Usually, they have a marketing arm full of salespeople ready to flood the world with their copy: Please buy X! This is the on-ramp to customer acquisition that so many startups and innovators have to go through.
Unfortunately for small businesses, that team of marketers is usually one person. Worse yet, sales are not that persons full-time gig! It is just one of a hundred other gigs they have to do in any given day.
So what is a company to do with this new product when creating an audience is both costly and time-consuming? Furthermore, what is a company to do when their tiny product team has spent every waking moment building the product and spent zero time advertising or marketing it?
I would like you to consider this very underused strategy: sponsorships. But not just any kind of sponsorships, but the sponsorship of a very specific kind. The sponsorship of podcasting events. You might be thinking as many other companies think about events. They look at events as a loss-leader. They know that spending money on a vendor booth will cost them. They know that sending knowledgeable staff to the event will also cost them. After crunching the numbers they will come up with a formula that will give them a dollar amount that will represent how much a new customer acquisition will cost me and how many new customers I will need to acquire at this event to make it worth my while.
In business words, this is called ROI – Return on Investment. If I sink, let’s say $5,000 into an event, then I need to get at least $5,000 worth of sales from it. They would like to double or triple that number — or in startup land speak they would like to 10x that baby!
If that company becomes a sponsor of the event, they really need to have an advantageous position. This could include being allowed to have one of their employees (usually the CEO or president of the company) come speak, their logo and branding all over the place, and reference to how grateful the event host is for having them defer the crazy costs of putting on a podcasting event in the first place. In fact, the more the sponsor gave the event organizer is directly proportional to how many times they are thanked during the event.
Solve for X.
What happens if the company puts out all this money and nobody buys their product? Sorry. That’s the cost of doing business. Sometimes these events don’t pan out and sometimes it takes two or three years worth of sponsorships before you see the needle move.
I’ve attended a few podcasting events this year with one more coming up — DC Podfest in Washington DC. At all of these events, you will find an assortment of companies, all pushing their various products complete with stickers, free t-shirts, and even stress balls. They are all trying to acquire new customers AT the podcasting event. Why? Because they are marketing their products TO podcasters.
However, the one thing these companies are NOT doing is finding the potential audience that is right in front of their face. You see, a typical podcasting conference can range from 100 to 500 people. A large majority of podcasters are there to learn something new about podcasting but a strong majority of them are truly WISHING they could make money with it too. Few make that money but they all dream of one day quitting their meaningless jobs and becoming full-time podcasters. A typical company selling a product TO podcasters sees the attendee as a customer. Just one customer.
I see an attendee as a potential raving fan with an army of potential customers hiding under their podcasting hood!
Open your mind and follow me down this rabbit hole for a moment. Your company wants to sell a product and needs staff to get that product in front of as many people as possible for as long as possible. Now think about how much that staff will cost you. Pretend it’s 5 college grads with an annual salary of $30,000 each. That will cost you — in salary alone — $150,000 for one year. Your expectations will be that they sell at least that much in products in the same year. If they don’t? Well, doom on them.
With me so far? Good!
Now, look at that hungry podcaster over there who you only see as one customer. That podcaster is talking to at least 30-100 people a week — FOR FREE! There are no one-size-fits-all podcasters so each one has a different audience size. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the average podcaster has an audience size of 200 weekly listeners. That is 200 people — potential customers — tuning in to that one podcaster every week. Chances are, that podcaster has NEVER had an advertisement on their podcast.
Why? Because they have NEVER had an advertiser consider them worthy of one!
Approaching an Independent Podcaster
Here’s what happens when you look right at a podcaster you meet at a podcasting conference and ask them if you would like to advertise your product:
First, they freak out! Nobody has ever given care about their little podcast long enough to give them this opportunity so they are both excited and humbled.
Next, they suddenly become a fan of your product. They may have liked it before this, but now they have a renewed interest in giving you the best light possible to as many people that will listen.
Finally, they will never ask for too much to promote your product. Why? Because “they don’t know what to ask for.” Remember the first point? No advertiser has ever cared enough to give them the time of day so they are very new at this entire process.
When you find a podcaster like this and have vetted them enough to know they’re not a whack-a-doodle, you can do something that few companies will do: you can negotiate a very low cost compared to how much your product will be promoted. The funny thing about podcasters is that they all have media hosting costs, gear expenses, SaaS tool subscription fees, website costs, and time investment costs. They also have mortgages, car payments, and smartphone bills too. As a small company, you can turn one good independent podcasters into a marketing machine for as little as $100 per episode.
