Measuring Show Success: How to Set SMART Podcast Goals

February 3, 2021

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Meisha Bochicchio


Podcast listening has seen exponential growth in the past few years. Today, more than one-third of Americans aged 12 and over (over 100 million people) regularly consume podcasts. And for brands that want to break through to their target audience, podcasts have proved to be an especially effective medium, with 60% of listeners tuned into podcasts to educate themselves.

However, before you decide to jump in and create a podcast for your brand, it’s important to set up specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (SMART) goals to help hone your focus. You wouldn’t launch a marketing campaign without setting clear goals, and a podcast or audio series is no different.

Just as we outlined how to leverage the SMART framework for video, we’ll look into how to create SMART goals to ensure that the podcast you create for your brand is a success. Let’s dive in!

1. Get specific: define what you want to achieve

First, it’s crucial to figure out what you want to achieve with your podcast. Go deep to really define what you want, and take a survey of what’s out there to inspire you.

For example, are you aiming to educate your listeners with your podcast? Privy, which provides small brands with products to help them sell more online, educates listeners with The ECommerce Marketing Show. Each episode of the podcast features an interview with an e-commerce expert on a specific topic, like growing your email list ahead of Black Friday, so listeners can learn something new about growing their small e-commerce brand.

Maybe your goal is to recruit and hire a diverse set of employees. While HubSpot has many podcasts that deliver on different goals, its Culture Happens show focuses explicitly on work culture. The show is inspired by HubSpot’s Co-Founder, Dharmesh Shah, and his commitment to a happy and inclusive workplace. It offers supportive guidance on creating a great work culture similar to HubSpot’s. This, in turn, positions HubSpot as a leader in great workplaces and attracts top-notch recruits.

Or maybe your goal is to entertain your listeners and turn them into brand evangelists, like open-source technology company RedHat. The brand created the podcast Command Line Heroes to delight its core audience of software developers and the open-source community. In each episode, host Saron Yitbarek narrates the epic tales of the historians and experts who attempt the extraordinary and persevere against all odds to change the world of technology, focusing on open-source breakthroughs and the creators of coding languages.

Remember, one podcast isn’t going to tick off all these goals at once, so get specific and be strategic about what you want to accomplish.

Examples of specific goals:

  • Build brand affinity
  • Recruit new employees
  • Establish your brand as a thought leader
  • Lead/demand generation
  • Sales enablement

2. Make It measurable: track your podcasting progress

This step is all about figuring out how you will measure success. Sure, downloads are one benchmark, but there are many others to consider, too. Depending on your goal, it could be building affinity through episode engagement, generating leads, or attracting talent. Look back at your goals and make sure the metrics you’re tracking make sense.

“Sure, downloads are one benchmark, but there are many others to consider, too.”

Suppose you’re interested in DE&I efforts, like HubSpot’s Culture Happens show. In that case, your measure of success might be an increase in the diversity of qualified applicants and hires over time after the show launches or external placement and mentions in the DE&I space.

If your focus is building brand affinity, as with Red Hat’s Command Line Heroes, then you might measure success by listener growth and episode engagement over time. How loyal are your listeners — do they typically listen every week, or do they fall off after a few episodes? Do they subscribe to get updates, or are they more passive and selective about when they listen?

Some brands might even decide their goal is lead generation. If that’s the case, you could consider gating your podcast and making subscribers your key metric. You could also feed listener data to your CRM to connect the dots between listeners and prospects.

Remember — no matter your goal, you want to tie them to metrics that can be measured. Podcast growth happens over time and can be a slow process, so benchmarking specific KPIs and using that data to drive decisions is key to optimizing your show over time.

“Remember — no matter your goal, you want to tie them to metrics that can be measured.”

Examples of measurable goals:

  • Build brand affinity → Track and measure show growth and engagement
  • Recruit new employees → Track and measure candidate pipeline
  • Establish your brand as a thought leader → Track and measure external mentions and features of the show
  • Lead/demand generation → Track and measure MQLs and SQLs
  • Sales enablement → Track and measure deals created and closed

3. Ensure it’s achievable: determine your obstacles

So now that you’ve defined your goals and metrics, it’s time for a reality check. What time and resources do you need to make the podcast?

Every podcast needs a host. Is there someone on your existing team who can actually do it, or will you need to look elsewhere and outsource?

