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Think your podcast idea is one in a million? Reality check: There are currently over 3 million podcasts. And 1 in 5 podcasts that are launched will not even survive a whole year. What will help yours stand out? And not only endure, but thrive?
One of the biggest risks of starting a podcast is that you might switch on a mic with energy and enthusiasm, only to fizzle out or fatigue soon afterward. I’ve seen this happen when a host runs out of compelling topics or a show doesn’t draw enough of an audience. Too often, hosts underestimate the planning and tenacity required. They fold after a period of grim struggle and end up feeling defeated (and maybe a bit embarrassed).
What helps keep a podcast sustainable is expansive planning before you even think about hitting record. This planning is both macro and micro and focuses on factors that might not immediately spring to mind when you first consider launching a podcast.
For tech founders, especially, building your story and an audience quickly can mean a quick hit of oxygen in terms of winning customers or getting funding. You may not feel like you have the bandwidth to do this planning upfront. I saw this firsthand from my fellow Techstars accelerator founders, who were moving quickly to get their product to market.
But when it comes to creating a podcast, you skip this step at your peril. As the founder of a podcast platform, I’ve seen many failures and successes. What separates the two often comes down to five questions.
1. What is your desired end result?
Many people start podcasts without full clarity as to what they hope to get out of it. Perhaps a competitor has one that is successful. If you are going to build a successful podcast, you need to start with your “why.”
Begin with the primary goal. If your endgame is to get new clients, be sure you can identify your target audience and how you’re going to connect with them. The worst thing to do is talk solely about what your company offers. That’s the same as going on a date with someone who only talks about themselves. Think about what’s important to your listeners. What are their pain points?
Be sure to create some measurements around your goal so that you can gauge whether you’re making legitimate progress. If your goal is to land new clients and they begin to materialize from your podcast efforts, that payoff will sustain you. Nothing is more motivating than seeing progress or more illuminating than reviewing the analytics that shows you are not connecting and need to make a change.
2. Do you have a topic you can speak to long term?
Sustainable podcasts require consistency on a substantial topic that won’t fade too quickly. Your vision must stretch over the horizon, and you’ll need all of the endurance you can muster. Imposter syndrome can rear its head when you become a host.
Try creating as many headlines for your episodes as you can. If you find yourself flush with ideas, you might be onto something. If you have five ideas and stall, reconsider the scope of your topic.
3. What is my time commitment?
Block out time for recording and stay committed to it. Let’s say you’re considering a weekly series. You might not realize how overwhelming that can become. You may think you can record at random times when an idea or guest reveals itself. It can be spontaneous, right? Wrong! Podcasting is time-consuming and, too often, podcasters find they dread the approach of deadline day.
Instead, try scheduling a recording day. Typically, in a week, I may record more than one interview daily, and I schedule back-to-back guests with 30 minutes between each session in case one session runs long.
As a veteran, I am able to record a quarterly season of 12 episodes in two weeks. A key to success? Break it down into less overwhelming commitments. If you outline your topics, you’ll be able to plan both your prospective guests and the recording schedule far more easily.
4. What are my production needs?
If you know there’s not a technical bone in your body, don’t set out to handle production yourself. There are platforms where you can find qualified people, such as Fiverr. Perhaps even better: Tap into your own network on LinkedIn or other social media. This can serve two purposes: You may get great talent referrals and you are alerting your community to help build your podcast. When your show launches, you’re not starting out cold.
Another practicality: The necessity of having a proper recording space and process. You can get started with just a laptop and a decent omnidirectional mic. You’ll need a quiet room, of course, without hard surfaces that can create an echo. Some people prefer to sit in a large clothes closet, for both the quiet and because the clothes stop your voice from bouncing off the walls.
When you have remote guests to interview, choose an audio platform other than Zoom, which I’ve found is not the best. I prefer Riverside.fm. For editing, I use Pro Tools, but other options include Audacity or GarageBand.
5. What is my marketing plan?
You’ll want your podcast listed on directories such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify, but you can also look into another strategy: joining a podcast network. These are affiliated podcasts that are networked around all kinds of missions and topics. Many of these require exclusivity but may give you everything from monetization opportunities to promotion.
Be sure to set up hashtags, social media handles and a process where you provide write-ups to share with your guests and other partners to ensure you use every megaphone possible to attract listeners.
It’s best to go into podcasting with realistic optimism. With an honest baseline, you decidedly improve your odds of success.