How do you find the perfect timing to advertise on your podcast? Is it right off the bat? Or is it after a few episodes in? We take a stab at answering these questions and more as Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard dissect podcast advertising. They look at several factors that podcast hosts need to keep in mind when it comes to monetization. Tom and Tracy also share insights and their own experiences with promos and advertising. Get ahead your podcasting game with strategies from the best in the business.
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The Perfect Timing To Sell On Your Podcast Episode Without Sounding Too Salesy
We’re going to be talking about what’s the perfect timing to sell on your podcast episode without sounding salesy or without sounding too salesy as the case may be. Is there a perfect time? What is that perfect time? If you’re podcasting somehow in alignment with what you do professionally or in business, you would be interested in this. If you’ve got a passion project, some other purpose and maybe you don’t want to sell anything on your podcasts, then maybe this isn’t an episode you’re going to be too interested in, although you may be still curious, so let’s talk about that.
Is there a perfect time? I can tell you there’s a less perfect time.
There are better times. In terms of black and white thinking, is this an absolute right or wrong? Maybe not.
There’s a lot of bad advice out there and that’s what I’d like to address first and foremost. There are a lot of people out there who are out there giving advice, some “podcasts gurus” who think that they understand podcasting, but they’re applying funnel or email tactics or some other digital marketing to podcasting and they think they have all the answers. The reality is that if you don’t understand podcast listeners and specifically your listeners and subscribers, those tactics can hurt you over the long run.
That’s what we’re here is. Remember we said this time and time again, podcasting is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It is a long tail marketing tool. Unless you treat it with respect and treat your subscribers and listeners with that same respect, they’re going to be around tomorrow, the next day, and they’re going to binge on you and listen to all the things you have to say in the future.
If you’re not respecting that and you’re going for the quick win, quick hit, quick sales, quick process right at this moment, you may lose out more in the long run. I want to point out that this advice that we’re giving here is counter to those who are using it for the wrong reasons or the misunderstanding of what it is like to be a long-term podcaster.
I’d like to say something to frame up this discussion for those of you that don’t know because this show has a lot of newer podcasters that read it. In case you’re not aware, more than 65%, 66% are the latest numbers that I’ve seen of podcast listeners, your audience or listeners, don’t mind listening to ads or promotions in the podcast as long as they’re enjoying your content. They’ve opted into it. They want to listen to each next episode or they wouldn’t have subscribed. You’re providing them value in that show of some kind. They don’t mind listening to ads. If that’s what you want to do or need to do to keep providing them that value, that’s okay.
There are better ways to do it than others and we should talk about that a little bit. Tom’s is right. They want your content and if it requires them to listen to a few ads in the process, then they’re comfortable with that because it’s free content. They understand that that’s the consequence of free content.
Before we get into where some of the best places or ways to do that in your episode, what’s one of the worst places to do it?
Getting Your Timing Right
I don’t want to talk about places. I want to talk about timing instead because that’s what we’re here to talk about. Let’s talk about how soon you should be placing ads once you start your show. The worst advice out there that came from that place. Those gurus out there believe that you should be placing ads from the moment you start your show. That means in episode one, you should have some promotion ad or call to action and it should be right up front in your show. That’s the other part of the advice, which we’ll talk about as our second focus topic to answer and where you were going, Tom.
The issue that we see again and again is that people test out a show. If you’re putting in your introductory episode where I’m learning about your show, already chock-full of ads and promotions, and you selling stuff hard upfront and throughout, I’m less likely to give your show a chance beyond that episode. We do not recommend episode 1 or 0, your trailer or anything like that having any promotion beyond, “I’m an expert in this and here’s my website,” or what’s in your normal outro. That is all that should be in that episode. It should be blocked from ads completely.
If you’re streaming or on any other hosts besides Podetize that puts ads in your show, you won’t have an option to do that. We have an option to block that out and this is why we built it. It’s one of the main reasons we built it and other sensitive topics that you want to be able to talk about, but you don’t want ads on either because it’s sensitive and personal. It seems crass to have an ad in there.
