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3 Steps for Maximizing Your Podcast’s Listenership and Growth

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How are you doing in podcasting as a guest, host, or both?

Discoverability is essential for any podcast to become successful, but many hosts struggle to get it right. There are three basic things that every podcast host needs to be doing if they want their show to grow organically. These three points also matter for podcast guests because guests should only be on podcasts that are discoverable by listeners. In this blog post, Alex Sanfilippo shares the three key actions every podcast host should take to ensure their show’s long-term growth and success!


Read the Blog Post: 3 Steps for Maximizing Your Podcast’s Listenership and Growth

Did you know that 90% of people who start a podcast quit or fail within the first 12 months of starting their show? Podcasting is tough work! Once most people start, they quickly realize, “This is more than I thought it was going to be. I can not keep going.”

Yet, most start podcasting because they believe they have a message that will help the world or because they want to serve people.

Related: Sharing Your Authentic Podcast Message with Boldness

It’s heartbreaking to know that 90% of podcasters do not even make it past their first year. That’s why I want to talk about three things every podcaster (both hosts and guests) should be doing right now. This will allow you can be one of the 10% who actually makes it.

#1 Develop Your Why

I’ll get right to the heart of the matter. If you have ever heard me talk about podcasting, I often mention developing your why.

What is your reason for podcasting?

Sit down and write your answer to that question on a piece of paper.

This is the first step to getting some clarity as to why you’re podcasting.

The next thing you want to get into is: who does it serve? Who is it actually for? I’ve said this many times. 

Your podcast can’t be for everyone. It’s got to be for a specific niche of people. 

Remember if your podcast is for everybody, it’s for nobody because nobody is everybody. 

You have to find a way to really narrow down your niche.

The next thing is: how does it serve? What value is it going to add to that specific person?  This is your ideal listener, the person who will find the show extremely useful. 

If you want to develop your why properly, you need to get an answer to each of these questions. 

If you’re a podcast guest, ask hosts, “Why do you do this podcast? What’s the purpose behind your podcast? What’s the why of your podcast?” 

If you ask a host that and they can give you a clear, concise answer, that’s a show worth being on.

However, if they say, “It’s a show for everybody and it helps all kinds of listeners or I think people from the age of five to 95 listen” 

If the answers are along those lines, that should be a red flag. The host has not taken the time to develop their why.

And people who do not develop their why are often in the 90% who do not make it as podcasters.

If you want to be in the top 10% of podcasts, it has nothing to do with download numbers or anything like that or listeners, it has to do with the Why behind the podcast.

Learn more: 4 Reasons You Need a Powerful Why For Podcasting

#2 Narrow down your focus

There are a lot of practical ways to do this. One profound step is to rename your show to what it is specifically about. A lot of people hate doing this. They’ll resist it and say, “Alex, I have been on for six months. I am not going to rename my show.” 

Think about that for a moment. Let us say I had a show called The Alex 2.0.

That name says nothing about what my podcast is about. On the other hand, if I had a show that had a precise name particular to a specific person, people would be more inclined to listen. When a person scrolls past my show, they’ll stop and say, “Oh, that’s me.”

Next, make your episodes shorter and rename them. Again, right? Again, I am talking about renaming a lot of things.

You need to make everything on your podcast very precise.

I see a lot of podcast hosts who just say, “A conversation with X ( fill in guest’s name).” If I am a listener, I do not know what that conversation is about. Personally, I do not want to listen to everyone’s conversations. I only want to listen to the ones that are interesting to me.

For example, if it was “How Alex Sanfilippo keeps a six-pack at 35 while working on a new startup.” That would be an interesting podcast episode for me because I’d be like, “I want a six-pack and I work in a startup. How the heck can you do both? I did not know that was possible.”

When I say that you should shorten your episode, I do not mean that you should edit out every little slip of the tongue, hesitation, “uhs” or “ums” or similar vocal disfluencies. What I mean is that you simply should not talk about so many topics. Once again, focus on what’s important.

If I, as the host, can make the episode shorter and only talk to my guests about the one topic I have stated in the episode title, then it’s a much better episode.

It will deliver on the promise and really help the person listening to it.

For podcast guests, here’s a pro tip for you. Look at the show. Can you tell what the show is about without listening to an episode? If you saw a podcast called Alex 2.0, the title of one episode is “Conversation with Tiffany.” Do you have any idea what it’s about yet? No, you do not. If you can not figure out what a podcast is about, it’s probably not worth listening to.

Such shows will be among the 90% of podcasts that do not make it.

On the other hand, a podcast that makes a clear promise and delivers on it will grow steadily and do very well.

I dived into more details on this topic in the last season of PodTalks. So make sure that you go to, watch, listen, or read that episode.

# 3 Create An Avatar

Once you have developed your why for your show and narrowed your focus, the next step is to create an avatar.

An avatar is simply an ideal listener, the very person your podcast serves.

This is something I have always done. My avatar is a fictional character.

 His name is Adam. So I know everything I know about Adam. I know that Adam is about to turn 35 years old. He loves to work out. He’s involved in a startup. He loves podcasting and wants to continue with the podcast, but is worried about how to balance all of these things

So my show focuses on helping Adam get further and faster in podcasting while maintaining everything else in his life.

Developing your avatar is so important, and yet so many of us have not taken the time to develop or create that avatar.

I have a friend named Jerry who has taken it so far that he had a cartoonist develop his avatar and family in cartoon form. He keeps them where he podcasts so he always remembers.

Having an avatar makes it real. It’s a constant reminder of your Why. When you are making an effort, you can easily refer to your avatar, “Is this benefiting Adam right now?” Depending on your answer, you can easily shift your focus.  Without an avatar, it’s easy to forget why you are doing what you are doing.

So do not skip this, because it will really help you on your podcasting journey.

One More Tip For Podcast Guests

Here’s a pro tip you can use to avoid being one of the 90% who fails at podcasting.

Ask your host who their ideal listener is.

Imagine if they said, “It’s someone who was very fit in high school. When they went to college, they stopped working out. They got into a busy startup when they thought they would get back into their fitness routine, and now they find they still can not. They are trying to find a way to get back the six-pack they had in high school while doing all these important business things.”

I don’t podcast about fitness, but if I met a host who had an avatar like that, I would go on that show and find a way to add value.

What you do as a guest then is look at your avatar and the focus you are limiting yourself to.

Is there really a connection? Would this person really be interested in what you have to say? Is your why really connected to that person? Or are you sprinkling it around a bit? 

The more these three points match, the better you will do as a podcaster.

Also, as a podcast guest, you want to be on the shows that will still be around 12 months from now.

The 10% that will make it.

Final Step: How To Grow Your Show

I will be among the 10% who make it, but no one listens to my show.

That’s usually the next hurdle most podcasters face – growing their listenership.

That does not have to be the case.

 If you really know who that avatar is, search for people who look like them and invite at least one person every day to listen to your show.

Use social media, sites like Reddit, Quora, or even forums to start conversations with your ideal listeners.  In podcast episode 208, one of our guests, Dan Morris, shows you an ingenious way to join these conversations and grow your podcast audience. I highly recommend you check it out.

You can also engage your podcast guests to grow your audience. Create a few automatic responses that your guests can use. “Hey, anytime you meet someone who talks about these three things, send them this. It includes a link to the podcast episode where they can learn more.”

 That way, you are working together to hopefully make the world a better place.

And when I say the world, I mean the small place that you all can serve through the niche that you focus on.

About Alex Sanfilippo

Alex Sanfilippo is the host of Podcasting Made Simple, and the founder of, a software company specifically focused on creating solutions that serve independent podcast hosts and guests.