A bright hot air balloon of yellows, reds and blues behind over the ear headphones that hang from above.

Podcast Marketing that Works, Part II

Getting to know our audience

In part two of this series, I create a survey of our podcast listeners using free online tools. But first, I want to explore how it is we define our audience.

You can find part one of this series here:

Audience Demographics vs. Specifics

Any marketing plan, potential advertiser or business partner will want to know who your audience is. It’s likely they will ask for your audience demographics. This is simply a definition of your audience by demographic factors such as age, race, gender, income, education, etc.

While some professionals work hard to separate the demographic from the psychographic and the behavioural, for most of us, we just need a clear and compelling definition of who are audience is and isn’t.

It is likely that we have been programmed to expect something like: 60% female, household income over $60K and 2.5 children. But this is one of the least helpful ways to define an audience.

What if we were to think about our audience the way we think of the characters in a story? How can we capture what makes them so vibrant and unique?

Let’s assume we know the following about our audience: the majority are between the ages of 18 and 30 years of age, 54% identify as female, they are more urban than rural and they are active online around political and civic issues.

Let’s look at three different examples of how we could define this audience from lackluster to vibrant.

Lackluster: Over 50% are 18–30 year old, urban, and identify as female

Better: Primarily 18–30 year olds living in 5 major cities, progressive and daily radio listeners

Vibrant: Young at heart, living in a major city, 2 bikes and no car, loves their pets, is enraged about the inequality in the world and also a fellow creator.

All of these are perfectly valid ways to define an audience, but one stands out as far more actionable. Go back and read each of the demographic examples above and ask, “Where would I find more people like described?”

For me, the last example makes answering this question a snap. I can name other creators, shows, online zines and more. Not only that, the answers I come up with are not just the standard mainstream media or the same big names everyone else is trying to get in touch with.

Now we are moving towards interesting territory.

But how do we get to know who our audience is in the first place?

Launching a Survey

When it came time to get to know the audience of the newly launched Fable and Folly Network, I wanted to launch a survey. Only, we didn’t have budget for expensive survey tools. We certainly couldn’t afford to hire a company.

As a professional marketer, I had grown used to having access to robust survey tools with impressive analysis options. But I could no longer afford any of those tools. This would require free tools only.

A screenshot of the first two questions of our online survey built in Google Forms.
A screenshot of the first two questions of our online survey built in Google Forms.
Screenshot of the Fable and Folly survey landing page.

I settled on Google Forms.

Pros: It is free, supports multiple question types and pagination, has no limits on the number of questions and we could collect all the responses in Google Sheets.

Cons: Does not allow for incomplete responses, does not support logic, lack of any advanced analysis and not all that “pretty” as such things go.

Because we could collect all the response in Google Sheets, I knew we could create the analysis ourselves and even allow for an interactive display of the information collected.

For those unfamiliar with partial responses: most survey tools will allow for capturing the responses of people even if they don’t make it to the final page of the survey. Google forms does not allow for this. I was comfortable with no partial responses as this means we were going to capture answers from only the most engaged listeners, which is what I wanted.

The survey dashboard built in Google Sheets. Showing demographics of listeners by show to include ages and behaviours.
Screenshot of the survey results showing responses for one of the shows in the network: Alba Salix, Royal Physician

In the final dashboard, shown above, members of the network can select their show from the dropdown and then review both the quantitative and qualitative responses specific to their show.

The ability to dig into the data with a cross-tab allows us to uncover that our 45–54 year old listeners tend to be heavy listeners on the weekend whereas our younger listeners are predominantly 4+ hour weekday listeners. All of which gives us more clues into who are listeners are.

And fear not. One doesn’t need a fancy dashboard to learn things like this. It just takes a bit of time sitting with the responses to gain some insights and follow-up questions. Having new questions arise is actually a desired output from any survey. These questions can then be used to dig deeper into who your audience is and what matters to them.

Talking with Our Audience

A survey can provide a baseline understanding and lead us to ask new questions. Why are we seeing what we are seeing? What are we surprised to not be seeing? Alone, it will never provide for the vibrancy of understanding we spoke about at the beginning of this installment.

It is easy to give too much credence to qualitative data such as a survey. The real power comes when we combine qualitative and quantitative data, or to put it simpler, when we supplement what we are seeing in the survey with the richness of engaging directly with our fans.

Do you have a twitter account? A tumblr page? Or better yet, a discord of your biggest fans?

Start to ask questions. Pay attention and spend more time listening than talking. What motivates your listeners? What unites them?

I had a question about our Alba Salix listeners and the other media they feel strongly about. Online comics didn’t rate all that highly, but so many of our fans on Tumblr would share and repost online zines and panels from digital comics. So one day I went into our discord and asked everyone what their top 5 online comics were.

I expected a few responses. What I got was page after page of the online comics they adore and read. More than just the list of creators they adored, I got to see their shared passion as they talked about these comics with each other.

I learned even more by going and reading the comics they adored. And it led to new questions and a deeper understanding of who are listeners are and what matters to them.

Summary

Marketing a show successfully is less about which marketing programs, tools or frameworks we choose to use, and instead about the profundity of the understanding we have about our audience.

It’s about the inputs. The best program will fail if we keep using lackluster inputs.

Successfully expanding our reach requires us to know our audience better than everyone else and then build our outreach initiatives around what we are learning.

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Sean is the co-founder of the Fable and Folly Network and a co-creator of Alba Salix, Royal Physician and Civilized. He can be reached via Twitter or email.

Sean is a brand marketer, podcaster and co-founder of Fable and Folly. https://fableandfolly.com/