Rocket Fuel for New Podcasters: 3 Tips To Help You Quickly Reach 1,000 Listeners

The insights on what works and what doesn't when growing your podcast.

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Relax and take a deep breath. Once you reach the milestone of 1,000 downloads, you'll feel much better.

How to reach the first 1,000 listeners?

Here at ZenCast the most common question we hear from new podcasters is “I’m stuck. Now that my first episode is recorded, how can I get more subscribers and downloads?”

No worries, we've seen plenty of podcasts launch without having a prior audience and grow a loyal and passionate fanbase.

We have the data and insights on what works and what doesn't.

It's easier than you think, and in this article we'll show you the first three steps toward reaching that goal, even if your podcast has only a few listeners right now.

Follow these basic rules and you’ll grow your podcast’s audience quickly.

Build your podcast audience

First things first. There are many good tips for boosting your podcast’s numbers. Let’s cherry-pick by telling you the simplest ways first. 

Even if you have fewer than 100 downloads now, you'll be surprised at how quickly subscribers come aboard if you follow these easy rules.

1. Give your listeners excellent value on any topic, and they'll always come back for more

The most important rule for building an audience through podcasting or any other medium is to understand that listeners seek the most valuable information and entertainment they can find. Time is precious, and there are many different voices clamoring for listeners' ears.

You need to stand out from the mob of podcasters by giving listeners a reason to spend their time with you. That way, you’ll become part of their lives.

If your content offers consistent value, listeners will begin to rely on it in their daily lives. They'll also tell others, and your subscription list will grow rapidly.

Many listeners follow a variety of shows. They might listen to a “talk show” podcast in the car while going to work on Monday through Friday, and a cooking show to inspire them with new recipes when they’re in the kitchen. 

Then they complete their week by listening to a true crime series on Sunday evenings. Since consumers demand plenty of choices, you’ll always have an eager audience if you feed them with good content.

TED Talks are a great example of value in podcasting – With more than 3,000 episodes covering a wide range of educational topics, there's something for everyone. That's why TED Talks have nearly 10 million subscribers, and they're still growing.

You can do the same thing on a smaller scale.

Bring fresh value and excitement in each episode

Keep the podcast fresh and exciting with new surprises and must-have info in each episode.

If you're podcasting about a fast changing niche like video games, that generates exciting new information every day, then you'll always have something new to talk about. But many solo podcasters soon run out of ammunition and their content becomes stagnant or, worse, repetitive.

Are you staring at a long list of topics that all look the same? Throw away that list and move up to the next level – Hosting valuable guest interviews. 

2. Authority guests are “fresh meat” for your audience

Authority guests will make your numbers skyrocket up to the next level

Whether you're podcasting for a business marketing audience or a local arts community, you can easily find authoritative guests that will attract new listeners and generate more downloads.

You might ask “How can I get big-name guests in my niche when I have only a few listeners?!?”

It's easy when you look for guests in the right places. At ZenCast we always recommend seeking guests who are authorities in their given niches, and who are eager to talk about a particular topic.

If you don't yet have the presence to invite a well-known guest, climb the 'ladder'. 

Start with lesser known authorities. Then you can “name drop” as a reference for future interviews.

Keep reading, we’ll show you how and where to get authority guests who are eager to help.

Give your guests an outlet to spread their ideas

Choose guests that are either already-recognized authorities in their respective fields, or those who bring highly-interesting new perspectives to old issues.

Be choosy. Only invite people who want to spread their knowledge and opinions, and are easy to understand during verbal (audio) presentations.

The best guests for your interviews are people who have recently authored a book or other publication, or a similar podcast

One of the easiest ways to achieve quick stardom is by sharing an episode with someone who is influential on social media platforms. 

Amazon is a good place to find authoritative guests to interview for your podcast episodes. No matter how specialised or quirky a niche may be, you'll find authors there who wish to promote their work.

Use Google or Amazon search to find authors in your niche who have new releases or books coming out soon.