Are you interested in doing your podcast remotely? If so, will you need specific equipment to make sure the audio quality is great for you and your guests? Additionally, will you also need to look into budgeting for an audio-specific remote-recording platform like Zencastr, Squadcast, or Or will Zoom or Google Hangouts suffice? Perhaps you’d prefer to use a professional studio or team to make sure your podcast has a high-quality sound and will need to budget for that.

Other factors to consider are the format of your podcast and the resources it requires. Is the podcast you imagine more documentary-style that will require heavier editing, either in-house or freelance? Or is it interview-style, requiring minimal editing?

Also, you’ll need to think about music. Will you have a music budget, or will you need to use royalty-free music? What about cover art? Will you be able to create that on your own or with your team, or will you need to look for outside resources?

Consider as well how many episodes you can reasonably create based on your time and resources. Will this be a weekly podcast or a monthly podcast? Or will it be a special four-part series?

Again, remember to be as detailed as possible here. There is almost always something you might miss, and you want to make sure your podcast goal is achievable.

4. Double-check that it’s relevant: refine your reasoning

Wait, why are you doing this again? Now is the time to go back and look at everything you’ve laid out so far to make sure it’s relevant to your audience and goals.

For example, maybe your great idea for a podcast is a fictional sci-fi masterpiece, but you’re a large direct-to-consumer (DTC) tech brand with the goal of bringing in talented, innovative new employees. Time to rethink your strategy. Instead, it might make sense to adjust your idea to something similar to Accenture’s Powerful Minds podcast and give listeners a preview of what working at your company is really like. Having alignment between your audience and the show concept is key to reaching a niche that’s relevant to your brand.

“Having alignment between your audience and the show concept is key to reaching a niche that’s relevant to your brand.”

Additionally, does your podcast actually align with your larger marketing goals? And what about other marketing campaigns you’re working on?

Maybe it doesn’t make sense to launch a new show on the topic you’ve chosen because you’ll be doing a big brand refresh next quarter. Or, maybe you want to shift to a multi-part series to align with a specific white paper you’re releasing instead to support demand generation goals.

Remember, you want whatever you launch to succeed, so this is the time to evaluate how relevant your podcast metrics are compared to larger company goals.

5. Give yourself a timeline: set your constraints

Now that you’ve stress-tested your podcast, give yourself a timeline, and set your constraints. As marketers, we all know that a specific (and realistic) deadline is essential.

“As marketers, we all know that a specific (and realistic) deadline is essential.”

This is when you need to start mapping out your podcast calendar. Start thinking about when your podcast will launch, how many episodes you need to create, and how many episodes you want in the docket before you launch. You don’t want to announce that you’re launching a weekly podcast and then wait a month until releasing the second episode.

Additionally, think about other marketing collateral you might want to launch your podcast alongside. This might include show art, blog posts, press releases, videos, and social media posts. How many stakeholders will need to approve, and what is your designer’s timeline? How long will it take for all these pieces to come together?

It’s important to map all these things out so you don’t get stuck before you even really start. Many marketers set annual goals, but quarterly or bi-annual checks could be a good idea to benchmark how you’re tracking against the plan. These checks also give your team the opportunity to make any necessary changes to meet your goals.

Examples of SMART Podcast Goals

What does this look like in real life? Here is a sample statement that might help you shape your own podcast goals. This was our goal for One, Ten, One Hundred, a docu-series and podcast by Wistia Studios.

“One, Ten, One Hundred is a social-experiment, docu-series that explores how financial constraints impact the overall creative process. This show will build brand affinity by connecting with people who wish they could do big creative marketing, but don’t have the budget or opportunity to do so, by exploring the differences that money makes in the creative process. We aim to grow our subscriber base to x# of subscribers and increase our average episode engagement to x% of episode completion within one year.”
  • Specific: We clarify the show format, cadence, and audience and then map that to the goal of building brand affinity
  • Measurable: We’ve selected two specific KPIs to track against our goal (in addition to other marketing metrics important to the larger team)
  • Achievable: The format and cadence are possible given our budget and resources
  • Relevant: The goal of brand affinity is relevant to the show’s topic and audience
  • Time: We specify that these goals should be achieved within one year

Get SMART-er with SMART Goals

You did it! Now that you’ve completed this framework, you’re ready to move forward with your podcast. But remember to refer back to your SMART goals throughout your creation process.

Podcasts can be an effective way for brands to reach their target audience, but with so many podcasts out there for people to choose from, the competition is fierce. That is why it’s more important than ever to use SMART Goals to plan a podcast that aligns with your goals as a brand, connects with listeners, and can be measured for success.

February 3, 2021

Topic tags

Meisha Bochicchio


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