Podcasts have become the most efficient safe haven of free speech these days. But when attracting sponsors to your show, you may have to review your topics and the way you approach your entire production. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard present practical tips on getting the right sponsorship for your podcast. They explain how to design your show structure according to your target sponsors, the optimal areas to put ad rolls in your episodes, and why you should always be consistent in releasing your work. Tom and Tracy also talk about the best sponsorship types that can help maximize your impact and the tremendous value small sponsors can bring to your podcast.
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Effective Ways To Make Your Show Attractive To Sponsors
We want to talk about effective ways to make your show attractive to sponsors. Tracy, that is a pretty important but I think a pretty big topic. We want to make sure we don’t go off on all kinds of tangents, but it is important.
I’ve read a Podnews report that was talking about how 68% of podcasters want to make money off of their show, and their number one way is via advertising. The reality is that 90% of that 68% don’t have a show that will ever be capable of taking sponsors. I don’t mean that to be mean. It’s that you didn’t strategically set your show up properly from the beginning.
In order to fix this, you’re going to have to do a tremendous amount of work on the other side of that. That’s where we get into this place of, if this is your goal, even if you think you could change your mind later and say, “I’m never going to take sponsors.” We never take sponsors on any of our shows except for one.
Out of all the six shows I’ve done, only one ever took sponsors, but it was formatted and strategically made for that. That was its purpose. Thinking about that like, if you’re going to set up your show and this is your goal, then you better make sure you’re not doing some no-nos. You’re doing some things that are going to make sure that those sponsors won’t like it later. Now, you’re going to have to clean up and fix your show to make that happen.
You end up setting up some obstacles for you to achieve your goal unknowingly a lot of the time.
For those of you who are investors out there or go out there and are selling companies or buying companies, you’ve heard of something called, “Hair on the deal.” You probably heard that term before. That’s what this is. This is stuff that is going to get in the way to make an easy objection for someone to say, “No, I don’t want to sponsor you.”
If that’s your goal, you don’t want to do it. I do think we should preface this conversation saying that the vast majority of podcasts that are business-oriented, related to a business, and service to a business in any way can make a lot more money selling what they’re in business to do or something related to that a whole lot faster and make a lot more money than you can with third-party sponsors. If it’s your goal and you have an audience that grows to be large enough that it would be attractive to third-party sponsors, you need to pay attention to what we’re going to share with you in this episode.
Here’s the thing. You’re not going to like some of this advice. I’m going to be straight with you about it. You’re not going to like it and it’s going to fly in the face of other experts on what they tell you to do. It is not the same advice that we would give social media influencers. If you are trying to be a social media influencer, it’s a completely different model here.
Podcasting and social media don’t work in the same way. Sponsored posts, sponsored products, affiliates. It’s just a different model than it is here in long tail content in podcasting. The advice we’re giving you here doesn’t apply in those other places. Please don’t take it that way. Our number one area is that, if you make this all about you, you will have to work ten times harder.
That is going to be hard for a lot of people to accept or realize that they’re in the way themselves, potentially.
If you make it The Tracy Show, I have to do all the heavy lifting. I will have to do 10 times the download numbers and 10 times the proof that my show is worth advertising on. I haven’t let the market, the topic, and the keywords do the heavy lifting for me. I have to prove my value in a particular niche or particular area.
If you think you’re being general and that it is all about you, that’s the way social media influencership works. It’s like, “I want Kim Kardashian to advertise my stuff. It doesn’t matter because whatever Kim says sells.” That’s a different model than trying to build this thought leadership and expertise in a niche in an area. You don’t have to work as hard.
