Why You Should Stop Asking Your Audience for So Much

Podcasters tend to ask too much of their audience and often too soon. Here's why that could be hurting your podcast and how to overcome it.

We commonly refer to things you ask your audience to do as “calls to action” (CTA). Here are some example podcasting calls to action:

  • Subscribe to the podcast
  • Send feedback
  • Leave a rating and review
  • Share the podcast
  • Join an email list
  • Visit the show notes
  • Follow on social networks
  • Buy from a sponsor or affiliate
  • Donate to the podcast

None of these calls to action are bad in themselves. You have to examine your overall strategy with calls to action.

So here is why you should stop asking your audience for so much.

1. People need good reasons to give

If I was a stranger to you, would you give me money if I asked for it? Your first response is probably something like, “It depends on how you ask,” or “It depends on why you need it.” Both of these and many other responses ask a core question: why?

The relevance of the answer to “Why?” is what could inspire someone toward or deter them from further action. Consider my money-asking example. How would your likelihood to give change based on the following reasons?

  • I want to buy a lottery ticket.
  • I'm suffering from a disease and I can't afford the treatment.
  • My wallet is empty.
  • I have something you need or want.
  • I already gave you something valuable.
  • I can give it and more back to you.
  • I can use it to help someone you care about.

Each of these are reasons, and how compelling they are to you depends on how well I make each reason relevant.

For your podcast, answer “Why?” for each call to action. For example:

  • Why should someone send you feedback? Because you value their thoughts and want to share them in your podcast.
  • Why should someone donate to your podcast? Because you provide an experience they appreciate or enjoy, and their support enables you to continue and do more.
  • Why should someone visit your show notes? Because you have more valuable information and resources that will be easier for them to get from your show notes.

Practice this with the example calls to action I shared above and come up with good and compelling reasons for someone to do any of them.

2. You may not have given enough first

I often hear podcasters start their episodes with one or several calls to action. Usually, it's sponsors, subscribe, rating and review, or send feedback.

Your calls to action may be very important for both you and your audience. But putting this stuff first (called front-loading) actually makes it less important to your audience.

The reason for this is the social psychology principle of reciprocity. Essentially, reciprocity is a feeling that you owe something to someone else because of what they've given you. Think about birthday or Christmas gifts. Don't you often feel like you need to give someone else a gift because they gave one to you?

Reciprocity comes into play in podcasting when you give your audience what they want and they feel compelled to express their appreciation—to reciprocate.

Whether your calls to action are for sponsors, feedback, subscriptions, reviews, or anything else. I suggest you seek to give—and give a lot—before you ask to receive.

Hardly anyone dislikes a genuine giver. But most people dislike selfish takers.

Whenever you want to ask for something from your audience, ensure you have given them enough first.

3. Too many choices cause confusion

Alvin Toffler created the term “overchoice” (also known as “choice overload”) in his 1970 book, Future Shock. The idea is that people will have a harder time making a decision when faced with too many choices.

You've probably experienced this in your own life: grocery shopping, ordering from a restaurant menu, reading comparisons between products, and such. I think this thinking is why fewer people vote in the American primaries than in the election, and why elections generally have so few political parties.

Think about this for your podcast. If you start asking people to subscribe and follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and more, most people will be overwhelmed and probably not choose the one that's most important.

This applies to your calls to action in both your podcast and on your website. How many subscription buttons do you have? How many social-sharing buttons are on each post? How many banners do you have in your sidebar?

Repeating the same few choices is good. Offering too many choices is bad.

There are so many things you want your audience to do that if you were to ask them all, your audience would probably do none of them.

Here are some ways you can effectively reduce your calls to action.

  • Stop giving calls to action that no one ever does.
  • Narrow your calls to action to what's truly most important.
  • Create and promote funnels on your website or autoresponders on your email list that disperse your calls to action.
  • Rotate through calls to action across episodes. This is easier to do when you publish at least weekly.
  • Adjust your language so a call to action is no longer a request. For example, “Please subscribe to receive every episode automatically” is a request; “Thanks for subscribing so you can receive every episode automatically” sounds like something special to join.

4. Your audience isn't on the same step with each other

It's true that many people will binge-consume podcasts they love (and you'll see that in a podcast review I recently received). But you can't assume that everyone in your audience is at the same place in their fandom and understanding of your podcast. For example, asking your audience, in every episode, to subscribe or follow you on social networks could be wasting time for the majority of your audience who have already done so.

Rotating through calls to action across episodes is one way to better reach your audience members who are on different steps. Pointing to funnels can be another way.

Here's an example funnel:

  • Every podcast episode promotes joining an email list.
  • When people join the email list, you welcome them and give them something of value right away.
  • A week after they joined your email list, you ask them to subscribe to your podcast.
  • A week after that, you ask them for some feedback.
  • A week after that, you promote one of your best episodes or resources.
  • A week after that, you ask them to write a review for your podcast.
  • A week after that, you ask them to tell someone else about your podcast.

This kind of funnel can be automated through autoresponders with an email service provider (such as MailChimp, Aweber, or ConvertKit) or on your website through special software or plugins that show things based on interactions with your site. You could also automate this on social networks with Buffer, SocialJukebox, or Edgar, but then everyone sees the messages instead of being led through a progression.

When you can funnel your audience, you can help them take the right action one step at a time, instead of overwhelming them with things that may not matter, yet.

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
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7 years ago

This is really helpful. I’m at the point now where I have some sponsors, my own membership intentions, ratings etc.. Too many options are leaving me a bit confused on what to add to the podcast.

I like your funnel idea a lot. I could use a simple free CTA which provides instant value for new listeners and creates a relationship through email, and do a separate sponsorship CTA, making sure it aligns well with what listeners would want.

Two CTA’s, probably do the sponsorship towards the end, and the free email sign up in the beginning. Everything else would come later, through email.

Chuck Crenshaw
Chuck Crenshaw
7 years ago

I just want to say I enjoy podcasting and enjoy your Podcast I have a internet radio station designed for Podcasters for a Podcasters Budget Check me out at http://www.cdproradio.com


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