Likewise, Reddit and Twitter as well as Instagram are all good hunting grounds for potential authority guests. If a celebrity likes you or gives you a shout out, then you’ll soon pick up some of their followers, too. 

This method works well even if your connections aren’t stars themselves. Simply by reaching out and connecting with other podcasters in similar or parallel niches, your momentum can snowball into something BIG.

Beware of hijacking

A note of caution -- To avoid letting an “unknown” guest grab the steering wheel and hijack your podcast, i.e. take the conversation somewhere you really don’t want to go, always screen them first. 

Before offering to interview a guest, make sure what they wish to discuss aligns closely with yours, and their philosophy isn’t alien to yours..

Once you've identified a few candidates, simply reach out through a friendly email and invite them. Here’s a good sample template you can use:

“Hi [Author's Name], I've been one of your biggest fans for a long time. Now I'm excited to see that you're releasing a new book, [Title of author's work], and I'm eager to have you as a guest on my podcast show [Title of your podcast show or individual episode]. My show reaches many people who love [Topic of author's new book, or theme of his/her overall work]. It's a thirty-minute show, and I'll be happy to schedule a recording time at your convenience. Would you be willing to promote your book by talking about [Topic] with me? Thanks, and I hope to have you on the show soon!” [Your name and contact information]

Prepare a list of commonly-asked questions and niche-specific issues to be addressed during the episode, and you'll have plenty of ammunition to attract new listeners.

Find expert speakers in person

Trade shows, conventions and conferences are another great source of interview guests for business podcasts. 

One of our favourite tricks is to look at the list of exhibitors and featured speakers, then simply approach the best candidates with a smile and start a conversation:

“Hi, I’ve been following your ideas about ABC since I was a teenager. In fact, you’ve been such a big influence in my life that I now have a podcast which is all about ABC… Will you come on my show as a guest?”

What can your idol say? You’ve scored another authority guest who can bring you hundreds (or thousands) of new listeners.

Likewise, if you're podcasting to benefit a not-for-profit community organisation, you'll find plenty of dynamic speakers in person at local events.

If you have good “chemistry” with a guest, your listeners will respond by demanding more of the same content. 

They'll recruit other new listeners, and your subscriptions will increase quickly. You’ll also hook into your guest’s social media base, as described below. 

Expert networking means faster subscriber growth

After hosting an authoritative guest, be sure to ask for their referrals to other knowledgeable speakers for future episodes. That way you'll build your own authority among listeners.

After all, if your podcast features a wide range of lively, informative guests, listeners will quickly begin to think of you as an expert, too.

Here’s a good email template you can use:

“Hi [Guest's Name], Thanks for being a guest on my show. It was one of the most interesting episodes I've ever had, and I'm hearing great feedback from listeners – They loved the show! Of course I want to have you come back soon, and in the meantime, I'd like to keep listeners informed by letting them hear from other knowledgeable experts like you. Do you know of another person who is just as knowledgeable about similar topics? If so, I would very much appreciate your kind referral to have them as a guest speaker on the show. Thanks again for being such a great guest for the listeners!“ [Your name and contact information]

In our experience at ZenCast, we've learned that a few high-quality guests can quickly boost subscriptions to much higher levels.

If you’re feeling especially strong and confident in your relationship with an authority guest, try this trick -- Ask them to share their social media follower list and email address lists. 

Why not?!? If your podcast is new and struggling, you don’t have much to lose!

Be sure to follow up and ensure they share the episode with their own audience after publishing. People have busy schedules and may forget.

Unusual personalities can add entertainment value

Always keep in mind that your listeners seek entertainment value as well as information.

Depending on the cultural norms of your niche, humorous guests (or hosts!) can boost your subscriptions quickly.

The podcasts by offbeat self-help guru and marketer James Altucher offer a great example. He started his podcasting career by interviewing ordinary-yet-interesting guests.

Yet, with his unique sense of dry humour he's climbed upward in the food chain of authority.