I have to get millions of listeners to compete against Joe Rogan, but I don’t have to publish a podcast in the podcasting space, the real estate space, and the financial management space. I don’t have to do it. Let the market and the topic do the heavy lifting for you. That means, get your face off your cover art and your name off your show.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said that for a hundred other reasons, no one likes to hear this and I still see that happen again. You are making your work harder for you. Everything that you want to accomplish is going to be twice as hard. The statistics say this, when I look at the shows that have been sponsored. True sponsorship, not that generic sponsorship you get because you enrolled in a platform, and then they just drop ads on stream on the front. It’s someone who truly sponsors a show.Let the market and your topic do the heavy lifting for your podcast. Get your face and name off your cover art and show name to avoid making the work harder for you. Click To Tweet
What you’re talking about is programmatic ads, we’re not talking about that because they’ll put those on any show and you pay very little for it. We’re talking about specifically sponsoring your show.
When we talk about that and look at the numbers, what we clearly see is that your numbers have to be ten times higher. They have to be so much higher than the average show on another hand. You’re not even matching within your niche. Your requirement is set up there at a high network level. That means you’re going to have to do a lot more marketing, advertising, and listener gathers.
You have to have a listener increase program. You’re going to have to keep that up. That is a lot more work than being just a great show to be associated with. That’s a whole lot easier to ask. We had great sponsorships and download numbers, but it was not millions when we did our 3D print show. We were at a maximum of 100,000 a month.
That’s total downloads across all episodes in that month, which is another key factor I’m going to talk about in a minute. That’s the structure of your show where it’s hosted and what you do with it matters. In this particular case, it’s 100,000 downloads a month to reach someone who’s actively interested in 3D printing. We used to convert at 37% for calls to action from our sponsors.
They loved it. It was the cheapest and best-converting advertising they could get, and they didn’t need millions to get the results that they wanted. That’s what you’re looking for. That’s what we’ll do better. In that, get your name, get your face, keep your value structured into that category and industry, and let that do the heavy lifting of value for you. You want to go on to the next one, Tom?
Let’s do it. Let’s hear with the next one is.
Let’s talk structure. Let’s talk length.
Length of episode. That does have a big impact on your attractiveness to sponsors. Do you think if you have a show called Five Minute Marketing, you got a lot of real estate, a lot of time there to have, and a lot of sponsors, and you’ll meet your audience?
No, your sponsorship ads would be longer than the episode.
They could be.
There’s a reason Joe Rogan’s show is 90 minutes to 2 hours. You can put more ads in there. They can make more money. Any YouTube influencer will tell you that if you want to increase your income on YouTube, have a longer show. This is the same case in podcasting. You don’t need to have a 1-hour or 2-hour-long show.
You don’t need to do that in the beginning, but have a reasonable length show for the amount of ads that you would like to take in the future. We like 45 minutes to 55 minutes, right around there. It’s perfect to run three ads in a show. You can have three sponsors in every single show. That’s a pretty good amount without overwhelming your listeners.
If you’ve got a 15 to 20-minute show, probably realistically don’t want to burden your listeners with more than one ad spot.
If you do post roll ad spot, so right before your outro, it’s a giveaway where a lot of people skip, so it’s not as highly valued. The only spot you have is that that pre-roll.
Pre-roll or something in the middle where there’s still content left and it’s obviously not the end of the show, but you there’s only so much space.
Length matters, and then show style format. As Tom was just talking about, having natural breaks in where these ads can go. Mid-roll ads do well. They’re some of the best. If I want to do a mid-roll ad, I’ve got to have a natural break in my show. My show, The Binge Factor, is structured like this even though I never take ads on it. I do an introduction to my guest, there’s a natural break for an ad, then the guest interview would happen, then there’s a natural break after that before I do my closing comments. Everyone wants to hear that because it’s my takeaways. They’re going to come back for it. They’ll listen through that last ad.
I have natural places to have two mid-roll ads, and I could still run a pre-roll and post-roll if I wanted to make an announcement or do something separate. I have those as places with the understanding that there may be people who skip both those spots, but it’s structured to have that in place. One other thing that I want to suggest here. For those of you who use Podetize or who planned your spots already, marking those spots at the time you record or edit your episode is essential.
You should know exactly the timestamp that those spots happen in. Our system automatically captures that for you, so you just program it in, it’s there, it stays for it. When you’re ready to use an ad system, it’s all set and ready. It is so much less work to pick up your socks at the time you dropped them than it is to pick up every sock off the ground later. I can’t imagine going back and doing 100 episodes.
