(By Meagan Francis) So your hard work creating and consistently publishing your podcast has paid off. Your audience is growing, you’ve set aside space in your show for ads, and you’re ready to start earning money from advertisers. Great! So, now what?
As I suggested in my article about making real money as an indie podcaster, you may be ready to work with advertisers much sooner than you would have thought. Remember, the size of your audience is only one factor that determines readiness: your show doesn’t have to be huge to be attractive to sponsors.
That said, even a big audience won’t save you if you don’t have good systems in place. Being organized, informed, and reliable is a great way to stand out and keep getting work, even (especially!) if your numbers aren’t huge.
After having steadily monetized our show The Mom Hour via advertising and sponsorships for the last couple years, my business partner Sarah and I have identified a few factors that established us as professional and reliable right from the get-go, helping us pull ahead of the pack and create a solid revenue base even when our downloads were just starting to creep up:
Be reachable. I can’t tell you how many podcast website I’ve scoured that have no detectable contact information — or worse, the podcast has no website at all. Remember, sponsors cannot offer you money if they can’t find you! At the bare minimum, offer a contact email in an easy-to-find place on your site. Once you have that, set aside time to create a compelling media kit. (Life, Listened’s monetization e-course will walk you through this process and more.)
Be prompt. We hear from agencies and brands all the time complaining that, after they reach out to a podcast to see if they’re interested in an ad campaign, they often don’t hear back for days — or sometimes not at all. Everyone has a communication slip through the cracks here and there, but again, sponsors cannot give you money if you don’t respond and tell them you want it! Check your podcast email regularly, and be prepared to respond quickly to requests for calendar availability, and download and demographic information (more on both below.)
Create a content calendar with specific publish dates — and be prepared to stick to it. When you’re working with an agency, they will need to give their client (the brand) a specific date an ad will appear on your show, and it may be difficult to move that date later. Even with a self-sold ad, you don’t want to get in the habit of moving dates around all the time. You’ll need to provide proof of performance later (a link to the episode in which your ad ran, and a time stamp), so don’t assume you can just publish a day or two late if you run out of time: that’s grounds for a make-good (read: free ad) request from many brands, and if you do it regularly you will create a lot of hassle for your agency, which isn’t the kind of relationship you want to establish.
Understand your audience. At the most basic level, that means having a reliable, IAB-certified statistics program (or two!) from which to pull your download numbers. Typically, advertisers want download numbers at the 30-day mark but you’ll be ahead of the game if you also collect demographic information about your listeners: where they live, gender, and what devices they’re listening on, for example. This information isn’t always asked for, but when it is, and you’re able to provide it, it will show just how prepared and professional you are. Our host, Blubrry, offers great demographic information with their pro stats; your host likely offers some, too. Poke around in your podcast host’s stats program to see what’s offered and keep that information somewhere easy to access so you can pull it out quickly to respond to a request.
By simply doing the above, you’ll be more prepared to run ads than most podcasters are. So get these four things squared away, and you’re on your way to sponsor success!
In my next article I’ll offer some advanced strategies for working with podcast sponsors, including really understanding your audience, negotiation tactics, getting creative with packaging, and delivering fantastic reads, every time.
Meagan Francis is co-host of The Mom Hour podcast and CEO of the Life, Listened podcast network.