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How To Market Your Podcast With Paid Advertising With Liston Witherill [Episode 79]


We had the pleasure of having Liston Witherill on our show this week to find out all about using paid advertising to promote your podcast.

He explains how to assess your goals first in order to understand what you're trying to achieve, who your audience is, and what you want to accomplish by having the increased listenership.

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You’ve been able to leverage paid advertising as a method of getting listeners to your podcast. That sounds kind of crazy because podcasts are free, advertising isn’t, how do you make that work?
  • There is a cost associated with any acquisition channel whether you're paying for ads or not. I think podcasts are an increasingly powerful medium for promoting yourself and your business. 
  • There is something really intimate about the human voice, right now we have lots of people listening to this, listening to me talking. 
  • Typically you will only hear the voices of people you trust and/or know already. Your mom, your dad, your family, your partner, your best friends, those are the voices you hear on a regular basis or work colleagues.
  • We automatically get to be in that category when someone listens to us through a podcast, which is incredibly powerful. 
  • The second reason I think podcasts are such a powerful medium is that people can do it while they are doing other things, and just work it into their schedule. They’re driving home, taking care of their baby, going for a walk, going to the gym, something I do every day. 
  • They can work this in while they are doing other things, which is a huge disadvantage of asking people to read, and a huge disadvantage especially of video, which requires a lot of sensory attention all at once. That’s my pitch for podcasting.
You’ve been able to work the channel of paid advertising. Which channels have you tested and which ones work?
  • I can tell you about my own experience. I’ve done all the organic growth channels first of all. Tell people who have been on your podcast promote it, email your list, post to social, and on an on.
  • What I find with paid advertising is if your advertising on other podcasts or podcast apps, you’re reaching people who are already listening to podcasts. They've bought into the ecosystem already, they know how to listen to a podcast, they know how to download one, they already understand the value.
  • The channels that have worked for me, so I tested something called adknit, which is an aggregator of advertising inventory for popular podcasts, I’ve advertised on Anderson Cooper, Fareed Zaharia, Conan O’Brien, all these big podcasts.
  • I have a good friend named Ben Shapiro, who runs his podcast and this is his primary growth channel, which he talks about on his podcast. Personally, it didn’t work for me for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to attract listenership.
  • The other thing that’s hard about listenership or attribution through adknit is its really difficult to know what effect it’s having on your listenership because there is a lot of friction, you’re asking people who are listening, hey if you like that podcast I got the next one for you, go listen to this. 
  • They have to open up their phone, you already know they’re driving or walking or doing something else, open up their phone, locate the podcast, subscribe or download the episode, it’s kind of a pain. 
  • The one that I’ve seen the most success with, and the prices have gone up a lot since I started advertising, probably partially because I’m telling people that it works, it’s called overcast and it’s an iOS-only podcasting app. It’s run by a guy named Marco and the advantage of overcast is you get a banner ad within the overcast app. 
  • Imagine there are 500 hundred thousand people using the overcast app every day, so when they open it they see a banner ad which has your cover art and two lines, a sentence or two, and they can click it, and one-click subscribe in the app. 
  • I’ve found that has the least amount of friction and we can talk about brand versus direct response here, but what I have tried to do is be very specific and eliminate all listeners that I don’t want. My podcast modern sales are the one that I pay for traffic for, and the ad always says something like, weekly sales advice to help you sell consulting and professional services more effectively, hosted by Liston Witherill. But I’m not saying sales advice for anybody who wants to sell more.
  • It’s very specific because really what I want is to get something out of it and I want to attract the right people and know that my advice is localized and it’s not going to be for anybody who cares about sales, it will be much more applicable to specific people who are selling specific things. So that’s what I try to do.
So that formula there is the solution you provide and who you supply it for, that’s the formula, isn’t it?
  • Now the next channel I’m going to try is Spotify. Now Spotify allowed you to advertise on all their auto contents. 
  • So I think something like 10% of Spotify listeners will pay for it, those people like me don’t hear any ads under any circumstances. But the other 90%, in exchange for free streaming, have to put up with ads periodically. So 90% of Spotify listeners are going to hear these ads. 
  • Initially, you had to advertise to everybody and you could advertise to I think genres and the closest genre you had to podcast was spoken word or something, which is sort of just a weird fit. So you’re basically forced to advertise to everybody.