We’ve seen people who have to do that because they weren’t thinking about this ad spots. I want you to prepare from the beginning. If you know that that’s the spot you want it in, mark it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to have an editor insert them for you, or you’re going to do them through an ad insertion system like we have on Podetize, these spot marking matters.
Just to plus what you were saying, Tracy. As you go one episode at a time, at the time you’re setting it up and scheduling it to publish or going to go and publish it immediately, that’s when you would mark the ad spots in the system, doing that one episode at a time. If you have a new show you’re launching, you do it from the beginning, from episode one.
You never have to think about it again. You may not have any ads you want to put in there for a year. When you’re ready to, you don’t have to go and have that pain of, “I have 50 or 75 episodes that I have to go back and mark ad spots before I can do it.” It becomes an obstacle to getting it done. If you’ve had a show for a while and you never had ad spots, you’re going to have to go back and mark all those spots, but it is a one-time pain. It’s a little easier if you do it as you go.
We can help you with that. If you’re one of our clients who’s on the Zoom call with us and this is your problem, we’ve been marking you all along.
You probably don’t even know it because our audio team always does naturally give us some time stamps for, “Here would be good spots for ads, if you want to do it.” We likely have been marking it for you, even if you haven’t been using that.
If you came in and you’d already had 100 episodes or something, we likely didn’t do those, but we can. Just contact us and we’ll be happy to help you with that. Those are important. This is thinking about this. The next most important thing as a part of this show structure that we’re talking about is being careful about whether or not you make the determination of being explicit.
It is a determination. It’s a choice that you’re making. Whether or not you have editing take out that, beep it, or you want to be natural, we get that. Will sponsors want to be associated with it? Maybe if you’re in the crypto space or you’re in a space where you’re speaking to adults, it’s not going to matter. That’s okay.
For the most part, we find that sponsors don’t want to be associated with certain types of topics. They call it negative brand association. They don’t want negative brand association in certain areas like violence, guns, swearing, porn. Even having topics and discussions on that may be a consideration that you block those episodes from advertisements.
That’s something that we built into our system for that purpose so that you could continue to have the conversation, especially if you’re conversing around it. We did an episode on 3D print guns. It was an appropriate episode to discuss what they were about. We wouldn’t want to put an advertiser in a position of thinking that they were associated with that.
Even though the topic wouldn’t have a negative, it would be a positive. They had been associated with it. It’s different premise. You may need to think these things through. Think about controversial topics that are going to preclude you from sponsors. Not that you don’t go and address them, but you address them and then you block them from ads.
When they launch their podcast, especially when they realize podcast is this wonderful safe haven of free speech, you’re right. You could say anything you want. It’s your show. You can take those topics down any rabbit hole you want. You can talk about anything. When it comes to being attractive to sponsors, you may have to realize there may be some third rail topics that could get in your way.
The last piece of this style section of how your show is structured is, you had better be darn consistent and constant about it. Skipping a week destroys your statistics.
When did we talk about this, Tracy? We had a podcaster who is all about, “I want to find some sponsors. It’s not worth it to me to keep podcasting unless I have sponsors.”
They then stop their show for a month.
They stop their show because they want to wait until they have sponsors. That is the worst thing you could do because you’re showing that sponsor you’re not serious, not consistent, and not reliable.
You’ve destroyed your stats in one month. In our new scoring system in PodListR, this is going to be magnified even more. Having inconsistencies in your show and not planned purposeful seasons, that’s a little bit different model. Having inconsistencies in your show like that are more harmful than your download numbers.
This is such a critical factor to ongoing value creation in your community, in your topic, and in staying apart of the thought leadership. Everything that you want to accomplish is accomplished by consistency and constant. That being said, if you want to boost yourself up and get ready for sponsors, what could you do to make that happen faster?
The single most direct and simplest thing you can do to guarantee you will double your monthly download numbers leading up to in advance of taking on a sponsor or pitching a sponsor. This is so simple and it’s so often overlooked. Double the number of episodes you publish within a month. Instead of doing 1 a week, make it 2 a week.
