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Do podcasts have a role to play in B2B marketing?

by Nicola Ferrero

December 12, 2018

The short answer is: “Yes, they do.

But that wouldn’t make for much of a blog post.

So here’s some stats, insights and thoughts on the new podcast landscape, its business audience, the opportunity for b2b marketers and some best-in-class examples.

First off, podcasts are the new normal, aren’t they?

Well yes, to some extent they are. 23% of the UK population listen to podcasts and listening in the US has seen impressive year-on-year growth (apart from a bizarre 2% dip in 2013) with more than 40% of the adult population listening regularly.

And when people listen, they really listen. Podcast popularity is also growing exponentially, with ‘avid fans’ increasing by 25% last year alone.

Sure, but is my business audience really listening?

According to recent data from LinkedIn (complete with obligatory infographic), over one third of their users listen to podcasts.

They’re a senior bunch: 44% of senior-level decision makers take the time to listen to them. A recent Nielsen study states they’re also at the top end of the population in terms of education and earnings.

And they’re global: 41% of LinkedIn users in Brazil listen, 39% in both the US and Hong Kong, and 37% in France and Germany.

So what’s the opportunity for b2b?

LinkedIn analysts argue that podcasts are underused in b2b marketing, and this is supported by the Content Marketing Institute’s research into the top content types used for marketing: podcasts, at 17%, lag massively behind the typical formats (the wonderful infographic is at 65%).

This type of long-form content offers b2b marketers a chance to stand out from the competition and as Marketing Charts state “Podcasts that provide real business value could be the right content to earn time and attention from busy decision makers”.

Who’s doing it well in B2B?

Forward-thinking b2b brands have recently started to embrace podcasts. Here are three of our favourite series out there:

eBay: Open for Business – practical guidance for start-ups

eBay partnered with Gimlet Media (producers of the fantastic ‘Start-up’ podcast – definitely check it out if you haven’t already) to create a series of short podcasts focused on advice from start-ups to other start-ups.

From tips on hiring and pricing to tips on financing and branding, it’s a very practical series, hosted by a serial entrepreneur.

Each episode includes a case study and tips from a start-up who – rather unsurprisingly – built their business on eBay. But these stories never feel forced, and are very convincing.

Listen here.

Slack: Work in Progress – driving awareness through interesting real-life stories

From a retiree re-entering work as an intern through to a Syrian medical student moving to Canada to run a chocolate factory, Silicon Valley unicorn Slack’s podcast series focuses on the “meaning and identity we find in work” by telling fascinating human career stories.

The production quality is slick and engaging and although each episode ends with a short customer testimonial, once again it never feels intrusive – this is branded content after all.

Julie Kim, Slack’s director of content, has spoken about the success they’ve had in raising brand awareness through their podcast activity – they have 40,000+ listeners per episode – and have experimented with both organic and paid promotion to increase reach.

Listen here.

GE: LifeAfter – using fictional storytelling to connect with an audience

General Electric, a brand that’s constantly chasing out the humdrum in b2b, set up the ‘GE Podcast Theater’ in 2015 – and LifeAfter is their second offering. It’s a compelling ‘Black Mirror’ style sci-fi fictional thriller based around the premise of ‘digital twinning’. This way GE fuse fictional storytelling with a theme that reflects actual work within the company.

It’s certainly working for GE with their podcasts receiving millions of downloads and awards. Alexa Christon, GE’s head of media innovation, told Fast Company how it’s the perfect medium to really connect with a business audience:

“This is a very interesting space where people are making a very conscious choice – you have to download a podcast, you have to subscribe and listen, and creating that relationship and providing value is something that brands covet.”

Listen here.

You can learn more about these and other interesting, and often inspirational, b2b examples here.

And check out a podcast series we produced recently for Earnest client ADP:

‘People Unboxed’ sees HR software company ADP and industry experts explore the theme of what makes us happy at work. Aligned to original research as part of an integrated campaign, the series has helped the brand engage with a new audience and received 5 star reviews on iTunes.

Listen here.


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