How I Grew the HubSpot Podcast Skill Up Audience by 271% in Two Months

This post is a part of Made @ HubSpot, an internal thought leadership series through which we extract lessons from experiments conducted by our very own HubSpotters.

There are 72,000 new podcast episodes each day — which means there are five new podcasts made every six seconds.

And, as of March 2020, there are a reported 1.9 million total podcasts, and 47 million total episodes. Depending on when you read this article, these numbers could be drastically different.

Which is all to say: The podcast industry is rapidly growing.

In a world of fast-growing competition, how do we — as podcast marketers — compete for listeners’ attention, while also expanding reach and growing our audiences?

I wish that I could tell you that I have it all figured out. However, not having it figured out is what ultimately led to a 271% increase in downloads for season six of HubSpot’s podcast, Skill Up.

Here, I’ll share my lessons for how I achieved that growth.

Lesson 1: There are a lot of podcast listening platforms.

When you think of podcast platforms, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts are probably top of mind, right?

Well, there are many, many more listening platforms beyond those three.

I downloaded every podcast platform available through the App Store on my iPhone. This included Podcast Addict, Overcast, Castro, PlayerFM, Pandora, Pocket Casts, and about ten others.

I then cross-referenced the players I downloaded with the audience application report from Megaphone. If there was a small or nonexistent audience on a platform, I highlighted it.

The first recommendation I can make is to look at where people are listening to your podcasts using the reporting provided by your podcast host. Are the majority of your downloads coming from Apple or Spotify? If your answer is yes, then that’s good news. You have untapped audiences on other platforms, including PlayerFM and Podcast Addict.

Which brings me to my next recommendation …

Lesson 2: Paid ad placements on podcast platforms pay off.

After I had a list of podcast platforms that would allow me to expand the reach of my podcast, I opened each platform and took note of their ad placements. I looked for anything that said “Sponsored” or something along those lines. If I liked the ad placement, I included it in my list.

Next, I focused on gathering data on ad cost, estimated CPM, and estimated downloads for the placements I was interested in. This is relatively easy, since many of the platforms share both the ad placements available and estimated campaign results on their websites.

If they don’t have the information available on their website, you can email the podcast platforms’ advertising team, who will provide you with that information.

After gathering this data, I assessed the best ads forSkill Up. Fortunately, before I joined HubSpot, my manager had already run ads on podcast listening platforms — which meant I had data to reference to make more informed decisions.

If you haven’t run ads on a listening platform previously, I have good news for you: Ad placements range from $165 to $3,000, so even if you don’t have a large budget, you can likely still experiment with these types of ads.

Lesson 3: Episode-specific promotions are incredibly effective.

Within my marketing plan for the launch of season six, I focused on promotions that announced the upcoming season.

The season was comprised of five episodes that were released over the span of three weeks, so it made sense to drive awareness towards the new episodes. The podcast ad copy read something along the lines of, “A new season ofSkill Up is here!”

Towards the end of the season, however, it didn’t make sense to announce the season anymore. Instead, I created episode-specific promotions.

In comparison to the show promotions, the episode highlights resonated better with audiences and increased our conversions through distribution channels, such as email.

Here’s an example:

HubSpot’s Skill Up podcast presents … “How a Sales Manager at LinkedIn Builds a Buyer-first Selling Strategy”

What’s the best selling strategy in 2021? Kwesi Graves, Sales Manager at LinkedIn, champions the “buyer-first selling” methodology, which prioritizes quality over quantity, emphasizes the importance of the buyer’s context, and encourages his team of reps to spend more time researching than reaching out. If you’re a manager, sales leader, or rep looking to transform how you sell in 2021, this is a great place to start! Listen now:

Episode-specific advertisements also performed much better than season advertisements. Unfortunately, however, most podcast listening platforms don’t allow episode-specific advertisements.

There is one that does: PlayerFM. Our episode-specific ads on PlayerFM outperformed all our other ad campaigns. Hopefully, more podcast platforms will eventually offer the same.

While I wouldn’t say these initiatives are revolutionary, they were incredibly effective for us. Our team is on an exciting journey where experimentation and innovation are key to success.

For any podcast marketers in the industry — This is just the beginning.

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