  • They also had geography targeting, but now maybe you have heard, they had 3 big acquisitions recently. One was anchor FM, which is a podcast creation app. And the second was gimlet media, which is my favorite podcast studio, they make incredible podcasts. Spotify has gone ¼ billion dollars into the acquisition of podcasts, so they’re really serious about winning the podcast market. 
  • So joe recently they’re allowing you to target only podcast listeners and in the app, there’s a dedicated section for podcasts also, so when you advertise on Spotify people not only hear the ad, but if they’re looking at their phone, they are a banner ad that you can associate a link to.
  • So the way I would handle that is my link would be to my Spotify podcast URL, so they could stay within Spotify app and listen and subscribe from there.
How do you go about writing the creative for audio?
  • That’s a really good question. The way that I approach it is basically for me to just talk. It doesn’t have a bunch of blips and zaps, you know kind of standard radio ads that you hear, where you are catering to people with really low attention spans. I don’t want to do that. 
  • It’s just me talking, giving you, not necessarily a pitch, but my podcast and also my world view and what I believe, why I think you should pay attention to my sales advice and more importantly why do I think you shouldn’t pay attention to it. 
  • The name of my business where I do sales training is called, serve don’t sell, so my whole thing is if the sale is the most important thing for you, you should never pay attention to me because I’m going to tell you that I think that’s bullshit.
  • And I think in the world that we live in, what you should do is be very service-oriented, always asking what’s in my client’s best interest. And so that’s the kind of pitch I would give, because, and maybe I’m a little bit different from some of your listeners because my goal isn’t to get the biggest audience. It’s to get the biggest audience of people I want to target. 
  • So what I always say about content marketing is a long as you’re reaching the right people, it doesn’t matter how big your audience is really, as long as it’s big enough to facilitate your business model, and the amount of money you want to make. So my model is a small number of people, a lot of money. 
  • Maybe you’d approach this different, not maybe, for sure, if you were in a more volume business, but because my approach is a small number of people who I charge a lot of money, I’m going for intimacy and connection. 
  • So that’s what I go for on the ad creative and it’s a little more brand-oriented, because why don’t we just fast forward to the ROI. The next question that you guys are probably going to have is how do we know if it’s working? Well, one measure is my listenership growing, and that can be fickle too. 
  • Maybe you have a big guest who emails their list and you get a big spike in listeners, you get 400 new subscribers overnight, great how many of those people are going to stick around, it depends.
Also, you've got the big guest who doesn’t email their list as well, so you’ve got some kind of weird combo in that middle realm, haven’t you?
  • That’s right. And just to add to that, what I find typically is the quote on quote more important guest or the people who fashion themselves as being very important and having a bigger platform objectively. They're going to be less likely to promote it or care about the episode. That’s what I find. 
  • But if you have a big spike in listenership, going back to the ROI thing, only a percentage of them are going to stick around for more than one to three episodes. Just like all the marketing that you do. 
  • So really what I’m trying to do is develop relationships because whether your selling consulting or coaching or anything that’s over $2,000 as an initial purchase it’s usually going to take three to six months of trust-building before the person’s willing to buy anything from you. 
  • Unless you’re really targeting desperate people who don’t know what they need, which I know some people do that. It’s not my jam. So if I’m targeting people who have a very specific business problem and it’s going to cost a lot to fix it, it’s going to take them a while to build trust. 
  • So really what I’m looking at is to build listenership and then on my form, this is a big one, I have two ways of getting people into my mix once they’re listening to my podcast. One is I will sometimes mention free resources that are associated with the content, so sign up for my newsletter, sign up for this legion thing, sign up for whatever thing that could act as a bonus content or expand on what I’m talking about on the podcast, but could get them on my email list. That’s number one. Then of course email takes over because I’m emailing my list every week.
  • The second thing is telling people directly if you have problems like these ones I talked about today, I can help you with those, here’s what you should do.
  • And on my form on my website, there’s a question that asks how they heard about me. Now, of course, this is self-reported, so it’s not 100% accurate, but I have a more than half the people who fill out the form of to talk to me, say they heard about me first through the podcast and so I know it’s doing the heavy lifting for me.
  • And the advantage again is back to the human voice and back to work it into their regular schedule. They can spend six months with me before we even talk, but they feel like they know me before we actually do get on the phone.
What are the features that we need to have in a podcast that’s going to keep people coming back? So we don’t get such a big dip after that spike we talked about?
