In the marketing world, there’s a preconceived notion that launching a podcast is too costly for teams to even consider trying. Creating a show with only a shred of entertainment value still requires expensive equipment and a bottomless budget, right?
Well, for Dave Gerhardt, CMO at Privy, launching a podcast was not only affordable — it barely cost him anything. In only three months and on a shoestring budget, Gerhardt launched Privy’s first podcast, The Ecommerce Marketing Show.
We sat down with Gerhardt to learn what went into launching this podcast and how marketers can also craft entertaining podcasts without busting their budgets.
After Privy hired Gerhardt as their first-ever CMO, he wanted to make an immediate splash in the e-commerce space. But as a small company, Gerhardt knew that building Privy’s brand entirely through search-driven content wasn’t time-efficient or really even practical. So, he took the more creative route and launched The Ecommerce Marketing Show, betting on people’s primal appetite for narrative to drive the podcast’s success.
“I think for most companies today, competing in search is really hard and takes a lot of time. If you just blog, you’re going to have to write 100 blog posts to gain only a little bit of traction,” says Gerhardt. “I think the better thing to do is not play that game at all. Instead, do something big — make a show, or start a podcast, or do an event. That’s how you’re going to get found today.”
The Ecommerce Marketing Show could also serve as Privy’s main pillar of content, enabling Gerhardt’s team to cut up each episode into additional pieces of content and, in turn, amplify their marketing efforts.
“Shows are the most versatile type of content. If you create one, you obviously get the video or audio. But you can also go deeper and chop it up into blog posts and social media clips,” says Gerhardt. “I wanted to create this anchor piece of marketing where I could get 15 other pieces of marketing from it. To be honest, after six months, you could turn all the lessons from a podcast into a book.”
“Shows are the most versatile type of content. If you create one, you obviously get the video or audio. But you can also go deeper and chop it up into blog posts and social media clips.”
Before Gerhardt helmed Privy’s marketing team, he was the VP of Marketing at Drift, where he launched two podcasts on his own: Seeking Wisdom and The Conversational Marketing Podcast. Gerhardt spent countless hours creating and analyzing these shows, and it taught him a crucial lesson about podcasting that he’ll live by for the rest of his marketing career — a podcast’s message is much more important than the quality of its audio.
“For the last year or so, I had a podcast at Drift and I honestly recorded a lot of the best content into my phone,” says Gerhardt. “And that got me thinking. ‘Hold on, am I overthinking this process? Why can’t it literally just be me talking into my phone.'”
Gerhardt actually uses a SHURE MV88 and a Blue Yeti USB microphone to record The Ecommerce Marketing Show, which cost him $149 and $130 respectively, but his insight about recording a podcast on your phone still rings true. Technology is so advanced today that talking into your iPhone while you’re in a quiet room will almost always produce solid audio.
Once Gerhardt finishes recording each episode of The Ecommerce Marketing Show, he moves onto the editing stage of the podcasting process. Toward the beginning of the show’s inaugural season, this would take Gerhardt about two hours to complete on GarageBand. But, after a while, he realized he could offload this step to a freelancer on Fiverr and slash the amount of time and, in turn, money he needed to spend on the podcast.
“We have a system at Privy where I just upload a new episode to Dropbox, send the freelancer a quick write up, and then 48 hours later, I have the perfectly polished audio with the intro and outro music,” says Gerhardt. “That costs me $40 an episode.”
Factoring in a $2 app called Magnet that simultaneously displays his show notes and the Zoom app on his laptop screen, a $14 per month subscription to Zoom, and a $19 per month subscription to a podcast hosting platform called Transistor, an average episode of The Ecommerce Marketing Show, which has 52-episode seasons, costs Gerhardt $53 to produce. And he wants marketers to realize that they too can launch a podcast on a similarly sized budget.