That first episode is a critical testing point for someone who doesn’t know you yet and if they want to give your show a chance. You want to attract that listener and you want to get them in. If you are starting your first episode with all of those advertisements, promotions and pushy sales, you are turning them off before they have even given you a chance. We don’t want to make that mistake.
How Many Episodes Do You Need?
Some people would advocate for not having any ads in their first 10, 12 episodes, maybe even 20 episodes. You want to provide value and establish credibility with your listeners, especially at the beginning of the podcast, which you may not want to do until further down the road.
That’s my position and that’s why I’m a bigger fan of that because I do see that it has a long-term, faster-growth, residual value to your show. Those that don’t start out with ads but go through anywhere from 10 to 25 episodes depend on the number of months, times, or weeks. If you’re doing more per week, you earn that faster. If not, it’s that six months. That could be a little bit extended. If you give them what is the equivalent of three months, whatever that might be or if you are doing a daily show, I believe you earn that faster and they see that. If you do five days a week or more, you earn that pretty much in 30 days.
When you hit 25 episodes, that could be your mark. If you’re doing it more frequently or give yourself 90 days, that’s 12 weeks. If you started with 3 and ended 1 a week, you’re anywhere between 12 and 15 episodes or somewhere in there. Those are good time periods to say, “I’ve devoted myself to the audience, concentrating on my content creation, less on my advertisements and now I’ve earned the right to start promoting.” That’s good.
That’s also another reason why we built Podetize the way we did so that you could insert ads later. After you’ve earned the right, you’re continuing to go and a good binge listener or subscriber looks at your show and says, “They’re doing weekly. They’re doing well. I’ve listened to that first episode and it’s awesome. It’s giving and it’s got everything that I could want on it.” They’re more willing to subscribe and then they’re not going to be put off by the fact that they subscribed and you’re already 25, 50 episodes in that those first ones have ads on them. They’re not going to think anything of that.
Aligning With Your Audience
To add a little point to that, as long as what you’re putting in your episodes for promotions or advertisements is in alignment with what you talk about or your listeners’ areas of interest or needs, that’s where it’s even better. They really don’t mind. In fact, if there’s something that interests them, they’re more likely to take the action that you suggest to them.
When you think about it, it shouldn’t be such a shocker why podcast listeners don’t mind listening to ads, where people watch television or listen to radio don’t like having to put up with ads at a much larger percentage and very few people don’t mind ads in that context. This all makes sense. It sounds like you’re saying you want to serve first and earn that right to be able to start making suggestions to your audience. That’s a nice way to put it.
It’s product service suggestions. Earn the right. What that defined is we clearly see that it takes time with podcasting. As we pointed out, we’re talking marathons. You have to go a few miles before you’ve earned the right to say, “I have a shot at making this and being there along with you and supporting you in this. I’ve earned the right to now share some options, resources and calls to action with you.” You’ve earned them right beyond that.Podcasting is not a sprint. It's a marathon. It is a long-tail marketing tool. Click To Tweet
There’s no saying you shouldn’t have an outro with a call to action. No one expects that you don’t have that in there. People want to know how to find you and want to know what you have in that process. If you’ve got a book, put it in the outro. Those are things that you’ve already earned the right to sell in general by being a podcast host. Those are part of your expertise and in establishing who and how I find you. That’s okay.
We’re talking about a lot of things at the beginning, which is where we see it go wrong. We’re talking about the beginning of your show. When you’re starting early on and you’re earning the right to it, but also the beginning of your episodes. Let’s get back to that timing question. This is where we see it go very badly for people because if you are using an auto insertion system, one of those streaming services, there are many of them out there like Megaphone, Captivate, Anchor, and Spotify.
They’re compounded by the fact that Spotify and others put ads on the front of them in addition. If you’re hosting through Megaphone, they’re inserting ads all at the beginning. Before your episode even starts, they’re inserting ads there. Spotify will stream ads in addition to that at the front of it for those that aren’t paid subscribers at a certain level on their platform using their listening apps. You might find and not realize it because you didn’t listen to your own episode posted through an app that there is two minutes’ worth of ads before your intro ever happens and that is a gigantic mistake right there.
