5.2 Min Read • Podcast Strategy

4 Podcast Growth Challenges (& How to Design Your Show to Solve Them)

Until you design your show to solve these four specific podcast marketing problems, growing your podcast will be all but impossible.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

Podcasting has a discoverability problem. But it’s not the problem everyone thinks it is.

The problem isn’t related to tech platforms finding more efficient ways to get more relevant content in front of potential listeners.

If it was, 90% of all YouTube views—driven by one of the most finely tuned discovery engines on the internet—wouldn’t be concentrated around just 3% of channels.

No, the onus of solving the discoverability problem isn’t on tech platforms but on each of us as individual creators.

More specifically, to maximize our potential for discoverability, we need to engineer our shows to solve four specific show design problems.

The problems—and their solutions—can be boiled down to two categories:

  1. Effectiveness
  2. Distinctiveness

Shows that are engineered to solve these problems open up significant potential for word-of-mouth growth via listener recommendations.

Shows that aren’t on the other hand, must fight through an extra layer of friction in every aspect of their growth efforts, no matter how much exposure they’re able to generate.

In short: If you can’t design your show to solve these problems, you’re unlikely to grow.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at what it means to design an Effective show.

Designing An Effective Podcast Using Jobs To Be Done Theory

People listen to podcasts for entirely self-serving reasons.

This is the core idea behind Jobs To Be Done Theory, which explains how, much like people might hire a contractor to fix their roof, they Hire products and content to do a specific Job for them.

In the case of podcasts, that job might be any one—or some combination—of:

  • “Entertain me”
  • “Educate me about…”
  • “Help me understand…”
  • “Help me decompress”
  • “Help me fall asleep”
  • And more

Sometimes, these Jobs are the result of a loosely defined subconscious or emotional desire—one a potential listener may not be directly aware of.

Other times—as in the case of most educational shows—they’re the result of a clear and straightforward desire to achieve a specific, well-defined result.

Regardless of the specific nature of the Job, or the listener’s awareness of it, their decision to listen—and then keep listening—to a show is entirely based on two specific factors:

  1. The Result — Whether the content aligns with and delivers on the Job they’re currently seeking to have done.
  2. The Efficiency — How quickly and consistently the show is able to deliver that result.

If a listener is seeking out a show that will do the Job of teaching them how to improve their product development skills, for example, are they more likely to stick with:

  • Show A: Which delivers a helpful and insightful tip within the first 5 minutes (Result) of their first episode, and continues to deliver multiple aha moments in every one of the dozens of 20-minute episodes they listen to (Efficiency).


  • Show B: Which takes 15 minutes to even get to the topic promised in the title of their first episode… and then delivers generic advice they’ve already heard elsewhere over the rest of its 60-minute run time as the host and guest—who clearly think they’re hilarious—pursue one tangent after the next related to the guest’s backstory… a backstory which has little, if any, relevance to the listener.

The answer is obvious.

Like any of us, our listeners are looking to get the best value out of every transaction.

This is true whether they’re paying with dollars & cents, or time & attention.

And like the long, daunting walk down the supermarket cereal aisle, listeners have no shortage of options, each screaming for their attention with brightly coloured packaging that promises to get the Job done in the most effective, efficient manner possible.

Sure, a listener might take a chance on a new product every now and then.

But if it doesn’t deliver what it says on the box, they’re unlikely to reach for it again. Instead, it gets pushed to the back of their cupboard—or podcast app—where it grows stale and gathers dust before eventually being dumped.

When it comes to solving the Effectiveness side of the discoverability equation, the solution boils down to:

  1. Understanding the Job(s) a potential listener is looking to have done when seeking out a show like yours.
  2. Clearly communicating relevance and alignment to the Job(s) with your packaging.
  3. Designing your episodes to consistently and efficiently deliver on those Job(s), beginning with the macro show design and continuing down through your topic selection and episode scoping process.

Solving the Effectiveness Problem is the foundation for any future marketing success.

Because no matter how much exposure you get, no matter how many people you get to click play for the first time… if the show doesn’t deliver on what they’re looking for, they’re not going to stick around.

But Effectiveness is also only half of the equation.

Designing A Distinctive Podcast

No matter how Effective your show is, if it isn’t also Distinctive, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to click play on, recall, and recommend it.

The reason is that to both a) develop a listening habit, and b) think of your show when a relevant recommendation trigger occurs, your show must be top of mind for your listeners.

Producing the single best show for a specific group of people in a specific context will—over time—develop this mindshare among regular listeners.

But to create regular listeners in the first place, you need to give people something more concrete, more distinctive to latch onto.

Distinctiveness can be broken down into designing your show to be:

  1. Eye-Catching — Allowing the show to stand out enough to a) Get potential listeners to give it a closer look and b) Remind existing listeners of the show when they catch a glimps of the cover art in their podcast or social feeds.
  2. Memorable — Allowing potential and existing listeners to build an association with the show and brand that makes it easy to recall later. This is much easier when the show elements are not reminiscent of other similar shows in its niche.

Designing an eye-catching show is achieved exclusively through a limited set of tools, namely your cover art and title.

Memorability, on the other hand, is the product of many different aspects of your show, each of which gives your show another hook for listeners to latch onto and recall. The highest leverage components include your show’s:

  • Title
  • Cover Art
  • Show Concept
  • Music

When designing for memorability, your primary goal is to avoid the possibility of comparison with other shows a potential listener might perceive to be similar.

This means going against the grain, doing competitor research to identify the trends and cliches among shows in your space… and then designing your show to be radically different from all of them at every touchpoint.

  • If your niche is filled with cover art featuring the hosts’ faces over pastel backgrounds, design yours around bold colours and big, imposing text.
  • If it’s filled with boring long-form interview shows, create yours to be 10-minute, tightly edited solo episodes that pack a punch.
  • If every show features generic, corporate-sounding stock music, forgo the music altogether and get some custom-created sound effects to use as stingers.

These are just examples of course.

There are infinite ways to subvert trends and cliches to defy comparison and stand out as a singularly memorable show.

Unfortunately, most hosts don’t have the guts or vision to do this.

Instead, they base their design, music, and show structure on exactly what everyone else in their niche is doing, resulting in shows that blend in rather than stand out and are quickly and easily forgettable in the sea of same-y shows.

Shows that are impossible to grow, in other words… no how much time or money you spend marketing it.

To avoid this fate, your job is simple:

  1. Design a show that is wildly effective and efficient at achieving a specific, highly desirable result for your listeners.
  2. Then, design every element of the show to be highly distinctive, resulting in a show that people notice and remember.

There’s no end to the long chain of problems to solve when it comes to marketing your show.

But if you can solve for effectiveness and distinctiveness, many of the others have a way of taking care of themselves.

Start Growing Your Show— Here’s How

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