3 Things You Must Know When Choosing Your Podcast Topic

This conversation around choosing your podcast topic is critical. It’s so important but it’s also movable, it’s can change, it doesn’t have to have the weight of forever. So often, when I’m having these conversations, I’m actually not having it with people who are getting ready to launch their show, I’m having it with people who are a year into their show. It’s because they’re not seeing the success they want to see, they’re not getting the traction they want to be getting, or they’re struggling to build their plan.

They’re trying to sit down and map out content that supports their sales but they get a little all over the place and they’re perpetually in this, “What am I supposed to talk about on my show?” place. I think that’s such an important thing to acknowledge and also manage and deal with. When I talk about the three things you must be looking at when you’re choosing your podcast topic, I’m not just looking at it from the perspective of “I’m going to launch this new show, what should it be?” but “I’m in this existing show, is it what it’s supposed to be?”

We’re going to talk about how important it is to be speaking about this in specifics and not generalities as we move through this. But know that this is going to be very aligned with big business questions. If you can’t answer these questions that we’re going to be moving through, these three things you’ve got to be considering, say no to a podcast, a podcast is not right for you right now. Even if you have an existing show, pause the show.

Step back and take a look at “What do I want to be saying? How do I want to be saying it? Who do I want to be saying it to?” Because if you can’t look at these things, then any kind of content is not going to move the needle for you. I’d suggest sitting down with a business coach, sitting down with an expert who can help you move through these things because it’s going to be business choices you need to make, not just content choices you need to make.

The first thing you must know when you’re choosing your podcast topic, where does this fit into your overall business model?

Meaning, what are you selling? It really is that simple. What is your business model and how is this podcast going to support it? If your business model is content, and this is a way in which you’re going to produce content because you’re building an audience and you want to sell ads, your topic is going to be wildly different than if you’re looking to build and nurture leads into your sales process so that you can sell them high value services to solve a really specific niche problem for them. Those are totally different shows.

What I really want to highlight is the net that grows or shrinks depending on which of those you identify with. If you’re looking with the first group to be selling content, be building an audience, we often think of this as the influencer model, the content creator model, the YouTuber model where we’re looking to build an audience so that we can sell brand partnerships, so we can do affiliate marketing, whatever it may be; selling our own very low dollar program, cool, but we need numbers.

You’re probably going to be talking about a larger group of things. Your show’s probably going to be a little more eclectic. A great example of this is look at some of your favorite pop culture shows or your favorite news shows. They’re probably talking about lots of things because they’re talking to lots of people. However, if you’re in that second group which is the group I sit in and the shows that we produce sit in, you’re going to be talking about something very niche.

It would be really weird if on this show, I did a whole episode about The West Wing. Seriously, I could do it. That wasn’t a threat. It sounded a little threat-y but it wasn’t a threat. It would be really strange if I came in here and spoke explicitly in Schitt’s Creek quotes. It wouldn’t make sense. It might be entertaining, it might even go viral, it might even grow my audience, it would not sell podcast production services.

It would not help podcasters who are struggling to manage their own show and are looking to see better results in their sales and their marketing, thanks to their podcast, it wouldn’t help them identify that I was the person that could help them, that this is the team that does that. I gotta stay in my lane, babe. I gotta stay right here talking about podcasting.

I sometimes struggled with this in the where is my audience, and we’re going to talk about that as we move through the rest of these questions, but this is something we’ve got to be touching base on frequently because we’ve got to make sure that we’re staying in the lane we’re trying to move people forward. I’ve got to be careful on this. There’s a much less dramatic version of this which is I’ve also got to be watching that I’m not coming in here and talking too much about TikTok or Instagram Reels because I’m not selling social media services, it’s not what I do.

I could talk about it through the lens of a podcaster. For example, we talked about three ways podcasters can be using Instagram to promote their podcast a couple months ago. Yeah, I was talking about Instagram, but I was talking about podcasters using Instagram, I was not talking about how content creators use Instagram, how teenagers use Instagram, how the open entrepreneurial market might be using Instagram. I was talking to you, to us. Be aware. Where does this fit into your model? Because it’s going to dictate how narrow or large the scope really is.

The second thing you must know when you are choosing a podcast topic is what are the problems you’re trying to solve? 

What are those problems? If you don’t know what the problems are that you’re trying to solve, you need to be talking to someone about what your offer is because this is the “What are you selling?” Seriously, this is the “What are you selling?”

This is how I go from, “Cool, is it a big or small circle that I need to narrow this topic to? How big can the net be with our first question?” and now we’re moving into, “Cool, so what is that net?” This is where I’m looking at what do they need to know before they buy the solution, not just what the solution is?

