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Defining Your Ideal Podcast Listener: Who Is Your Podcast For?

How to grow a loyal and engaged following for your audience by defining your ideal podcast listener.

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Guy listening to a conversation through a cup on a string

Podcasts are fast becoming one of the most effective marketing tools for brands and businesses. Especially for those looking to build trust, brand authority, and connect with audiences authentically without being too pushy or "salesy." 

But, to best serve the right audience for your brand, you need to have a firm idea of who they are. Not only does it help you streamline your content, but it also allows you to give your listeners the best possible audio experience.

Here's how you can define your ideal podcast listener.

What is an "Ideal Listener"

A podcast target audience or "ideal listener" is a select listener base defined by particular demographics and behaviors.

It's well known that brands use the concept of a consumer avatar to tap into a specific market effectively. For podcasters, our "consumer avatars" come in the form of an "ideal listener" or "ideal audience." So, for example, you could create a podcast dedicated to C-suite executives working within SaaS startups in the US. 

Target audiences are the cornerstone of most podcasts (and businesses) as they influence decision-making for marketing strategies and content creation. Ideal listeners can be niche or much broader, depending on your podcast goals and the messaging you want to create.

But generally, assessing who your perfect audience is can be based on a few simple factors, such as:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Job title/industry

  • Education

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Hobbies

  • Challenges/problems

The idea is to be more intentional in your content and the value you bring to that ideal demographic. So everything you do will be of service to that one person. 

"The more specific you can get in imagining who your ideal listeners are, the more likely you are to have a more dedicated following." Elizabeth Amos, Lower Street Production Manager


How to Define Your Ideal Podcast Listener

It's predicted that by 2024 there will be over 100 million active podcast listeners in the United States alone. That's a significant number, and whittling out which pocket of listeners you want to target can be challenging. 

Determining your target listenership should by no means be a guessing game. Instead, it requires an in-depth review of your brand, potential or current consumers, competitive landscape, desired ROI, and more.

Here are some simple tips to help you identify your ideal podcast listener:

Evaluate The Competitive Landscape

Competitive landscape analysis for podcasters is a structured way of identifying and researching alternative podcasts that could be your "competitors." This task aims to find podcasts that match the people you are trying to reach. 

"You get a weird sense of what is often in the same niche, and it's often surprising!" - Elizabeth Amos, Lower Street Production Manager

Creating a database of similar shows gives you insight into what your potential listeners already enjoy or need. But, most importantly, it can help you determine whether there are any gaps in the audio market that you could fill.

You can look at the topics these shows cover, their format, the guests they have on, how the host performs, and even the music they use. 

Podchaser

Podchaser is an excellent resource for podcasters. By signing up for their free account, you can gain access to "the world's largest podcast database." 

Easily search their website for podcasts within your ideal category or niche by using the search bar.

Using the Podchaser search bar can give you access to millions of podcasts
Use Podchaser's search bar to access millions of podcasts and find your competitors
 

Scroll through to the "similar podcasts" section to see other podcasts of a similar genre or format. 

Podchaser's
Take a look at the "similar podcasts" section to browse similar podcasts.
 

While the free Podchaser version is incredibly user-friendly, the Podchaser Pro option opens up a new world of opportunities. In this excellent article, they go into detail about how you can utilize Podchaser's "insights" tab to dive even further into what your ideal audience is already listening to. Including podcast topics, listener demographics, popularity, who they've advertised with, their sponsors, total monthly listeners, median income, and more.


Rephonic

Rephonic Graph is a unique (and, dare we say, fun) way to explore similar podcasts and what other listeners are tuning in to. 

It's a valuable tool mainly because they utilize the "Listeners Also Subscribed To" data gained from Apple Podcasts. It's "a 3D graph and displays not only a podcast's neighbors but also its neighbor's neighbors," says the Rephonic team.

Rephonic's web graph showing what other podcasts listeners tuned into
 

Your chosen podcast is fixed in the middle with a network of lines with other podcasts attached- this is your competitor map. As you move around this web of shows, you may be surprised what other podcasts your potential audience is also listening to. 

"This tells you, for most shows, which other podcasts share a similar audience. Savvy brands, agencies, and podcasters use this data to place ads, guests, and promo swaps." Rephonic

Identify Your Niche

Finding a podcast niche should be one of the first steps to defining your ideal podcast listener and your podcast. It's all about narrowing down your podcast topic rather than appealing to the broadest audience possible.

As the old marketing saying goes, "if you try to market to everyone, you'll end up marketing to no one." And it's true. When a podcast is deemed too general, you lose direction and structure with the content. 

A brand looking to create a podcast about new tech will quickly realize that hundreds- if not thousands- of tech-related podcasts are already taking up that space. So instead, identifying where your expertise lies and how you can utilize that will help maneuver the podcast away from being too generic. So, a podcast about revolutionary tech in the medical industry narrows things down and caters to a specific listener. In the long run, this will help you build a solid and engaged audience. 