“You really don’t need a heavy set up to produce a good podcast,” says Gerhardt. “That’s an excuse that marketers want to make for themselves, ’Oh, it’s too much effort. It’s too hard.' You can make a podcast over Zoom today. Technology has made it so easy to start a podcast. If anybody tells you that you need a ton of equipment and a huge budget to do it, that’s just not true.“
“Technology has made it so easy to start a podcast. If anybody tells you that you need a ton of equipment and a huge budget to do it, that’s just not true.”
When it comes to measuring The Ecommerce Marketing Show’s impact on the business, Gerhardt prefers to examine the podcast’s qualitative data rather than its quantitative data. He’s more of a gut-feel kind of guy.
“The quantitative data is never going to be there with a podcast. You’re never going to see that X number of people who listen to your podcast also become customers,” says Gerhardt. “But, what happens is that you start to feel its impact. For instance, your support team will start messaging you and say, ’Hey, two people wrote in today and said that they’re listening to The Ecommerce Marketing Show.' And then people from the sales team will come up to your desk and say, ’Hey, I love that new episode.'”
Two other sources of qualitative data that Gerhardt leans on to determine The Ecommerce Marketing Show’s level of resonance with its target audience are its reviews and email responses.
“We have some reviews on the podcast app that say, ‘Oh, I hadn’t heard about Privy, but I listened to the show and now I signed up for it.' We’ll also send out an email with a new episode to our customers and we’ll get a couple of responses back that are like, ’Sweet. I’ve been getting a lot of value out of this podcast,'” says Gerhardt. “To me, that’s the sign that you’ve connected the dots. That’s the most important thing — not quantifiable sales data.”
Despite Gerhardt’s preference for employee and audience feedback when gauging the success of the show, he does, in fact, look at the hard numbers from time to time. But it’s not to measure the podcast’s performance — it’s to calculate how much additional content he can create from each episode of The Ecommerce Marketing Show and how it optimizes their podcast’s production costs.
“If you really want to look at it on a cost basis, we’re recording one 30-minute podcast interview, and we’re getting four or five pieces of content from that,” says Gerhardt.“The ROI on that, just from a production standpoint, is huge for us.”
“If you really want to look at it on a cost basis, we’re recording one 30-minute podcast interview, and we’re getting four or five pieces of content from that.”
With a potential recession nearing, Gerhardt plans to double down on The Ecommerce Marketing Show and teach entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses during an economic crisis. However, in about 6 to 12 months, his goal is to create a high-production video show that would focus more on entrepreneurs and less on marketing.
“I think it would be really cool for our space if we do the e-commerce version of the NPR podcast How I Built This. We’d go behind the scenes and dive into how someone turned their side hustle into a full-time job,” says Gerhardt. “I think that could be a million-download show.”
Whether it’s Zoom or your iPhone, you can use a slew of free tools to record quality audio. Just make sure you’re in a quiet space. Remember, the wizard ultimately makes the magic happen — not the wand.
You can hire freelance audio editors on sites like Fiverr and Upwork for pennies on the dollar compared to hiring an in-house employee or an agency. For instance, Gerhardt pays his freelance editor $40 per episode or $2,080 for a 52-episode season. That’s a lot cheaper than hiring an additional podcast producer (and it helps to support many struggling freelancers right now!).
With an anchor piece of content in your arsenal, you can easily chop up and repurpose segments of your content into blog posts, social media posts, videos, and ads, giving you quite the bang for your buck. Gary Vaynerchuk follows this exact process to create all of his content. If you need any guidance on executing this strategy, check out how he makes 30+ pieces of content from a single keynote.
A lot of marketers think launching a podcast will cost their team an arm and a leg — but in reality, it really just requires a microphone and a few software subscriptions. And with costs that low, your podcast is bound to generate a healthy ROI. Just remember, having a solid creative concept is far more important than recording the best quality audio possible. So, now that you know just how affordable it is to get a podcast up and running, go ahead and give that idea you’ve been kicking around a shot!