This is where the hurdle sometimes is with this question is, “Cool, I sell podcast production services, so does that mean I should be doing tutorials on how to edit and I should be doing studio tours of what a podcast studio looks like and gear reviews, and the nine things you need to know before you launch a podcast?” Maybe. But that’s probably not going to super help me get the kind of clients we work with because I’m not selling them a course to launch their show.

I’m not even selling them a course to produce their own show. I’m not selling them a DIY solution. I’m selling them a done-for-you solution. It’s important that I’m answering the questions they need answered before they buy. Oftentimes, what I see here, especially with service providers—and I will be the first one to raise my hand and say I’m guilty of this too—is we’re spending so much time trying to convince other people that we’re experts by telling them how we do our jobs, which is wildly uninteresting to them, and oftentimes, incredibly overwhelming.

Honestly, the way I figured this out was in going and buying stuff. As I was looking to find solutions for things I was looking for, a great example of this being when I am looking at accountants, bookkeepers, or places where it’s just simply not my expertise, and they’re getting into the weeds in their content, I’m like, “Cool. I’m out. I needed to know how you solve my problem, what my life looks like on the other side, and how I can be making some decisions.”

Notice in this episode, this episode is a great example of what this can look like. Notice in this episode that we’re talking about the questions you need to be answering and then I’m sharing some things, some nuance under each of those so that you can see a little bit what my thought process looks like, you can see a little bit about how I as the expert in getting from A to B, but this is not a form you fill out and you solve it yourself.

I’m not giving you a checklist on how to DIY, no. We’re talking about, “Here’s what you need to know. Go answer these questions.” If you can’t answer these questions, this isn’t the solution for you. You need to go talk to a business coach, an expert in identifying your offer, your audience, and your business model.

Honestly, those are probably different experts. But if you can answer these questions and you’re moving through this and you’re going, “Oh, cool, I need to narrow, expand,” you’re figuring out ways that you can evolve or tweak what you have and saying, “Cool, I’m ready to do this,” and you take action or you go, “I really need to be paying attention to these things. It’s time we talk to Stacey at Uncommonly More. I’m finally trying to get a handle on these things. She knows what I need to get a handle on. Let’s let her help me handle it.”

That has to be there. You have to be talking to the client, the prospective client, not your peers, not other experts who know what you do, not people who are in complementary industries and have an interest in your industry. I get this a lot. I’ll talk to people who sell content strategy or blogging content, like production, blog writing, copywriting, those kinds of things that sit next to what I do, or video editing agencies, video production agencies, we’re complementary but we’re not the same, we have a lot of the same audience, we have a lot of the same clients.

Oftentimes, we get stuck in creating content for each other. I think coaches do this a lot. I think graphics and the tech space, I think, a lot of our tech service writers struggle with this because it doesn’t seem like scary language to us, it doesn’t seem like a difficult process to think through. It’s like, “Oh, well, I’ll just tell you this and then you’ll get it and you’ll know.” Again, usually, it’s wildly overwhelming and terribly uninteresting and so we have to be thinking about our prospective client, the problem they’re trying to solve, and their next step.

Their next step is not the solution to their problem, their next step is to figure out if they’re going to solve the problem and then figuring out how they’re going to solve it. That’s where we want our content to live. We need to be thinking about that when we’re talking about our topic.

The third thing you must know when you are choosing a podcast topic, I want you to think about who is going to be listening.

 Spoiler alert, this should be your ideal client. This should be the people who you want investing in the solutions you’re offering. This is what I talked about earlier as far as knowing the specifics of where they are, who they are, where they are in relation to their problem, and what they have maybe already tried to solve that problem.

This is our basic ICA stuff (Ideal Client Avatar) stuff. This is our basic client-customer research. If you don’t have a customer profile, if you don’t know who it is that you work with, again, the podcast isn’t the problem. There’s a root problem here that you have to solve and if you don’t solve it, you’re going to keep struggling with the podcast and you’re going to struggle with whatever other content type you throw in there; doing videos and distributing them on something like YouTube, but doing a video podcast that goes on Facebook or LinkedIn, those kinds of things, doing TikTok or Instagram Reels, none of that will solve the problem if you can’t answer all of these questions, but maybe most importantly this third question.

If you don’t know who you want listening, you’re never going to get to what do they need to hear. I want you to notice that I use the word need and not want, because I think we do a huge disservice to our listeners when we think about what they want to hear. How can I convince them that this is a good solution for their problem? How can I sell them that I’m an expert? How can I convince them that now is the time to work with me, this is the course to take, or this is the package to buy?

Instead, it’s what do they need to hear to identify that this is their problem and to identify whether or not this is the solution for their problem? We have to help them identify those things in our content. We have to give them a place where they can be nodding along and going, “Yes. That’s me. Yes. That’s my frustration. Yes. That’s my solution.”

