Podcasts

Start a Podcast That Attracts Thousands of Listeners in Just 5 Simple Steps

Start a Podcast That Attracts Thousands of Listeners in Just 5 Simple Steps
Image credit: Retina Boys | Flickr

If I could show you a way to quickly grow an audience from nothing, would you be interested?

Although it will cost you some money to get up and running, podcasting has a relatively low barrier to entry. In this way, it's a great audience builder that shouldn't be ignored.  

It's true though that most podcasts fail to get the attention that they deserve. I'm not telling you this to talk you out of starting one. In fact, I've seen firsthand how podcasting transformed my business and built me a huge and highly engaged audience in less than a year.

My podcast, Hack the Entrepreneur, launched Sept. 5, 2014. With no existing audience, I managed to top the business and marketing charts in iTunes. My show has been downloaded nearly 400,000 times in 17 different countries. It's led to other opportunities, such as this -- now writing for Entrepreneur.com -- and working with Copyblogger Media; various speaking engagements; and the chance to connect with brilliant entrepreneurs.

All of this in less than a year, from my basement office, in a small city in Canada.

Podcasting isn't easy -- not by any means. There are definite steps to creating a podcast that gets you noticed and doesn’t join the ever-growing list of ones that fail to take off. But guess what? Now's the perfect time to start.

Here are the five basic-yet-necessary steps to get you podcasting and building yourself an audience. They're the same ones I took when starting my show.

Related: These 10 Podcasts May Just Get You to Stop Listening to Music

1. Choose your format

This goes beyond music and voiceovers and is essential to developing an overall feel and brand to your show. When done correctly, your format should identify your show to your audience and give you a unique position within your market.

There are five general types that most shows fit into, either completely or in some variation: Interview, News/Current Events, Q&A, Expert-Based and Comedy. Each of these have their pros and cons, so choose carefully based on the outcome you're looking to achieve.

2. Define your audience

At this point, you need to narrow down your message and determine specifically who your audience is -- not a general market, but define that one individual you're going to speak to directly. 

Demographics can be important, but key insights about the type of person they are -- their likes and dislikes -- will give you a stronger direction later for creating the content they want to engage with. Sit down with a paper and pencil and brainstorm a detailed description of your perfect customer. If you attract this one specific listener, your podcast will be a success. This one listener will become thousands, but for now, focus on the one.

No podcast is for everyone, and this is OK. If you're saying to yourself, “Everybody wants to listen to my podcast; everyone will be a fan of my show,” you're wrong and you need to go deeper -- way deeper. You need to know everything there is to know about your listener and then create your show specifically for him or her.

3. Set up your home studio

The beautiful thing about podcasting in 2015 is the ability to be extremely creative with recording and editing. Even five years ago, technology hadn't evolved as it has now. Proving this is the new wave of podcasts that push the boundaries of what podcasting can be.

There are an infinite number of combinations and possibilities you could use to record your podcast, depending on your budget and technical ability. Here's the setup I use to record Hack the Entrepreneur:

Related: 13 Value-Packed Marketing Podcasts for Entrepreneurs

4. Build your website 

Before you can release your show to the world, you need a website -- your podcast’s home base. This is where you'll send your listeners through well-executed calls-to-action at the end of each of your episodes. This will allow you to build a relationship with your audience and also get them to join your email list to take that relationship even further.

During the first 60 episodes, Hack the Entrepreneur was on a custom-developed WordPress site. WordPress is a content management system that's the backbone of more than 60 million websites around the world. It's effective, secure and complete. 

Recently, Hack the Entrepreneur moved to the Rainmaker Platform. Rainmaker is based on WordPress, but it's specifically made for podcasters and small-business owners that either are not technically savvy (like myself) or they simply don't want to be bothered with self-managing their WordPress setup. 

Both WordPress and Rainmaker have a vibrant community around them to help you when getting started. It's essential to have somewhere to send your listeners, so choose one of these options, and get cracking.

5. Submit to iTunes

Once you have at least three episodes recorded, you're ready to submit your podcast to iTunes. Upon submission, it will take between 48 and 96 hours to be approved by an Apple employee. This is done manually and can vary greatly depending on the volume of submissions. Plan your launch accordingly and give yourself enough time to ensure that your podcast is live on iTunes before you begin your promotions.

iTunes is by far the largest podcast search engine and directory in the world. For the first eight weeks your show is live, concentrate on submitting here. Those first eight weeks should get you maximum traction and exposure through New & Noteworthy placement, and New & Noteworthy can make or break a show.

Podcasting's growing at an extremely fast rate, yet there's still a lot of room in the market for good shows to enter and flourish. It's not easy, and it takes a lot of work -- don’t let anyone tell you differently -- but there's an endless number of direct and indirect benefits that can come from doing it right.

If you decide to start a podcast, create a remarkable show that impacts the lives of your audience. Only then will you be building an engaged audience -- the very foundation of all successful businesses.

Related: Top 25 Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs