I’ve become a morning companion for people I may never meet.

How is that possible? They take me in their earbuds while they stream my Build a Better Agency podcast

For marketers ready to venture into the podcasting universe, this is a wonderful sign of the future.

Once a fringe platform, podcasts are surprisingly mainstream today. According to Nielsen, six in ten people understand what they are, and 112 million Americans – 40 percent of the country’s population – have heard at least one. While podcast listeners are male, it’s not much: 56 percent are men while 44 percent are women.

How to start a podcast

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Not only do marketers need to know these statistics, they also need to use them in their own campaigns. With 67 million men and women monthly podcast consumers, this is a niche that deserves serious consideration. Add to that the amazing statistic that 63 percent of podcast listeners made a purchase based on the host’s recommendations and that you have a veritable goldmine yourself.

Of course, one has to crawl, then walk, and then get into a steady trot to take advantage of the benefits.

A no-nonsense primer from a podcast experimenter.

In my case, I had blogged for a while, conducted webinars, and published articles in places like Forbes and Fast Company. These content producers were working, but I felt another portal would help reach more agencies and executives in an accessible, easy-to-find, on-demand format.

As a long-time podcast listener, I realized that the podcasting platform was the next logical step for me – especially if I wanted to reach a narrow audience of medium-sized agency owners and executives as authorities in my field for more than 23 years. And as a long-time professional, I hired Predictive ROI, an agency of the Agency Management Institute, to produce the podcast so I wouldn’t make so many technical rookie mistakes.

Opening up to podcasts is a bit like breaking the lid of Pandora’s box. Until you do, you have no idea what to expect. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t solve problems before going live.

Expect some level of learning as you proceed, but be ready to explore the technology before fully launching your podcast. You wouldn’t be opening a bakery with your first cake, so don’t click “Publish” until you have reached the location of the land and made a plan. (Being a podcast guest before starting your own is also a smart idea.)

Podcasting for beginners.

Even if you’ve never stood in front of a microphone before, you can plan the first phase of a solid podcast schedule. From there you can branch out.

1. Make a checklist to keep yourself up to date.

I asked myself tons of questions before committing to podcasting. They encompassed everything from the niche audience I wanted to reach to whether it was a short-term fad or a long-term interest in hosting a podcast. I also considered what style of podcast I would prefer to the public, including a show prep and release schedule.

Of course, your checklist will be customized, but make sure it has a section on technical elements. Setting up audio, iTunes, accounts, and interviews can be tricky if you haven’t done your homework.

2. Set up your basic show format.

Every interviewer prefers to run their podcast in a certain way. Lots of podcasters ask guests the same questions, but as a listener, I find that stale in a hurry. Sure, it’s less prep work, but it makes the host look lazy. I preferred to interview subject matter experts, but occasionally wanted to keep the door open to produce a solo cast. My compromise was a 4-1 ratio of interviews to solo casts.

I was pretty confident that I could have a few questions on hand and then start a conversation spontaneously from there. A big risk? May be. But I believed I could have a 45 to 60 minute conversation without a safety net.

3. Use your network.

The first 10 episodes set the tone for every podcast start. So make sure you put up high profile, interesting, and engaging guests who won’t be turned off when you have very few or no listeners. My friends came through for me in a big way, offering me rock stars from day one. Not only did they help with the podcast release, but they also generously allowed me to ride on their social media coattails.

4. Track your downloads.

Rob Walch was one of my youngest podcast guests who made one important consideration for any podcaster: You need to keep track of your downloads. Rob’s suggestion is to start at least 500 downloads per episode to make sure you’ve broken the cycle of only people in your inner circle tune in.

What is a reasonable download number for your quote, “Success”? Only you can tell, but it helps to keep track of the numbers. Are you starting to see a downward trend in the audience? Go back to point 1 and ask these difficult questions again so you can spin around before your podcast loses traction.

5. Consistently produce great content.

Does everyone have a bad episode every now and then? For sure. And if you’ve planned ahead and have great content on your pocket, you just can’t post it in place of a better one. Try to have several podcasts on hand before you publish them publicly. This way you get the relief of a buffer zone.

Don’t try to start too quickly. You can always ramp up your delivery later. With my itinerary seeing me on no less than 200 planes a year, I settled on 10 episodes before proving to myself that I could keep up the exertion. August and September 2015 were a deluge of setups and recordings, and we opened our podcast doors – practically – in October 2015. Since then we’ve released a new episode every week.

6. Prepare to become a podcast promoter.

Your target people won’t find your podcast without a little help. So apply it as if your life depends on it. I’ve used our company’s email list, my personal social channels, and countless other platforms. I also asked each guest to promote their episode.

We were fortunate enough to get on iTunes New and Noteworthy and landed in the top five of its topic-specific lists in our first month.

7. Learn how to monetize your podcast.

Finally, it is important to find out how to make an income from your podcast. One way is to promote your book, workshop, or online course while creating a thought leadership role.

If you have a narrow audience that lacks depth or breadth and you just can’t sell ads or sponsorships, you can still let numbers work in your favor.

Sound like hard work? It is, but definitely worth it if you are strategic. Two years after my first episode was unveiled, we have 110 five-star reviews, and episodes are downloaded in more than 125 countries. I’m happy to say that we have also received presentation sponsorship from HubSpot. In addition to being a feeder to business, podcasting was also a phenomenal marketing opportunity.

Have you considered taking the podcasting leap? The water is a little choppy at first, but there is plenty of room for another swimmer!

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