New tools to improve performance
on October 25, 2022 (last modified on November 3, 2022) • 22 minute read
Are you having trouble measuring the success of your podcast?
Unless you’re Joe Rogan and have a $200 million contract with Spotify, the answer is probably yes.
Over the past few years, podcasting has become one of the most popular brand marketing strategies among B2B companies.
But businesses are still going back and forth on the different ways to measure the performance and ROI of their podcast.
Should you rely on downloads? Your total number of subscribers? Or should you tie performance to metrics like signups or sales?
Considering that performance data from platforms like Spotify is somewhat limited, does this makes podcast attribution a rough estimate at best?
Nonetheless, podcasts are more popular than ever, and companies are investing a lot of money into developing them.
To learn more about how businesses approach measuring podcast ROI, we hosted a LinkedIn AMA and asked some of the brands we admire to share their experiences and let us in on some of their secrets.
Here’s what we uncovered:
The optimal structure and strategies for your podcast, as well as how you measure success, ultimately depend on your overall goal. While it’s completely normal that goals change and evolve as your podcast does, we wanted to learn more about the most common ones, including how companies measure success toward their podcast goals, and which metrics they monitor. To uncover this, we polled 35 podcast producers.
Over 60% of our respondents have been running their podcasts for between one and three years.
Approximately 46% of them have stated that they produced more than 100 podcast episodes so far.
Interestingly, over 90% of our respondents think their podcasts are successful. With so many brands struggling to define/measure their podcast success nowadays, this high number may come in as a bit of a surprise.
However, most companies we surveyed have been podcasting for a long time (and published 100+ episodes), indicating that they have an established audience and a satisfying base of subscribers. As number of subscribers is one of the most popular metrics to measure (determine) podcast success, it’s no wonder these brands consider their podcasts successful.
After all, as we mentioned in the beginning, how you determine success depends on your primary goal.
When it comes to goals, 40% of our respondents have stated that brand awareness is their primary podcast goal. Lead or demand generation is the primary goal for approximately 17% of the companies we surveyed. And none have selected sales or website traffic as their primary podcast goal.
Lastly, we asked our respondents what metrics they take into consideration when measuring podcast success.
According to our research, the best indicators of a podcast’s success are the number of listens/downloads and the number of subscribers.
From the data obtained, we can conclude that podcasting is a very successful channel for companies — regardless of the goal set or the industry they’re in.
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Now, let’s move on to the exact methods brands use to measure podcast success:
Self-reported attribution involves including a simple form on your conversion page where you ask users about the first time they’ve encountered your brand.
It’s the so common “where did you hear about us?” question.
This attribution tactic is one of the most common alternatives to multi-touch attribution modeling and it can be a good way to measure the impact of your podcast, especially when you don’t have any other metrics to go on.
Many B2B marketers rely on this method to measure podcast success and ROI, including Logan Lyles, the Head of Partnerships at Teamwork. Lyles has a journalism background and over a decade of experience in B2B sales and marketing. He co-hosted B2B Growth, a top-ranked podcast with more than 3.5 million downloads.
Logan Lyles starts by reminding us that, despite our best efforts, the buying journey is “complicated & not completely transparent. Therefore, we need to make it easier for our prospects to tell us more of their story.”
This means going beyond the “where did you hear about us?” question.
Lyles recommends taking this method a step further: “On your trial sign-up or demo request forms, don’t simply let your “How did you hear about us?” field be a dropdown that forces them into a set list of options. Make it an open text field where they can freely mention any & all influences on their journey.”
However, this method also has its flaws, with the main one being that users won’t always remember the first time they stumbled upon one of your marketing channels.
What’s more, they might subconsciously be influenced by one of your latest ads and attribute the first encounter to it.
This occurs because marketing strategies, more often than not, include a variety of channels and campaigns.
So, while a user might state that they heard about your brand for the first time via podcast, in reality, they might’ve seen a social media ad months before the podcast. This is why Lyles recommends you combine self-attribution with other methods – such as analyzing total podcast consumption and engagement.
