Most podcasters would like to see a financial return for the countless hours of effort they pour into their shows. And yet few ever manage to do so. Sometimes, the problem is that their shows aren’t that good. And yet, more often than not, even fantastic shows struggle to grow and monetize effectively. So what gives? The problem is that most podcasters don’t understand the role their podcast is best suited to play in their marketing system and, as a result, are stuck trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. In this blog post, Jeremy Enns will help you understand how to set yourself up for more growth, sales, and impact by using your show in the role where it can truly shine!
WATCH THE VIDEO VERSION OF THIS BLOG POST/PODCAST EPISODE:
Read the Blog Post: How To Make Your Podcast Stand Out
I want you to imagine that I handed you a bowl of 30 green grapes. Then I asked you to pick out the greenest grape of all. You start picking through the grapes and you see that some are lighter and some are darker. Some are bigger, some are smaller. You find it difficult to determine which of them is the greenest grape.
Then I take the bowl and hand you another, that’s almost identical. Again, find the greenest grape from the bunch. When you start sorting the grapes, they all seem to be pretty much the same.
But as you dig further down, you find a tiny red grape. Now that you’ve seen this red grape, you can’t take your eyes off it.
No matter what you do, as you sort through the bowl, that red grape keeps coming into your field of vision and you can’t avoid it.
***This post is a transcription of one of the talks from our PodPros Quarterly Virtual events.
In a world with so much content, standing out from the crowd has become much more important than trying to be the best show.
Humans are good at distinguishing between two different options (maybe even 3 or 4 ), but things get much more complicated when we’ve more options than this.
Everything starts to look the same, and we tune out and move on without making a decision. This is called the paradox of choice.
You’ve probably experienced it. Have you ever sat down to watch Netflix on a Friday night and started scrolling, only to be overwhelmed by the vast selection? Forty-five minutes later, you still haven’t decided what to watch, so you turn off TV and go to bed!
Why Differentiation is So Important For Podcast Hosts
Listeners who have not heard your show do not know who you are. They do not care who you are until they start listening to your podcast and become subscribers.
To keep people interested, your shows need to be different. That means the packaging of the show, the way you talk about it, the messaging, and the cover design have to be different. Everything has to convey what you do differently from all the other shows.
Today we are going to talk about three levers you can use to develop a differentiation strategy for your show and make your show stand out from all the other shows in your field.
Onlyness means exactly what it sounds like. You need to create a show that is unique in its own way. We often follow very similar frameworks and formulas when building our shows, which causes them to get lost in the shuffle.
Take the expert interview podcast, for example. In the early years of podcasting, this was a great way to stand out from the crowd. Today, there are thousands of such shows, and they exist in every niche imaginable.
If you are already doing an expert interview show, you are certainly not the only one doing it. The problem is that the simplest expert interview shows a plateau very quickly. They reach a few hundred downloads, maybe a few thousand, and then it gets really hard to expand beyond that because there are just too many other shows out there.
That’s where differentiation comes in.
Let’s say you continue to interview guest experts. How can you differentiate yourself from all the other guest interview shows and make it unique?
Maybe it’s the unique way you present the content in the podcast. Or maybe you guide your guest interview experts through the content in a unique way. Or maybe you do not do an interview show at all, you do a solo show, but in a unique format.
Chances are, one or two of these options are similar to others. Still, the unique combination of these three options has to be something you can claim as your own.
Fortunately, there are many ways to get creative and interesting with your presentation, not just with the content itself.
What do you do differently than other shows that serve the same audience?
An onlyness statement goes like this: My podcast (name of your show) is the only podcast that…
You may need to rethink how you have structured your show and create a show that is truly unique.
You also need to get a sense of how your podcast relates to other shows out there. That brings us to number two of our three levers for differentiation: positioning.
Positioning means looking at where your show stands in comparison to all the other shows in your niche. The easiest way to think about this is to imagine two opposing variables.
For example, some people think the perfect length for a podcast is 15 minutes. Others think it could be an hour, while there are people who love three-hour-long episodes.
None of these criteria is inherently right or wrong; they are just preferences of different people. We can use positioning to figure out where other shows in our niche lie. Are there any gaps that are not being addressed?
Ideally, if we can find a gap at the far edge of this continuum, that’s a great place to start building our audience. Maybe you can become the only show that offers a 15-minute or shorter episode in a niche that’s saturated with hour-long shows. That’s an example of positioning.
Things get really interesting when you add another set of variables. I usually recommend doing this positioning exercise with at least four variables and then swapping them out. Remember that none of the variables is inherently good or bad. They are simply different preferences for different podcast listeners.
Where are the big opportunities in your niche? What has everyone else overlooked or ignored?
I believe that positioning is the most important tool for the underdog podcaster. It allows you to showcase your strengths in relation to those of your competitors. It also allows you to take some of your weaknesses or things you might perceive as weaknesses and present them as strengths.
It’s about actively choosing how you stand out from everyone else, and basing yourself on that at every opportunity.
#3 Personal Monopoly
This might not pay off so much in the short term, but it has huge benefits in the long run.
Personal monopoly is an idea I learned from David Perell, who has online writing courses. Much like podcasters, writers have a hard time standing out from the crowd and building their own brand. His idea of a personal monopoly is this:
Personal monopoly is the unique intersection of skills, interests, personality traits, and beliefs that come together to make you the go-to thinker on a particular topic.
You will not become a thought leader on a particular topic today, this month, or perhaps this year. However, if you continue to rely on this personal monopoly, you will be the one and only person people seek out when they want to learn about your topic.
If we want to become known and build a brand around ourselves, we need to offer something new. So the best way to develop your personal monopoly is often to combine two or more ideas that have not been brought together before.
I write a newsletter called Creative Wayfinding. The focus of the newsletter is how we create and market work that builds an audience and combines a theme like adventure and travel. There is nothing else like Creative Wayfinding.
Here is the challenge for you. Take your core theme and then look at your other interests. How can you bring them together in a way that is interesting to other people?
Over time, any competitive thinking will disappear because you have now combined these two topics that no one else is thinking about combining.
Since these things come from your personal interests and life experiences, it will be something completely unique to you.
When the sense of competition disappears, you are much more open to collaboration because you know that no one else can replicate exactly the same thing. This is a very empowering place to be.
To Wrap Up
One last thing I want to share here about differentiation is that differentiation is an active decision.
It requires you to continually lean further into those differentiators. Differentiation doesn’t work if you lean inward a little bit and then pull back to the center. There will always be the incentive to pull to the center because that’s where most people are at the moment.
But it’s almost impossible to build an audience by trying to first appeal to the center. As I mentioned with positioning, if you start at the edge and build a passionate group of fans, someone else will come along and push even further past you to the edge.
At that point, you can decide to lean far out to the edge. Alternatively, as your cause gains momentum and popularity, you may decide to appeal to more mainstream people.
So positioning, differentiation, and creating a personal monopoly are a hugely important part of growing a podcast this year. Once you’ve got these points sorted out, more people will immediately notice your show because it’ll stand out from all the other shows out there.
About Jeremy Enns
Jeremy Enns is the CEO of podcast marketing agency Counterweight Creative and creator of Podcast Marketing Academy, a high-intensity, cohort-based course for creative mavericks looking to grow a raving base of brand evangelists. He’s spent the past 5 years traveling full time, once bicycled across Europe, and will always look back on the day he finally saved up enough money to buy the Millennium Falcon Lego set as one of his proudest achievements.