Just another podcast might feel like unneeded noise in the sea of content that already exists today. That’s certainly what Tim Yeaton, CMO of Red Hat, initially thought when his team proposed they start an in-house podcast called Command Line Heroes. He was skeptical at first: “I’m there thinking, I’m not sure about podcasts as a form factor anymore because video is dominating.”
Despite his reservations concerning the medium, Yeaton gave his team the go-ahead, and since then, the podcast has become a huge success. After just two seasons and 15 episodes, the podcast had over 45K subscribers, over 800K downloads, and an audience retention rate of 75% per episode, snagging both a Shorty Award and a Webby nomination in 2019.
Numbers like that quite the accomplishment for a medium that many perceive as obsolete or unpopular, and they are a sure sign that podcasts are an incredibly effective content tool that B2B businesses can use to stand out as a category leader, grow a loyal audience, and ultimately generate demand down the line.
In fact, CMO Richard Jones of Cheetah Digital thought podcasts were so important that his growing marketing team has developed not just one podcast, but three: Thinking Caps, Uncaged Wisdom, and PULSE. Knowing that B2B marketing content is typically dry and lacking in variety, Jones is trying to flip the switch with podcasts and “B2Cify” their content mix: “There is no better tool in content marketing than having happy customers telling stories around how you were able to overcome challenges and deliver business outcomes.”
The first order of business for a B2B brand thinking of starting a podcast is to look at your audience. Next, brainstorm and explore category-specific topics, thought leadership, and look for success stories within your own customer base—essentially, you want each episode of your podcast to directly address and provide possible solutions to challenges that your audience may face.
For example, Workspan’s podcast, Ecosystem Aces, focuses on interviewing businesses leaders who manage partner ecosystems. Hosted by Workspan CMO Chip Rodgers, and with 100+ episodes (and counting), the podcast’s micro audience can benefit from hearing what’s worked for others and what hasn’t for others in the space.
On top of providing access to useful, targeted content, the podcast has also contributed to an interesting dynamic with guests that’s great for business: if the guest is a customer, Workspan gets to showcase their vision and thought leadership, and if they aren’t a customer, Workspan gets to have a conversation with them—one of the first steps of relationship-building.
“We’re very careful not to all the sudden turn it into a sales opportunity, that feels like a bait and switch,” Rodgers explains in an interview about cultivating customer champions, “but I think that, through that process, you learn about the company, you learn about the things they’re working on and some of their challenges so that then, down the road, there’s a chance for a conversation to say: ‘Oh, well, you talked about this, maybe it’s something that we can help with.’ It becomes a more natural conversation around ways that we can help each other.”
It’s possible to take this one-to-one approach at relationship building a step further and turn it into a community. On Renegade Thinkers Unite, the founder & CEO of marketing agency Renegade LLC, Drew Neisser, interviews a new CMO every week and they discuss all things marketing, from brand strategy to CMO superpowers. When the COVID crisis hit, Neisser reached out to his CMO guests and invited them to weekly “CMO Huddles,” virtual meetups where marketing leaders could gather to share their thoughts, challenges, and solutions in real-time, which have proven extremely valuable for everyone involved.
Building a community to share knowledge and showcase customer success is one of the best reasons to consider podcasting, there are a few more. The treasure trove of CMO insights on Renegade Thinkers Unite has served as a foundational research tool for much of Renegade LLC’s marketing content, including their recently published report that responds directly to the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic: 6 Ways to Drive B2B Demand Generation in a Downturn.
It’s also been useful for SEO purposes—with Google set to make audio crawlable in the near future, episodes will become crawlable and indexable, giving them even more punch than ever before as they are the natural, authentic conversations that Google’s evolving algorithm tends to reward.
If anything, starting a podcast is a bold marketing experiment with low risk and the potential for great rewards. As Drew Neisser says in his interview with Tim Yeaton about the success of Red Hat’s podcast, “Just remind yourself to be experimenting, to have the courage to try new things. What was the worst that happened if the podcast didn’t work, really? You wasted some money. The risk was kind of modest.”