Nowadays his interviews feature such well-known guests as tech billionaire and sports-team owner Mark Cuban, as well as media celebrities including Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Try this trick: Think of someone in your community who’s a “natural comedian” instead of an authority speaker. It’s best to schedule this type of personality during a holiday period or break in your regular release schedule. 

Turn the tables by letting them interview you as the expert during a Q&A interview, and keep the topics humorous. You’ll get plenty of laughs, as well as some new listeners from sharing later.

Give value for value

No matter which audience you're targeting, you can build a podcast empire by constantly feeding your listeners a diet of valuable content through lively guests.

The key to success with all guests is to treat them as god-like authorities when they're featured on your show.   

Here's an important earlier theme worth repeating: Your success depends on the value you bring to listeners, as well as the value your guests receive by appearing on your show.

Find the right guests to deliver the best value to your podcast audience, and ensure that your guests receive some value in return.

We’re not talking about giving them money, just stroke their egos!

Once you’ve got a half-dozen ear-grabbing personalities appearing regularly on your show, you’ll be at least halfway to getting your first 1,000 listeners. Count on it.

3. Drive your listeners into action

The second-most-common mistake that we see with new podcasts (right after failure to deliver value) is the lack of a clear, strong call to action (CTA)

But if you let your listeners walk away without hearing what you really need to say (“Buy my products! Subscribe and tell your friends to subscribe!”) then you’ll lose the podcasting game.

It's amazing how many beginning podcasters end their episodes without clearly telling listeners what to do after the show. 

Perhaps they assume that one-time listeners will respond by bookmarking feeds, referring them to other listeners, or buying their recommended products and services.

But the real world doesn’t work that way. Life is filled with distractions. Listeners usually won't do anything to reward your podcasting efforts unless they hear a clear, practical call-to-action.

Keep in mind the modern podcast marketer’s version of the old biblical expression: If ye do not ask, ye shall not receive….

They owe you, so tell them what to do

Your CTA must be understandable and actionable, and it must be presented at the very end of the episode. For best results, repeat the same CTA phrase slowly and clearly at the end of each episode. 

One good trick is to pre-record a call to action and simply append it to the end of each show. That way it’ll be consistent.

If a listener has successfully reached the conclusion of the episode, it means they've accepted and approved your valuable content.

They owe you something in exchange for the value you've given them.

This is the moment when they're most likely to reward you by clicking on a link, buying a product, referring you to their friends, sharing your content, or whatever else you might ask them to do for you.

Short and sweet

You must ensure that your CTA is brief and easy to understand, and always shows a direct link between the quality of your content and the satisfaction of the listener.

Even if your podcast is for a not-for-profit charitable organisation, you should still say something like this: “If you've enjoyed this episode and learned something interesting about XYZ benefit, you can help our cause and learn more by [taking this action] today.”

Keep in mind that phrases like “Tune in next week for another episode...” are somewhat helpful in building loyal listeners, but ideally you should say something beyond that.

Depending on the overall purpose of your podcasting program, a call-to-action might be something basic, such as “For more information about ABC, call this [telephone number] or follow [this link].”

Other examples of simple, effective CTAs include:

If you'd like to see a personal demonstration of this great new technology, just [call or click] now! (Marketing & sales)

What do you think about [topic of the episode]? Leave a comment or follow us on Facebook now. [Non-commercial]

We're always looking for new ideas that we can build in our shop. If you've created something like [the item featured in the podcast], we'd love to see it. Send some pictures and we'll feature it in an upcoming episode.[Hobby & craft interest groups]

Or, let’s say you’re a political activist, and you want to dump a pot of petrol on the fire. 

At the end of the show you could tell listeners something like this: “Are you truly concerned about XYZ issue? Then send an email right now to ABC politician and complain about it. On the show next week I’ll give you an update about progress....”

Grow an audience as large as you wish

New to podcasting? Have only a few listeners? Don’t worry, by following the 3 basic rules outlined in this article you’ll quickly attract a big mob of loyal listeners. 

In future articles we'll give more tips and tricks to help you reach 1,000 listeners and far beyond. Stay tuned!

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