Small Spark Theory evolved from a kernel of an idea into a podcast series that’s now been running for nearly four years and attracts thousands of monthly downloads from all around the world. Hosting this podcast grants me the opportunity to strike up countless fascinating conversations with opinion-leading guests and listeners alike. Quite honestly, it’s one of the parts of my job that I love the most.
But how does a podcast fit into a B2B context and an agency’s new business and marketing plan? Is it just a shiny new thing or can it really deliver new relationships, opportunities and business? To answer these questions, there was no one better to join me than Small Spark Theory’s very own producer and editor, Isabelle Jarvis. Izzy has been the driving force behind this podcast since its inception in 2016 and has gone on to produce, edit and advise on a variety of other shows. In this episode (44, The agency podcast),we discussed key considerations regarding strategy, formatting and technical implications. Here’s a summary of the key pointers that emerged from our conversation.
1. Think about strategy first, and channel second
This advice is actually relevant to all content marketing. Like blogs and other forms of social media, a podcast is a channel with a low barrier to entry. It can facilitate the distribution of your message relatively easily and at a fairly low cost. However, simply having a podcast channel isn’t enough. Your content has to work very hard if it’s going to lure downloads, drive subscriptions and keep listeners coming back for more. All successful content strategies start with a firm understanding of the purpose of a business — what it believes and why it does what it does (beyond revenue and profit!).
Everything clicked for me as I was learning about the marginal gains theory being used to improve the performance of elite athletes. Izzy and I realised that this articulated something important about the agency dilemma that I was keen to share. The scope of new business and marketing often feels utterly overwhelming, but my experience has taught me that small changes and improvements can add up to make a big difference to an agency’s performance over time. I work with clients to break down their new business challenges into achievable, bite-sized pieces. This marginal gains thinking is fundamental to my consulting approach and fuels my content strategy. The medium of a podcast felt like a really appropriate format for conversations (beyond blogging) and a suitable channel to reach my audience.
2. Put your audience first
This point is equally important as the last one. To put your audience first you must have a really clear idea of who they are. The audience for Small Spark Theory is quite niche in the grand scheme of things. Our listeners are time-pressed owners, managers and new business practitioners at creative, digital and comms agencies who want to improve their new business and marketing processes. Your agency’s unique angle will provide you with the overarching theme for your content, but you will need to put yourself in the shoes of your listeners to understand their challenges, prioritise the different topics that your theme can introduce, and develop a format that’s interesting, practically useful and sustainable over the long-term.
3. Plan how you’ll structure each episode
As Izzy explained, having a clear framework that you can apply to each episode in the series will make the planning and production of your podcast much more efficient. Loose conversations are tricky to start, follow and edit. This structure doesn’t have to be set in stone and completely inflexible, but it will help to ensure that your series feels consistent and that you meet your returning listeners’ expectations. If you plan to build your podcast around interviews and guests, this structure will also help you to determine who might be interesting to speak to — and it will also put potential guests at ease about what’s going to be required of them.
4. A simple format will allow your content to shine
The length of a podcast can vary depending on the subject. Some are as long as over an hour and others work well as quick five-minute snippets. However, keep your format and structure simple and consistent so you leave the content itself enough room to shine. Similarly, remember that podcasts are only dealing with audio content (versus webinars or videos that also contain visual cues); listeners are likely to struggle if they’re expected to follow more than two or three different voices in an episode. Having one returning host in every episode also maintains a consistent tone of voice and better facilitates a solid relationship with returning listeners.
5. Think about your podcast name carefully
Getting your name right is particularly important. The title of the podcast series, the name of the author and the description fields are all applicable to how your podcast will show up in search results (both on podcast platforms and also on Google, which now indexes podcast descriptions). This metadata, along with associated clear, eye-catching artwork (a logo, if you like), will affect how visible you are to potential listeners and subscribers. Defining a name that reflects your agency’s values, the tone of your podcast, and introduces your subject matter and expertise clearly can be really tricky. Plan in plenty of time to consider this.
There’s a lot to think about when planning a podcast and this summary of Izzy’s advice only touches the very surface of what we covered. To learn more about how Izzy works with agencies to produce their podcasts, and for the nitty-gritty lowdown on the technical tools and tricks that help to deliver a high-quality podcast, listen to episode 44 in full and review the corresponding show notes.
As for a parting piece of advice from me, I’ve learnt that it’s really invaluable to find a producer who understands your industry, your business and your objectives, and who can also talk you through the marketing options for your podcast so you can build a growing audience. On that note, my ultimate tip is to contact Izzy Jarvis. You can find her on LinkedIn, here.