Adding Value With Ads
I can’t even tell you how many prospective customers and then eventually even customers of ours that we’ve had that were on Megaphone and they were sold the idea that they would make money on their podcasts by being there because the episodes can be monetized with ads. They’re leaving that platform and looking for support because they’re so frustrated. I had a prospect show me an episode. They had three and a half minutes’ worth of ads at the very beginning before anybody even heard the first little bit of their show, even their prerecorded intro.
Ninety percent of those ads are irrelevant to the content of your show and you don’t get a say in whether or not they’re put there or not. There are very few platforms that allow projection. You have ads for things that don’t have any meaning to your listeners. They’re listening to three and a half minutes or trying to figure out how to skip three and a half minutes’ worth of ads, which isn’t always feasible in the way that some of us listen.
Some of us might listen while we’re working out or listen while we’re cooking or while I’m doing my makeup and doing my hair in the morning. Those are different things that I don’t have my hands free to figure out how to skip this, so it becomes not worth it to listen to your show if I’m going to have to put up with that every time.
If I haven’t gotten into it enough to know that there’s something of value here, to have all those ads upfront is very problematic. It’s creating a dissatisfaction level before I’ve ever even given your episode a full chance. That’s what we’re trying to avoid here. We’re trying to avoid people skipping your show and not going forward because these barriers are in the way of making them feel like you sold out and you don’t understand them because this is irrelevant, that you’re in it for the money is what this sounds like. The reality is there’s not enough money. That’s the point that I want to make. At the end of the day, if you made $100 off of Megaphone, you’d be amazing. I’d be shocked.
Especially as a new show without a large audience because those types of ads are paying you out based on the volume of listens. Unless you have a huge social following and very quickly have many listeners when you first start your show, you probably don’t have a whole lot. You’re not going to make much of anything. You sold out your show before you started and you didn’t get any value out of it. You turned off a lot of people from subscribing.
What we want is you to think about that long-term residual value. You are investing in your show and $100 back if you make that would be nice, but if it costs you hundreds of listeners over that month, then you’re not serving yourself any good. For us, for instance, on our show, if a podcaster listens and then comes to buy, they might be anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000 of value. Every single listener that gets turned off because of advertisements that might be appearing on our show does a huge detriment to the long-term return on investment value of our show.
We don’t want to do that unless we’re absolutely certain, this is our path. With iHeartRadio, this is their path. This is what they do. They create shows solely as vehicles for advertisements. They want to make every penny advertising. That’s what they’re doing, so they don’t care. They want to maximize that in every way. If you care and at the end of the day, you’re selling your core service as your business. Your expertise and you want to get on other stages, do other things, authority value, expertise value, business value for yourself in this, then advertising and especially all upfront at the beginning are not the way to go.As long as what you're putting in your episodes for promotions or advertisements is in alignment with what you talk about or in alignment with your typical listener's areas of interest or needs, they really don't mind. Click To Tweet
Entice Your Listeners
This is the other part that I want to say. Upfront also means right after your intro and before you get into any content. Even if you’re doing your own calls to action or own ads, going immediately from your intro into your own voice promo where you’re saying it yourself, that is too soon too. You want to entice them at least about what the episode’s about before you go into a promo.
A lot of times, people that do their show in one take and they don’t do it in different segments or maybe they’re recording it live as they are doing it, it may be more difficult to insert an ad upfront. If you’re going to do something where you record a little introduction, welcoming your audience and sharing what this episode is going to be about, maybe tease a little bit to something they’re going to be interested in and want to hang on for, you get them warmed up. “I’m looking forward to this,” then you could have one potential break for a short promotion.
They’re probably not going to switch off because of it. I’ve also seen some people who do that hook line at the beginning. They have a little audio clip of a highlight from later in the episode. Right up front, that’s the very first thing you hear, then maybe your prerecorded intro. If you do something like that, you’re building anticipation. You’re warming them up for what they’re going to get and they’re more likely to hang on.