You have X amount of subscribers who are listening to you every month. You double the number of episodes you publish. Instantly in that next month, that doubles the number of downloads in your show. It is simple math. X times two equals twice what you were doing, X being what you had before. It’s so simple.
This is our key. When we had 100,000 downloads a month, we were beating out everyone in the 3D print category because they were doing 1 show a week and we were doing 5. We had 20x, that’s why we had 100,000 downloads a month.
Even though we had probably about 10,000 regular listeners between everything we were doing. The sponsors don’t scrutinize how many listeners you have because there’s no way to prove that. There is no metric in the podcast ecosystem for how many subscribers you have. In order to determine that, you have to estimate that and you can make an educated guess on that to analyzing the data. What is of more interest to a sponsor? It isn’t how many listeners, but how many impressions and times are my ads going to be played for listeners? That is closest to the number of downloads you get per month.
You get to say, “Not only are my downloads at this.” Show them it. Be transparent about it. Share your stats. Show your screen. When you’re talking to a sponsor, be honest about it. Show them where your downloads are, but show them the increase.
In that run up to you, pitching you to sponsors, you say, “Look at the trend.” They’re not going to scrutinize it and realize, “You published 1 a week back then, and now you’re publishing 2 a week. That’s responsible for the trend?” They’re not going to look at it that specifically. They’re not going to understand that. They’re just going to see the increase, the trend up, and the number of impressions and opportunities for people to hear their message.
This is one of the great ways to prep up your podcast and get it ready for sponsors. Don’t take a hiatus. Go double down. That’s what we’re saying here. This is why a lot of this stuff we’re talking about is not popular. You all want to hear like, “I’ll just wait until I get a sponsor.” I can’t tell you how many times people will say that to me and I’d be like, “You’re not serious. I wouldn’t sponsor you in a minute.”
Story is one way to describe it, but case study on our primary podcast. We took ads at the 3D print podcast. We did it for years. We had over 600 episodes. It had a certain amount of inherent value, steady plays, and Google search value that Hewlett-Packard saw because they were trying to knock us off the first page of Google search. For certain terms, they couldn’t do it. We hadn’t been publishing in over a year, and they came to us and said, “Can we sponsor your show?” Tracy’s like, “You realize we’re not publishing anymore, don’t you?” They say, “Yeah, we know that but we can’t get you off.”
We never once had a conversation on download numbers. They never once asked for that.
They knew they couldn’t get us off the first page of Google search for certain terms, so they took the approach, “Instead of beating them, let’s join them. “Would you do a 25-episode special series? Can we sponsor you to do that?” It was a number that was worth our while. We said, “We’ll do that.” We revived the show, did a special series, and they got tremendous value out of that.
Luck would have it that we were about to drop the series when the pandemic started. It was perfect timing for them. We dropped it in June of 2020, and they had a a tremendous amount of webinar traffic from it. It is exactly what they needed and wanted at the time because they couldn’t sell their printers anywhere else. They were all prepped up, but we made a choice there.
I was very straightforward and honest with them about the results that they would get. We had this 25-episode series. We could drip it out over 25 weeks, or we could drop it all at once, or we could drop it in a certain time period. What we determined to do was drop about 3 to 4 episodes a week, and we did that for a month and a half.
We did it that way because it allowed them to promote the episodes in a pace that they could handle. It boosted that immediate download numbers and got a lot more visibility to the webinars that were happening at the time, so there was a lot greater traction. We made a choice based on an understanding of when we drop more, we get more.
My only reason in bringing that up is to point out there are benefits that come from preparing and doing this. Having normal regular publishing and sponsorship over a period of time can pay off and still benefit you even after you’ve stopped publishing regularly. You can’t count on that early on. That was a benefit of doing what we were suggesting to you here in this episode, all those preparations and steps providing all that value to sponsors. There’s a certain amount of equity that builds in your show through your website and as a podcast that has real value people will pay for later.