Related: 7 Helpful Insights You Can Learn From a Data Attribution Report
There’s no doubt that checking out self-reported attribution data and paying attention to whether downloads increase over time is important, but Logan explains that the “deeper question is [the] one about engagement.”
“It’s not about how many people arrive, but for how long they stay.”
However, due to the nature of podcasts, this is something that you can’t easily determine. Most of the time, listeners will download the podcast and then listen to it on their devices.
So, while you can track how many downloads you had, you can’t exactly pinpoint the amount of time users spent listening to it.
That is, until recently.
Logan explains that a few recent updates from Apple and Chartable have made it easier for podcasters to “get more of the total engagement story”.
These are some of the insights that these apps can provide:
This is where things get interesting.
Once you have enough total consumption data at your disposal, Logan advises to “make it more compelling by comparing to other channels (i.e. blog posts or social content).”
In essence, you can take blog views x average time on page and compare it to episode downloads x average listen time to get a fair estimate on total consumption.
Craig Hewitt, the Founder and CEO at Castos, a podcast hosting solution that works with several big podcast names like Seeking Scale, Rogue Startups Podcast, and Audience, shares this opinion as well.
Hewitt explains that if marketers are looking for hard metrics to track, “it would have to be downloads, and that number going up over time with each episode you release.”
However, a less tangible but more important metric, in his opinion, is Engagement. “How is your audience engaging with your brand where the starting point is the podcast? That’s what we optimize for and believe that all brands should be.”
Hewitt also provides a very interesting perspective on podcasting and calls it the “ultimate digital business card for your brand. With it, you can reach a wide and diverse audience and start building your brand equity through long-form audio content where listeners feel like they know you as a host and brand much more deeply than they ever can through written content.”
This is something most podcast hosts would agree on.
Website, business brochures, Twitter account… these are all great, but podcasting can give your business a voice that you’ll use to create a unique brand narrative that your audience will find relatable.
Craig reminds us that one huge upside of using a podcast as a marketing initiative is that it can be used as a sales enablement tool: “Your sales teams go into conversations with a prospect already knowing you, your brand, and your position in the market. This makes every sales conversation just that much easier.”
Related: 14 Types of Sales Enablement Content Your Sales Team Needs
ROI, conversions, profitability… these are just some of the things that you can improve by paying attention to user engagement.
Once you know how users engage with your content, you’ll have a better picture of what is and isn’t working.
More importantly, measuring user engagement can show you what you need to change to make your strategy more effective.
But does this apply to podcasting as well? Should user engagement be your primary focus?
Lindsay Tjepkema, the CEO and Co-Founder at Casted (the only audio and video podcast solution for marketers) says that it shouldn’t.
Lindsay had over 15 years of experience in the B2B industry when she came up with the idea for Casted. Now, her impressive list of clients extends to PayPal, HubSpot, Salesforce, Drift, and more.
According to Lindsay, knowing “HOW users are engaging is helpful, but nothing beats knowing WHO is consuming your content.”
Here are some of the questions Lindsay says you have to answer:
Lindsay mentions that this is especially the case for B2B companies: “As a B2B marketer, downloads didn’t mean much to me. This is because B2B companies – certainly all of our customers – are typically producing podcasts for a completely different reason than a creator, an influencer, a hobbyist, or even a B2C company. Instead of building a large audience to monetize with ads, B2B companies typically launch a show as part of a larger integrated content marketing strategy. They want to build brand awareness that translates to leads that a combo of marketing and sales can nurture through a sale.”
So instead of just paying attention to who is listening to your show, she explains that we should analyze “who is engaging in other content related to the show. That’s when the data becomes actionable and attributable.”
In essence, having information about which companies are engaging with your content can help you nurture and expand your audience with the right content.
We asked Lindsay to share the tools she uses to dig into the WHO.
