweets they have liked and retweeted.
- On platforms like LinkedIn, look at the posts they have published and commented on.
Put together a list of 3-4 unique points on the host and save them for the pitch email. This will create personalization and set you above 99% of the other prospects that request to be on the show.
Pitching of Podcast Tour
Here is how to increase your chances of booking interviews with all the best shows in your industry.
- Make a tracking spreadsheet.
Include the name of the podcast, theme of the podcast, host information, record of pitches sent, record of responses received, and a section for any miscellaneous relevant notes.
- Pitch the host in multiple formats.
Podcast hosts are very busy and distracted, just like any human being. It is OK to contact them on multiple channels. If you are bringing value to their audience, they will be grateful you pulled out all the stops to get in touch. Do not assume that one channel is enough.
With email, I follow the standard 3-step sequence:
- Send the initial email and then 2 follow-ups spaced 3 days and then 7 days apart.
- Keep the email brief and scannable (under 400 words with short paragraphs and bullet points).
- Attach a 1-page resume outlining your authority on the proposed topic.
- Personalize and show technical competence by converting the text to video or audio.
With LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter:
- Send them a connection or follow request paired with a direct message.
- Send one follow-up direct message if they don’t respond 24-48 hours after request.
Note that response rates will dramatically improve if you have been meaningfully engaging with and adding value to their content for an extended period of time (at least 2-4 weeks prior to pitching). This should not feel forced if you share common interests in the industry.
3. Create a pitch angle, but invite the no.
Above all else, angle the pitch to be clear about how and why you will provide value to the audience.
To figure this out, build off the 1-2 episodes you previously listened to. Research the show's back catalog of episodes to see what else has been covered. If there are any intersections with your content, acknowledge them and show how you will improve on the topic and add more to the conversation. If you frequently notice other large themes, these are indications that some topics are more popular with the host and audience. You will want to find ways to weave those into your pitch even if they aren’t directly related to what you plan to cover.
Also angle the pitch to preemptively overcome common objections like “I don’t think you are the right fit for my show” and “what’s in it for me?”. At the same time, invite the no by making sure the host feels comfortable rejecting the offer. You never know what could happen later on down the line. These pitches are just as much about long-term industry relationship building as they are a chance to get in front of a qualified audience right now.
4. Juice up the offer.
Most guests think it’s enough to just be the guest and share wisdom. Wrong. If you want to separate your pitch from the rest of the stack, help with episode hype. For example, you could offer to really promote the show with $100 in Facebook Ads.
The goal is to give the host something valuable that is completely independent of what you share on the episode. Most potential guests won’t go the extra mile. This is yet another chance to distinguish yourself by adding additional, unexpected value.
5. Prepare for the podcast pre-interview.
As podcasts get more popular, hosts are setting up short, 15-minute pre-interviews to make sure potential guests will be good fits for their audiences. This is completely reasonable.
To prepare, think about the following questions.
- What is a commonly held belief in your industry that you passionately disagree with? Why?
- What’s something everyone in your space should start doing now that they aren’t already doing?
- What’s something that everyone in the space should stop doing that they are currently doing?
- Name one non-obvious thing your work has taught you that everyone should know?
Your answers will set you up for a memorable (and successful) pre-interview.
Preparation of Podcast Tour
Here is how to work with the host well ahead of the episode recording to ensure a great performance and valuable experience for your target audience.
- Feed the host lots of content about yourself and the topic ahead of time.
Put yourself in the shoes of the host. Think about how much time and effort it usually takes them to prepare for each episode. You can make their work easier by sending as much relevant detail about yourself, your topic, and some proposed talking points well ahead of time. This is mutually beneficial. By pointing out what you think is important to cover in the episode, you can steer the host in a favorable direction too.
- Think about the questions the host is going to ask.
A podcast is a performance. Don’t go into the recording without much thought or rehearsal. It will be readily apparent to the audience if you are winging it.
- The best way to prepare is to agree with the hosts on a show outline and then practice your answers to the questions.
- Think of relevant stories and interviews that could illustrate your points.
- Because these interviews are relatively short, you just need to make 1 or 2 points really well.
That is your goal.
- Get your call to action ready.
Invariably at the end of each episode, the host will ask you where listeners can learn more about you. This is where you want to have information ready well in advance.
- Build a path for your prospects. Have a show-specific landing page and URL setup for tracking.
- On the landing page, contextually mention the interview, include the show notes, and organically weave in the action you want them to take.
Use Campaign URL Builder to set all this up.
4. Build hype for the show.
I’ve already covered the paid promotion idea ($100 in Facebook Ads), but if you are strapped for cash and have a decent audience, you could instead write a series of posts on LinkedIn and Twitter about the pending episode, or get on Youtube and make a bunch of clips. Almost no guests are doing this right now, despite the fact that it is a hallmark of other forms of media.
Promotion of Podcast Tour
Here is how to increase the reach of your episode so that more prospects listen and more show hosts are willing to have you on future episodes.
- Promise good episode promotion. Other hosts are taking note.
Above all, promise good episode promotion. This is the gold standard. After that, go the extra mile with each host. Stay in touch with them with the goal of building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. These hosts are effectively the journalists of your industry.
- Keep a running spreadsheet here with emails and social profiles so you can periodically keep in touch.
- Even if it doesn’t directly benefit you, send them news and ideas and introductions that might spark leads for their show.
These small acts of help can yield new, unanticipated opportunities like other podcast appearances, referrals to possible clients, collaborations, and conference speaking engagements way down the line.
- Send a thank you note.
Preferably send a hand-written note via direct mail. In addition and as always, go the extra mile here.
- Leave a specific and personalized LinkedIn recommendation.
- Connect the guest with someone else in your network.
- Give them a book recommendation on a related topic.
- Share your favorite tools with them.
- Continue to leave thoughtful comments on their future shows and social posts.
This may sound like a broken record, but if you take nothing else from this article, the goal here is to turn yourself into a (positively) unforgettable guest. We can’t overstate how lazy most guests are. Work hard with and for the host. It will pay back BIG TIME in the future.
Additional Opportunities of Podcast Tour
Here is how to get more out of a podcast interview than just the appearance in front of a new audience. The additional opportunities can transform the rest of your marketing and business in general.
- Repurpose content for other marketing channels
- Do original research.
- Add information-gathering to the start or end of the episode recording.
- Ask a couple of questions relevant to your industry.
- The collection of answers can search as a great research-based top of the funnel content and commercial insight for the rest of your marketing materials.
- Remix old episodes.
- If the content is evergreen, you can promote them again 3, 6, 12 months down the line.
- Curate tracks with all the best content from a collection of past episodes.