Here's how to find your niche:

  1. Begin with an idea: Brainstorm some basic podcast topics and ideas. At this point, you don't have to think about being too niche. Referring back to your competitive landscape document could give you some inspiration.

  2. Ask questions like: What is your industry? Could you talk about a specific industry topic at length? What are the challenges most seen within your industry? Are you an expert on anything? Are there any customer questions that you answer often?

  3. Choose the best ideas and narrow them down: Evaluate your list of ideas and highlight the ones that make the most sense for your business and goals. Can you provide a unique perspective? Are there unique experiences or expertise your brand can bring to the table?

  4. Define your unique angle: Once you have a defined idea, it's time to think about how to approach it in a unique way. What will make you different from other podcasts in the same category? If you are highly experienced in retail marketing and have a potential host with a degree in psychology, you could bring a new element and dimension to the podcast landscape. 

  5. Build on the idea now, refine later: Podcasting is one of those mediums that allows creators to change the trajectory of their show as needed. Experiment with your concept early on and fine-tune it as you go. 

Podcasting is a relatively fluid form of media. There are no set rules, and your content can be adjusted according to listener needs and trends within the marketplace as trends evolve. But, when defining your ideal listener, it's always wise to first have a clear niche in mind. 

That way, when you're developing who your ideal audience is, you have a clear idea of how your podcast will best serve those listeners. 


What Are Your Goals?

Every podcast should be built with a goal and purpose in mind. Whether it's to bring brand awareness to a company, create a stronger network within the industry, establish your thought leadership, generate leads, or even recruit new employees- your goals matter. 

Your goal can define whether you create an internal podcast to keep employees updated with company news or training. Or, you could show your expertise and build trust to draw in clients from more prominent brands. So, you don't have a relationship now but may do in the future.

Are you looking to:

  • Create a buzz

  • Share information 

  • Promote thought leadership 

  • Educate listeners within a niche on a technical 

  • Train new employees

  • Sell a product

  • Market your brand

  • Entertain

Deciding on your goals at the early stages of development will take the guesswork out of many aspects of the podcast production process. But be open to your goals evolving. Most podcasts change over time. 

Build Your Ideal Listener

An ideal listener persona is a semi-fictional representation of your perfect listener. 

Building your ideal listener persona allows you the space to "know" your target audience before you sit down to record. It also gives you the necessary information to craft content they will enjoy. 

TL;DR

Write down who your ideal listener is by following the below points. You can be as detailed or as brief as you like, but the more in-depth you can go, the better. 

  • Start with the Demographics: Create a document including age, gender, income level, education, family status, and location. This can be in the form of a simple bulleted list or a paragraph describing each demographic. 

  • What's their job title and function?

  • What industry do they work in?

  • Behaviors, Challenges, and Needs: Think through your audience's challenges, goals, values, habits, and day-to-day life. 

  • What gaps might they look to fill? What problems do they need help solving?

  • Write Out Their Story: Bring all the above points together to create a statement that illustrates a single person. Give them a name. Write down the ins and outs of their life - their work, their hobbies, their salary, their age - everything! Finally, touch on what they are looking for in the content you could create. 

Age:

ADD OPENING PARA

Sometimes giving your ideal listener a decade-range ensures you're not excluding those you could be serving at a particular time in their career or life. In many podcast apps, listener ages are listed in eight categories. Take Spotify, for example:

  • 0-17

  • 18-22

  • 23 - 27

  • 28 - 34

  • 35 - 44

  • 45 - 59

  • 60 - 150

  • unknown

So, if your podcast is touching on marketing manager solutions, some basic research shows that the average age of a marketing manager is 38, so the age category could fall between 35-44. But, if you're aiming towards budding marketing managers on the cusp of moving forward within their careers, the age range could be 28 - 34. 

Aim to put your ideal listener into a specific age category
 

Keep in mind your podcast's niche and the content you want to create. Doing so will help guide you toward an age that suits your ideal audience best.

Later on, when you're writing your ideal listener statement, you can give that persona an exact age.

 

Occupation

The Job title - this is often a great place to start when you're trying to define who you want to be speaking to. Then, dive into the deeper questions, like their time constraints. What do they like discussing? Are you trying to create a podcast relevant to their work or a means of entertainment that allows them to escape from their day-to-day life? 

 "The podcast has to be in the industry and be appropriate for the industry. But the industry is not listening to it; a human is."

A broader understanding of what they do in their professional life can help shape where, when, and how they listen to podcasts. At the very least, understanding your ideal listener's workload and time constraints will help inform your podcast episode length. 

So ask yourself, what does a typical week look like for someone in that role?

