Why SMEs Should Incorporate Branded Podcasts Into Their Marketing Strategy - (Podcast Transcript)
Updated: Aug 18
This is the third and final episode in a series of podcasts exploring future trends and challenges within the marketing and digital communications industry. While previous episodes were a bit doom and gloom, today's subject is a tad lighter.
In this episode, we will explore the future trend of branded podcasting, its many benefits, and how businesses currently use them.
While podcasts are not the cutting edge of modernity in marketing, branded podcasting represents a low-risk new take on the method that plays to SME owners' strengths while contributing ancillary benefits.
Firstly, it does seem apropos to acknowledge that things have all gone a bit meta with this episode. Yes, it might seem strange for a small business owner to be releasing a podcast discussing podcasts for small business owners, but hopefully, it will make the point without over-egging the custard.
Podcast listening has seen continual year-on-year solid growth. In the UK alone, the estimated number of podcast listeners has expanded from 8.9M in 2017 to a predicted 28.1 M by 2026 (Statista 2022).
There are many theories for the cause of such growth, for example, the increase of audio within social media platforms or the utilisation of audio within technology such as smart speakers and voice assistants (García-Estévez & Cartes-Barroso 2022). Research conducted by YouGov (2022) also observed an inverse correlation between the growth in podcast listening and the decline of radio listeners, citing a potential behaviour change brought on during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Whatever the reason, the advertising industry has not missed this trend, with European podcast advertising spending seeing 813% growth since 2018 (Statitsa 2022).
Businesses are also adopting this trend by generating audio content to increase
brand recognition and engagement with their customer base (García-Estévez & Cartes-Barroso 2022), a technique known as ‘branded podcasting.’ Branded podcasts are distinct from businesses running advertising on existing podcasts. Instead, form part of a broader content marketing strategy which entails generating and sharing content that consumers find valuable to create preferential customer behaviour towards a brand (WARC 2016).
Research conducted by BBC Global News (2019) revealed branded podcasts to be very effective. By Incorporating data from 2.5 thousand global respondents, the report found that the informality of branded podcasts nurtured positive engagement, awareness, consideration, favorability, and purchase intent from listeners, including ad avoiders.
A recent study into the use of branded podcasting by businesses in Spain and Latin America (García-Estévez & Cartes-Barroso 2022) found that despite the biggest takeup being from large businesses and multinationals, branded podcasts were effective across all business categories, with notable exemplars from small businesses.
eBays ‘Open for Business Podcast (2017) is a relevant example of this trend. Each episode explores topics and educates listeners on building a business, preferably on their platform.
A comparatively less attractive example, but just as efficacious, is that of Valiant Boilers (2023). Created to aid boiler installers in every element of their lives, episodes range from installing heat pumps to mental health (Valiant 2023).
Chance to be heard
One theory for the potential benefits of branded podcasts could be a first-mover advantage. In a recent interview, Neil Patel (2023), the founder of NP Digital, asserted to be witnessing a noticeable increase in the takeup of podcasting by business clients, declaring the method to offer untapped business potential. Patel (2023) cites the disparity between the number of podcasts and the over-saturation of online blogs as evidence of less competition and a chance to be heard.
When researching this episode, the estimated current number of podcasts to is 4.2 million (Podcastindustryinsights 2023), and the estimated total number of blogs in 2022 was 600 million (WebTribunal (2022). While both figures lack precise numerical values, they likely represent a broader trend.
Moreover, when 1,275 global marketers surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute (2022) were asked the types of content they had produced in the last 12 months, 83% stated short articles and blog posts, but only 23% stated podcasts. While these findings lack the specificity of industry or business size, the macro trend does support Patel's (2023) assertions and poses a potential opportunity for SMEs to take advantage of.
A study comparing the relationship between the skill sets of marketing graduates and SME owners revealed a perception among SME owners that marketing represented additional cost in an environment of limited funds (Cheng & Resnick. 2016).