Although, hook lines are in decline. That’s another episode that we probably need to do. There’s been a report that came out that hook line is in general, are declining in terms of stylistic use on podcasts. Part of the reason is because many people are doing video and audio. When you do video and audio, that hook line can sometimes look disjointed and it’s not always good.
I can see how it wouldn’t look as professional, not branded or some of those things, whereas, in audio, it’s an entirely different situation. If you could do it in audio, you’d have to be doing sophisticated enough production where your video doesn’t necessarily match the audio show and that’s fine.
It is perfectly fine. We do that all the time here too. That’s why it might be in decline because stylistically, it’s difficult to handle in a video in a way that’s easier in audio. People are recording the way that they’re recording and trying to make everything as simplified as possible in formatting a show. Having all that upfront is too much and that’s what we’re trying to point out to you is to give this moment a chance. This is why the bad advice has come out of the gurus out there and that is because it’s coming from the video numbers. For the video numbers, let’s say your audience declines by 70% for every minute of the video.
Where Should My Ads Go?
They want to shove everything upfront, but that is not the case in audio and podcasting. We have an average of a 70% listen-through rate on almost every show that we do here. They’re getting through 70% of your show on average before they quit it. That’s amazing. That means most shows have listened to 100%. Those numbers don’t exist in any other media type. They don’t read through blog posts at that same pace. They don’t watch videos at the same pace, but that’s why this advice translating into podcasting is erroneous. It is plain wrong and not right for podcast listeners. That’s what we’re trying to point out to you here and in our discussion.
A better place to put some ads or promos within your episode is somewhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of the way through the episode.
I sometimes think of it 20% is okay. For the most part, if I give my introduction of what’s going to come with the guest and everything, that might be about 20% of my show. That’s an okay place, especially if you have a natural break in the conversation and it’s not interrupting everything. That’s a perfect time to do that. I do have many shows that do the 20% mark, but I agree with you. If you’ve got a long tail show and you’re trying to figure out where and you’re going to interrupt the content in general, then go about a third.
My favorite place to interrupt content where there is an interview or a discussion between two people is if a question is asked, after that question, but before the answer is given. If you’re clever about it and you record your promotion, which gets inserted in there, your promotion or ad can say something like, “We’re going to hear the answer to that question right after this important message.” You have a transition and let them know. You can also have a transition at the end of it, saying, “Let’s get back to the answer to that question,” or something like that. That’s one way to do it, but it makes sense when you think about it.The most effective ads or promotions in your podcast are ones that are spoken by the host of the show because they already know you. They like you. They're going to listen to what you're going to say. Click To Tweet
People like the anticipation or the open looping. They’re not going to skip it. They’re going to come back. They don’t want to miss the start of that answer, so they won’t take the time to skip through it as long as your ad is not long. If you’ve got a 30 to 45-second ad, you are going to be fine in there. They’re not going to worry about it. They’re going to listen all the way through because they don’t want to miss one second because it’s hard to skip. You can only hit the 15-second or the 30-second button and skip ahead.
That’s another tactic. The skip buttons tend to be 30 seconds to 1 minute. If you record a promotion, that’s 20, 25, 35 seconds or something like that. It can train people not to skip because it’s not perfectly timed. It’s a tech hardware hack.
Psychologically, it works and that is the exact point. They’ll come to see it’s not worth skipping because they’ll miss something and they don’t want to miss it and that’s important to them.
The most effective ads or promotions in your podcast are ones that the hosts speak of the show because they already know you and they like you. They’re going to listen to what you’re up to say.
You’ve got continuity already.
Some of the ones I remember were like for HP Digital Ink. I still don’t even know what that is because I never looked it up. I was so annoyed by it.
A lot of times, there’s Kindle or some Amazon ad.
Big corporations who are spending lots of money on ads are the only kinds of ads that are going to run on shows that they’ll be like, “I’ll be on any show.” They’re the only ones that are going to pay to be put on podcasts that are unproven and brand new, but you’re only going to make a little money because, in order to get the exposure they want, they’re going out on tens of thousands of podcasts at a time, not just 1 or 2, 10 or 12. It’s an entirely different thing.
