5 Min Read • Retention

This is How Good Your Podcast Needs to Be to Have a Shot at Success

You don't need incredible production or world-changing content to create a successful podcast. But you do need to be better than average.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

I was talking with a friend who is deeply embedded in the podcast world last week about the current state of podcasting and he said something that stuck with me.

“The average podcast just isn’t that good.”

To be honest it shocked me.

Not because it was wrong.

But because of his candor in saying out loud the thing that pretty much everyone knows… but no one dares to utter.

On its surface, the reason no one feels comfortable saying this is a positive one.

In short: The podcast industry is an incredibly supportive, collaborative ecosystem, and the vast majority of creators and industry folks genuinely want to see others succeed.

What’s more, for many podcasters, their shows are simply a hobby, something they do for fun without any expectation of growing a significant audience or generating revenue.

There’s no reason to expect that their shows should be as good—in production or content quality—as the best shows in the world

And there’s no point shaming or pressuring people who are producing their shows for fun into taking them more seriously.

It’s like telling a Wednesday night beer league hockey team that they should be hitting the gym 3 times a week, running daily team practices, and investing thousands of dollars in top-of-the-line gear…

They’re not trying to make the NHL, however.

They’re just trying to unwind after work, hang out with their friends, and have some good ol’ Canadian-style fun.

And for many, in podcasting, and hockey, that’s enough.

But here’s the thing.

There are also many podcast hosts for whom their shows are more than just a hobby.

For many, their shows were created to be a core part of their livelihood.

A way to attract and convert clients and customers and perhaps supplement their business income through highly aligned brand deals and sponsorships.

And for these folks, the chorus of unanimous support and encouragement to keep going, stay consistent, and sooner or later your people will find you isn’t at all helpful.

In fact, it’s outright inhibitive.

It obscures the reality of how good your show needs to be to break through and succeed.

And obscuring the reality of the task at hand is never helpful.

Because when you don’t know what you’re up against, where you need to realistically get to, and the specific obstacles you’ll need to navigate… well, it’s hard to make much forward progress.

As a result, many hosts end up creating average shows, thinking it’s enough to grow an audience and power their business.

Now, I’m 100% in favour of being supportive.

But not Pollyanna, sugar-coated, “just keep going and your people will find you” supportive.

For serious, ambitious podcast creators, true support is about giving honest feedback—delivered with kindness—about where they’re currently at in relation to where they want to go and outlining what they need to do to get there.

And in podcasting the current reality is this:

  • It’s easier than ever to make a podcast
  • Which means more podcasts get both created and sustained
  • Which means more competition and more noise to navigate
  • At the same time, highly produced shows from well-funded studios and networks featuring the best producers, interviewers, storytellers, and editors in the world have raised listener expectations about the standard expected quality of a podcast
  • Speaking of listeners, the majority of them listen to 5 or fewer podcasts a week
  • Which means out of all the 5M+ podcasts in existence, your show needs to crack your listeners’ personal Top-5

Statistically, this means that for your listeners, your show needs to be in the top 0.0001% of all podcasts in order for them to listen regularly.

Well above average quality in other words…

This is the minimum bar you’re aiming for.


Though when it comes to converting clients and customers, you’ll probably need to be their number 1 or 2.

Starting from the bottom, this is a tall mountain to climb.

But like most mountains, the route exists, if you know how to spot it and can be navigated if you’re are willing to put in the work.

Here’s what the route looks like:

  1. Start with a niche you can prove has the potential to support your show and business (ie. others have done it before)… but narrow enough that you can realistically compete with the top shows. If you already have a business you (hopefully) already have this.
  2. Identify and research the 5 most popular shows in the niche. Note what they do well, what they do poorly, and what they don’t do at all.
  3. Don’t try to compete with them. In fact, avoid direct competition at all costs. Instead, create a show that is immediately, obviously—and perhaps most important—refreshingly—different from the other shows available.

    Oh, and your show should also capture and highlight what’s magical about you, your brand, and your products or services.
  4. Go back and spend way more time than you think you need to on the previous step. It’s the single most important lever in your podcast marketing strategy. Get it right, and growth will come easily. Get it wrong and you’ll be stuck feeling like you’re pushing your show up the mountain for years to come.
  5. Dial in your messaging so that potential listeners really get the value and differentiators of your show in a single sentence. Ideally, you want their eyes to light up with excitement when you describe your show.
  6. Upgrade your packaging (artwork, title, description, episode titles, website) so that it’s on par with or better than the best shows in your space.
  7. Create a content strategy intentionally designed to hit all the key points required to nurture listeners into customers and use your ad space strategically to promote your own free and paid offers.
  8. Experiment with exposure channels just enough to identify one that reliably works to get new listeners.
  9. Go all in on that channel. If your show is well-differentiated and highly attractive, it shouldn’t take much work to convert attention into listeners.

As you can probably see, this isn’t an overnight process.

But it’s also not unattainable.

I believe that anyone can follow this process to create the best show in their niche.

That’s exactly the goal that Charlotte, one of the newest Podcast Growth Engine members (after first joining the PMA Membership a year ago) set for herself for 2024.

Like most people I work with, Charlotte has been producing her show for a couple of years, produces objectively solid episodes, and has a lot of the pieces in place.

But in order to reach that coveted must-listen slot in her listeners’ queue—the slot that will lead them to binge-listen through her episodes, sign up for her newsletter, book a discovery call, and ultimately sign up to work with her…

Well, she knew she needed to level up.

While she’d produced over 200 episodes of her show already, she said that—if she was entirely honest with herself—she knew she’d been trying to do the bare minimum with her show.

Enough to keep it going.

Enough to build a small, loyal audience.

But as she had come to realize, not enough to get real results.

The results she knew the show could be driving for her business (ie. a steady stream of perfect-fit coaching clients).

So over the past month, we’ve gotten to work.

It started with me spending 10–15 hours personally auditing her show, website, marketing, and coaching offer to identify the problems and opportunities.

Once we had the lay of the land, we worked together to put a plan in place we’re confident will help her reach her goal of becoming the obvious best choice for her potential listeners.

Sure, she’ll need to put in the work to get there over the next year.

Sure, the plan will need some tweaking and updating throughout the year.

But Charlotte now has a clear, highly actionable, step-by-step roadmap in place that she has confidence will get her where she’s looking to go.

And the ongoing guidance, tools, education, and sounding board she needs to stick with it.

If you’re looking for help in developing a similar roadmap for your show as well as ongoing guidance and support in executing it, The Podcast Growth Engine, my private coaching program might be a fit.

If you’re interested in learning more, let me know a bit about where you’re currently at with your show and your business and I’ll send you all the details.

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