“We use Casted Insights to see which accounts (what brands, companies, and businesses) are consuming our podcast and any other audio or video content published through Casted. This includes anyone – even anonymous individuals – who consumes the content on the show page on your site AND anyone who consumes it on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or any other player. Additionally, if the individual is a known contact already in your CRM, of course, we can also identify that person as a listener/viewer, too.”
Just like the methods that companies use to measure the success of their podcast will vary, so will the answers depending on where you are with the podcast journey.
Have you just recently started podcasting and want to see whether your audience is engaging with it?
If so, your best option might be to ask the viewers directly for their opinion.
However, if you already have a solid following and have been releasing episodes for years, you’ll have to ask different questions.
Chris Savage, the CEO and Co-Founder at Wistia, uses this framework.
Savage runs the ‘Talking Too Loud with Chris Savage’ podcast where he encourages entrepreneurs to share hilarious, informative, and challenging aspects of creating human brands. Chris specializes in startups, marketing, analytics, and video.
We asked Chris to share his list of questions and explain which things he checks on a regular basis.
Here’s his go-to list for measuring podcast success:
We were particularly interested in the “viewing and listening” mention and how often Chris runs the surveys, so we asked him to elaborate a bit further.
“The viewing and listening refers to tracking the trends on the embedded player on our site. We look at engagement, play rate, and how the individual audience members engage with our other products.”
In terms of surveys, Chris answered that he does them “twice and year and this is only for the podcast audience.”
Those of you who are at the beginning of your podcasting journey will almost certainly run into this advice by podcast hosts – “set goals on what you want to accomplish.”
This is because funnily enough, in podcasting, someone’s success can be another man’s “what am I doing wrong?”
Setting goals right off the bat is important for tracking future progress, and most hosts recommend using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Based).
Marc Thomas, the Head of Growth at Powered by Search, also stands behind this.
Marc builds systematic growth marketing frameworks for B2B SaaS companies and has worked with dozens of $5M – $75M ARR companies.
Over the past year, Marc’s been running multiple podcasts, and he says that one of the main things he found is that “each podcast has a different purpose, which is why they should be measured differently.”
“For example, Insider Marketing is very much a targeted approach to account building. We are looking for a small list of people to hear each episode and then contact us. So it’s extremely easy to do direct and self-reported attribution during a sales process. On the other hand, SaaS Marketing Bites is made to get in front of anyone in our ICP (and actually anyone who might at some point move into that ICP),” Marc adds.
He continues by saying that they “include CTAs to go deeper on the topic of each episode by clicking links in the show notes.” This provides him with UTM data from a large group of people.
Another great tip he shared is that podcasters should look at overall listens across time and ask simple questions like, “are more people listening this month than last?” Oftentimes, even the most basic questions can provide you with valuable information.
Considering that CTAs often get overlooked in Spotify show notes, we asked Marc to elaborate a bit further on what exactly he’s offering.
He explained that the “CTAs are often to see related charts, screenshots, examples – it’s mostly informational. Our blog is optimized for conversion across the customer journey so once someone lands on the page, there’s a high probability that they’re going to convert to one of the core offers we run.”
Overall, Marc’s go-to move for measuring a podcast’s success is building a narrative and adapting it over time to fit the evolution of a project/strategy using this matrix.
In this article, Marc talks about adding a mix of datapoints in the attribution model to make it more valuable.
For example, the impact of each matrix marketing activity can be attributed to the following axes:
Since the chances of a prospect converting after a single touch with a brand are slim, Marc adds additional signals such as:
This provides you with a data story regarding the leads that will help you determine which marketing activities are working.
Related: Goals Based Reporting: Everything You Need to Know
This is one of the frameworks that you don’t exactly hear about every day – measuring podcast success with market research (learning from customers) and audience intent (does listening to the podcast make your audience more interested in a product).
The technique was shared by Kenny Soto, the SEO specialist at LOOP and podcast host of “The People of Digital Marketing”,
In his podcast, Kenny interviews marketing leaders from Fortune 500 companies and various agencies and startups. The main goal of the podcast is to share their career advice, challenges, and growth frameworks.