You’ve lost specialness, too, in that process. Some people think that having advertisers means that they’ve made it as a podcaster, but podcast listeners are savvy. They’re smart about it. They know when they hear that same ad on twelve different shows that it’s a stock ad that’s running across Spotify or running across Megaphone or one of those systems. They recognize it and don’t give you any credit for that, but if you are making a host announced ad about something, they’ll say you’ve got a relationship with that person. You attracted them and that brand. That’s different.
They give you a lot more credit for that. That’s where they’re more valuable because we expect those in the middle of the show. Someone wouldn’t spend the money to do a host read an ad that wasn’t mid-roll. It’s not of value. You don’t do pre-rolls or post roles with the host read ads. You wouldn’t do it as an advertiser. It’s not worth your money.
The reality is if you have something to sell as a podcast host, something you’re in business for, in alignment with what you do or a different product or service of another company that you personally have experience with and you are endorsing it. Those things always work much better. You have established rapport and credibility with the audience. They care what you think. If you’re saying this thing is good, then they’re going to believe you.
It’s a different experience for the listener and the relationship you have, not only with the listener but also with the advertiser, that then transfers through to the listener. The only way you’re going to make any meaningful money with a third-party sponsor that’s a general run of show ad is if you’ve got a huge listenership in the hundreds of thousands, then you’re making money.Podcast hosts make their money from their own stuff, their own products, their own services, their own affiliates, their own relationships that they built. Click To Tweet
You got to be Joe Rogan and make money like that. You have to be up there. What we find is that less than 2% of shows make money at that level. The next level down is less than 4% which is a general network run of show ads, but they’re still named brands, so you’re not getting to host read ads yet and you’re still only making a few hundred dollars a month. About 4% of shows qualify under that.
Beyond that, you’re talking about 96% of shows don’t make money from those kinds of ads at all. Where do they make their money? They make their money from their own stuff, products, services, affiliates and relationships that they built. How does that work best? That’s what we’re here talking about. It works best if you give your show a chance to get ahold of it, get started, take off, hit about 25 episodes or at least 90 days in. It also makes sense if you wait and don’t do it at the very beginning of the show, not your episode one and not all the way up until you’ve at least given some teaser or announcement of the show. Start from that point on and look at where its proper placement belongs.
We have some data and you’re a little more familiar with it than me of those shows where people are doing host read ads for their own stuff, for things that they’re in business, in support of their business, lead generation or whatever, but in a direct alignment with what they do for a living. What’s the percentage of shows that have the opportunity to do that, by the numbers we have?
The reality is that any show has the opportunity to do that who’s gotten beyond that point, but because we have such a high podfade rate of shows that don’t even make it past ten episodes in the marketplace in general, that’s where it starts to fall.
You’re not talking about Podetize customers. You’re saying the whole industry.
Podetize customers don’t fall into this because we have less than a 7% podfade rate here. We don’t have as many people quit their shows. The rest of the industry is up over 70% of podfade. What we’re talking about is we’re talking about a couple of million shows out there that either has ads in it, running ads on the front of it and then none of them were making any money off of it because they’re running through the streaming systems for the most part on these old episodes.
They sold the ad and the ads baked in and they now no longer make current money off of it, even though the ad is there. There are two and a half million podcasts that do nothing for anyone but Spotify, Megaphone or the big companies that are taking care of themselves in that process. That’s not good for anyone, but of the other half-million, the ones that have the right number of episodes, they’ve got the right types of shows and they’re in that spot. We’re talking about 45% or so of them that could do well with their own host read ads and with their own relevant placements. It means an ad that’s timely.
If at the start of a year, I’ve got a health and fitness podcast and I want to talk to people about their New Year’s resolution of getting healthy and fit. I put that ad in there and I don’t leave it in there beyond January. I take it out and replace it with something different. Now, I’m more likely to have a conversion on my ads.
Our conversion rates on that 45% of shows that fall into that realm, we tend to see somewhere between 10% and 30% conversion rates on the calls to action, which is extremely high. Remember, you don’t have tens of thousands of subscribers, but out of the hundreds that you do, you have very active ones on those shows.