That’s an important structural piece as well to end this section of structurally how you’re doing it. By having multimedia, video, audio, blog, and social share, you’re covering the gamut of the industry and topic areas, and you’re creating residual values in each one of those pieces and areas. As you’ve known before, we put out that Google for content creators.By having video, audio, blog, and social shares for your podcast, you’re creating residual values everywhere. Click To Tweet
We put out their stats on that blog and podcasts last longer than video. Video lasts longer than any version of social media. All of those pieces in there go hand in hand with long-term value creation. I’m going to suggest also to you. Structurally, when you do not have a real blog component and website component, not some kind of pod page, podcast website, or a website page that is at your hosting company for your podcast. That’s not a real website. You have a real website that’s topic focused, that’s not too business focused. Keep that in mind. It’s not all about selling your course, it’s not a landing page. It is about this topic area and being a thought leader in a space.
We’ve talked about companies that have that. You can be a company there, but you can still have a valuable website. We had to have design, we had our podcast in that site, and it was valuable in and of itself. We weren’t overly selling our services. They were available there, but it wasn’t front and center. The content was front and center. When you do that, you make yourself more conducive to sponsors as well.
More importantly, you have a way and you can create a simple mechanism for a clickthrough following and making sure that you’re tracking the conversion rates of what’s happening on your ads. You’re already set up to be able to create forwarding URLs. Create all the things that you might need. Create tracking links to be able to do that structurally to help your sponsor understand the value that you created for them from the audio show. Those that do audio only, you got to rely on a sponsor who knows what they’re doing. That’s difficult right then and there.
The last thing, the third section of it is, how am I going to tee up these sponsors? How am I going to invite that conversation when I am ready, when they’re ready, and when they’re starting to see me? There’s no reason you can’t start early. We interviewed MakerBot early on in our 3D print show. We interviewed them extremely early. We didn’t ask for sponsorship from day one.
We said, “We’re here to talk about the industry.” We didn’t talk about you, talk with you, interview your team, get to know what you’re working on and doing, and be an opportunity for you to discuss with this community what you’re working on. We didn’t create a place and an environment for that. We didn’t create the opportunity for us to have the conversation about sponsorship later.
We never had to have the conversation of, “Would you sponsor us?” They would come to us and go, “We’re thinking about podcast sponsor and you’re the only podcasting company that we’ve gone to. You’re the only podcast we’ve come to first.” It’s because we had already served them by having the conversation.
That’s what I was just about to emphasize. “Serve first. Provide value first.” We were the first podcast they thought of because they got a lot of value out of that one episode. They got a social media boost. They got people inquiring about the products they were selling because of the exposure.
They were seeing links through from the blog post to their site for inquiries.
They say, “That’s what we got for one episode. What happens if we are on all of their episodes in 1 given month or 2?” That’s the natural thing that they realize. If it doesn’t happen that way where they come to you, you’ve certainly warmed them up. They know who you are. They’re going to take your call. They’re going to respond to your email because you provided them value before.
It makes that segue conversation into, “We have an opening for sponsorship on our show coming up, and it’s a unique opportunity. Would you be interested in that?” They don’t have to know that you don’t just have one spot available. In fact, you have all your spots available because you don’t have any other sponsors. They don’t have to know that.
They honestly won’t listen to your show. Chances are good.
You want to be careful to remain in integrity, but you don’t have to volunteer every piece of information about your company that you’ve never had a sponsor before. You need to sell it, but that’s a whole another episode.
Also, demonstrate the value you gave them. You have this episode and say, “This was in the top 10% of my episodes.” You got traction from that. You should Google Analytics from your website of how many people click through from that page on a regular basis of where you’re ranking on the first page of Google from the blog post for that episode.
Through so many pieces of valuable information, you can already demonstrate that you’ve given them from that free publicity and from being a guest on your show. It makes it easier to have the conversation for the value. It doesn’t make it such an unknown. We were dealing at a time when no one had been advertised from the point that you’ve demonstrated value to a single potential sponsor.