Now consider this calculus when thinking about hiring a marketing team. One good podcaster with a weekly audience of 200 will tell that audience about your product 52 times in one year. Additionally, that podcaster will tell their friends, family, social media, and fellow podcasters about how you took a chance on them about 10x that number. Plus, their audience will ebb and flow as they produce their show. The better they get at podcasting, the bigger audience they could attract. Now your $100 per episode ad just grew without any change in the price.
With one podcasters you turn one customer into an entire street team of marketers for a fraction of the cost. As you grow your stable of podcasters you can start doing other cool things like A/B testing, specialize affiliate links that will show you which podcaster is doing more for you, and if your podcast ads are bringing in sales. Unlike magazines, pay per click advertising, or even social media ads, you have real people connecting with other real people in a way that ads legitimacy to your company.
There are so many good yet hungry podcasters out there with so many small companies ignoring them and their potential.
Take This One Step Further
You may ask yourself, “Where do I find these podcasters?” And that is where the Podcasting Conference is your treasure trove of recruits.
A podcasting conference is a community of podcasters just waiting to be discovered by your company. They are there to hone their skills, share tips and tricks with each other, and learn something new. That makes them the perfect candidates for this strategy. Finding a podcaster with a small yet loyal audience is one thing, but finding a podcaster that cares enough about their show to continually make it better, is the attitude you want. Podcasters are content creators. The better their content creation, the bigger their audience can get.
Additionally, many podcasting conferences have speakers who are teaching podcasting skills to attendees. 99-percent of these speakers are doing this for free. They’ve amassed enough podcasting knowledge to turn their own podcast experience into a teaching tool or even a real business. These podcasters are in it for all the marbles which is what you want in an advertising partner. You don’t want to have a podcaster accept your money only to fold shop the next day. By looking hard at podcasters that spend enough time to create a conference talk you will find individuals that are trying to make a stable living with their podcraft. They are going to be your mustangs — the workhorses that will make every one of your advertising dollars count.
However, if you’re not at these podcasting conferences, you’re missing out on the unique opportunities these independent media publishing companies called “podcasters” present. Every conference I’ve been two in the past 3 years if full of either media hosting FOR podcasters, tools FOR podcasters, or some kind of service FOR podcasters. Where are the small companies and startups looking to connect WITH podcasters TO market their products? Nowhere. They don’t come. They don’t sponsor events. Heck, they don’t even know these conferences exist!
The Street Team Everyone is Ignoring
The Internet has changed everything. Instead of big media companies controlling all the channels, individuals control what content they want and when they want it. When a TV commercial comes on, people look at their phones. When an ad plays before you Youtube video, people wait for the 5-seconds and press the skip its link. But podcasting? The numbers don’t lie. Podcasting advertisements are more listened to, more engaging, and appeal to a far younger audience.
Yet, all this marketing potential is being ignored when you don’t even consider how a small $1,000, $2,500, or even a $5,000 sponsorship of a podcasting event could be your conduit to a podcasting audience in the tens-of-thousands. Not only would you be one of only a handful of companies that gave a care about helping the conference take place, but you would have 2-days of uninterrupted interviewing opportunities. With that time you could meet, judge, vet and connect with dozens of podcasters with all sorts of topics and audiences. It could be just the punch in the arm your company needs to get off the ground.
Please understand that independent podcasters can smell bad intentions from a mile away. And if they don’t believe in your product or are selling something smarmy, most of them will pass on you. But if you back your products with the same commitment and enthusiasm you show this small but powerful podcasting community, the ROI you can create will certainly make a dent in your bottom line.
So, the next time you think you need to hire a marketing team or have a new product that needs some love, consider how powerful yet cost-effective a podcaster partnership could be. We — independent podcasters — are all dreaming of being legitimized by having an advertiser. We’ve spent years perfecting our shows, building a small but loyal following, and creating endless amounts of new and interesting content. You will be surprised how grateful we can be by having your company take an interest in what we’ve built.
All you have to do is show up and ask!
Upcoming Podcaster Conferences to Consider
- DC Podfest, Washington, DC – November 1-2, 2019
- Podfest Expo, Orlando, FL – March 6-8, 2020
- Independent Podcaster Conference, Atlantic City, NJ – September 25-26, 2020
About the Author
Kyle Bondo is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative for Gagglepod. Gagglepod is a podcast production company providing creative strategy and experience to help creatives tell their stories with podcasting. He believes that life is too short to create a bad podcast and hopes he can help you build something podcast worthy.