The podcast launch period can be an exciting time. As you work towards publishing that first episode, ticking off tasks on your to-do list, there's a real sense of progression.
The launching podcaster is filled with feelings of hope, optimism, and satisfaction.
But there's a stage most podcasters experience where they go from launching a show, to running a show. A stage where feelings of frustration and lack of growth or progression kicks in. Where you might be asking yourself; “How do I grow my podcast?”
This is completely normal. The first thing really to point out however, is that a lot of this has to do with us focusing on how others are doing, rather than concentrating on our own work.
You might see that one podcaster has hit five million downloads, or that another podcaster has secured a big sponsor for their show. This makes you feel like you've achieved nothing, are miles behind these folks, and are ultimately wasting your time.
But no two podcasts are alike. And behind each success story you see, there'll have been years of hard work that led up to that point.
So first things first – stop comparing your show to others. Instead, focus your time and energy into things that you can control.
What Are Your Aims?
When someone tells me they're frustrated by their show's lack of growth, the first thing I'll ask is what they're ultimately looking to achieve.
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If you don't know where you're going, or why you're doing this, then you'll inevitably hit a point where you wonder what the point in all this work is.
There are many different reasons people get into podcasting. Reasons like having a creative outlet, wanting to become an authority on their subject, building a network, marketing themselves and their business, or even looking to earn a full time wage from their show.
Regardless of what your own aims are, you need to think of how best to measure your performance.
For this, I'd avoid things like arbitrary download numbers. There's a big difference, for example, between a show with 12 episodes and a million downloads, to a show with 400 episodes and a million downloads. Both are fantastic achievements, but there'll be far more to both these scenarios than simple numbers.
Instead, you might choose to note down some milestones that'll help you on your path to your main goal. This might be things like getting an email from a listener, getting booked as a guest on another podcast, getting your first supporter on Patreon, or selling a copy of your ebook.
What Are Your Expectations?
Anyone who's ever published a podcast episode has had to have had a bit of drive and ambition to get to that point.
Many driven and ambitious people quit podcasting early though, because they're frustrated with their show's lack of growth.
I mentioned that behind every podcast success story, there's been a few years of hard work gone into it. And that's the reality of this medium.
It's likely that your ultimate goal will take years. But that's not to say you won't be able to experience plenty of achievements towards that goal shorter term.
If you want to be quitting your day job within 6 months of launching your show though, then it might be time for a reality check.
How Do I Grow My Podcast?
A lot of the tried, tested, and best ways of growing a podcast are overlooked because:
- They seem obvious
- They take time and work
- People are looking for a “one simple trick” solution to open the download floodgates
So once you've accepted this, what can you actually do to pull yourself and your podcast out of this rut you're in?
If you've already started missing episodes, or have no real consistency to your release schedule, then it'll be hard for you to gain any traction.
It doesn't matter if you're doing a weekly, bi-weekly, or seasonal show. What matters is that your audience knows what to expect, and when to expect it.
Build your show into the routines of the lives of your listeners. If you can't commit to at least putting that into podcasting, it's unrealistic to expect anything back from it.
Make It Easy
This is the low hanging fruit that's missed by many podcasters. How easy is it to find and subscribe to your podcast?
It's a good idea to conduct a little review of your show on this front. Take some time to look at the following:
- Is your show listed in all the main podcast directories?
- Do you have links on your website to these directories on a ‘Subscribe' page?
- Are you catering for both iOS and Android users?
- Do you have a full episodes list on your site?
- Do you have an audio trailer embedded on your front page?
These simple good practices can go a long way in turning passing traffic into actual subscribers.
Ask Your Audience
If you've been running your show past around the 6 month mark, it might be possible to collect some invaluable data through surveying your audience.
You can run a survey on your site, or on a dedicated service like Survey Monkey. Some useful things to ask are:
- How did they find your show?
- What episodes topics have they enjoyed, and why?
- Which episode topics have they not enjoyed, and why?
- What would they like to hear on future episodes?
The key with a survey is to make it easy to find, and easy to complete. Don't push your luck by asking pointless questions just for the sake of it.
Also, give yourself time to mention this survey at the end of at least 4 episodes. Explain to your listeners the benefit for them in filling it out, as it'll help you tailor better and more relevant content for them going forward.
For more detailed information on what you might ask your audience about and how to analyse that data, check out our article on Testing Your Audience.
Community & Network
Though I've warned against comparing yourself to other podcasters, that doesn't mean you should become a hermit.
In fact, the opposite is true. Community is a really important part of growing your show.
If you're someone who shares and promotes the work of others, gets involved in conversations, and is just generally helpful and nice to people, then you'll find your own show's growth to be a nice byproduct of that.
It's worth getting to know the other podcasters in your niche, making friends with them, and building relationships.
Are there other presenters out there who you can interview, and then be interviewed on their show? Can you trade promo trailers with others? Can you work on any joint projects together?
Be known as someone who actively works to grow your niche as a whole – not just your own content around it.
Podcast Growth – What Next?
So, know where you're going, set your show up to succeed, and look after the folks who're already listening. That's the big takeaways here.
There's also loads of things you can do to work towards those milestones that make up your main goal too though.
We created a course inside The Podcast Host Academy called 30 Days of Audience Growth with this in mind.
The aim was to create short, actionable, videos, each setting you one daily task.
This is just one of the courses inside The Academy too. We also run regular live Q&A sessions, and provide access to all our ebooks, checklists, and other downloadable resources.
If you've been feeling a bit stagnant with your podcast, hopefully this article has helped give you a few ideas to get you back on track. But if you're looking for more help, then The Podcast Host Academy might be worth taking a look at!