Remember also that a lot of those sponsors aggregate at conferences. Supporting the event organizers is essential. Also, creating value with event organizers, and then showing up at those events, maybe doing more publicity onsite and being the podcaster onsite. Doing some of those things are a great way to network and show value to a community, and seem like you are the media player within that community. When they think, “I’d like to sponsor,” they’re going to logically come back to you, but also they’re ripe to that conversation in the future because you’ve built that networking opportunity. Whitetail Rendezvous was one of our clients a while ago. They stopped their show, but it was all in deer hunting.
Specifically, white-tailed deer hunting. Before this show came to us for support, I didn’t even know that was a thing, but it is. There’s a huge community of hunters in North America that focus on hunting white-tailed deer.
There is all this equipment, strategy, and pieces. They would go to trade shows. They would network with all of those people there. They would feature some of their products and stuff on a show. The next thing you know, they would get a sponsor. It really led to a flow-through that was logical. Here again, going back in time to what we said at the beginning, when we are looking at a show that is focused on a topic area, that’s of great interest for a sponsor to reach. It does all the heavy lifting for him, then it’s like, The Joe Hunter Show. It wasn’t about him. It was about white-tailed deer hunting. That makes a huge difference in being ripe and ready, and they were taking ads early on.
Very successfully, for sure. That is such a really good point. One thing I think everybody needs to understand is this. If you’ve got a show that has enough listenership in a niche area where your audience is easily identified and it’s very clear what your typical listeners’ interests are, believe me, there are so many companies on this earth, especially in North America that are dying to find ways to reach more of their ideal customers. If you can demonstrate that their customer is listening to your show, they’re going to do it.
They might even take the risk without even clearly knowing it. Our show’s all about 3D printing, we have listeners. They must be that, but they didn’t care whether they were 14 years old, 40 years old, or 90 years old. They didn’t care because their interest is what mattered.
One example, we have a customer that has a sports-related podcast. we knew of this clothing brand that was having success advertising on podcasts. It was a men’s clothing brand. This sports podcast predominantly had male listeners and we matched them up. For about a year, they sponsored that podcast. We just matched them up because it made sense. It was pretty easy and they each got value out of it. That’s the wonderful thing. More companies are realizing the opportunity in advertising on podcasts, but you still have to have enough listenership. That show had about 30,000-plus plays a month.
You don’t have to have millions.
You don’t necessarily need that many. You don’t have to have hundreds of thousands or even millions. There are niche advertising opportunities for smaller companies. Everybody’s looking for, “How do we get found by more of our ideal customers? How do we raise awareness of our brand to more of our target profile customers?”
Here’s the other key that you all are overlooking. When you have big-name sponsors and you go for those millions of listeners. Coca-Cola or Amazon is not out there saying, “We sponsor the do The Joe Smith Show.” They’re not out there saying that. They’re counting on your show to do all the work. When you get a small sponsor who’s proud of being partnered with you, and who’s using that, they’re more likely to promote your show on their social media.Get small sponsors for your podcast who are proud to partner with you. They are more likely to promote your show on their social media. Click To Tweet
When we had an HP sponsor, they posted our episodes for six weeks straight. At the Hewlett-Packard level, we got exposure to our show. What we found was months later, we were still getting binge listeners listening through our whole 650 catalog. It was crazy numbers that we saw a boost afterward. You’re going to get listeners from doing sponsorship partners. It works better when they’re smaller or when you have a special partnership, and not just a generic. Again, this goes back to this idea. That market, industry, and niche can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Prepping into that and diving into that can be really valuable.
Be prepared. That’s the message.
Think about this. Prepare. If you don’t want it later, what a great thing to say, “I had my show as perfect, and now it’s the perfect sponsorship for me. It’s selling my step.” It’s all prepared. They’re the same kind of ideas and models, just a little bit different. You could say, “I don’t want to take outside advertisers because I can advertise my own stuff in such a better way.”
It’s a good place to wrap this episode up, Tracy. Thanks so much for tuning in, everybody. We’ll be back next time with another great topic.