This anxiety is aknowldged by marketing consultant Dave Chaffey (2023), who suggest suggests small businesses prioritise free or low-cost channels to counter financial constraints.
Writing in Smart Insights, Lilach Bullock (2019) explains that podcasting does not entail vast sums of money and that the only investment is the initial outlay for recording apparatus and the time of the business. This statement is supported by Niel Patel (2023), who explains that the limited expenditure on equipment and editing has not negatively affected listeners.
Considering the financial constraints of SMEs, branded podcasts represent a low-cost solution. For example, apart from the investment of time in researching this episode, it was recorded using a Blue Yetty microphone that can be bought for £110 pounds and edited using Podcastle, which is free.
One task to rule them all
In a recent article for the IPA, Lysette Jones (2023) explains that the growth of broadcast channels and social media has brought about the era of ‘Fragmented Fame’, leaving broad-reach marketing as the reserve of large brands.
Jones (2023) asserts that there is an opportunity for small brands to use the situation to their advantage and escape the small-size trap explored in episode one.
Within her article, Jones (2023) has included a figure demonstrating funnel examples that you can see in the show notes. One depicts a large ‘catch-all funnel leading to a large business, and the second, four smaller funnels leading to a small business.
This technique can be ascribed to omnichannel marketing, an approach where businesses grant customers access to their services on all platforms and channels (HubSpot 2023).
Branded podcasting serves as an ideal contribution to this method using a content pyramid where the podcast is a pillar document, which can then be transcribed into blogs, cut into short quotes, or audio clips to be used across social media.
Given that, 86% of SME owners would rather spend time on any activity other than marketing (Outbound Engine 2019), this poses an excellent solution for marketing activity to be batched to weekend and then repurposed in the subsequent weeks.
Playing to Strengths
An additional study finding of Cheng & Resnick (2016) revealed a distinct preference from SME owners to personally embody the business’s marketing and a sense that more general marketing tactics undermined the unique industry knowledge SME owners have or offer (Cheng & Resnick 2016).
While this trait poses challenges for the marketing industry, as explored in episode one, it can potentially be an asset for branded podcasting. For example, in a recent article for The Drum (2022) discussing branded podcasts with industry experts, Daniel Liddle (2022), SEO lead at Impression, stated that branded podcasts offer brands the prospect of flaunting their expertise and converting customers into fans. This sentiment is supported by Lilach Bullock (2019) from Smart Insights, who emphasises that proof of knowledge and skills are the hallmarks of a successful branded podcast.
This poses an opportunity for SME owners to play to their strengths by focusing on their unique knowledge of their industry and customer needs; they can create engaging content by essentially being themselves,
At this point, It is essential to acknowledge that much of the current literature on branded podcasts is anecdotal and industry-specific. For example, the same study into the use of branded podcasting in Spain and Latin America (García-Estévez & Cartes-Barroso 2022) concluded that the medium was still in its infancy and pointed out that the recent interest from agencies and production companies had not translated into rigorous academic research and was limiting factor in their findings.
While this highlights the need for more research into branded podcasts, it could also infer the opportune timing for businesses to embrace the trend. The absence of sufficient data poses difficulty in placing branded podcasts within the ‘diffusion of innovation curve’, but it could also imply the medium it has yet to reach its Zenith.
Management consultant firm Mkinsey (2022) defines innovation as “ the systematic practice of developing and marketing breakthrough products and services for adoption by customers” While podcasting is undoubtedly not a new phenomenon, employing branded podcasts as part of a content marketing strategy is showing early signs of success.
In this episode, we have explored that while there is insufficient data to categorically confirm that branded podcasting is a surefire strategy for SMEs to employ, the medium is showing early signs of success. The unique industry knowledge and informal delivery required to produce compelling branded podcasts are a great parring with the distinctive nature SME owners have to offer.
I cannot guarantee a branded podcasting will be a success for SMEs, but for the sake of a weekend’s work and the cost of a microphone, it is a risk worth taking, as is evident in my recording of today's episode.
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