  • Actually, I think the game is a good idea. So the first thing I would say, obviously you know you hear everybody say create good content, and it’s a cliche because it’s true essentially. Well first of all, like I said, if we’re going to pay for people, the closer we are to attracting the perfect listener, who we're making the content for, the more likely they are to stick around. So that’s sort of number one.
  • Number two is the quality of the content.
  • The third thing is I like to change it up and there are some formatting things I do like I tell a story that’s unrelated to the sales at the beginning of every podcast. So like the one I recorded yesterday, I started out with a story about how the challenger space shuttle failed, which I guess ties in nicely with your space shuttle question. 
  • So you know those types of things keep people more engaged and more likely to stay listening because there’s a clear difference between what I’m doing and what other people are doing.
  • The second thing is the email. I’m really big on email simply because it’s owned. Plus this is me personally, I really hate social media, for lots of different reasons, maybe we could talk about some other time, but I want email because I own that list and not only that, people are much more likely to check their email inbox, eight, twelve, twenty times a day as opposed to listening to a podcast every day and sort of staying current on whatever podcast you’re producing, I don’t know what the stats are for podcast listeners. 
  • Actually, as we’re talking about this, you guys are giving me all kinds of things I should go look up and figure out, but in my podcast feed I pared it down a lot and I still subscribe to something like sixteen or twenty podcasts. So they’re way more podcasts produced than I could ever listen to, even with my cold list, and this is something I’ve developed over years and years. 
  • My feeling is getting into their inbox is really critical and again I’m going to take a more brand marketing approach. Even once I’m in their inbox that I think is really important because it allows you, let’s say you send a weekly newsletter article, even like just a heads up the new podcast is u, whatever, if your sending that, it’s not just a place for people to click something and buy something. 
  • But there’s also kind of a billboard and a repeat exposure effect to it, even if they don’t read the email, they still see your name or they are your company’s name on a regular basis and the level of awareness that their going to have as a result of that is, even if they’re not opening the email, is pretty huge.
Do you find that there’s an important piece of value in creating a lot of the podcast content itself by yourself in order to cement your reputation? Do you think that’s more effective or less effective or whatever than having an interview show?
  • That’s a great question. And I can tell you why I’ve made the decision to do that. My feeling is, let’s start from the beginning, which any good marketer would ask you this, what is your goal? 
  • If your goal is to develop authority and be seen as a strong voice in the marketplace, that has a specific answer to a specific question for a specific group of people, then I think that the solo format; or you guys have an advantage because there’s two of you, you can work together and it’s maybe not so boring as one person. 
  • I’d like to think I’ve figured out ways to make it less boring. I think that if you’re trying to develop thought, leadership, and authority, then a solo podcast or you and a co-host is a great format for that. 
  • Whereas I was on my friend Kurt Schmidt’s podcast, which has the wonderful name The Schmidt List. And I asked him why are you doing this and he said he just wants to connect with people who I don’t think would talk to me otherwise. And I said why do you have me on the podcast then. 
  • So if that’s your goal, if your goal is to use the podcast as a networking tool and there’s a kind of transitive property there. 
  • Let’s say you guys have Seth Godin on your podcast, who I’ve been trying to court for many months, people who see Seth Godin on your podcast May then look at you guys as, oh their in the company of Seth. That may convey some authority onto you. 
  • It’s different, you’re not going to get thought, leadership out of those discussions where you’re interviewing people, but if you're doing a solo show I think the authority building is much better. 
  • Also, you’re much more focused on the topics that you cover, so that’s what I find when I have a guest on like you guys did with me in the pre-interview, you're going to spend some time figuring out what are you especially equipped to talk about. What do you think is interesting l, what can you keep going for 60 minutes or however long your show is. 
  • Whereas for me, like yesterday when I sat down, I spend three to four hours sometimes writing out the podcast content and it’s very structured and I know exactly what I’m going to be saying and why and who it’s going to be helping. Why they should care and all of that stuff, so I just think you have a lot more control when you don’t have guests, but I think there’s definitely a role for guests, it just depends on what your goals are.

A book that you would recommend…
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

What is your top success habit?
Write something every day and read something every day (bonus points for publishing).

Who is an entrepreneur you look up to?
Seth Godin.

Here’s the big one… who do you like more, Rob or Kennedy?
Do I have to like either of you? No, I’m not going to choose.

Finally, where can folks go to find out more about you?
My website is listion.io

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