2 Min Read • Audience Research

Smash or Pass: A Simple Tactic to Assess Your Podcast’s Growth Potential

This 30-second test will tell you everything you need to know about whether your show has a viable shot at success.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

Most people don’t know about it, but there’s a remarkably simple test you can perform to assess your show’s growth potential.

The setup is this:

  1. Find someone who by your assessment should love your show, but currently knows nothing about it
  2. Speak to them either in person or over a Zoom call
  3. At some point in the conversation, casually mention you have a podcast.
  4. When they ask about it (which they will) give them your one or two-sentence description of the show
  5. Observe their reaction.

This test will elicit a range of verbal responses from:

🥱 “Oh, that sounds really interesting, I’ll have to check it out…”


🤩 ”WHOA, that sounds AMAZING! How did I not know about this already?!?!”

In the best-case scenario, however, your test subject doesn’t say anything at all.

Instead, they immediately reach for their phone, open up their podcast app, and smash the subscribe button to your show before you’ve finished talking.

I think of this as the Smash or Pass Test (cheeky, I know).

And it can tell you a lot about the marketability of your show.

Think about it:

Your test subject has been specifically selected (by you) because they represent your ideal podcast listener.

Presumably, this means they have a non-trivial amount of interest in your topic.

Perhaps you even know they already listen to podcasts.

For all accounts and purposes, then, winning them over should be like shooting fish in a barrel.

If your pitch for your show doesn’t elicit a visibly positive reaction of interest (let alone an on-the-spot subscription), it’s a sign that there’s an issue.

Specifically, you’re likely suffering from one of two problems:

  1. The messaging isn’t effectively communicating the value and/or hook of the show
  2. The show concept itself simply isn’t intriguing enough to pull people in

Either of these issues will make marketing your show an unending slog, requiring you to work harder and spend more (time and money) to acquire each new listener.

Because if you can’t dial in your concept and your messaging to work with a small, controlled, friendly group of people, how are you going to convert listeners out in the wild?

Of course, you can’t put too much stock in any one person’s reaction.

Which is why running the Smash or Pass Test should be a regularly recurring part of your podcast marketing practice.

Especially when you haven’t yet gained traction.

While everyone’s reaction to your show—even among your target listeners—will differ, in aggregate, their responses are a compass you can use to dial in both your concept and the way you communicate it.

Yes, it can be painful to see your show fail to land with the people you made it specifically to serve.

But it should also be expected.

No show starts with the perfect concept or messaging.

Both regularly take dozens if not hundreds of episodes to refine.

More importantly, however, they require regular iteration, testing, and the kind of unbiased, visual feedback that only the Smash or Pass test can provide.

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