The Ugly Truth about Podcast Sponsorships for Small Businesses

During the early days of my social media marketing company TribeBoost; I came upon an interesting podcast.

Social Media Unscrambled was informative and featured interviews with insightful social marketing folks. The show had humor with an unusually humane approach that I appreciated.  Unscrambled did not feel scripted or uptight like many business podcasts.

After one of their podcast episodes featured a friend — it made it easier for me to reach out.

I talked with one of the hosts of the show, Chris Curran, and we had a great conversation.

Podcast Sponsorships for Small Businesses

This was a great chance to foster a win-win relationship.

  1. Being a new business, we needed exposure.
  2. Podcasts take time & money to produce.

Chris was open to the idea and we worked out an agreement.

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When you start a new business, every new client is big. It is not easy generating forward momentum and gaining confidence with a brand new business.

Over time TribeBoost gained several new clients from our sponsorship of Social Media Unscrambled.

To get a new company going from zero to something takes a few big wins stacked on top of each other. My podcast sponsorship with Social Media Unscrambled was another brick in that wall.

Find What Works and Do it Some More

The Social Media Unscrambled show eventually kind of fizzled — as podcasts often do. Chris was focusing on other shows and other business ventures. His podcast partner David Deutsch was busy starting a new business as well.

TribeBoost’s revenue had grown over the years and that meant we had a bigger marketing budget.

This will be easy…

I honestly thought that finding another win-win situation like this was going to be a slam-dunk. New podcasts come out every day!

Repeat Success Can Be Surprisingly Hard

I reached out to many podcasts. And not just at random. I was very targeted in my approach.

TribeBoost was now a valid & thriving business and not just an interesting idea. It should have been easier to secure a new podcast sponsorship relationship.

I reached out to shows related to marketing, entrepreneurship, and the like. After anticipating quick success…I experienced the opposite.

I still did not reach a single deal

Every time I hit a roadblock.

I tried reaching deals with several shows but it was always:

  1. Nobody home: never got a response back. Some podcasts do not have phone number or contact information listed clearly. Some just have social media accounts and don’t always monitor incoming social queries. Some podcasts make you work through third party sales teams placing barriers in the way of simply learning about availability or cost.
  2. Thanks but no thanks: Some podcasts turned me down for one reason or another. This was unexpected as I only reached out to podcasters that were a solid fit.
  3. Out of your league: Sometimes you learn that the sponsorship cost is much too expensive for ROI to ever work for your business. Some podcasts are surprisingly expensive considering their audience.

Hitting the Brick Wall of Failure

I eventually lost faith and gave up on the idea of TribeBoost sponsoring another podcast.

How could this be with so many new podcasts coming all the time?

Some of these podcasters I reached out to were even friends! I was careful to only reach out to podcasters I listened to and had an understanding of.

Marketing is not Always Easy (even when it should be)

It is frustrating when you have a proven model, money to spend, yet still cannot make things work.

Unfortunately for small businesses on a budget, sponsoring a podcast is not as easy as buying Google or Facebook ads.

I learned that the hard way.

But every dark cloud has a silver lining. I had an epiphany.

Maybe I should just make my own podcasts?

Podcasts as Marketing

While it was clear that podcasting was an effective method of content marketing. I was in a powerless situation depending on other shows for exposure.

When you are billion-dollar company like MailChimp, you can easily sponsor shows.

But MailChimp has a ton of advantages over a typical small business:

1) Most people already know their brand and thus have a high trust level.
2) They are doing email marketing, which is still much more understood than something like Twitter audience growth.
3) MailChimp has much more money than a typical small business for marketing purposes.

How to Get in On the Rapidly Growing Podcasts as Marketing Opportunity?

After this process, it became clear that I had to start my own show. This has been something I accepted as a truth for the past year.

But I still do not have a podcast…

It was simply too intimidating to even get started.

To most of us, creating a podcast feels about a thousand times harder than starting a blog — and for good reason. There are a lot of moving parts compared to just writing blog posts.

Beyond thinking about my podcast, I have gotten nowhere since achieving a clear goal to start my own podcast.

This is odd for someone who has started several projects and business over the years.

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Podfudge is Born

I reached out to my friend & podcasting guru Chris Curran about my podcasting dilemma. We talked about my podcast marketing frustrations and ideas for my own podcast.

His insight was helpful and Chris was able to guide me in a way that gave me confidence to move forward.

As we were on the phone a light bulb went off in my head…

I cannot be the only one getting stuck like this…

“We need to create a new business together. One that helps people like me to launch podcasts.”

So we decided to create Podfudge.

I had no idea that this frustrating experience would lead to a new business, but often scratching your own itch does lead to interesting new opportunities.

If any of this story rings true with you, reach out to us — we are accepting new clients.

Kevin Strasser is the Co-Founder of Podfudge. Previously he was the Founder & CEO of TribeBoost.

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