Starting a Podcast with no Existing Audience #15

Improve Podcast School – episode #15

Ohh, the promise. Podcasting is hailed as the next breakthrough communication and marketing channel. It grows fast. Listeners love it. Marketers rave about it, and by the time most people even heard about it, big production companies started signing deals with celebrities of all sorts.

From what industry publications say about podcasting, you may think this is a new gold rush for content that automatically generates thousands of satisfied listeners and attracts hundreds of hungry advertisers, all wanting to join this new experience and participate in the next big thing.

The truth is, of course, and as usual, more complex.

Underneath all the actors and actresses, politicians, and TV stars, there are many people who just want to have their own show and hopefully make a full-time income.

All this is possible, but in podcasting, it looks like everybody is thrown into the same ring, competing for the same listeners. While A-list celebrities have the backing of powerful marketing machines, all the small creators have only themselves to grow their shows.

How to Start a Podcast with no Existing Audience

To start a podcast with no existing audience, you need to build a listener profile, define problems you will solve, and ensure your podcast satisfies listeners’ expectations. Before you start, you should also collaborate with authority people in your niche to introduce you to a wider audience.

1. How do people start off podcasts?

Most people leverage their existing brands and name recognition to start off podcasts and gain listeners quickly. 

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” Steve Jobs

It simply means that it takes years to gather experience and build skills, a personal brand, and connections. Then you suddenly become very successful at the right moment when all the correct elements fit together.

If you look at the podcast charts, you will see that people with years of experience in their fields are at the very top. They are not podcasters. In most cases, they have been doing something else their entire lives, just adding a podcast as another marketing channel.

And this is exactly how you can become successful in podcasting. If you already have a thing you are experienced at and maybe have some audience. Adding a podcast as a marketing channel to your existing hobby or business is the best way to start a podcast with no existing audience.

2. 3 major mistakes people make starting a show with no existing audience

  1. Lack of audience understanding – if you don’t know who your ideal listener is, your show will lack focus and dedication to meet your audience’s demands. The best way to understand your future audience is to create a profile, a listener persona profile, to whom in a literal way you will always address when preparing and recording an episode. I give out a free tool to create a listener persona, once you sign up to my mailing list. I will just summarize it: if you don’t have an audience, imagine that you have one very specific listener, and talk to that specified audience avatar. You can and even should have a small printout to guide you in your creative process. It will boost your results significantly.
  2. Poor product management skills – a podcast is a product, and if you don’t understand where the value of a product lies, you can’t make a good show. And podcasts can be anywhere between delivering entertainment value and problem-solving value. But without a value proposition designed for your listener avatar, you will stumble with nailing the quality.
  3. No marketing effort – finally, you need to do some marketing for your show. If this is your first venture in the world of online content, a full podcast marketing plan will be overwhelming at the start, but you need to build strong foundations. It starts with a website for better discoverability, building a brand, and a bit of collaboration with other creators within the community.

3. How to Plan a Show Launch with no Existing Audience?

You can start a podcast with no pre-existing audience, but you need to formulate a marketing plan on how to build that audience. Proven ways include SEO optimization, podcasting website, transcripts, and presence in multiple directories. Consider also appearing as a guest on shows in your niche.

Without a marketing plan, starting a podcast without followers will be frustrating as podcasting is still struggling with the organic discoverability of shows. So you need to put an effort to allow your listeners to find you.

The decision you have to make is:

  • How much money are you willing to invest into launching a new show?, or
  • How much of your free time are you willing to put into promoting your show?

An initial marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complex. You need to set up a few essential elements like a website and create a brand identity. Other elements you can add as your show is already live.

TOP 10 Podcasting Success Factors

4.  Industry Research Can Improve Odds of Your Success

I’ve run an extensive survey of over 1,0000 podcasters, trying to find out what works and what doesn’t to make a podcast successful. Trying to see if there are some things that successful podcasters do more often and do those things impact how much money you can make from podcasting.

One of the core findings from this survey was the podcasting success factors. The TOP 10 Things Successful Podcasters, who make over $50,000 per year from their show, do differently, unlike podcasters who still struggle with monetization.

I covered the TOP 10 Podcasting Success Factors in detail in the previous episode, so I won’t repeat everything, but the point is that we now know what successful people do, where they allocate their efforts, and we see what brings in the results.

We know that a detailed understanding of listeners sits at the very top of the success factors. So you need to have your listener’s persona, and your industry research ready before starting a podcast with no existing audience.

We also know that you need to put a significant effort into developing marketing channels. That this is something that will carry your show and allow you to create that first audience.

If you agree that starting a show with no existing audience is a big challenge, then follow the show, as this will help us reach more people and help other podcasters learn how to overcome this issue!

5.  Leverage All Your Existing Connections

When you start a podcast with no existing audience, you need to have patience. Most shows need around 100 episodes published and 24 months to become successful. 

Patience in the execution and waiting for the results is one of your weapons. But others include investing time or money into marketing.

You can’t just count on your luck. Instead, concisely build sources of traffic.

Invest your time wisely – you already spend time creating, recording, and editing your show – you need to be precise about how you grow your show.

Find underserved communities that will directly benefit from listening to your show, but most importantly, think of all the places that you already have some following to fuel the early days of your show. And you will need multiple sources of quality, highly-engaged people who will be your initial audience.

I’ll give you my TOP 5 favorite sources of traffic for a new show:

  • YouTube and Social Media – if you already have a place where people listen to you and engage with your content, it is reasonable to assume that a good % of them will want another access point to you.
  • Mailing lists – if people welcome you in their mailbox, you can count on them to welcome your voice in their podcast player app.
  • Guests – if you have guests who already have a following, simply advertise your show to them, and ask your guest to promote their appearance as well.
  • Be a guest – a bit of self-promotion goes a long way. Think of it, that you are getting access to someone else’s listeners for free. Just make sure you perform in front of the right crowd.
  • Press release – a marketing 101 tool, which will put you in front of a large group of journalists, who will write about you, link to you, and some may even invite you for an interview.

All of it may look like a lot of work. That is certain. But success has to be earned.

If you are in doubt, if this is even worth time and effort, then check out the upcoming episode where we will explore the Top Reasons Why You Should Start a Podcast.

So what can we do about it?

If you want to start a podcast with no existing audience, you need to make a careful, long, and exhaustive list of all the connections you can use. 

I want you to remember that anyone who achieves success in podcasting has put the required amount of time and effort into building that success. Some people put years of work before launching a podcast and get a massive audience at the start. Others launch with no existing audience and then gradually build a following.

It’s up to you which path you want to follow.

About the Author

Chris Land

I'm the owner and creator of, the site dedicated to providing actionable solutions for podcast creators. My goal is helping people to develop their podcasts into effective marketing and sales tools.

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