On the flip side, maybe it’s, “Yes. That’s my problem.” “No. That’s not me though.” “You know what, I don’t think this is my solution but I did identify my problem so let me go find it.” I get emails all the time from people or DMs on Instagram from people who are saying, “I love your content but this is the kind of show I’m creating. Do you know people who produce that kind of show?” Because we don’t produce all kinds of shows and so not everybody’s going to be a fit here. It doesn’t make anybody wrong. It just makes us clear, and honestly, it means I’ve done my job. It means this content has done its job.

I want you to be looking at who is listening and what do they need to hear to identify their problem, identify if this is the solution for them or not, and move forward in working with me. I want you to take some time, whether you feel super confident and clear in your topic or not, I want you to take some time before we get into Q3 in the second half of this year, and answer these questions: Where does your podcast fit into your overall business model? What problems are you trying to solve? Who do you want listening?

Remember that, what problems are you trying to solve? That’s going to be connected to your offer. That who do you want listening, that’s going to be connected to your ideal client. We’re still tying this to your business. That’s why we start with “Where does this fit into my overall business model?”

An example of how these three questions working together help you choose your podcast topic. 

When I’m going through this, when I’m looking at this, one question informs the next: 

Where does this podcast fit into my overall business model? Maybe I’ve got a business model where I’ve got done-for-you services, I’ve got done-with-you consulting, coaching, or training, and then I’ve got a course; a DIY self-study course.

I’ve got a high dollar offer, a mid-dollar offer, and a low dollar offer. I have to decide where in my business model a podcast fits? Which group am I trying to sell? Because trying to sell all of that in one podcast is going to be really hard if you do not approach it with specificity. Because we talk about this a lot with ideal clients, maybe I don’t get the donut hole—if you just went, “Oh, it’s the donut hole analogy,” I love you because you listen to the show consistently because this is one of my favorites with ideal clients and stuff—maybe it’s not the donut hole, but I still like the donut.

If I get somebody who’s listening to my podcast who is looking for a self-study course but my podcast fits in the business model of selling that mid-tier piece, it’s built to get people to hire me to come in and do consulting and training inside of their team. I’m totally making all of this up by the way as we go. Hopefully, it’s consistent. That’s what I want to sell with the podcast is that mid tier.

I’m absolutely going to find people and people will find the podcast and I will get on sales calls with people who actually want the self-study option, who sit down with me and are like, “I really like what we have to say, I really like what we have to do, but I don’t have the capacity for this. We don’t have the budget for this. My team isn’t that big. It’s just me and I just want to learn this.” Cool. Here’s the course. Maybe it’s not even they get on the sales call with me, it’s that they go to my website and they find that course.

On the flip side, I’m going to have people who show up and go, “I love that you’re doing this training. We don’t have the team to implement it. We don’t have the capacity to have our team implement it. Can you do it?” Absolutely. I’ve just sold you into the higher level service. With this where I’ve got three pieces, because I’m focused, because I’m able to consistently show up for the section of my audience that I’m clear on I want to sell this way, I will get run off the donut, the people who check most of the boxes but not all of them who fit into the other two options.

Whereas if I tried to create content to speak to all three of those groups inside the show, I would confuse all three and sell nothing. That’s why we’ve got to be looking at that business model first. Then we go, “What is the problem they need to solve?” Because now I realize that this only speaks to a section of my audience. This only speaks to a section of my business model, of one of my offers. I need to think about what are the specific problems they experience?

Occasionally, I’m going to drop in things, and this is probably going to end up being more common than not, because as I’m sure you know, the problems don’t generally look different, the solutions look different, sometimes the symptoms look different, but the core problem, the root issue is not always all that different depending on where in the adventure of it all they are. I’ll probably find some things where it speaks to all three groups. That’s how those people who are almost perfect for that middle offer get in.

I’m using this information to be really, really clear and really, really specific.

 Most of all, that’s important with number three, that who do I want listening. If I am trying to speak to that vast amount of people, everybody from a DIY course person to a done-for-you person, I’m never going to be able to speak clearly enough that any particular group can see themselves in the content. I’m never going to get the head nod.

When I talk to that middle group, I’ll get enough nod from that group that it’s valuable, but also I’ll get that runoff, we’ll get the outside donut. That’s how we’re looking at putting these questions together. That’s how we’re mapping this out. “It’s how the math maths,” as the kids are saying. Proof I have a middle schooler.

If you have questions about this, if you’ve listened to this and you were like, “Oh my, these are the kind of things I need help with. I want to have this kind of handle on my show,” let’s sit down and talk about what production looks like for you

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