Kenny agrees with most of our respondents that podcast success can’t be properly measured with tangible metrics and explains that even though metrics matter, the intangibles gained from them are far more important.
Soto continues by saying that “the impact a podcast can have on your business also includes insights from your ideal customers (which aren’t measured with metrics).”
Soto shares the one question that he always asks his ideal customers – “What is one marketing problem you’re facing this year?”
From this simple question, Kenny knows “what future questions and topics to cover to make my content better, what potential MarTech companies to partner with, and what to focus on when doing my 9-to-5.”
In essence, this framework revolves around making your podcast a valuable resource for target customers by addressing their pain points and helping them solve the problems they might be having.
It’s about making your podcast both a content marketing tool and market research tool.
By doing this, Kenny says that two things will happen: “You get buy-in for the idea from senior leadership and you get a suitable production budget to make sure the podcast succeeds.”
Seeing how Kenny’s primary goal revolves around intangibles, we asked him whether he even cares about podcast performance and attribution.
“I honestly don’t even focus on my metrics. If I’m getting listeners over time that’s great but, the podcast is mainly used to learn more about my customers. You never outgrow customer discovery, no matter how big your business gets. So it’s best to start a podcast early and let it grow as a part of your ongoing customer discovery program.”
Related: 12 Best Tools Marketers Use for Market Research
Even though performance metrics don’t always paint the best picture when it comes to podcast success, it would be remiss not to track them.
The most common performance metric podcast hosts focus on is downloads.
By checking the number of times users downloaded your episode, you’ll have a rough growth estimate and a good chunk of data to use for monthly comparisons.
You can even use some podcast analytics platforms that provide additional information about the users that downloaded the episode (e.g. location, age, device the episode was downloaded to, etc.).
Jonathan Barshop, the Senior Podcast Growth Marketer at HubSpot, finds downloads to be one of the best success indicators.
Over the past few years, Jonathan has been responsible for the launch and growth of two huge podcasts – My First Million (Top 25 Business Podcast) and The Hustle Daily Show (Top 50 Business Podcast).
Barshop says that downloads are “the main KPI for us at HubSpot. Even though it’s a bit flawed, it makes sense for us since our primary focus is brand awareness.”
We noticed that there are several HubSpot ads in the My First Million podcast Jonathan works on, so we asked him whether he measures signups as well.
He explains that “we’ll occasionally track conversions from those MFM ads using Podsights, but because it’s such a black box, it feels like a lost cause. You end up coming up with a bogus estimate based on a bunch of random data points.”
Jonathan believes that the real value of these tests is to “see how well certain ad reads perform compared to others.”
Related: Build an Effective Performance Reporting Process with These 8 Tips
Collaborating with other podcasts that are in the same niche as you is becoming more and more popular in the podcasting industry.
Not only does this allow both hosts to reach wider audiences, but they could end up with a larger following at the end of the day if the collaboration goes well.
Dan Gingiss, the Chief Experience Officer at The Experience Maker, incorporates the partnership model.
Dan is the host of the Experience This! podcast, where he shares inspiring examples of customer experience and tips on how to improve your customer service. He’s also an international keynote speaker, customer experience coach, author, and social media expert.
Dan walks us through the partnership model and explains how it works:
“This model results in co-created content in the form of a mini-segment within each episode that features useful information for the listener, a good dose of humor, and of course a CTA. It does NOT sound like a commercial. Our partners are free to use the mini-segments in any other channels they wish as well, such as social media.”
But what prompted Dan to try out the model?
“Well, we decided early on not to play the radio advertising model game with podcasting because it doesn’t work unless you have millions of listeners. Charging a “cost per thousand” just doesn’t make sense for most podcasts.”
If you have doubts about whether the partnership model would be the right choice for your podcast, Dan’s results might encourage you to try it out: “This approach has resulted in consistent full- and partial-season partnerships that have produced an exciting ROI in the truest form (revenue over expenses).”
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