For example, those not working the typical 9 - 5 could have as much as two hours to spare a day, therefore having more time for long-form content that is much more granular and educational. Whereas a busy CEO in the fledgling stages of a startup could only have 20 minutes to catch a highlight-style show on the weekend. 

There are plenty of up-to-date statistics and resources to help you make an informed decision on how a person's listening habits can affect your podcast length, content, and target demographic.  

  • STATS: The average listening time for a "news" podcast is 26 minutes, and almost half (48%) of podcast listening takes place at home, so how could those metrics influence the show you create and the type of person you want to reach?

Habits are hard to break, so why not strive to become a part of someone's weekly routine? Like having a morning coffee, podcasts are becoming a staple in people's daily downtime. Understanding someone's work week could be beneficial in defining your ideal listener.

The Biggest Challenge Is …

The next step is to list the audience's needs that your podcast can provide solutions for. As mentioned before, it is important to analyze and understand your competition. Identify what your podcast could be doing better than anyone else, which can set you apart from competitors. 

There are two general camps that podcast listeners fall into, to either be entertained or educated. While there is the occasional crossover between the two (some could argue that the entire true crime genre could see-saw one way or the other), generally, listeners seek out only one.

Since most branded podcasts veer towards thought leadership as a goal, educating listeners is often the best route to take. When developing your ideal listener persona, one of your main goals is to think about how your podcast can best serve them. So aim to help people fix a problem.

  • TIP: Forums that relate to your niche are a goldmine for information, so sign up and ask questions. People are not afraid to voice their opinions and will tell you exactly what needs addressing and where they need help the most.

Say you're looking to develop a podcast that focuses on marketing strategies for business consultants. The most obvious challenge is that almost 32% of the consultants struggle to get new clients for their business. So, a listener could be facing the same obstacles.  

Another challenge could be how they can fast-track their business growth or perhaps help listeners build a stronger network. 

So, what big headaches could you tackle for listeners as an expert in the field or niche? Where are people struggling the most? Do you have the capacity to give them guidance episode after episode?

Podcast Listener Outline

In most cases, you can keep your ideal podcast listener outline fairly simple. Short bullet points about the kind of person you're looking to target can be just as useful as an in-depth description.

Below is an example of the general audience a digital marketing podcast could focus towards.

Podcast Listener Outline: 

  • People in marketing. In the role of Head of Marketing.

  • Their aged between 35-40,

  • Married, Possibly with children

  • With an annual income of $120,000+/yr.

  • Their education is a bachelor's degree and above.

  • Works remotely but home is based in California

  • And their marketing agency works with industries in retail and eCommerce

  • Their biggest challenges are the increase in global digitization, cyber security, consumer behavior changes, as well as data and analytics management.

  • This person's focus is on strengthening their knowledge and staying abreast of new trends within their sector to tackle any challenges or significant industry changes with confidence.

Although fairly brief, you can get an idea of who this person is, their challenges and what they need from an expert.

Write Your Listener Profile

Now it's time to go into even more detail, you can write an entire listener "avatar" description by combining all the details with the points discussed throughout this article. Be specific. The more information you have about your audience, the better.

For example:

Mary, aged 37, lives in California but works remotely for a global retail fintech company for $150,000 per year as their Head of Marketing.

Mary has a bachelor's degree in business administration, marketing, and communications. She gained most of her content management experience working for a prestigious marketing agency before moving to her current employer 3+ years ago. 

Mary enjoys her work, so much so that she often works long hours- yet always finds time to be with her boyfriend and three young kids.

As the marketing landscape changes, Mary is finding it harder and harder to keep abreast of the latest trends and developments within the industry - especially with the increase in global digitization, cyber security, drastic changes in consumer behavior, data management, and analytics. 

Her goal is to strengthen her knowledge and stay abreast of new trends within her sector so she can confidently tackle any challenges or significant industry changes.

Mary needs up-to-date news on the topics she cares about. She doesn't have time for fluff, so the information she's getting needs to be digestible, informative, and tangible.

Any brand looking to create a podcast for marketing purposes should always think about who they want to be speaking to, before they even start producing a show. Knowing your audience will ultimately help guide your content and format decisions, as well as as your marketing strategies further down the line.

Take the steps to really get to know who your ideal audience is. Find out what your potential audience may already be listening to, and try to identify gaps within the market that you could be filling.

Answer a few basic questions surrounding who they are, what they do, why they do and the challenges they're facing that your podcast could fix. Bring all these points together to create a ideal listener persona or description and aim your content towards them.

Be open to change. As your podcast progresses, there will be a natural evolution to not only your content, but the audience you want to target too. As your listener base grows you'll start to gather more feedback from your audience, which will help to guide the direction of your podcast.

Claire Gould

Author

Claire Gould