That can mean for some people, that’s 10,000 or more in sales a month. It’s an adding bonus to them. Some of our real estate and investment podcasts can do $40,000 of investment at a time and that’s one call per month that happens that way. What makes it a return on investment of that 45% of shows is different for every single show.
It is, but they get real value out of it. The reality is most of them who are doing that are more than covering their expense and their time in creating the podcast and putting it out there, but they’re getting a lot more value out of it than that. We work with some of our podcasts customers who monetize their shows. Some of them have huge amounts of revenue that they’re getting. One customer, who I won’t name, they’ve analyzed it and about $25 per listener every month. That is an extremely high-end example, but they’re selling their own stuff doing that. They’re not making money with third-party sponsors. That’s what I’m trying to share with people.Your audience is looking for value first. When you deliver that, then you earn the right to do all kinds of promotions and advertisements. Click To Tweet
Patience Is The Key
You don’t know when you’re starting your show where you want to be. That’s also another reason why I urge that patience at the beginning and getting yourself to that 25-episode mark or to that 3-month mark because you’re going to understand more about your listeners. When they start reaching out to you is about that timing. You’re going to start to understand more about what they find most valuable.
If you decided to start advertising based on bad advice from some guru out there, then you might be making a serious mistake and never make it past your 90-day mark because of that. We want you to get to that point where the audience is reaching out to you and telling you what they want. When we started our 3D Printing Podcast and now have over 650 episodes in that catalog of podcasts. We have a top-level sponsor like Hewlett-Packard, who still advertises on all of our shows.
That’s there, but we didn’t get there doing that from the beginning. From the beginning, we learned exactly what they wanted, what they were looking for, how we could create better content for them, and how we could provide them valuable promotions, affiliates, and other things that we could seek out for them. We then hit a high-level brand sponsor.
We did it pretty quickly for the type of sponsor we got in that show. It took us about six months. We built a pretty significant audience that got their attention and they found value in it, not HP, but there was another company who advertised in our show. We continued to grow that from there, but it can happen. It depends. It’s a little unique for every show.
I’d like to make one quick shout-out to one of our The Binge Factor episodes, that episode is specifically about someone who’s deep-diving into a niche. It’s Samantha Lee Wright. Her show is all about essential oils. She was able to create sponsorship opportunities very quickly because she became a valuable resource to the marketplace.
If you’re going to go into that advertising realm and you do want to do what we did and the 3D Print Podcast, the only shows that I’ve seen do that successfully, as Tom put it, 3 to 6 months in those early stages of it, happened because they are so deep in a niche and they are serving intently into that niche. The too general show will never work in that model.
Another way to think about that is there’s a very clear alignment between the interest of the listeners of the show and whatever that sponsor would be wanting to raise awareness for. In a general variety show, the interests of your listeners are going to be all over the map, but when it’s a deep dive niche, “My audience is interested in this.” They’re likely to be very interested in that other thing that’s advertiser has. It’s a perfect match and easy to monetize sooner.
Those types of shows we’ve seen on an outdoor show. We had an outdoor show in Maine that was specific to outdoor trails. That was amazing. We’ve seen a show on deer hunting. That was a deep-dive niche. These essential oils and 3D printing are the niche areas where you could find a specific narrow trade show or an interest group for those kinds of things. They work best in that earlier advertising model, but you still have to earn the right and become the industry expert or the go-to podcast for that niche. When you hit that spot, though, that’s when they come to you with that.
We may have overwhelmed our readers with a little too much information in that one, but hopefully, each listener who it’s relevant for you will find some value in some of the advice that was provided. Use that as you grow your show and make some of your decisions.
In final words, patience in podcast advertising has perfect timing. It’s required to make that work for you. Do not forget that your audience is looking for value first and when you deliver that, then you earn the right to do all kinds of promotions and advertisements. There are right and wrong ways to do it, but it doesn’t mean there’s no way to do it. There is a way.
Let’s make that a wrap. Thanks, Tracy, and thank you to all of our readers. We’ll be back next time with another great episode.